30 June 2013

30th June - The Prodigy's The Fat of the Land

Artist – Album: The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
Released:  30th June 1997

Sounds Like: Twisted firestarter!

It’s the last day of Glastonbury and there’s no doubt that those lucky sods who went this year have seen some extraordinary things. Catching up with it all on BBC has been exhilarating and, I have to say, just reading up on Chic’s performance on the Guardian website (here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2013/jun/29/chic-glastonbury-2013-review ) has got me unhealthily giddy of a Sunday morning.

Probably not helping me to calm down is today’s album, The Prodigy’s 1997 smash The Fat of the Land. Its breakneck big beat immediately grabs you by the cojones, forces you on to your feet and demands that you pogo and mosh out in equal measure as though you’re off your head on pills. Two of the albums colossal hits, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and ‘Breathe’, kick off proceedings, with the third (and biggest, and most furious), ‘Firestarter’, lying in wait further down the pecking order to pounce on any unsuspecting victims that have made it that far unscathed. That trio’s strength lies in their testosterone fuelled in-your-face-ness, with unrelenting hip hop beats and shouty nonsensical choruses pelted at your by the frightening duo of Liam Howlett and Keith Flint.

Elsewhere, however, the album is not without its subtleties. Narayan, featuring Crispian Mills – Kula Shaker lead singer, Indian music aficionado and a dude that could only have been famous in the joyous Britpop era – is psychedelic and cool, whilst closer ‘Fuel My Fire’, a cover of the L7 original, shifts the mood to grunge and metal. The highlight though, is the funky hip hop of ‘Diesel Power’, featuring Kool Keith (rap’s very own Niles Rodgers), which hits the sweet spot between the confrontational electronica of those initial singles and the longevity and refinement of the album tracks. It’s a pearl.

Right, so I’m pumped. Who’s up for a hedonistic Sunday (only mildly so, there is work tomorrow after all...)??

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Smack My Bitch Up – 5:42
2.       Breathe – 5:35
3.       Diesel Power – 4:17
4.       Funky Shit – 5:16
5.       Serial Thrilla – 5:11
6.       Mindfields – 5:40
7.       Narayan – 9:05
8.       Firestarter – 4:40
9.       Climbatize – 6:38
10.   Fuel My Fire – 4:19

Listen to ‘Diesel Power’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSygqiOyD9M

29 June 2013

29th June - Drain S.T.H.'s Freaks of Nature

Artist – Album: Drain S.T.H. – Freaks of Nature
Released:  29th June 1999
Sounds Like: The Corrs if they were a Swedish metal band

Ah man, I thought I’d left the days of forcing myself to listen to some European metal band far behind me. However, after a month in which the standard of the albums has steadily declined, I’ve been left with a choice between two albums of questionable quality. Lootpack’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote has its moments (naturally, it comes courtesy of the excellent and prolific Madlib), but with 24 tracks it is waayyy too long, and I was honestly bored less than halfway through. The alternative though, is Drain S.T.H., a Swedish all female metal band, that are critically acclaimed but surely, surely, are shit (just look at that album cover – it’s like a vampire Dixie Chicks). I found myself facing the anti-Sophie’s Choice – I want desperately to destroy them both but I must decide which one will be kept alive by virtue of a blog post.

I surprised even myself for plumping with the girly rockers but, to be fair, their effort is a lot better than I had assumed. I say that in a relative sense, I mean, I wouldn’t think to give record a spin again unless multiple guns were pointed at my head, but it’s not half bad. Their particular brand of metal is grungey and accessible, having more in common with Alice in Chains than Slayer, and the vocals have enough of an edge to justify the hard rock behind them – more like Courtney Love in Hole than Evanescence.

The one huge stinker, ‘Simon Says’, is a rap metal clash, that presumably was only ever put down as that type of Limp Bizkit-y rubbish was in vogue back around the turn of the millennium. In truth though, it’s so horrific that it’s actually quite entertaining and so it doesn’t make you want to run a mile as it probably should.

