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Kenneth (nottingham, england)

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Price: 11.80

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A respectable 3.5 stars for Indie Rock Royalty., 18 Jan 2013
This review is from: Fade (Audio CD)
With no news about Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon reconciling their relationship circulating, it's probably safe to assume there won't be another Sonic Youth album for a while. Thank goodness for Yo La tengo then, who now remain one of last bands still making music together who were around during the inception of what came to be called Alternative Rock. Yo La's continuing existence is not simply something to rejoice for sentimental reasons though, because most importantly like the NYC veterans they have consistently put out records of such a high caliber throughout their lenghy tenure that we'd be severely impoverished if they also decided to finally pack up and call it a day.

"Fade" is the latest offering from the Hoboken favourites and although it doesn't quite round off what could have been a trio of brilliant late career releases it's another solid effort from a band that couldn't suck if their life depended on it. Stylistically "Fade" falls somewhere between their last out and out masterpiece "And Then Turned Itself Inside Out" and the slightly underrated "Summer Sun". If you've heard those two records you'll know by that descriptor that this is Yo La Tengo in ambient mode; soft organ drones, hummable guitar melodies and whispered vocals are all delicately splayed over the ten tracks on here, aside from the clattering krautrock indebted opener "OHM".

These songs are all sweet and undenaibly pleasant but do feel a little too familiar at times, almost like Yo La have tweaked previously existing material in their colossal back catalogue and tried to repackage them as something new here. In fact i'm pretty certain that's happened subconciously on almost every Yo la Tengo album post "Fakebook" so it would be unfair of me to criticize them for being self referrential on principle, as it's a formula that's definitely been working for them for well over 20 years! "Fade" like the previously mentioned "Summer Sun" is just lacking a little bit of inspiration that's all and therefore it's relatively indistinguishable amongst their mostly brilliant pre-existing discography. Still, tender heart warming moments are smattered all over "Fade" and it's approachable nature make it a fine entry point for newcomers and a satisfactory purchase for long time fans.

Price: 10.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slacking off never sounded so good, 24 Dec 2012
This review is from: 2 (Audio CD)
Mac Demarco might give the impression of being a care-free goofball when you look at the front cover of his second LP of the year, but that sense of nonchalance doesn't translate on to the music contained within. Well, maybe it does a bit, he sings with a relaxed delivery and plays casually appergiated guitar chords for the entirity of "2" however it's more of a stylistic preference rather than an indicater of disinterest. Take "Ode To Viceroy" for a great example of how a song can carry the hallmarks of lightweight breeziness whilst deeply resonating with you. There's both an unsettling aura and an effortless charm to Demarco's vocal cadence in "Viceroy" and throughout the rest of "2" also, which is complemented by his twangy guitar tones and understated melodic phrasing.

The Cover Art on "2" isn't a complete red herring though, little idiosyncracies pop up by way of tongue in cheek sign outs on a few of the songs here and "Still Together" is for all intents and purposes a song that should be taken about as seriously "Gangnam Style". Demarco plays the majority of the music on "2" with a relatively straight face though and some tracks like the brilliant "My Kind Of Women" have an undeniably affecting quality to them, his yearning feels earnest and genuine here and his music in this mode becomes very easy to relate to. The stark contrast between "2" and the Glam Rock tinged posturing of Mac Demarco's first album of 2012 "Rock and Roll Nightclub" might leave you to believe he's still searching for an identity as an artist and whillst that may be true, the sincerity of the music on "2" suggests to me that he's found it here.

Price: 9.75

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love the smell of napalm in the morning., 2 Dec 2012
This review is from: Metz (Audio CD)
Do you fancy having the taste slapped out your mouth and your teeth kicked down your throat in a 30 minute blitzreig of unrelenting noise rock? Allow me to introduce you to Metz's self titled full length. These guys aren't messing around! I thought Cloud Nothings "Attack on Memory" was the most muscular onslaught of 90's indebted post hardcore that was likely to be released in 2012 until I became acquainted with this smoking ball of ferocity. A certain online music vlogger (who shall remain nameless) gave this record a backhanded compliement in a recent review when he said that the songs on here were great but they all sounded the same. He then went on to criticize the bands over realiance on the minor third interval?! As if punk has ever been revered for it's technical ingenuity. Metz aren't looking for Steely Dan comparisons here, this is dionysiac art thats designed to be visceral and immediate and if you can do that with a relative economy of chords whilst taking a utilatarian approach to vocal infelctions then brilliant. This Canadian trio certianly achieve that here and much like the danish teens of post punk outfit Icegae did in 2011, they prove that the right balance of intensity and passion will always be high currnecy in rock music.

