Category Archives: Tapes on Tuesday

Wonderlustre

I’m not quite sure why I decided to review one of my guilty pleasures in the public forum, but I seem to be something of a glutton for punishment, so I’ll go with it.  Skunk Anansie, the soundtrack to the angriest of my teenage years re-formed earlier this year for a tour after a spate of unsuccessful attempts at solo careers, in September (perhaps misguidedly) releasing Wonderlustre on the back of the nostalgia.

The opener, ‘God Loves Only You ‘ conjures the unsavoury atmosphere of 70s porn in the elevator of Hotel California, complete with jazzfunk bass, a moustached drum machine, and smooth over-produced vocals.  ‘My Ugly Boy’ notably revives Stoosh‘s ‘We Love Your Apathy’ to the letter before making the uncomfortable transition to ‘Over The Love’ which made me realise that I definitely am.  ‘Talk too Much’ tries to recover the angst-ridden cool of Post Orgasmic Chill when it would have been much better left unsaid.  ‘The Sweetest Thing’ is bearable.  The stomping and pouting ‘It Doesn’t Matter ‘ is a little too like a glamrock refashioning of Scissor Sisters for my liking.  ‘You’re too Expensive’ takes this a step further by adding a splash of mockney EMO for our listening displeasure, and ‘My Love Will Fall’ reminds me of late Alanis Morissette, which isn’t intended as a compliment.  ‘You Saved Me’ is insubstantial and largely inoffensive.  Then, one may be ‘Feeling the Itch’ of abrasive distortion, but it is perhaps the best song on the record.  Perhaps they should have followed their own advice in that ‘You Can’t Always Do What You Like’ – they did, and it clearly wasn’t a good idea, although it could provide Britain with a marginally edgier Eurovision entry.  Finally, ‘I Will Stay But You Should Leave’ should be repeated to them, with emphasis.

Buy the record if you have no regard for taste, originality, or honesty and simply wish to unsatisfactorily indulge misguided nostalgia.

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The Good Natured

The first thing I found myself wondering when I visited the myspace page for The Good Natured was why on earth every aspiring “alternative” artist lists Japanese Pop as a generic descriptor for their music which bears little to no resemblance to such oriental greats as Shonen Knife.  Perhaps I was biased from the start, but it really didn’t get any better once the audio began.  She sounds like a characteristically insubstantial jelly wobbling around in the mould of Bat for Lashes and Florence + The Machine with the vocal capabilities of a toddling Lily Allen/Kate Nash hybrid.  Reading the reviews of the Your Body Is A Machine EP, it is difficult to conceive that Rory Carroll is anything but deluded in the assertion that ‘we may finally have a female artist who exists in a land without gimmicks, affected Mockney accents and gigantic quiffs,’ since that appears to be precisely what she delivers.  Alright, so perhaps she is actually a Londoner, but that doesn’t mean that her Cockney isn’t to be mocked.  The bizarre ensemble of instruments is little other than gimmicky, although it is difficult to tell (and largely irrelevant) whether or not she has a quiff.  Her lyrics are, on the whole, dire and tautological.  Rose is by far the best of a bad bunch.  I’ll give her a few years to grow a pair… of lungs, that is.

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Beautiful Star

Have you heard of Odetta? If you’re a fairweather folkster like me, chances are you probably haven’t. She was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, who had Carly Simon weak at the knees and Maya Angelou waxing cosmological. You’ve probably heard of some of the acts she influenced, though: Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, Janis Joplin… she is even indirectly responsible for the career of Bob Dylan, but don’t hold that against her.

Her music is joyful, playful, pissed-off, regretful, angry, and has the power to tie your bowels into knots. The folks at Wears The Trousers Magazine have had the good sense to organise a tribute album, Beautiful Star: The Songs of Odetta, featuring a selection of Odetta’s finest songs sung by a range of established indie artists (Marissa Nadler, Liz Durrett) and up-and-coming, hot-out-of-the-studio new talent (Haunted Stereo, Katey Brooks). Released on November 30th, all proceeds will go to women’s charities (The Fawcett Society and The Women’s Resource Centre), so there really is no excuse not to buy it. Needless to say this tribute to a great under-acknowledged female singer, organised by a feminist music magazine, whose proceeds are being donated to charities aimed at helping women, gets a big feminist thumbs up from EYS. Head on over to their Myspace page and pre-order yourself a good old slice of ear-nourishing feminist do-goodery. Sail away, ladies.

