New Soundbites: January 23-30

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Getintothis discovers yet more brilliance to come out of Brooklyn.



Vampire Weekend: Vampire WeekendAlbum Of The Week
XL
That guy Kapranos was right – what it all boils down to is making girls dance.
Add as many layers as you wish while dazzling us with your expertise and craftsmanship, but if your pop doesn’t invoke fits of toe-tapping or delirious dance-floor action, then you may as well go back to the drawing board.
Vampire Weekend know this. And have nailed it.
Its been a longtime since a pop record sounded this fresh, this immediate, this addictive and this good.
Hailing from the hotbed of talent that is Brooklyn, they deviate from their peers TV On The Radio, Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer etc, by shedding any notion of atmospherics or confusion in favour of a stripped back, joyful simplicity relying on winning melodies and instant hooks redolent of a scrubbed-up Strokes minus the stale stench of a night at CBGBs.
In turn they favour crisp preppy-boy looks with choppy hooks backed by Chris Tomson‘s infectious afro-beat rhythms which is a surefire way to yank you out of that January lull and catapult you onto the nearest dancefloor.
There’s something of a Lionel Bart musical quality about the way in which Mansard Roof kicks off with its breezy radiance, recalling that moment in Oliver! as street-sellers wilfully toss out their bouquets of roses and punnets of freshly picked fruit as Rostam Batmanglij‘s parping keys usher in bursts of luminous colour and sprightly, vivacious dynamism.
This joie de vivre is embodied in chief Vampire Ezra Koenig‘s affecting yelp painting tales of collegiate life, see how he ruminates sleeping on the balcony after class in the jaunty Campus or better yet how his little lungs leap, almost failing to keep pace through the new-wave bounce of A-Punk.
This bluster is another of Vampire Weekend‘s assets, as a record its a mere 34 minutes short and warrants multiple spins back to back losing none of its sheen despite repeated playings instead revealing their subtle minutiae.
Check M79s baroque orchestration offset by jerky violins, or the dancing keys and rolling tom-toms propelling Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa as Koenig ups the cheek stakes name-dropping his heart-on-sleeve inspiration Peter Gabriel. All unassuming it creeps up on you and BAM, you’re strutting moves like a hyperactive lunatic.
See, Vampire Weekend simply don’t care that you know they love Talking Heads, Paul Simon and that they’re Ivy League graduates. They’re too caught up in this heady bubble producing some of the finest slices of perky pop heard in a long time. Revel in it. Dance on.
For fans of: Cricket jumpers, Saturdays, Fela Kuti.
8.5/10

Sons & Daughters: This Gift
Domino Records
You wait for a great pop record, and two come out in a week.
Glasgow’s Sons & Daughters are a feisty bunch and were it not for those pesky Brooklyners would have breezed AOTW status such is This Gift‘s bolshy brilliance.
Precision buzzsaw riffs are complemented by Adele Bethel‘s arresting vocal serving up tales of decadence and brutality. At its core are the title track and Darling two pieces of undeniable class. The former finds a supercharged Ronnettes infused with the spirit of Elastica, all ballsy new-wave glamour with insatiable oooh-ing and ahh-ing. The latter sees David Gow delivering a Phil Spector Wall of Sound of collision drumming as Bethel depicts the cut throat world of society girls ‘twisting in and out the knife to make you pay for your past life.’
Preciding over it all is Bernard Butler, and his ear for a winning melody clashing with serrated indie nastiness is a testament to This Gift‘s intoxicating clamour.
Closer Goodbye Service, and the albums only veer towards the ‘epic’ (clocking in at a hefty 4.37!), is haunting noir complete with train-crash guitars and a ba-ba-dah outro.
Iodine bears all the hallmarks of The Smiths with its mournful minor chords while The Bell further carries those trademark Johnny Marr jangles juxtaposed by Bethel’s in-a-tight spot pained cries of ‘hang on’.
This Gift finds Sons & Daughters stepping out of indie’s murky shadows and rushing headlong into the mainstream armed with a devilish smile and a winning armoury of killer tunes.
For fans of: The Smiths, S&M, Cluedo.
8/10

