This is becoming something of an irksome habit; tempting new albums at my side, rather more appealing than a clutch of well-known or unpromising singles. This week, it’s Franz and Bruce who gaze with eyes of puppies from my desk…so on, Christian soldiers, on!
TV On The Radio – Halfway Home *****
Another new habit; the free weekly download from iTunes. I don’t need to spend any more of your time reiterating how truly godly this band and album are; this, its opening track, is a towering example of how guitar music may still be great.
Lily Allen – The Fear **
This is a far better song if she means what she’s saying. As in, this is clearly an insider dig or satire of the celebrity lifestyle. But the verses are far more appealing if you take them literally: ‘that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic’. Besides that, ‘I am a weapon of mass consumption’ is a decent line. Musically, Lily’s return is lilting and lightweight; a glossy bubble of bubblegum pop, infinitely moe knowing and polished than early hits such as ‘LDN’. A grown-up, cynical piece of pop song-writing masquerading as a teen in a frilly frock. Underwhelming.
Bloc Party – One Month Off *
You know how Intimacy was a mix of brilliant, tuneless, forward-thinking tracks like ‘Mercury’, and crap attempts to rock out? This is neither. Instead, it’s that record’s obligatory single-that-sounds-suspiciously-like-‘Helicopter’ – remember ‘Hunting For Witches’? Just like that. There’s a diverting ten second techno break, and a seriously annoying key change towards the end, but really, this is a tiresome retread of past excellence.
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos ****
Clearly released in an attempt to make all the people who bought Fleet Foxes after reading end-of-year reviews also buy their first release, Sun Giant EP. But there’s no shame in that: everyone should be made to buy it. Then they can hear beautifully crafted, breezy, earthy, sunny, and generally elemental songs of genius such as this Greek-inflected marvel. It manages to be both timeless and extremely ‘now’.
Little Joy – No One’s Better Sake ****
Little Joy have cunningly validated the fact that their singer sounds exactly like Julian Casablancas by drafting in fellow Stroke Nick Valensi on this laid-back, ‘vintage’ sounding single. Add Devendra Banhart to the mix and you have a major indie love in. Despite which some music actually gets made: a woozy, organ-drenched shuffle of a song that makes me really really want to be on a Caribbean beach. Charming.
Ida Maria – Oh My God *
Any song with this title is bound to benefit from association with Kaiser Chiefs. Problem is, this aspiring pop ‘vixen’ manages to look a lot like one of them. Shame. Propelled by a relentless snare and humming, nattering tangles of guitar, there’s not much substance to this aggressive piece of power-pop. Nor much of a tune. There’s nothing offensive about it, but could someone explain to me why it exists? What musical function does this possibly serve?
Something Old, Something New
Suede – Dog Man Star
1993 may not have been that long ago, but I feel 16 years sanctions pointing out this, the second album from London’s finest rock band, Suede. You may not realise this, but it’s actually the greatest album ever made. Ever. After scoring a Mercury success with their romantic, sex-drenched, dark debut Suede, the band went a tad self-indulgent. This album’s creation cost them Bernard Butler, one of the all-time great guitarists, enjoying far more lucrative success these days as one of the world’s hottest producers. But it was worth it: operatic, hedonistic, melodramatic and camp, whilst maintaining integrity, menace and tunes to die for and to. The musicianship is practically unparalleled. Please, if you haven’t bought this before, then trust me.
A heads-up: the very wonderful and talented and nice Ben Hudson, one-time Eng. Lit. student of St Anne’s, has shed his ‘Library’. This is a shame, as their steel drums, jazz piano and soul vocals helped make a brilliant debut album, A Tale Of Two Cities. But fear not, for far from disappearing, he has been collaborating with Kanye West and making a new album. And he’s back in Oxford on Wednesday of 8th week to open his new tour. Get tickets here.
Till next time…