A sporadically-updated music collection blog. Send questions to twitter or email me.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Calories - Basic Nature

About a month ago, Johnny Foreigner did a gig in Birmingham (and also one in London but that doesn't count because I don't like London) to celebrate the release of their new album. It was a great evening, for a wonderfully small amount of money. One of the several support bands that night was Calories. They were enjoyable, and after the gig I decided to investigate their albums on Spotify. A week or so of listening to nothing else later, I'd bought this (their second and most recent album) direct from their label. It was a bargain £9.50 shipped, and here's a link to it if you're interested. But for now, pictures.

Crazy artwork. There's a lot going on, none of which I totally understand but that's okay 'cause it's pretty.

Now this is something I've never seen before. The inner sleeve (printed with more of the same little pictures from the album cover) has got a little foam disc on it for the CD version of the album to live on. I'm surprised and very impressed that a small label would do something like this, and it's a pleasant alternative to just a download code. Also, the art printed onto the CD matches up with what it covers on the sleeve, which is some quite beautiful attention to detail.

Plain black record, no surprises here. The backs of both the outer and inner sleeves are largely mirrored versions of their respective fronts, which simultaneously is quite cool and hurts my head to look at. Nice. This vinyl version of the record is limited to 500 copies, so I'm surprised they're yet to sell out.

As you may have guessed from my introductory paragraph, I really love this album. It's a noisy rock album, but with the catchy choruses of a pop record. The three-song run of You Could Be Honest, FFWD and Orchard Girls in particular is unbelievably good, and each one has the power to lodge itself into your brain for days at a time. The whole album, though, is a lot of fun and I'm excited to see what they do to follow it. Both of the band's albums are on Spotify, and also their Soundcloud. Go listen.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Frightened Rabbit - A Frightened Rabbit EP

Right. On the 31st of October, Frightened Rabbit's new EP was released on 10" vinyl. If you're a regular reader of this blog, then it should come as no surprise to you that I'd pre-ordered it and 4 days after that it showed up on my doormat. Unfortunately, it's been a bit of a busy month so I've only now gotten round to writing this post up about it. I can assure you, though, it's worth the wait. The EP is still available from Avalanche with a free badge of the artwork (which is where I ordered from - the badge is awesome) so, y'know, you should totally get it.

The artwork's lovely, yet again, isn't it? It's plain and understated, and I love the "banner" style for the band name. Top marks around.

I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a stuck record (to use a delightfully appropriate turn of phrase) when it comes to Frabbit releases, but I don't care - I absolutely love how the band's releases always seem to have consistent artwork. It's just a really nice touch, and the use of the same banner style on the back cover and the record labels fills my heart with happiness. No, really.

Before I talk about the songs, it seems only appropriate that I tell you that you, dear reader, can download this EP for free in exchange for your email address. Follow this link and then you can listen along to your heart's content. The three songs that comprise this EP have been kicking around for a little while, as it was originally released on CD while the band were touring the US and was hosted for streaming purposes... somewhere, I forget exactly where it was. Anyway, I listened to them a few times back then and quite a few more times after the free download became available a couple of weeks before the vinyl release. They're great songs, as I've come to expect from this band. Fuck This Place and The Work both, interestingly, feature guest singers and both of them fit into the Frabbit "sound" really well, although it does take some getting used to hearing another voice alongside Scott's majestic tones. The highlight, though, is definitely Scottish Winds. It's catchy, borderline celebratory and pretty indicative of what Frabbit are "about", as it were. Oh, and as with seemingly everything else the band have released, Scott has written up a track-by-track that is certainly worth a read, so find it here. This release, in case you're the kind of person who's interested, is limited to 500 and I'm glad I own one of them.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Maybeshewill - I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone

Yes yes yes oh my god yes. After months of Andy telling me I should listen to them, in May of this year I finally gave Maybeshewill a good listen and they promptly took over my heart. Post-rock is, in my opinion, the ultimate revision music. There are minimal lyrics to distract you from whatever you're reading, and the sheer majesty of most post-rock bands make even the most mundane of topics seem enormously important. So over the exam period, I found myself listening to this band an awful lot. I've been looking to pick up their albums ever since then, but only managed to get round to it until last week when I found this (their third album) for £11 on the HMV website (where I inexplicably still get 10% student discount. Bonus). Let's take a look at it, shall we?

