28 February 2013

28th Feb - Van Morrison's Moondance

Artist – Album: Van Morrison - Moondance
Released:  28th February 1970
Sounds Like: That feeling you get when you impress everyone by knowing what year Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’ was released. 

Apologies, dear reader (note the use of the singular there), for only just getting this blog out before midnight. Beginning a blog with only an hour of the day left is not on and I really must do better. I had planned on having an evening of blogging, maybe making a start on the next couple of days (God knows when I’m going to do them now) but just as I was leaving work a colleague called and said that someone had dropped out of their networking quiz team and they really needed me to step in. How could I say no to that desperate plea? I just couldn’t. Plus I like to be a smart ass. We did pretty well, finishing third out of what must’ve been about a million teams (slight exaggeration) and it may (not) surprise you that we bossed the music round, but it does mean I’ve been a bit lax when it comes to today’s blog.

Fortunately, Van Morrison’s Moondance is not an album that needs a lot to be said about it. His second solo album, it’s arguably his best (or at least makes the top two) and is lit up by Van the Man’s soulful songwriting and exceptional vocal talents. It’s littered with some of his greatest tunes: the opening ‘And It Stoned Me’ which almost sounds like a Tom Sawyer slice of Americana; the jazzy ‘Moondance’; the partying centrepiece ‘Caravan’; the lush, brilliant ‘Into the Mystic’; the giddy salutation ‘Glad Tidings’.

This is a great album; one with enough class and that has earned enough praise over the years to be able to deal with being shunned by me for some charity pub quiz at Stockport County’s football ground. Hopefully.

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       And It Stoned Me – 4:30
2.       Moondance – 4:35
3.       Crazy Love – 2:34
4.       Caravan – 4:57
5.       Into the Mystic – 3:25
6.       Come Running – 2:30
7.       These Dreams of You – 3:50
8.       Brand New Day – 5:09
9.       Everyone – 3:31
10.   Glad Tidings – 3:42

27 February 2013

27th Feb - Opeth's Blackwater Park

Artist – Album: Opeth – Blackwater Park
Released:  27th February 2001
Sounds Like: Joe versus the volcano

So heavy metal, we meet again. Last time we met I think we both came off worse for wear. Sure, I gave your Children of Bodom’s Hate Crew Deathroll a measly 4 out of 10, the joint worst score I’ve given since starting this blog (shared with the bloody Dixie Chicks, no less/more), but in turn you gave me perforated eardrums, a banging headache and doubts about the ulterior motives of angels. I’ve not been able to listen to the story of the three bears without conjuring up in my mind the image of ‘Lil’ Bloodred Ridin’ Hood’.
Ah but metal, what is this? An album that’s interesting? An album that’s entertaining? An album that one can actually stand to listen to? Well played HM, well played.

Opeth’s Blackwater Park really is genuinely a good record. There’s the soft/ loud dynamics that icons such as Pixies or Nirvana were suckers for. There’s vocals that shift effortlessly between guttural roar and aching croon and they balance the two well. Crunching electric guitars aren’t the only dish on the menu, with acoustic guitars also holding their own. And the 10 minute long epics capture the ambition and mood of the great 70’s progressive rock groups such as Yes and King Crimson.

I’m not saying this is for everyone, far from it. But if you’re of an open mind, or already have a death metal leaning you should give it a spin. Ease yourself in with the surprisingly gentle ‘Harvest’, work yourself up to the mood-shifting ‘Dirge for November’ and, if you’re still standing, feast yourself on the furious title track. Great fun.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       The Leper Affinity – 10:23
2.       Bleak – 9:16
3.       Harvest – 6:01
4.       The Drapery Falls – 10:54
5.       Dirge for November – 7:54
6.       The Funeral Portrait – 8:44
7.       Patterns in the Ivy – 1:53
8.       Blackwater Park – 12:08

26 February 2013

26th Feb - Beach House's Devotion

Artist – Album: Beach House - Devotion
Released:  26th February 2008
Sounds Like: Ethereal angels

