Thursday, 11 June 2009

Chris Garneau, Blank Dogs, Crystal Stilts, Gowns, Olafur Arnalds & The Muslims (The Soft Pack)

Chris Garneau – El Radio

Singer/songwriter/pianist Chris Garneau combines elements of folk, Americana, baroque and pop styles on his new album ‘El Radio’ to create a joyful journey into a fantastical musical world. From Boston, but growing up in Paris and New York would be enough to fuel the creative fires in anyone. And with friends like Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu fame he obviously still hangs in the right artistic circles. This though is a much more accessible album than anything by Stewart and takes a less aggressive approach to issues of love, family and growing up. Signed to Absolutely Kosher, this is Garneaus second album. His first ‘Music For Tourists’ had its moments, especially ‘so far’ but never really flowed well from start to finish. This however is a much more complete piece of work. It’s brilliantly ‘twee’ and not too dissimilar to Owen Pallots Final Fantasy in how he creates sounds that remind you of all those eighties kids films we all look back on with such nostalgia. Combining childish sounds and lyrics too complex adult issues, like a Pixar film it appeals to both fun and serious music fans. Garneau still isn’t at the top of his game though, and there’s certainly more to come from this young singer/songwriter. Although this is an album that makes you want to fall in love with it and him, he’s still missing that indescribable key element that makes it more of a fling than a full blown love affair

Score: 6.9/10
For Fans Of: Fionn Regan, Final Fantasy,
Links: MySpace, Download

Blank Dogs – Under and Under

Blank Dogs is actually just Blank Dog, Mr Blank Dog to be exact. Not much is known about him, and looking at his Last FM profile doesn’t help much either, simply describing him as an “Invisible man, hard to understand”. This anonymity though does make it easier to concentrate on his music. ‘Under and Under’ is just one of many releases by this prolific artist, but probably his most ‘complete’ sounding collection of songs. His bedroom/new-wave pop sounds could easily be lumped into that whole new ‘lo-fi’ collective that’s about at the moment, and with its ‘tinny’ minimalist sound it’s easy to see why it would be. Blank dogs though offer something more than their counterparts. Less of a garage sound and more of a dark eighties influence is on offer here. Joy Division vocals combined with Cure style synths and melodies are the principle ingredients on offer here. Under and Under isn’t an instant ‘hit’, but with a little persistence your ears begin to adapt to its eroded sound and pick up the hidden melodies that lurk everywhere underneath all the distortion. A lot of his work is pretty hard to get hold off so make use of the download below, especially as there’s an awful lot of demo tapes and such available on the web, which really don’t do him justice.

Score: 7.1/10
For Fans Of: Wavves, Times New Viking, Interpol
Links: Myspace, Download

Crystal Stilts – Alight Of Night

No not the electro, screeching art punks, that’s Crystal Castles. There’s no wild 70’s prog influenced drumming, that would be Crystal Antlers. This is Brooklyn, NY quartet Crystal Stilts. Like Blank dogs reviewed above they use minimal bedroom sounds to create a heavily 80s Manchester influenced moody, yet buoyant album. As with the rest of this genre they draw comparisons with Interpol, Joy Division and Jesus and the Mary chain. This is their first release with new drummer Frankie Rose. Some of you may recognize the name, that’s because she used to be in Vivian Girls, who made one of last years best albums. Rumor has it, it was Rose who wrote all those songs, heavily influenced by the Stilts. She left after being kicked out of the Vivian Girls to join her idols and you can hear those same song writing skills here on Alight the Night. The album is stocked from start to finish with good to great songs. Sometimes the lo-fi sound can cause some elements of monotony but in the whole there’s more than enough stand out tracks to keep you listening, and more importantly come back to listen to it again. Plus these guys and gals have recently toured with Blood on the Wall another band who deserve a lot more press for creating great records in an oversubscribed genre. Stand out track would have to be the heavily Velvet underground influenced eponymous track ‘Crystal Stilts’. It’s a fine example of the well written, dreary lyrics of Brad Hargett being carried on a wave of dark dreamy guitars.

Score: 8.2/10
For Fans of: Velvet Underground, Vivian Girls, Blank Dogs
Links: MySpace, Download

Gowns – Red State

Formed by ex members of Amps for Christ and The Mae Shi, you’d be shocked to find out that ‘Red State’ isn’t the spazzy art punk you’d expect, instead it’s a very much more of an experimental folk/noise affair. Think a tamer Silver Mt Zion or Lullaby Arkestra. Gowns music would best be described as unstable, flitting between electronic sparse sounds and whispered vocals to full band explosions. The vocals sound like injured souls gasping for air whilst trying to say their last rights. The music fits with it in an almost poet sense, souring around your head like the sound of the sea when you press a shell to your ear. The clattering percussion, especially on ‘White like Heaven’ is so sporadic that it’s hard to ever settle into the album. But this claustrophobic havoc is strategic making it interesting enough to keep you listening. Red State could easily have been a car wreck of an album but instead it more like organized chaos. On making Gowns most recent album Anderson one of the groups main contributors said “When you listen you can tell that it could have only been recorded in a shit-ass meat-packing city in the Midwest (of America) where the grocer checkers don’t even know what tofo is and all there is to do is get shit faced at the bar and ask everyone how their kids are doing” Showing that even in the worst areas art can still flourish through bad weather and boredom. Maybe there’s hope for me in Rugby yet.

Score: 7.7/10
For Fans Of: Silver Mt Zion, Evangalista, Do Make Say Think
Links: MySpace, Downloads

Olafur Arnalds: Eulogy For Evolution

“Breaking classical music out of the tweed jacket and loafers and putting it into a t-shirt and trainers…”
This quote says it all about Arnalds beautiful cinematic album. At only 21 it’s almost soul destroying how talented this new Icelandic export is. His fragile and emotional take on classical music combines the power and heartfelt feel of bands like Godspeed you…. And Explosions in the Sky with everything you’d expect from the genre. Reminding you of the most tear jerking arthouse films you’ve ever watched every track on this album is an emotion rollercoaster that almost leads you to tears. I can’t describe enough how much I’ve fallen in love with this album. Check it out, it’ll be your soundtrack for every heartbreak, new found love and fondly remembered memory from now on.

Score: 9.5/10
For Fans Of: Sigur Ros, Amiina, Explosions in the Sky
Links: Myspace, Download

Muslims – Muslims

Easily mistaken for another run of the mill garage band, this San Diego outfit are so much more. Now known as the Soft Pack, their wussy discussion to change their name is not apparent on this there first full length album. Its classic balls to the wall rock. It’s not just formulaic A-B garage rock though, there’s plenty of stand out tracks on offer here. Tracks like ‘American’ ‘Right and Wrong’ and ‘Extinction’ are strategically placed throughout the album making it seem like these three minute nuggets of music, perfect for singles are flying at you at a thousand tunes a second. Stripped down music never sounded so full, this is definitely a personal recommendation from me to you. Enjoy.

Score: 9.1/10
For Fans Of: Blood on the wall, Jay Retard, Cheap Time
Links: MySpace, Download


  1. Totally agree with you on Olafur Arnalds, powerfully stuff. check out Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra for some more bewitchingly talented twenty something orchestral musicians. Hope your well mate

  2. Cheers man. It really is something special isn't it. I'm not bad, but back in Rugby to save and finding it pretty soul destroying.