lonelady.jpg

 Lonelady- Nerve Up
5/10

It’s difficult to view this album as anything more than nostalgia. Julie Campbell has stripped the ’80s naked, picking apart her favourite elements of The Fall, Gang Of Four, The Motels and Wire. She offers few original ideas and rarely creates anything that can be described as an innovative piece of music. Campbell is however a very competent musician, her songs are perfectly performed and her guitar playing is world class. For that reason Nerve Up is an easy listen; it’s got a lot of characteristics that are easy to identify with, provided you’re not looking for a serious reincarnation of one particular band. It’s essentially post-punk without any depth; it’s post-punk with the defining elements of punk removed and replaced by the most inoffensive elements of American country music. Eurythmics fans have been enjoying this type of music for years. It’s difficult to draw on Nerve Up for any type of creative inspiration, so many of the songs pass by without leaving any lasting impression. Brief elements stand out but they seem to be consistently repeated throughout the album, leading to a somewhat grating and frustrating overdose. Campbell’s guitar playing defines her style but her song writing is stuck in a restless time warp. She’d be best playing guitar in a larger band where she can concentrate on forming more intricate parts, because after hearing the opening track ‘If Not Now’ you’ve heard everything she has to offer.
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
No Comments

Grayson Gilmour-No Constellation
9/10

Grayson Gilmour has been likened to Sufjan Stevens, possessing a similar talent that spans many different disciplines and styles of music. No Constellation is his fifth full-length album and continues to burrow deep into the avant-garde, anti-folk, indie-pop world, expanding and building on his previous four records, Phantom Limbs, You Sleep, We Creep, Behind Locked Doors and Abstract Arrival . It’s quite obvious that Gilmour lives and breathes music, when not performing solo he’s a member of art-rock group So So Modern and when not touring he works at Wellington’s Real Groovy record store. His solo music is built from these situations, it’s his own personal output of emotions and ideas that have emerged out of his observations of everyday life. He has a rare ability to recall events with such graphic detail, picking up different instruments to compose and depict life in its original environment. He makes places and characters come to life, breaking down the facade of modern pop music and presenting a more realistic approach to song writing that completely exposes itself to the listener. When you think of Gilmour building such elaborate sounds, alone and under no immediate pressure, you can start to understand the true beauty of this record. There’s so many rich layers formed through hours of immense concentration and dedication that it truly sparkles. It has been polished to the point where every instrument has a voice and it’s the type of record that reveals something new every time you listen to it. Though there’s still elements that instantly stand out. ‘Chromosomes’ has an infectious chorus that gets repeated over and over, and ‘Our Heads Collide’ has a cold misty quality, heard in the delicate vocal harmonies and the winter-y drone of a single keyboard note. Both ‘Pearly Whites’ and ‘ All Authenticity’ have prominent drum beats while ‘Diamond Gutters, Mermaid Sewers’ presents Gilmour the balladeer, muttering a tale of two competing elements bridged by a fantastic piano composition. No Constellation is being released by the recently rescued Flying Nun label that lay deserted for years under the watch of Warner Music New Zealand. Grayson Gilmour doesn’t exactly fit the mould of the traditional ‘Flying Nun Sound’ but it would be a step backwards to continue releasing music with the same aesthetic. Gilmour is good for the label, it shows they’re forward thinking and willing to take risks and that was what the label’s reputation was built on in the first place.
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
No Comments

chew-lips.jpg

Chew Lips- Unicorn
7/10

Florence Welch was the British indie darling of 2009, but in 2010 it’s the turn of Tigs, Chew Lips’ discerning lead vocalist. But unlike Welch, Tigs is one member of a group that prefers to be labeled a band; Chew Lips is not a solo project. Unicorn is the London trio’s debut album and it’s strangely diverse, skipping between Metro-esque guitar pop (‘Karen’) and Massive Attack-style electronica, while they appear to tag themselves as “drone-disco”. While Tigs’ voice is always at the forefront, Will Sanderson and James Watkins each add their own unique touches. There’s brief moments where the men take charge, like on ‘Toro’ where they add a bouncy bass riff and a tight noodling guitar line, reminiscent of New York band The Virgins. However for the most part they are the beat makers, adding shattering industrial noises (‘Gold Key’), swirling jittery electronica (‘Play Together’), abstract percussion (‘Eight’) and a writhing organ (‘Too Much Talking’). Final track ‘Piano Song’ even has them tapping the black and white keys. But despite Sanderson and Watkins’ obvious talent Tigs is clearly the star. She performs vocal acrobatics, molding her voice into different characters like a musical chameleon, encompassing the likes of La Roux, Little Boots and Florence and the Machine. Where she differs is in her eclectic vocal disfigurement, operating within a broader musical sphere that requires a number of different dimensions. She perhaps proves that being part of a band requires more discipline.
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
No Comments

