Music

Music

March 20 2009



The reports of the demise of Nick Zinner’s guitar have been greatly exaggerated. While the band’s new found admiration of Giorgio Moroder and the synths-and-sequencers party vibe of lead single Zero led many to think that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had ditched their signature guitar-drenched sound, it’s not the case. Zinner still wields his guitar like a pro on It’s Blitz!, yet it’s used in such measured and considered strokes throughout the album, complementing the richer sense of space and detail than we’ve yet seen from the band. It’s a more artful, rather than arty, version of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

That's not to say that the band still don't rock, because they really do like on the afore-mentioned single Zero, or Dull Life which gallops at full speed aboard Zinner’s tumbling riffs. But the NYC trio truly shine when they push themselves and their sound headlong into unexplored territories. Take the gorgeous Hysteric, with a skeletal synthesis of organic and programmed drumming, and sparingly used guitar atmospherics, it’s the band at their most tender, before they decide to throw everything at their disposal — horns, trumpets, whistles — into the song, only making it sound bigger and more poignant than before.

Such slow-burning tracks have quickly become the band’s strongest suit, and accordingly It’s Blitz! (a deceptive title it turns out) is dominated with layers of trembling synthesizers and Zinner’s rich guitar-mist. It's a fairly staggering leap from the bratty rush of Fever To Tell and the polished-rock-sheen of Show Your Bones, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound so comfortable and assured of themselves while they jump from sound to sound that you shouldn't hesitate about jumping off with them. - By Dave Ruby Howe

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Music

March 11 2009




Jack Brown is used to having labels stuck to his band. In twelve short months, White Lies — which Brown drums for — have been called many things, from the next big thing in indie rock, to slavish Joy Division impersonators and all ‘round miserable boys. And although White Lies can deal with the incessant hype-storm that’s been whipped up in the wake of their debut LP To Lose My Life, it’s those last two that Brown doesn’t care for. “That’s something which we’ve heard of a lot in the last year, that our music is so bleak we must be the most depressed people in Britain, but it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Brown says. “I know that we’ve got a sound which is quite darker than a lot of other bands going around right now, but that itself is a reflection of us as a band and as people. We’ve grown up and these songs represent that maturity,” Brown says of the band’s debut disc. “Listen to the title track of the album, it’s about being so in love with someone that you stay with them until the very end of your lives, I mean, how romantic is that? I feel like there’s so much color and energy to what we do, that to compare us to a band like Joy Division is just absurd, because that was a band concerned with making music that was as bleak as possible. That isn’t us.”

Those who’ve laid such claims against White Lies are seemingly missing the point of To Lose My Life. Yes, it’s a dark sound, and yes, it’s focused on narratives of lost love, betrayal, social and familial dysfunction, and of course death. But it’s really about passion. White Lies’ lyricist Charles Cave utilizes these emotive themes to compel both band and listener, and as a result, To Lose My Life is an equally exhilarating and ambitious record. It’s also one that makes the band befitting of the other label mentioned earlier, the one about being the next big thing in indie rock.

“When people say something like that about you, you’ve got to step back from it all, otherwise it’ll effect you,” Brown admits. “We never wanted to play any games with the band’s hype. We avoided it. We spent over two months rehearsing before we played any shows, we did extended studio sessions for the album and we never released any information about ourselves or our music online. And it worked for us,” he explains. “If the press had started saying those kind of things about us before we finished the album, we never would’ve got anything done. We’re terrible at actually finishing things. That’s why we’ve only got like two B-Sides. We’re rarely satisfied with everything we do and that would’ve made it so much worse.  Thankfully we weren’t under the immense pressure of the hype machine during recording. And when it finally caught up with us, our album was finished and ready to come out, so it didn’t get to our heads. We got really lucky,” he says before beaming widely. And so they should be. — Dave Ruby Howe

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Music

February 25 2009



Solo albums suck. Well, most of the time they suck, because most of the time they're lousy and ill-considered cash-ins that end up shedding little light on this new side of the artist and just end up damaging our opinions of the original band. History (and record store discount bins) are littered with failed solo-grabs and side projects. How many jokes end with a punch-line about David Bowie's Tin Machine experiment? Was anyone even awake for Nicole Scherzinger's lone-Pussy Cat Doll phase? And really, who wants to listen to an hour's worth of material from the drummer from Weezer? But people do get it right every once in a while. Like Victoria Bergsman's split from the Concretes, or Nick Littlemore's work with Teenager and Empire of the Sun outside of Pnau. This is not to forget someone like Marvin Gaye's creative peak after leaving the Moonglows or even the obvious work of Michael Jackson once he broke free of his brothers. And while Morrisey never quite matched the lightning in a bottle after the Smiths' end, his has been one of the most consistent and enduring solo careers in memory. So here's two fine examples of how to make pretty great solo record.