I absolutely adore this cover, to the extent that it's probably one of my favourite pieces of album art ever. The vinyl version is actually an extended version of the CD cover (see here) and  it's just so much better. As soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to be buying the vinyl instead of the CD. Outstanding. There are no words on the cover either, which is a lovely touch.

It's a gatefold LP, but there's not much going on in the middle. A whole load of technical details and thanks etc, with a sufficiently muted background to make them readable. Fair enough.

Plain black vinyl, with some fairly subtle labels. The back cover holds little more than the tracklisting, but the visual effect of it is spoiled slightly by the massive white bar with the record label details on it, but I'm really just picking hairs here. Beyond that cover, nothing else really matters.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, I love this band and I love this album. Maybeshewill lie towards the heavier end of post-rock, but incorporate synths and occasionally (though not on this album) some speech samples. So they're a bit like if And So I Watch You From Afar and 65daysofstatic had an illegitimate love-child (if you're a fan of direct band comparisons). I'd like to tell you some highlights of the album but honestly, it's just consistently excellent. The 6-track run in the middle of the album from Red Paper Lanterns to Farewell Sarajevo could be an album on its own and would still be worth as much money as a full album. This is, without a shadow of doubt, one of my top albums of the year. You can stream the entire thing (and both of the band's other albums) from their record label's Bandcamp or on Spotify, which I obviously think you should do. In two months' time, I'll be watching this album being played in full live in Leicester (accompanied by Andy, no less). To say I'm excited is somewhat of an understatement.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tubelord - My First Castle

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently bought both versions of the new Tubelord cassette. Yesterday I received an email from the band containing a download link for the songs, which was hugely appreciated and means I can now write about them. Excellent. The cassettes were a fiver each, and are available via the Pink Mist store if you're interested.

The cover is good, if a bit weird. The pastel colours soothe my head, but then I've no idea what's going on above the castle. Is Pinocchio dead? What is Mickey doing? I'll leave these questions open.

What is a nice touch is that there's a tiny version of the band's new logo in the middle of the castle. Subtle, I like it.

Cassettes don't please me too much aesthetically (especially in comparison to records), but the solid colours of both of these are excellent. The cases matching is a nice touch, too.

The tracklisting for these two tapes is slightly unusual. The A-side of each consists of 3 Tubelord songs. First of all we have My First Castle itself, which is an astoundingly good song. Catchy and poppy, it's a pity it's been released a couple of months too late to be a huge summer hit (as I genuinely think it could have been). It brings a smile to your face and although it's a lot more synthesized and radio-friendly than the band's older material, after a few listens it's difficult to care. Ellie Barge, the second track, is much more like the Tubelord of old but with the added synthesized elements of the band's newer songs. It's great. The third track is called Death, and is a fairly uncharacteristic slow(ish) song. It's my least favourite of the three but isn't too bad. There are 6 tracks on the B-side of each tape. They're not songs though. They're poems. Three people contributing two each. I don't know a lot about poetry so I can't really comment in depth on any of the poems, but they're enjoyable and I like that Tubelord were willing to try something a bit different with this release. It'd be better on vinyl though...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Three Trapped Tigers - Route One or Die

This past Wednesday I went to see the magnificent Tubelord in Birmingham in what was one of my favourite gigs in a long while. At the merch table there were a few Tubelord things for sale (including the band's new single on cassette, which I bought both versions of and will post about once I've found a way to listen to them) and also a record box of various Pink Mist releases. In that box I spotted this album, one I've been looking to get for a long while, for the lovely price of £10.

This cover is amazing. It's very distinctive and bright and I loved it from the moment I saw it. There was a t-shirt of this design with the pre-order of the album but it had sold out by the time I saw it, which was annoying. It's also worth mentioning that the album comes in a plastic outer sleeve with the little title label on, which I appreciate a lot.

The paper inner sleeve has this on the front, which looks nice, and recording information and thanks on the back. I like it.