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Hell

Of all of the things I would have imagined Hell to be like, the notion that it would be pedestrian would never have crossed my mind.  However, Tegan & Sara have effortlessly (or so I hope) achieved this, with ‘Hell’ the new single from their pending album, Sainthood, to be released on October 27th 2009.  They have suddenly become a teenybopping, guitar shredding, lyrically inept, duo.  Although, it is possible that this is what they always have been and I am suffering from a very specific attack of amnesia.  Regardless, whilst they proclaim themselves “not ready for a big bad step in that direction” (admittedly about something different and more abstract), they seem to be trying to morph into a prepubescent manifestation of The Organ (note the very instrument dangling in the backing).  Maybe it is time for one to get ‘over it and over them.’

Preorder the album with all its excessive hype and extremely pretentious paraphernalia here, or do something enjoyable instead.

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Life on Earth

Despite having recently obtained not one, but two, calendars to aid me in my time management, Tuesday has again become Wednesday without notice.  So, this week, what is rapidly becoming Tapes on Twednesday shares with you, or perhaps introduces, Tiny Vipers (aka Jesy Fortino) and her new record Life on Earth released on July 7th 2009.

Flicking through the Belfast Telegraph whilst visiting in September, I noticed that Tiny Vipers, with whom I had become acquainted by way of ‘On This Side,’ a song from her previous release Hands Across the Void, was playing at the Black Box in the heart of Belfast’s emerging Cathedral Quarter.  Quaint in its monochrome modernity, with an array of matchless furniture, the occasional whiff of fresh coffee, and drifting scent of heavy metal, a free gig could scarcely have been better.  After what one must politely term a disappointing supporting act,  Tiny Vipers sidled onto the stage, perched delicately on the stool, began to pick out a melody, and, eyes closed, captivated the audience to silence within a couple of bars.  Needless to say, I bought the record on the way out of the door.

The concert had much the same effect as the album, in which the songs smoothly and unnoticeably merge into one another.  Opening ‘Eyes Like Ours’ with the words ‘do you recall when the world was still young?  Just a small town…I heard that you walked across its borders into the unknown,’ it would have been difficult to express my sentiments about this record more exactly than by that very description, and with ‘eyes full of wonder’ I continued, entranced.  ‘Development’ follows with delightful cadence and rhythmic picking, curiously juxtaposed with the destructive drive of the lyrics.  ‘Slow Motion’ first hints at the potential for harshness in Fortino’s tone, only to find the track easing itself into its place, followed by the earnest existentialism of ‘Dreamer’.  Recalling Virginia Woolf’s The Waves in asking ‘what can we learn when we can’t understand?’ it  ends like a modernist novel.  ‘Time Takes’ and ‘Young God’ are not as noticeable, but neither are they out of place preceding the epic ‘Life on Earth’.  If Patti Smith wrote poetic or dramatic theory, it would sound like this.  ‘CM,’ ‘Tiger Mountain’, and ‘Twilight Property’ all appear to draw on the American folk tradition, with their eerie native harmonies and haunting echoes.  Aptly concluding with ‘Outside’, Tiny Vipers asserts that the problem with life is you can’t do it twice, and with this record, she doesn’t need to.

Please support Tiny Vipers by going to see her on tour, and by buying her merchandise here.  Also, become a fan and get updates on Facebook.

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July Flame (Overture)

After such a great delay it seemed only right that, instead of a Tapes on Tuesday posting, I “pen” a suitably belated Tapes on Twednesday.  A hectic summer found me flailing in a music-less abyss akin only to purgatory, which I hear is torturous.  However, I have now regained access to civilisation by way of the internet, and cannot envisage a more apt (if rusty) resumption of our services than by sharing a pre-released two-track taster of Laura Veirs‘ new record, July Flame, available on January 12th 2010.

