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4 January 2004
Over Christmas and New Year I find myself spending more time in shops. There are presents to buy — not only for Christmas, but also a seemingly endless stretch of birthdays beginning in late October — and sales to scour. Additionally, there are year-end reviews to read, just in case, you know, you’ve been living under a rock or something and so haven’t been present for the last twelve months.
It is readily apparent that I have been living under a rock. These are just a few of the CDs I’ve picked up (OK, bought) over the last few weeks. And to be quite honest, I was ignorant of their existence until at most one month before purchasing.
New Year’s resolution: catch up at regular intervals.
Released from the shackles of Fridge (who are by no means a bad listen), Kieran Hebden continues to meander forward, taking a large chunk of the music world with him. Electronic music informed by folk, jazz, and hip-hop is where he started, and from there he’s honed and re-honed his mixing skills, without losing his ear for a neat sample under the pressures a colossal workload. While completely different, he could be the most Aphex Twin-like artist since Richard D. James himself.
Multi-tendrilled Canadian groups that like to mess about with found sounds and vocal samples in addition to more traditional instrumentation are nothing new. What is new — and by ‘new’ , I mean ‘new to me, as this album was released at the end of 2002’ — is one doing three- and four-minute pop songs rather than half-hour post rock epics with titles longer than this sentence.
Criticisms of such large collectives (fifteen musicians play on this record, only five of which are guest artists) are easily made: the music is too homogenised, designed by committee; the music is too disjointed, as sub-groups are formed within the whole without any controlling influence. Well, this is a little from column A and a little from column B, but only the good bits. You Forgot It In People is an album full to bursting with ideas and little ‘hey, let’s see what this does’ moments. Remarkably, all of these work.
Could EITS be following Mogwai’s lead? Exciting debut album making full use of the loud-soft dynamic, followed by more even, smoothed-out second album. If they are, they’re better than Mogwai. Come On Die Young was…not good, not even for a fan. Nothing on there could compare to Like Herod or Mogwai Fear Satan from Young Team.
In contrast, the Texans have surpassed their previous effort with uncharacteristic restraint and lack of emphasis on drumming (the best moment on Those Who Tell The Truth… were all drum-related). The track titles illustrate this more reflective approach: First Breath After Coma, The Only Moment We Were Alone, Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean, Memorial, and Your Hand In Mine.
Every year or two, a new rock band turns up — to wide critical acclaim — that has a stripped-down sound, a distinctive appearance, and a certain mystique about its members. This year it was the turn of British Sea Power, who back up the hype with the most interesting ‘arty’ rock album the UK’s produced in a good while. My only fear is that they can’t build on this start, or even maintain it, but no matter if they do or they don’t, The Decline of British Sea Power stands on its own merits.
They’re back. Like EITS, they’ve dropped the swagger a little from the first album, but unlike EITS, their second album is far broader in reach than the first. To demonstrate, let’s look at the first three tracks. Shanty for Arethusa is a dark, dramatic, powerful opener reminiscent of A Cautionary Tale but with added bite. Billy Liar is a Belle and Sebastian-esque jaunt that starts out nauseating and finishes somewhat better. Los Angeles, I’m Yours is what The Decemberists are best at: a song that should make you want to punch the singer, but works brilliantly; if only Colin Meloy could ditch that ‘I got my degree in creative writing’ tone from his lyrics.
On the big screen at last: a docu-drama about the two British climbers, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, who came seriously unstuck in the Peruvian Andes during the mid-80s.
A DVD of Chris Cunningham’s music videos and commercials has been released. Guess who’s bought it?
They keep giving me these books of vouchers. And I’m a sad bastard, so I’ve totted them all up.
Hooray for libraries; iPod vs iHP-120; depressing films.
Well, it’s out, and the series’ legions of fans are already hacking away.