The back cover's got a weird repeated-style font going on. The reverse of the inner sleeve has the same effect. It looks pretty cool, but can be kind of hard to read. Black vinyl, but with absolutely lovely labels. Since Blood and Biscuits is only a small label, it doesn't make sense for them to pay lots for hosting of the tracks and include a specific download code with every copy of the record. Instead, they've very cleverly put all of the albums tracks as a private set on Soundcloud and printed the link to this on the A-side of the label. As anyone who has read this blog before will know, I think records (albums at least) should come with a download code, so credit to Blood and Biscuits for a good way of doing this.

There's a reason I've been after this album for a while. It's spectacular. TTT are an instrumental band, but a very electronic one at that. They're quite heavy but there's a lot of melody in the album. Elements of post-rock and sounds that border on chiptune blend together beautifully for 43 minutes of absolute joy. One of my albums of the year so far, for sure.

It's also worth noting that the album has produced two wonderful videos. The first, for Noise Trade, is a gorgeously-animated affair about hearts and robots. I don't want or need to explain any more.

The second, for Reset, might be my favourite video of all time. It features Matt Berry, of all people, as some kind of world saviour acting against an evil space alien trying to destroy the earth. Exactly. It's 7 minutes long but absolutely worth watching.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I'm pretty late on this one, even by my standards. The only other Arcade Fire album I own is Neon Bible, which is a solid album but never grabbed me all that much. So when this album came out and wasn't on Spotify, I felt no rush to go out and buy it. Last weekend however, my dad and I ventured into Head in Leamington and they had the 12" for a tenner. He offered to buy it for me, and I'll never say no to gift vinyl.

The cover's not bad. Very lo-fi, with a fair amount of film grain and some light leaks up the right side. Lovely. There's 8 different versions of this cover for the CD version apparently, but I'm not sure whether there are any variants to this (the UK & Ireland) version of the 12". Discogs mentions alternate covers for the Europe and US versions, but not for this one, so I'm going to presume this is the only one. Upon seeing them all, it's my favourite of the 8 though which is nice.

Double LP, so it's a gatefold. The inside is fairly sparse, with only a small logo in the bottom right on top of an extended version of what appears to be a photo of the same area as the picture on the front. This means that all the song information and lyrics are printed on the dust sleeves, which is super-cool and actually makes a lot of sense. The lyrics are very readable on the white of the dust sleeves whereas they might not have been overlaid on a picture.

The labels are nice and subtle, continuing the lo-fi nature of the rest of the artwork, and the back cover is the only place apart from the spine that features the album title. The gold text used is far shinier than my poor camera skills could capture, and it looks really good. Here comes my problem though - no download card. It annoys me quite a lot that this record doesn't come with one. This isn't some bedroom label release, this is the new album from a fairly massive band. It will have sold thousands of copies on vinyl at an eye-watering release price of £18. I don't understand why they couldn't put one in, and I resorted to downloading the album from Mediafire so that I'd have a copy to listen to. Morally I think I have the right to do that, but I know it's a bit of a dubious area.

To bring things back onto positives, the album is really really good. I know most of you are probably already aware of this, but it took me by surprise somewhat. I don't think I need to go into that much detail about it, but if you've never listened to it then maybe you should. Arcade Fire are arguably the "indie" (for lack of a better word) band of the moment, and they really stepped their game up after Neon Bible. If they keep going at this rate, the next album will be phenomenal.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Biffy Clyro - Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies

Time to resume the Biffy spree. Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies (henceforth referred to as LIAPBED for simplicity's sake) was the second single to be taken from Puzzle and peaked at a respectable 19 in the UK singles charts. It's one of the band's more well-known songs and as such gets played live with unerring regularity. I picked up both versions of the single for a measly £2.50 plus shipping from ebay last year, which was a total bargain.

Okay so as with Saturday Superhouse, we have two slightly different covers for the two different versions. I am, unsurprisingly, a big fan of this. The artwork is fairly nice and, as with every release from this album, definitely has the feel of a Storm Thorgerson piece (I don't think I mentioned last time, but he did all the artwork for the Puzzle and Only Revolutions releases. Awesome stuff).

Lovely coloured records. The blue is particularly nice. This time there are pictures of the band inside the gatefold sleeves. They're alright. Not much I can say about them, in truth.

More seemingly pointless numbering. These numbers are low though, so my brain likes them. I don't understand either.

