Monday, March 31, 2008

Guillemots - Red

This is only the second album from London-based quartet Guillemots, but it already marks a huge departure from their previous trademark sound and attitude. Forget the indie world they used to live in, say hello to epic pop ebullience. Full of grandiose tunes, opulent arrangements, pulsating rhythms, driving guitars and odd details, the sky is only the limit in here. So whatever is in hand to send these songs to the stratosphere will not be rejected, be it mid-eastern sounds, pounding synths, r&b-inspired melodies, touching love moments, shiny chants, catchy choruses or even futuristic eurovision exuberance. Defying preconceived notions of acceptability in music and armed with an ambitious confidence and excellent production values, Guillemots dare to experiment with pop music, taking true risks, pushing boundaries and proving that excessive moments can be truly inspiring and uplifting. The reward is an over-the-top collection of inventive pop songs that completely blow us away with their bigger-than-life euphory and optimism. (8/10).

Guillemots - Get Over It (video)

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Neon Neon - Stainless Style

Side project of Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals vocalist) and hip-hop producer Boom Bip, Neon Neon have just released their debut album, a conceptual work loosely based around the life of John DeLorean, an apparently legendary figure that has left a big impact on the 1980's imagery. "Stainless Style" is also one of the most disarming albums heard in recent times, with so many styles cited and influences incorporated that it may actually be hard to keep track on all of them. If the 1980's are a (very) big source of inspiration in here, the focus isn't in just one particular moment, because basically everything they may have encountered on their way seems to have ended up in the final cut. This means we have minimal electro songs, power-pop anthems (Duran Duran have been mentioned in some reviews and it's perfectly understandable), acid-house synths, cheesy keyboards, dirty hip-hop beats (with guest apperances from Spank Rock and Yo Majesty) and many other delicious elements used to create an hybrid and enthusiastic fusion. All this is topped by a very-now post-modern attitude that never ceases to find new ways of creating pleasure out of hidden treats that supposedly should have been in the garbage for long, at least according to us common mortals. The result is a huge monument to versatility and an incendiary pop album full of catchy hooks, clever no-rules inventions and infectiously retro visions. (8,5/10)

Neon Neon - I Lust U - feat. Cate Le Bon (video)

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Samamidon - All Is Well

Of all the indie-folk records that have been released lately, "All Is Well" by Samamidon (aka Sam Amidon, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter born in Vermont) stands as one of the most simple approaches and also one of its best. Delievering his own modern interpretations of tradional-folk songs, few instruments are used besides an acoustic guitar, some percussions and fragments of piano, strings and horn arrangements that adorn his own relaxed voice. Recorded in Iceland with the help of composer Nico Muhly, producer Valgeir Sigurðsson and contributions from Ben Frost, Aaron Siegel, Eyvind Kang & Stefan Amidon (his own younger brother), you can almost hear the silence between each element, as everything seems to be inserted with the sole purpose of building a private world that can even feel too intimate for some. This is enough to create delicate, touching and conforting pieces that almost manage to make time standing still. (7,5/10)

Samamidon - Saro (video)

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Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

If you had lost previous interest in Erykah Badu, you'd almost be excused. After "Baduizm" defined the whole "Neo-Soul" concept in 1997, her later releases fell into a more secure area, as if she had given up the fight. Sure, her unique voice was still there, but it seemed there was some crucial inner-strength that had almost vanished. Thus hearing "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)", her fourth album in 11 years, you can't help but wanting to give her a warm welcome back. A conceptually ambitious project, her goal in here was to reflect today's conflicting society, after 9/11, voicing global themes like racism and the Iraq war or more personal and abstract everyday struggles. To help putting up her vision, a dream cast of producers was ensembled, representing a big part of what has been exciting in underground hip-hop and soul music for the last few years, like Madlib, Sa-Ra, 9th Wonder or Ahmir Thompson from The Roots. The final result lives up to the high standards one could expect from so much ambition and even surpasses them. With amazingly written songs and texts and the right dose of sonic experimentation, artistic maturity and challenging elegance (filled with unexpected samples, raw beats, minimal orchestrations, intricate arrangements, trippy keyboards or unusual structures), this fierce album sounds like pure intelligence in the form of combat soul music. (8/10)

Erykah Badu - Honey (video)

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing

This experimental duo from Bristol has been under my radar ever since releasing the amazing song and video for "Bright Tomorrow", first posted here last December, so it's really nice to see that their debut album, out now, is getting the ecstatic appraisal it deserves. In other words, "Street Horrrsing" is 50 minutes of mind-blowing tracks where you can identify circular guitar drones full of reverb, pastoral organs, pulsating synths, static noise, paradisiac sounds, tribal percussions, distorted voices and maniac screamings. But the touch of genius comes from the fact that all these apparently anthagonic elements blend so well into each other, building involving and hypnotic tracks where you can easily travel from placid atmospheres into hellish nightmares and sometimes even experience these two poles at the same time. True, nothing in here is as immediate as "Bright Tomorrow" (here with an even more powerful extended version), but that doesn't make it any less original and out-of-this-world. Fuck Buttons? More like fucking our brains out. (8/10)

