Music of 2012, part two

23rd September 2012 – 3.35 pm

I'm still late with reviewing the music I've bought this year, but here's my second collection of albums. There's more to come, once I get around to writing about it.

Grimes is pushing out albums almost quicker than they can be pressed. Hot on the tail of Geidi Primes comes Visions, bringing together some more eclectic electronica. Despite being pleasantly surprised by the quirkiness of Geidi Primes, nothing really grabs me about Visions on the first few listens, even if it seems to be from the same earlier mould. It isn't until I see a performance of Genesis on Later... With Jools Holland that the song catches my attention and I realise the beauty of it, allowing a few more of the tracks to fall in to place as a result. Oblivion has an interesting riff half-way through that is highly reminiscent of... something, maybe an old 808 State song, which I find pleasing. But even though there are the occasional moments of inspiration, like the muted Skins, the apparent homogeneity of the songs means I find its quirkier predecessor to be more enjoyable overall.

I enjoyed the kitschy but energetic previous album by That Fucking Tank, so have no problem picking up their latest offering, TFT. It pretty much follows the same pattern as before, with instrumentals based around drums and guitar, to the point where there are even instructions included in the cover booklet describing how to write a TFT song. Of course, there is more to inspiration than a set of steps to follow, but there are undeniable foundations in music that only the best can eschew with confidence. And That Fucking Tank know how to create strong riffs and slam them together to make a cohesive whole. Even if it won't set the world alight, TFT is another fine collection of rock instrumentals.

Surprise album for me in this selection is The Echo Show by Yeti Lane. It gets a favourable review in the NME, but that doesn't mean I am ever sure what I'm going to get. This time, just the gentle, echoing vocals gliding so beautifully on top of synthesisers and almost-fuzzy guitars melding so perfectly in opening track Analog Wheel gives me unexpected tingles. And the songs just keep getting better, each one poking my pleasure centres in just the right places, such as Warning Sensations with its measured vocals, warbling synths, and rhythmic guitars combining with such ease. I could really just call out each song in turn for one reason or another, but instead I'll just say that The Echo Show is one of those rare albums featuring male voices that I just get along with, singing beautiful pop songs to engaging, driving music. This is definitely a favourite album of the year.

I saw Pinkunoizu live, asked the band their name, and have not forgotten it. I enjoyed their set and am happy to pick up the debut album Free Time!, hoping to relive the experience. And I may be, I'm not quite sure. I seem to remember more interesting drum patterns than are on the album, but maybe that's more because I was focused on watching the drummer's style during the gig. The music is not quite as I remember it either, but there are bands who show disparity between live performances and recordings. There's nothing particularly outstanding about the songs, just as there is nothing particularly disappointing about them either. The album chugs along nicely, even if it occasionally stutters with a motif that doesn't quite work. But even though Free Time! isn't remarkable it is pleasant background music that I can listen to each time it comes up on my playlist, which counts for something.

Bo Ningen played live with Can lead singer Damo Suzuki, recording and releasing the session as three-track EP Foreign Affair Confidential, which I pick up at a later gig. I suppose it's pretty much what I should expect from both parties, with psychedelic guitars wailing, manic drumming, and Suzuki shouting and moaning almost in a stream-of-consciousness. It's hardly easy listening, particularly with three tracks extending to a fifty minute play time, and mostly incoherent, but it can be appreciated for the crafted noise that it is.

I thought Islet's nine minute opening track was a little ambitious, and over-long, but here comes second album Laughing Party from shoegazers It Hugs Back, starting with a fifteen-minute monster of a song, The Big E. Impressively, the song neither feels over-long, or that long in itself. The riffs, changes, and melodies all manage to hold the song together, even building to a satisfying climax, to create an audacious and impressive opening song. It is a keen illustration of how It Hugs Back have grown since their debut album. The songs have the same feel, with wispy vocals over fuzzy guitars, a relaxed beat without being too laid back, but with more depth to them. Each instrument tries more, adds more, but without cloying the sound. It Hugs Back found their sound, and now they are shaping it to fit them better, creating a very competent album in the process.

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