 Crude Futures
So So Modern- Crude Futures
7/10

Enduring and endearing Wellington band So So Modern has finally released their debut album after six years and as many EPs. Capturing their energy and enthusiasm, the apocalyptic-themed Crude Futures develops their recent style of long, drawn-out, abstracted and fragmented post punk/math rock songs. The slow buildup of ‘Life In The Undergrowth’ echos the steady rise of the quartet. Starting off a small, gnarled seed, it grows roots and pushes through the dirt, growing crookedly upwards. SSM have always been about the post-apocalyptic shrieks, mathematical rhythms and euphoric synths – here they take on a new life, sounding a bit like Space Invaders in the opening track. Though the group’s well-known electro intensity is still apparent (‘Worst Is Yet To Come’), Crude Futures‘ overwhelming sense is of maturity and modernity. Running with the apocalyptic theme of questionable futures, they extend their yelps over samples in bridges, juxtapose more classy, snazzy rhythms over themselves and interlock their riffs even tighter. ‘Dendrons’, in the vein of At The Drive In, enjoys scatty post punk as fun as it is fleeting; while follower ‘Be Anywhere’ progresses with lingering, interchanging vocals and guitars broken by blissful breaks. Lurching and vocal-less ‘Berlin’ is a glistening math rock jitterbug, coated in nuclear muck and burrowing under your skin. The mimicking of Deerhoof’s whimsical guitar intricacy in ‘Island Hopping/Channel Crossing’ is corrected with the sudden onset of bombastic, throbbing bass and paired vocal directives, though closer ‘Give Everything’ reaffirms that Battles vibe imbued in most of the songs. It’s kind of impossible to guess where they’ll go next, and it’s nice to see they’ve pushed on from their original sound. Crude Futures shows a band in the throes of conceptual art, though they’re spreading their message through so many styles here it can be overwhelming. Crude Futures is released in conjunction with documentary/surrealist photographer John Lake’s exhibition of the same name.
Sarah

Posted by Sarah Gooding under Album, Reviews
[2] Comments

hollymiranda-200x200.jpg

Holly Miranda- The Magician’s Private Library
7/10

Holly Miranda’s story is quite a colourful one. The daughter of devoted Christians, she spent her childhood under the gaze of god and was banned from engaging in popular culture. As a teen she would steal albums from her older, pot smoking sister, until one day her father found a Nine Inch Nails CD in her bedroom and snapped it in half. At 16 she moved to New York and lined up her first record deal; with the Mafia. But as things started to turn sour and threats started brewing, Holly was forced to leave New York City. When she returned several months later she formed the band The Jealous Girlfriends and met David Sitek (TV On The Radio) in the hallway to her apartment building. Under Sitek’s watch she again decided to go solo and recorded The Magician’s Private Library in his Brooklyn studio. The album begins with ‘Forest Green Oh Forest Green’, a delightfully enriching track filled with bells and sugary chimes. It opens Miranda’s fictional diary and introduces her joyous never ending melody. Instantly ‘Joints’ reminds us that Sitek’s at the helm, his well-used technique of welding together eclipsing electronic sounds is brutal but calming, placing an emphasis on Miranda’s delicate voice which stands out nonchalantly like a young prodigy of Victoria Legrand’s husky vocal assembly. On ‘Waves’ she sounds more like Lizzie Powell (Land Of Talk), with a passionate weep shadowing her voice. Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio, Rain Machine) guests on ‘Slow Burn Treason’, harmonising with Miranda to create a choral chamber where neither voice stands out but both play equal parts. ‘Sweet Dreams’ is sprinkled with horns and conjures a vision of Brooklyn in the Fall when the side walk is scattered with fallen leaves, before ‘Everytime I Go To Sleep’ takes over, adding a gentle keyboard lather with a whimsical carefree glow, exiting soon after the horn section has made a triumphant return. Here Miranda sparkles like Annie Clark (St. Vincent), slightly scatterbrained with a minor increase in intensity and volume. Sitek sprinkles some wonderful samples on ‘Canvas’, allowing Miranda to elevate her voice high above a sizzling hiss, and final track ‘Sleep On Fire’ has a chitter chatter drum beat of similar synthetic value to Fleet Foxes. Holly Miranda’s past is echoed in her songbook but it never takes control, no one song stands out but they all fit together like a jigsaw. Her subjects are filled with mystique and uncertainty and she uses her voice to divide the characters. If Beach House can gather so many fans then so can Holly Miranda, for The Magician’s Private Library stands proudly alongside Devotion. 
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
No Comments

