Friday, 3 September 2010

Parallaxed Retinue

...been a while. feel like 'clicking' these links will be more fulfilling than doing a blog. feel like writing as if I'm Tao Lin will somehow denote 'style', and give these sentences more 'importance' than they deserve. feel apathetic, yet sated. feel that this paragraph has wasted my time, and your time. feel like i'm going to stop this trope now.

sooooo, clicky here:

and then you can see EVERYTHING i've written lately, bar what is in notebooks.

highlights include -
Beth Ditto's kleptomania with 'hilarious' "gawd, she's so fat" comments
WHY? interview in curtailed format
Guns N' Roses getting bottled
Radiohead the horse with uppity person calling me out for calling race horses "gee gees"
Dirty Projectors review
And, a first listen to Crystal Castles II

That'll do you. Ciao.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

the top ten of oh nine

"It pleases me, children, to now be able to annouce the winners of our annual prizegiving for album of the year. This year has seen many great efforts from the pupils at our school, and it goes without saying that even if you haven't won a prize, you should still be very proud of yourself. The teachers, and I, know how much effort you've all put in to your work. You're all winners in our book."

(This should probably be a moan about how list culture dominates everything, but that would make this exercise a bit self defeating. So instead, read this. Lists are necessary to filter through the deluge of music that spreads across the interweb. They are needed. Tastemakers are needed. I am not a tastemaker. I do not expect you to listen to what I have to say. I am not that important. Some of you will have heard these, some will not. It doesn't matter.

So then, here are ten very good albums from the dimming lights of the noughties. Listen to them, if you must).

"And the first prize of the evening goes to..."

10// Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

It's as if Pavement started recording new music again, then decided that each individual demo weren't enough, that they needed to be soldered together, wedging style change after style change into the same song. Somehow it all fitted together, lego bricks connected in the most intricate, beguiling ways. It gave Cymbals Eat Guitars one of the strongest debuts of the year.

9// Atlas Sound - Logos

Naughty people may have heard a demo version of this last year, but the finished version was an improvement. 'Quick Canal' suddenly gained vocals, 'Walkabout' gained Panda Bear, the whole record became what we love Bradford Cox for – that slack, dreamworld feel, as if you're walking through a childhood photo, everything still frozen in time, all the layers visible like insects trapped in amber.

8// Nite Jewel - Good Evening

All this glo fi tastemaker malarkey has gotten a bit much, but Nite Jewel proved that the 'scene' wasn't all hype. Pulsing bass and synths stay sparse beneath a croon, beneath a warming layer of fuzz. The soundtrack of cruising round LA, in the dark, on isolated freeways.

7// Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

Somehow 'Limbo, Panto' didn't gain Wild Beasts the audience they deserved. They quickly rectified that with 'Two Dancers', adding a certain elegance, poise and a greater control of THAT voice. While it's another record that became soggy from all the critics performing group analingus on it, it still holds up.

6// Vivian Girls - Everything Goes Wrong

New Yorkers doing what New Yorkers do best. Inspired by all the best girl groups, and by garage rock, Vivian Girls made one of those albums that just doesn't rest. 'Can't Get Over You' is the sound of a hundred hearts breaking beneath their skinny ribs.

5// St Vincent - Actor

No one thought the Polyphonic Spree would be responsible for this. Some people might soundtrack their dinner parties with it, but there's too much darkness. “All of my old haunts are now all haunting me.” Annie Clark puts not a foot out of line, managing to sound both classical, and modern, concurrently. The strange dichotomy ends up being gently gorgeous.

4// Matt and Kim - Grand

“We cut the legs off of our pants / Threw our shoes into the ocean / Sit back and wave through the daylight”

Keyboard pop never felt so vital. To break a cardinal journalism rule and switch to the first person, this soundtracked a road trip across the States. Even after listening to it every other day for three months, it still didn't flag, rust, or show a dull or tired moment. One day people will realise how great Matt and Kim are, but by then they'll be gone. (plus, they're pretty good at videos)

3// Let's Wrestle - In The Court Of The Wrestling Lets

This is the third best record of the year, not just because it shows every other British indie band how to write pop music, not just because their ramshackle lo fi sound adds to the charm, but mainly because having done all this, they then go and showboat worse than the Harlem Globetrotters, with a brilliant five minute proggy thrash that doesn't even fit in with the record. Oh, the arrogance. They do it because they can. They do it because they're young. They do it for no reason. And that's where the brilliance is.

