Tag Archives: postaday2011

Review // Chapel Club – Palace

3 Feb

Having a few brain cells and doing some genuinely intelligent referencing has been something of a dirty thing in recent British indie: okay, we’ve had Foals and their clever take on the genre, but their lyrics don’t exactly expand to the intricacies of Plato. For a while it has been good to be openly rough and ready, and showing your cleverness has been limited only to your sound: a little intricacy there, a little thoughtful pause there. Chapel Club are trying to change that by using an expansive, atmospheric sound and combining it with genuinely thought-provoking lyrics.

Unfortunately, their album sometimes feels a little flat and tedious despite all of the thoughtfulness behind it. It’s telling that a former single, ‘All The Eastern Girls’, is perhaps one of the only “great” moments on this record. Lewis Bowman uses a medley of religious imagery to describe the beauty of the girls and oddly it doesn’t feel at all pretentious: instead you’re left feeling quite elated by the grandeur of it all, and it’s what you feel the band were striving to achieve through the whole body of this record. The production is excellent, but the same can’t be said of the mixing on each track. You can’t help but feel that some extra time making the other songs sound as wonderful as ‘All The Eastern Girls’ would have given a boost to the album as a whole.

Generally, the album has an epic atmosphere that often overshadows the intricacies of what Lewis Bowman is singing about. Who can really appreciate the brilliant beauty of his similes, metaphors and imagery when it’s being washed out by loud and hazy guitars? Sometimes, as on ‘Five Trees’, the sound works magically if only because the guitars on the chorus mirror the ‘dust’ that Bowman refers to. ‘The Shore’ is the only time they employ any subtlety but here lies the quiet gem: perversely, the lyrics on this song aren’t as magical and inspired as on the rest of the album. So is the strange dichotomy that is Chapel Club.

It’s hard not to think that if you surgically transplanted Bowman’s lyrics into the music of a more musically acute band like Foals then you’d have a modern musical masterpiece. As it stands, Palace is a wordy album dying under the weight of its own ambition. In trying to marry Bowman’s epic words with melodies and production to match, Chapel Club have pretty much cheated themselves out of a great record. Maybe they were too clever for their own good.

5 OUT OF 10

 

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The Kills // Satellite

1 Feb

So a short time ago I said that the Kills were releasing their next album Blood Pressures in very early April and I gave you the suitably juicy-looking tracklisting. Now they’ve released the first single from the record, ‘Satellite’, and it’s a suitably howling track from the blues-rock duo. But then what did you expect? Smooth jazz? I don’t think so….

The Kills – Satellite by DominoRecordCo

Review // The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

30 Jan

It’s been a few hard years in the making, but The Joy Formidable have finally released their debut album after periods of being a continual support band and numerous teasers on their MySpace site. Now after listening to their scuzzy yet dreamy take on indie-rock they seem to have moved into the realms of epic stadium-worthy tunes.

The strangest thing about listening to The Big Roar is that despite all the use of wall-of-sound and the noise generated from it, there’s a real intimate heart buried underneath it all. Searching for this heart turns out to be the most rewarding part of spinning this a few times – though you’ll probably already be acquainted with a fair few of the gems on offer here. ‘Cradle’ and ‘Austere’, brilliant as they are, have been circulating around for a while and it almost seems like laziness to include songs like these that featured on their mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning. But whatever people might say about this decision, it’s not laziness and it’s not simply a mistake – these songs sit beautifully with the overall feel of The Big Roar and taking them out of there would somehow be counterproductive.

Elsewhere, opener ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ sounds almost like Sonic Youth in its use of distorted guitars and the clatter of random noises that kick-start it. ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ shows off the band’s ability to create a classic lighters-in-the-air moment as it slows the album to a halt with frontwoman Ritzy Bryan’s softer intonations. But always there’s the heart that is so often missing in stadium-ready rock: here demonstrated by ‘Llaw=Wall’, melancholy moment that sounds at first out of place but its purpose on the record is an important one: it shows that The Joy Formidable have their feet planted firmly in the ground, not reaching impossibly for greatness.

The Big Roar is the satisfying, epic record we always hoped The Joy Formidable would produce. Yes, you could criticise them for not making more fresh material but when you hear how this is about as near to a perfect rock record as you could get, it’s easy to forgive these apparent shortcomings. Expect big things for the future.

8 OUT OF 10

The Big Roar is out now on Atlantic Records. You can listen to ‘Austere’ below:

 

This article appears in Faux Magazine Online

Review // Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi

28 Jan

 Britain has had its decent share of women dabbling in dark rock: Anna Calvi is just the latest in this line. With her debut album she treads ground that is familiar to fans of PJ Harvey while proving that she is her own woman.

Calvi’s dark and sumptuous sound can perhaps stem from the fact that she benefited from a more classic education: instead of going to the Brit school like many of her peers, she instead studied music at the University of Southampton. It’s this education, particularly that of classical composers, that informs the way she structures her songs. ‘Rider to the Sea’ is a perfect introduction to her virtuosity, an instrumental piece that isn’t overly self-indulgent and maintains an accessible charm. Then we’re treated to something we rarely hear now: a cut-glass accent cutting through the ironically titled ‘No More Words’. The use of RP here might seem pretentious but it somehow works.

