I went and saw First Aid Kit play recently at the Hifi Bar, and I have to say that they performed one of the best and most enjoyable shows I've ever seen....it's quite incredible just how impressive these 2 gals are, and their 2014 album 'Stay Gold' is absolutely dominating my current album rotation. I'm not quite ready to review it, as it continues to grow on me, but everyone should give this a spin.
I'm very much looking forward to getting into the recent new releases by 'The Magic Numbers', 'Literature' and 'The New Pornographers', and am also looking forward to the upcoming albums from 'Allo Darlin', 'Belle & Sebastian', 'The History Of Apple Pie', and 'Cashier No. 9'.
Upon resurrection, the album seemed a lot better.....hmmm. I really, really wish I could understand how my music appreciation works a lot more than I do....how many other good albums have I sacked over the years?? Anyway, in March 2012 Real Estate played a show at The Corner, with a local band called 'Twerps' supporting them. I was enjoying the debut album of Twerps at the time, and thought that it sounded like a promising gig. Cousin Luke had just turned 21 and was nearly a man, so I shouted him a ticket and away we went....in all honesty, I was going to see Twerps more so that Real Estate.
We had a few pints Of Hightail Ale in the beer garden, and during this time Real Estate and their entourage sat down at the table next to us and had a feed.....they all seemed like they were in high spirits, and looked like a very decent bunch of fellas. They were still there when we headed downstairs to see Twerps open the show.
Twerps were good....I'm not sure what's happened to them as they've done absolutely fuck all since, but we were having a pretty good night when Real Estate hit the stage. I'm not sure whether it was because I wasn't expecting great things, but Real Estate absolutely smashed their set that night and played one of the best sounding live shows I've ever seen. They were fucking incredible and I felt like the entire venue had been put under a magic spell and the band wrapped us all in a cloud of mesmerising guitars and harmonies and took us for a spin. Here's a decent review of the gig. Needless to say, that I gave 'Days' an absolute hiding over the next month or 2, and reckon I still re-visit on a fairly regular basis.
So, onto 'Atlas' in 2014. Much like Days, I wasn't instantly enamored with it, however the bands uncanny knack for placing a glorious understated little hook or 2...or 3, into so many of their songs, ensured that a lot of these tracks burrowed their way into my mind playlist fairly quickly. Within 2 weeks it was getting a daily run, and it is truly an excellent album to sit down and chill out to.
Sound wise, they haven't changed at all since Days, which I'll say is a good thing, because there are not a lot of bands I've heard that are quite like them, and the album effortlessly flows from the excellent opener 'Had To Hear', through to the mellow rolling closer 'Navigator'. In between, I think they have done some of their very best work to date. Track 2 'Past Lives' is a little like their live show, as it rolls that little cloud up to my doorstep and makes sure that I'm nice and comfy for the album highlight 'Talking Backwards' that completes a magnificent opening trifecta of songs. From there the album drifts along just as you would like it to. 'Primitive' and 'Horizon are probably the pick of the remaining songs, however I don't think there is a weak spot among them. Very good to listen to at any time I reckon...I really hope they come back to see us soon. 8/10
Accordingly I got this album pretty much on the day of release. I was a little taken aback initially to see that the 10 tracks ran for over an hour in total, but I quickly immersed myself it all.
Around the time I got the album I read an interview with Adam Granduciel who is the brains behind everything, and from what I can gather played every instrument during recording this......which almost let to him having a nervous breakdown in the search for perfection in every aspect on of the album. I can understand that it must be very tempting to over-analyse and take out anything that isn't quite right, and use what must be a vast array of technical resources to assist this, but there have been a shit load of albums over history that were, and still are, fucking awesome.....and this is NOT due to the perfect sound, but songs that you love to listen to with catchy tunes, great lyrics, or whatever else may float your boat . Most people probably listen to this album through a shitty car stereo, or old hi-fi system at home....possibly even through a crappy set of earphones. I'm not sure that obsession to the point of breakdown over a 2 second note will make any difference to these listeners.....or magically turn shit songs into good ones.
Anyway, putting the philosophy aside, it's lucky for Adam that this is an album that has a lot of good songs on it regardless of the perfect production quality. 'Under The Pressure' kicks this one off and, although lengthy at just under 9 minutes, it's a nice one to ease yourself in and get into the groove for what's to come. Next up is 'Red Eyes'....a definite song of the year candidate. It just keeps washing itself over you throughout, and the chorus hook can get stuck in your mind for days....say no more (for now!). 'Suffering' slows it down a bit and treats us to some very nice single note keys as you drift through the track.
It's sometime during the next track; ' An Ocean In Between The Waves' that I started to be reminded of 'Dire Straits'....which surprised me initially. Nothing against Dire Straits here either, as they were a fine band, but some of the guitar stretches here, and throughout the album, are very reminiscent, as is the tempo in places along with Adam's voice, which is not at all dissimilar to Mark Knopfler's.
The remainder of the album it pretty even, and continues to be very enjoyable. 'Disappearing' and 'Eyes To The Wind' ebb and flow with a both tracks having really nice piano/guitar hooks that finish up the flowing stretches, while 'Burning', and closer 'In Reverse' are the other highlights. If you wanted to be critical, you could say that a lot of these last few tracks sound similar, however I'd prefer to be positive and say that they each have something different to offer in their own way, and as long as you like the sound of this band on this album, then you should like them each on their merits.
Overall, this is an extremely well made and (unsurprisingly) almost 'note perfect' album and for the most part I really enjoy listening to it. However at 61 minutes, it's a bit too long and you'd have to say a little over indulgent. He could have easily cut 10-15 minutes out of this and turned a pretty good album into a very good or even great one. 7/10
Asgeir - In The Silence: (Moody and intense in places. 'In Harmony' is a top track)
Broken Records - Weights & Pulleys: (The Scottish 'Arcade Fire'! This is pretty decent album, and 'I Won’t Leave You In The Dark', is a highlight)
Horse Thief - Fear In Bliss: (A lo fi slow grower, with 2 nice songs in 'Human Geographer' & 'Let Go'...well worth a listen)
The Jezabels - The Brink: (Oh dear...you need more than a singer with a great voice I'm afraid)
Nick Mulvey - First Mind:
Odonis Odonis - Soft Boiled Hard Boiled:
Papercuts - Fading Parade (2011):
White Hinterland - Baby:
First Aid Kit - Stay Gold: (Extraordinary)
Hamilton Leithauser - Black Hours: (What a stupid and annoying name, even if it's real. Just OK album)
Teleman - Breakfast: (Pretty ordinary)
We Are Catchers - We Are Catchers: (This is a nice fun 60's style album, with some nice keyboards and harmonies...I'll continue to listen to this)
Alvvays - Alvvays: (Excellent debut album with jangly, catchy guitars and a lead singer reminiscent of Best Coast)
Beverly - Careers:
Honeyblood - Honeyblood: (Massive wraps on this one....I'm just not getting in....so far)
Phox - Phox:
The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head: (Promising, with 1 excellent number in 'Now I Understand'....still going for me)
The Skygreen Leopards - Family Crimes:
Slow Club - Complete Surrender: (Wow...a big shift from them and very much all over the place. Hard to get into)
A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent: (Also big wraps, but despite same talented members in this group.....I find it a bit too shit)
Woman's Hour - Conversations:
Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain: (Has the FAK gals singing harmonies on a number of tracks, but with the exception of the fantastic 'Governor's Ball', it's pretty dull for the most part)
Adult Jazz - Gist Is: