Tag Archives: Liars

The Year. 20-16

20. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach [UK]

How many classic albums have a different featured guest on every track? Not a whole lot, but then Music Is Changing, right? And Gorillaz are Not Your Favourite Band. So, with Snoop Dogg, Mark E. Smith, the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, Lou Reed, Bobby Womack and Mos Def in tow, they have a go at a concept album about indefinitely accumulating rubbish and postmodern artifice being a good thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and when you’re Damon Albarn, your friends and peers aren’t necessarily the freshest thing out. But sometimes it does. Though lesser names, relatively speaking, UK MCs Bashy, Kano and the aforementioned orchestra combine to make the best track, White Flag, a tag team rap over SNES beats and Arabic classical music. De La Soul and Gruff Rhys do a decent update of old school hip hop on Superfast Jellyfish, imbued with all the slight plastic discomfort of the whole. Strange stuff for the pop it is, and better for it.
Gorillaz’ incredibly busy-looking website and a BBC session with an XX cover via State.

Gorillaz feat. Bashy, Kano, National Orchestra for Arabic Music – White Flag

19. These New Puritans – Hidden [UK]

As well as witch house, this year had some genuinely, elementally frightening music, made up of war drums, stately woodwinds, deadpan singing and a heap of noise. Hidden plays like a reaction to the tendency to reverb and overdrive last year and this year. Jack Burnett famously once mentioned a pre-Renaissance Florentine poet as an influence during the height of the band’s first sonic iteration, dance-punk. It’s that kind of wanton awkwardness that makes Hidden so interesting. It’s tribal but it’s quantised, it’s orchestral but it’s undersung too. It can be great in a dozen different ways. Orion’s core is church choral music, and it plays like the breeze in a cavernous cathedral with some errant private school kids mumbling and hitting drums in it. We Want War is more like MIA if she knew how to sound like she probably wants to sound, with the distinct feeling that if you were about to lead a horde of lads with spears and shields into a battle, it’d be the song you choose to play loud.
Famed music journalist Paul Morley talks to TNP at the Guardian, and a music video.

These New Puritans – We Want War

18. Liars – Sisterworld [US]

Heady music is great, music you can count beats to or decoct intricate production. But what is also great is when songs and soft and then get very heavy. That’s how Sisterworld starts. It’s visceral, and all those other worlds you use to describe shit when it makes you accidentally punch the wall of your bedroom as you mosh obliviously to it by yourself. But on Scissor and elsewhere, that seminal moment where Thom Yorke decided he was a Liars fan and brought them on tour is becoming a thing. It’s not that they all of a sudden sound like Radiohead, but their experimental urges have rounded out into something coherent and only repellent, when it wants to be repellent, because of the music, not the atmospheric mulch of Drum’s Not Dead. Plus they never forgot how to move you.
Angus having Earl as one of his albums of the year and an interview, both from Pitchfork.

Liars – Scissor


17. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
[UK]

Electronic music’s interesting, cos y’know, it’s a new art form and a set of aesthetic criteria haven’t emerged yet. Or something like that. Kieran Hebden’s everywhere though, remixing, DJing, having chess nights with Dan Snaith, Steve Reid and Burial in my imagination, so he must be countenanced on some terms, and it’s not on him to find them. Four Tet operates on perpetual motion, but its own particular kind. A Four Tet beat is instantly recognisable. There’s something in the drag on the drum hits, or the way busy interacting rhythms can still end up sounding sparse and minimal. Something in the way a guy who used to be in a post-rock band who was tagged as “folktronica” for a decade can end up within the fence of what’s now post-J Dilla instrumental hip hop in America. And sure, he blisses out. I wonder what it looks like naked.
Four Tet’s Soundcloud, full of mixes and remixes, and an interview from the AV Club.

