Posted by: dan | March 2, 2009

the checkout: february

The checkout is a monthly review of our musical purchases. These retrospectives not only provide brief guides on the new albums released each month, but also the older albums we’ve only just got around to buying.

Dan: Between us, we manage to buy a large number of new albums each month. It would be an impossible task for us to review each of them, so this feature is designed to provide a quick guide on what we’ve bought that’s good and what’s perhaps not so good. If they’re really good, or a big release, they’ll get a full post review at some point. For example, this month has seen the release of Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast, which we’ve already reviewed here. You can also expect to see reviews up soon for both Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird, and a special look at Ben Folds’ Stems and Seeds.

We’ve also got a section for our new purchases that weren’t released this month, so we can tell you about anything that’s particularly good that you might have missed out on. Again, if the album’s strong enough, we may come back to review it later. For now, it’s all just a musical memento of February.

New Releases:

(Hover over each thumbnail to see who bought each album)

Ben: I don’t tend to buy much in the way of new releases normally. I’m the cheapskate who waits until the albums go down to a fiver or are available on offer somewhere. Hence, only two albums from me: Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird and Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast. Both were purchased largely for the allure of the limited edition – we’ve discussed Andrew’s efforts already and there will be a discussion of Hungry Bird before too long, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Hastily purchased? Possibly. Noble Beast is slowly growing on me, though.

Dan: Despite releases from two big names (Clem Snide and Andrew Bird), and one from a favourite indie kid (Beirut), February hasn’t been a strong month. Sure enough, the albums are good, but there’s nothing spectacular here. Beirut’s double EP is an oddity. The Beirut side is a little too similar to his first two albums, but the Realpeople disc allows Zach Condon to play about freely, and it’s refreshing and enjoyable. Which leaves Dark Was The Night: A Red Hot Compilation, which is almost a list of folk-rock indie bands from the past 10 years. There are contributions from Andrew Bird and Beirut (again – busy month for them), and appearances from Feist, Arcade Fire, David Byrne, Conor Oberst and Sufjan Stevens. These familiar names add nicely to their established canon, but it’s really the bands you’re unfamiliar with that makes it worth the entrance fee, with bands such as The National (surprisingly), Yeasayer and My Brightest Diamond making some of the greatest contributions.

Older Purchases:

(Hover over each thumbnail to see who bought each album)

Ben: Far, far too many goodies this month. Too many shops are closing down or having clearances resulting in ridiculous hordes of albums being bought.

The highlight amongst that little lot is Art Brut’s It’s A Bit Complicated. I’d always veered away from the band, lumping them broadly into the ‘yob rock’ territory (hello, Kasabian and Bloc Party), though when I saw them play the Barfly in Glasgow a few years ago they were grin-inducing. I bought this to complete a three-for-£10 deal and I’m really glad I did – the lyrics are very wry and the style is very poppy, resulting in one grin-inducing record. They’ve got a new one out soon too, which may need pre-ordering.

There’s no real lowlights amongst that collection. The Cardigan’s Gran Turismo isn’t nearly as good as I remember it but still has Erase/Rewind. Remain in Light is hardly the best Talking Heads album but is still miles ahead of anything else circa that period. I guess Rush’s early best-of, Retrospective I, is the only real disappointment. Spirit of Radio is such a great song but the rest feel too… proggy. I want to like but there’s too many endless meanderings.

Dan: Yay: After years of ignorance, I found a whole slew of Grandaddy albums this month. They’re all very good, but have a definite feel of the late nineties about them. As such, I can’t help but feel I might have enjoyed them more had I known about them when the albums were new, but they’re still highly enjoyable. As are TV on the Radio, who have been in my stereo nearly all month. Get Dear Science first, though, as it’s incredible, and a great introduction to the band. King Creosote’s Bombshell has a much fuller sound, but loses some of his charm; and Jens Lekman’s Oh You’re So Silent Jens isn’t quite as ‘complete’ as Night Falls Over Kortedala, but both are worthy additions. And Elvis Costello continues to be a genius.

