February 2010

I’m fairly opinionated about my music in general but I’m just under the line where I refuse to accept that I’ve been wrong in my opinions, so here is a list of musical things I was wrong about. Feel free to gloat if you were always right.

1. Animal Collective aren’t as bad as I first assumed. In fact, ‘My Girls’ is really rather excellent (apart from the bit before the drums kick in, that’s still quite stale). Which is annoying.

Animal Collective – My Girls (YSI)

2. Esser’s album wasn’t all that great. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the first few songs I heard, but since my somewhat exuberant response to the album’s release, I have to say I’ve retracted my love for it somewhat. It’s just… fine.

Esser – I Love You (YSI)

3. Noah and the Whale’s new, more full sound could, at times, not be painfully dull.

Noah and the Whale – Love Of An Orchestra (YSI)

There are always bands you know you should have heard, but you just haven’t. And that irritates me, because more often than not when you eventually hear that band it becomes abundantly clear why you should have been listening to them all along. This very situation has occurred to me with Orange Juice. I’ve heard their name bandied about so often that it just became one of those  recognisable references, but never one I bothered to check out. Well consider me educated, because they’re bloody excellent, and I will be checking them out with haste (luckily Domino have apparently just got the rights to their back catalogue which means reissues are forthcoming).

What amazed me is just how much you can see that those references are really accurate. Too often you get bands referred to as ‘The new [someone]’ and it’s just too loose a description to have any real meaning. However, in this case you can really hear where newer bands have taken reference points. The jangly guitars are very similar in tone to those Good Shoes use, and the fey vocals are a dead ringer for Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts at times. So check out Orange Juice and make a quick comparison with the other two tracks, and tell me if I ain’t right.

Orange Juice – Blue Boy (YSI)
Good Shoes – We Are Not The Same (Single Version) (YSI)
Wild Beasts – We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues (YSI)

I’ve been rather lax on this particular post for a while, so here’s a well-overdue new post about my favourite band from Tunbridge Wells, Tom Williams and the Boat. As you can see above, Tom and co. have re-recorded an old song of theirs, ‘Concentrate’ for a single release on the 8th of March. It’s always been one of their most driving and forceful tracks, and the re-record has leant it an even more rocky air, toning down the folkier elements and bringing the focus onto the electric guitars and reflective lyrics. This is as emotive as we’ve seen Tom before, and it’s a good style for him; his impassioned shouts at the end suit the track down to the ground, and I’d certainly like to hear more of Tom’s angrier side in the future. Take a listen to the track below, and if you like it I urge to buy it – this is a band who deserve to break out of the local scene and onto a bigger stage, and soon at that.

Tom Williams and the Boat – Train Station Car Park (YSI)

Vampire Weekend are a lot of fun. Their first album told me this, the songs I’ve heard from the second reinforced this and seeing them headline a sold out gig last night proved this. From the moment they (literally) bounded on stage, smiles in place and blasted into White Sky, it was clear – this was going to be a fun gig. That too-familiar haze of tour-tiredness that affects some bands just didn’t seem to be considered, every member of the band was playing like they were loving every moment, and the (oddly, quite old) crowd showed their appreciation by exploding with joy at every new song they recognised.

With a nice mix of old and new tracks, the gig allowed for those of us who fell in love at first sight to indulge in those songs that made us smile two years ago while those who had only just heard the band got to revel in the new material. There were a couple of down moments as slower tracks weren’t as well received and, unfortunately, the brilliant B-Side ‘Boston’ simply wasn’t recognised by most of the crowd but on the whole the gig went from strength to strength. One thing to mention alongside the rest is just how nicely put together the stage set-up was: a row of (somewhat familiar) chandeliers lit up in sequence whilst spotlights all over the place illuminated each member and a huge Contra album cover unfurled during the first song. It just made the performance that more personal when you knew the band had had some influence on how the gig looked.

If you have a chance to see them on this current tour, I urge you to go – you won’t have more fun at a gig for a long time, I guarantee it.

