In The Rain Of The Midlands

Received the Bad Lieutenant album, ‘Never Cry Another Tear’, on Saturday but it’s really struggling to grab my attention in any meaningful way. In terms of New Order offshoots, it’s more Electronic than Monaco, but I wouldn’t want to give anyone false hope. A few tracks are sung by Jake Evans, who Bernard seems to think has a pretty impressive voice. He’s not bad. He sounds like Danny from Embrace but sings like Jimi from Doves, if that makes any sense. Essentially, imagine Danny from Embrace but less honking, more tuneful and able to convey some emotions. There you go. The ten songs pootle along nicely enough, allowing the occasional wince at some Sumner-Gold when it comes to the lyrics. To be fair, it did occasionally evince hideous memories of Barney’s drunk tramp with burnt feet dancing, but I’m not sure that’s a review that anybody wants.

Thankfully, the rest of this week’s listening has been bloody brilliant. The live recordings of Blur at Hyde Park have finally arrived and don’t sound too terrible, despite Live Here Now‘s best efforts to go for monaural dustbin production values. Still, at least they’re here.

Like a new Massive Attack song, ‘Splitting The Atom’, which received its first play from the over-excitable Zane Lowe last night. I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that it’s outrageously good and has the nerve to sound wonderful immediately and yet also suggest it could be a grower. The beat simply lollops along from start to finish as Daddy G, 3D and Horace Andy drift in and out at different points. It was recorded with Damon Albarn and there’s a hint of the languid musical leanings of non-Blur Albarn work of old. It’s hard to know what to say about it really, as it doesn’t conform to any sound from their previous records. This is, naturally, a good thing. Some of 3D’s vocal part does sound as intense as it did on ‘False Flags’ from the ‘Collected‘ album, while the sound of Daddy G again on a Massive Attack record is just wonderful. Provided you’re reading this within seven days of August 25th, you can click here and play it in reasonable quality, otherwise you’ll need to listen to it in Myspace quality. Which is to say, low quality.

I’m continuing to thoroughly enjoy the recently mentioned Pete Molinari EP, along with the new albums from Maps and Trashcan Sinatras, both of which I’ll endeavour to do proper reviews of shortly. In addition, Lily Allen‘s rather splendid, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ has been receiving another batch of repeat plays of late. It may well be the pop album of the year. Obviously, you can hear it via Spotify, but here’s a link to four ‘bonus’ tracks of hers that I’m rather fond of. Two remixes, and two covers. All that and she provided great entertainment as the lunchtime guest on TMS on Saturday, even if one numpty at The Observer didn’t quite get the right end of the stick, suggesting that Aggers‘ conduct was somehow pervy.


Perhaps most enjoyable of all though, has been the arrival of Sleepling States into my ears. I noticed that both Norm and Boomkat were fussing over the new album, ‘In The Gardens Of The North’, in last week’s reviews and so off I trundled to Spotify for a quick listen. After two songs I had the album ordered and after a couple more the previous album was in my shopping cart also. It may comes as no surprise to find that, the new album at least, is on Bella Union – do they ever get it wrong? – and it has appeared in the seven remaining record shops in the UK this very week. Markland Starkie (above) is apparently the man behind it all, not that I imagine such information in anyway helps you understand the music further. Both albums are worth your time and money, but ‘In The Gardens Of The North’ is a collection of absolutely beautiful music. Instruments seem to just drift in out of nowhere, often returning there with minimal fuss, songs meandering along in a slightly awkward, utterly captivating fashion. Clearly Starkie likes his slightly odd noises and some well placed drones only add to the overall atmosphere. The vocals, often layered and slightly fragile, are as much a part of the soundscape as the musical backdrop itself and everything combines to provide a hugely intimate listen. The phrase ‘headphone album’ gets bandied about a lot. It’s certainly true on this occasion. Not my most eloquent review, but should that have piqued your interest, the following pleasures are available to you:

‘In The Gardens Of North’ – latest album

‘There The Open Spaces’ – last album

‘Old vs New EP’ – 5 tracks from last year