Posted by: dan | May 7, 2009

the checkout: april

aprilheader

Dan: April has been a busy month for us both, so there’s very little in the way of new music that has drifted our way. In fact, Ben’s gained more new music than I have, which must be a first! There’s still plenty to discuss, and perhaps this month we can actually do so in a bit more detail! It also means I don’t have to fiddle around trying to sort several thumbnails of album covers, which is a bonus. So without further ado, here are the albums we’ve listened to this last month.

Ben:

Did I mention that I went to Scotland at the beginning of this month? Glasgow has a plethora of lovely record shops that meant I could purchase a load of back catalogue titles all for next to nothing. Hence: Peter, Bjorn and John’s Writer’s Block, Arctic Monkey’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Lemon Jelly’s ‘64-’95 were all three quid each in good ole Fopp on Byres Road in Glasgow, whilst Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and The Magnetic Fields’ Holiday were only £5.99 each in Monorail in Merchant City.

Of those, I’m surprised at how taken I am with Writer’s Block. Like most, I’d bought it largely only for the whistly Young Folks but have caught myself humming Amsterdam more than once. A great poppy little album made all the more enchanting by some dodgy English translation. ’64-’95 is, sadly, pretty awful, lacking the charm or wit of Lost Horizons. Arctic Monkeys is, well, Arctic Monkeys – fun enough for me to bop along to and remember nights lost in sweaty student nightclubs.

Pick of the month, inevitably, goes to both Neutral Milk Hotel and The Magnetic Fields. Stephin Merritt produces so much I always find gaps in my collection, and Holiday‘s absence has been notable for way too long. Once you’re past the inevitable lo-fi production from that era, the songs are the best kind of pop imaginable. Aeroplane, meanwhile, is just amazing. Amazing. Confounding all expectations, it’s not twee or lo-fi or maudlin but a great summer album. Lovely.

Speaking of summer albums, my desire for poppy pop music in light of the sunshine continues from April. MGMT’s album is great for driving around with the sunshine down and makes me look forward to the beach; Conchords provides light relief. As an aside – I don’t really like the Conchords’ TV series at all but their songs in isolation are blumming great. Well produced enough to not get tiresome like other comedy albums too.

Elsewhere this month, I got given an advance copy of Stuart-Murdoch-from-Belle-&-Sebastian‘s soloish album God Help the Girl this month. It’s… ok. I want to reserve judgement for further proper listenings but I’m not getting on so well with it. Have to see.

Coming up in May: the Zoey van Goey debut album. Oh boy!

Dan:

It’s been a bit of a disappointing month for new music for me. Few new releases, and little in the way of bargains about to help fill gaps in my collection or expand into new areas. Nevertheless, I do have something from each of those categories, but not as much as I usually do. New releases first, then.

The Super Furry Animals return with Dark Days/Light Years, and I nabbed a vinyl copy, as it comes with the album on CD as well, and the price is the same. Plus the vinyl version has a huge print of the cover art, which is very fancy, but I find the style to be a bit of an eyestrain. The music is somewhat better, though. The only SFA albums I can’t get enthused about are Guerrilla and Hey Venus! (I don’t have Mwng yet), but the rest are good, with my favourite still being Rings Around The World. I know many would disagree, but it works the best as an album, I find. And Dark Days/Light Years doesn’t. It has moments of greatness, and a few patchy areas, but it’s exceptionally average. I’ve listened to it twice, and don’t feel any compulsion to go back to it all. The other new release is King Creosote’s third studio album, Flick The V’s. After the first listen, I was disappointed. It didn’t seem like Kenny Anderson’s work at all. But then I found myself wanting to go back to it, and it’s slowly growing on me. It’s not as good as KC Rules OK, but it has its charms.

Filling the back catalogue this month is The Smiths’ self-titled debut, which is the least impressive of their albums, and I think I was right to leave it this long before getting it. It’s not the ideal starting point, but is perfectly acceptable for established fans. I’ve also fallen back on Bowie’s supreme talent again, and increased my collection with Station to Station, which has TVC15 in the middle. The album is worth buying for this track alone. I was never astounded by the version from the Best Of collection, but at an expanded 5:33, it has more time and power to grab you and show off. As I’ve just finished reading Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and George Orwell’s 1984, Diamond Dogs was a must. The last 4 tracks were created for a 1984-based concept album which was halted by Orwell’s estate. While the tracks are good, it’s hard to imagine a full-blown album being a suitable homage.

Which leaves the new, unexplored areas. I’ve never really got into Portishead, and Third is doing little to convince me otherwise. Again, there are moments of greatness, but I’ve not been tempted to go back after the one listen I’ve given it so far. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but I’m so far unimpressed. I didn’t buy the new Butcher Boy album, React Or Die, and I’m quite grateful. The whole thing is streaming on their myspace page, and whilst it’s good music, I can’t help but think of numerous other artists when listening to it. Belle And Sebastian, Badly Drawn Boy, King Creosote and countless others all rear their heads in some form, be it music, lyrics or vocals. It ends up feeling unoriginal, and it’s quite similar in tone to Dear Reader’s debut album, that I mentioned last month, and should be released by the time you read this, and is much better.

As a final few mentions, I’d like to point out that God Help The Girl is actually quite good, but needs listening to a few times. It still feels a little long to me. And Ben bought Neutral Milk Hotel’s glorious In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, prompting me to revisit repeatedly, it being so magnificent it appears in our header image. Right, I’ve waffled enough, here are our top 5 tracks for April, and a video!

Our Favourite 5 Tracks of April

Ben:

Peter, Bjorn and John – Amsterdam
Arctic Monkeys – Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured
MGMT – Kids
Magnetic Fields – Deep Sea Diving Suit
Zoey Van Goey – Foxtrot Vandals

Dan:

David Bowie – TVC15
Super Furry Animals – Inaugural Trams
King Creosote – Rims
Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945
God Help The Girl – Musicians, Please Take Heed

Update: Spotify playlist here! Unfortunately, Arctic Monkeys and Zoey Van Goey 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!

Ben: In anticipation of their album coming in May, have some Zoey Van Goey:

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Responses

  1. No real mention of the Conchords there… admittedly I don’t think the first album has any real draw, probably because it came out about 5 years after those songs had been around Edinburgh festivals and all that. I think the second album should be more fun, the songs have more narrative to the episodes they’re in, and it’s forced them to be (even) more creative. “Bret’s Day” from the new series is an amazing homagé to “Where Do You Go To My Lovely”, you should check that one out:

    • I think that’s why I like the first album – because they’re not encumbered by the narrative of the (patchy) TV series. They’re self-encapsulated, which make them much better as songs for an album. Plus, they’ve had five or six years to mature.

      Not sure about a second album. I’d be far more interested in picking up the original radio series instead.

  2. Oh you should! It’s great!

    • It’s so crazy expensive, though. And appears to feature an awful lot of Jimmy Carr. I’m waiting for a cheaper MP3-CD release, like with Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  3. No no no… Jimmy Carr is in one episode. I can *cough* sort it out for you.

    • I might well take you up on that – thanks!

      How’re you doing for tea samples?

  4. I’m not, really. I meant to have a wander down the M&S tea bit yesterday but didn’t. We’ve got a cast this week… maybe tomorrow or the day after. Just working on the bigger project for it now.


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