Wednesday, 20 January 2010

2010, a year of intrigue...

I don't know what it is about this year but so far we've been seeing an awful lot of records which have somehow defied expectations. First came the more challenging effort from Vampire Weekend and more recently we've had equally interesting releases from some of our favourites.

Spoon - Transference (2010)

Spoon are one of those bands who, so long as you like their pop rock stylings, will never really let you down. They hit on the right formula for producing catchy, danceable and interesting rock songs some years ago and that has really worked for them. They have an annoyingly good hear for a great pop hook and my party playlists are rarely without a Spoon song but this year they have made something of an enigma. The hooks are still plentiful and Transference is undeniably a good record but it does take a few listens to really identify any stand out tracks. There doesn't appear to be a straightforward equivalent to Turn My Camera On or Don't You Evah but strangely enough that doesn't seem to matter.

The album feels at once a step backwards, an attempt to shake off the overtly 'pop' Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and also a band maturing and moving forward. The one thing you really take from the album is that it is incredibly well crafted and there isn't a bad track on it.

Spoon - Written In Reverse

Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett (2010)

I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peak at many of the tracks from the new Scout Niblett record at her gig in December and in my crueller moments I'm tempted to say that The Calcination of Scout Niblett gives her fans more of the same. This would be incredibly shortsighted of me though because even a short meandering through her back catalogue will show an incredible progression whilst maintaining the intrinsic formula that her fans love.

With Scout there is a central core of vulnerability and unpredictability around which she has crafted a series of almost uncategorisable 'folk songs'. The style has moved on immensely from the shy beginnings of Sweet Heart Fever through the minimal I Am and the almost straightforward 'nu-folk' of This Fool Can Die Now. This new record has more in common I think with my personal favourite, Kidnapped By Neptune, a record that for all of its faults is genuinely unpredictable and raw. It really sounds like each song is an experiment and you can almost feel the faltering footsteps in its making. The Calcination, just like Kidnapped, will take me a few listens to firmly embed itself in my head but I know it will get there.

There, a Scout Niblett review without mentioning Steve Albini or Cat Power...shit!

Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Scout Niblett - Lucy Lucifer

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (2010)

Nothing says damn the critics quite like making your follow up to a widely acclaimed debut a concept album about the American Civil War. That said if your debut also contained an injoke from Seinfeld as well as a reading from the Shakespeare play you have taken your name from and a reading from Camus then you're probably not too interested in what the critics say.

Titus Andronicus' The Airing of Grievances was one of my albums of 2008, a perfect lo-fi mixture of punk and shoegaze. The album seemed filled with energy and fire and this does carry over to The Monitor even if the album does have a distinctly less lo-fi appearance. The basic formula is still there, pounding drums, murky guitars and 'shouted rather than sung' vocals but now the songs are lengthened (five of the ten tracks are longer than 6 minutes) and there is a definite 'level up' in terms of production.

This adds up to an album that is possibly an easier listen if not quite as much fun as the debut. That said I still think it's an amazing album from one of my favourite new bands.

(I can't find anything off the new album that isn't a rubbish live version so here's my favourite track from the first album)

Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus

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