A few years ago Beach House played at Manchester Cathedral, a gig that I still kick myself for not managing to get to (which has ruined my ankles and made me 75% less awesome at football). I can hardly think of a better pairing of artist and venue. The band's atmospheric, late-night music must've been wonderfully complemented by the cavernous, grand, divine interior of the large temple.
Continuing along the church theme (cracking segue there Joe) Devotion, Beach House’s second album, kicks off with ‘Wedding Bell’. For all that their signature sound is gossamer dream pop, this starter is actually much more straightforward; delicate, indie-folk festooned with sliding guitars and girly vocals. It’s a wonderful example of the way that Beach House have expanded (being very much a relative term) on the style of their first album.
If you want more of the same, try the brilliant, chiming ‘Gila’ or ‘Turtle Island’. But if you’d prefer a few interesting flecks on the otherwise uniform shiny surface, you’ve got other options here too. Before the respectful cover of Daniel Johnstone’s ‘Something’s Last a Long Time’, ‘All These Years’ and ‘Heart of Chambers’ represent some of the most lively tunes in the group’s canon, and they’re just as good as their more standard stuff. Heavenly, angelic music.
Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Wedding Bell – 3:55
2.       You Came to Me – 4:05
3.       Gila – 4:46
4.       Turtle Island – 4:00
5.       Holy Dances – 4:19

6.       All the Years – 3:36
7.       Heart of Chambers – 4:25
8.       Some Things Last a Long Time – 2:32
9.       Astronaut – 5:05
10.   D.A.R.L.I.N.G. – 3:18
11.   Home Again – 4:09

Listen to ‘Wedding Bell’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JqYVukDpqI

Also released on the 26th February:
2002: Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Also released on the 26th February:
2007: Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position

25 February 2013

25th Feb - Nick Drake's Pink Moon

Artist – Album: Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Released:  25th February 1975
Sounds Like: A gentle Armageddon is on its way

Nick Drake has attained near mythic status over the course of the last decade or so. Somehow there’s romance in the tragedy of the young hero who, unloved in his time, takes his own life. See also Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley. But the legend doesn’t arise from our love of heartbreak alone – although he was only 23 when he released Pink Moon, his third and final album, with it he completed a beautiful hat trick of albums that deserve to garner the acclaim they are now afforded.

Title track ‘Pink Moon’ is probably the liveliest track on the album, involving as it does hushed vocals, acoustic guitar and piano. On first glance it’s a lovely, sunny track about some strange natural phenomenon, but on closer inspection it’s Drake is welcoming in the apocalypse with a vacant smile on his face. “Pink Moon gonna get ye all” indeed.

Although it’s not easy, the rest of the album finds Drake crawl further within himself. Gone is the piano, and Drake lyrics become less decipherable. Song titles like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Free Ride’ give some indication of the sinister turn his words have taken. His masterful knowledge of guitar chords and strange tunings keep his plucked acoustic tracks interesting and the his delivery seems alarmingly content, as though he’s already given himself up to things behind the sun.

And then it’s finished. At only 28 minutes long it’s the shortest album I’ve reviewed yet, but the consistent brilliance of the whole record means that it can be played through on a never-ending loop ‘til Judgement Day.  

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1.       Pink Moon – 2:06
2.       Place to Be – 2:43
3.       Road – 2:02
4.       Which Will – 2:58
5.       Horn – 1:23
6.       Things Behind the Sun – 3:57
7.       Know – 2:26
8.       Parasite – 3:36
9.       Free Ride – 3:06
10.   Harvest Breed – 1:37
11.   From the Morning – 2:30

Listen to ‘From the Morning’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAmq-KeX18s

Also released on the 25th February:
1995: Elliott Smith – Either/Or

Also released on the 25th February:
2008: Sébastien Tellier - Sexuality

24 February 2013

24th Feb - Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti

Artist – Album: Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffti
Released:  24th February 1975    
Sounds Like: Led Zep-jam

Led Zep are the rock band’s rock band. They’ve got the look – long luxurious hair, prominent cheekbones, hipster flares. They’ve got the sound – blues influenced hard rock, with Jimmy Page’s genius guitar solos and Robert Plant’s impressive range of vocals. They’ve also got the mythology. This morning I woke up sat upright in an armchair, with one saltshaker worth of salt in my right pocket, a definite hangover headache and only a vague recollection of the final hours of the night before. But there’s no doubt that whatever stories may transpire, they will pale into significance up against the corridor motorcycle riding, television throwing, cake attacking, weird sex legends of Led Zeppelin.

They’ve also got the albums, with this being right up amongst those considered their best. It’s easy to see why with songs such as ‘The Rover’, ‘Houses of the Holy’, ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ in tow. The album switches between a variety of rock subgenres and the boys capably hold their own in every jam.

As a double album, the record does suffer from a lack of direction. Although I appreciate the skill and musicality involved in creating each of these epics, I do prefer the shorter, earlier albums for their clear thinking. Some of the tunes are little more than jams, which can grate despite their enormous talents. It is good but I have my other favourites.

