It's been a very busy 3 months though, and there have been a whole heap of albums on rotation, and many of them are very good, and a couple are excellent.
Added to this was a recent iPhone upgrade which saw me go from 15GB to 64GB meaning my entire music collection is now at my fingertips every day, which I have to say is fucking brilliant as I've listened to a few albums that have been overlooked for years....good times!
I've decided that each post will now review 2 or 3 new release albums, and 1 or 2 gems from the vault....depending upon my laziness....and will also include ratings for the first time as I've copped some shit for being soft in not putting reviews into some form of perspective. It's fair enough I guess, as I generally look at the ratings of the review sites that I frequent.
As mentioned, there is a lot of great new music floating around and it's tempting to immediately break my new rules and tell you about more than 3 of them this month, but I'll keep some powder dry. Suffice to say that anyone who is considering listening to the new Camera Obscura or Laura Marling albums, then you should definitely do it!
Here's some 2013 gold for you all.
I'd describe this as power pop, it's a very full sound and the classic instruments are there for all to hear in strength. Mainly guitar & drums, however there is a very good sprinkling of keyboards which I love. Many of the songs rise and fall, which I really like as well. I've never heard of this bloke before, but this is his 2nd album, and he has a great voice, so I'll have a hunt around and try and find the first at some stage. 8.5/10
First up, the single 'Grace for Saints and Ramblers' is a fucking great song, catchy, with very clever lyrics. It's unusual for me to notice lyrics, but I'd highly recommend listening to this track, and also getting your friends to as well.
From what I've read, the bloke behind this Sam Beam seems, and looks, like a bit of a weird unit, and it's hard to label a genre on this one as it's a mixed bag of styles, and tbh I don't know enough about music to even know!
He retains his folk-ish undercurrent throughout, but blends this with a mixture of occasional jazz (with horns), pop, and even some soul. In parts it is reminiscent of Beirut's last album 'The Rip Tide', especially tempo-wise. I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying this on a number of levels. 7/10
Firstly, I like their clean guitar based sound and the tempo and production of it, the album is chock full of good catchy pop guitar hooks. Always a winner with me!! Secondly I really like the lead singers voice, and love when he shares the vocals with the Alex Winston on 'Pretend it's Love', which is the albums highlight. She appears to contribute backing vocals on at least one other very good track, 'Running Red Lights'. In fact throughout the album the bands harmonies are a highlight, and overall this is a happy album! 7/10
This is an album that I reckon has something for nearly everyone, right from the upbeat and witty opener "Step Into My Office, Baby' which, while clearly a pop song, is quite orchestral and nearly grandiose musically. Strings and horns layer in as the chorus builds to a crescendo. But you could easily miss this, as it doesn't overshadow, or overpower the song itself.
Before you know it the title track, and 'If She Wants Me' have just carried you along in the mood, until a change of pace with the austere, but spectacular "Piazza, New York Catcher'.
A truly beautiful song, notably, and unusually, with no chorus. I have no idea what it's about, but I know that it's always a high point in an album with quite a few peaks. 'Asleep On A Sunbeam' ups the tempo again, and segues into the upbeat 'I'm a Cuckoo', which is irreverent, hilarious, and as catchy as you can hope for indie pop to be I reckon.
The 2nd half of the album is good without being outstanding, and keeps the album ticking over nicely continuing to vary both tempo and style while carrying you along to a slight pause with the softly spoken and wistful 'Lord Anthony'.
A keyboard intro gently leads you into 'If You Find Yourself Caught In Love', which very quickly picks up the pace , and is a very good example of B&S's ability to have songs with lots of words to be sung, and the way that Stuart Murdoch sings them is nearly music itself. It's an excellent feature of his vocals and the band itself.
The grand finale kicks off with 'Roy Walker' and ends with 'Stay Loose'...these songs are quite similar in temp, both very upbeat and singalong catchy, ending the album on a real high with 2 classic pop songs. A good example of the quirkiness of B&S can be found on 'Roy Walker' with the sounds used in the background, some harmonica, a little snapping of fingers, and bouncing table tennis balls!! I'm not shitting you here, they're all through the song if you listen really closely. It may help if you're smoking some weed to first identify them, but once you tune them in, you can hear them quite distinctly....fucking awesome stuff, and a fucking awesome album.