The first of these, ‘I Can See Your Tracks’, revisits the country and bluegrass terrain of the earlier records Troubled by the Fire and The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, and, although exhibiting the worrying symptom of unnecessary and dangerous hints of the woes of Fleet Foxes in the chorus, ‘some kind of crazy wind’ appears ‘to chase them into oblivion.’

The title track, July Flame,  speaks more of Year of Meteors, layering the oneric effects of ‘Galaxies’ with the sheer simplicity of ‘Magnetized’.  ‘Sweet summer peach, high up the branch, just out of my reach,’ Veirs laments, and I join in asking July Flame, ‘can I call you mine?’

Not until January 12th 2010 (unless you are in North America, that is).  Please purchase the record and associated merchandise (I bagged myself a songbook, the Two Beers Veirs EP I missed out on when she toured, and a July Flame t-shirt) from the Raven Marching Band website, which is the most direct way to support Laura Veirs.

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Lungs

Florence Welch releasing an album entitled ‘Lungs’ may strike you as the equivalent of Martin Clunes releasing an album called ‘Ears’ or Katie Price releasing an album called ‘Boobs’: she certainly does have quite the pair. And her tremendous airbags are used mostly for the good on her debut album, the review of which comes limping in lamer than a one-legged donkey in a neon bumbag, weeks after the event of its release. Having blogged repeatedly about her in the past, when we had a more respectable amount of finger-pulse connection, our excitement was running high about the promise of a full-length offering from the tangerine-headed prodigious young foghorn. And with exquisitely-crafted statues of 4-minute pop gold ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ bedecking the record, it would have been hard for it to disappoint; an album full of these sonic gems would have earned a place in the Top One of the greatest records committed to disc (involving a harp and sung by someone whose name isn’t Joanna).

But an album of wall-to-wall styled messy-choppy harp exuberence this is not, nor was it meant to be; the album is layered, and we can track Florence’s metamorphosis from sketchy garage outfit, through her punk phase, fledging into a shouty savant siren, all rumbling and controlled rage, dark and polished as a beetle shell. This progression is made the more obvious for those willing to shell out the extra £3 for the Deluxe Version, which  draws for its extra padding on early demos and remixes of the stronger songs, like a mosquito with self-esteem issues, or a dog licking its own balls. It’s a progression that others in less of a hurry to reap the hurricane of hipster hype would have perhaps tracked over 2 separate albums, but with Time Magazine’s winged chariot and a pre-emptive Brit Award looming large, we find on Lungs a veritably scrapped together patchwork quilt of styles (which, if the image is too wholesome and unFlorentine, is then used to throw a body into a lake).

It’s not hard to see why this album has had the blogosphere, the critics, and the Guardian supplementeers salivating into their mochachinos: Florence Welch has revealed herself in possession of the best melodic piano-/harp-pop sensibilities working in the world today, coupled with a darkly poetic lyricism; and the production on the more epic tracks provides the perfect theatrics for the most glorious of controlled explosions that is That Voice. One track which didn’t make the cut for the B-side material is her cover of Beirut’s Postcards From Italy, but you can hear Zach Condon’s phrasing undulating gently through the record, especially on the exclaimed highs on ‘Howl’. Endearding touches humanize the woman behind the Machine, like the extra ‘w’s she adds to the R-words on ‘Hurricane Drunk’, which will probably earn the ‘British Eccentric’ crown passed on from Kate Bush. Ghoulish warewolf narratives and dubiously-conceived paens to domestic violence notwithstanding, Florence’s greatest triumphs are her plinky harp ditties which her voice manages to whip up into anthems; ‘Dog Days’, ‘Rabbit Heart’, and ‘Hurricane Drunk’ are the three standout tracks, closely followed by the pared-back but jauntily percussive ‘Two Lungs’, the chorus of which should be enough to bag the Mercury alone, if the criteria were ‘originality plus likeliness to stick in one’s head’ and not ‘sod this let’s just give it to the one no-one thinks is going to win’. Ms. Welch may not have produced a bag of Rabbit Hearts, but she has sufficently pulled the rabbit out of the hat to offer up the most impressive album of the year so far.

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