It's almost still 2010. I didn't quite manage to post my final review of the music I've been listening to at the end of December, but here it is before the end of January. This is a triumph!
After five years or so and various label issues, Autolux release second album Transit Transit. I'm a big fan of the first album and was thrilled to hear the new album was coming, and I'm not disappointed. Slightly lower-key than the gruff debut album, there is more refinement to the songs but with the same distorted edges. The whispered lyrics and ambient music of Highchair contrast nicely against the faster Kissproof, sparse and melancholy Spots sits next to the jaunty The Bouncing Wall, and it all sounds distinctly Autolux. Transit Transit is a fabulous album.
Mines by Menomena starts out quite slow, with sleepy number Queen Black Acid perhaps not feeling quite representative of the rest of the album, which is a bit of a shame. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, not having heard of the band before, and the vocals caught me a little off-guard. I'm glad I perservered with the album though, as the vocals fit the tone of the rest of it perfectly, the whole album picking up rapidly with even the introduction of second song Taos and staying on an amazing high as it trips through song after song containing beautiful music and emotional depth. Interesting and varied drum beats form a strong foundation for the guitars or piano, such as in Tithe and Bote, producing excellent if unconventional pop music. Mines has become a favourite of the year and been played far too much, and I even appreciate the opening song now that I understand its place. This album is completely gorgeous.
When an earlier album by No Age was released I was tempted by the description of the lo-fi noise the two-piece band produced, but never got around to buying it. Now new album Everything in Between comes out and gets the same critical reception, and I jump at the chance of discovering them late. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. There is fuzz and energy, noise and quirky sounds, but it all seems a bit tame. Maybe they are better live, which I can well imagine to be the case, or their earlier work was more raw, but Everything in Between as an album is a fair enough listen, but nothing special.
The Five Ghosts starts off on a rather accessible footing, Stars sounding pleasant and appealing, two vocalists sharing a duet. It makes for a rather comfortable listening experience, but it works against the album, as its fairly standard fare turns towards the bland with repeated listens. There are some pretty good pop songs floating around on the album, but it feels a superficial affair overall. I could probably enjoy the various songs on the album in isolation, but trying to enjoy the whole is like eating an entire chocolate cake in one sitting. It sounds like it should result in more of a good thing, but turns out to just make me feel queasy.
Part Chimp are completely awesome. Noisy, raucous, vital, and with rocking tunes. Reduce to Clear is a self-produced CD containing a host of tracks recorded throughout their touring career, pretty much from their inception to their current album Thriller. Sleeve notes mention that first track X-Ladyboy, recorded at Glasgow Barrowlands, is 'the moment Ligament became Part Chimp', which is very cool. And we get taken from Belgium, to Germany, and back to the UK and London as the band are recorded live. The genius of B2 is captured in all its glory from first album Chart Pimp, as is the stupidly loud Hello Bastards from second album I Am Come, and the epic Starpiss from third album Thriller makes a brilliant appearance. We also get to hear as guitarist Iain 'sings the Bauhaus' on Dark Entries. This is an awesome collection of songs that show Part Chimp in their natural environment of playing much louder than is healthy, particularly at the ICA in London in 2004, where they get the 'most complaints re volume ever'. Oh yeah.
I like the name of electronic band Solar Bears, and so perhaps was expecting more from debut album She Was Coloured In. Although the music is pretty decent and agreeable enough, nothing really grabs me. I can listen to the album without wanting to skip any tracks, but also without really noticing that I have listened to it all. She Was Coloured In is pleasant if unremarkable.
Smoke Faeries sounds like a band I should really like. A couple of velvet voices lilting over folk guitar music should push all of my buttons, but Through Low Light and Trees seems to be rather overwrought. The balance between the emtional depth of the vocals and the mostly breezy guitars seems to be mismatched a little. The singing just needs to be a bit more twee for the whole to mesh together, but that's not to say the album is a mess. Songs like Hotel Room may feel a little mixed-up, but everything works perfectly on the more dour Dragon and Strange Moon Rising. There is potential in Smoke Faeries but, despite having all the right elements to get me excited, Through Low Light and Trees comes out a bit flat.
A simple count-in turns quickly in to a psychedelic scream of guitars before coalescing in to an awesome riff. Before you know it, Japanese-sounding Bo Ningen start singing in Japanese over heavy riffs, licks, and solos. You would think that they peak a bit early in first track 4 Seconds to Ascension from debut album Bo Ningen, with its raucous opening, catchy rhythms, and an extended outro that turns in to its own encore, but they easily keep up the pace for eight more songs, even adding dynamic range and a keen ear for hooks. Punky Koroshitai Kimochi (Reprise) keeps the pace up, and Gasmask Rabbit starts quiet and slow but crescendos in to being noisy and fast so naturally that it solidifies my first impression of this London-based four-piece as being seriously impressive. Able to keep up the energy all the way through to the sixteen-minute closing song makes for an amazing album to end the year. Bo Ningen are electrifying!