Tuesday, 3 April 2007

The Young Republic: Blue Skies - Single Review

The Young Republic are formed of 8 college students 3 years ago and since then they have been churning out quality music which has spread through family, friends and the internet.

They have now released a digital single through
End Of The Road Records and it is available from Rough Trade digital store

Blue Skies opens with fantastic strings, military drumming and flutes almost exploding before lead singer Julian Saporiti and his folky, honest and thin, but brilliant voice starts with a great uplifting country-rock-pop song.

The second song on the single is the slower Small Town In A World War. It's a heartfelt song with the deep strings in the background before building up and ending elegantly well.

The band are now confirmed for Glastonbury and the End Of The Road Festival in September and will be headlining the End Of the Road Festivals monthly residency at the Social Club on Monday 25 June.

While their choice of having Small Town In A World War as their second is somewhat strange as I believe a lot of their other songs would be more popular, you can't help but see the future is bright for this group of youngsters who bring something new and old to the fore.

Check them out for yourself and you'll eagerly anticipate their album which is due to be released towards the end of the year.

You can purchase the digital release from here

The Young Republic website: www.theyoungrepublic.net//
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/theyoungrepublic

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Shins: Wincing The Night Away - Album Review

I'll admit firstly that I have not heard much of the earlier Shins music. But based on the good words I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers about them, I got this album.

To be honest at first, it just seemed like alternative-rock-pop and annoyingly so. The reason for my late review is that it was slowly becoming a likable album and I thought I'd let the process get near completion before passing judgement.

The album opener Sleeping Lessons is a very simple looped keyboard with James Mercers distorted voice over it before building up with more layers into an explosive finish. About half-way through is where it starts for me. This is followed by Australia, a very upbeat, pop-rock tune with has all the right ingredients.

One of the let-downs of the album is the next song: Pam Berry. It sounds like the Dick Dale track (Misirlou) from Pulp Fiction. It's less that a minute long incidentally.

Sealegs is another disappointing song. It sounds like a George Michael/Justin Timberlake pop song and unfortunately this grates. If you can get over the fake beats it's an alright track.

All in all the album meanders along nicely with it's pop beats and catchy lyrical intonations and riffs and is a worthwhile addition to a music collection.

There is no stand-out track or song that I am in love with. My reaction to it is similar to Belle & Sebastian's release The Life Pursuit. Great band, musically and lyrically very good, but an album that passes without too much comment either good or bad.

The final song Comet Appears is beautiful. Simple, poetic, and the best song on the album.

1. Sleeping Lessons
2. Australia
3. Pam Barry
4. Phantom Limb
5. Sealegs
6. Red Rabbits
7. Turn On Me
8. Black Wave
9. Split Needles
10. Girl Sailor
11. Comet Appears

Shins website: www.theshins.com/
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/theshins

Friday, 16 March 2007

Arcade Fire: Brixton Academy 15 March 2007 – Live Review

Having managed to get down from the upstairs seated “circle” and into the standing area downstairs I started on my first Jack Daniel’s and Coke in anticipation of my first Arcade Fire gig.

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I flukily managed to get tickets.

The support artist was Patrick Wolf, a flame-haired, strangely dressed man. I was only in time to catch his last song "Magical Position" which was enough to make me think I should have arrived earlier.

Arcade Fire's night started with a black and white film of a church preaching lady storming about stage pretty much shouting her speech. Then entered the band.

Win then “warned” us that he was due to have an operation as his throat was not holding up well. I don’t know if he was joking or not as he didn’t hold back one iota.

Starting with the upbeat drums and energetic vocals on “Keep the Car Running” Arcade Fire have announced themselves to the audience. “Black Mirror” follows showcasing the subtler, spookier side of their music. Then came the old “No Cars Go” originally on their EP and re-recorded for the new album.

“Black Wave / Bad Vibrations” which is as suggests a two-part track, then started with me getting into my second beverage of the evening.

What I noticed from the beginning is that the band members are all violently passionate about the music they create. From the 2 violinists, to the brass instrumentalists to the 3 guitarists, accordion, tambourine, and drums they all love what they do.

Regine’s versatility was particularly used as she went from singing to keyboard to accordion and then drums in the space of a few songs.

The empowering “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up” soon followed with the whole crowd singing along as the event seemed to be drawing to a close. The chorus for “Wake Up” continued well past the band completing the song and the whole audience was singing for about another minute.

After two encores, they returned to do “Neon Bible” which I thought was an unusual choice to end off on. Despite my love for the track, I thought it would be the least popular of the album and it certainly is not a crowd-lifter.

Overall, a great experience.

I don’t like superlatives, but at the moment Arcade Fire are simply the best band I have heard.

