April Music Review part 1; Yuck, Mazes, Hurray for the RiffRaff and Metronomy

This month has been an absolute cracker for music. I was a bit worried that we’ve been a little mainstream in the year to date (REM, Elbow..) so let’s pick up the baton marked ‘obscure’ and review a few excellent new albums you may not have heard too much about, but that we’re sure some of you will like. We’ll have a part 2 tomorrow with a couple of the somewhat better known releases!

So this month we start with two young bands influenced by the US low-fi / grunge / indie stuff from the early nineties - who remembers Dinosaur Jnr (still going actually)? The Breeders? Sonic Youth perhaps?

Well, Yuck do, with their eponymous first album. They are half of the late lamented Cajun Dance Party who burned brightly out of a North London sixth-form for a couple of years in 2008-9. Plus some Americans. It’s low-fi indie, grungy at times (‘Rubber’) but they have an ear for a great tune as you can hear with ‘Georgia’ here. And there are several lovely slower acoustic songs here (‘Shook Down’) that have a distinct Beatles / Crowded House influence. 8.5/10

Mazes who are also British (Manchester), but sound American, also hark back to the early 90s with A Thousand Heys. It’s more consistently immediate and a touch poppier than Yuck but a similar vibe, recalling bands like Weezer at times as well as Pavement and Guided by Voices.  But, like Yuck, it is full of ‘hooks’ – in another era we would have been talking about potential hit singles here.  Bouncy and enjoyable; but not without depth. 8/10

Hurray for the Riff Raff must win a prize for their name alone.  Alynda Lee Segarra, their young singer and songwriter, has an interesting back-story involving running away from home at 17 and travelling the US jumping freight trains. This is country / folk Americana, rawly recorded – the first track is a piano instrumental that sounds like it was recorded on cassette in an abandoned bar.  Then we get violins, banjo, accordions; the rawness of it all takes a couple of tracks to get used to, but if you like ‘roots’ style, you will love this.  Although her background couldn’t be more different, there’s a touch of Laura Marling about the vocals, the lack of sentimentality, and the tension in songs like Slow Walk between the lovely tune and lyrics like “you stick the needle in your arm and your baby starts crying”. Bear in mind I am a fan of this genre (see my Decemberists review from ealier in the year); an 8.5/10 from me but others will hate it I’m sure.

Metronomy with The English Riviera have been getting some rave reviews. And another UK band who can sound quite Amercian..It’s taken me 3 listens to ‘get’  this at all, just as it took me a while to come to terms with the last albums from Phoenix and Wild Beasts (both of which I now love) - and those bands share something of the conceptual, clever, dance / pop style of Metronomy. A fairly minimalist approach on many tracks, combined with a smooth, almost MOR (Hall and Oates?) soul-pop production sheen to many of the songs mean it can all drift by somewhat. But the songs certainly support repeated listening; and if you like the aforementioned bands, give it a listen. Not sure I’m quite with the NME’s 9/10, but let’s go with 7.5/10 and give it room to grow in my affections.

More tomorrow!

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First Voice

  1. Alan:

    Hurray for the Riff Raff – great name. Just found out I missed them by oner week playing in a pub about 400 yards from my house.

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