Little Comets seem to be all about harmony, both musically and within the world they live.
In the years since first album ‘In Search Of Elusive Little Comets‘ their voice has grown and grown and grown, and today they speak loudly and clearly about the world in which they live – but more important than this clarity is the honesty they bring to the discussion.
What bothers them is often what many people just don’t want to face. And this is probably why it bothers them, but also where much of the power of what they do comes from.
Modest Mouse’s sixth album, ‘Strangers To Ourselves‘, comes out after an eight-year hiatus which included prolonged recording sessions and a cancelled tour.
Since the release of ‘We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank‘ in 2007, the band has lost three members – Eric Judy (bass/multi-instrumentalist), Johnny Marr (guitar), and Joe Plummer (drums/percussion) – meaning leader Isaac Brock has filled out the lineup by adding Russell Higbee on bass, Jim Fairchild on guitar and Lisa Mollinaro on keys; all of whom joined the band between 2009-2012.
Indeed, Modest Mouse has undergone its fair share of lineup changes over the years, but the band has distinctly remained true to its own brand and sound. Although there may be a bunch of new faces making the noise, ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ for the most part sounds familiar, and after eight long years that’s sure to please fans.
The NME Awards tour is synonymous with NME’s vision; this isn’t a night about the newest or ‘hottest’ (awful term) bands around.
Typically NME always appear to be going for something grander, it’s almost their attempt to define the times. Tonight is no different. It’s an impressive line-up, while not being an obvious one. All the bands worthy of note. So, to put some kind of order on things, let’s start with the least and head towards the most exciting, as it were.
The anomalous Cold War Kids are one of the most consistent rock n’ roll bands of the past decade.
The Long Beach rockers first busted onto the scene in 2006 with their cult hit ‘Hang Me Up To Dry‘ and, despite changes in both sound and lineup, the band has continued with steady success.
The dynamic and anthemic ‘Hold My Home‘ is their fifth album and is the sound of a band growing and settling into its own identity, but it also has all the stylistic shifts and turns that one would expect from these idiosyncratic types.
Taking the basic shape and outline of their debut album ‘Down Like Gold‘ but removing the somewhat unnecessary nods to modern pop, Champs‘ ‘Vamala” instead puts its faith in simple and pure songwriting.
It is a truly economic record with twelve tracks formed seemingly out of the most ethereal of ideas. These are wistful ideas, faint reminisces and almost dream-like infusions built from seemingly nothing.
‘Vamala’ is a beautiful record, seemingly without ever trying to be. The Champion brothers have written a set of songs that fulfill their vision; continuing on from their wondrous debut, these tracks merely sharpen their sound to its true pinnacle. Mixing a number of styles and influences that are somehow disparate, yet fitting, they flit from Dylan-esque musings to some kind of angelic Pet Shop Boys hybrid.
This is not an album trying to make an impact, it is instead a comforting cushion, a place to rest your head.
Impromptu gigs in Marks & Spencer bakery aisles and a severance of their contract with Colombia Records due to desire for greater musical integrity set the tone for Little Comets as a band making music for all the right reasons.
The release of third LP ‘Hope Is Just a State of Mind‘, following a teasing trickle of EP releases throughout 2014, gives further credence to the notion that there is an engaging depth of subject matter underpinning the grimy indie disco sensibilities of frantic percussion and complex guitar runs on early tracks such as ‘One Night In October’ and ‘Dancing Song’, from 2011 debut ‘In Search Of Elusive Little Comets‘.
Opener ‘My Boy William‘ begins with light acoustic strumming backing singer Robert Coles’ wistfully intensifying vocal cries of, “The right to dream of my boy William”, leading into a mood shifting swell of guitar and drums as harmonising backing vocals from Michael Coles and Matt Hall develop a sauntering deliverance in a plea of endurance when all seems lost.
Noel Gallagher likes having his destiny in his own hands.