Nay: Justice – feels like an attempt to be Daft Punk, and just misses out on being infectious, and feels rather flat instead; Tilly and the Wall’s occasional good dance-pop track isn’t quite enough to save them from mediocrity; and Bright Eyes’ Lifted seems almost directionless and ambling in comparison to the stunning Cassadaga. None of these three albums are particularly bad, but they fail to add anything new to their genres, and unfortunately flounder in mediocrity. Maybe they’ll grow on me, and each of them have their moments, but overall, they’re just a little disappointing.

Our Favourite 5 Tracks of February

Art Brut – Nag Nag Nag Nag
Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam
Tony Christie – Cole’s Corner
Clem Snide – Me No
The Housemartins – Happy Hour

TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Grandaddy – AM 180
Jens Lekman – Black Cab
Elvis Costello – Green Shirt
Andrew Bird – Anonanimal

Update: Spotify playlist here! Unfortunately, Art Brut is not currently available. N.B. You will need to have Spotify installed for the link to work. If you do, then you’ll get to hear our favourite tracks this month free!

Ben also kindly requests you watch this video and bop accordingly:



  1. I’m quite freaked out as my podsong this week has a definite Grandaddy feel to it.

    I agree whole heartedly regarding Remain in Light. I always thought there was something wrong with me for not thinking it the best album ever made. I adore Talking Heads, but outside the obvious tracks, I don’t know… I just don’t get excited by it as much as some others. Fear of Music I’m obsessed by.

    Gran Turismo – I had the exact same feeling when I went and systematically bought all their albums in early 2007 (Gran Turismo being the only one I’d previously owned). I remember “Paralyze” being this amazing opening track, and “Starter”, and assimilated in my mind the quality of the track with the ethos of the production. They all sound similar, but they aren’t all “tunes”.

    And after some trepidaton, I now agree that the electronica Realpeople Holland ep is better than the Beirut one. What won it, I think, is the track “Concubine”. I think it shows a happy marriage between the styles he incorporates, which worked well on “Nantes”, and “Sunday Smile”. Though there really isn’t any particularly amazing track (though I like “No Dice” but it basically is a dance version of “Sunday Smile”) you want to tell the world about, which is a pity, as he was running up about three per-release at least.

  2. The Cardigans didn’t do much for me at all past the main three singles from Gran Turismo. The album’s not bad, but it is bland. It is worth it for Erase/rewind and Hanging Around though.

    Beirut’s latest just feels flimsy in comparison to the epic grandeur of Gulag Orkestar, the pomposity of the Lon Gisland EP and the whimsical (yet also a little disappointing) Flying Club Cup. The Realpeople disc is good fun, which makes sense considering how it was made. I was really expecting to like the first disc more, but there you go. And interestingly enough, the Beirut track of the month is Mimizan, which is on the Dark Was The Night compilation. It’s much closer to his original sound than anything on March of the Zapotec.

  3. Yes! It is!

    I wasn’t disappointed by The Flying Club Cup at all though. I love “Forks and Knives”.

  4. It’s not a big disappointment, as it’s still a good album. It just seemed to lose a bit of his enthusiasm in the middle. Sunday Smile and Nantes are both standout tracks, and the album does work well as a whole, but it just feels a little flat after Gulag Orkestar.

    And I’m glad you agree, though I’m not sure what you’re agreeing with.

  5. Oh… Mimizan being good.

  6. So you have the DWTN compilation as well? What are your favourite songs on it?

  7. Mimizan. I wasn’t exactly bowled over by Mr. Bird’s contribution, though I did like it. Just not really loving it. Sufjan didn’t disappoint, he seems to relish any opportunity to crank out a 10 minute epic track about something or other… and “Knotty Pine” with Mr Byrne makes me happy. Stuart Murdoch’s wasn’t what I was expecting, I’m not really sure about that one, yet. To be honest I’ve not put as much time into it as I should have. I find with compilations I quickly find 4 or 5 songs and I concentrate on them before exploring the rest of it more fully.

    • I agree with the tracks you’ve mentioned there, and as for Stuart Murdoch’s contribution, I keep hearing a hook from The Pogues’ A Pair Of Brown Eyes in the chorus introduction. In fact, the whole track has a similar feel, I find.

      Compilations generally are a bit rubbish, but DWTN is full of goodness, and has only a couple of duff tracks (I’m looking at you, Kronos Quartet). For example, My Brightest Diamond’s cover of Feeling Good, Spoon’s Well Alright (very Devo-ish), and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ Inspiration Information are all great.

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