“I had a dream that I could fly from the highest swing”. Priscilla Ahn is clearly a girl with humble ambitions: whereas others have sought to reach the stars, she is still happy to pursue her childish vision. “Dream” opens debut album A Good Day, its airy vocal and floaty setting is what to expect throughout the record. This is not necessarily a bad base, but you can’t help but wish that the record grew more from its humble beginnings.
Fredo Viola is a New York based London born visual artist. Now, possibly due to the phenomenal success of his interactive website or the YouTube hit he scored with “The Sad Song”, he has finally released a debut album The Turn on Because Music. It is clearly evident throughout the album that this new venture is an extension of his work. The Turn evokes so many visuals, that it would be perfect as the soundtrack to many an art house film.
What do you get if you lock a motley crew of members from Hanson, Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne and Cheap Trick in a studio? A bloody good set of Tinted Windows!
Finding the words to describe Albuquerque duo A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s third album Délivrance is no easy feat. To say it has been influenced by Eastern European folk music would be an understatement. Similar to their past works, Délivrance is once again shaped by the sounds of classic Eastern Europe. Upon listening, I was immediately transported to some unknown place between Prague and Budapest. I am in no way over exaggerating, the whole album is beautifully uplifting. It is nigh on impossible to simply sit and listen to the album, in fact trying to do so would negate the full beauty of it’s music.
If title track Miami Ice were the tone setter for Icy Demons latest release, it would be no bad thing. The track is amazingly fresh electro fun — the type of tune that goes around your head constantly and makes you smile. I’d say a dead cert for your iPod! It is already on mine, and that is no word of a lie.
Bristol-based dubstep imprint Tectonic prides itself on pushing the genre forward under the guidance of DJ Pinch, this selection of the as-yet unreleased four-part 12” vinyl Plates series is evidence of that pioneering spirit. Bringing together tracks from the genre’s top producers including Martyn, Skream, Benga, 2562 and Joker, there are essential tracks to be heard.
Swedish duo Ak-Momo were formed when Anna Karin (‘AK’) von Malmborg and Mattias Olsson met through mutual friends and decided to write songs together over a period of six afternoons back in 2003. The music produced from these afternoon sessions has finally resulted in the release of album Return To N.Y. The tracks have a light and airy electro feel to them and are perfect to relax to on a sunny afternoon. It is clear to see they were written and recorded on a relaxed basis for the joint enjoyment of the two musicians.
Over the past few years, The Brit School has become synonymous with big voiced soul and r’n’b singers including Amy Winehouse and Adele. All that is about to change — all thanks to one girl. Polly Scattergood. With a haunting ethereal quality to her voice, Polly is the polar opposite of her peers. As a result, I would expect many people to wish for a Kate Bush or PJ Harvey comparison, but though there are elements of both in her voice and material, she has a unique sound that makes her stand out from the latest crop of female vocalists. She is certainly no Lady Gaga and her voice is more distinct than La Roux’s. Her material also is diverse and interesting.
Passion Pit seems to be on every tipster’s list for 2009. So does debut EP “Chunk of Change” live up to the hype? Brought to us by French Kiss, they who introduced us to Les Savy Fav and the Hold Steady, it was originally made by Boston singer/songwriter Michael Angelakos as a belated Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend.
Though still relatively unheard of, Ayo, the Nigerian parented and German raised soul singer, has sold over a million records worldwide. This is no small feat for a girl who spent her childhood moving between foster carers and care homes, due to her parents divorce and her mother’s subsequent drug addiction. It was only at the age of 14 that she was deemed adult enough to return to her father. Though she doesn’t speak explicitly about these issues, from the very outset “I Am Not Afraid” gives her second album Gravity At Last a truly emotional connection. Ayo is not afraid to face her past and speak frankly about her relationships with her family and dealing with past strife.
By their own admission, The Frontier Brothers are not of this Earth, therefore their debut album Space Punk Starlet should be equally out of this world. On this front, The Frontier Brothers fail to deliver. While the album is easy to listen to, it doesn’t offer anything new. It is typical American indie rock. Having said that, the Texan trio are not offering an album that is full of fillers, it is a genuinely rounded and enjoyable album.
Due to a preference for working alone, with only keyboard and laptop for company, Loner (aka Geoff Smith) explains his moniker as ‘a joke name that just stuck’. It is from this reclusive state that he has produced his latest offering, Western Sci-Fi.
This album from Nathan Fake has been a long time coming. At the age of 19 the talented electronica producer wowed dancefloors with his simple but highly effective techno masterpiece “Outhouse”, and many expected his full length debut for James Holden’s Border Community label would bring more of the same. Yet Fake chose a different route: 2006’s Drowning in a Sea of Love would be a warm and downtempo classic. While this was not the album expected, Fake went on to continue to deliver live sets full of energy and it seems he has been tinkering away on his first truly dancable album for some time. It was worth the wait.
While you may not have heard of Leo Abrahams by name, it is probable that you may have heard his sultry guitar tones before. His unquestionable talented playing can be heard on recordings by such stalwarts of the music industry as Brian Eno, David Holmes, Starsailor and throughout the Hollywood blockbuster Ocean’s Twelve. With this impressive resume backing him, Abrahams has once again entered the solo realm and produced his third album for Just Music.