If you get a chance to see them live, take it. You wont regret it one bit.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Annuals: Be He Me - Album Review

There is something refreshingly original, nostalgic and artistic to everything when embarking on the Annuals journey. This is a grown-up and refreshing album from the 6-piece band of North Carolina. And what's amazing is that no one in the band is over 22 years old.

The album opens with Brother, crickets in the background before a slow gentle guitar creeping in with violins before blasting into an energetic frenzy with all sorts of synthesizer noises coming in. A great introduction.

I've never been a fan of what is referred to as "experimental" or electronic beeps and strange computer whines infiltrating my headphones. However, with the Annuals, it fits in perfectly.

"The Annuals infuse their music with an array of intense emotions" per their website and I couldn't agree more. You get the whole gamut in this album.

Dry Clothes is a brilliant showcase for the variety you are to enjoy as the album progresses. From Adam Baker's friendly singing to shouts of glee, screams and back to the sweet slower version. And about 3 or 4 rhythm changes along the way.


I was presented with this album by someone who said "As far as quality of music is concerned, they are as good as Arcade Fire ". My first impression was to disagree. However, having now listened numerous times, I have found myself enjoying it just as much. Some reviews have compared their sound with the Montrealers, but I feel they are very different. With the Annuals you get a less frenetic and more calm side before having to "ride the storm".

There is no weak track on the album. Each one compliments each other. My favourite is Complete, or Completing with it's introductory piano, brilliant hoof-like woodblock percussion and the chorus:

"Silence all the clocks tonight
It's show time, with drinks to spill
Hear my mouth, I've got the sounds
to send you back home with peace of mind"

Ida, My shows the slower, laid back side of Adam's voice, before a flurry of electro-beats, rhythmical blurps and beeps hit in creating two completely different halves of the song.

Father, the most touching and melancholy song of the album is about a father losing a child asking:

"What debt has my boy to pay?
What crime has been to deserve this fate?
Lord, What debt has my boy to pay?"

I could go on. In fact there is so much put into this album that I could dissect each song at length, but I'll leave that to you.

As screamed at the beginning of Carry Around:
"I got magic in my head, magic up my nose, magic coming out my fingers, magic crying out my eyes. I've got magic everywhere I fucking look. I can't fight it either, I wish I could." I sure hope that magic returns and will look forward to their next instalment.

Overall, a brilliant album for those of us who are looking for something slightly different, unique and emotional.

Track listing:
1. Brother
2. Dry Clothes
3. Complete, or Completing
4. Carry Around
5. Chase You Off
6. Bleary-Eyed
7. Fair
8. Bull, and the Goat
9. Mama
10. Ida, My
11. Father
12. Sway

Annuals website: www.annualsmusic.com/
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/annuals
Free song: Bleary Eyed
Other free media: www.annualsmusic.com/audiovideo.php

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Some Loud Thunder - Album Review

Brooklyn band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah return to release their second album Some Loud Thunder. Their self-titled debut was very well received after some rave reviews.

First impressions are not good. The opening title song is simply too distorted to be enjoyable. It sounds like it could be a good or even great song, but the continual blasts in your ears simply make it painful to listen to. Bizarrely, it's intentional. Big mistake in my books. However, they did the same with their circus announcer opener of the last album and in time I got over that. It's sad skipping the opening track every time - as I do with their previous album, but the rest partly makes up for it.

This album doesn't have the same sort of sing-along, catchiness to it and is a somewhat darker, more dense compilation. There are still some great tracks and they have experimented with their sound but what made their debut great was their all out energy, speed and application of themselves. I believe they have lost some of these ingredients at parts here.

Following the ear-bashing opener, is Emily Jean Stock with it's light strumming and Alec's voice accompanied by high pitched backing vocals and then Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning? another slower, more "down to earth" track.

My personal favourite from this album is Satan Said Dance. With it's dancy, beepy, electronic assistance, with it's bizarre sing-along chorus, it makes it a track which I can listen to over and over. In fact on short car trips, it's the only one I listen to.

When listening to the first album I had to get used to the singers voice. This time I don't. And while obviously I've gotten familiar with it, but also there is less of what critics call the "over-wavering nasal singing" that was on their debut.

Goodbye to Mother and the Cove follows in the vein of the slower, downbeat trend through most of the album.

Yankee Go Home most sounds like it belongs on their first album. An energetic, riff-laden theatrical effort. It also has lines ending in words that use Alec's wail the most effectively.

The 2 pre-final songs are more life-like, enjoyable and upbeat but then it the experience is let down by the finale Five Easy Pieces with Alec dragging out words with an annoying cave-like echo. While the lyrics make a nice poem, the song is simply a drag to listen to.

Overall there are some good tracks, a couple of very good tracks, some ok and some duds. If you are expecting a fantastic album after all the hype, you may be in for a disappointment. If you are simply interested in which direction they have taken, then you may like it, but I would think many would be disappointed. Unfortunatley, I am somewhat.

