Posted by: ben | April 1, 2009

the checkout: march

checkoutmarchheaderThe 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.

Ben: Yep, it’s that time of the month already! Time for Dan and I to discuss our new musical purchases over the past month. This month, Dan buys a lot and Ben buys little. I’ll go first to warm you up:

Only three albums from me this month. To be fair, three’s a good average for what I normally buy, last month being an exception due to the number of closing down sales that were going on. I feel guilty looking back at that list – I still haven’t given due care and attention to Nina Simone or Tony Christie.

The only new release purchased this month is the Airborne Toxic Event’s self-titled debut. It was a purchase I took a bit of a risk on – normally I don’t buy heavily talked-up debuts without seeing the band first but a freebie track on iTunes suggested that they could be something special. A little bit Arcade Fire-y, perhaps, without said band’s hook on retrospection. Sadly this was not the case – it’s a very obvious West Coast album – a drug reference here, a nod to teenage disillusionment there, a little bit of a scream in the middle and we’re done. The ridiculous indie strumming style and the disinterested vocals of Mikel Jollett make this sound like an American Razorlight which is, frankly, all you need to know. Pity that they’ve now besmirched my favourite Don DeLillo novel by nicking their title from him. Bah.

The two back catalogue titles were both much nicer. With the change in the weather I’ve been longing for summery pop – with the Beatles and Yo La Tengo’s last album both fit the bill nicely.

For too long I’ve thought that the Beatles back catalogue started with Rubber Soul and have never really bothered to examine their Shadows-esque first few albums. I’m glad I saved them as they soundtrack jaunts around country roads nicely. I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is a little more experimental but the songs in the middle are also great for purpose. I’ll admit that I keep skipping over the long tracks right now as they seem weird and scary. Tis not the season!

I’ve been listening to Tonight: Franz Ferdinand quite a lot this month. After being very skeptical in our discussion, I’ve changed my mind entirely. I love the whole damn thing from start to end (with the brief exception of Dream Again). Playing it through my stereo, the bassline shone through and the electro-pips made more sense. It deserves to sell much better than it has.

Dan: My side of this post is going to be considerably larger, as I have once again managed to buy half a shop’s worth of new albums. So without further ado, here, are the albums released this month that I’ve bought:

I’ve had a proper result this month, as I have a copy of Dear Reader’s debut album before you. It’s not due out in the UK until April, but it gets a nod now because I found it in an indie record store, thus making it the first album I’ve had a copy of before its official release! The best thing about that is how good it is, and you can confirm this by listening to the whole thing here. Loney, Dear has released his last album (under that name anyway), Dear John, and it’s very good as well. I like it better than Loney, Noir, which is the only other album of his I have so far. Finally, Royksopp return with the first of two albums they’ve recorded for 2009. While Melody A.M. was laid back, Junior is an highly energetic dance pop album, which pleases me no end. It’s a strong album, totally different to their debut, but (dare I say it?) just as good. It should be played in nightclubs everywhere, but inevitably won’t be. Partly because it’s good, and mostly because it would get people like me on the dancefloor, poking everyone’s eyes out with their elbows as they struggle to ‘dance’. Fortunately, it’s streaming in it’s entirety here. In short, a successful month for new releases. Now on to the albums I’ve bought that have been available for longer.


Oh crikey, that’s a fair few albums, isn’t it? As usual, I’ve bought damn near every CD missing from my library that’s available at a sensible (cheap) price. I won’t learn, though because most of what I have here is great in some way or another, and I have an addiction.

This month has mostly been about filling in back catalogues. I finally have a full set of Blur, which has taken an embarrassingly long time considering I should have bought them when they were released. Leisure is surprisingly catchy and engaging, while Blur and Think Tank might take a few more listens before I can give proper judgment. The Eels’ back catalogue has also been filled with the addition of Shootenanny! and Souljacker. I’d not taken much interest in either of these, as most people mention the first 3 albums when talking about the Eels. But Souljacker is great, and probably their most accessible record, while Shootenanny! is good, but nothing spectacular or too different from their other albums. Oh, and get Souljacker with the rather wonderful 22 Miles Of Hard Road EP.

The other albums are a mixture of long-sought-after, and ‘Ooh! Get In!’ finds. To stop this getting too wordy, I’ll sum each up in a sentence or two.

Aberfeldy’s Forever Young is good, but hasn’t hooked me yet. You’ll all recognise ‘Summer’s Gone’ from an advert of three, so it’s worth a listen. This Is Alphabeat is infectious pop that gets over-produced and runs out of energy by the second half, though I don’t have the original version, which is supposed to be better. Bob Dylan’s The Times, They Are A-Changin’ is okay, but doesn’t have much greatness to offer past the title track, at least not yet. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more as I get older. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago is great, in a haunting yet heartfelt way, which now ranks highly on my best of 2008 list. The Zuton’s debut album is nice, if uninventive pop; and Port O’Brien’s first studio album suffers in a similar fashion, having little variation throughout, but it does have its moments.

My Brightest Diamond live to the expectations they set last month with their cover of ‘Feeling Good’ from the Dark Was The Night compilation, and Royksopp’s The Understanding (bought after Junior) is okay, but seems to be their weakest record. Neil Young’s After The Goldrush is highly accomplished, though not as good as the amazing Harvest. Outkast’s double album is an oddity. Speakerboxxx is standard, uninventive hip-hop, but it’s alright. The Love Below is much better, with a Stevie Wonder style and a nice sense of introspection. Plus it has ‘Hey Ya!’ on it. The Super Furry Animals’ Love Kraft is good, but I need to listen to it a bit more yet, in anticipation of next month’s Dark Days/Light Years. After Ben’s recommendation last month, I found a copy of Maroon, and can confirm that it is indeed great, though I think ‘I Can’t Believe You’re Gone’ is a strong enough track to deserve at least a mention, something neglected in Ben’s post. Finally, there’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Take Them On, On Your Own, which I’ve not listened to yet, but I’m not expecting it to be as good as Howl or their self-titled debut.

Sorry, that still got a bit wordy, didn’t it? I’ll try and hold back a bit next month, if only to save me spending so much time adding the hover-over text to each of those thumbnails. Anyway, there’s just enough time to make you strain your eyes further with our favourite 5 tracks of the month and a video.

Our Favourite 5 Tracks of March

Ben:

The Beatles – Money (That’s What I Want)
Yo La Tengo – Scooby Driver
Daft Punk – Aerodynamic
The Thrills – The Midnight Choir
The Divine Comedy – When The Lights Go Out (live ’94)

Dan:

Alphabeat – Fascination
Bon Iver – Creature Fear
Dear Reader – Never Goes
Eels – Souljacker Part 1
Royksopp – The Girl And The Robot

Update: Spotify playlist here! Unfortunately, The Beatles, Yo La Tengo and Dear Reader are 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!

Dan: It’s my turn to share a video this month, and I’ve chosen this:

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