The album is quite atmospheric and makes good use of the slide guitar, as well as Calvi’s characteristic purr. She draws on influences like The Cure, on the 80s-inspired ‘Suzanne and I’, but then unleashes her inner Siouxsie Sioux on the thunderous blast of ‘Desire’. It’s charming, and Calvi knows that she’s not a diva – this makes her easier to listen to than, say, the operatic wailings of Florence Welch who often sacrifices good singing for shouting and posing. Calvi’s work doesn’t suffer from crises such as this. She’s firmly in control of what she wants her music to be, and despite the influences you can hear, it’s a very together piece despite the darkness.

Calvi’s work will not be to everyone’s taste, as the darkness and sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere makes it hard to see chinks of light, but there’s no denying that she is a brilliant prospect who can only grow with time and blossom into one of the great women of British rock.

7 OUT OF 10

Anna Calvi is out now on Domino Records. You can check out ‘The Devil’ below:

 

This article appears in Faux Magazine Online

Black Swan (2011)

27 Jan

Darren Aronofsky doesn’t pigeonhole himself: though he works rigidly within the realms of drama, he’s tackled all sorts of subjects from drug abuse to time travel. Now with his latest Oscar-nominated film he’s taking on the world of ballet. And turning it into a psychological horror.

Black Swan is the story of sweet momma’s girl Nina (Natalie Portman) who strives for perfection in her ballet. When she is surprisingly cast as the Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake, her inability to inhabit the role of the wicked Black Swan leads her down the road to insanity, where she believes that fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her role and she begins to descend into madness.

There were a few things I didn’t actually ike about this movie: first was Natalie Portman who, despite being tipped to pick up the Best Actress Oscar, was completely insipid as Nina and I didn’t feel for her at all. Now, you could say this is because Nina is supposed to be a wimp anyway but there was something about the fact that she continually had a small, weak voice, kept apologizing all the time and spent much of the movie with her face chiselled in either shock, horror or depression that was really annoying: how could anyone actually empathise with this girl? Lily was a much more believable person in that she actually seemed to have a personality that extended beyond being timid.

Secondly, the final third was a bit bogged down in melodrama: while the first hour or so of the film works its way through why Nina might be going a bit crazy and builds up character, the last third consists of little more than the actual performance itself and Nina running around in a panic because she’s seeing things and grappling with her mum because she’s actual concerned for her daughter’s wellbeing – typical, eh? Things get a bit too fast paced to the point where you just want Aronofsky to tone it all down a little – it didn’t quite sit right with the slow build-up and tension that preceded it.

Still, the cinematography is wonderful, especially in the dance sequences (both during the performances and in the training for the roles) and Aronofsky’s camerawork does well to try and get you to be part of Nina’s life by following her around and tracing her steps impeccably. This is the strongest point of the film, which is a shame because you kind of expect a little more from it (what with the hype and all). This doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable and there are the obligatory shocks (even though you can see them coming a mile off). The atmosphere of tension is also sustained throughout, helped by the pulsating sounds and creepy noises that accompany Nina’s voyage into the unknown.

Verdict: Good, even though the main character is completely annoying (trust me, by the end you wish she’d just toughened up instead of moaning all the time). Excellent camera and cinematography make this film instead of the acting, but it’s still worth watching for some of the beautiful imagery and dance sequences.

7 OUT OF 10

Oscars: The Madness of a 10-Film Shortlist

26 Jan

Last year was the first time we saw more than 5 films nominated in one category, the coveted award of Best Picture. It was a farce: there have only been a couple of occasions where the winner of Best Picture and Best Director have been for two different films, and extending the list outwards to appease some people who believe that blockbusters have their place in serious awards ceremonies. Which is often rubbish.

Still, this year has included Christopher Nolan’s brain-warping puzzler of a thriller Inception so surely this means Blockbusters are getting good? Well, yeah – but only if people like Nolan do them, don’t patronise an audience and show some actual originality in their work. Avatar should never have been on the shortlist last year and James Cameron shouldn’t have been in the Best Director category – there was nothing to direct thanks to the “miracle” of motion-capture and the movie was basically a soulless Dances With Blue Wolves against evil American overlords, with a subtext so obvious it might as well have been a brick with the words “Save the Planet” scrawled on it pounding you in the face. Luckily, Inception doesn’t tick any of those terrible boxes.

It does, however, suffer from the curse of the Best Director award: now it’s easier to sift the classic from the average as one comparison between the Best Picture and Best Director categories tells you who’s really in the running.

There’ll be a showdown between The King’s Speech and The Social Network (which pretty much already has the Best Original Soundtrack award in the bag). But no Nolan – so there you go, Inception won’t win anything but maybe some more minor awards. Poor Nolan. When will he get his moment in the spotlight?

So there you have it: what’s the point in having 10 films on the shortlist when you know five of them don’t stand a chance? It’s simply mind-boggling and like the Academy are just putting things in there are as cheap ways of saying “we’re not snobs” – so that’ll be the token Blockbuster and the token animation then. Nice one, panel. That’s one rant over. Now to the other categories….

Sleigh Bells // Tell ‘Em (Diplo Remix)

25 Jan

This is sort of to celebrate the announcement that Sleigh Bells are going on a tour of awesome with Neon Indian and CSS. Yeah, that’s right -Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian and CSS all on one bill. I’m officially jealous of North Americans.

‘Tell ‘Em’ was the most bombastic and in-your-face of all Sleigh Bells’ output from their Treats album: it also happened to be their breakthrough single, but then you couldn’t help but stop in your tracks when you heard those noisy guitars paired with the dainty, juxtaposed vocals.  So Diplo forgets all of that to create an unusually chilled-out and, yes, possibly more accessible version of the noise-arbitors’ most-loved song. Enjoy it. It’s bliiiis:

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