Six big hitters come under the Getintothis album review microscope.
Okkervil River: The Stage Names – Album Of The Week
Everyone likes a good drama – and doesn’t Okkervil River mainman Will Sheff know it. The Stage Names is this Austin, Texan’s fourth offering, containing nine mini-epics purporting tales of tragedy and devastation which for the most part are wrapped up in glorious rock which is both immediate and uplifting.
Opener Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe carries all the rich, characteristic urgency of Arcade Fire without wallowing in grandiose pomposity while Unless It Kicks fizzes with raging-bull guitars and a driving melody.
But the real triumph of The Stage Names is Sheff’s narrative and delivery; less knowingly literary than the Decemberists‘ Colin Meloy and less distractingly whiney than Bright Eyes. Rather Sheff’s skill is aligning his tales of woe with the often-joyous, celebratory revelry, or indeed, when the tone is more heavy (Girl In Port) he switches to sighing resignation merely adding to intensity.
Each of the nine tracks on the Stage Names act as a tumultuous build up to the reworking of The Beach Boys‘ Sloop John B, here titled John Allyn Smith Sails, with Sheff confessing ‘I tried to make my breathing stop or my heart beat slow…‘ before the music dramatically collapses and rises again with great waves of violin and french horn quite literally ‘hoisting up the John B. sails.’ It’s a thrilling climax.
It has been quite some year for Jagjaguwar, few rosters have produced such a plethora of magnificent records, but this may just be the best of them. Buy this record, TODAY.
For fans of: Storytellers and long, road journeymen.
Chrome Hoof: Pre-Emptive False Rapture
You’ve heard the one about 10 mutant spacemen dressed in medieval chainmail mixing Parliament funk, King Crimson prog and bowel-shattering doom-metal?
No, wait, come back – imagine the most spectacular Wickerman nightmare soundtracked with fat riffs and Camelot horn parps instead of inbred folk, and you’ve Chrome Hoof – a forty-limbed aural assault. Did I mention they have a goat-headed demon on stage?
For fans of: Warhammer, Magma, Alistair Crowley.
Shearwater: Palo Santo
Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden is one of the greatest records ever conceived. Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg has rightly paid much heed evoking Mark Hollis‘ muse to great effect. Adding banjo-tinged country (Red Sea, Black Sea), bluesy melodrama (La Dame Et La Licorne) and thundering, cinematic rock (Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five) Palo Santo is one of 2007’s most arresting records.
Elsewhere there’s ghostly folk and in the stunning Hail, Mary the five-piece throw mellotrons, deafening guitars and brass into the mix.
In this expanded and deserved re-release, disc two adds numerous demos and additional tracks completing a masterclass in heartfelt songwriting.
For fans of: Late night tales, heroic drunks, Morricone.
Foo Fighters: Echoes Silence Patience And Grace
Minus the odd single, the Foos are about as inviting as a bowl of cold pea soup. Luckily for my tastebuds they’ve whacked this bowl in the microwave, added some seasoning and produced something rather palettable.
Mmm, tasty pea soup.
For fans of: DIY enthusiasts, Harvest-era Neil Young, boyscout rockers.
Ian Brown: The World Is Yours
Brownie’s a dude – that’s a given, right? Well, it kinda sucks that after continually bettering each solo effort to date he’s plateaued on record number five.
While training his sights on oppressors and warmongers the world over he’s forsaken tunes somewhat for lyrical terror producing a hip-hop splurge engulfed in one long syrupy-stringed Bond Theme.
The Bruce Lee chop of Save Us, the Sinead O’Connor-backed Illegal Attacks and the propulsive grind of Sister Rose rescue an album, which while sincere in message, is disappointingly under-par from Mr Adidas.
For fans of: RZA, GZA, Shirley Bassey, Palestinians.
Kanye West: Graduation
It’s strange that as Kanye’s head gets bigger his vision gets smaller. Sampling Daft Punk on comeback singles, hiring Chris Martin (doh!) as a ‘guest star’ and reprising sounds akin to College Dropout all feel like backward steps.
Luckily for Mr West he’s still several steps ahead of his peers, so while standout tracks The Glory and Big Brother are no Diamonds In Sierra Leone, it still makes Diddy and Fiddy sound like ultra-rich dickheads pedalling diamantes.
For fans of: White sunglasses, trimmed facial hair, Louis Vuitton.