Track listing:
1. Some Loud Thunder
2. Emily Jean Stock
3. Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning?
4. Love Song No.7
5. Satan Said Dance
6. Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant
7. Goodbye to Mother and the Cove
8. Arm and Hammer
9. Yankee Go Home
10. Underwater (You and Me)
11. Five Easy Pieces

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah website: www.clapyourhandssayyeah.com
Free MP3s (legit): Love Song No. 7
Underwater (You and Me)
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/clapyourhandssayyeah

Friday, 2 February 2007

Arcade Fire: Neon Bible - Album Review

The eagerly anticipated second album from Montreal group Arcade Fire is due for release on 5 March. Having stormed the world with their debut album Funeral, this is possibly the most enthusiastically awaited second album of 2007.

They are on a tour in the Europe now until April. They just played in St. Johns Church and Porchester Hall, London and will return to the capital mid-March (I'm fortunate enough to have gotten tickets!)

While comparisons will be made with Funeral, which was my favourite album of 2005 (date of release in UK), that album "crept up on me" rather than instant love. I would suggest quite a few listens before deciding.

The opening track is Black Mirror (first single in the US) which hauntingly inches up on you with it's background wind, simple, repeated guitar strum, violins and piano. And of course Win Butler's wavering sometimes honey-like voice. When I first heard this track, I feared the "second album syndrome" as it didn't seem to offer anything new. Funeral was such an empowering body of work and upon first inspection this didn't live up to that. However, my tenacity has been rewarded. If you liked Funeral and have patience, you'll enjoy it.

Keep the Car Running (their first UK single of the album) starts off upbeat and is the most pop-like of all the album. It's an instantly likable, pop-rock track. Going through the album, it starts to offer what I have come to expect from Arcade Fire - making the unusual sound great, the off-notes sound right and the cacophony a harmony. That's what I came to love.

A new direction is taken with Neon Bible, with a somewhat empty and repetitive bass line with Win's echoing voice singing:
"It's the Neon Bible
The Neon Bible
Not Much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is right"

It reminds me of Wolf Parades song, Modern World in that it's one simple tune and a deep underlying message about belief and direction.

No Cars Go, also on their Arcade Fire EP is more in line with what fans will be expecting, the blasting synths, accordion, group shouting, violins and fast drums.

Intervention live in Canterbury High School (Ottawa, Canada) January 2007
(best quality sound on video I could find, shame picture is not good)

As I listen through the album it edges closer and closer to me. The second half of the album is definitely more punchy and upbeat. This starts with Black Wave/Bad Vibrations which starts of with RĂ©gine singing alternately in English and French with a punchy drum as the main backdrop and then half way through it changes completely with Win laying on the vocals over a totally different and gradually more energetic sound.

From that point on I am sold. With each track getting simply better and better the more I listen.

Liked Funeral? Within time you'll love this.

Track listing:
1. Black Mirror
2. Keep The Car Running
3. Neon Bible
4. Intervention
5. Black Wave / Bad Vibrations
6. Ocean Of Noise
7. The Well And The Lighthouse
8. Building Downtown (Antichrist Television Blues)
9. Windowsill
10. No Cars Go
11. My Body Is a Cage

Arcade Fire website: www.arcadefire.com
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/arcadefireofficial

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Blanche: What This Town Needs - EP Review

Husband and wife team Dan and Tracee Miller head up Blanche, a Detroit alternative country rock band. The band have various other activities and interests such as Jack Lawrence's bass playing with the Raconteurs, Dan and Tracee's roles in the movie Walk The Line as Luther Perkins and wife, and Tracee's artwork which sells very well on her website.

Blanche's stated mission is: "To create, maintain and extend throughout the community high standards of musical standards."

From the name, the album cover and the bells outside at the start of the title track, I felt like I was in a cowboy movie. Dan and Tracee Miller then trade intense vocals over pedal steel guitar, banjo, raw guitar sounds, and sparse, driving drumming.

Child Of The Moon is much slower, less in your face track with the eerie pedal steel and banjo strumming making this a walk-home-after-a-long-day type of song.


What impresses me most, surely purposely, is their ability to take you back in time. To when things were simpler, and clearer. Everything from their music's artwork, their website, to their sound and lyrics creates this.

The third track is the very harmonious and beautifully versed Scar Beneath The Skin. The most poetic and perfect example of this I feel is this verse:
"Floor board creaking once again
Each morning when your day begins
Brittle branches sprouted leaves
Wind chimes swaying in the breeze."

In order to get the beauty of it, you have to listen to the song. Sorry folks.

The EP finishes with more upbeat and energetic Never Again about love lost and taken for granted and a live version of Someday... which makes we want to see them live.

A good alternative country album which, with more listening, really grows on you.

They have an album due for release soon, which I look forward to.

Blanche website: www.blanchemusic.com/
Myspace Page: www.myspace.com/blanchedetroit