 

Bandicoot- Jurassic Warfare
8/10

Stepping into the footprints left by Be Your Own Pet, Bandicoot’s bratty punk rock sounds ever so similar to the Tennessee teens. The difference is that Bandicoot actually sound like a genuine punk band; rough, unpolished and with loads of teenage angst. Be Your Own Pet, while fun, sleazy and chic, always sounded like they were faking it, just a little bit. There’s no irony in the fact that both bands are/were fronted by spitting, rebellious teenage girls, both named Pearl. Their lyrics and attitudes are similar, but one doubts Bandicoot’s Pearl McGlashan was influenced by BYOP’s Jemina Pearl. They’ve also been compared to The Mint Chicks, but that’s perhaps more geographically bound than due to their music. As one who wasn’t in Auckland during The Mint Chicks’ early days, at which time they gained the reputation as the noisiest and most obnoxious band around, it’s hard to compare the two, but Bandicoot has most definitely set the Auckland live scene on fire. They’re currently dominating the local music media and they’ve been offered just about every international support slot available. So with their live reputation carrying them forth, how does it translate to record? Well it’s a little greasy and a little untamed but it’s ultra spicy and bites like poison. ‘Yr Art Degree Doesn’t Mean Shit’ says fuck you to pretentious art school students, as Pearl fires insults into a twisted catch phrase, singing “so run along and act all snarky, super faggy and talk about art.” Reuben Winter’s guitar riffs blast like a cannon before erupting into a wall of spastic, wobbly noise and Daniel McBride’s drumming keeps the music in rhythm and stops it from falling apart. ‘Bessie’ sounds like an expulsion of rage towards an ex-best friend similar to BYOP’s ‘Becky’, but it’s much noisier. ‘Bitchface’ has a similar theme, tearing apart a backstabbing ex (best friend, girlfriend, whatever…). The line “She’s wishing that she was me, I’m treading water, she’s walking on her knees,” is gritty and angry and the song ends with a circuitry of drum rolls and jolting guitar stabs. ‘Silence Is Golden’, a live favourite, is the only minor disappointment, lacking a bit of intensity. It does however display Reuben’s guitar skills, shredding and piling on speedy riffs, working them into a ball of fury before Pearl drops the line “Silence Is Golden”. Live, the crowd jumps around and shouts along, unfortunately you can’t see that in your speakers.
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
[48] Comments

swirly.jpg

 Nice Birds- Swirly
6/10

Swirly, the debut EP from Auckland trio Nice Birds is a trip back to the post-punk days of ’93, forwarded to 2010 where the band, fresh from high school, have formulated a grungy, rough around the edges sound. They’ve spent the past year as shy underdogs on the local Auckland punk scene; picked up by the Muzai label early on and nurtured, they’ve grown in confidence and ability. On Swirly some of that looseness still remains, they’ve never wanted to sound overly polished and it shows. ‘Lost In A Chinese Mine’, one of their earliest songs still has elements of their chaotic beginning, often floundering and tripping on its own untied shoelaces, it sounds a little messy and frayed at the seams. But averting further chaos, ‘Neon Shame’ and ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald Book Club’ both drip with post-punk griminess, full of shattering bass lines and piercing guitar riffs. They strike gold with their dark, frenetic noodling, journeying through a swampy peace induced underworld. Their barely legible lyrics form part of that notion to remain enigmatic, giving both songs a torturous mystic. Fifth and final track ‘Takapuna Tans’ opens and closes strongly but gets a little tangled up in the middle. The closing few bars finish the EP nicely, creeping like a spider, it leaps and ends abruptly as if capturing and killing its prey. The parts are all there and when they’re executed well Nice Birds sound like a solid post-punk band. Unfortunately at times they become bogged down, lost in a mist that turns their defining instrumental parts into one big clump of mud. Put it on vinyl though and it might tell a different story, it sounds made for the crackle and pop and the unpolished quality that you can only hear through a needle.
Nick

