Monthly Archives: June 2009

Interview Project #6: Big Monster Love

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Big Monster Love is the anti-folk poet of North County Dublin. With a dodgy Casio’s preset drum beats and organ sounds for backing, he fills in some of the lesser spotted song subjects in indie pop with songs about internet dating, 90s megamix discos and more besides. As a motto and description of what Big Monster Love is about, it may be just as well to quote the first line of Little Bear’s Song: “Sitting in Fibbers, waxing metaphysical about what’s what and what is not”. If that doesn’t tell you plenty… you’re not from Dublin. You can download a 2006 EP from his site, but I’m not sure what the progress is on a mooted album.

Big Monster Love – Little Bear’s Song
Big Monster Love – The Act of Union

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Q 0.5 How are you?

Not too bad today.

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Against the odds, Korea takes notice of So Cow

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There were stories about this late last week, but they were in Korean, so the general consensus was “????”, but you can now read the news in English here.

Moon Geun Young, as well as being a song on These Truly Are End Times and then the So Cow LP, is “Korea’s little sister”, a film actress, TV star, advertising pitchwoman and (I think) singer who is an all-round hyper-famous person in that part of the world. And Korea seems to think, erroneously, that So Cow’s song is a statement of devotion, proving that’s Korea’s sister has broad international appeal. The song is actually about Moon Geun Young passively overseeing a break-up from a billboard ad for an mp3 player. But don’t tell Korea that, because this could be interesting to follow.

“Moon Geun Young hasn’t heard the song yet but she has said that she wants to buy the song to listen to it as soon as possible.”

Some older album reviews

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (XL)
January 2008

vampireweekendBringing afro-pop to the Upper West Side of Manhattan is not the most predictable way to become the most hyped band in the blogosphere, but it worked for Vampire Weekend. Their debut album is born into an indie scene which has had the leak for a few months, but they’re still refreshingly original, borrowing from touchstones that are almost completely overlooked by everyone else except Paul Simon. That’s not to say it would be difficult to guess that they’re from New York just by listening to them. There is a definite sound, exemplified by The Walkmen and earlier Strokes, from which Vampire Weekend emerge and diverge. Walcott, for example, could come straight off Bows and Arrows, and no amount of quasi-African diction can cover that up. That is no crime, however. The unrestrained pop melodies on the likes of Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma, and The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance make the album a joyful listen. Made to be listened to in the back garden in glorious sunshine.

Lovvers – Think (Wichita)
September 2008

lovversCacophony is a delicate art. To pull off seven songs in less than twelve minutes without a single audible lyric (barring the song titles – and you know they’re there so you don’t have to look) is a difficult task. Nottingham’s Lovvers attempt it, taking the trashy punk route, and just about manage. Their palate of sounds seems to include 60s garage as much as the immediately obvious snot-nosed hardcore, and this buys them some breathing room. Lovvers luckily manage to just skirt being straight punk. There are pop melodies here, sequestered beneath what seems to be a conscious decision not to compromise their ramshackle live sound for the sake of easy listening. ‘No Romantics’ strikes a balance and is probably the highlight. It must be said that for all their commitment to brevity, Lovvers do lack the immediacy of some others (e.g. Jay Reatard) doing something similar. But they do seem like the kind of thing that could be thought-provoking if it were a little more audible. That might ruin the mystique, however.

Roots Manuva – Slime and Reason (Big Dada)
August 2008

slimeandreasonHaving watched Dizzee Rascal and Estelle zoom past him to worldwide audiences and financial reward with half the lyrical talent, it would be easy to forgive Rodney Smith some bitterness. However, Slime and Reason’s opening line, “A lot of people don’t know about Smith”, seems more like a simple statement of fact than a complaint. This album doesn’t acknowledge anything in its surroundings. Rather, it is the newest chapter in an isolated musical portrait of the artist.

The music channels the place-in-time feeling of Jamaica’s Studio One recordings from the 1960s and 1970s. However, the dancehall carnival feeling is skin deep only. Smith is one of the difficult school of rappers that fight with their demons on acetate for the world to hear. Consistently throughout, but especially on closer “The Struggle”, we find him enumerating the difficulties of balancing artistic advancement and the need to provide for others.

There are few rappers in the world who can real internal turmoil and lyrical skill in a successful way. Nas is one. Roots Manuva is another. There is enough universal wisdom in Slime and Reason to make it one of the most vital hip hop albums I’ve ever heard.

More album reviews from Totally Dublin

Patrick Kelleher – You Look Cold (Osaka)

pkalbumNeed an album to express the national mood? This is it. You Look Cold runs the gambit of sad music, from shards of icy, fragile electronica through to dusky back porch accordion nostalgia. Highlight ‘Blue Eyes’ bristles with tense energy, moving from a sublimely dark groove through a tempo shift into the touching and weird drone-folk effort ‘I Am Eustace’. They might not help you pay rent, but these are great songs. 4/5

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)

gbalbumGrizzly Bear’s return finds them resplendent in the sunny glow of intricate harmonies and distinctly retro charm. Where previous efforts were dusty and close-focused, Veckatimest lets the light in and embraces the beautiful day. First single ‘Two Weeks’ is patent genius, dripping with the allure of 60s girl-group pop and as catchy as swine flu was disappointing. Need to beat down a Fleet Foxes fan? Play this for them and nod knowingly. 4/5