Now, you may have guessed I didn’t sleep so well in that chair last night, so it’s time for me to go to bed!

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Custard Pie – 4:13
2.       The Rover – 5:37
3.       In My Time of Dying – 11:04
4.       Houses of the Holy – 4:02
5.       Trampled Under Foot – 5:37
6.       Kashmir – 8:32
7.       In the Light – 8:46
8.       Bron-Yr-Aur – 2:06
9.       Down by the Seaside – 5:13
10.   Ten Years Gone – 6:32
11.   Night Flight – 3:36
12.   The Wanton Song – 4:10
13.   Boogie with Stu – 3:53
14.   Black Country Woman – 4:24
15.   Sick Again – 4:42

Listen to ‘Houses of the Holy’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSd3yys69AE

23 February 2013

23rd Feb - Grant Lee Buffalo's Fuzzy

Artist – Album: Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy
Released:  23rd February 1993   
Sounds Like: A drunken night in a smoke filled bar

I first struck upon this album nearly ten years ago when reading an article on the most underrated albums chosen by readers of the brilliant but now sadly extinct music, film & TV magazine The Word. To the esteemed contributors the idea of underrated wasn’t restricted to just albums that hadn’t sold well, or albums that hadn’t got the critical reception they deserved, or even albums nobody had heard about, but any combination of the above. Fuzzy sold reasonably well for a debut album, charting at #72 in the UK album charts, and the critics responded enthusiastically to its chamber Americana stylings.  The issue here is that the album’s all but forgotten about today. Which s a shame because people are missing out on one of the better albums of the early 90s.

The songs on Fuzzy are built around Grant Lee Phillips’ stellar vocals and evocative imagery, meaning that few of them prescribe to formulaic verse-chorus structures or standard lengths. They shamble on as Phillips’ words dictate and feel like an eloquent drunk’s rich, rambling stories. Opener ‘The Shining Hour’ is a bewitched hoedown and is followed by the dazzling tale of an alternative Romeo and Juliet in ‘Jupiter and Teardrop’. The beguiling ‘Fuzzy’ is enriched by Phillips’ howling chorus and ‘The Hook’ has, well, a great hook. The guys try to wake their country from its soporifc lull with songs like ‘Stars ‘N’ Stripes’ and ‘America Snoring’ but they’re not bogged down by political agenda. To be honest, there isn’t a bad track on the album. It may be considered underrated but, for me, it deserves bare ratings bruv.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       The Shining Hour – 3:53
2.       Jupiter and Teardrop – 5:57
3.       Fuzzy – 4:59
4.       Wish You Well – 3:30
5.       The Hook – 4:13
6.       Soft Wolf Tread – 2:52
7.       Stars ‘N’ Stripes – 4:43
8.       Dixie Drug Store – 5:07
9.       America Snoring – 3:39
10.   Grace – 6:15
11.   You Just Have To Be Crazy – 3:35

Also released on the 23rd February:
2000: Air – The Virgin Suicides

22 February 2013

22nd Feb - Los Campesinos!'s Hold On Now, Youngster...

Artist – Album: Los Campesinos – Hold On Now Youngster
Released:  22nd February 2008   
Sounds Like: The fountain of youth

Records in which the artists are clearly having as much of a laugh as Los Campesinos are here are even rarer than horseless supermarket beef burgers. Most groups don’t manage this level of pure unadulterated joy in one song, never mind maintained over a full 48 minute set. It’s infectious too: a prescription of listening to this twice a day can actually make you younger (DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor – yet – and I cannot be held responsible if this turns out to be untrue).

Right from the giddy opening that is ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’, the perfect introduction to the album, the excitable collective set their phasers to fun. Gareth and Aleksandra Campesinos! (they’re not related, everyone in the group shares the same surname...) trade part yelped/part spoken verses on such naive subjects as being accelerated readers and dancing in fountains. Even the song titles suggest spontaneity; some of them take so long to read that the actual songs have finished by the time you’re done.  You can only imagine how hard they found it to contain themselves during the slow build intro intro to the otherwise rip roaring ‘You! Me! Dancing!’.