Please note, in absolutely, positively, blinking no way am I recommending this album, but, you know, it ain’t that bad...

Albumaday... rating: 5/10

1.       Enter My Mind – 3:13
2.       Alive – 3:35
3.       Simon Says – 4:10
4.       I Wish... – 4:40
5.       Black – 4:07
6.       Crave – 4:21
7.       The Bubble Song – 3:28
8.       Right Through You – 4:04
9.       Leech – 4:14
10.   Get Inside – 3:23
11.   I Will Follow – 3:40

Listen to ‘I Wish...’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_BwbvLi6_Y

Also released on the 29th June:
1999: Lootpack – Soundpieces: Da Antidote!

28 June 2013

28th June - The Posies' Every Kind of Light

Artist – Album: The Posies – Every Kind of Light
Released:  28th June 2005

Sounds Like: The not-so-rosey Posies

The Posies come with some reputation – likened to the Hollies and Big Star, and being one of the pioneers of the nineties power-pop revival (possibly my favourite genre of all), it seems that the Posies at their pomp would have been right up my alley. Unfortunately, I was just a touch too young and too British to have known them at their best before they announced their break up in 1999. Andddd fortunately, they didn’t really mean it (those guys!), and after performing gigs over the following years they went ahead and released their sixth studio album in 2005.

With the new album came something of a new lineup, with perennial Poseurs Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow joined by newbies Matt Harris and Darius Minwalla; although through the years Posie bassists and drummers appear to have been employed on a revolving door basis anyway so it wasn't really all that different. Nope, I’m afraid to report that the biggest change was the loss of that spark that made them special.

They’re clearly happy to be back – they announce as much on the opening track ‘It’s Great to be Here Again’ – and the album does have its moments of magic. ‘I Guess You’re Right’ and ‘Love Comes’, both of which came free on Windows Vista weirdly, come at the catchy chorus from different angles, one biting, one sunny, but with equally impressive results. ‘Could He Treat You Better?’ is political but poppy, whilst the best track is ‘Second Time Around’ which bounces along heavy rock guitars and Foo Fighters-esque beats. The rest of the songs are a bit dull to be perfectly honest.

Ultimately the album doesn’t quite hit the spot, but it promises enough to merit forays into their more highly decorated earlier works. And I will do just that!

Albumaday... rating:  6/10

1.       It’s Great to be Here Again – 3:58
2.       Conversations – 4:44
3.       All in a Day’s Work – 4:20
4.       I Guess You’re Right – 3:32
5.       Anything and Everything – 3:41
6.       Second Time Around – 3:35
7.       Last Crawl – 4:26
8.       Could He Treat You Better? – 4:05
9.       Love Comes – 3:19
10.   I Finally Found a Jungle I Like!!! – 3:14
11.   That Don’t Fly – 4:38
12.   Sweethearts of Rodeo Drive – 6:21

Listen to ‘Love Comes’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X78TDlqNiho

27th June - The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out!

Artist – Album: The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!
Released:  27th June 1966

Sounds Like: I want to get freaky with you

The Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa’s band, even did debut albums differently, smashing down their mission statement on not one but two discs of delightful doolalliness.

Disc one is a  pop album of sorts, distilling all the discernible elements of popular music at the time and churning out a sound that was both accessible and unique at the same time. As well as the obvious titular pastiches on the likes of ‘Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder’ and ‘I’m Not Satisfied’, whole genres are parodied in the comical turns of doo wop or the xylophone-tastic beat pop of ‘Wowie Zowie’ (A writer friend described thusly – whimsical words married with stand-alone rhythms which may well have served as an unsung template for the Pixies. Smart eh?). Zappa wasn’t just a clown though, and lyrically he delivers masterful turns at songs of alienation, love and loss and avante-garde irony. As silly as ditties such as ‘Wowie Zowie’ and ‘You Didn’t Try to Call Me’ are, ‘How Could I Be Such a Fool’ and ‘Anyway the Wind Blows’ (written when Zappa was considering divorcing his first wife) are truly devastating. Meanwhile, tunes such as ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’ and ‘You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here’ flag up the fact that the band isn’t dealing in your standard pop rock, and that their music is aimed at “those who aren't afraid to say what's on their minds (The left-behinds of the Great Society)”.