James Blake
James Blake
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 8.12

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite stand out record of 2011, 14 Nov 2012
This review is from: James Blake (Audio CD)
Living in a time where the music consumer can comfortably access and listen to any artist he or she chooses, past or present, I think there's an onus like no other on this generation of new artists to produce music that's truly distinctive. Whether James Blake conciously understands this or not is debatable, however the uniqueness of his self titled debut is certainly not up for questioning. The computerized experimentalism of Blake's highly acclaimed slew of 2010 ep's, already saw him crafting a unique lane for himself yet he upped the anti on this eponymous release by moving away from the laptop somewhat, to present his elegiac choir-esque singing voice as the main selling point here. Not since Kid A has an artist been able to match emotive balladeering and forward thinking electronica as successsfully as James Blake does here, his songs each one brilliant in their own right, are equal parts challenging and emotionally provocative.

The soulful sound of Blakes ineffable vocals were heard permeating over spartan piano chords and glacial snare snaps when his version of Feist's "Limit To Your Love" dropped before the release of this album and I (perhaps like many) thought that the excellence of that track would dwarf any songs that sat beside it on a full length LP. "Unluck" quickly sweeps away any pessismistic doubts you may of had, with it's enchanting array of quicksilver clicks, mmanipulated synths and multi layered vocals coming together to mesmerizing effect. Although James Blake uses vocoder and autotune in this opener, the humanity in "Unluck" somehow remains completely intact, it's as though JB has unlocked the dormant power lieing in machines to enhance our voice's ability to convey sadness and despondancy.

"The Wihelm Scream" is the real jewel in the crown here though, it starts off sparsely with muted synths, lonely snare hits and touches of watery music concrete beofre transforming into a blaze of cathartic post-dubstep with the simple lines "I don't know about my love, all that I know is i'm falling falling falling, might as well fall in" looped throughout the songs duration adding an extra level of pathos. "Lindasfarne I" is another snapshot of pure beauty, with James blake's vocodered upper register vocals reminscent of Bon Iver on "Woods", Blake doesn't aim for heavenly transcendence like that track though, he put's much more of a focus on delicacy and ambience to achieve a strong sense of intimacy and calmness.

Although the back half of this album isn't filled with as many obvious highlights, blakes crooning is largely front and centre from "Give me my Month" onwards and it's a delight to hear his untreated voice and his minimal piano playing without as many embellishments as he really plays and sings so well. Some have taken issue with James Blakes mantra of less is more here and even though i'm patently a huge fan of this record I could understand why adrenalin junkies would consider this LP a remedy for insomnia. Nevertheless; Fans of Steve Reich, sufjan Stevens or The XX will doubtlessly be "as in love with this as I am" and should most definitely check this out if they happened to miss it upon it's release almost two years ago.

Luxury Problems
Luxury Problems
Price: 11.48

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something to investigate for Burial Fans, 10 Nov 2012
This review is from: Luxury Problems (Audio CD)
I know very little about 'Dub Techno' so I'll keep this review rather short. If you like electronic music that feels unsettling and nefarious than you really should check out Luxury Problems. The atmosphere on this album is created by Alison Skidmore's sonorously looped vocals that are deftly shaped around a 4/4 pulse of cold hi hats and dark ruminative bass. It's a claustrophic experience to listen to this from start to finish, but a necessary one if you want to unlock the menacing power contained within these 50 minutes.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2012 3:41 PM GMT

50 Words for Snow
50 Words for Snow
Price: 8.26

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first KB experience and what a delightful one it was (4.5 stars), 5 Nov 2012
This review is from: 50 Words for Snow (Audio CD)
I consider myself well versed in alternative Pop music, yet i've somehow managed to neglect an artist who's reputation is gargantuan in this area (shame on me!). Kate bush is obviously who I'm referring to and the conventional entry point most of the uninitiated are recommended to take when diving into her considerable ouevre would be "Hounds Of Love". Me being the bohemian that I am ;) decided to go for her most recent effort "50 Words For Snow" first. Although her 1985 record is said to be a genre defining masterpiece and her unquestionable magnum opus, I'd be blown away if it's considerably better than her latest offering as this album is devastatingly brilliant. Each song here subtely envelopes your soul and sets your heart ablaze, whether it's the mixture of glacial piano chords and fantastical story telling in opener "Snowflake" or the jazz inspired epic balladry of the similarly dreamlike "Misty". They all leave such a strong impression on you once you've experienced them, I'm not a religous man but after listening to kate's tenth studio album, I felt blessed by some divine spirit.

