April 2009

Camera Obscura are one of those excellent British bands who, inexplicably, have just never really made it over here, and yet have been embraced wholeheartedly by our friends across the Atlantic. My Maudlin Career is their fourth effort, and  quite possibly the album to break their duck on these shores.

This may be a gross generalisation, but quite how such a rainy country can consistently produce bands capable of soundtracking any summer day you care to think of is beyond me. Camera Obscura are one of those bands, effortlessly producing songs that, on the surface, embody every aspect of happiness and fun. But it’s just that veneer of sunshine that makes them quite so interesting, because at the heart of the band, Tracyanne Campbell’s lyrics are a very different prospect. Very much the brooding Hyde to Belle & Sebastian’s upbeat Jekyll, the music may be summery, but the subjects of those songs are the product of nothing but winter.

From the ‘50s-inflected guitar and doo-wop beat of “Swans” to the blustery, joyous violin strains of debut single “French Navy” every track is unmistakably Camera Obscura but without losing their individual appeal. There are some truly beautiful moments too, the gently orchestral feel of “Careless Love” couldn’t be matched by many other bands so perfectly, and it’s these moments that show just how confident they are now with their own niche.

This album is less about innovation as refinement, but it’s that improvement that makes this album such a joy; this isn’t a band hitting their stride, this is a band who are starting to run after that stride and creating something truly lovely from beginning to end as a result.

Camera Obscura – Careless Love (YSI)
Camera Obscura – Honey In The Sun (YSI)

For anyone that happens to be reading, I was just wondering what people thought of an idea I have. I write about the music I love on here, and thus people who read it who don’t know me may get the impression I’m all sunshine and light about music. However, in Real Life, I tend to find myself lecturing about hateful, shitty music more than I do talking about awesome music sometimes (to my girlfriend a lot generally, sorry baby!), and to vent it maybe I should have a second, altogether angrier blog.

There’s a part of me that think this would be a good idea, it might be funny or even righteously indignant, but then there’s the part of me that thinks I may be slagging off bands who just need support (and I might possibly be ripping off Charlie Brooker). Of course, I could just rant about how awful the pop music industry is, I have no qualms about that. For instance, Lada Gaga is an abomination. See? Please leave comments and let me know what you think.

Interpol – Evil (YSI)

PS. There’ll be a review of camera Obscura up soon, and I really love that.

I really can’t seem to stop blogging about these guys, and I’m sorry for that, but I really can’t overstate how much I think this band are going to mean this year. Hockey are just getting bigger and bigger, with track of the week’s all over the place, a remastered debut album coming in either June/July/August (depending on where you look) and their first appearance on TV, courtesy of Jools Holland.

If you’re in the UK, here’s the link to their performance on iPlayer but fear not international readers, I have a new mp3 too! “Work” is a slower paced effort from the Portland boys, with an almost reggae-style synth backing at times, ever-more soulful vocals from Ben Grubin and even an improvised keyboard solo that sounds like a ’50s Sci-Fi film as an outro. It’s basically, again, completely different to what I’ve heard before, but, again, absolutely brilliant.

If all goes well, I’ll have a review copy of the album coming through soon, and rest assured that’ll be reviewed and put up here very quickly. *tries to contain childish excitement*

Hockey – Work (YSI)

PS. Mediafire’s down, so it’s YouSendIt only at the moment, sorry!

Summer Bands

Well I’m set up and ready to go with this WordPress lark, and frankly after my experience with Blogger, I’m hoping for a better experience. I’m currently on a train speeding back up to Newcastle for the third term of uni, listening through the inordinate amount of albums I’ve bought recently (currently Cold War Kids’ Loyalty To Loyalty) and I think I’ll repost all those tracks that got taken down in last few days. The picture also took me ages to make (I’m a very poor photoshopper you may have noticed), so that’s what’s heading the post. I’ll return to normal service soon, I promise.

The Maccabees – Love You Better (YSI)
Magistrates – Make This Work (YSI)
Hockey – Learn To Lose (Xfm Session) (YSI)
Bombay Bicycle Club – Always Like This (YSI)

Apparently ranting against how fucking ridiculous this whole DMCA takedown business is gets your posts… well, taken down. Brilliant. It comes on a day already marred by a ridiculous decision in the same vein (although far more high profile of course) – the jailing of the guys behind Pirate Bay. Now I don’t agree with torrenting in all its forms, but used to sample music, it is a brilliant way to decide whether to spend your money or not. If I torrent an album, and I decide I like it, I make a point of going out and buying it, and this is a method that’s been very useful to me, and ultimately made me buy more than I used to, as I know I like the album. Of course, Spotify has emerged now, but Pirate Bay is being punished for things that happened before there was any other real choice.

I may have to move to WordPress soon because frankly, everything I put up gets removed for no reason, despite my disclaimer, despite showing that I have no problem being asked to take down mp3s. Blogger is cow-towing to a group of over-powerful companies that are outdated and in serious threat of being overtaken by sympathetic, smaller labels that understand that free music is what the industry is moving towards. I can’t wait for it to happen.

Radiohead – Let Down (YSI)