Friday, 19 June 2009

Red Light Company, These Are Powers, Mint Chicks, Baby Shakes, Julianna Barwick, Greg Kowalski, Pukers, Nathan Fake

Baby Shakes – First One

Hailing from New York City, this all girl four piece make what has been described as ‘jolly punk/power pop’. This is their third full length and it raises the question of how on earth is that possible. Lo-fi nostalgic rock is the key to their sound, and it’s done with all the panache of an anorexic belly dancer. Each song focuses around a simple verse/chorus/verse structure, with cringe worthy, slightly off key sing-along lyrics tinted with a pinch of punk attitude that sounds like a public school girl trying to rebel against her parents by getting her ears pierced… Claire’s Accessories. For all the good work groups like Vivian Girls have done for all girl groups the Baby Shakes have almost all but destroyed with what sounds like a teenage Disney television show add-on album. Poor show.

Score: 3.0001/10
For Fans Of: B*witched, Hannah Montana, Lindsay Lohan
Links: MySpace, Download

Greg Kowalski – Tape Chants

Drone, minimalist, ambient, call it what you will but I find it very hard to review or even comment in polite society about albums like this. I try to be careful to not criticize the genre to much, as I’m sure there are elements off it my ear just aren’t accustomed to yet. But the only way I can ever really enjoy these sorts of albums is at bed time when I need something inoffensive to fall asleep too. Generally praising music for its ability to send you off to sleep is not normally considered a major achievement in sound engineering. At times I manage to get by this, especially with Stars Of The Lid and Brian Enos ‘Music For Airports’ but they both took a lot of time, and as snobby and ‘art faggy’ as I try to be, sometimes I can’t escape the thought that it’s just one man holding down a single key on an organ for fifteen minutes. My only real enjoyment of this type of music was when I used to spend endless nights round a friends flat, having DJ-offs whilst playing football manager. At a certain point in the night, just as the sun was beginning to raise its head we’d hit minimalist hour. At this point the rules of the DJ box became simple.

1. No Bass
2. No Drums
3. No Vocals

This album would of got a lot more plays from me if I’d had it back then.

Score: 6.9/10
For fans Of: Stars Of The Lid, Murcof, Any other minimalist stuff
Links: MySpace

Julianna Barwick – Florine

This got an amazing review on ‘The Grape Vine’ the new review blog by the guy who runs Gummo Ga. Comparing it with Grouper’s latest ‘Dragging a dead deer….’ I thought it was definitely worth checking out. Like Greg Kowalski above it settles into the minimalist side of alternative music, but has a heavy focus on vocals, making it more accessible to me at least. For all this heavy concentration on vocals it lacks any definitive lyrics, using them instead to create sonic soundscapes, not to dissimilar to what Bjork did on Medula, but without the Rahzel beatboxing and Mike Patton yodeling. Some of the tracks here are done only using vocals, Julianna uses her voice and others to create a completely different type of instrumental album full of melodic, mesmerizing and sometimes even dizzying sounds that make this a fascinating soundtrack to those late nights plagued with insomnia.

Score: 8.7/10
For Fans Of: Grouper, Atlas Sounds, Stars Of The Lid
Links: MySpace

The Mint Chicks – Screens

Here we have some self produced experimental punk/pop from New Zealand. Using a heavy mix of keys and effect laden vocals The Mint Chicks have made an album that’s full of hooks, and ‘nice’ twinkly sounds, but unfortunately that’s about it. Overly twee they struggle to get the balance between ‘pop tunes’ and ‘rock songs’ correct, resulting in an album that doesn’t really know what its trying to achieve. Some of the tracks here wouldn’t be lost on a homemade BBC kids show about some snotty girl learning about morals by making mistakes and dealing with them. Other times they try to cover the same ground as groups like DAT Politics and The Mae Shi but never quite manage to reach the bar. Nice enough but ultimately very forgettable