2// Lotus Plaza - The Floodlight Collective

Bradford Cox may get all the plaudits, and the attention, but The Floodlight Collective showed the dazzling talent of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt. It's hewn from roughly the same cloth (the first ten seconds of 'Redoakway' sounds just like 'River Card'), wreathed in dreams and a certain hallucinatory timbre, but something here creates a stronger kind of magic. Rather than beset by too many ideas, too much productivity (as can be seen in the constant stream of excellent Atlas Sound EPs), The Floodlight Collective works because of a unity of vision, and a glowing golden thread that runs through the whole thing.

1// Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

What to say about Animal Collective that hasn't already been articulated better and more fluently elsewhere? Destined to be top of many end of year album polls, it's not even their best record (Strawberry Jam was, and I don't care what you, you, or YOU has to say about that). It contains several of their best tracks – 'Guys Eyes', 'Bluish', 'Brother Sport', and that famous one. Then they went and released an EP what would have been track of the year ('What Would I Want, Sky') had they not already released 'My Girls'. And while this is leaving everyone drowning in hyperbole and spittle, I'll quietly sneak off for another listen on my oversized headphones. Sometimes the crowd/flock are right.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

torn out newspaper pages...

Here, and I know this is what you, and you, and, in particular, YOU have been waiting for, is a collection of recent writings and other bobbins for Drownedinsound.

I hear children on buses, old men in pubs, vicars giving sermons, married couples bickering, toddler's first words, playground chants, pub quiz questions, protestors, all demanding for this blog post to be written. That's not even counting the pieces of grafitti, other blog posts, petitions, letters, faxes, texts, emails, pages, novels, manuscripts, poems, limericks, songs, speeches, tweets and videos I see. Now, you can all stop hassling me, for a few weeks, cos here they all are.

Why? video documentary

The Northwestern

Eat Skull



David Cronenberg's Wife

Cymbals Eat Guitars

and here, as a sly bonus for clicking on all of them, is this:

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

More shameless plugs

Look, mummy. Look. I done some things for people. And by people, I mean Drowned in Sound.

Icy Demons review

Johnny Foreigner tour news

Jeffrey Lewis live

Jeffrey Lewis interview

if Jeff Lewis knew who I was, he'd be sick of me right now.

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard- ''Em Are I' (Rough Trade)

Thanks to Juno, last year antifolk suddenly gained a whole lot more attention. People were piping up, claiming to be huge Moldy Peaches fans, despite the rest of their output sounding nothing like 'Anyone Else But You.' One strange omission to the soundtrack was Jeffrey Lewis, arguably the king of that indefinable genre of antifolk.

'Em Are I' is his fifth album, marking the transition from underground troubadour into respected musician. It also sees Jeff reach new heights in optimism, on opener 'Slogans'. “Now, who's that handsome animal, I feel so good I feel 6 feet tall.” It may be irony, but it feels pretty genuine. Where's the Jeff of yesteryear, begging his girl to not be upset with him?

Oh, there he is. “I wasn't designed to move so fast, I wasn't born to have so much past” he sings on 'Roll Bus Roll', a touching paean to the traveller's life backed by a gentle strum. Sadness is still an important part of being Jeff Lewis. It's yet more clearly illustrated on 'Broken Broken Broken Heart', a song about his break up (incidentally, he started playing the song while his ex-girlfriend was still in the band. Chutzpah, that's what that is). The track works on the paradox, much like Of Montreal, of combining upbeat music, full of handclaps and glee, with tragic lyrics. Over his lengthy antifolk career, this is the closest he's got to a song that could be crowbarred into radio schedules.

The lyrics are arguably the most important part of any Jeff Lewis album, but this album marks further progress on the music side. He's said himself that having to work solely on the music for his Crass covers album last year has helped progress his craft, and it's hard to argue with him here from what's on show on ''Em Are I.' 'To Be Objectified' for one marks a new sophistication and clarity with the musicianship.

Maybe he's even grown up a bit. There are no zombie or ghouls on this album, although there is a pig. It's hard to tell whether this new found maturity is a good or bad thing. Sometimes singing about comic books can be just as therapeutic as singing about heartbreak. It's definitely more escapist.

One notable evolution in the music is the appearance halfway through of 'The Upside Down Cross', penned by his brother Jack. Normally relegated to bass playing duties, the song trawls along for 2 ½ minutes with flourishes of jazz club trumpet, until lyrics about saving the manatee pop up. Whilst bearing close relation to Jack's solo work, it marks a big departure for Jeff, into more avant garde territory than his usual antifolk shenanigans. It works well in breaking up the album, and avoids any threat of the album getting samey.

'Em Are I' is probably one of the best records so far of Jeff's lengthy career. It marks real progression, even after over 10 years of releases. That it is a successful balancing of the tragic and the triumphant is testament to Lewis's skill both as a wordsmith and a musician.