Music-wise, both versions of the single have a radio edit of LIAPBED as their A-side, a radio edit that cuts out ALL of the weird long intro to the song. I love that intro, and thus really dislike the radio edit. The blue version has a track called Loneliness as its B-side. Loneliness is one in a long line of slightly off-kilter Biffy songs, with its jangly guitars and strange lyrics (chiefly, "I have a secret to tell, shit looks like chocolate to me") including some that are ripped directly from other tracks on Puzzle (a theme common to a lot of the B-sides from this era). Indeed, the red version's B-side (the wonderfully titled "Kittens, Cakes and Cuddles") has the word "loneliness" in its chorus. KC&C is a more straightforward Biffy song, but is still pretty good. Unfortunately, my rips of both songs are pretty poor so I don't listen to either as much as I arguably should. A shame.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Crywank - James Is Going To Die Soon

A guy I know called James started writing acoustic music a little while ago, under the unusual moniker of Crywank. He recorded an album about a year or so ago I think, and now it's been released on a limited run of tapes. I bought one. Here it is:

Yeah, Javier Bardem! The release of the tape saw 13 different covers done of various white males, with 4 copies of each cover done. I chose this one because Javier is an absolute badass. All of the covers are black and white and look really good, you can see a picture of them all here.

Cassettes aren't as nice to look at as a lovely record, but this is all white with no writing on it at all and looks neat. It also came with a little folded lyric sheet, which is nice.

The music itself is pretty good. Some heartfelt acoustic music with pretty good lyrics in parts. The recording quality isn't the best, but it does the job. The entire album is up for free download here or on a pay-what-you-want from Bancamp here, and I encourage you to at least give it a listen 'cause the first 3 tracks are genuinely awesome. If you're really interested, there are still a few of the cassettes available here for the lovely price of £3.50 including shipping. Rad.

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

Oh man. This is a huge one.  My second favourite album of all time, an album I never planned or expected to own on vinyl. Indeed, I owe a massive thanks to my wonderful friend Marcus who was considering buying it but decided not to so that I could. What a guy. The album was a spectacularly cheap £7 from Rise, which made me very happy. As with my The Winter Of Mixed Drinks post, I've included the CD in my pictures so we can see similarities etc.

I love this cover. The 12" version is a little more creamy in colour than the CD (although my crappy picture doesn't really show that) but both have the same odd sketch. I don't fully understand it, but it looks nice.

Black vinyl again from Frabbit. I wish they'd do some coloured records, but in this case it provides a nice contrast with the artwork. I also absolutely love the labels on the record being the same as the print on the CD, it's more brilliant continuity from a band who seem to like it as much as I do. The little heart model in the top-right corner of both the record sleeve and CD case looks really cool, too.

It's about now that I should try and speak about the music. Of the many Frabbit posts I've done on this blog, I've never actually covered any of the tracks from this album. It's an insular, emotional, beautiful album. I can't do it justice with words, you just need to listen to it. If you are lazy and want me to pick just one track, it'd be Old Old Fashioned. My first exposure to Frabbit came through seeing them support Biffy Clyro (who else?) on two consecutive nights. At the time, I didn't particularly "get it" but I liked one track from their set. When I got home I listened to it again. And again. And again and again and again. I then decided to listen to the other tracks I could find, and just became hooked on Frabbit. The rest, as they say, is history. That one song was Old Old Fashioned. You should listen to it. As with The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, there's a track-by-track summary of the album written by the band's lead singer Scott Hutchison. It's another great read, which you can find here.

I've delayed doing this post for a couple of weeks while I waited for this photo to surface:

Yep. I met Scott before their headlining set at 2000 Trees. I'd love to pretend to you, dear reader, that I was calm and eloquent and composed at that moment, but that'd be an absolute lie. He is one of my favourite songwriters of all time. I told him how much I love the band and basically freaked out a bit. He was nice and polite and everything I'd have liked him to be. Amazing.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Errors - A Rumour In Africa

This past week or two I've managed to amass a few new records so I'm going to have a little diversion from what could easily have become a solid chain of Biffy posts. Errors are a glitchy instrumental electronic band from Glasgow (obviously) who I enjoy a lot. I spotted this single for £2 on Norman Records (the wonderful people that they are) and had to pick it up.

The cover has a lot of chickens on it. I don't really know why. It reminds me of a kaleidoscope, which is cool. The font's nice as well.

