May Music Review – EMA, Wild Beasts, Airborne Toxic Event and Fleet Foxes

There’s a couple of bands this month who are clearly going for that huge step where you move from “critically well regarded with a reasonable sized audience, including a fair number of over enthusiastic  fans who think you are either God or Kurt Cobain” to “filling stadiums and being invited to speak to world leaders on African poverty at Davos”.  Arcade Fire, for instance, managed it with their last album

That’s a good link to Airborne Toxic Event with All at Once. Because some tracks could be Arcade Fire in maximum tunefulness mode. Now, that’s not a criticism as far as I’m concerned. Other tracks are a bit more straight ahead pop-rock, but it’s all got big ambitions, big songs, wide-screen keyboards and guitars. And in a couple of tracks, they suddenly move into an almost Pogues type feel which is interesting. Then he gets a bit overwrought and ‘The kids are ready to die” comes over a bit sub-Hold Steady. It’s doing well in the US already, and would sound great cruising down the freeway or through the Nevada desert. A damp Sunday in Camberley?  Not quite the same, but an enjoyable 7.5/10.

EMA is a young lady who previously sang in a very strange band called Gowns, and has now made a pretty un-categorisable album in Past Life Martyred Sain .  Many will hate it – the changes in mood between a post-punk sound, goth and something like a warped Americana, angst-laden lyrics and vocal approach, distorted sounds. But there’s touch of genius in there to, without a doubt.  For fans of ...er... Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Florence in her darker moments? I have a feeling this will grow on me further but I’ll go with 8/10 for now.

Fleet Foxes with Helplessness Blues have made another lovely, tuneful album, although with darker lyrics than their stunning eponymous debut.  There’s progression from that album, with a touch of jazz and a few different instruments and approaches thrown into the mix; and overall whereas the previous album sounded highly influenced by English folk music, the feel and harmonies this time seem more CSN&Y or America rather than Fairport or Steeleye Span.  8.5/10 and a great album for lazy summer evenings.

 

Wild Beasts last, Two Dancers was my favourite album of 2009, and has grown even further since then in my affections; truly one of the best contemporary albums of the last decade. It just missed out on the Mercury Music Prize. So Smother comes with high expectations. And I think they’ve managed those expectations very cleverly. It isn’t Two Dancers part 2; it has a less obvious, less edgy, less dance influenced sound. Other reviewers have drawn comparisons with Talk Talk and 80s bands of that ilk. So while it is recognisably by the same band, it is perhaps a deeper album, with less obviously melodies but after 4 listens it is definitely getting into my head. The lyrics remain ‘interesting’ – not for your maiden aunt or 10 year old. So 8.5/10 also for them.

WILD BEASTS "Albatross" by domino

First Voice

  1. Adam:

    To add to the huge step list.. Friendly Fires. Pala will not only get a lot of mainstream radio play but will help them make that leap to high up on the main stage too.

    And for new bands, please check out Spector…
    http://soundcloud.com/luv-luv-luv/spector-never-fade-away

    It even has a tenuous procurement link as the father of the lead singer is none other HM Treasury Perm Sec, Sir Nicholas Macpherson.

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