Disc two is SUPER-trippy and may be best indulged after copious volumes of drugs. Still, ‘Trouble Every Day’ is brilliant blues rock set against an amazingly smart retort against racism, and on ‘Help, I’m a Rock’, well, it’s just fun to sing “help, i’m a rock” repeatedly.

It’s brilliant. In fact you might say that “just the other day I got so shook up I had a flash in the afternoon”.

Albumaday... rating:   10/10

1.       Hungry Freaks, Daddy – 3:32
2.       I Ain’t Got No Heart – 2:34
3.       Who Are the Brain Police? – 3:25
4.       Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder – 3:43
5.       Motherly Love – 2:50
6.       How Could I Be Such a Fool? – 2:16
7.       Wowie Zowie – 2:55
8.       You Didn’t Try to Call Me – 3:21
9.       Any Way the Wind Blows – 2:55
10.   I’m Not Satisfied – 2:41
11.   You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here – 3:41
12.   Trouble Every Day – 5:53
13.   Help, I’m a Rock (Suite in Three Movements) – 8:37
14.   The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux) – 12:22

Listen to ‘You Didn’t Try to Call Me ’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJ6sUxMQ5M

Also released on the 27th June:
2005: Hayseed Dixie – A Hot Piece of Grass

26 June 2013

26th June - Air France's No Way Down

Artist – Album: Air France – No Way Down
Released:  26th June 2008

Sounds Like: kind of like a dream, isn’t it? No, better.

I may be going a bit mad, but today I’ve chosen to ignore Badly Drawn Boy’s scruffy indie folk masterpiece The Hour of the Bewilderbeast. Likewise, I’ve forsaken Sonic Youth’s major label debut, the visceral but cool noise rock of Goo. I’ve even skipped over a Bob Dylan album for God’s sake. What on earth has come over me?  

Well, dear reader, Air France have come all over me (eww, not like that). The Swedish duo (yep, they’re not even French) welded their first two EPs – 2007s On Trade Winds and No Way Down – together to produce their only full length in 2008, and it is gooood. Tropical beats, joyous harmonies and uplifting orchestration wash over you in ten beautiful blue waves, but whilst the music is upbeat and modern, the sampled snippets of conversation (I particularly love the sound of the affable French geezer about halfway in) and hazy sound affects bring a nostalgic air to proceedings. The cut-and-paste collage, uplifting electronic and classic feel of the album is reminiscent of The Avalanches’ Since I Left You if that’s a reference point you can work with. Amongst the  individual highlights you could list ‘Collapsing at Your Doorstep’, ‘No Excuses’, ‘No Way Down’ and ‘Beach Party’, but truly the record is so lush and fluid that it works best as one glorious whole.

It’s what I imagine beach parties in heaven sound like.

Albumaday... rating:  8/10

1.       Maundy Thursday – 2:50
2.       June Evenings – 4:02
3.       Collapsing at Your Doorstep – 4:34
4.       No Excuses – 4:03
5.       No Way Down – 4:05
6.       Windmill Wedding – 3:13
7.       Introduction – 1:37
8.       Karibien – 3:15
9.       Beach Party – 3:15
10.   Never Content – 5:20

Listen to ‘Beach Party’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxMLaPsx2SU

Also released on the 26th June:
1975: Bob Dylan & the Band – The Basement Tapes
Also released on the 26th June:
1990: Sonic Youth – Goo

Also released on the 26th June:
2000: Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of the Bewilderbeast 

25 June 2013

25th June - Prince's Purple Rain

Artist – Album: Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain
Released:  25th June 1986

Sounds Like: Prince’s crowning glory

In Purple Rain the film, "The Kid" (Prince) is a damn good musician but also a bit of a douche. He has a band which is close to mutiny and a relationship in which he has become jealous and abusive. A couple of his bandmates cut an instrumental demo called ‘Slow Groove’ that the Kid is a bit meh about. A dodgy performance of ‘Computer Blue’ at the club only makes things worse and the Kid is in a bit of a state when he heads home to find that his father is down in the  basement attempting to shoot himself. Naturally the Kid takes to his piano and sorts out ‘Slow Groove’. Back to the club, everyone’s keeping out of the Kid’s way. He gets on stage, but doesn’t initially do anything for a while. Finally, he announces that they’re going to perform a new song by his bandmates. It turns out that he’s turned ‘Slow Groove’ into ‘Purple Rain’, and everyone loves it. His father gets better in hospital, he patches things up with his girlfriend, and they all live happily ever after.
But nobody really cares about the film...
In Purple Rain the soundtrack album, the kid Prince is a damn good musician. Combining typically Prince genres like funk and R&B with more ambitious styles such as pop, soul and rock, the album is the pinnacle of the little genius’ career.  Despite being a huge commercial success – it boasts two US no. 1s in ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘Let's Go Crazy’ and has gone platinum a whopping 13 times over – the album is also refreshingly experimental. ‘When Doves Cry’ is the first one people talk about, with its stunning spacey gospel funk, but there’s also the psychedelic pop of ‘Take Me With U’, the metallic soul of ‘Computer Blue’ and the epic rock of ‘Purple Rain’. On the infamously sexual ‘Darling Nikki’ he also pushes the boat out lyrically. Every song promises something new and special.
Little wonder then that this is the Purple Rain that people care about.
Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Let’s Go Crazy – 4:39
2.       Take Me with U – 3:54
3.       The Beautiful Ones – 5:13
4.       Computer Blue – 3:59
5.       Darling Nikki – 4:14
6.       When Doves Cry – 5:54
7.       I Would Die 4 U – 2:49
8.       Baby I’m a Star – 4:24
9.       Purple Rain – 8:41

Listen to ‘I Would Die 4 U’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li9ffoLxNqk

24 June 2013

24th June - Beyoncé's 4

Artist – Album:  Beyoncé - 4
Released:  24th June 2011

Sounds Like: Party Up (Up in Here)

Well today has been a massive write off. I had the longest lie-in I’ve ever, ever had – it was about quarter to one when I woke up! – and I’m already looking forward to heading back to bed. Why? Because yesterday I had a grand old craic partying with the Irish side of my family. A party featuring dancing in equal measures to traditional Irish music and Gangnam Style, talking to (and poking fun of) lovely strangers, downing Jaeger shots, whisky, beer and anything else we can lay our hands on and, during the afterparty, giggling at R.Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet and Autotune the News on Youtube. Yep, we like to party.

You know who else likes to party? Beyoncé. I know this because she rounds up Kanye West and Andre 3000 amongst others to tell us all about it on ‘Party’. In truth she didn’t really need to spell it out, as the album is stocked full of tracks to boogie on down to. From the shimmering dance of ‘Love on Top’ to the stomping ‘Run the World (Girls)’ the album successfully fuses elements from such diverse sources as dad rock, 70s disco, 80s R&B, afrobeat and her usual brand of sassy hip pop. Next to the floor fillers are the lung-busting ballads that showcase her brilliant vocals. ‘I Care’, ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ and ‘Rather Die Young’ are huge adoring anthems; ones that you can imagine being  belted out at a karaoke by some local songstress emboldened by passion and half a dozen double vodka and red bulls.