Four Tet – Sing

16. Vampire Weekend – Contra [US]

Having won a ring in their rookie season as far as this blog is concerned, Vampire Weekend released their second album from a position of privilege but also one of pressure. From a totally subjective standpoint, how do you follow up something “clamped to my ears for 12 months”? Well, if the s/t was the sound of white (or sorry, Jewish, Persian, Italian and Ukrainian) boys backpacking through sound, then Contra is just more of that in a different direction. Diplomat’s Son does an African rhythm on programmed bloops with chamber string backing, White Sky stands as a decent shot at the ultimately doomed post-AnCo genre and I Think Ur A Contra, by virtue of its butterfly-wing production and away-better-than-X-Factor vocal performance from Ezra Koenig, turns a bleary-eyed piano ballad into something that sounds like it might crumble to dust if you trod too heavy near it. But at the bottom of all of this is what Vampire Weekend do. Melody.
Explaining how White Sky was written to the Guardian and a BBC radio session version of Cousins that’s good.

Vampire Weekend – Cousins

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TDOM Day 04: A Song That Makes You Sad

Liars – The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack

Hard to explain why a song makes you sad, especially if it has no specific associations. This one has no specific assocations, apart from maybe a few too many melancholy Sundays listening to it. But it’s still a little paralysing, not sure why.

The Year. 10-6 (getting there)

10. Battles – Mirrored
Warp

If Battles are math rock, then they’re bringing more emotion to the subject than my (thankfully over) sixteen years of immersion in the subject led me to believe it was capable of. Plus, only some of their songs have ridiculous time signatures. So let’s dispense with that. Mirrored is probably the closest thing to progressive music I’ve ever actually enjoyed and it is all pinned around a rock solid core of instrumental virtuosity. Seeing it live at Lowlands opened my eyes properly to Battles, because I could see these four guys standing on the huge stage with instruments in hands, playing really complex and impassioned music at a rate of about 400 notes a second – and staying completely within the lines, so to speak. Tightest band I’ve ever seen. The album drips of that tightness, the live interplay of these four virtuosos. But it is catchy as all fuck too. From Race In to Leyendecker (Side A, in the words of our ancestors), there isn’t a song that doesn’t lodge itself somewhere in the brain. And it will sound original for about 50 years. I guarantee it.
An interview in which Battles describe their music better than anyone else, and their vowelless website which is secretly just a link to their MySpace.

9. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Anti

Sounding like The Beatles has been a successful and sometimes musically worthwhile endeavour for countless bands from the 1960s onwards. When I first heard Spoon, around the time of Kill The Moonlight (two albums ago) when they were supporting Interpol at the Olympia, I thought they were taking it a little bit too far. Time, though, has revealed their subtleties to me. Britt Daniel has been doing what he does for a long time now without any spectacular innovation, but the songs seem to get slightly better every album, and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is their best so far. They’re pretty big in America but I’m not sure how far they’ve pervaded into the indie consciousness around here. It doesn’t really matter. The songs all sound like singles, without exception, and far from being The Texas Beatles, Spoon have pretty much eked out a space for themselves completely outside what other people are doing. It’s hard to pick highlights, but You Got Yr Cherry Bomb was #16 in the American Hot Press’ top 100 songs of the year. High praise for independent band.
Many songs on MySpace (though not the one I just let Rolling Stone recommend) and PopMatters gives a comprehensive (i.e. long) review.

8. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Fargo

My fourteen year-old brother asked me today if “these bands just make up a load of words and then put music to them”. Ignoring the fact that this is at least the second most common way of writing music in Western culture, I answered “no”. But I understand what he meant. I was listening to Armchair Apocrypha, The whole album, more than any of Bird’s previous stuff, is a testament to how well read he is, how naturally lyrical he is and most of all the sense he has for finding songs in unusual places. Some of the rhymes on Imitosis are more complex than incredibly rich rap stars, and Scythian Empire deserves some sort of prize for best song based on a Pontic tribe ever written. In fact, there should be a Grammy for that category. In seriousness though, Armchair Apocrypha is musically and lyrically complex while staying accessible at all times, and it is a beautifully noble-sounding listen. Perhaps the only album of 2008 that makes you feel like your IQ is higher every time you finish it.
Read up on the actual Scythian Empire on Wikipedia and then fly to Andrew’s website for a well-stocked A/V section.

7. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Paw Tracks

Pure as the driven snow. I read somewhere (everywhere) that Panda Bear sounds like Brian Wilson on LSD. Am I the only person in the world that was under the impression that Brian Wilson was on LSD? Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was just crazy. Panda Bear’s not crazy though, and he’s also not on LSD. Through sampling, but mostly through his super-soaked vocal layers, he presents the melodies children sing to themselves in playgrounds, the purest, most beautiful music. Animal Collective is Avey Tare’s band, but Person Pitch proves that Panda Bear has his own completely distinct picture to present to the world. It doesn’t sound like Animal Collective in a specific sense, even if they’d be stocked in the same section of a very sub-genred record store. It’s angelic stuff, and it kept me dry and happy on many wet and depressing winter mornings going to college. I have regular revelations listening to this, and it would be higher if not for the slight repetitiveness late on and the quality of some other albums released this year.
MySpace about Panda Bear, and a website about panda bears

6. Liars – Liars
Mute

(I’m going to do this one Said The Gramophone style). A Sunday afternoon , waking up hungover, you walk down the stairs, pour a glass of milk and make for your couch. The sun’s shining in the window, so your sore limbs and pinched forehead don’t bother you so much. You lie down and drink your milk. Finishing up, you look for the remote. It’s beside the television. What is the point of a remote control if it’s left beside the TV anyway. Your body has just adjusted to the couch and is refusing to get up, so you sit there quietly. There’s no-one around. Everyone in the house has gone out. The radio is seeping in vaguely from upstairs somewhere. The sunlight is still beaming in at first, but time passes quickly and the short winter afternoon starts to grey. It gets darker and darker, but you stay sitting on your couch, staring at the blank TV. The curtains are open, but you can’t see anything from where you’re lying. It’s raining, probably. That is what this album sounds like.
The video for the tour-de-force first track on YouTube and the website.

Liars.

I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 days or so finding out from WK Wimsatt and Cleanth Brooks about what exactly a successful criticism consists of. And I genuinely do feel more educated now. Unfortunately though, the whole point of blogging is to give personal accounts of stuff, so I will have to betray my new-found New Critical outlook and do this old-school.

Liars was one of my least cool gig experiences, which is ironic (but not very ironic) because they’re on of the coolest bands I’ve been to see. Angus Andrew was wearing the lovely white suit you see above (even though I stole that picture from a New York online newspaper of some description), and they looked overall like a Brooklyn post-punk band. Which is apt, because they were. Are they still? Probably not. Doesn’t matter, because they’ve added being accepted in haute music circles to looking cool. Which is good news.

Reasons it wasn’t cool: I turned up at 8 because it said 8 on the tickets, none of my friends were at it so I was by myself for the first time in a while, gigs I’m not at should have no effect on the fucking gig I pay for, the third support missed a flight, the doors opened at around 9 and nothing happened for hours, I drank four pints of Paulaner by myself, I jerked and rocked out beside some Northern Irish guys for the entire Liars set.

Saving graces:

Bats are very good. They’re like indie playing metalcore. Or metalcore playing indie. Or genre-ignoring playing genre-ignoring.

Liars were really cathartic, and generally great. The two guitarists (labelled thus for convenience) basically made noise for the entire night, the drummer went “bom bom bom” fairly insistently and Angus gave the thumbs down while Australianising some cavernous sounds from the microphone.

They played plenty off Drum’s Not Dead, which surprised me. I assumed that because they shifted sound between Drum and the self-titled, that they would have sort of shifted ethos or something. But they didn’t. I used to be really into Drum’s Not Dead, so that was good news.

But even better news: they played lots off Liars too. And Liars is so much better than Drum’s Not Dead. I didn’t think so when I got it first, but in terms of scope, the breadth of sounds they get together on one album without losing their intensity, it’s just a much better record. There are some TUNES on it too, in the sense that Noel Gallagher or someone would refer to FOOKIN’ TUNES. Songs that make sense, that have hooks. But there’s noise too.

Everything was fed through the live catharsis-machine though. And Plaster Casts fucking destroyed the place. I was waiting for it for the whole gig, and last song comes around. It tears holes in everything. I can’t explain it better, or I don’t want to. It’s primal shit.

This was up there, for me. The “Of The Year” lists are on their way, don’t worry. And this’ll be there, high.

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