NICKEL EYE

With the Strokes' hiatus continually stretching over the last couple of years, we've seen the band's members peel off into a multitude of side and solo projects. From Albert Hammond Jr's confident strides on his two solo discs, to Frabrizio Moretti's new island-indie group Little Joy, and Julian Casablancas and Nick Valensi's shuffling guest spots with the likes of Queens of the Stoneage, Pharrell and Regina Spektor. The latest Stroke to go it alone is Nikolai Fraiture, masquerading here as Nickel Eye with Time of the Assassins. It's a bold and surprising move from the notedly reserved bassist, but an impressive to be sure. Hints of the classic Strokes' sound litter the disc, but Nickel Eye's strength lies in the variations on that sound. There's added harmonicas, whistles and plenty of acoustic guitars. It's like if the Strokes were concerned with classic Americana instead of New York cool and lived on throat-scraping moonshine instead of famous models.



FEVER RAY

After the Knife's Silent Shout conquered everyone's world in 2006, O. Dreijer and his sister K. Dreijer Andersson put their musical partnership on hold. This led to the birth of Fever Ray, Karien's latest solo-output. While the self-titled debut of Fever Ray isn't far removed from the Knife's spooky electronic terrains, this record does feel different. It's sparse and paced against the tension heard on the Silent Shout and the attitude of Deep Cuts. Most remarkable of all is the glimpse at Driejer Andersson herself that Fever Ray offers. Beyond the Knife's stark exterior, we see a little of what drives Karin and how she's still steps ahead of the game. - Dave Ruby Howe

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Music

January 14 2009



It’s best to get this out of the way early, otherwise it’ll just distract us later. Yes, Telepathe are very cool. They’ve got a wealth of New York City style, hookups with labels like Merok and Isomorph Records and their upcoming Dance Mother LP features friendly assists from !!! and TV On The Radio wunderkind Dave Sitek. But don’t let the hype of all that get in the way of Telepathe’s music, because that’s where the real magic lies. Coming together like an art-school student’s wet dream, the NYC three-piece cook up an exhilarating brand of tribal dance music, complete with boom and doom drum circles, séance-channelling vocals, a mess of fluttering synthesizers mixed with a nice touch of stuttered hip-hop production aesthetics. It’s all sorts of weird, but equally wonderful, of course. — Dave Ruby Howe

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Music

December 15 2008



Trying to describe Tacoma’s Mono In VCF makes you feel like a tongue-tied fool attempting to convey a transcendental experience. This is music quite unlike anything you’ve heard before, perhaps best imagined as a young Suede camping on a rooftop, watching storms clouds with Phil Spector. It’s on Masha, lifted from Mono In VCF’s self-titled LP, that we witness the band’s finest hour. It’s a song born of the cold sea, with guitars that shudder like crumbling icebergs and synths that brush a transpacific wind across the nape of your neck. Bang in the middle of the mix sits Kim Miller’s voice, an exercise in beguilement that could seduce a fleet of sailors into the abyss. Stupefying, soul-tickling stuff. — Matt Shea

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December 2 2008



I worry for anyone who ever doubted Miami Horror. No really, because when Miami first appeared on the scene almost two years ago, sporting an unrestrained love of everything ‘80s and a healthy night-club tan, the people who dismissed him then had no idea of his potential for greatness. Shame on them. Since his humble beginnings, Miami Horror’s broke out of the basement beat factory to hook up with esteemed company like Fred Falke, Pnau, Gameboy/Gamegirl and Midnight Juggernauts and also polished off the extremely strong debut EP, Bravado. It’s on the EP that Miami Horror really shines, whether it’s with the Prince-esque strut of Don’t Be On With Her, the crunch of Summerfest ’86 or the shimmer and pulse of Bellevue. It’s filled with more style, vigour and thoughtfulness than your normal producer’s debut EP, but trust me, Miami Horror is far from the norm. - By Oliver Queen. Bravado is OUT NOW

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November 13 2008


The marching beat surges forward, where it’s met by a chugging bass line, rattling guitars and a menacing vocal. It’s the opening bars of a new single called Bismarck, which among other things is the signal that Lost Valentinos are back from the wilderness and want to be heard again. And it’s hard to fault them for coming back so fiery, after all, the last two years have seen Lost Valentinos in what can only be described as band hell. Riding the buzz from two successful EPs, the band spiralled as their label fell out from under them, they got sued by Bobby Womack, changed their name (from 'The' to 'Lost') and lost a drummer to Midnight Juggernauts. Emerging at last with Bismarck, a taste of their upcoming Ewan Pearson-produced record, it’s clear that Lost Valentinos have something to prove. They have a statement. They’re back and they haven’t missed a beat. — Dave Ruby Howe

Bismarck is OUT NOW

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Music

October 18 2008

Much like designers, musicians are continually swinging through history, cherry-picking the best bits from long-forgotten eras and reinterpreting them with a modern slant. Recently, we’ve trudged through nostalgic New Order clones and the post-post-punk boom with bands like Interpol and Editors, but now it would seem that the much maligned genre of disco is coming back. So break out the bellbottoms because disco is about to be cool again.