The album’s best moment, ‘Countdown’, takes its cue from ‘Crazy in Love’ – propelled by a marching band percussion and funky brass, it’s a giddy declaration of the love that she has for her husband and her soon-to-born baby (“I’m trying to make a three from the two. Still the one”). The accompanying music video, which shows a heavily pregnant Mrs Z dancing away like the icon that she is, is a wonderfully playful fashion piece that reiterates her love for the lucky duo. You couldn’t be happier for the couple that they were able to bring another person into their little party.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       1+1 – 4:33
2.       I Care – 3:59
3.       I Miss You – 2:59
4.       Best Thing I Never Had – 4:13
5.       Party – 4:05
6.       Rather Die Young – 3:42
7.       Start Over – 3:19
8.       Love on Top – 4:27
9.       Countdown – 3:32
10.   End of Time – 3:43
11.   I Was Here – 3:59
12.   Run the World (Girls) – 3:56

Listen to ‘Countdown’:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XY3AvVgDns

Also released on the 24th May:
2003: The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium

23 June 2013

23rd June - Sigur Rós' Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Artist – Album: Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Released: 23rd June 2008

Sounds Like: Gobbledigook

The traditional Sigur Rós sound could be described as tectonic: it’s slow and creeps up on you gradually, yet it’s also almost incomprehensibly vast and colossal. Similarly, the fact that on Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust the group so emphatically discard this decade-long-honed approach is nothing short of plate-shifting.

The albums first two tracks, ‘Gobbledigook’ and ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’, make giant leaps on from the previous albums lightest moments, becoming (still relatively!) poppy and rousing. In fact, the former is such a change in direction that it almost feels like a statement. After all, it’s title is surely a reference to the media’s fascination with singing songs in their invented Hopelandish language. Fidgety and playful, the song is propelled by a dancing guitar riff, foot stomping percussion and chattering vocals, and still sounds like nothing else. ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’ is an infectious, sunny slice of indie pop and these two (plus ‘Við spilum endalaust’) high tempo songs are where the album works best.

Unfortunately, the diversification somewhat loses momentum about halfway through, and Sigur Rós slip back into their old habits of epic soundscapes and snail-paced ballads. Which isn’t such a bad thing, but having re-imagined themselves so fruitfully it’s just a touch disappointing that they couldn’t make that last for the full hour.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Gobbledigook – 3:08
2.       Inní mér syngur vitleysingur – 4:05
3.       Góðan daginn – 5:15
4.       Við spilum endalaust – 3:33
5.       Festival – 9:24
6.       Með suð í eyrum – 4:56
7.       Ára bátur – 8:57
8.       Illgresi – 4:13
9.       Fljótavík – 3:49
10.   Straumnes – 2:01
11.   All Alright - 6:21

Listen to ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiOU9NAiYlQ

22 June 2013

22nd June - Joni Mitchell's Blue

Artist – Album: Joni Mitchell - Blue
Released:  22nd June 1971
Sounds Like: she’s kind of blue

Didn’t get your fill of depressed Canadians with Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night? Why not try Joni Mitchell’s Blue – now even more sad!
Before Blue, Joni Mitchell had experienced some success, first writing songs for others and then as a solo artists in her own right. But the emotion shown on those biggest songs – the philosophical ‘Both Sides Now’, the disappointment on ‘Woodstock’ and the environmentally angry ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – gave no indication of the raw wounds exposed on this, her fourth album.
Detailed here is the heartbreak of broken relationships (she had recently split up with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame), failed marriages (‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’) and, most tragically of all, giving up the baby she couldn’t afford to keep (‘Little Green’).
Mitchell herself has said of it “I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy”. Like cellophane though, she does come across as delicate and eye-catching. The sparse arrangements centre mostly on lightly picked acoustic guitars and her wonderful, distinctive voice. And as weak or crushed as she may have felt, she did possess incredible courage to be able to detail all of these issues with unparalleled power and perception.