The childlike themes present here in these seven songs have irked some old time fans, who feel she's finally disappeared into a sea of pretension. Tracks like the aforementioned "Snowflake" where the narrative is centred around her search for the abominable Snowmen or the title track where Kate and Steve Gadd effectively list 50 words for snow are ostensibly quite easy to mock. Yet the darkly evocative mood that's created on these lengthy pieces, with the ambient instrumentation and sensual vocal exhchanges (the former featuring the angelic voice of Mrs Bush's 13 year old son) is utterly palpable. These songs are lyrically moving too With tender and thought provoking metaphorical lines like "His crooked mouth is full of dead leaves, crushed and stolen grasses from slumbering lawn" and "Lying in my tent, I can hear your cry echoing round the mountainside/ You sound lonely." This poetry and the understated blissfullness of the melodies on 50 words for snow, could have only come from a musician who's passion and artisitc maturity are in perfect alignment. I feel like a fool for neglecting to check out this uniquely talented individual for so long, If all of Kate Bush's work is as stunning as this, consider me the newest memeber of her colossal fanclub.

An Awesome Wave
An Awesome Wave
Offered by zoverstocks
Price: 5.58

17 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The epitome of meh (2.5 stars), 4 Nov 2012
This review is from: An Awesome Wave (Audio CD)
The Mercury Prize is an institution that occasionally shines a light on some truly brilliant and underrated artists (Antony & the Johnsons being the most obvious example that springs to mind) so I'm on balance more of a supporter than a detractor. However, besides Jessie Ware's stellar debut this years picks were so embarrasingly weak that I couldn't even be bothered to find out who won, let alone watch the show to see any of the performances. I have recently been reliably informed that odds on favourites Alt J unspuprisingly stormed to victory, with their first full length "An Awesome Wave". I hadn't listened to this album from start to finish prior to finding out this news, but I had heard their single "Tesselate" and a few other tracks from "AWA", most of which I found to be intriuging albeit a little lackluster. Having now listened to this thing a couple of times in it's entirity, I temporarily consider myself a detractor of the jokers who chose this as the best British LP of 2012, as unless i've become a tone deaf automoton (it's possible) this sounds like a painfully mediocre album to me.

"Tesselate's" suspense filled piano chords, muted electronica and delicately strummed guitars are basically the blueprint for the whole album and whilst it works moderatly well on that track the rest of the songs on here feel lethargic and meandering. "Intro" kicks the record off quite well with a dubsteppy appropriation of the sort of atmospheric instrumental Explosions in the sky might be happy to put their name to, "Interlude" follows and it's a pleasant yet slightly pretentious song with nonsensical acapella harmonising. But it's when "Breezeblocks" enters that it becomes apparent that this album is only going to be heading in one unsatisfying direction. The singers voice on "Breezeblocks" is probably the most lamentable element of the track, I don't intend to be mean but he sounds like a schizophrenic elf and the instrumental motifs that accompany him do little to redeem this atrocity as they're more somnambulant than scintillating.

Tracks from here on out sputter and limp along like a dog begging to be put to sleep, whether it's the half arsed lyricism in "Matilda" or the dreary interplay of the ironically titled "Something Good" you get the impression that Alt J have no real direction as a band. I should mention that "An Awesome Wave" does have atleast one thing going for it, the songs are fairly experimental here. Field recordings, middle eastern sounds and unusual structures are ever present throughtout this albums duration, they just haven't been able to find a way of injecting enough life into the quasi soundscapes present here. An album full of this much lassitude is always going to result in a snoozefest rather than a blissful meditative elevation, here's hoping that when Alt J return with their sophomore LP they can transfer the artful pretensions they've delivered here into something that's genuinely worth getting excited about.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2013 8:43 AM BST

good kid, m.A.A.d city
good kid, m.A.A.d city
Offered by MMT-UK
Price: 15.42

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars kendrick Delivers on the promise of Section 80, 25 Oct 2012
This review is from: good kid, m.A.A.d city (Audio CD)
Although Kendrick Lamar has been releasing music for almost a decade (formerly known as K Dot) it was only really after 2011's "Section 80" that a significant amount of people started billing him as the potential saviour of mainstream Hip-Hop. Since then many have hoped that when his major label debut dropped, it would be good enough to kick start a renaissance of talented rappers who rise to the surface because of their lyrical prowess and rapping ability and not in spite of it. Kendrick doesn't take the opportunity to present Good Kid M.A.A.D. City as a call to arms where he targets weak rappers and lame lyricists like his early 90's elder statesmen might have done. Instead he showcases his considerable mic skills and charismatic persona through an altogether more personal and intimate setting here, by creating a concept album about the trials and tribulations he's experienced throughout his life, that have helped lead him to where he currently finds himself today.