FAN DEATH

Fan Death are the princesses of new-disco strut. Their stunning debut single, Veronica’s Veil, sounds like it was recorded in the early hours of the morning after the Canadian duo stumbled out of an all-nighter at Studio 54, their breath gone from dancing and their heads ablaze with dreams of disco stardom. From the ever-so-perfect string sweeps, the throbbing bassline, the shimmering production courtesy of Erol Alkan (Mystery Jets, Late Of The Pier), and the hollow-eyed vocal, it is truly thrilling stuff that manages to breathe life back into disco.



SISTERS OF TRANSISTORS

Not content with leading the genre’s renaissance, UK revivalists Sisters Of Transistors seem to have carved their sub-genre in the resurgence of disco, with what we’re calling mystery-disco. Not only does the group have a fondness for capes and shooting their videos in 3D, but there’s also a hint of unseen orchestration behind this twisted organ quartet. Pulling the strings is Graham Massey of 808 State fame, and the only person on this list who’s old enough to remember the heights of disco. Massey and the ‘Sisters create some brilliantly dark yet oddly danceable disco, with undeniable grooves working under the looping, hypnotic organ swirls. It’s mesmerizing and dramatic, and exactly what disco should be.



HEARTBREAK

Fan Death traverses a more traditional, platform-boots and mirror-balls era of disco, but UK-by-way-of-Argentina two-piece, Heartbreak, reaches back to somewhere between Giorgio Morodor’s arrival on the scene and the eventual death of disco when the synths-‘n-eyeliner crowd of the 1980s broke out. Heartbreak is more Human League and early Depeche Mode than Chic. They’re all about waves of bubbling keyboards and the bombastic production gloss of an ABC record. But beneath this there is a clear debt to disco, from their would-be Moroder arpeggio fetish, to the group’s penchant for Bee Gees-like falsettos. It’s scarily good music. — Dave Ruby Howe

Music

October 16 2008


The Death Set make music akin to being mauled by an enraged pitbull. It's a messy, violent and bloody mix of rabid gutter-dwelling punk and frenetic electronic noise that's consistently in your face. So when the Baltimore via Sydney group decided to link arms with infamous Australian party-starters the Bang Gang Deejays for a remix release on their self-established Bang Gang 12 Inches imprint, it was safe to assume that the final result of the hookup would be as twisted and terrific as the source material.

With an enviable selection of technically and stylistically diverse remixers on board, each artist’s revision on the vinyl-only collection somehow manages to remain faithful to the Death Set's vicious energy and style, so much so that the partnerships between band and remixer seem believable and ultimately natural. From the squeal and bounce party-funk of Bonde Do Role's take on Distressed, to the robo-disco of Treasure Fingers' mix, and the glitch and grind of the G.L.O.V.E.S. remix, each wildly different remix still screams Death Set. The whole package is an impressively warped look through the eyes of the Death Set and into their raucous sound-meets-wall/face-meets-bitumen world. - Dave Ruby Howe

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October 13 2008



You kind of have to feel a little bit bad for Foals. When everyone else was out getting girls, each and every member of the band was most likely holed up indoors, listening to Gang Of Four's Entertainment! and doing their philosophy homework. Their tracks are such focused lessons in tight, mathematical indie rock that’s there’s no doubt in my mind that they perennially struck out with the ladies. But we mustn’t feel too bad for Foals, after all it lead them to harness all that angst, awkwardness and romantic dysfunction and stuff it inside the Antidotes LP, which is still dripping out tantalizing singles, the latest of which happens to be the standout Olympic Airways.

While the remixes from minimal royalty Supermayer and disco revivalist Ewan Pearson are a big draw, we can’t forget the original Olympic Airways which has got the same scrupulously constructed rattle and hum you'd expect from UK group, from the fret-choking guitar work to the nod-'n-jerk chorus. And that soaring build midway through is like a fringe-swinging cherry on top. It's the band doing what they do best with an air of total effortlessness. And it's not getting old anytime soon. - Dave Ruby Howe

Foals MySpace

Watch Olympic Airways directed by Dave Ma



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