Music of 2013, part two

22nd September 2013 – 3.57 pm

Sometimes I need a while to fully appreciate an album before I'm ready to review it. Often I'll find that reviewing music can just be a bit difficult without sounding trite. Sometimes I'm just lazy. Whatever the reason this time, I've finally got around to reviewing the second batch of albums I've picked up this year. And it's a mostly good.

I am loath to describe debut album from Golden Grrrls as simple indie guitar pop, in case that makes it sound insipid. It most certainly isn't. Simple indie guitar pop is apparently difficult to accomplish, at least as seemingly effortlessly and consistently as Golden Grrrls manage, because it is done so infrequently as to be a real pleasure to experience again. I don't think I've been quite so happy and at ease listening to an album since the days of Velocity Girl. There's nothing overtly complicated in the music, but probably deceptively so, as nothing works quite so smoothly without being expertly refined. And the vocals and combined male/female harmonies fit together naturally well, flowing easily over the simple licks and fuzzy riffs. I find myself happily listening to Golden Grrls again and again, a smile always coming to my face when I do.

Mmm, the gossamer vocals and fuzzy guitars of shoegazing in the first track of No Joy's latest album Wait to Pleasure. That's what I like. I can't say why, but it seems to have taken me a little while to work out that it is indeed shoegazing that I'm listening to, because although being on my playlist I've not really registered the album directly. I suppose Wait to Pleasure has lived up to its name in that respect, and it could be simply because that's how the genre works. There is an overarching ethereal nature to the music that it can mostly drift over you, the occasional tendril sending a little shiver down your spine. I think No Joy's album will become a favourite of mine this year.

Another album from It Hugs Back, this one cunningly titled Recommended Record. Along with joining Wire singer/songwriter Matthew Simms is a busy bee indeed. And he's not just churning out tunes, there is a continuation and evolution to the band in this third album. There is less whimsy and more rough edges, but the wispy vocals maintain an overall distinctive style to the songs. My highlight would have to be Piano Drone, which is pretty much what its title suggests, although the piano doesn't drone; there's a piano above a droning beat. It's an excellent almost interlude to the rest of the album that strongly appeals to my krautrock sensibilities. If only it were four times as long. Even if not my favourite It Hugs Back album, Recommended Record easily ensures I'll continue to follow the band.

I didn't really see what the big deal was with the first album from Big Deal. Individually, the songs were okay, but as a whole the album suffered from the duo limiting themselves to strumming guitars. It all sounded rather the same. As such, I was ready to pass by their second offering, June Gloom, until the NME review pointed out that Big Deal had expanded their line up to round out their sound. Frankly, I thought that's all they really needed to add polish to their first album, so I happily changed my mind and picked up June Gloom and, what do you know, it's Big Deal made better. More texture is added to the songs, and there is a more dynamic feel, as the added drums nicely alternately underscore and elevate catchy and whimsical songs. Even the guitars feel more vibrant, as they are released from having to constantly hold the song together, instead allowing them to explore different aspects of the music. This is an excellent second album from Big Deal.

Curriculum Vitae by Swindle gets a decent review in the NME, and maybe mentions jazzy overtones. I don't remember, but aim to pick up the album and give it a listen anyway, as I like to look out for new music. The disc that gets delivered fails to be read by my computer, instead appearing as a data disc with some folders and files on it. They look like music tracks, but not being able to rip the album directly, so that I can transfer it on to my iPod, is a poor start. Undeterred, I transfer the disc to my CD player, which also fails to recognise it. Having heard about this kind of problem before I start scouring the labelling for the 'CD' symbol, not finding it anywhere. This isn't a CD but a non-standard disc. Quite what its purpose is eludes me. I can't play any of the tracks without fussing around, and sending it back for a replacement just gets me a similar disc. Because of this, I'm not going to review the album beyond saying that it clearly doesn't want to be listened to and shouldn't be. Ironically enough, I later find out that I mistakenly bought his first album and not the second one that was reviewed. Naturally, I'm not going to buy the one I wanted after this experience. Get bent, Swindle.

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