October Album review – catching up with Bombay Bicycle Club and the Antlers

We’ll have an early October music review as we focused purely on Ms Marling last month. ..

You know the story - young indie band release well received first album, tour for 18 months, release second album, no-one buys it, they disappear back to university, the dole or to tend bars.

Bombay Bicycle Club looked like candidates for this as 19 year old north London kids in 2009 when they released  “I had the blue but I shook them loose.”. But then, only a year later, they started challenging the stereotype, with “Flaws”, an acoustic, indie-folk album that showed some real song writing talent and a brave approach.  And their new recording, “A Different Kind of Fix” confirms that this isn’t a band about to disappear - this is a band that could well be around for a long, long time and make a lot of friends.

It’s ‘mature indie’ if we can coin a genre, drawing on the Flaws acoustic sound at times, but with plenty of heft at times, full of hooks in both the vocals and through use of clever guitar and keyboard lines that often interweave with the vocals. If I have one small criticism – they could do with one or two really big Glasto-headliner- audience-join-in type tunes – a “Yellow” or “One Day Like This”. Because they could be headlining very big gigs pretty soon, I reckon.

But “Shuffle” and “How can you swallow so much sleep” will get into your head quickly, and the last two tracks show they have room to develop further. “Favourite Day” is a mid-tempo piano, strings and percussion driven song with a Beatles feel and a great tune.

“Still” is even better. It’s a simple but emotional and haunting piano ballad that sounds like the track Radiohead left off Kid A because it was too listenable.  So there’s potential to go in some interesting future  directions, but this is already one of the most impressive albums of the year.  9/10

I’m cheating here – this has been out for a few months, but I have to review it because not only were the Antlers an absolute Reading festival highlight, but “Burst Apart” is a dead cert for our top10 of 2011. This is that rare thing, an album that is good to listen to first time through, but grows in depth and interest the more you listen to it.

It’s hard to categorise – at times, it is almost Crowded House pop-rock with beautiful tunes; then it can get into a Wild Beasts / Yeasayer slightly dance-indie vibe. Then there are moments (like Parentheses) when it goes of into a disturbing electronic landscape that is far from “pop music” and probably most resembles Radiohead in fairly challenging mode.  When it all comes together, as in “No Widows” or “I don’t want love” it’s an extraordinarily warm, moving and uplifting noise.   The words are important too – but it is never a difficult listen; it can be enjoyed as background music or as a 100% focused headphones listen.  It’s another 9/10 and, like the BBC album above, will be high in our end of year list.

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