I have to say that I'm really not looking forward to Arcade Fire's new album 'Reflektor' very much....from all reports it sounds as though they've gotten a bit carried away with themselves, and that it's going to be a steaming pile of shite. Disappointing for me, but I suppose there will be plenty of other who like it and they may well make some new fans along the way.
Before getting to this months albums, I just want to make mention of a local artist Ben Mason, who has personally recreated one of the all time classic albums, and one of my personal favorites 'The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle' , and, even better, assembled a band to play the album in its entirety at the Northcote Social Club recently. Luke has written a fantastic review of the show last month over at Melodious Haze. Great work cuz!
For those wanting to read a bit more about this masterpiece, here's just a few reviews at Pitchfork, AllMusic, Ultimate Classic Rock, Treble, and Sputnik. Do yourselves a favour and track down a copy!
Anyway, let's get to what's good in 2013....
They toured Oz in 2010, and played a very forgettable show at the Corner Hotel, which was made even more disappointing by them NOT playing arguably their best song in 'Eighties Fan'....I was really deflated by that, and went a few years without really being inclined to listen to them an awful lot. So when I got word of a new album release this year, it's fair to say that I wasn't as excited as I once would have been.
The first single, 'Do it Again' was released early and, as this band so often does, it immediately made me happy. While it's not their best song by any means, it's just an infectiously catchy tune that makes you want to play it again (temptation for a bad pun resisted!). The more you listen, the more you like....
In some ways, the same can be said of the album. It never reaches the lofty heights of the previous 2, and it did take me a bit longer to really get into it, but once I did it just kept opening up even further and revealing their trademark catchy hooks and clever arrangements.
Things start slowly, with the very 2013-ish 'Intro, and 'This Is Love'. 'Troublemaker' an early highlight...uptempo and free flowing. 'William's Heart' is an interesting one, as Traceyanne Campbell tends to write about personal experiences (hmmmm). 'Do it Again' see's a mid album peak, where the album really gains momentum and the triumvirate of the haunting 'Fifth In Line To The Throne', the wistful 'I Missed Your Party', which see's them dabble with an almost jazzy feel in parts, and the typical singalong style 80's influenced 'Break It To You Gently' make you forget about whatever else you might be doing at the time.
Unusually for them, the album closes with the more subdued title track. Generally they end their albums with a real ripper that leaves you wanting more. This isn't a criticism, more an observation. Overall a very, very good album, and even though all will NOT be totally forgiven until they come back here and play 'Eighties Fan' for me, I have to say that it's great to have them back. 7.5/10
Things kick off with the wailing guitars of 'Demon Dance', and immediately you can see how their sound has been refined in 3 years, yet it loses none of its impact. 'Weird Shapes' is powerful and catchy, it also highlights the strength and versatility of lead singer John Paul Pitts voice.
In part of this, and other songs, I was under the impression that other band members chorused certain lines, however I saw them live in July, and these were JPP all by himself, sounding almost possessed. Most impressive the way this man can sing.
A change of pace on 'I Was Wrong' and 'Squeezing Blood' still manages maintain strong underlying guitars, but shows a new found finesse along with some quite nice harmonies among the latter. 'Say Yes to Me'' is probably the standout track, and sets the album for a quite even and cruisy finale over the last 4 tracks. 7/10
I didn't bother with their next album Contra, even though I was aware at the time that it was quite popular, and critically acclaimed.....after all Vampire Weekend just weren't for me.
I can't remember what it was that inspired me to get a copy of Modern Vampires of the City.....maybe May was a quiet month, or possibly I felt just a little guilty that I hadn't given Contra even one listen. Maybe because I took a punt on Grizzly Bear's Shields last year after 2 extremely shithouse & overrated albums, and was rewarded with a gem....maybe I was curious.....?
Whatever the reason, I'm really glad I did because this is a truly outstanding, and very interesting, album... with 3-4 of the years very best songs....along with easily the years worst track. The starter is low key but nice enough, but the excellent 'Unbelievers' captures your attention and the album then absolutely smashes you right between the eyes with the brilliant 'Steps', which manages to be haunting and catchy at the same time...which I'm aware sounds really stupid, but it's true!
The cracking 'Diane Young' takes about 30 seconds to hook you in, and makes the 'repeat' button very hard to resist, shit this is a great song. Mikel Cronin is in a bit of trouble at this stage! I can understand why the band released this as the first single, but interestingly the B side was 'Steps ', which in my opinion is a good enough single on it's own.
The album takes a change of pace from here with 'Don't Lie', 'Hannah Hunt', and 'Everlasting Arms' but these are good, and even quirky, tracks. with the latter having a string intro and some interesting variations in the background. 'Finger Back' gets things moving again, and is another ripper with a few good twists and turns of tempo. The final 3 tracks area all nice enough, and bring the album to a somewhat underwhelming conclusion with the almost sleepy 'Young Lion'.
It should be noted that the 10th track 'Ya Hey' is an absolute shocker and one of the most annoying songs I can remember; being full of little squeaks and shitty sound effects all the way through, and as a result I had to take it off and delete it from my library. I couldn't believe reading that this was the 2nd single that they released....I'm getting annoyed just thinking about this song now.
Anyway, despite this the album is great, and very addictive....it's also very hard to put into a specific genre category, due to the tremendous diversity of sounds tempos and beats. I'll also be getting myself a copy of Contra at some stage! 8/10
One of my all time favourite songs is 'Streets Of Your Town', and along with 'Love Goes On!', 'The Devil's Eye', and 'Was There Anything I Could Do?' this combines for one of the all time great indie pop albums.
The long list of contemporary international bands who have been influenced by this album, or referred to it at sore stage is not at all surprising.
When I sat down to write about the album, I came across the AllMusic review that I've linked to the heading above. To be perfectly honest, I can't describe the album any better than the bloke there has.
Frankie & The Heartstrings - The Days Run Away
Swim Deep - Where The Heaven Are We (Excellent stuff...right from the first listen!)
Volcano Choir - Repave (Has its moments, but overall it's a little dull)
Cloud Control - Dream Cave (Yes, you're in a fucking cave, I get it....no need to ruin the last 2 songs of a decent album by showing us all)
Tigertown - Wandering Eyes (EP) (Love these guys.....great live band as well)
Velma Grove - Older (Local band who are apparently quite good live...this is a little dull)
Wild Nothing - Empty Estate (EP)
Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium (This is a bit of a slow grower, but patience is paying dividends)
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Miike Snow - Happy To You (2012)
Jack White - Blunderbuss (2012)
Ben Mason - The Odessey Odyssey (Recreation of a classic album, complete with a live show...absolutely brilliant stuff and one of the highlights of the year)
Yuck - Glow & Behold (Different to their first album, and getting some poor reviews. I think I might like it...a lot!)
Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day (Average at best)
Haim - Days Are Gone (Really ordinary)
Lorde - Pure Heroine (What is all the fuss about here? This is truly awful stuff)
Frankie Rose - Herein Wild
London Grammar - If You Wait (Zzzzzzzzzzz.....)
The National - Trouble Will Find Me (I'll let you know in a year....typical National album)
Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow (Very interesting. Strong voice and more to it musically than you might think)
Kissaway Trail - Breach
PINS - Girls Like Us