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       All I Want – 3:32
2.       My Old Man – 3:33
3.       Little Green – 3:25
4.       Carey – 3:00
5.       Blue – 3:00
6.       California – 3:48
7.       This Flight Tonight – 2:50
8.       River – 4:00
9.       A Case of You – 4:20
10.   The Last Time I Saw Richard – 4:13

Also released on the 22nd May:
2003: Beyoncé – Dangerously in Love
Also released on the 22nd May:
2004: Wilco – A Ghost is Born

21 June 2013

21st June - Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand

Artist – Album: Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand
Released:  21st June 1994

Sounds Like: Shit yeah, it's cool

I stuck this album on ten minutes ago, and I’m already on the sixth track. Say what you want about Guided by Voices, but they don’t mess about.

If you are going to say something about them though, I do hope it’s positive. Because GbV are one of the most important and influential rock bands of all time. Yep. At times they laid down experimental, punk-tinged rock tunes of the sort that made a name for fellow cult heroes Pavement. They mixed that though with bustling pop melodies that certainly rubbed off on nineties darlings Weezer. Robert Pollard’s mannish vocals and obtuse, childlike imagery can bring to mind the great Neutral Milk Hotel. Their seemingly unstemmable flow of ideas has been mirrored by the likes of the Mountain Goats and the Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merrit. However, their influence is felt most keenly on the thousands of great unknown bands worldwide, those who record at home and on their computers, for whom DIY ethic or a lo-fi quality isn’t a choice but a necessity.

Released a full eleven years after they first formed, Bee Thousand was the album that finally helped them bridge that gap from being a great local band to a great band all round. It fires off great tracks at a relentless pace – ‘Hardcore UFO’s’, ‘Tractor Rape Chain’, ‘The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory’, ‘Smothered In Hugs’ ‘Echos Myron’ and ‘Gold Star for Robot Boy’  are all brilliant little songs that light up the first half of the album alone – and strikes a wonderful mix of quirky rock and gentle pop.

Quite simply, it’s excellent. It may not have been recorded in a studio, but it’s better than 99.9% of the works that were.

Albumaday... rating:  9/10

1.       Hardcore UFO’s – 1:54
2.       Buzzards and Dreadful Crows – 1:43
3.       Tractor Rape Chain – 3:04
4.       The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory – 1:45
5.       Hot Freaks – 1:42
6.       Smothered in Hugs – 2:59
7.       Yours to Keep – 1:15
8.       Echos Myron – 2:42
9.       Gold Star for Robot Boy – 1:39
10.   Awful Bliss – 1:12
11.   Mincer Ray – 2:21
12.   A Big Fan of the Pigpen – 2:09
13.   Queen of Cans and Jars – 1:55
14.   Her Psychology Today – 2:04
15.   Kicker of Elves – 1:04
16.   Ester’s Day – 1:51
17.   Demons Are Real – 0:48
18.   I Am A Scientist – 2:30
19.   Peep-Hole – 1:25
20.   You’re Not an Airplane – 0:33

Listen to ‘Echos Myron’:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYtEulKl3yE

Also released on the 21st June:
1965: The Byrds – Mr Tambourine Man
Also released on the 21st June:
2004: Badly Drawn Boy – One Plus One is One

Also released on the 21st June:
2004: Kings of Convenience – Riot On an Empty Street

20 June 2013

20th June - Neil Young's Tonight's the Night

Artist – Album: Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night
Released:  20th June 1975

Sounds Like:  The bleeding heart show

I’ve got something that’s been troubling me, dear readers, and its high time I got it off my chest. You see, yesterday I was told that my dear friend Rufus doesn’t have long left to live. Heartbreaking. It was hardly unexpected – he’s very old and, in truth, he’s been hanging on for a while now. But, you know, we’ve been on some real journeys together and I’m not ashamed to say he’s carried me in times of need. Yep, yesterday was a sad day indeed: Rufus, my fourteen year old Nissan Micra, needs a new exhaust, back box, and pretty much everything, and it’d be cheaper for me to just get a new car. In the next few months I’m going to have to sell him to webuyanycar.com... I took the decision to fill you in with that difficult news there to illustrate that, yes, I’ve known some bloody hard times in my twenty-five years on this earth. Not even these experiences though could equip me for the harrowing ordeal that comes with Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night.

