September Music Review

Hurts and their debut album Happiness have split critical opinion; art-school poseurs or synth-pop geniuses?  Well, a bit of both probably; in mathematical terms, if you imagine the set which consists of the intersection of three other sets;

1. 1983 electro synth pop (Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Tears for Fears)

2. Darker electro indie (Joy Division, Interpol, White Lies)

3. Gary Barlow

then Happiness sits snugly in that intersection. It is all, at times, a little too glossy, glittering and po-faced for me; but the songs are very strong, often bordering on the classic pop / rock  (Stay, Better than Love) - hence the Gary Barlow comparison.  It is at once totally derivative yet also absolutely contemporary, and you're going to hear it coming from every boutique, hairdresser and wine bar for at least the next 6 months, so you better get used to it.  A grudging 7.5 /10 from me in appreciation of serious songwriting talent.

I mentioned Robert Plant and Band of Joy last week.  This is a hugely impressive and enjoyable album, with elements of country, blues, folk and rock brought together in a harmonious album by the coherent production and Plant's voice.  You still want him to let rip in a Whole Lotta Love style, which never happens, but his voice has a warmth that has come with age.  He has chosen songs by some less famous but not unknown artists such as Richard Thompson, Low, Townes Van Zandt and Los Lobos (and that is a great list in itself for further checking out if you're not familiar with them).  From the first moments of Angel Dance, with its swampy bass, mandolin and great vocal, the whole album works at every point.  The way the tensions builds in Monkey (one of the two Low songs) like a more controlled Pixies... and Harm's Swift Way is beautiful, but listen to the heartbreaking lyrics (Van Zandt's last song before his death).  9/10.

Now three brief notes on albums purchased on the basis of seeing these bands at Reading.

Yeasayer and Odd Blood; clever indie / experimental / dance, I preferred them live where the harmony vocals, energy and musicianship were tremendous but the album is still very good.  The first track is probably the weirdest so don't just listen to that on Spotify and give up! Tracks 2 through to 5 provides a run of songs as improessive as any I've heard for a long time.  A good 8.5/10.

Two Door Cinema Club and Tourist History; young Northern Irish band with bright, lively indie pop; "like the Foals but easier to listen to" according to my wife.  Touches of Vampire Weekend afro-guitar work in there, and occasionally a faint touch of Haircut 100 - type early 80's funk/pop! Strong, hook-y songs; a short album (32 mins) but we'll forgive them that VFM failure....  8/10.

Stuck on Nothing from Free Energy - never mind the cliche about young bands getting influenced by their parent's record collections, this lot must have raided their grandparents'!  T Rex, Mott the Hoople, the Stones, the Raspberries, Thin Lizzy; with a bit of Tom Petty and Springsteen thrown in... catchy tracks such as "Dream City" which is the great lost follow up to 20th Century Boy...the album starts superbly and fades somewhat, but the first three tracks show their potential.  7.5/10

And finally.. a talented young US (but with a British dad)  singer songwriter, Tristan Clopet, has made contact with us and I am happy to recommend his YouTube version of what is going to be the big chart hit of the Autumn:  Cee-lo's F*** You.  (WARNING - very much not suitable if you are easily shocked. But an amazing Tamla type tune.)  Tristan has a truly stunning voice and his cover of the Arctic Monkeys is pretty cool too! It's a tough world for a young singer-songwirter but good luck Tristan....

Voices (2)

  1. Peter Smith:

    KoL – well….. I dunno, its an OK track, bit…ordinary really for them, still better than 98% of the tracks you might here on the radio. Seems to me the video is a bit try-hard, going back to roots or something? Didn’t really get it. I’m a mid-period KoL fan, for me things like The Bucket, Milk, Ragoo, Fans, Black Thumbnail are the killer tracks..
    I’m not a ‘they’ve sold out man’ man though; rather they were filling stadiums than Guns n Roses (or even U2 actually)…

  2. Adam:

    But what about that new video from Kings of Leon, eh?

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