Music of 2012, part three

9th December 2012 – 3.44 pm

No post about my adventures in EVE Online today. Blame Vectid for that, and maybe my continuing desire to hear new music. But mostly Vectid. I have another collection of albums from this year that I've been listening to and, for the most part, enjoying. And I have one or two more collections to review too, but I doubt that will be published this year. They're worth waiting for, though.

Taffy are a Japanese band, not that you'd know it from listening to Caramel Sunset. You may be able to convince yourself that the lead singer has a vocal quality that sounds oriental, but the music and style don't give anything away. Opening track Between is a breezy pop song with fuzzy guitars, and is followed by the even chirpier Candy Lane. And, would you know it, the whole album is like this! Yeah, the album cover is bland and uninspiring, featuring a nondescript sunset, but don't let it fool you. Caramel Sunset is a good album of guitar pop.

How much adorable can you squeeze in to a single album? Allo Darlin' do their best to find the limit, with jangly guitars and dreamy vocals reminiscent of Kirsty MacColl from start to finish on second album Europe. Lead singer Elizabeth Morris's Australian twang barely registers, doing a bloody good impression of a Londoner, as she lilts through some occasionally prosaic lyrics. But it doesn't really matter how lacking in metaphor the songs sometimes are, as Morris could be singing a telephone directory and, ukelele or not, come across as utterly charming. Europe is light, breezy pop that is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to any music-lover's face.

Support acts can have a rough time occasionally. They can sound good, and even give a performance that makes the price of the ticket feel worthwhile, only to be so completely overshadowed by the main act that you've forgotten about them before you've got on the train home. Maybe it's lucky that I bought the eponymous album of NZCA/Lines, before Django Django took the stage. NZCA/Lines were good, but Django Django were amazing. So it was with trepidation that I first played the album, wondering if I was perhaps dazzled by a live performance more than the music, and whether the electronica would translate to the studio. And, thankfully, my fears are unfounded. The songs are light, catchy, and translate well to the studio. And even though I remain cautious about the electronica keeping me entertained for the whole album, as my attention can wander sometimes, the songs are distinctive enough from each other that they all sound fresh, keeping this a decent album.

Third album from Shrag gets a positive review from NME, with enough good words to encourage me to buy it. I don't really know what I'm getting in to, though, with a band name like Shrag and an album called Canines, but luckily they are a better than I expected. This is top quality indie pop, right off the bat, with Tears of a Landlord starting the album with a nifty B52's Planet Claire-esque vibe. An early height is reached with the catchy and happy Chasing Consummations, and the good songs just keep coming. Penultimate track Flinching at Forever feels like a good closer, but Shrag give us just one more, with a slightly downbeat, but equally pleasing, Jane with Dumbbells to close the album. Canines is a surprising hit for the year, and will be enjoyed long after 2012 is over.

A compilation album is an unusual addition for me. But Slowdance release a vinyl-only single that costs twice as much in transatlantic postage as the disc itself, and I find that one of the songs is available on this album. On top of that, I am keen to listen to more French music, after liking Stereolab for ages and hearing some excellent French rap on Torpedo Boyz's Head Music. This compilation from the Kitsuné label, Kitsuné Parisien II, is a decent enough collection of music, and starts with the quirky and enjoyable So Long My Love by Tomorrow's World. Not everything is to my taste, with the second track being a somewhat objectionable electro number that probably should have been left back in the 80s. But other highlights include La Forêt by Lescop, Holy War by Birkii, as well as obviously Airports by Slowdance.

Second album >> by Geoff Barrow's krautrock project Beak> starts off on a suitable note. A simple repeating drum pattern has keyboards droning over the top of it, and, to be honest, is just what I expect and enjoy from the krautrock genre. Second track Yatton is a more traditional genre track, bouncing along with an even more simple beat and subdued vocals. The album continues nicely along this vein, offering decent songs one after another, until the rather more serious-sounding Wulfstan II. It's not a bad track in itself, but it has one refrain too many, making its hook line wear thin. But the album gets right back on track with Elevator, so I can forgive it, making >> well worth getting.

Purity Ring get several mentions in NME before this eponymous debut release, and I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued. I like the name of the band, that they are a duo, and the way their music is described appeals to me. I pick up the album, keen to get swept up in the fuss, and initially quite like it. But within a few tracks it all gets very tired. The effects on one specific song, which I don't care to listen to to find out its name, become weary quickly, having me think that there is a reason why this sort of crap was left behind in the 80s. I still want to like it, and perhaps if I dipped in to the album, track-by-track, over the course of a few days I'd like the songs individually. But, lumped together, the album is a mess of old ideas being given limp-wristed chest compression, and not even in time to Stayin' Alive. A disappointment, but at least I didn't get too carried away and order a ticket for Purity Ring's gig at the Scala.

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