Young went through a couple of (arguably) even more upsetting experiences than losing his car in the build up to recording this album: fellow Crazy Horse Danny Whitten died just under a year before recording took place, whilst roadie pal Bruce Berry succumbed to a drug overdose just a few months later. Additionally, the success he’d amassed after his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash, and his solo albums After the Goldrush and Harvest, left him disillusioned and disenchanted, and he was desperate to move away from the commercial side of things. Throw in his morbid obsession with drug addiction (driven by the fatalities of his friends) and you have something of a perfect storm of unflinching despair.

That being said, the weariness and turmoil of the albums themes do not make this the unlistenable record of other similar efforts. True, the playing is sloppy and loose, and Young’s voice cracks and strains more than once, but the man is second to none in turning out beautiful country rock melodies. That talent is as much on show here as on his other, happier attempts and the consistency of the record makes it truly special. Outstanding.

Albumaday... rating:  9/10

1.       Tonight’s the Night – 4:39
2.       Speakin’ Out – 4:56
3.       World on a String – 2:27
4.       Borrowed Tune – 3:26
5.       Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown – 3:35
6.       Mellow My Mind – 3:07
7.       Roll Another Number (for the Road) – 3:02
8.       Albuquerque – 4:02
9.       New Mama – 2:11
10.   Lookout Joe – 3:57
11.   Tired Eyes – 4:38
12.   Tonight’s the Night – Part II – 4:52

Listen to ‘Albuquerque’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppkrb0VhN9A

Also released on the 20th June:
2000: The White Stripes – De Stijl

19 June 2013

19th June - The Shins' Oh, Inverted World

Artist – Album: The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
Released:  19th June 2001
Sounds Like: It makes a good first impression

Most days I already know the album I’m listening to pretty well, and I have some sort of accompanying mildly interesting (I hope!) back-story that I can root around and pull out from the back of the sofa of my mind. Every now and again, though, an album comes along that has slipped through my mental net (nice mix of metaphors there Joe). Oh, Inverted World, the debut record by the Shins, is one of those elusive few.

So, quick surf of the internet tells me... this is the splendidly quiffed Scrubber Zach Braff’s favourite album. And... in his film Garden State (which I’ve not seen yet, is it any good?), two of the songs here were used, one of which – ‘New Slang’ – was introduced with the following quote “You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear.” Groovy... Also, also, apparently, the album is one of the most important and influential indie albums of the early 00’s. Its gentle, melodic sound, literate lyrics and universal themes made it one of the standard bearers of the genre’s move away from the spiky ironic rock end of the indie spectrum to the mellow, autumnal pop which dominated the 21st century. So that’s pretty cool.

Welllll, I don’t know about all that. I mean, I do trust Wikipedia and Allmusic, but I didn’t know about all that at least until today. I do know though that this is a sweet and gorgeous album. There are traces of the great baroque pop 60’s bands such as The Beach Boys and The Zombies, and some of the imagery is just plain beautiful. Although its smooth, airy indie pop never really falters, the highlights – ‘Caring is Creepy’, ‘Know Your Onion!’, ‘New Slang’ and ‘Pressed in a Book’ – really sparkle. I’m not sure it’s a life-changer, but it is a wonderful personal discovery.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Caring Is Creepy – 3:19
2.       One by One All Day – 4:08
3.       Weird Divide – 1:57
4.       Know Your Onion! – 2:28
5.       Girl Inform Me – 2:19
6.       New Slang – 3:49
7.       The Celibate Life – 1:49
8.       Girl on the Wing – 2:48
9.       Your Algebra – 2:22
10.   Pressed in a Book – 2:54
11.   The Past and Pending – 5:21

Listen to ‘The Celibate Life’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KMjxAvpUD0