From the outset, Grafton Primary’s Human League-inspired debut Eon lacks true inspiration. Though a perfectly pleasant synth pop effort, it is far too generic to stand out against it’s contemporary contenders. The Australian trio formed of brothers Joshua (voice) and Benjamin (synths/keytar) Garden and Robbie Mudrazija (drummer) suffer one major setback — Joshua sounds far too similar to Human League’s Philip Oakey to allow the listener to move beyond the obvious comparisons.
“This fortress in our heart feels much weaker.” After thirteen years and five albums, Placebo needed a break. We last heard from them back in 2007 when they unleashed their deep and dark Meds. Having had to tour the album for nearly two years, it was evident that Placebo were no longer a fully functioning unit. Founding members Brian Molko (vocals) and Stefan Olsdal (bass) decided to take action, resulting in the departure of drummer Steve Hewitt. “Meds” also marked a parting of ways with record label Virgin, a natural conclusion to what had been a successful partnership. Molko and Olsdal wanted to have greater control and so are releasing their sixth album Battle For The Sun independently. With former Evaline drummer Steve Forrest now on board, they are happy to declare on “Speak In Tongues” that they “can build a new tomorrow today.”
Londoner’s Love Revue were first formed around 6 years ago but until last year made little progress. Their situation echoes many of the world’s undiscovered talents and thankfully last year, Love Revue finally got the break they deserved.
Christina Courtin went to Julliard to study the violin, but sat in her room singing to herself for a large proportion of the time. Therefore self-titled debut album Christina Courtin was surely a natural progression. Upon listening to the album, it is evident that Courtin who has worked with everyone from composer Osvaldo Golijov to hip-hop maestro Kanye West since her graduation, means business. Courtin chose to co-produce her freshman effort alongside session guitarist Ryan Scott and bassist Greg Cohen.
Guy Fantastico tried playing in bands for several years, finding that something never fully gelled. So instead of giving up on his musical dream, he headed down to Costa Rica with producer Bobby Birdman with Midi keyboards, their computers, speakers and whatever toys they could fit in their bags and set out recording Nesting.
Hip Hop has been a chart mainstay for around 30 years. It is 10 years since the arrival of Eminem, arguably the most succesful white rapper and so the arrival of Asher Roth onto the scene has seen him written off by many. At least Eminem had a hard life before hitting the big time, Roth is as far from Eminem as possible. Roth is a middle class, ginger haired Jewish 21-year-old. So what business does he have in the Hip Hop market?
Glade celebrates it’s move to a new home with a mix to get revellers in the mood for three days of electronic dance music. The 20-track digital compilation highlights the range of music and artists playing the festival, though it is more geared towards a dance mix than choice cuts from the headliners depiste kicking off with “Glam Bucket” from Underworld who are making a UK festival exclusive appearance at Glade this year. Offering a gentle start, the album then takes in techno, psy trance, house, breaks and a dash of the crazy side of the event.
New and exclusive music from the NET28 artists sees 16 tracks of house and techno aimed at unlocking the imagination of its artists and listeners – a journey into the mystical realms of electronic dance music. NET28 is a family network of labels and artists, founded in 2003 by Alex Under, Damian Schwartz, Jose Villalobos, Imek and Tadeo and spawning the Apnea, CMYKmusik, Cyclical Tracks and Mupa labels. A lofty reputation has resulted, and one which carries with it the deep atmospheric grooves compiled here.
Their first record since Everything Must Go to feature lyrics from the now legally dead Richey Edwards, Journal for Plague Lovers marks a return from the Manic Street Preachers to their aesthetic and creative peak.
From the very first addictive chorus of ‘you got me stuck to you’, former child star Nikka Costa does not tread a foot out of place on her seventh album “Pebble To A Pearl”. A toe-tapping and bottom-shaking collection of funk, soul and blues, Costa shows Anastacia how it should really be done. While Anastacia may have reached the heady heights of fame, Costa has kept a low profile and artistic integrity in order to produce succesive noteworthy and credible albums.
Lovetune For Vacuum is so insanely beautiful that in some weird way it makes it very hard to share. Crafted by 18-year-old Austrian Anja Plaschg, it is somewhat unfathomable that this gothic gem had little interest in music till her teenage years. Since then, she has perfected playing the piano and violin and attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
Though far from a household name, Adam Franklin has been consistently working in the music industry for nearly 20 years. Starting of as the singer/guitarist in Sonic Youth-alikes Swervedriver before moving into more experimental territory with Toshack Highway, he is now going solo. This is not a new development, though debut solo album Bolts Of Melody started life as a Toshack Highway project. He has now safely arrived at his second solo album Spent Bullets, breifly stopping to work on Magnetic Morning’s (in collaboration with Interpol’s Sam Fogarino) debut album.
Ryan Driver is a pedigree of the Toronto music scene. It would be hard to find someone there who he has not worked alongside, albeit as a singer or a guitarist. Having fronted the alt-country group The Silt, mainstream success should have been assured. Sadly though, it never arrived. Since then, he has collaborated with the likes of The Guayaveras, The Fake New Age Band and Castlemusic, whilst also featuring in the duo Double Suicide (with Sandro Perri) and fronting The Ryan Quartet (mutant jazz standards). Therefore the arrival of Driver’s debut solo album Feeler Of Pure Joy should come as little surprise.
