So, its Bank Holiday Monday and the last thing on many people’s minds will be the new releases coming this week. We seem to be having a glut of holiday days right now thanks to one thing or another, and the feeling I get is that we’ve almost jumped forward in time to the summer in our minds, helped along by the weather being unusually scorching for April. It would be a shame to completely overlook some of these records though as there are some real gems both from our home grown talent and from across the Atlantic. Also there’s one single that I feel I had to review to give some context to the other UK releases, more on that after we look at the American imports.
First, a 12” single release from Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Other Lives, taken from the upcoming album Tamer Animals which is due for release on TBD in the UK in August. Delicate and considered, the track feels like a journey by train, through a vast panorama of American terrain. It never quite seems to reach a destination, but that’s unimportant; if previous form is anything to go off then this track is just one small part of a bigger, album-wide journey that we have yet to look forward to. The strings are gorgeously orchestrated and they really elevate the track to a level that makes me hope that Other Lives will still be going strong and making music like this when folk becomes less fashionable again. In short its like Fleet Foxes laying down some roots with Radiohead putting the icing on top.
This track has been around on the Blogosphere for some time and while not too much info has surfaced about Purity Ring it’s at least known that it’s a side project from a member of electro pop outfit Gobble Gobble. Unlike a lot of other flavours of the month that get hyped up by bloggers globally this one really deserves some attention, largely due to the radiantly beautiful vocal from Megan James that adorns it. It also puts a very positive and uplifting spin on the ghost vocal sample sound that seems to be gaining popularity right now and this major key sweetness might open a door to some semi-mainstream appeal despite its slow-thumping electronic core. The April heatwave certainly won’t harm its chances in the UK.
Speaking of the UK we move on to BROTHER. Many things have been written about BROTHER, especially about their attitude and their previous band, the emo leaning Kill the Arcade. In fact, most of the things people say about BROTHER are things completely unrelated to their music. This isn’t that surprising to me as there isn’t really that much to say about their output so far. If you do want to mention their music though it is also a lot easier to say what it isn’t rather than what it is: fresh, inspired, ground-breaking, exciting. All of these things this song especially is not. The video for this single, like the video for their last is designed to bring to the fore their supposed working class-ness. This time its via a back room bar fight in reverse rather than a council estate rooftop and a bin-man’s over coat, but the effect is the same. The one word I feel covers it all is ‘contrived’.
Thankfully there is more to the UK’s current crop of artists than recycled clichés and stolen Mancunian swagger. Everything Everything’s fourth single from their début album Man Alive showcases a less frenetic and more cerebral side to their already very intelligent mixture of smooth electro pop and jerking guitar jangle. Unlikely to be a big radio hit ‘Final Form’ is never the less a great song with a lot going on texturally and lyrically. Its at the opposite end of Everything Everything’s musical spectrum from ‘Photoshop Handsome’ but its every bit as interesting and self assured as that and ‘MY KZ UR BF’. If neither of those got your attention then perhaps this single will be the one to prompt you to give them another go.
Anyone Who Cares/More Love in Death (Double A side)
Hermes are another great reason to believe that the UK is not dry of talent, rather that some of its music press are heaping praise, or at least column inches, on the wrong bands. The first track of the Double A side, ‘Anyone Who Cares’ is unapologetically Pop oriented and radio friendly but its not an easy song to pin a comparison on. The first half resembles now defunct punk/pop Duo I Was A Cub Scout’s melodic synth work and tight drumming. As the song builds with another layer of guitars it seems to reach for some of the stadium soar of Muse’s more recent albums without breaking into daft riffs and solos. The second A side is a slower affair that brings to mind some of the best moments of The Decemberists last album or two but without the concepts and with a slightly more modern approach sonically. Overall its a good release for Hermes and I hope it sees them pick up some extra steam with the press and the industry.
And from young bands just starting their career we switch to a band well in the swing of theirs. After putting out an enormously successful and near universally acclaimed album like The Seldom Seen Kid its not unusual to have some serious hype for your next release. It is unusual to manage to live up to it though, but Elbow aren’t like many other bands. They’ve played the long game and it shows on this track. ‘Open Arms’ is a ‘Grade A’ slice of anthem, with a severely uplifting chorus that any stadium playing band would love to have. What makes it different though is that Elbow really put every last drop of their craft in to this song as well. It sounds as if they’ve agonised over every instrument choice and it means that while it is as pleasing on the ear as their last herculean effort, it remains vibrant and original, the synth and string intro especially being a case in point.