Like it or not, Fischerspooner will always be famed for “Emerge”, an electro stormer which, as much as Casey Spooner may hate performing it live, is no bad trademark sound. Their third album Entertainment may push them more towards a more melodic and poppier lyric-led style but that tracks gritty synths remain to provide the hooks and keep some familiarity to 10 tracks full of surprises.
Hell, by all accounts, represents a stylish side of techno. The German has become a cultural figurehead with his encyclopaedic musical knowledge and a bold sense of fashion as a one-time GQ Man of the Year, a coupling ideally suited when it comes to making irresistible tunes lavishly playing on the smoothest tricks learnt from as far back as the early 1970s. How else would you get the likes of Bryan Ferry and P Diddy to guest vocal on your album and still pull off a teasingly original tune? Teufelswerk — the German for “Devil’s work” — is a double album of two themes, “Day” and “Night”, which get you under a wicked spell coming from two very different sides of Hell.
The House on the Causeway is the third album from post-rockers Reigns, again using very individual surroundings to record tracks with characteristics of that space. Wessex-based Tim and Roo Farthing mused over a seemingly bottomless hole found on the Somerset Downs for 2002’s We Lowered a Microphone into the Ground and for their follow-up Styne Vallis they visited a submerged village that had been evacuated and strategically flooded in 1970 to make way for a reservoir. The House on the Causeway began development when the Fathing brothers stumbled upon a house while shrouded by fog on a causeway into the English Channel between Black Ven and Golden Cap. There they recorded the sounds which make up this eerie, conceptual album with a haunting feel and ghostly presence matching the character of their sudden find.
Following on from his impressive Save Your Light For Darker Days, this EP sees Digitonal, AKA producer and instrumentalist Andy Dobson, put through the remix treatment together with one of the top tracks from his last LP to typically lush effect.
Bronnt Industries Kapital is the name under which Bristol resident Guy Bartell has for several years purveyed a brand of ethereal and almost spiritual electronica. The cathedralic feel aided by its stone-statue sleeve 2005’s impressive debut full-length Virtute et Industria delivered slow-moving synth-choral pieces where beats were generally subtle and moods calm and to the cold side of cool. The creeping and sometimes disconcerting atmospheres of the debut were felt similarly on Bronnt’s second release, the soundtrack to Benjamin Christensen’s fantastic 1922 witchcraft history Haxan (originally appearing on Tartan Video’s DVD re-issue but later released as a record in its own right) — no doubt due to the fact that, as the artist’s website states, the piece was first conceived around the time of its predecessor’s recording, with tracks from both coming from the same distinct place.
Those quirky French, eh? Just when you think you have them pegged, they tend to come up with something far out and so crazy it works but you can’t work out how. Take Minitel Rose, an act blending the high pitched pop of Scissor Sisters with the 1980s humour of The Human League with more contemporary fellow French acts Justice and Daft Punk. If you know your dance music and like it with a sense of fun, this group have a gung-ho attitude which will captivate you from the first bar just as it did with thousands of others in 2008 when their first track received 100,000 plays in its first day of going live on on MySpace. The French Machine is all synthetic hooks, catchy vocals, youthful vibrancy and general pop pleasure.
Swedish drums and vocals duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums, aka singer Mariam Wallentin and percussionist husband Andreas Werliin, introduced themselves with Hardcore in 2008, an album which attracted accolades from numerous critics as a favourite of the year. With The Snake, the winners of the Jazz in Sweden 2008 prize have expanded their use of instruments to include steel drum, piano, xylophone, marimba and Rhodes as they worked from instinct to produce a second album just as intoxicating as their first.
Although Dan Deacon is a kind of celebrity in his (now) native Baltimore through his involvement in the Wham City collective and as a major organising part of the Whartscape festival, with his nerdy big, beardy, glasses look and the mis-match day-glo-colourful general aesthetic he is perhaps an unlikely magazine cover star in the UK. But with his second full length release Bromst, he is turning the waves made by his UK debut Spiderman of the Rings (2007) into a bit of an indie music storm, and deservedly so.
With lilting picked guitar and piano, and spoken word vocals remembering a wonderful place visited as a child, “Little Moon” opens First Aid Kit’s Drunken Trees as sweetly and innocently as the song’s title suggests at, with the sung vocals keeping the mood just so.
Two years on from their second LP Ten New Messages, The Rakes have returned with their ‘Berlin album’ Klang! recorded in the German city’s Planet Roc studios, where the band relocated to. The Rakes’ Capture/Release debut was one of the better long players from the mid-noughties’ post-punk revival, and still stands up pretty well. Ten New Messages courted a fashionable crowd (Dior, Heidi Slimane, etc) and was well received but the band have lacked the one or two big hits needed to propel them to the heights of other angular chaps like Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand. Whereas those two groups have added electro and disco elements to their indie-rock of late, the 10 songs on Klang! wizz by in a half hour and remain imbued with the wry content and musical urgency of the Rakes’ first and second efforts.
Some nine years since Miss Kittin (Caroline Herve) and The Hacker (Michel Amato) teamed up for their debut 1st Album, they return with a European cyber-pop flavour combining techno and disco with The Hacker’s lush composition and Miss Kittin’s hypnotic vocals. Two is an irresistible intergalactic musical experience.