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Music Videos # 74

Santogold - L.E.S. Artistes

Want to look hip and be cool? Then Santogold is your new favourite artist. What you need to know: she's been branded the New York answer to M.I.A. (as a side note, this probably shows how much ahead of their time Spektrum were), her debut album will be out in April and, judging by the first songs available, she has managed to create a brand new and exciting music cauldron filled with new wave, ska or hip-hop, building an infection sound that comes not far from actually suggesting a new world order.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

frYars - The Perfidy EP

It's incredible how this guy is showing so much versatility and evolution, while still maintaining his own unique style, and all this with only two self-released EP's, seven songs and one remix. A few months after the still-incredible debut The Ides EP, his second effort actually shows an even higher level of maturity, proving that right now he's in a place of its own. "Olive Eyes", the first song, is a natural evolution from what was included in "The Ides EP", a personal take into 1980's electro-pop with catchy details and an infectious melody. But on the rest of this release, frYars looks for a much more ethereal and delicate atmosphere, with two touching and amazingly written songs that show what a great composer he's turning out to be, while his trademark vocal inflections sound even more meaningful than ever. He's still not afraid to include many sonic elements that are here to exponentiate our reactions, but this time, his aim is less physical and more to reach our usually less visible instincts. Many shivers and goosebumps guaranteed, brilliant lyrics ("Now you can see there's a mess your in, no problem's solved without ketamine and its probably best that you stay in your hole, for i'd rather stick to my ethanol.") and a song ("Benedict Arnold" - both original and remixed versions) that is his best yet. In his case, that's really saying a lot. (9/10)

frYars - Olive Eyes (video)

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

A movie about three disfunctional brothers traveling through India by train, doing a spiritual journey to find their inner-selves (meeting their mother is only a weak pretext for their encounter)... It may sound like a nightmare, but in Wes Anderson's hands, there's always a twist that elevates even the silliest things. WIth smart dialogues, great actors and, yes, beautiful images of India, it's nice to see that Wes Anderson's main quality is still intact. And what is it? Presenting potentially ridiculous situations and sustaining them on a very tight balance between said silliness and exaggerated bigger-than-life feelings, without ever really falling to any side.


Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster...

A few months after the "Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP" attracted some attention, Cardiff collective Los Campesinos! finally put out their debut album (produced by Broken Social Scene collaborator Dave Newfeld) and my instant reaction upon listenning to it stands somewhere between starting to jump like a maniac, dancing ecstatically and smiling with no apparent reason. The reason? It really is difficult to think of better feel-good tunes done with so much juvenile enthusiasm and a healthy dose of insolence. Their formula (punk chords, catchy melodies, lots of shouting, boy-girl vocals, sing-a-long chants, cute obnoxious lyrics, sugar-rushed energy, buzzing violins, cymbals, silliness and other frenetic excesses) may raise a few eyebrows, but in their case it's the result that actually counts. And that stands as a collection of infectious and impassioned indie songs and a band too nice not to fall in love with. The lyrics in song "You! Me! Dancing!" say it best: "“We’re ignorant, we’re stupid, but we’re happy”. And now, all together: One! Two! Three! Four! (9/10)

Los Campesinos! - Death To Los Campesinos! (video)

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

We love it when our favourite musicians are slightly disturbed, don't we? Rock'n'roll history is full of good examples, but lately no one has personified this obsession with problematic figures more than Bradford Cox. With Cryptograms, last year's album by his main band Deerhunter, he managed to deliver one of the most visceral records in recent years. In the meantime, his physical appearance (he's diagnosed with Marfan syndrome), his ambiguous sexuality or his dubious blog posts have managed to strongly divide opinions. But judging by the first record from his solo side-project Atlas Sound, it seems he's now a bit more pacified. The sound is lighter and occasionally approaching a strange sense of beauty, with songs full of hypnotic elements, involving drones, whispered voices and strange details, that seem like sketches waiting to be filled by whoever listens to them. This is mainly due to the fact that we're listening to real bedroom sessions, during which he was exploring his fascinating inner world just by himself and with no one else around. But actually what came out of it is still haunting enough to renew my respect for the guy: we're only lucky that he let us hear this very personal and intimate self-exorcism. (8,5/10)

Atlas Sound - River Card (unofficial video)

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