As well as the aforementioned couple of tunes, other highlights include ‘Don’t Tell Me to Do Math(s)’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’ but to be fair there are no duff notes here. A magical record.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Death to Los Campsinos! – 2:52
2.       Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbears – 3:35
3.       Don’t Tell Me to Do Math(s) – 3:22
4.       Drop it Doe Eyes – 2:44
5.       My Year in Lists – 1:51
6.       Knee Deep at ATP – 2:49
7.       This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics” – 4:20
8.       We Are All Accelerated Readers – 2:54
9.       You! Me! Dancing! – 6:48
10.   ...And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in Unison – 2:50
11.   Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks – 4:31
2007: The Year Punk Broke (My Heart) – 4:44 (unlisted)

Listen to ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P41Qdkk6OA

Also released on the 22nd February:
1993: Radiohead – Pablo Honey
Also released on the 22nd February:
2000: Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

21 February 2013

21st Feb - Destroyer's Destroyer's Rubies

Artist – Album: Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies
Released:  21st February 2006    
Sounds Like: Dan Bejar’s wonderfully weird present for you

Today seems to be the day of many birthdays. My little sister turns 22 today, which she’ll be celebrating by working a 10 hour shift in the local bar. Lucky girl. It’s also my uncle Bob’s (yep, Bob is my uncle) big day, a guy that we sometimes call Sorry Bob because of the prolific number of apologies he fires out in regular conversation. Robert Mugabe, Nina Simone and Alan Rickman were all born on this day, some of whom went on to have less of a positive effect on the world than others (I’m thinking of you, Professor Snape). And my friend’s daughter is celebrating her third birthday today. Happy birthday Ruby! Emily’s Ruby is exactly 4 years younger than Destroyer’s Rubies, today’s item of vaguely music related bloggery.

Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar) has a moniker that you’re more likely to associate with some death metal band, but in fact his niche is more of a sonic, free-flowing indie rock. On Destroyer’s Rubies he crafts epic length rock songs, occasionally punctuated by distorted guitar solos and sing-a-long chants, but more often populated by Bejar’s wonderful slacker vocals spouting cryptic poetry.

With its labyrinthine song structures and Destroyer’s innate oddness, there’s a lot here that, on paper, should scare off the casual listener. Descriptions such as avant garde aren’t far wide of the mark. At times the enigmatic lyrics are impenetrable. But elsewhere they’re brilliant in their simplicity, as in album highlight ‘Painter in Your Pocket’ – “I didn’t stand a chance, I couldn’t stand at all, you looked OK with the others, you looked great on your own”. This was the seventh studio album by Destroyer and with experience he’s learnt to weave his weird and wonderful stories around mesmerizing melodies. It’s a record that thankfully defies those theoretical repellents and it’s been a real pleasure to listen to. Happy birthday to me.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Rubies – 9:25
2.       Your Blood – 4:14
3.       European Oils – 4:52
4.       Painter in Your Pocket – 4:09
5.       Looters’ Follies – 7:25
6.       3000 Flowers – 3:46
7.       A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point – 6:01
8.       Priest’s Knees – 3:06
9.       Watercolours into the Ocean – 4:43
10.   Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever – 5:53

Listen to ‘Painter in Your Pocket’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBWg9HEomLs

20 February 2013

20th Feb - Eluvium's Copia

Artist – Album: Eluvium - Copia
Released:  20th February 2007    
Sounds Like: Watching the sunrise from a luscious green meadow. Kind of like the cover art.

Eluvium’s Copia is one of the most soothing and beautiful albums I’ve ever heard. Bold statement I know...

This album sounds like a sunny afternoon canal trip in a hired boat, sipping on cooled beers with your a bunch of your best mates. It is like a luxurious Radox bath just for your ears. It is what you would get if you put the films Harvey, Babe and Life is Beautiful into a blender and then poured the results into a CD shaped cast. It’s like when your birthday lands on a Saturday. It’s the same as when the clocks go back and you have an extra hour in bed. It sounds like walking in a meadow with your sweetheart, gazing at the fluffy clouds in the sky and picking up forget-me-nots. It’s the aural equivalent of Soothers. For any lady readers that I may or may not have, it sounds like that feeling you get when you’ve shaved your legs and then get under a nice soft quilt. Or so I’m lead to believe.

I could go on...