Thomas Truax- 'Songs From The Films Of David Lynch' (SL Records 4/5/2009)

If ever there was a perfect representation of the term 'auteur', David Lynch is it. This ain't no movie magazine, so there shall be no exploration of his disturbing trawls through the human psyche. Needless to say, music often plays an important role within the Lynchian mode. An album of covers of the most important tracks sounds like a good idea, no?

Early evidence suggests the answer is yes. 'Twin Peaks (Falling)' is a pretty version of the classic theme tune, sounding not unlike something Wilco might release. Dirty blues song 'Baby Please Don't Go' does well everything a blues song does. You know what a blues song does. I know what a blues song does. Truax does not reinvent the blues. This is all we need say.

The scattered source material often leads to the flow feeling disjointed. The transition between 'Blue Velvet' and 'I'm Deranged', for one, doesn't quite work. The ending to the latter is particularly abrupt, petering out and simply stopping with a guitar flourish. It sounds like Thomas was supposed to finish it, but was busy trying to pondering what happened in Mulholland Drive.

The Lynchian malaise is prevalent throughout, with 'Audrey's Dance' bearing his trademark unease with a scowl. The meandering bassline and discordant guitars are reminiscent of a backwater diner where the jukebox stops when a stranger walks in. Truax certainly gets laurel garlands and golden plaudits for translating the decaying malodourous feel into his music, without the accompanying visuals.

Many of the songs here don't seem massively reworked. Music didn't need yet another cover of 'Wicked Game', particularly one which does so little to the source material. HIM, REM, Giant Drag, The Royal We, JJ72. Did Truax really need to add his name to the list? Chris Isaak can already swim round his bank Scrooge McDuck-style. Truax's is nice, but so is the original. Only 'Black Tambourine' bucks this trend, being altered into a minimalist strum.

At the end we ask the question- would David Lynch approve? As someone who has been so innovative, so 'out there' (sicks in mouth) as he has, an album of covers isn't going to win his favour. The songs do capture the mood of the movies successfully, and are competently put together. But that sentence is void for two reasons. Number one, why listen to the songs when you can watch the films? They're much better. And number two, since when did competence make something worth listening to? Civil servants are competent. Musicians need something more. And that indefinable 'more' is unfortunately what Truax needs.

Conor Oberst- Outer South (Wichita)

It takes two seconds of this album before it becomes clear to all but the registered deaf that Conor has carried on his trend towards country music, that started with parts of 'I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.' This is not a good thing. The move has seen Oberst becoming drabber and drabber, more predictable, more boring. He's not even 30, yet he sounds middle aged, content to churn out dull Texas bar rock.

'Slowly (Oh So Slowly)' lives up to its title. You'd need a pick up, and bad judgement, to wring any enjoyment from the damp towel of a track. 'Roosevelt Room' tries it hand at Desparecidos rock, and largely succeeds, with Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson references mixing with Hammond organ into something epic. It also contains the apposite lines of “Hope you haven't got too lazy, I know you like your apple pie.”

Oberst is kind enough to let his Mystic Valley Band write some songs on 'Outer South'.This may have led to his downfall. There should be some 'never let the drummer write a song' mantra here. It fits. The best songs here are his work, not his band's. And the others stick out like a clown at a funeral.

The Taylor Hollingsworth-penned 'Air Mattress' is awful, cheesy stuff, with a cheap synth line and predictable bar rock structure sullying any of the good done with Oberst's songs. 'To All The Lights In The Windows', with its lyrics mixing religious references and the old Bright Eyes steadfast theme of heartbreak is one of the rare nuggets of gold in the dirty creek.

Oberst seems lax, as if 'Lifted...' is enough of a legacy, and coasting downhill from here is the way to go. While his songs outperform the lesser efforts of his backers, they hardly match his previous peaks. 'Ten Women' is a speck of a melody in search of some decent lyrics in search of some energy in search of the poised beauty of yore. “Ten women, Between you and me, Ten women, The glory and the tragedy” repeated ad nauseum ain't going to win the Pulitzer, and it ain't going to win any Pitchfork plaudits. The man who wrote lines like “I touch the clasp of your locket, with its picture held, some secret you wouldn't tell but let it choke your neck” is gone. There are no signs of him here on this snoozefest.

'Outer South' is bloated, and needs at least five tracks liposuctioned off. Even with radical surgery like that, it's still a mutilated body. There's no soul, just a rudimentary arrangements of instruments, and words in their most nugatory form. I love you Conor, and it's time for an intervention. Stop this. Now.