Sparrow And The Workshop are not hard to define. Their sound is a fantastic fusion of folk and country rock. Simple structures telling a story with stunningly balanced male/female vocals. This multi-national trio’s debut EP Sleight Of Hand is just unmissable. Glasgow based Jill O’Sullivan (guitar/vocals), Gregor Donaldson (drums/vocals) and Nick Acker (bass) have been together since early 2008 and started off by simply exploring their mutual passion for music. The result is a distinct and delectable debut.
I can often be found in the bargain basement of my local CD shop in Greenwich, perusing the shelf of £1 CDs considering which to save. This is no word of a lie. I look for albums I like the cover of and rescue them from a fate worse than death. If I were to see Zoe Van Goey’s The Cage Was Unlocked All Along, I can guarantee you it would end up on my pile. A stunning sleeve designed by Peter Diamond sparks intrigue. Portraying a downtrodden couple with all their possessions in a flying bath, fleeing an island of social misfits it is impossible to know what to expect.
Releasing a debut album that is reminiscent of other artists is often beneficial, it allows people to draw comparisons and will tempt people to listen to what they might otherwise have passed over. However, simply copying past classics and adding little to them is a cheat. If I were to be nice, Pocketbooks debut album Flight Paths is reminiscent of the fun and frolicsome 90s indie pop of The Housemartins and The Divine Comedy.
‘Who needs credibility?’ is a poignant question on Hit Me TV’s self-titled debut album. It is not something for which there is an answer. Credibility can easily be sought, but whether it is a necessity depends on the ambitions of the individual in question. Hit Me TV are an easily enjoyable Dutch pop/rock quartet who should they wish for it, would be easily deemed credible.
It’s not often you get a techno compilation mixed to coincide with political or economic climates, but here is exactly that. October, aka Bristol’s Julian Raymond Smith, expresses the collective desire from a body of international artists, working in partnership with his Caravan label, to create simply ‘music of this time’. The result is a deep and moody collection of October’s own tracks as well as entries from Etalon, TG, (emptyset) and Jilt Van Moorst. The dark and atmospheric blend is a sure-fire winner, though it’s unlikely to give much hope to any potential green shoots stemming anytime soon to deliver the world from it’s current crisis.
If someone were to ask you to name a Dutch band or singer, who would you think of? I am of the age where Vengaboys and 2 Unlimited shoot to the fore. Add to that DJ Tiesto or Ferry Corsten and you will form a very dance orientated image of Dutch music. Be that of the cheese or club variety, it is dance none the less. So, it may surprise you to hear Room Eleven, a talented jazz-influenced quintet who go against the grain of internationally-known Dutch music.
For those unfamiliar (like me) with Balkan Beat Box, they are a constantly evolving collective of musicians. They were initially formed in 2004 by Ori Kaplan (Gogol Bordello) and Tamir Muskat (Firewater and Big Lazy). Having already released two highly acclaimed albums, the decision was made to remix a collection of their album tracks and release them afresh. In effect, reworking what they had to keep it fresh and offer a newer vibe.
There is nothing better to build up to the summer than a good dose of classical soul. Smoove and Turrell have realised this and are here to deliver exactly what is required with their album. Antique Soul is a collaboration between Smoove, whose debut album A Man called Smoove was snapped up by Acid Jazz, has joined forces with Geordie vocalist John Turrell. Similarly to current label mates Radio Trip, Smoove and Turrell’s debut full length collaboration is perfect to sit back and relax to.
Listening to albums by artists you have never heard of before can go in many different directions. There are those diamonds which are already perfectly formed. Others are still grubby, but you know once they have been polished slightly, they will gleam brighter than the rest. Then come the cut glass, which parades as a diamond but can’t hold the pretence for long. Finally comes the plastic, unable to fool anyone. Sadly for Castrovalva, their self-titled mini-album falls into the final category.
Need something new to just sit back and relax to? Wish The Avalanches were still around? Can’t wait till Lemon Jelly release some new material? Wait, I’ve got a great suggestion for a new band — why don’t you just mix the two together? Shame, you#re too late as that is exactly what Israeli duo Radio Trip has done. Though I guess you could say they have thrown a little bit of Zero 7 in just for good measure.
It was with both anticipation and trepidation in equal measure that I first listened to Patrick Wolf’s fourth album The Bachelor. Would he repeat the fatal mistake of 2007’s The Magic Position, which in my opinion abandoned artistic integrity in the hope of a commercial gain. Sadly the attempt was hollow, loyal fans of Lycanthropy and Wind In The Wires felt a sense of abandonment. The Bachelor is pitched in the middle ground and blindingly beautiful for it. Patrick Wolf has landed again and is bigger and better than ever.
After the apocalyptic Modern Times, irascible ‘spokesman of a generation’ Bob Dylan makes a surprise studio return with Together Through Life. Partly written as a soundtrack to the upcoming road-movie My Own Love Song, the album continues Dylan’s twilight renaissance without quite reaching the heights of his turn of the century masterpieces.