Music of 2013, part three

17th November 2013 – 3.58 pm

I'm lagging behind on this year's music choices again. I blame my lateness in still not being able to differentiate Ghost Outfit and Gauntlet Hair when they're playing. Or that I am finding it difficult to define either. But I've given it a go. Now I can move on to having a crack at the next bunch of albums, which I've been listening to for a while now already.

The simple, happy pop music of Taffy was something of a highlight last year. There's nothing particularly complex about what they do, it's just that they do it well. And not long after their debut Taffy are back with second album Lixiviate. At first blush, it seems like a pure sequel, with the same happy pop music and simple melodies, but it keeps my attention and keeps me bopping my head with every song. Whereas Chrome Hoof, Blitzen Trapper, and Fuck Buttons (below) have all seemed to push out a lukewarm extension of a previous album, to my rapidly dwindling interest, Taffy must be doing something different on their new release. Either that, or they just know how to write a good song. I should probably revisit Caramel Sunset to see how much different the album now sounds when compared to the excellent Lixiviate.

Yuck frontman Daniel Brumberg quits the band after their debut album to go solo and become Hebronix. Yuck's first album is brilliant, and although solo projects don't tend to work my interest in Unreal is piqued with an NME review that suggests krautrock-like tendencies and most of the songs hitting the seven-minute mark. But at first I'm not impressed, although by 'at first' I mean the first few seconds, in a ten-minute song, where Brumberg's voice just seems a little off. Once the song gets going properly the context is easily construed and we get to hear Brumberg flex his musical muscles, which continues throughout the album. The tracks are long but could easily go for longer without feeling strained, and they are crafted exquisitely. Unreal is clearly the work of a musician who knows his theory and applies it well, the result being an affecting album that I will continue to enjoy for a long time.

Gauntlet Hair have a pretty good name, their album must be good. I pick up Stills, and it's okay. There's lots of reverb vocals, some decent background synths, and some nicely constructed songs. None of it really worms its way inside of me, but it's all good or different enough that I never feel like skipping tracks or changing to a different album. Not great, not bad. It's okay.

Getting hold of I Want You to Destroy Me by Ghost Outfit meant ordering directly from the label, but that's probably more an artefact of my still enjoying CDs over digital distribution. I think it was worth it. Although there's nothing particularly outstanding about the songs and music, Ghost Outfit aren't like the standard guitar-based four-piece, seeming like they are experimenting with merging layers of sound rather than making sure every voice has its place. It works well too. And although the minimal Lexicon feels weirdly out of place and breaks up the flow of the album, on the whole I Want You to Destroy Me is well worth a listen.

Despite Fuck Buttons completely overwhelming the acoustics of Koko when I saw them live, destroying any kind of musical fidelity necessary to enjoy the music, second album Tarot Sport remains a highlight for me. So it is that I am a little excited for their new release, Slow Focus. Good reviews are forthcoming, of course, but I think they're based on reputation and expectation rather than merit. Slow Focus sounds like Fuck Buttons, but it does so perhaps a bit too much, like they are trying to be what they think they should be and not what they are. It's as if this third album is a collection of b-sides to Tarot Sport, with the same themes and motifs, but without the polish. Slow Focus is okay, but it's nothing to get excited about.

How did I miss a new album from The Dandy Warhols? Maybe they are too mainstream now for the NME, which would strike me as peculiar considering their continued evolution across their albums. Whatever the reason, I find This Machine was released over a year ago and can't resist picking it up, wondering where the Dandy Warhols will take me this time. And it's kinda where we've been before. There's not really a new direction for This Machine, which isn't bad in and of itself, instead mixing previous experiments in to a more mature sound. The individual tracks are solid, and maintain a coherence to hold the album together as a whole, but perhaps miss the spark that made ...Come Down and Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia such mainstream hits.

  1. 6 Responses to “Music of 2013, part three”

  2. I found The Machine to be pretty sterile, which was irritating as I was really looking forward to it. I listened to it twice, the second time being even more of a grind. I've put it on the shelf in the vain hope that one day my state of mind might allow me to appreciate it. I doubt it though. Never thought I'd say it, but I hope they don't make another album.

    By Mortlake on Nov 18, 2013

  3. 'This' Machine, not 'The'.

    Curse my arthritic fingers.

    By Mortlake on Nov 18, 2013

  4. I can see that. The Dandy Warhols evolved really strongly across their albums, but This Machine seems to take a half-step backwards. I think it's clearly a Dandy Warhols album, but just nowhere near what they are capable of producing.

    It's a shame too, because, as you say, there is a tendency for a single stale album to put fans off buying the next, particularly when there is so much good new music being created constantly. Still, they had a good innings, and the back catalogue for The Dandy Warhols remains impressive.

    By pjharvey on Nov 18, 2013

  5. Don't get me wrong, I love the Dandys, and saying that I hope they don't make another album wasn't born of spite or anger. It's more akin to getting half way through a sequel and feeling that your love of the first film / book is being slowly chipped away at the longer you sit in front of its illegitimate child.

    You are, of course, correct in asserting that they have an amazing back catalogue, and I also understand that bands change tack, want to evolve and do so often successfully. In this case though, I can't help but feel a little crestfallen, and I know from reading about its reception that I'm not the only one. I'm sure that someone out there likes it, just not me.

    On a lighter note, I just won £2 on a scratch card, so I'm treating myself to Star Bar and a Dr Pepper. I feel much better now.

    By Mortlake on Nov 18, 2013

  6. Ghost Outfit are a two piece

    By Jack on Nov 23, 2013

  7. Thanks for the info, Jack. That makes their album more interesting.

    By pjharvey on Nov 23, 2013

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