Part One: here. Part three – that’ll be a tomorrow kind of thing (when I’ll bang on at length about a certain record that – quite frankly – if you don’t own you’re not human). Then, after a quick cocktail, we can all go for a lie down (although not together – that would just be weird).
Dutch Uncles: Cadenza
Possibly the year’s most playful album, Dutch Uncles don’t so much journey from A to B on their second album as pop up unexpectedly en route, constantly dismantling each song’s rhythmic structure and garnishing their up-tempo post-punk pop (more than one review has mentioned XTC as a reference point – an opinion I understand, if not necessarily subscribe to) with clever stop/start motions, with engaging chord structures, with a clever application of passion.
I’ve featured the band’s 2010 single ‘Fragrant’ before in this blog; a more joyous record I’d struggle to imagine. It’s featured on Cadenza – an album loaded with arch fun, with Mancunian inflexion, and in frontman Duncan Wallis, an enticing, almost kittenish voice that complements the musical intricacy in a most appealing way. A band who deserve to be much bigger in 2012.
Dutch Uncles / Fragrant
Dutch Uncles / The Ink
Luke Haines: 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970’s And Early ’80’s
A typically mischievous affair, a steady stream of cameos from pretty much every spandex-clad wrestler (and their omnipresent old lady fans) from a period of time that, from this distance, feels somewhat tainted by a surreal naffness.
But don’t get carried away; 9½ Psychedelic Meditations is less a concept album interrogating a bygone era’s cheap and camp grappling action, more a record that utilises the fat men in leotards motif as a peg, something upon which to hang the Haines’ brand of warmly acerbic nostalgia. And whilst it’s true that the former Auteurs / Black Box Recorder lynchpin has been dealing out this shtick for pretty much his entire recording career, the execution is constantly defined by attitude, by panache, by angles delightfully obtuse and diffident.
Thus: sharp chords, sentiment that flips effortlessly between the waspish and the smile-inducing – from start to finish this is a very clever record. If you’re new to Luke Haines, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you start here – the subject matter is perhaps a little too esoteric – but listen to this you certainly should; there’ll be rewards.
Luke Haines / Haystacks In Heaven
I Break Horses: Hearts
There’s ammunition here, should you wield shoegaze as an insult, should you grow tired of the earnestly young perfecting their Kevin Shields routines through the half-light of their fringes. Add the phrases Swedish band and a little bit hyped, then this record is an obvious target should high expectations not be met.
However, it’s only a problem when the style overrides the substance, which is never an issue with Hearts. Here, it’s all about the execution; bold, enticing sweeps of song that embrace the listener in waves of cinematic warmth. Tracks such as ‘Winter Beats’, ‘Wired’, ‘Load Your Eyes’; each suggests a dramatic tension, a heavily textured approach to the mechanics of dream pop. An extremely promising début.
I Break Horses / Hearts
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine
The “obvious” selection from the New Releases bucket, Diamond Mine is nonetheless a fascinating and engaging listen. Kenny Anderson’s warm, tender, oh-so-Scottish vocals, the empathy ingrained throughout each composition – we’ve had King Kenny around for a many a year, have grown accustomed to his myriad folk-rich charms. But he’s also an artist not afraid to push at boundaries, to point his material toward more complex corners and collaborations. Hence what provides this album with an entirely different texture are Jon Hopkins’ ambient inflexions, oh-so-subtly secreted beneath the narrative. Nothing here is forced; each song (particularly the magnificent ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’) is granted an immeasurable space to breath, to feed off the various Hopkins surges, pulses, sonic ripples. The result is a magical LP (if a little short in duration), richly deserving of its high profile.
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins / John Taylor’s Month Away
Tarwater: Inside The Ships
How to categorize Tarwater? A pop duo with a very sly attitude to what pop music constitutes. Part intelligent electronica, part post-rock, part tone poem, all German. Never predictable, always effortlessly measured, studio album #11 is a wonderfully paced affair, a cranial approach to sound that’s gracefully draped across a deadpan vocal evocative of Can and Faust and all those wonderful Krautrock bands of the early / mid 1970’s. This is an album that’s rarely been off the LGM turntable of late; Bernd Jetsram and Ronald Lippok (the latter moonlights as the demon percussionist in the equally beguiling To Rocco Rot) reflexively know how to frame a song. Take these two below examples:
Tarwater / Photographed
Tarwater / Inside The Ships