Vampire Weekend – M79 (YSI)

If you’re at all interested in blogging and the music industry as a whole right now, read this and feel angry/scared/confused

The NME Awards Tour kicked off in Newcastle on Thursday night and I was lucky enough to have won some tickets, so after queueing for an inordinate amount of time amongst thousands of 14 year-olds and being charged an insane amount for two beers the lovely Cat and I stepped into the breach.

First up were The Drums who all looked a picture of completely uninterested ‘New York Cool’ apart from singer Jonathan Pierce who flailed about like an outrageously camp Ian Curtis for the entire set. They’re an odd beast, The Drums – after loving ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ so fervently, each song I’ve heard after that seems a variation on a theme rather than a different idea, and that quickly manifested itself in their set as well. It was samey, not entirely in a bad way, but enough to make you forget which song is which. My main gripe was the fact that they used recorded whistling and handclap sounds from their album tracks rather than actually doing it onstage, which just seemed a bit confusing and lazy to be honest. It was all over rather quickly and the crowd seemed receptive enough, but as far as warm up acts go, they weren’t the best I’ve seen.

The Big Pink were up next, arriving onstage in darkness and smoke to the lilting sound of Cypress Hill’s ‘I Wanna Get High’ before launching into a set at least twice as loud as the previous one, blasting out their 90s rock/shoegaze collage in a haze of panning spotlights and constant UV light. It was certainly quite a show, and bloody fun to watch, but the crowd were really only interested in one song, the rather irritating ‘Dominos’, and after that finished they quickly lost interest. It made me wonder whether when I was that age if I would only care about one song by a band – I really hope I wasn’t that fickle.

After a whirlwind changearound by the roadies, Bombay Bicycle Club shambled onstage, looking more like the crowd members around me than a band that got the reception they did. It might have something to do with their youth, but BBC got a huge reaction from the young’uns, despite not having any obvious hits or street cred. Whatever the reason, the band quickly whipped the crowd into a frenzy, concentrating on their heavier material (‘Magnet’ was brilliantly loud) and amping it up early in the set. The best thing about BBC is just how uncool they are, there was none of the pretense of the last two bands, they made no attempt to have an ‘image’ or to conceal their excitement, when the music got heavier they thrashed around like they were dancing in their bedrooms, laughing and smiling with each other. It’s nice to see a band who just love what they’re doing, and don’t want to project anything else other than that. It also helps when you’ve got a set of brilliant songs, without a moment of filler – ‘Evening/Morning was as spectacular as ever and ‘Always Like This’ worked its dance groove magic on everyone in the place. The band left to huge cheers and with smiles on every face in the room.

Headlining tonight’s entertainment was everyone’s favourite lovelorn rapscallions, The Maccabees, who bounded onstage, took up their instruments and proceeded to prove why they were top of the bill. I’ve watched the band a fair few times now, but this was as loud and energetic as I’ve ever seen them. They seemed supremely confident, knowing that they can use material from both albums and get a good reaction from either. I forgot just how loud and intricate some of their music is too; when three guitars are used at once you can really notice the change in noise, and when that’s further backed up by a mini brass section the sound just gets bigger and bigger. Bouncing between hits from both albums, we were kept guessing what was next. From the sheer speed of ‘X-Ray’ to the glorious high points of ‘Can You Give It’, all the songs we wanted were there. As it turned out though, one of the high points came from an album track I’d not given much of a listen to – ‘One Hand Holding’ helped open their set with an impassioned singalong from the whole band and an energy that characterised the rest. This was a band on top of their game and knowing it, belting out every song with the passion only a true belief in their work can produce, and as they finished their set with ‘No Kind Words’, a cover of Orange Juice’s ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Love You Better’ they proved to us and themselves that they deserved to be NME’s top choice for this tour.

The Drums – I Felt Stupid (YSI)
The Big Pink – Velvet (YSI)
Bombay Bicycle Club – Magnet (YSI)
The Maccabees – One Hand Holding (YSI)