Túcan – Aliquot Strings (s/r)

tucanalbumAliquot Strings is the work of guitarists Pearse Feeney and Donal Gunne, and though the Latin rhythms and fluid time signatures have some appeal at first, these instrumentals don’t have brakes. More of a showcase for Burke and Feeney’s ability than a coherent record, the album starts at 100mph and doesn’t stop, hurtling off a cliff into excess and what is usually termed wankery. Not for the casual listener. 2/5

Tim Exile – The Listening Tree (Warp/Planet Mu)

tealbumTim Exile’s credentials as a drum ‘n’ bass weirdo are impeccable. He’s signed to Warp, the home of a legion of head-melters from Aphex Twin to Battles. He expatriated from England to (surprise, surprise) Berlin. He makes his own instruments, or rather customises them in order to allow live improvisation and a new world of unique weirdness opportunities. It’s lucky he likes Depeche Mode so much then, or he’d be unlistenable.

Hold on, that’s not really fair. There’s a definite substratum to The Listening Tree in which an 80s synth pop baritone tries to sabotage the navel-gazing with some vaguely banal lyrics. But in the struggle of Dave Gahan vs. the infuriatingly complex labyrinth of beats and bleeps, there is only ever going to be one winner. And if this album is worthy of repeat listens (hint: it is) it’s because of the knotted, cerebral beats which require full concentration.

The prevailing sense is of being on a journey. Many tracks begin simply enough, with a pleasant synth line or a straightforward beat. But pay attention to what happens next: nothing in life is as simple as it first seems, and that could not be more true of Tim Exile. The beat will shift and then continue, seemingly at an angle to what came before. Tempos and rhythms fluctuate, and by the end of each track there’s almost a sigh of relief upon having survived the ordeal.

First single Family Galaxy is the clear highlight, an absolutely mind-twisting track in which the beat refuses to be pinned down for more than a few bars at a time. Beginning with a languid beat and becoming gradually more frantic as it undergoes metamorphosis, the refrain which eventually emerges is nothing short of anthemic. “The family galaxy keeps changing, no matter what you do”, the vocals exhort, and it’s hard to argue, having delved this far into the cut-up futurism of The Listening Tree.

Interview Project #5: A Series of Dark Caves

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A Series of Dark Caves is David Ferguson, progenitor of a line of thoughtful, sad indie as compiled on the real-life album Streetlights, which you can have for free if you like, and two EPs, which you can only get for free. It’s not hard to figure out what these songs are about – like many before him, David sings of girls, melancholy, and the melancholy girls can sometimes either purposely or accidentally engender in young men. He has recently put together a live band, so you might find him in the corporeal world soon enough if you’re looking. He’s also a friend of mine, just so you’re aware up front, but I’m fairly certain the music stands up for itself.

A Series of Dark Caves – Couches/Beds
A Series of Dark Caves – Basement of Love
(^this one is a world exclusive if you’re listening before 27/6!)

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Q 0.5 How are you?

Tired from work, but very happy otherwise.

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An album review from Totally Dublin

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Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is a modern album constructed completely out of the dust and memories of the past. The tuneful simplicity of American folk pioneers. The humble, hymnal harmonies of white spirituals. The journey as a metaphor. Hushed tones. Undefined sadness. The curious title is not evidence of a twee sensibility, but a reference to the band’s noble project. What the Low Anthem want is to make an album of modern, secular spirituals, and through quiet, plucked songs, they approach success. The synthesis of all-that-has-come-before with things-now is not quite complete, however.

The Low Anthem are hamstrung by two things. The first is the fact that they are, by their own admission uninterested in modern music. The consequence of this is that they inhabit some decidedly creaky retro headspace in which things that sound second-hand and hackneyed to most listeners are in fact the acceptable and vital bricks and mortar of songwriting craft. Railroads, state names and wide horizons don’t have the literary resonance they once had. And that’s a real difficulty with The Low Anthem. In the most earnest and well-intentioned way, they are just doing something old again.

The second thing marring The Low Anthem is their penchant to descend into bar-room blues romps about 25% of the time. It really is unfortunate, because for all their secondarity, some of the songs on Oh My God, Charlie Darwin are legitimately beautiful things. Hints of Bright Eyes are perceptible on ‘Ticket Taker’, an achingly sad love song delivered in a whisper. The fragile, bassy drone which Jocie Adams’ multi-instrumental versatility provides throughout the album helps to take the edges off some of the more Americana tracks. But the quiet beauty of The Low Anthem is destroyed by the foot-stompin’ blues, which manages to break the illusion and remind you that the whispered folk is just as hackneyed in its own way.

2/5

Interview Project #4: Porn On Vinyl

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Porn On Vinyl is Aidan Wall, a man forcing dreams into mp3 files via the kindly intercession of a nylon-string guitar, his voice and smothering layers of lo-fi fuzz of more the Daniel Johnston variety than, say, the Wavves variety. In ebbs and swells, Wall provides moods that vary from cosy reassurance to panic-attack unease, all with the same, utterly minimal set-up. Sample tracks won’t really communicate the vibe, so you’re best served downloading his album, I Spent The Night Thinking, With Short Periods Of Sleep Interrupted By Visions.

Porn On Vinyl – The Moon Song

Porn On Vinyl – Steam

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Q 0.5 How are you?

I can’t complain.

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