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Amerik – 3:18
2.       Indoor Swimming at the Space Station – 10:29
3.       Seeing You Off the Edges – 5:03
4.       Prelude for Time Feelers – 5:48
5.       Requiem on Frankfort Ave – 2:41
6.       Radio Ballet – 3:12
7.       (Intermission) – 0:50
8.       After Nature – 1:51
9.       Reciting the Airships – 4:35
10.   Ostinato – 6:08
11.   Hymn #1 – 1:32
12.   Repose in Blue – 9:18

Listen to ‘Radio Ballet’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqb60rxl96I

Also released on the 20th February:
2001: Spoon – Girls Can Tell

19 February 2013

19th Feb - Yes' The Yes Album

Artist – Album: Yes – The Yes Album
Released:  19th February 1971    
Sounds Like: A recurring nightmare of mine from back in the day

Released way back in 1971, The Yes Album introduced the world at large to bloody guitar know-it-all Steve Howe. Whether ensconced in the archetypal proggy whig outs that define Yes or left a free reign on the acoustic ragtime of ‘Clap’, the annoyingly brilliant virtuosity of Howe’s fretwork both infuses and engulfs this record. Show off. Oh, I don’t mean to sound bitter. It’s just that Mr Howe pretty much ruined my chances of becoming the greatest guitarist of all time, that’s all...

You see, when I was 12 I was an avid guitar practiser with boundless enthusiasm, an only slightly worse-than-average finger span (barre chords were pretty much out of the question), and the scruffy mop of hair and gormless look that was the fashion with Britpop icons at the time. But then my Uncle challenged me to learn how to play ‘Clap’ and my questionable progress stalled altogether. I devoted hours for weeks on end just to learn the first thirty seconds. I couldn’t sleep without hearing the chipper plucked notes circle round and round in my head. And I just couldn’t get anywhere. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I would never become good enough, and from that day forward I’ve relied on playing Greensleeves or strumming the same four chords and subtly changing the rhythm in the hope that people would think it's something different. It’s no life for a boy of my ambition.

Jealousy aside, this album is worth a listen. ‘Yours is No Disgrace’ and ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ are real anthems and ‘Starship Trooper’ is one of the best prog rock songs (don’t laugh) out there. If only Steve Howe wasn’t so good.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10 

1.       Yours Is No Disgrace – 9:41
2.       Clap – 3:17
3.       Starship Trooper – 9:25
I.                    Life Seeker
II.                  Disillusion
III.                Würm
4.       I’ve Seen All Good People – 6:56
I.                    Your Move
II.                  All Good People
5.       A Venture – 3:18
6.       Perpetual Change – 8:54

Listen to ‘Starship Trooper’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKftiJS30Cs

Also released on the 19th February:
2003: The Postal Service – Give Up

18 February 2013

18th Feb - Radiohead's The King of Limbs

Artist – Album: Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Released:  18th February 2011    
Sounds Like: It could slip your attention

Whisper it, but I get the feeling that Radiohead aren’t really bothered any more. I can’t say that I blame them; after all, over the last 20 years they’ve released consistently brilliant records, including a smattering that can be listed amongst the greatest of all time. They’ve had immensely successful singles without ever compromising their artful direction, and in doing so they’ve become worldwide superstars.

But listening to this, their eighth album, you don’t really get of any of that. You get more of the sense that Thom Yorke and co had been kicking around for a while, watching Friends repeats and drinking peppermint tea in their mansions, when they suddenly call from their record company demanding that they pull together a new album, like, now. Even the actual release was a bit slapdash, being that its arrival was only announced five days before it actually came out.

I mean, they’re still a great band and there’s plenty here to enjoy. They continue to craft wonderfully textured, electronic pieces and I was impressed with the beautiful melancholy of the final three tracks, particularly the haunting ‘Give Up the Ghost’. But too often it felt like they were just retreading old ground. Put together a few robotic bubble and squeaks, add a sparse backbeat and get Mr Yorke to warble over it indecipherably for four minutes. Repeat x 8. There’s not a lot more to it is there?

This one’s for the fans (Radiohead-heads?) and not the must-have record that pretty much everything else they’ve produced is.

Albumaday... rating: 6/10

1.       Bloom – 5:15
2.       Morning Mr Magpie – 4:41
3.       Little by Little – 4:27
4.       Feral – 3:13
5.       Lotus Flower – 5:01
6.       Codex – 4:47
7.       Give Up the Ghost – 4:50
8.       Separator – 5:20

Listen to ‘Give Up the Ghost’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41Yz5JtnNwM

17 February 2013

17th Feb - The Knife's Silent Shout

Artist – Album: The Knife – Silent Shout
Released:  17th February 2006    
Sounds Like: Eleven shards of ice

Silent Shout’, this album’s title track and curtain raiser, is a builder. At first the listener is treated simply to the thudding bass line, the menacing frozen heartbeat of the tune. At the end of four bars two snatches of the symbol, and the light brushes shuffle in. Another two bars and the bare bass drum is introduced. A short while later the wonderful syncopated synth lead assumes control, whirling about busily like snowflakes in a blizzard. The murky vocals aren’t introduced until more than a minute has elapsed, by which point you’re already hooked. It’s an otherworldly, restrained song, containing danceable beats and effects that you could never imagine being played at your nightclub due to its chilly atmosphere. And it’s the perfect set up for the rest of this frosty collection.

