The last in Getintothis‘ album reviews for 2010 finds Liverpool talent Forest Swords, Mugstar and Capac delivering, Robyn and The National producing career-bests and Arcade Fire excelling in the ordinary.
The National: High Violet – Album of the Week for May
Strange having the psyche of Patrick Bateman soundtracking your year. Even stranger when there’s a warmth and wholesome musical backdrop accompanying such lyrical affairs as ‘I was afraid I’d eat your brains‘ or ‘lay the blue bodies with old red violets‘.
Yet that’s exactly the tone of High Violet, composed almost cosy classic rock underpinned by the bristling semi-psychotic voice of Matt Berninger afraid of the modern condition, at odds with the world’s ordinary yet foreboding landscape and desperate to escape everyday demons.
Coursing throughout, Berninger burrows that baritone into 11 tracks of startling beauty; from Terrible Love‘s marching swell and coo-ing harmonies, to the blockbusting Bloodbuzz Ohio‘s train-wreck of emotional ruin before closing amid of choral swell of sad bastard melodrama on Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.
Regular Getintothis readers will be well aware of the high esteem REM are held in round these parts and it’s fair to draw parallels between The National‘s slow rise up the indie circles to that of the Atlanta Georgians – and High Violet may just be their Automatic For The People.
A uneasy record which is a joy to listen to – it’s hard to imagine them bettering this.
Robyn: Body Talk Part 1
Robyn: Body Talk Part 2
Robyn: Body Talk Part 3
People keep asking why Robyn – clearly the finest female pop star on the planet – isn’t more successful/more prevalent in the press/Queen of Sweden etc.
The answer’s pretty simple – she has the image of a cybotic lesbian from the year 2075, kicked off her first record of 2010 with a track called Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do which listed all her problems which were ‘killing her’ (alcohol, drugs, shopping, ego, PMS…) and then went on to release three albums this year. Since when did mainstreamers dig unconventionality?
But where the masses are missing out, fans of super-slick, emotionally-charged, uber-pop are in for the win with a trio of records containing over 20 sure-fire belters.
And it’s Robyn’s cany knack for making deliriously UP numbers contrasted by lyrics of abandon, loss and desperation which is the real deal breaker.
Sure Body Talk Part 3 is a bit of a cop-out with only a handful of new tracks – the remainder assorted from Parts 1 and 2 with the odd reworking – but you simply can’t fail to won over by the strength of pop classics on offer.
Forest Swords: Dagger Paths
No Pain In Pop
Harold Pinter was the master of silence on the stage. But one of the hardest tricks to pull off in music is do seemingly little yet create oceans of spine-tingling emotion.
Forest Swords‘ Matt Barnes does just that. Repetition, loops, shuffling drone, a drizzle of thuds and murmurs from the abyss are all utilised sparsely but with deadly effect.
Much blogged about, much hyped about – especially Stateside (see Getintothis‘ interview below) – yet still a relative unknown in his hometown, Barnes has continued to plough a lone furrow on Merseyside – but 2011 could well be his year.
And on the evidence of the re-released Dagger Paths it’s easy to see why.
Coming on like a close cousin to DJ Shadow‘s seminal Endtroducing, it gathers found sounds, cryptic montages (Aliyah and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are both submerged within the textures), a Morricone guitar twang and a soulful dub aesthetic which is both haunting and beautiful.
But it’s in the passages of almost-silence – vast chasms of droning nothingness – that Barnes works his magic. Take Hoylake Mist, indebted to his Wirral landscape, it exudes a stillness and a menace as Barnes’ cyclical beats stir up a slow groove which perhaps reflect nature’s simplicity and it’s latent danger.
The effect is mesmerising – the sound of the sea, the wind and the undoubted power of the silence.
Getintothis speaks to Forest Swords.
ps: As I write this he’s just been named FACT Magazine‘s 2010 album of the year.
When Getintothis helped pick the line-up for Liars‘ Liverpool Music Week showcase there was only one band I was desperate for inclusion: Mugstar – and Lime was central to that choice.
A cyclical beast of a record, which builds on debut Sun Broken‘s whirlwind spacerock introducing several more layers of ferocity and some cunning added extras to boot.
Radar King spends seven minutes working itself into a frenzy before everything collapses into a bass-led pang reminiscent of Floyd‘s Echoes injected with a heavy dose of speed.
Closer Beyond the Sun is essentially an epic throb broken up with subtle harmonies of electronic pulses brought to a new level with hymnal keys and a delicate sea of guitars.
But best of all is the 13-minute Serra – a track which nearly reduced Static Gallery to rumble during their Liars‘ support slot.
A monumental bank of keyboard whirls trade for prime position with what sounds like a possessed snake charmer noodling in the background before keyboards of the Dr Dre variety snab into the mix lending a hypnotic cut and thrust which is positively mesmerising.
Where the Liverpool space cadets go from here is anyone’s guess, but for now Getintothis is happy to follow them into orbit.
On The Shelf Records
Great stuff’s been brewing for sometime in Capac City. Formed, what seems like ages ago as A Cup of Tea, they’ve since expanded to a trio – Gaz Solomon, Stu Cook and Joshua Davenport – landed decent support slots in the capital, produced a horror soundtrack as part of the Liverpool Biennial, had their music featured on numerous TV programmes and recently saw a track featured for inclusion on Radio 1‘s Huw Stephens‘ latest compilation on Wichita Records.
Not bad, eh? But, you can see why as Pastels is a veritable smorgasbord of fractured beats, rumbling dubstep and in Circle, Yes the kind of purdy infectious track Apple would kill for to shift another billion white things.
Whether kicking back on the dreamscape Kompakt-esque May Hill or applying supercharged white beats (Palindrome), there’s an organic, innately human quality at work which distinguishes this Liverpool lot from a hoard of other laptop lackeys doing the rounds. More, please.
No Age: Everything In Between
Two weeks after this record landed on my doormat two CD players broke. Typical.
So two weeks of bouncing round the bedroom like a labrador were brought to a sudden halt in favour of 6Music – which is alreet an all but compared to the thunder of this record seemed a little unfair.
Worse still, I’d missed the boat for Santa’s What Do You Want For Christmas, List? Typical.
Anyways, from what I can remember, where Nouns brought the noise, No Age have somewhat flipped the discordance in favour for a more straightforward rock record which, while still sounds like Sonic Youth on a bust-up radio, it’s all the more better for it. Hang on a mo’ – maybe No Age killed my record player?
Emeralds: Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Does It Look Like I’m Here? is essentially the Star Wars bar supergroup of Edgar Froese, Michael Rother and Klaus Schulze gurgling away in a corner with Gavin Russom, Klaus Dinger and LindstrÃÅŸm directing the percussive element as Rutger Hauer makes a timely cameo adding some much-needed gnarly psycho element to proceedings.
I realise that review is basically a Paul Morley job with a long list of names, but to be honest there’s only so many ways you can describe 12 tracks of spectacular whooshing synth-driven krautrock so that’ll have to do.
Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Perhaps the most ordinary release of the year by a once extraordinary band. Bloated to the point of collapse, there’s a mere handful of tracks which either live up to the glorious urgency of their superlative debut (Empty Room) or move forward into innovative new terrain (Sprawl II – Mountains Beyond Mountains).
In the chugging City With No Children and REM-aping Suburban War it does contain evidence of what made them such a special talent, but for the most part this is run-of-the-mill rock – Regina‘s presence is sadly minimal and Win has lost that desperation and retained Neon Bible‘s grating preachy element – and were it not for the lack of big stadium bands with any credibilty you’d suspect rock journalists everywhere would have nailed their stamp of approval to a more worthy offering.