Best Albums first half of 2010

Thursday, 24 June, 2010

Like last year I’d like to list the best records I’ve heard so far (alphabetically). I haven’t really heard that much music as last year, which might affect my list.

Caribou ‘Swim’, City Slang. “Odessa” is a monster track. And album is not bad, not bad at all.

Joanna Newsom ‘Hav one on me’, Drag City. Newsom tops her beautiful ‘Ys’ with 200 minutes of incredible song writing and singing.

LCD Soundsystem ‘This is happening’, EMI roecords. Dance music with hang over? Sounds like a party at 6 in the morning.

Shearwater ‘The Golden Archipelago’, Matador. Pompous pop music, much like the record ‘Rook’.

The Besnard Lakes ‘Are The Roaring Night’, Jagjaguwar. Vocal based post rocking little gem. Heard them first via Chromewaves.

The National ‘High Violet’, 4AD. Great sound, good and bad lyrics but all in all on heavy rotation at home and at work.

Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra ‘Kollaps Tradixionales’, Constellation. Read my review.

Battles and Wolf Parade still to be release later this year. This can become a pretty good year, but I probably need to step up and explore the unexplored a bit more. Else I could get disappointed about 2010.

I would like to mention some good records that I bought, but that are not from 2010:

Ben Frost ‘By the throat’, Bedroom Community Record. Mistake not buying it last year.

Eels ‘blinking lights and other reevlations’, Vagant Records. Emotional and strong.

Interpol ‘Turn n the Bright Lights’, Matador. I’m late. But when I heard “Hands away” I knew I had missed the record and went straight out and erased my mistake.

Prog is not a four letter word’ compiled by Andy Votel, Delay 68 Records. Heard ‘Sun Ui Lim’ at Moteldemoka.com and has not been disappointed about the compilation on obscure prog.

The (new?) flagship of Constellation Records has once again released a beautiful, epic album. With all the greatness, desperation and poetry we know them doing the best.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion still have the well-known large, saturate sound of electric guitar, violin, drums and singing on “Kollaps Tradixionales”. The compositions have somehow moved back to “Horses in the sky” but with the rawness and somewhat rock tunes of “13 Blues for Thirteen Moons” integrated. But there is a larger diversity in the soundscape than before.

Nick Southgates ends his review in the Wire [313, March 2010] with the words “and perhaps best enjoyed one slice at a time”. If so, I recommend listening to all tracks by Thee Silver Mt. one slice at a time. The intensity of emotions, the big sound (loud or quite) and the poetic lyrics are the main ingredients in the works of Thee Silver Mt. Zion works. They have their ethics, aesthetics, ideals and “political” stance. And this probably attracts the audience as well as it rejects other.

Favorite track is ‘I built myself a metal bird’ and is the closest they ever got to a popular (punk) rock song. Efrim singing “Dance Motherfuckers” as the beat of the machines making the world go around. An effective anthem and probably wonderful track LIVE.

Since “13 Blues…” the lyrics has been a part of the physical release. It helps somewhat to understand the creative nature of the songwriting, when being able to read the lyrics. From ‘There is a light’:

“But there ain’t no truth but the no truth but the no truth, Yeah! Ain’t no thing but the nothing but the nothing”

The lyrics still have “trumpets in heaven” and “the olde dirty flag”. It’s both a personal pledge as it is a global inquiry. I like the always returning repetition that musical as lyrical gives the text some edge, intimacy and introverted character.

‘ ’piphany rambler’ is another great song. The closing track has builds up as many other Thee Silver Mt. Zion tracks, but it never gets to the final crescendo. And that actually – to me today – makes the song a little more outstanding, a little more painful and pushes the sadness without ending in an expected desperation.

Electrelane is a rock band from Brighton, England. They have made four albums and a couple of singles, with the exception of their debut, all released at Too Pure (discogs.com). In this blogpost I wanted to write about my passion for the band.

Rock it to the moon (2001)electrelane-rock-it-to-the-moon

The title must be a reference to Herbie Hancooks “Rockit” playing with the words as if “rock it” was “rocket”. NME thinks it’s snatched from AC/DC, but I don’t get it? None the less there are several references on this record. So why not think the same of opening track “The invisible dog” as a reference to The Stooges “I wanna be your dog”? “Long Dark” include a short piece from “Pop Corn” by Gershon Kingsley. And the sound on “Film music”, “Le Song” and “Spartakiade” could be variations from a sixties soundtrack.

“Gabriel” is one of my all time favorite tracks by Electrelane. It builds up slowly to get become a wild and furious rock dance rhythm only to start over again. Gabriel is a kind of an Electrelane trademark.

With the debut Electrelane put them self somewhere around postrock and krautrock. The sound is a mixture of lots of organ playing, hypnotic rhythms, walls of guitars, echoes, sometimes some backing vocals singing “Ahh-ahh-ahhhhh”, but mostly without any vocals.

The Power Out (2003)electrelane-the-power-out

The Power Out is like travelling with the Locomotive that Electrelane put on tracks at their debut album and probably expressed at their best with the last song “mother”.