Kendrick tells this story (or short film as he's dubbed it) through many different stages, "The Art of Peer Pressure" shows a young Kendrick succumbing to the pernicious influence of his delinquent friends. Whereas "B don't kill my vibe" sees him rap from a present day perspective, with more reflections on how he views his new found fame and those around him. Songs on "GKMC" will also regularly close with a skit, usually through the form of an answering machine message if it's a family member (mainly his Mum) or a real time conversation if it's his friends. The albums narrative doesn't always feel entirely consistent with some skits being tacked onto songs that don't really have anything to do with what's being discussed, but the essential progression from a young love-struck teenager on "Sherane" to the celebratory coronation for the Rapper who's arrived on "Compton" feels pretty authentic and even if the narrative is a little shaky or suspect at times, the actual music on here more than makes up for it.

"Backseat Freestyle" features a young Kendrick at his most braggadocious, while he rides an aggressive beat. His varying flow and over the top delivery in this song remind me of Kanye West quite a bit, although Kendrick sounds like a much fiercer MC than the Louis Vuitton don, as he gives an almost virtuouso performance here. On "Good Kid" Kendrick makes deft use of Pharrel's inimitable production style, with thought provoking lines that cleverly compare racial profiling police officers to harassing gang memebers. "M.A.A.D City" is a grimy club banger, with ominously revolving synths and heavy bass, it's probably the most aggressive track on the album which is certainly helped by MC Eiht's Compton credentials. "Sing about me, I'm Dying of Thirst" is the jewel in the crown here though, with a mellow guitar riff and some smooth hi hats accompanying Kendrick, who's rapping on this song is as melifluous as a young Nas. His meditations on being remembered here, might seem conceited but the weeping strings that come in during the chorus can't help but make you empathise with his desires. The tribal switch up mid way through brings the song an extra feeling of resonance and intensity and it's the only track where the skit at the end feels necessary to close it out.

I'm not sure whether Kendrick's produced a flawless record here like many critics and fans are claiming, as I mentioned earlier the Concept isn't entirely successful and although there aren't any weak tracks on "GKMC" some of the random gun shot sounds and live narration can feel a bit amateur. It's status as one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2012 can not be denied however, and in time, maybe i'll hop aboard the hype train because this definitely has the potential to grow on me. I'd like to end this review by stating unequivocally that Kendrick has most definitely come good here and the world of modern day Hip-hop is all the better for it.

No Title Available

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exciting cover art, real shame the music isn't quite as stimulating ..., 21 Oct 2012
Music critics can be so demanding. Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes has already released two outstanding albums, some of the best singles in years and a slew of innovative music videos and yet the congescenti all claim she's still got something to prove on her third full length "The Haunted Man". Fortunately Natasha doesn't seem like the sort of person who reads a lot of her own press, so her recent declarations about almost deciding to leave the music world behind are probably completely unrelated to anything audacious the crits might have written about her. I shouldn't create too much of a jaudiced impression of how BFL's music has been received up to this point though, as she has been nominated for and won a number of prestigous awards for her previous work and most sensible music reviewers have spoken about how high their expectations for her latest album are in reference to the brilliance of what she's already been responsible for, opposed to claiming that she hasn't really got started yet.

"The Haunted Man" features many of the trademarks that have made former Bat For Lashes projects so successful; Icy electronc flourishes, with weepy string arrangements and a bounty of lyrics that deal with love, loss and spirituality. Unfortunately Natasha hasn't been able to pull all these elements together as seamlessly this time around though, with far too many of these songs feeling underdeveloped or simply misconceived. Opener "Lilies" starts strongly with a dreamy guitar melody and some Kate Bush-y mysticism coming through Natasha's emotive singing, but then the lyrics start to take a turn for the overblown as the song progresses and the electronica that drifts in and out feels clumsy at best. The next three tracks that follow all suffer from similar problems "All Your Gold" and "Oh Yeah both play with some of the stuttering rhythms you might expect to find on a Santigold album whilst simultaneously attempting to enter into ballad territory, suffise to say they don't turn out too well and "Horse of the sun" although more consistent thematically and instrumentally still fails to really resonate.

