The Record Round up: October, 2008
The only difference between The Fall and autumn is that whereas one sheds leaves, the other sheds band members
During his wonderful tune, Maple Leaves, jaunty twee-jangler Jens Lekman once mistook a conversation about autumn for Mark E Smith and - overlooking the obvious ‘Fall’ confusion – it’s easy to see why. Both exude bitter Northern blows that send neck quivering chills down the spine whilst drenching you in a storm of aqueous spittle. In fact, perhaps the only difference is that whereas one sheds leaves, the other sheds band members.
It’s fair to say, then, that autumn ain’t The Round Up’s favourite season and it’s even fairer to say The Fall ain’t red-top fawning hipsters The Metros’ favourite band. Not that Smith will be disappointed; the London-spawned quintet’s debut long-player More Money Less Grief [*] is the kind of grubby–pawed "indie" jizz-spurting sure to burst the colons of Pigeon Detective followers everywhere. For the rest of us: it’s a shameful abomination of target-market driven filth.
Fortunately, Woodpigeon’s Songbook [****] is next to enter the Round-up’s battle-hardy airspace and what a delight it is to hear the brittle whisper and fragile strum of one time Edinburgh resident Mark Hamilton. Bulging with Origami-folded laments clustered amidst twinkling, heart-melting harmonies, this is a record imbued with unpolished craft and ethereal dreaminess that recalls the early stool-bound shuffling of Belle & Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens.
Mancunian collective The Travelling Band’s Under The Pavement [***] doesn’t quite hit Woodpigeon’s giddy heights but it’s a cosy, embracive soiree of tenderised simplicity that ranges from country spangled strolling (i.M.E.A.T) to James Yorkston-like understatement (Fragments of Green). Fuller of sound but lesser of interest, French pop-rockers Arther [**] serve up a middling plateful of banal riffage and disinterested rhythms with their eponymously titled debut. Vocalist Juliette’s lingering mew is akin to Beth Gibbons in tone but the lack of imagination in the accompanying strums and strings conjures up a record that fails to break outwith the realms of monotony.
Twinkling all-girl quintet Those Dancing Days have no such issue escaping the mundane. The Swedish ensemble’s inaugural long-player In Our Space Hero Suits [***] is a dashing charge of chest-pounding brass and northern-soul swinging basslines that has The Round Up’s knees-a-knocking to the sound of full-blooded, all-action grrrrll-pop. Aye, it resembles the Pipettes-gone-Blondie but, hey, in these long dark nights everyone needs a little bit of sunshine to warm their cockles, right?
Alas, upon opening the sleeve of Emily Barker’s Despite The Snow [**] The Round Up feels all such thoghts of sunshine slip from mind. A tragic swell of organic folk, the Australian singer-songwriter’s second full-length shares roots with the plaintive storytelling of King Creosote without having the necessary charm to captivate over a stock collection of bleak and often tiresome woodland hymns.
Okay, so are all Emilys handed an acoustic guitar and drip-fed folk music at birth? Perhaps not, but having endured Emily Jane White’s Dark Undercoat [**] the Round Up’s beginning to think so. If you replace ‘King Creosote’ with ‘Beth Orton’ these next few lines of critique would be an almost exact reproduction of the verbiage spouted out about Emily Barker’s record above. So to save you the time, here it is compressed into ten words: organic folk, singer-songwriter, plaintive storytelling, without charm, tiresome woodland hymns.
Feeling like an article reborn, the Round Up decides to have a ‘compressed’ go at reviewing the new Oasis album: Banal Pub Rock Shite. Unfortunately, the ‘pioneering’ Mancs’ new record is yet to land in these grubby paws, so we must make do with the chamber-pop swirling of Ra-Ra-Riot’s The Rhumb Line [****]. Hyped to the hilt they may be but the Syracuse quintet has created a sublime long-player that apes the grandiose melodics of Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Standout number is the frothing Winter ‘05 - a track imbedded with wailing viola and a harrowing, soul-plucked vocal - but so full of splendour are each of these 37 minutes it’s almost impossible to dismiss any of the blossoming cuts found spinning here. A contender for album of the year? Most certainly.
Bouyed by the almighty brilliance of Ra Ra Riot The Round Up pitches up at its final record of the month: Uzi & Ari’s Headworms’[****]. A twisting, skewering blend of percussive aplomb, Ben Shepard’s (for it is he who creates all sounds found here) third long-player is blushed with subtle nuances and inventive effect board tweaks that escalate the record from dreary lo-fi limping to elasticised ethereal sprinting. Vocally, Shepard bears an unnerving resemblance to a certain Radiohead luminary, yet so spellbinding are tracks like Patron Saints and the dazed Magpie’s Monologue that listening ears quickly find themselves lost in his hand-stitched patchwork of voluptuous rhythms.
And with that the Round-up ruffles it’s locks, double knots its scarf and braves the cold, cold breeze of Fall. See you next month!