Score: 4.7/10
For Fans Of: Phoenix, DAT Politics, Mae Shi
Links: MySpace,

Nathan Fake – Hard Island

Norfolk born Nathan Fake’s 2006 album ‘Drowning in a sea of love’ released on Border Community made him many fans, including Mixmag magazine, which made it their number 2 album of that year. That time around he focused on more minimal electro sounds, on Hard Island however he’s moved into a more ‘techno’ direction. There are still elements of what he did before on ‘Drowning…’ here but they’re sparsely used to make this hard techno album more accessible than most. ‘Fentiger’ is the best example of this, slowly building up with bass heavy drums before winding down to an ambient chillout. Like a whole night out and following Sunday morning summed up in six and a half minutes

Score: 7.8/10
For Fans Of: James Holden, Clark
Links: MySpace

Pukers – Born In The USA

I can understand if you were in a run of the mill indie band, that starting an advent garde noise group could be an interesting proposition. Doing something different from the day job that would appeal to a whole new collection of fans. But if you were in one of the scenes current ‘darlings’ I find it a little hard to comprehend. My only idea for why Pukers, who are members of Raco-oo-oon from Iowa City, USA who over the last couple of years have made themselves quite a name in the ‘noise’ world would choice to start a new band for this album is due to the worry their fans would disapprove in the new direction ‘Born in the USA’ has taken. All this isn’t too say Pukers is a carbon copy of their previous tribal drone work, they have taken on a new lo-fi, home recorded direction which to me makes it a lot more interesting than Raco-oo-oon previous efforts. However for most the ‘spazzy’ uncomforming screams and poorly recorded drum sounds will be a little too much for the ears. It’s certainly taken me a while to be able to listen to it from start to finish in one go. However I’m sure that’s probably the kind of thing their after.

Score: 6.8/10
For Fans Of: Raco-oo-oon, Wavves
Links: MySpace, Download

Red Light Company – Fine Facination

A real mongrel of a band here, featuring members from Australasia, Japan, USA, and the UK. You’d think this cross breading would create some kind of crazy experimental monster of a band? Unfortunately this isn’t the case, instead what we have in yet another UK alternative rock group. Trying to join in with the bigger boys like Grammatics and White Lies they play tuneful indie songs, complete with keys and melody ridden choruses. However their not just a run of the mill, A-B copy of what we’ve seen before. Imagine a more cheerful Twilight Sad and you’d be close to describing the Red Light Company sound. Also they mention Broken Social Scene on the track ‘Scheme Eugene’, I like it when bands mention other bands I like, it’s like saying the thought that runs through my head aloud “God I wish I was in a band as good as….*insert band name*. Maybe the Red Light Company also spend hours on trains listening to music through their headphones pretending it’s them singing the songs? I appear to have revealed too much. This album won’t be remembered in a few years time, but it has enough about it to keep you playing it all summer.

Score: 7.8/10
For Fans Of: Twilight Sad, Captain, Joy Formidable
Links: MySpace,

These Are Powers – All Aboard Futures

Last FM has been telling me to listen to these guys for some time now. Normally I tend to not bother with their recommendations too much because, whilst intuitive enough most of the time it also tells me I shouldn’t be friends with my mate Gareth because although we both like Neutral Milk Hotel, Fugazi and The Decemberists that isn’t enough and our music compatibility is too low to sustain a meaningful friendship! For once though they have thrown something my way that’s pretty interesting. All Aboard Futures is a crazy mix of pounding beats, odd electronic sounds and heavy guitar riffs that when combined with some overly ‘sassy’ vocals creates a style of music that’s pretty dam hard to categorize. Bits of it sound industrial, other parts like simple electronica and the rest like an off-kilter indie experiment gone horribly wrong. It’s good, but not amazing by anyway, interesting enough though to make it stand out and become quite a rewarding listen. Ones to watch perhaps.

Score: 8.2/10
For Fans Of: Mi Ami, Abe Vigoda, Indian Jewelry, Liars
Links: MySpace,

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