Well, that was quite a month. I’ll be posting up soon an in-depth account of what became ‘Record Store Week’ for me, kicking off with the big day at the supreme Rise in Bristol. However, sorting out the feature, which appeared in a slightly rejigged form over on Drowned In Sound, about the shops’ view of the big day meant that the monthly posting of my reviews got lost somewhere. So, unsurprisingly after that last sentence, here they are.
ALESSI’S ARK – ‘Time Travel’ (BELLA UNION)
A bewitching stage presence and an angelic vocal make Alessi’s Ark very easy to love. Finely crafted folk is elevated towards greatness by the stunning voice of Alessi Laurent-Marke. ‘Maybe I Know’ tells the tale of a cheated upon partner realising that the gossip is all about her and will break your heart. It’s the standout moment on an album which rarely dips below excellent and the old school songwriting and airy, summery production will leave you utterly spellbound.
Now, the publication of this rankled with me a little. I hate giving scores in the first place but I understand why it’s sometimes necessary. However, when your score of 9 is subbed down to only 7, it’s a little misrepresentative of what I actually think of the record. I’m keen to write more about it but it always seems a bit odd to essentially review an album twice, even though this was such a brief piece. However, I’ve done it with Gorillaz (sort of – see below) so maybe I will. Either way, rest assured that this is one of the most perfect, summery records I’ve heard this year so far and that it will charm the pants of anybody who loves melodic, beautifully sung and delicately produced music. Get it.
HOLY GHOST! – ‘Holy Ghost!’ (DFA)
Sedate Eighties electro has much to like about it and the mid-paced strut of recent single ‘Do It Again’ will likely have seduced your ears of late. The album is almost exactly what that song might lead you to expect and it possesses a warmth and sense of fun which is undeniably charming. Ploddy verses are often redeemed by strong choruses but, ultimately, the songwriting isn’t quite weighty enough to sustain a full album. Be sure to seek out ‘Slow Motion’ though, which unashamedly throws some shapes and is, tellingly, one of the more concise tracks on offer here.
It was ‘meh’ month here at Just Played towers once I’d started digging into the reviews pile. This album is alright. It’s fine. It’s even nice at times but, surrounded as I am by literally thousands of records, I can’t imagine I time when I would voluntarily reach for this ahead of most of them. It’s got the vintage DFA sound but lacks the personality to carry it off. Still, at least it wasn’t…
Imagine a world in which a mad scientist concocted an indie band modelled on an Anglicised take on The Strokes, a stiff upper lipped Libertines and, breathe deeply, The Kooks. Nope, I wouldn’t want to live there either, but they’re breaking through into our universe. Some songs here are charming, energetic and even reasonably catchy but, fuck me, is this really necessary? Is there actually a gap in modern music waiting to be filled by this? It’s identikit jangle so packed with perfectly poised personality that I find it hard to take it even vaguely seriously. Utterly forgettable.
Normally a very reliable label, Moshi Moshi, but this is interminable dross. I just couldn’t hear what it was that was meant to make it exciting. Once I’d realised that it was The Kooks that it reminded me of, there was no going back really. I gladly admit that initial listens to The Kooks were actually pleasant and the debut album had some vim and vigour about it, but they were played to death and then lost any sense of direction. They became a by-word for fake-indie nonsense. So, not really what you want to be compared to then.
BEAT CONNECTION – ‘Surf Noir’ (TENDER AGE)
Squelchy, bleepy and largely devoid of charisma, ‘Surf Noir’ is the sort of album you’ll initially enjoy, but fall out of love with soon thereafter. The moments which do rise above the mediocre never seem to go anywhere. The sound of 2010 was hardly riveting then and it’s really rather uninspiring now. Guitars and synthetic beats still sound rather pretty together but this is a largely meandering, undercooked affair, only vaguely redeemed by instrumental epic ‘Theme From Yours Truly’.
GORILLAZ – ‘The Fall’ (PARLOPHONE)
Made on an iPad during the band’s autumn tour of America, this hastily constructed, bleepy sketchbook of a record is a delight. Unsurprisingly, it’s a largely electronic affair but even the abstract instrumental pieces like ‘Aspen Forest’ are beautiful, lulling tunes. By the time it reaches the end of its fifteen tracks you’ll have forgotten that it was made in such a basic fashion and, whisper it now, you might actually prefer it to ‘Plastic Beach’. ‘The Fall’ is, entirely in keeping with a record recorded a long way from home, a rather more introspective affair. ‘Revolving Doors’ is blessed with a trademark floaty and aching Damon vocal, then there’s ‘Hillbilly Man’, all looped low-key guitar refrains to begin with before the squelchy sound used to such great effect on ‘Doncamatic‘ makes a rather more laid-back appearance. ‘Detroit‘ is a buoyant instrumental piece to cheer the soul while ‘The Parish Of Space Dust’ is an oddly moving audio collage, sampling American radio in place of verses ahead of a double tracked, swooning Albarn chorus. In short, it’s a delicate beauty.
And, to conclude, an edited version of my original review of ‘The Fall’ from January on this very site. This is the truncated version as intended, rather than the clichéd and incorrectly punctuated thing which appeared in print. Ours is not to reason why, I know, but I wasn’t hugely amused. Anyway, that’s the end of grumpy reviewer’s corner for this month. The next things I post will be positive, I promise.