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
[6] Comments

 pdpindex1.jpg

Pantha Du Prince- Black Noise
4/10

Hendrik Weber aims to illustrate the illustrious sounds that we don’t perceive, but that are all around us. These everyday noises, or frequencies, are what he deems Black Noise, and it’s his goal to make music that represents this. Weber’s minimalist ambient techno is somewhat aspirational as it at least attempts to push towards something and is with goal, something that can be hard to establish with other ambient techno, however it largely fails to take flight. Twinkling, sparkling, dancing bells and bass pumps are limited in scope in Weber’s self-restricted constructions that incorporate little more than a few sounds at once. His sparse, magnetic sound pulls and pushes its different elements together in a tidal response to his goal, but it sounds undeniably mechanic apart from brief moments. The woolly electronic pop song ‘Stick To My Side’ featuring Noah Lennox’s always-jovial delayed vocals is this brief respite. The rest of the album, where there are no vocals, feels empty and hollow. Occasionally wooden instruments and steel drums are utilised, giving a lighter vibe, though the overweight bass throughout makes it sound hefty and dull. Pantha Du Prince’s downbeat melancholy has been attributed to an affinity for late ’80s British shoegaze, and it could well be here that it gets its druggy, downcast feel. While lengthy and little-defined, the songs do not offend but their build-ups are slow and mechanical. The songs do little over their course. Crystalised and fragmented, Black Noise filters on like this for an hour and ten minutes, perhaps evidence that Weber himself found little to play with in his quest for hidden sounds.
Sarah

Posted by Sarah Gooding under Album, Reviews
1 Comment

 megasus.jpg

Megasus- Megasus
7/10

Megasus’ debut album of crushing power metal may catch some curious Lightning Bolt fans by surprise. The sheer heaviness of the screeching, hard-hitting guitar-squalling album is far from drummer Brian Gibson’s usual noise attack he delivers with Lightning Bolt as their bassist. Here Gibson employs a character-filled haphazard drumming style to strip convention from the genre, adding an urgent anticipation to the sound. Megasus first came to life in an extremely limited vinyl release last January on Wild Power, and has now been released on CD worldwide via 20 Buck Spin. Using super low, de-tuned guitar and bass with fuzzy effects, the band creates an unusually sludgy and droney doom metal sound. All working for Guitar Hero and Rock Band Playstation 2 videogame design company Harmonix, the Providence, Rhode Island-based quartet behind Megasus had their songs ‘Megasus’ and ‘Red Lottery’ feature in the hugely popular video games before their album came out. Vocalist Jason “King” Kendall (Amazing Royal Crowns, Deterrents)’s rasping, melodic voice can often sound distant compared to the driving rhythm section, but despite the remoteness it remains powerful and integral. Gibson, whose name features prominently on the album cover sticker and in the album’s press, is not spotlighted simply due to his other band affiliations; at the forefront of Megasus’ sound is his relentless drumming, together with Paul Lyons (Scared Stiffs)’ heavy, throbbing bass and the menacingly low sound of Ryan Lesser (Laurels)’s guitar. The driving rhythms propel the songs, with echo and delay effects used sparingly to modern results, such as in their skin-ripping namesake. The band inherits Kyuss’s stoner noodling in the quiet intro to ‘Swords’ before building up to a tumbling metal ode. Elsewhere they derive Slayer’s stereotypical spiralling guitar squalls in a subtle manner (‘Hexes/Szaadek’), all with trademark aggressive overdrive to give their sound a melodic unison. Megasus is neither conventional or contrived metal – building up to the sublimely brutal final track ‘Iron Mountain’, whose seamless introduction demands repeated listens.
Sarah

Posted by Sarah Gooding under Album, Reviews
No Comments

owen-pallet.jpg

Owen Pallett- Heartland
10/10

Owen Pallett – who once played as Final Fantasy, has released his first album under his own name. Heartland is a concept album about an ultra-violent farmer named Lewis living in the fictional world of Spectrum. It’s strikingly original, and an early contender for album of the year. Pallett has kept all the best elements of Final Fantasy (looped violin/string arrangements, great vocals), and added in richer layers of electronics and intricate percussion. With whimsical strings, many of the songs have the feeling of 1940s cinema, and it would seem easy to adapt this to film; at the heart of the album is an incredible story. Heartland is lyrically astonishing. Pallett has created a vivid world of true emotion with characters who struggle with their own identity. It explores themes of loyalty, religion, passion and understanding, and will have you hitting repeat to once again immerse yourself – Spectrum has place names, cultures, and medieval battles that you will long to explore. Above all, this is a world created by Pallett, a fact Lewis is aware of. On penultimate track ‘Tryst with Mephistopheles’, Lewis defeats Pallett, leaving himself exposed – “How will they decipher me?” Heartland is very rich and rewards repeated listens. It is an incredible album and works together as a whole musical piece, to be listened to in one sitting.
David

Posted by Nick Fulton under Album, Reviews
1 Comment

Next Page »