I tried to go further back in the B&S albums, but struggled to find anything remotely standing up to this, although there are some great individual songs, such as 'The Boy With The Arab Strap'. Apparently 'If You're Feeling Sinister' is the pick of the early collection.....maybe one day I'll get there, but with 2010's fantastic 'Write About Love', I probably have all the Belle & Sebastian that I need to keep me very happy!!
From the heavy bass chords that kick the album off (cello or double bass?) with 'Moves', this singalong song is a great example of a group of people who are having fun together (no pun intended). If you read anything about this 'supergroup' you'll soon work out that this is just what they started TNP to do.
'Crash Years', as another instantly catchy track perfectly suited to the vocals of (the very sexy) Neko Case, which I'd have thought would have had 'commercial' appeal and been a hit.....not that I know a lot about these things. Maybe the whistling at the end of the chorus wasn't to everyone's taste?
The album takes a heavier turn with 'Your Hands', a loud anthemic number involving once again a lot of group/chorus singing. Suddenly a change of pace with Dan Bejar (who from all reports is a bit of a freak) chiming in with 'Silver Jenny Dollar', which again is a catchy tune, although I have absolutely no idea what he's singing about.
The next 2 tracks are the absolute peak of the album, with the upbeat and quirky 'Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk' an absolutely irresistible combination of head nodding, hand clapping and toes tapping......again the wonderful vocals of Neko shine. As they do with 'My Shepherd', which is more of a ballad, yet again another twist and tempo change...a truly lovely song, with a lush, yet understated score underlying the wonderful vocals.
Bejar returns with 'If You Can't See My Mirrors' (I'm sure it means something to him), which has the unenviable task of leading you down from the mountains peak. I can't say that I love his voice, but it's a nice enough song and leads into another singalong with 'Up In the Dark', which again is enjoyable enough.
The bizarrely named 'Valkyrie In The Roller Disco' despite being the slowest track on the album ramps things up for the run home and provides yet another highlight, especially the chorus harmonies. It rolls almost seamlessly into the even more bizarrely named 'Bite Out Of My Bed', highlighted by catchy wailing guitar hooks, and a booming bass drum and the usual superb harmonies. 'Daughters of Sorrow' is an almost sombre affair, especially after the rollicking style of the previous track, but again seems perfectly placed, as you almost spend this track reflecting on how good this album is while the band plays in the background.
The closer "We End Up Together' seemed to cop a lot of stick in the reviews of the time, and I just can't work out why. It's catchy, anthemic, quirky, and also reintroduces the bass chords that the whole album started with. You can tell the band are all having a lot of fun....together!! I think its a perfect finish, to an absolutely brilliant album.
Nearly too many to keep up with...but it's a nice problem to have.
Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (Welcome back....)
Savages - Silence Yourself (Struggling)
The Pastels - Slow Summits (Slowly growing...very nice)
Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends (Hugely disappointing....who the fuck is Dangermouse? I blame this all on him)
Surfer Blood - Pythons
Eleanor Friedberger - Personal Record
Hooded Fang - Gravez
Big Deal - June Gloom
Smith Westerns - Soft Will (Starting to grow)
Wampire - Curiosity
Here We Go Magic - A Different Ship (2012 album)
Telekinesis - Dormarion
Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo - Dear River
Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana
Goldheart Assembly - Long Distance Song Effects
Weekend - Jinx
Hospital Ships - Destruction In Your Soul
Youngblood Hawke - Wake Up
Susanna Hoffs - Someday (2012.....how did I miss this FFS!!!)
Pure Bathing Culture - Moon Tides
Boy & Bear - Harlequin Dream (Excellent early signs...love the first track!)
Sin Fang - Flowers
Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero
Crocodiles - Crimes Of Passion
Yukon Blonde - Tiger Talk (2012, but back into rotation....loving this atm)
That's all for this month (or quarter!). Cheers!