Mars Volta: The Bedlam in Goliath
Universal
Indulgence in music: discuss.
There can’t be another art form were extensive exploration of ideas and mastery of your subject is interpreted as self-indulgent gratuitousness.
Make no mistake, precision playing, elaborate ideas and lyrical invention is as derided as it is praised in music criticism. One man’s epiphany is another’s nightmare.
Take El Paso’s The Mars Volta. On the one hand their conceptual opuses narrating visions from drug-induced comas backed by wildly elaborate progressive rock is viewed in some quarters as nigh-on revolutionary. In others they’re a crime against sound.
Fourth time around, and the Volta’s key duo, Cedric Bixler (vocals) and Omar Rodriguez (guitars and production), chronicle the chaos that evolved after purchasing a Ouija board named ‘The Soothsayer’. Flooded studios, injured limbs, sacked drummers and the LP’s original engineer sectioned resulted in the Ouija board being buried in the desert with Lopez swearing never to reveal its whereabouts.
A tall story indeed, but rock & roll loves mythology (and marketing departments thrive on novelty – note the vinyl format folds out for your very own version of the Soothsayer, and if that doesn’t suffice you can play the game online). But what sounds like a flight of fantasy translates into a fantastical trip of musical madness.
Take four minutes into Goliath, when a wall of noise is sucked into the abyss and a demonic wurlitzing organ pops to fore only to be drowned out by their new titan behind the kit Thomas Pridgen who unleashes merry hell clattering like man’s survival depends on it.
Indeed, Bedlam is both the Volta’s most rock-heavy record, yet equally their most straight-forward. Gone are the extraneous swathes of noise that weighed down its underwhelming predecessor Amputechture, here, the Volta concentrate their ideas on monolithic guitars and slam-dunk rhythms.
That’s not to say Bedlam is an easy listen – far from it, Bixler’s multitude of vocal morphing and incomprehensible lyrics twinned with Rodriguez’s shape-shifting studio theatrics will quickly see off those Hard-Fi fans feeling slightly adventurous.
And if that’s not enough the nine minute Cavalettas includes a flute solo.
The Bedlam In Goliath, like their previous three records, will once again split listeners firmly into two camps, but significantly what stops it from bettering their debut Deloused In the Comatorium is that it fails to add to their already far-reaching musical palette.
Indulgent, maybe. A great listen, certainly.
For fans of: HP Lovecraft, Bitches Brew, Underwater vocals.
8/10

Black Mountain: In The Future
Jagjaguwar
They’re a funny lot Black Mountain. Picture the scene: Holed up in their Vancouver Hive and furry-faced Stephen McBean has finally finished laying down his umpteenth psyche guitar overdub when turning to Amber Wells he says: ‘Hey, why don’t we call this one In The Future!’
Oh the japes…
Anyways, irony aside, Black Mountain are the bollocks. Colossal guitarscapes pulled from a land time forgot, oodles of mellotron and primal wailing from Wells offset by McBean’s carefree drawl equate to a rich pot of lava-like anthems rooted in retro. Sludgy, meaty and wholesome.
Building on their many side-projects, the five-piece have outgrown the stoner swagger of their self-titled debut, to include the wind-swept balladry of Angels and the Lightning Dust-infused solemnity of Night Walks.
There’s also a larger dose of smouldering melancholia (see Tyrants with its proggy sequencers) and plaintive Americana (Wild Wind).
But it’s their characteristic cosmic riffs which finds them at their strongest, like a thinking man’s Kyuss, Wucan is drenched in effects and snaking organs, Stormy High is four minutes of peak Black Sabbath, while the 16-minute Bright Lights is an assault of punishing, sweat-soaked bombast.
A stunning listen for sure, just don’t expect unexpected.
For fans of: Led Zeppelin III.
7.5/10

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