Although there are some more temperate moments – fourth single ‘We Share Our Mothers’ is too lively and busy to not melt some of the ice – these are far outnumbered by the glacial sounds of the likes of ‘The Captain’, ‘Marble House’ and ‘Still Light’. Karin Dreijer’s voice is so adjusted that it no longer sounds human, more like another instrument for the duo to play with to unsettle you.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that the record is not at first easy to warm to. But there’s a reason that it was so highly acclaimed on its release, and was selected by most critics for their end of year (and even end of decade) lists. It might be cold, but it’s also sublimely cool.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Silent Shout – 4:53
2.       Neverland – 3:38
3.       The Captain – 6:08
4.       We Share Our Mothers’ Health – 4:11
5.       Na Na Na – 2:27
6.       Marble House – 5:18
7.       Like a Pen – 6:13
8.       From Off to On – 3:58
9.       Forest Families – 4:08
10.   One Hit – 4:27
11.   Still Light – 3:15

Listen to ‘Marble House’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=841r2p_dsJE

Also released on the 17th February:
2004: Chromeo – She’s In Control
Also released on the 17th February:
2009: Beirut – March of the Zapatec

16 February 2013

16th Feb - Of Montreal's The Gay Parade

Artist – Album: Of Montreal – The Gay Parade
Released:  16th February 1999    
Sounds Like: Lo-fi, indie 60’s

I first came across Of Montreal about five years ago, when they released the phenomenal album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? That effort was a moody, challenging record, born of lead singer and chief songwriter Kevin Barnes’ recent separation with his wife and the paranoia inducing antidepressants that he was taking. It’s a brilliant album – I would’ve written about it already if it hadn’t shared a birthday with the peerless David Bowie album Station to Station – but it’s also emotionally draining, leaden with crunching synths and 12 minute long rants. In absolutely no way did it prepare me for the colourful psychedelia and whimsy of The Gay Parade, released 9 years and 5 albums earlier.

The Gay Parade has actually been compared with Sgt Peppers, which should give you some measure of its achievement.  It’s true that there are similar elements: the enchanting mixture of psychedelic rock and music hall, the celebration of the everyday and the sketching of absurdist cartoon characters (try ‘Tulip Baroo’ and ‘Jacques Lamure’), the effervescent melodies and intertwining harmonies, even the reference to marching in the near title track ‘The March of the Gay Parade’. For me, I could hear elements of The Kinks’ The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, in the wonderfully realised vignettes of the otherwise mundane such as ‘Neat Little Domestic Life’. Some of the poppier moments and great hooks recalled The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, with the opening piano of ‘Old Familiar Ways’ feeling like it may have been lifted straight from a Rod Argent b-side. The spoken word outro made me think of the Beach Boys.

Regardless of who or what they sound like most, there’s no denying that that is an impressive list of (almost-)equivalents. It may not strike you on first listen, but, given time and patience, The Gay Parade can live up to the billing.  

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Old Familiar Ways – 2:25
2.       Fun Loving Nun – 2:17
3.       Tulip Baroo – 2:10
4.       Jacques Lamure – 2:31
5.       The March of the Gay Parade – 2:55
6.       Neat Little Domestic Life – 2:45
7.       A Collection of Poems About Water – 3:57
8.       Y the Quale and Vaguely Bird Noisily Enjoying Their Forbidden Tryst/ I’d Be a Yellow Feathered Loon – 2:40
9.       The Autobiographical Grandpa – 2:19
10.   The Miniature Philosopher – 1:54
11.   My Friend Will Be Me – 3:54
12.   My Favorite Boxer – 3:01
13.   Advice from a Divorced Gentleman to His Bachelor Friend Considering Marriage – 2:08
14.   A Man’s Life Flashing Before His Eyes While He and His Wife Drive Off a Cliff into the Ocean – 3:04
15.   Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree – 5:21
16.   The Gay Parade Outro – 0:47

Listen to ‘My Favorite Boxer’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhiPID4ttOE