Superfast stream-of-consciousness “reviews” just so I can get these things off my desk (yes I still buy a lot of them fuck off) (or desktop as it were) k thnx bye
Hallelujah the Hills - Collective Psychosis Begone
As it is apparently not allowed to discuss Hallelujah the Hills without mentioning the fact that some of the group’s members used to belong to a Boston, MA band called The Stairs, I do so now.
Songwriter/guitarist/singer Ryan Walsh is an old friend of mine and someone whose work I respect very much and will probably talk about more now that he’s become loads more e-famous than me. Ryan was awarded a grant from some place and used the money to record a proper album, which became The Stairs’ debut Miraculous Happens, which I thought was really quite good.
This new record with his new band is getting positive write-ups all over the place, and for good reason. It’s positively anthemic, with nearly every track a journey in and of itself, full of every instrument the group could get their hands on and learn how to play really, really well. Cellos, keyboards, chimes, horns, guitars and Ryan’s cleverly oblique yet highly personal lyrics (the best kind of lyrics, in my opinion), which he often transmits through variously noisy and echoey filters as well as nakedly with nothing but a tinny acoustic guitar to back him up.
Last.fm seems to think that if you like Cold War Kids, Guided By Voices, Okkervil River, Tapes ‘n Tapes and Band of Horses then you’ll like Hallelujah the Hils. I love indie records that sound like the artists actually gave a damn; that they agonized over every layer of instrumentation; and, most importantly, that they had a ton of fun doing it. I wasn’t around Ryan when he was making this, but you can hear his and his bandmates’ personalities all over this record, and it’s one that is sure to endear them to more and more listeners as time goes on.
“Wave Backwards To Massachusetts” (Download)
“Hallelujah The Hills” (Download)
“It’s All Been Downhill Since The Talkies Started To Sing”
“To All My Scientist Colleagues I Bid You Farewell”
Ryan Walsh - “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Live) (Download)
Underworld - Oblivion With Bells
This is Underworld’s fifth studio album and their first since 2002’s disappointing A Hundred Days Off. That one was completed very quickly and came not long after member Darren Emerson had left to pursue his DJ career full time. I said at the time that AHDO was a transition piece, and the group’s output since then has proved me right, I think, because everything since then has been excellent.
Although Oblivion With Bells is their first physical release in five years, they’ve actually recorded several albums’ worth of music since 2002: Lovely Broken Thing, Pizza For Eggs and I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and this is my Horse were digital-only EP releases sold directly from their website, all more than 30 minutes in length, and all original. Additionally, the band have been sitting on another EP’s worth of BANGING tracks they only seem to play live but promise will be released online in the near future.
Msg to Underworld: GET ON WITH IT.
Anyway, Oblivion With Bells is about half a classic Underworld album and half a bunch of noodly bits, which I suppose can be said of even the best bands in any genre of music, so they’re still doing pretty good. The first thing you notice is the artwork, which is auspiciously similar to their glorious “debut,” dubnobasswithmyheadman. The new album has a familiar darkness not heard in years; a sound that’s almost sinister. The already classic “Crocodile” opens the record and leads into “Beautiful Burnout,” in which Underworld define an entirely new kind of electronic anthem. It’s dark and long with the vocoder turned up to 11 and a brilliant live percussion breakdown in the middle.
Other tracks are more cheery, with bouncy verses that give way to layer after layer of banging beats and sunny synths, but that moody Underworld sound is never far away, if only in the form of an instrumental filler track.
Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of fade-outs on this album, which is a practice I loathe. When a song just fades out at the end, I feel like the artist just sort of gave up. My other criticism is more like a backhanded compliment: the songs that are lacking aren’t even that bad of songs, they just weren’t developed enough, or at least in my view were developed badly.
That’s what Emmerson brought to the group, I think. Though not a strong songwriter, he definitely gave Underworld focus and a detached ear, one that could keep the group from disappearing too far up its own ass. It’s no wonder his departure was met with such a ceaseless output of new material. They had several albums’ worth of music ready to go. Imagine what it would have been like if they’d put all the great stuff on one disc?
Oh well, “Beautiful Burnout” is worth all the chaff.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome
I keep seeing this record on “Best of the ’80s” lists and thought it strange that I —known to my friends as a fairly diligent synthpop listener— had never actually heard it, so I picked up the 20th Anniversary Edition and got my headphones on to see what all the fuss is about.
I’m disappointed to report I really didn’t like it. Thought it was noise and won’t listen to it again. Yeah it has “Relax” and “Two Tribes” but they’re remixed to dullness from their more famous 7” versions. It’s not really worth talking about.
Maybe Welcome to the Pleasuredome is just a “you had to be there” kind of record?
M.I.A. - Kala
No, I don’t think it’s as good as Arular, but what chance did Kala ever have at that? This is still a great record with some classic tracks. Some friends and I listened to this together and critiqued it over AIM. There was some controversy over whether Kala is a dance album or not. I say no, not that there aren’t dance tracks on it, but Arular was a straight up dance album. It was hyphy in the extreme. Kala is not.
I was trepidatious about this release after I found out Switch was producing it. There’s not much to say about him; either you think he’s alright or you think he’s not. I only know his work from the crap remixes he’s done for other artists, but I’m forced to say he did quite well with Kala. “Boyz” is a proper M.I.A. banger, and the “Blue Monday” meets “Where Is My Mind?” track “20 Dollar” is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard (although it does sound in parts like M.I.A. is about to sing, “how does it feel” but doesn’t because it’d be too expensive).
However, the best tracks are “Paper Planes” and “Come Around,” produced by Diplo and Timbaland, respectively. “Paper Planes” is for me the best song on the record, and I didn’t even recognize the Clash sample. The Timbaland song is really awesome, too, although I doubt the European 8-bit techno musician he probably stole the music from feels the same way. Oh, can you keep a secret? TIMBALAND IS OVERRATED. Also — a hack.
But I digress.
“Paper Planes” (download)
Radiohead - In Rainbows