Coal (Beggars Banquet)
Dark, edgy pop music. Rich and romantic with some wicked acoustic flourishes and shades of Pulp, Roxy Music and Tindersticks. This is probably the least fashionable music on the page (haven't seen the other reviews but I'll give it a punt) and is pretty damn cool. Top Christmas present for your literary loved ones if you want to show a bit of creativity and get them something that - SHOCK HORROR - they weren't expecting. Ace album. Intoxicating and sexy.
Stray Point Agenda (Dented Records)
The hardest thing about reviewing a type of music you’ve never given much time to is keeping an open mind. In the case of Hip-Hop, it meant challenging preconceptions caused by a small knowledge of mainstream rap and the likes of 50 Cent and Snoop Dog who have always seemed to me to be sexist, homophobic idiots.
That said, Stray Point Agenda thematically is at least slightly different with references to hoes, bitches, and bling kept to a minimum with only overly regular mentions of cannabis seeming typical of the genre. The album starts well enough with interesting sampling on the intro but quickly goes downhill - at 18 songs long it does feel like a bit of a marathon and certainly peaks too early with the most memorable and catchy song - Slo-Speed -coming far too early on.
One of the other highlights - On A Winter’s Day - has a slow rhythm and a more laid-back feel, with those oh-so-familiar Mama’s and Papa’s lines drifting elegantly through the background.
Apart from this, the album is okay but not brilliant, feeling too long with many of the songs just too samey. Lyrical attempts at the political seem a bit too obvious (we’re all aware that America invaded Iraq without the backing of the U.N) but you can’t fault them for trying. It’s alright but I’m certainly no hip-hop convert…yet.
Uneasy Listening, Volume 1 (Columbia)
While it's true that H.I.M. have a slew of special editions, Europe-only releases, singles, EPs, Japan-only tracks, etc., they all have their perverse charm.
Uneasy Listening Vol 1 is another such collection, but it's not a repackaging job -more an alternative collection of rarities, alternative acoustic remixes, and versions of previously released well-known tracks.
Each track has slight but definite differences to their original counterparts - mostly of a more sentimental side. The best of which being the acoustic version of Funeral of Hearts, with its lilt and absolutely naked vocal. Then there's Close to the Flame from The Rappula Tapes, with its aching, gorgeous guitars and skeletal beat. Tracks such as Join Me In Death and When Love and Death Embrace are both great remixes that haven't been drastically changed, but of course have that achingly noticeable difference which is trademark H.I.M; as is singer Valo’s romance obsessed lyrics, reminiscent of a gothic Bryan Adams almost.
If you’re not familiar with H.I.M already, I’d suggest starting with a more mainstream album as this one is for die hard fans patiently awaiting the next ‘proper’ instalment. It's a good value package, and should hopefully fill the void of anyone who simply can't wait for the next real album to appear.
The Black Market Sound (Whisk EP)
Originality is essential in today’s music scene if it is to evolve and progress. I’m usually surprised to hear new and exciting music amongst the sort of skinny jean wearing garbage plastered on the front of the NME each week. As a fan of innovative artists, I was pleased to hear The Black Market Sound.
On first listening to their five-track e.p. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. The sound is so dense and so intricate that each time I listened, something new would grab my attention. With samples ranging from Richard Burton to Hendrix, via Johnny Dangerous, revolving around beats and keyboards, The Blackmarket Sound show complete creative freedom.
The standout track is Chessking, which demonstrates a vast depth and breadth of sampling played out over a driving beat, resulting in three minutes of swagger inducing trip-hop. The final track – Lesson 167 – was recorded in 2005 and goes to show how far the guys have progressed since then. The other tracks are much smoother and sound far more polished and at times the mixing resembles one or two of the tracks from the classic “Dark Side of The Moon”.
Whether or not they will ever achieve commercial success is uncertain, but the Black Market Sound seem to be having plenty of fun.
Imaginary Kingdom (EMI)
This reminded me of the soundtrack to There’s Something About Mary; very laid-back and la-di-da. It slips easily between decades and is the perfect accompaniment to an aged hippie’s summer BBQ.
This is Finn’s seventh solo album, after stints with Split Endz and the more famous Crowded House, and it's a definate play to his solid fanbase - chirpy, simple, and effortless. Finn’s at-times haunting vocals remind you who inspired David Grey, in fact.
Couldn’t Be Done is the highlight; very summery with hints of early Weezer in the chorus- it even touches on The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The same goes for Still The Song. When the songs weren’t so cheerful, though, they were mundane - he did this much better in his Crowded House heyday.
Inward Parts (Lime)
Shouty, up-for-it guitar louts. Yes Mate, ideal for the 17 year old cousins at Christmas. There is so much of this stuff knocking about, it's hard to know what's shit and what's not.
Some cool chiming 80s guitars, American punk verse/chorus sensibility and the lyricist has got a large chips and gravy on each shoulder and some mates with annoying habits that he's taking to task.
The trouble is that Kim Deal is a better bass player, Alex Turner is a better writer and singer, and in fact everything about Inward Parts is substandard in the way that you hear a really good band's early demos and think "God they were rubbish", then feel all warm cause you love them now and they have wised up. The Others will be great when the songwriting loosens up and the band catch up with it. Watch this space.