Thursday, 29 November 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #339 - Brasstronaut, "Mean Sun"

The cover is of some sci-fi imagined 'scape. The music sounds like it would fit. They are a band (according to their Last FM bio) that "spend most of their time in a van". I suspect them of being a bit posh: one of my enduring themes this year. Although it's not like Pink Floyd were exactly secondary modern lads, eh?

It is hushed epic guitar, brushstroke drums and near-absent keyboard sounds. And there is brass. "The Grove" in particular has a nicely eviscerated feel, brass noises hang in the air in the space where there was other music. That My Bloody Valentine thing. They're from Vancouver, so I imagine there's a lot of space out there west to hang things from.

"Moonwalker" has a touch of the Major Toms: "I'm signing off in space/Remember me this way." There are minimalist touches, orchestral fragments gliding out of the water like dolphins. "Revelstoke Dam" has an eddying mass of them bunched up behind it. There's an air of Badly Drawn Boy that comes through too in the vocal delivery; but the hairy Christ child alone knows why I get that impression. "Hymn For Huxley" has an almost Bond-like guitar riff snaking through the long oboe grasses.

Why would this album have a track called "Falklands" on it? The lyrics seem to be a much more tropical seascape than the images from Goose Green in 1982 would suggest. Dreamy lyrics about diving and swimming and feeding from their hand. Even finds space for a tinkling piano disco stomp in the middle. I like it.

It's like "Mawrth Oer ar Planed Neifion" at the end of Mwng. And I love that track.

Rating: Swollen Brass out of Flooded Dreamscape

The 2kDozen 500: #338 - Tame Impala, "Lonerism"

Massive Beatles overhang. That whiny, overdubbed Lennon vocal, echoing against the walls of his lysergic Primal Scream capsule. Sounds as though George Martin has been tinkering with the timpani - and I like it.

"Apocalypse Dreams" has a lung-bursting pair of legs running through the middle, ideal for exploration of the woozy cosmos. The walls of the middle eight also slide uneasily. Towards the end, some hoarse afterburners are kicked into action - and they spiral down into the sky. "Mind Mischief" also has a bendy Yellow Submarine rainbow bent through the middle of it, curved round a delicious crusty guitar line.

The pony may have the one trick - and a well-worn trick at that. But it's still a powerful one. Even though "Why Won't They Talk To Me?" loops over and over on itself, the bubbly flute works nicely underneath. The heavy drums stake it apart from the less-rooted product from the likes of Ariel Pink. And "Elephant" is beefier yet, steroids mixed in with the acid. It's one of my favourite singles of the year, which helps. Big, shredded keyboard/guitar claws run through the juice in the middle. All good gravy. Afterburners also set to disco; astral skinheads doing headbut ballets with thumbs tucked in their belt loops.

A minor gripe, which I may even quite like, is that a lot of the titles ("She Just Won't Believe Me") reflect that the words don't always match up to the appetite of the music. But the music is so sweet, that it seems churlish to expect more of the words. "Nothing Has Happened So Far..." is falling over itself to paint the ceiling with colour and light. Some nice close-up piano on the closer "Sun's Coming Up" before it dissolves into some reverb-laden guitar wanking. In a nice way.

Rating: Forcing Me out of Baby Retirement

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #337 - Sun Airway, "Soft Fall"

In some ways, this works as an antidote or something more palliative to counteract the increasingly samey electronically-tethered version of pop that is scattered across all the airwaves these days. But it too makes many of the same moves, glides across the same frozen surfaces. "Black Noise" is a slippery case in point: nothing really gets going, stuff about switching on the radio. Is that still a legitimate trope? We're hardly in the days of radio representing freedom - either of the highway, bedroom transistor or Free Europe varieties. What does radio represent now? Just noise. A cacophony of shock jocks and empty-headed breakfast banter.

The three "Activity" tracks are quite nice - in a swirly PSB manner. Chris Lowe at the heart of the controls. The other tracks lack some lyrical pinch ("Over My Head" and "Close", for examples) to tug the music in a different direction. One track that stands out is "Wild Palms", arpeggiated strings flushing out like ferns. I don't know if there's a David Lynch reference in there somewhere - but it has the same dense seethe as the opening shots of the lawn in Blue Velvet.

"Laketop Swimmers" is nice, but suffers from the same problem. Nothing to distinguish it from what is going on everywhere. Images of swimming. Not inspiring.

Rating: Drifting out of Contention

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #336 - Daphni, "JIAOLONG"

500 albums will not be reached, friends.

The biological imperative has kicked in and a 7lb 20z bundle of joy made his presence felt on 6th October, when waters were broken almost five weeks before his due date on 8th November. Since then, it's been hospital stays, dazed days and nights at home and large amounts of parental panic. They have needs, these little critters, and these needs do not include their Dad maintaining blogs of dubious worth.

However, I will try and sneak out a couple more as the year peters out over the next couple of months. If I can get to 365 it will be an achievement, but the Babber is king - so don't be surprised if there are no more than a handful, if that. And what I do will lack depth and insight to an even greater degree than before B Day.

I was listening to this album in those tricky times while my wife was stuck in hospital waiting for Babber to emerge, and it is pretty classy. The lead track in particular, "Ye Ye", is full of swollen, acid menace and low-grade shuffling genius. It has spilled out of some garden shed at the back of dance culture. Dan Snaith is responsible, who has also put together some great tunes as Caribou (and before that Manitoba, before Dick Manitoba became such a ..well, dick about it). It's fantastic and the peak of the album by some distance.

"Light" goes for a walk in the park, ping pong balls of sound bouncing from here to there. Babber has his usual thoughtful face on, not sure what to make of the arpeggios reaching upwards and outwards. "Pairs" is an exercise in artificial congas and cowbells, a motherboard carnival template. There are some satisfying arcade shoot 'em up crunches on "Springs", some more vintage junkyard legacy reward. The sounds get a bit less scratchy and fill out on the closer, "Long". I read the word "granular" in another review and think how clever it is.

And Daphne was my mother's name, so...

Rating: Granular out of Shed