Music of 2011, part one

29th May 2011 – 3.14 pm

Almost half of the year is gone and it has taken this long for me to work out what I want to write about my first collection of new music. There is plenty to listen to and more is coming out every month, and I'm reading between the lines and investigating new bands to find some gems amongst the rough.

Despite having a mini-album and live album already under their belts, The Joy Formidable finally release their debut album, The Big Roar. The same blend of rock and pop is expertly combined with a high dynamic range to produce some excellent songs. Earlier songs from the mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning have been re-recorded for inclusion, as well as recent singles I Don't Want to See You Like This and Greyhound in the Slips, along with a bunch of new tracks. Having been listening quite avidly to almost half the tracks on the album for eighteen months or more, from previous releases, The Big Roar doesn't quite have the impact it perhaps should with me, but the new tracks show The Joy Formidable continuing to create exciting music that deserves a wider audience. The debut album is a great place to start for a first exposure.

The NME convinced me to get Fujiya & Miyagi's third album, even though I was less than impressed with their second. I have to say that Ventriloquizzing suffers from the same awkwardly superficial and formulaic lyrics that turned me off the previous album, making me feel a bit foolish for trusting them a third time. Too many songs seem to be built on lyrics like 'X is <verbing> Y, X is <verbing> Y, X is <verbing> Y, Y <verbs> X', which gets tedious quickly. However, if you can tune out the lyrics and listen to the vocals as if the voice is just another instrument all is well. In fact, it's rather spiffy. The songs are certainly an improvement over those on the second album and there is enough variation to keep the music entertaining from start to finish, you just have to be able to appreciate or ignore the lyrics. Ventriloquizzing is an album that would work best if heard as a foreign language.

A throttled synthesiser growl greets the first track of Zeroes QC, debut album of Suuns, adding a sparse drum track and handclaps before distorted guitars swirl around the loops. And strong if simple beats accompanied by almost hypnotic riffs form the backbone of the album. Arena's repetitive keyboards dancing for well over two minutes before the vocalist decides to jump in, and the guitar squeals of Marauder play over reverberating drums for a couple of minutes of instrumental delight. The whole album is packed with rhythm, an exercise in how to make repetition sound good, which is remarkably difficult to do well but rightfully rewards repeated plays. Zeroes QC is a a sonic delight and clearly my favourite album of the year so far.

I'm not usually one to buy soundtrack albums, although I may have a couple, but as I completely love the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World film I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get the Beck-penned Sex Bob-omb songs. We Are Sex Bob-omb is an energetic blast that is as dynamic at the start of the soundtrack as it is to the film, and my own favourite of Threshold is an amazing couple of minutes of rock music. Other original music from the film is included, such as Crash and the Boys' (in fact, Broken Social Scene, I believe) completely brilliant We Hate You Please Die, and Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl, which is barely noticed in the film but a beautiful song when heard in its entirety. The original songs are short and very sweet, with those previously released and used in the film being conspicuous in their length but still a good selection. And when returning to re-watch the film the familiarity with the soundtrack adds an emotional punch with each cue. Scott Pilgrim just gets better!

Fresh and exciting tunes dominate Daydreams and Nightmares from Those Dancing Days. Happy keyboards and clean guitars underscore strong individual vocals, which all merge to create gentle harmonies for the catchy choruses. Opener Reaching Forward is a great start, and Dream About Me will have you singing the chorus long after listening to it. There is the occasional rawer song, like the fabulous Fuckarias and I Know Where You Live pt. II, adding an extra dimension to an album which on the whole delivers some brilliant and enjoyable pop music. A much recommended listen.

With a name like Yuck I expected music rather less agreeable from the band's eponymous debut album. But from the start I am greeted with pleasantly tuneful songs, the fuzzy guitars and vocals reminiscent of old-school indie even relenting for third track Shook Down to become fairly standard radio fare. It feels like a guilty pleasure to enjoy music with such a broad appeal, the inoffensive and familiar pop sounding like it could have been produced any time in the past fifteen years, and despite my contrarian leanings I can't help but like it. The songs are well-crafted and catchy, particularly with choruses belted out like in Georgia, with enough variation between them to hold the whole album together. There is everything to like from Yuck so far.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.