Go back to the earliest days of Oasis and it was a single-handed drive for super stardom, when a masterplan jotted down in notebooks carefully sketched out three years of a life to be transformed, driving the man from the dead-end alleys of Thatcher’s Britain to the champagne halls of Tony Blair’s Downing Street.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and the beginning of a solo career started to put Gallagher firmly back in control, although 2011’s ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ was a study in classic, if unspectacular British songwriting.
Owing more to The Kinks than Oasis ever did to The Beatles, basic, user-friendly anthems were almost immediately filling arenas even if the LP itself felt somehow unfulfilled. The blame for this unquenched mood should be left at least partly at the door of Dave Sardy, a producer with which Gallagher has enjoyed a long, and no less bemusing, creative relationship since Oasis’ 2005 album ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’.
In Sardy’s hands the magic of songs long before devoured on YouTube were lost. ‘If I Had a Gun’, haunting and painfully emotional in its embryonic live form, was Sardied into a predictable dirge where everything – acoustics, electrics, drums, you name it – was thrown at the mix in one immediate lump. Disappointing too was the final version of ‘(I Want To Live In a Dream) In My Record Machine‘; discussed for years and packing a punch in demo form, on record taken up a key and inexplicably narrated by the soundtrack of children let loose in a playground. Where spice should have been the ingredient of choice, all the pair could find was sugar.
And so we’ve started already. With Noel Gallagher it’s difficult not to look back, to compare and contrast with history, and the title of his second solo album certainly lends itself to such nostalgia. ‘Chasing Yesterday’ might have been a split-second decision immediately regretted, but it’ll inspire a thousand writers to conclude their thoughts in a style which this review is heading unashamedly towards too. (We’re being post-modern, go with it.).
But there is a deeper point to this, as looking back seems to offer up reasons for the most apparent steps forward to be found on Gallagher’s second solo outing. Chief of those being that, by luck or design, the production was his own responsibility – and therefore so too was his destiny. Swap the walls of a British Gas warehouse for the walls of a London studio, and he could almost have been 25 again, going it alone, shaping and sculpting ten tracks on purely personal terms.
“Oh I am bold as brass posing as gold” seems a fitting line for Marika Hackman to open her debut album, for beneath the gentle timbre of her mellifluous whisper lies a maturity and depth, subtly veiled by the beauty and richness of her music.
Having already released four EPs since 2012, ‘We Slept At Last’ finally cements Hackman’s status and reveals, through its many layers, a polished writer and performer of a new form of folk.
While the immediate parallels drawn to Laura Marling made by many commentators may seem obvious, they are purely surface level comparisons as Hackman’s style and delivery are unique, belonging to a genre all their own.
It’s usually pretty easy to describe Elbow, live or even on record, it’s just a case of throwing around words like grandiose, anthemic, uplifting and so on and so on.
This isn’t meant to denigrate what they do, in fact it’s a signal of just how consistently impressive they are. To have such words of accolade showered on them, so often, that they almost begin to sound humdrum really does say everything there is to say about Elbow.
So the expectation is for good things. Couple this with the fact that Manchester is effectively a hometown gig for Garvey and the boys, it’s expectation city.
What they deliver is impressive; it is also grandiose, anthemic uplifting and so on and so on. Or in simple terms, it is quite brilliant. Hitting the stage, and then the crowd, with a sublime double whammy of the lilting beauty. First ‘This Blue World‘, followed by ‘Any Day Now‘. It’s game over for any naysayers. Two songs in, crowd captivated, job done.
But, in reality this is merely just the start of the party.
Duke Garwood’s stripped back blues have been haunting listeners for a decade, and now the London-based guitar virtuoso returns with his fifth solo album ‘Heavy Love‘.
Cinematic and unified in concept, it is an effective mood piece that is a product of dark weary nights, and provides an even better soundtrack for them.
The album was partly recorded in Josh Homme’s Pink Duck studio in Los Angeles, while Garwood enlisted Alain Johannes (QOTSA) to aid in instrumentation and engineering, and previous collaborator Mark Lanegan was brought in to mix the album. The small team’s subtle approach magnifies Garwood’s strengths – his unique guitar playing and his earthy voice, both have never sounded as rich as they do here.
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