Music of 2008: the established

11th February 2009 – 10.51 am

In looking back at the music I bought in 2008 I consider established bands to be those with at least a couple of previous albums both released and in my library.

Modey Lemon have been gradually moving away from their loud and vigorous blues-backed rock to a more subdued and musical style, relying more on song structure than energy, and fourth album Season of Sweets continues this trend. It is not a bad direction to take. Although some exuberance from earlier albums is missing there is a more mature and collected sound that still feels vibrant. Despite failing to see Modey Lemon live I still manage to see the band in action as they perform during the video for the single It Made You Dumb, which somehow makes me appreciate the song a whole lot more and draws me further in to the album in a way that a live performance also would have.

Armani and Me, third album for Icelander Emiliana Torrini, again concentrates on the folk songs that were successful in the second album. Whilst there are occasional escapades to pop and ska within the rhythms the songs remain centred around the beautiful vocals of Torrini. With lyrics ranging from playful to tearful the songs delight and mesmerise and even when Torrini isn't singing she can often be heard sustaining a harmonic note so soft it could tickle a kitten's tummy. Armani and Me is a wondrous album indeed and is only enhanced when Emilian Torrini's singing is experienced live.

It was unfortunate that I only got to buy Furr immediately before seeing Blitzen Trapper perform live, being sold their fourth album by the band's drummer. Blitzen Trapper played another great gig that was wonderfully entertaining, but I've never found music to be at its best on first hearing. I find I appreciate live music more when I can get drawn in to the expectation of what is to come. Never the less, it was an entertaining gig and being able to listen to Furr afterwards has cemented my positive impressions of the new music. Blitzen Trapper have produced another pleasant and musical collection of alternative folk that adds to their building repertoire.

I have been a fan of Mary Timony for a while, enjoying her three-and-a-half albums with Helium before Timony struck out as a solo artist, with The Shapes We Make being her fourth solo venture. Maybe I have been dazzled by the shiny new music but there is not much that stands out about this album. It is far from bad and it certainly sounds just as I would expect a Mary Timony album to sound, it simply doesn't contain anything that stands out or sinks its hooks in to me.

Such as it seems with Stereolab too. I won't dare try to count how many albums Stereolab have released before latest addition Chemical Chords, but they all have had their own character and appeal. Maybe it is because I have not had the same motivation to listen to my newly bought music as usual during the year that has caused me not to gain an appreciation for some albums, or maybe it is because they are lacking some of the passion shown previously. The sounds of Chemical Chords are unmistakably Stereolab in origin, yet underneath the twee synths and bubbling rhythms there seems to be little substance. Some of this lack of depth was remedied when seeing Stereolab live in London, where their performance brought a fuller sound to the music. Yet the album remains somewhat shallow in many places when played back. Again, it is not a bad album but I would rather listen to something earlier from Stereolab's amazing catalogue given the choice.

Is Earth to the Dandy Warhols really their sixth album? Even though The Dandy Warhols have been around for years it seems easy to lose track of the last couple of releases, either because Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia was such an amazingly strong release or as the result of the strikingly different direction the band went for their following album, perhaps in reaction to their huge success. I think it is good that Thirteen Tales... was so successful as it allowed the band to explore different sounds and instruments. The result is an accumulation of all the experimentation and performance of the past few years almost distilled in to an umistakable Dandy Warhols sound. There are catchy rhythms, heavy beats and reflective vocals, mixed in with less conventional sounds that will be familiar to fans. The Dandy Warhols may never reach the same peak of mass appeal they once achieved but if Earth to the Dandy Warhols is any guide I am confident they will continue to produce amazing music.

Neptune may be only the second studio album by The Duke Spirit but I also have their mini-LP Roll, Spirit, Roll in my collection, as well as the extra disc of b-sides and rarities from their first album Cuts Across the Land, so they seem to me to have been around a lot longer than only two albums. It is curious, then, that I delayed buying Neptune, being somewhat unsure of my enthusiasm for the band. This happens occasionally with me and luckily I was able to realise that whenever The Duke Spirit surfaced in my collection I found it to be invigorating and provocative. With this assurance I bought their second album and have greatly enjoyed listening to it, as well as seeing The Duke Spirit live. There is uplifting pop, strong guitars and heartfelt vocals on Neptune and it will definitely continue to be enjoyed.

  1. 2 Responses to “Music of 2008: the established”

  2. I keep loving Furr. It's stonking music, and the lyrics and subjects are like nothing else I own.

    By BugBot on Feb 11, 2009

  3. The title track of Furr is still keeping me positively engaged.

    By pjharvey on Feb 13, 2009

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