Posted by: ben | August 7, 2009

the checkout: july

Annie Header

Ben: August. Already. This is ridiculous. Where, precisely, is the balmy sunshine we were promised? My music buying is really suffering – I want to buy more summery sunshine pop but with this horrible weather, what’s the point?

Grumbles aside, it’s time for the monthly roundup of our music purchases. Lots of bits to discuss this time. Hold tight…

I’ll go first for a change. What’ve I got? This little lot:

Speaking In TonguesSeu JorgeOrange Juice - The Glasgow SchoolMade In The DarkAICSAnnieDear Science thumbDLM

The only new release of note this month was the Duckworth Lewis Method album. I think we may have mentioned that once or twice in the recent past so let’s say it’s a fab old school pop album and leave it at that. If you’ve not explored, do.

During a visit to Bristol at the start of the month I stumbled upon – joy of joys! – a still open branch of Fopp and gorged myself on its bargainous offerings. Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues is a bit of a cheat choice for me to build up my collection – I have Stop Making Sense and this is the ‘proper album’ to that live tour. It’s blinking ace though – driving down the M4 in the blazing sunshine (honest!), windows down and with Found a Job pumping out the stereo made me grin like the arse I am. The limited edition of Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark was worth the three measly quid for Ready for the Floor alone (though the DVD’s good fun), and Seu Jorge’s collection of Portuguese Bowie covers recorded for The Life Aquatic a few years back is nice, wilting guitar balladry of the sort that makes Jack Johnson weep with plastic envy.

This month was the month wherein I finally caved to Dan’s constant pesterings and bought two of his more hyped albums. Laura Marling’s Alas I Cannot Swim is quite nice in an ethereal, wispy kind of way – the lovely box set it came in is better than the album itself mind. TV on the Radio’s Dear Science isn’t as great as he made out. I’m trying with it but it’s a little too heavy on the Dave Fridmann. I need to make more effort on that front.

The big big big joy of this month has been Annie’s debut Anniemal from a few years back. It is blinking amazing. Properly, properly great. Simple little catchy melodies, great electronica production (teatunes favourites Royksopp are involved on a few tracks) and that voice! Oh, that voice! She’s got a second album due any time now (record company wanglings permitting) which I’ll jump on. If you’ve never heard you really should do.

Finally, in a lustful retro moment I finally bought a copy of the Orange Juice compilation released on Domino a few years ago. It’s a great album in itself, casually charting the progression of the band from their roots whilst missing the big moments you’ll already know. It’s disconcerting having such a compilation without having Rip It Up but it works – it’s a history rather than a greatest hits.

I sat and listened to Joy Division’s (admittedly excellent) Unknown Pleasures then put Orange Juice on immediately afterwards. At the risk of being overly controversial (ooo!), I know which side of the fence I sit. ‘Mon the sound of young Scotland!

Dan: You might see a recurring theme in my selection of new music for the month:

Do-The-JoyMiles Fisher EPDLMNV3OutsideEarthling
HoursHeathenRealityYoung AmericansHeroes

I went a bit mad with the Bowie buying. I got his last five albums in a box set, so it’s not as bad as it seems. Is it? Anyway, I haven’t actually managed to get around to listening to Earthling, Hours, Heathen, or Reality yet so I can’t review them. I shall strive to get around to it for next month’s checkout post for you.

You might have also noticed that I’ve not stuck to the usual ‘album-only’ requirement. In the selection above is the new single from Air (Do The Joy), and an EP from Miles Fisher with the imaginatively titled Miles Fisher EP. I feel I should mention the Air single as it was only released on iTunes to subscribers of Air’s newsletter. Of course you can hear it elsewhere now and judge for yourselves. I’m undecided on it. It’s a better than the disaster that is Pocket Symphony, but doesn’t hit the heights of Talkie Walkie or Moon Safari. It’s not atrocious though so I’ll see what the album is like when it gets released.

Miles Fisher is an actor. That should have set off alarm bells in your head – very few actors turned singers are of good quality. I hear She & Him (Zooey Deschanel) are pretty good though I’ve yet to listen to their album. But I digress. Miles Fisher is actually pretty good – he won’t amaze you, but his quirky electro-indie-pop is very listenable (especially as it’s free to download here). His cover of Talking Heads’ This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) is inventive, yet retains the charm of the original. It’s not as good, but does have a lovely (read: American Psycho style) video.

Now onto the albums. As Ben said, there’s nothing more to add about DLM – if you’ve missed it, you’ve missed out. The other new release is Nouvelle Vague’s third album: 3 (another imaginative title). As with their previous albums the songs vary greatly in terms of quality. Some tracks are godawful and should never have been attempted (God Save The Queen), while others are stunning (Ca Plane Pour Moi and The American are particular standouts). The best thing about Nouvelle Vague is that they basically re-invent each track from the ground up. The lyrics stay the same, but the vocals and music are almost entirely different. That’s why it’s acceptable to like Nouvelle Vague even though they’re a covers band. Their genius shines through the most on their cover of So Lonely by Sting and The Police (*spit*). By turning it into a stripped down, quiet, solemn sound they transform it into a decent song with actual emotion instead of bland genero-rock.

Finally we get to Bowie. I’ll start with the one album I have heard from the box set – Outside. It’s a concept album about a detective investigating a spate of art-murders. It’s best that you don’t try and understand it. It doesn’t add anything to the music or the experience. The music is great in places and has a similar Scott Walker style ‘distance’ to it. However, it does start to turn into itself about half way through. It’s too long, and runs out of places to go. Hallo Spaceboy is great though – check the Spotify link below to hear it.

 The other two Bowie albums I bought this month are a little older. Young Americans is surprisingly poppy for this early in his career. It’d make more sense if it were released after the Berlin Trilogy instead of before it. The only downside to the album is that it has Fame on it. That and Fashion are probably the only two Bowie tracks I actually don’t like but it’s the last track which makes it easy to skip.

Speaking of the Berlin Trilogy, we come to the last and best album of the month – “Heroes”. As a big fan of Low I’ve been looking forward to this one (Lodger next!). “Heroes” is sublime through and through. I never really appreciated the title track until I heard it in context here. Suddenly I was obsessed with it. Fortunately the rest of the album is of such a high quality that I didn’t get too distracted. It all sounds like the usual great Bowie rock for the first half of the album – then you get to V-2 Schneider. This is the first in a set of 4 instrumental tracks, all of which are incredible to listen to. Put some headphones on and enjoy the vast soundscape and varying styles. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was released in 1977, I’d say it was where the 80s were born.

To wrap up, help yourself to our usual selection of audiovisual treats:

Our Favourite 5 Tracks of July

Ben:

Orange Juice – Blue Boy
Annie – Chewing Gum
Talking Heads – Making Flippy Floppy
Seu Jorge – Changes
Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor

Dan:

David Bowie – Hallo Spaceboy
David Bowie – V-2 Schneider
David Bowie – Right
Duckworth Lewis Method – The Nightwatchman
Tom Waits – Martha

Listen to our top 10 using Spotify!

We’re fans of Charlotte Hatherley and are very excited about her upcoming new album. Her latest single is out soon, and the video for it is embedded here for your pleasure.

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