I remember as I listened to “The Power Out”, I thought it was better than “Rock it…”. I’m not so sure today, but for me I was at that time easier to understand and explore it. “On Parade” and “This Deed” are my faves, but also unexpected “The Valley” should be mentioned.

The new record differs from the former by having vocals. It’s more open and less “intellectual”. The critics called their attitude arrogant and pretentious, while others sheered the unpredictably songs as stand out of “today’s indie music”.

Steve Albini produced the record which probably made it more consistent and traditional in the name of rock. But the interplay between the bandmembers is still creating the essential sound. You are never in doubt that you are listening to Electrelane.

Axes (2005)electrelane-axes

In the beginning of “Gone Darker” there is a horn from a train that bluster through the soundscape. A saxophone sets the tones. And then we are riding with Electrelane. Faster. Faster. “Axes” once again had a lot of positive reviews, but the critics were still not convinced to name it a masterpiece.

I gladly name the gypsy-like track “Eight steps” a masterpiece. And other favorites include “One two three, lots”, “Bells” and “Suitcase”. On the other hand I admit the experiments on “Business or otherwise” doesn’t promote any magical tricks, but rather makes out a strange obstinacy to play whatever Electrelane like.

“These pockets are people” fades into “The partisan”, a successful cover of Leonard Cohen. It’s well done and a good way to use how the songs of Electrelane evolve. But I must admit that listening to the last track “Suitcase” is somehow the same manuscript as we had with “mother” from “Rock it…”. When you hear this song, you have the sum of the whole record.
Maybe. But it doesn’t change the fact that there a plenty of divers tunes and changing melodies, structures and ideas. If you think the song is a repetition of a former, then I’d say it’s another attempt to perfection and write the final song. This approach can be found in poetry as well.

And Electrelane still have some of the same elements from their first record. The sudden shift in tempo, organs and hypnotic guitar rhythm. On “The power out” they extended the instrumentation, and they continued on “Axes”.

Singles, B-sides & Live (2006)

I don’t want to dwell that much on this compilation. It includes the songs from the EP “I want to be a president” and all B sides from their singles (before 2006) as well as some LIVE recordings.

It includes the three cover songs “The Partisan” already mentioned from “Axes”. It includes the Bruce Springsteen track “I’m on fire” and “More than this” by Roxy music.

“Long Dark” is an alternative version release from a compilation in the magazine “Comes with a smile” (Vol 9). Instead of a short piece of “Pop corn” the guitars are playing the mainline from “Push it” by Salt N Pepa in a crushing up-tempo. (I guess – I haven’t found anyone else writing this).

My favorite is “I’ve been your fan since yesterday” that has dreamy choir, distinguished piano and the well-known looping guitars besides the always heartbeating rhythm of the drummer.

No Shouts No Calls (2007)electrelane-no-shouts-no-calls

Not only is the songwriting more traditional connected to the instruments than ever before. The lyrics are more clear, emotional and bare. The repeating “it could be home, it could be home (…)” from the beautiful “To the east” works like when the guitars are looping. It’s not great songwriting, but it somehow gives Electrelane an honest edge far away from the experimental and young debut “Rock it to the Moon”.

Favorite tracks are “In Berlin”, “To the East” and “Saturday”. The last one maybe because it reminds me of somebody. I didn’t praise this record as I heard it the first time. But somehow “No Shouts No Calls” managed to crawl under my skin and become an important album in my collection. It’s truly a good thing to listen to if you are longing for a long lost love.

“Do do do we’re like fish in the sea / but I thought you were the one for me”.

It’s unknown if Electrelane will ever make a record again. In 2007 Verity Susman recorded a two track single under the name Vera November – http://www.myspace.com/veranovember. Mia Clarke has released one record together with Andy More of The Ex called “Guitargument” in 2009 and formed the band “Follows”.

MP3:
Electrelane – This Deed

mono live anders_jensenliva ventura

Since I bought “You are there” (and even more with “Palmless Prayers/ Mass Murder Refrain”) I thought that Mono (JP) brought the beautiful melancholia to a quiet place and took it beyond other post rock bands. A noisy ensemble playing mostly quite, long pieces. The concert at Loppen yesterday was no way silent and I suddenly came to doubt if they had only brought peace to my mind, not to my ears?
I guess it was the right choice to go for the more rocking tunes, yet still complex and beautiful. I do appreciate the lacking or at least only slow development in melodies, and ever-continuing crescendos in post rock. But in the end I was bored by the lack of surprise.

Before I left left for the concert I listened to Liva Ventura, the Danish supporting act, at Myspace and decided to come early. “Until the days disappear” and “Connections” (if it wasn’t for the female vocals, sorry) are pretty good songs. I should be careful with namedropping, but it’s a up tempo version of Low frequency in Stereo, early Psyched Up Janis fuzz and reminisces of 90ies Sonic Youth clean guitars (I’m probably the only one to hear this). But first and foremost straight forward, good post rock: repetitive and driven by guitar riffs con amore. Their concert was decent and I do look forward to the album out on Play/rec in may.

Even more though I would like to recommend everyone with lust for NEU! and Silver Apples to listen to the new single from the Horrors. Psychedelic, transcendental and maybe overplayed? Sea within a sea at Youtube.