"Laura" is the first moment on "The Haunted Man" that doesn't feel tainted besides a couple of lines of cringe-worthy lyrics. Natasha's combination of soaring vocals and a delicate piano melody recall the brilliance of her previous highwater mark of balladry "Moon and Moon" and interestingly enough it's a song that almost didn't make the cut for apparently being too straight forward! "Winter Fields" and the title track also offer some redemptive moments on an otherwise disappointing album, with the former mixing sombre post classical strings and invigorating synth pop flourishes and the latter making excellent use of a male vocal choir. Closer "Deep Sea Diver" serves as the greatest illustrator as to why the "The Haunted Man" as a whole has limited impact however, the song plays with some interesting musical motifs and features some intriguiging lyricism but ultimately comes to an unsatisfying finish. Natasha Khan has far from disgraced herself on her third LP, but if reports about her spending two and a half years making this are correct, it does show that her increasing desire for perfectionism might be hurting her creativy rather than enhancing it.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2013 2:02 PM GMT

Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Price: 10.45

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Efrim Menuck for president (4.5 Stars), 20 Oct 2012
I like Explosions in the Sky and appreciate some of the less bombastic work of Mono, but I've often wondered whether the spirit of experimental rock in the 1990's that helped give rise to what was later dubbed Post-rock, has been somewhat lost by the sort of music the Texas four piece and its Post-rock contemporaries have been making throughout the last ten years. To paraphrase a quote from Tiny Mix Tapes "Is Post-rock about stretching the possibilities of the live rock band, or delivering the emotional peaks and crescendos of the classical orchestra circa high-romanticism, with the economy of a touring punk band?" Godspeed You! Black Emperor is often seen as being one of the bands that turned Post-rock into something of an unrestrained spectacle in the late nineties. Their mixture of abstract vocal samples; lengthy movements and Slint indebted crescendo/diminuendo dynamics, basically shaped the landscape for what the genre would become in the 2000's.

If it weren't for the fact that Godspeed released several masterworks in this style before going on a ten year hiatus, they perhaps could be blamed for the lack-lustre state in which post-rock currently finds itself in. Of course it would be churlish of us to ridicule GY!BE for having such a strong influence on the bands that followed them, their amazingly apocalyptic music was far too powerful not to invite imitators. It's just a shame that nobodies been able to take that inspiration (beside Sigur Ros) and produce anything as forward thinking/genre defining as what the Canadian Octet were able to do before retiring indefinitely. When I heard GY!BE had reformed in 2010 I was veritably pleased (as you could imagine), but I didn't think they'd release any new material, at least not in what has become a terribly clichéd form anyway. I was wrong, on both counts. Godspeed have adorned us with their fourth studio album and it's exactly how you'd expect a post-rock record to sound like in 2012, except from the fact that it isn't predictable and boring. Far from that, it's actually rather sublime and pretty much single-handedly redeems/exposes the derivative and unimaginative work that has been posturing as experimental rock during GY!BE's absence.

"'Allejuah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" opens with a 20 minute leviathan by the name of Mladic, It's starts with an ominously slow build-up of treated violin's, distorted guitars and bass, before transforming into a blaring assault of metallic dissonance. As an opener, it's about as punishing as anything I've heard all year. The other beast on 'Allejuah ... is "We Drift Like Worried Fire," a constantly changing suite of, hellacious drumming, feedback, plucked and distorted guitars, and ineffable strings. The intensity of this track generates a gamut of emotions throughout its 20 plus minute playing time, the first half of the track has the elegiacally uplifting feel of Broken Social Scene at their most expressive, whilst the second half mainly gives way to adrenal fuelled alt rock and aggressively frightening industrial noise. The Two Drone Pieces that seperate the aforementioned tracks "Their Helicopters Sing" and "Strung Like Lights Thee Pretemps Erable" aren't to be overlooked as ambient noodling. They're a deadly mixture of intense cacophony and abrasive electronic noises that help to maintain the punishing feel of this record. Taken as a whole `Allejuah is as uncompromising as anything Godspeed have previously released and in virtue of that last statement it's also just as essential to listen to.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2012 7:18 PM GMT

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