I was aiming to get this final review of my 2012 music purchases out for the end of January, in a bid to make it somewhat timely, but again have fallen behind schedule. That's okay, though, as January has been pretty dry and I don't have any new music to listen to yet. It's good that I have a few excellent albums from the end of last year to keep me going for the moment, but I'm again feeling the itch to hear new sounds and will need to reinvigorate myself soon.
Delightful harmonious vocals are at the core of the folk songs on Into the Diamond Sun, debut album by Stealing Sheep. There are wonderful melodies and great variety and texture in the songs, with White Lies reminding me superficially of an Olivia Tremor Control track, in a good way. Even the obviously silly lyrics of Shark Song become part of a rather jolly song, and don't relegate to being merely a novelty track, and it remains entertaining after repeated listens. Into the Diamond Sun is entertaining and soothing, song after song, and remains on regular playback, marking Stealing Sheep as a favourite new band.
Dinosaur Jr. reformed with their original line-up to record the excellent album Farm a while back, so when they follow up with I Believe in Sky it's a simple choice to pick up the CD. And I suppose the heavy fuzz rock is much as expected, but somehow it doesn't have as much of the spark of the previous release. The songs are mostly good, such as Stick a Toe In and What Was That, but it all seems a bit average. It's definitely a Dinosaur Jr. album, just not one of their best.
The Pheromoans is a dumb name but Does This Guy Stack Up? is a good album, according to the NME review. It is a pretty dumb band name, so I'm willing to give the album a shot. One song is awfully weird, and if I knew how to write the characters in the Cyrillic script I would give its title. But I don't, so I can't. Whilst not averse to a little experimental music, the track is simply a bit out of place on an otherwise homogenous album. Apart from that, the songs trundle along pleasantly enough, with decent but not exceptional vocals, a nice mix of guitars and keyboards, if nothing particularly outstanding, to create an album that is wholly competent but not with much remark. So, yeah, dumb name, good album.
Unexpected treasure from last year was Mines by Menomena, which keeps getting played and enjoyed even now. Third album Moms has a lot to live up to, and my first impression is that it doesnt, not quite. But that's just because I've built up Mines so much, through repeated listens, that it doesn't stand a fair chance. Seeing Menomena live and eschewing Mines for Moms for while lets me better appreciate the new album. It's a different album, which is good, yet with general impressions that make it a Menomena album, which is also good. There are shared vocal duties with two distinctive voices, plenty of non-standard drum patterns, and some saxophone thrown in amongst the guitars, to make some atypical but layered and interesting pop songs. With Moms, Menomena are solidifying their notable position in my collection.
Line the Wall is the second album from Japanese psych-rock band Bo Ningen, their debut blowing me away a year earlier. I've also seen the band play live quite a few times in the pasty year, so have heard most of the songs already, including at the album launch gig. Henkan, in particular, stands out for also being a single, and has grown on me to become a favourite song. Daikaisei Part I, however, is a little disappointing in being fairly standard rock, although Daikaisei Part II, III later in the album completely makes up for it, and the album gets interesting again immediately with Nichijyou and its highly syncopated intro. But overall Line the Wall is a gradual progression of Bo Ningen, rather than a specific step forwards, perhaps because the band continually change their live set and tour almost constantly. There is new material that excites, but mostly the songs are more of the same, which whilst not always bad also isn't as fulfilling to listen to. I'll probably still continue to see them live.
I like the psychedelic tinges to previous Moon Duo album, so pick up current release Circles with some expectation. I can't say I'm disappointed, as droning grooves with guitar solos laced with stylised fuzz permeate the album. But accidentally playing opening track Sleepwalker back-to-back with Rolling Out near the end of the album shows some strong similarities between the main riffs, and perhaps as a result the slightly limited scope of the album. It's all enjoyable enough, and I'm certainly not going to be skipping any tracks, but there's not much that really stands out.
Debut album Wild Peace by Echo Lake starts with some ethereal vocals, that put me off a little, to be honest. I kinda got burnt by the rather awful Purity Ring album, and was thoroughly underwhelmed when seeing 2:54 live, so although Echo Lake have been on my radar, as the kids are calling it these days, I am a little wary of another duo being touted as the next big thing. But giving Wild Peace a chance has me really enjoying the wispy singing and dreamy melodies that are integral to Echo Lake's sound. It's relaxing and appealing, without becoming monotonous or doggedly quirky. And although Even the Blind treads a fairly fine line between the two moods, Last Song of the Year is gorgeous. This is simple pop music done well.
Metz are supposed to be loud and raw, and the lo-fi pulse of opening track Headache kinda gives me that impression. It's followed by a suitable guitar drone and partially swamped vocals that hooks me in to the band. The songs are short and snappy, distorted and energetic, and mostly feedback-fuelled, like Wasted. The messy, vital burst of adrenalin ends with Negative Space, and with me having a new favourite band.
Times New Viking's Over & Over EP follows on naturally from their Dancer Equired album, with much less fuzz on everything than earlier recordings but still holding an exquisitely lo-fi sound. The six tracks bounce along nicely, and the only disappointment is that because each song is short, and this is an EP, it is all over too soon. It's a fabulous nugget from the band, though, and makes me look forward to more from Times New Viking.