Look how pretty that is! Half creamy yellow, half translucent red. Whoever thought of that deserves a medal, because it's superb. The back cover of the single is also a nice picture of the band looking jolly in front of a decidedly British seafront. The A-side to this single is A Rumour In Africa, the excellent second song from the band's latest album Come Down With Me. It's fairly typical of the band, and is very catchy. I suck at describing this kind of music, so you'll have to listen to it yourself if you're interested. Here's a link. The B-side is a slightly slower song called Beat The Bookies which is also pretty good. All in all, not too shabby indeed.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Biffy Clyro - Saturday Superhouse

In terms of Biffy Clyro as a band, I think Saturday Superhouse can be considered a fairly pivotal single. The first physical single from their then-upcoming album Puzzle (the album that would give the band their first taste of mainstream success), the band's first top 20 single (peaking at 13) and to date their 4th-highest charting single (behind Mountains, That Golden Rule and, sadly, Many Of Horror). It was also the first release by the band to feature the artwork of the much-revered Storm Thorgerson and the first time the band released two vinyl versions of a single. So, as you can see, a lot of firsts for the band. This single was also, as it happens, the source of a couple of firsts for me. It was the first Biffy Clyro song I actively listened to and, if my memory serves me right, the first records I ever bought (which may or may not have been with the Dananananaykroyd single I posted about the other day, I forget). Indeed, the only reason I collect vinyl is because I craved more Biffy B-sides. Yep, fanboy-tastic. These records, therefore, mean quite a lot to me and I felt it'd be doing them a disservice if I didn't do that small explanation. But you're here for pictures, right?

There are two versions of this single. They each have marginally different artwork, neither of which I understand but both of which look awesome. Each one also comes with a poster of its cover, posters I will obviously never put up due to my completionist nature requiring that they are never damaged. Still pretty though.

So the record arbitrarily deemed "1 of 2" is orange, and "2 of 2" is (a poorly photographed) purple. Amazing colours that my camera has failed to capture adequately, and both come in gatefold packaging that emphasises a part of the cover of that version, and I like it.

These records are also both numbered, but it seems somewhat pointless to me since the numbers are so high. Even if we assume that the numbers are out of a total for the two colours, that implies each colour is "limited" to 3000. Not really worth it, is it?

So, the music. Saturday Superhouse is, as I implied before, a brilliant song. A summery, fairly poppy Biffy song with a huge chorus that begs to be shouted along to. The B-sides, Miracle of Survival and I'm Behind You are fairly competent (at least as far as Biffy B-sides go). I'm Behind You is a fairly jaunty acoustic number, while Miracle of Survival is a more traditional stop-start Biffy song, somewhat reminiscent of Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave from the band's previous album. It's worth mentioning, however, that both are totally overshadowed by the B-side on the CD. Scared Of Lots Of Everything (what a title!) is a moderately heavy song, featuring guest vocals by Matt Caughtran from The Bronx. I'd be willing to say it's one of my favourite Biffy B-sides, which is high praise indeed. Go listen to it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Biffy Clyro - Only One Word Comes To Mind

Oh yes. It's time. Given the wealth of free time I have this summer, I'm going to make a start on the fairly large amount of Biffy records I have to write up. I did a quick mental check and I think there's about 11 posts to do because a lot are parts 1 and 2 of the same single. I'm also going to do them in release order, because that makes sense and I have no idea in what order I acquired them.

The "oldest" piece of Biffy vinyl I own is, sadly, a single from their 3rd album (and my favourite album of all-time) Infinity Land. I'd love to have some stuff from Blackened Sky or The Vertigo of Bliss but paying >£15 for a 7" single isn't quite possible in my budget at the moment. One day though, hopefully. However, this post isn't about that so let's leave that behind. This is probably one of my favourite records. It was a gift to me from the incredible Andy for Christmas 2009. Andy's my long-term Biffy partner, I've seen the band 4 times with him and now him not being there at a Biffy gig feels wrong. He knows the love I have for Only One Word Comes To Mind and sent me this. Love him.

And this is it. I love the cover. It's by Chris Fleming, who did most of the artwork from Biffy singles of this era. This cover itself is most similar to the My Recovery Injection cover, as both depict damaged people (although the MRI cover is a bit more stylized). As I've stated before, I'm a big fan of continuity and every piece Fleming did for the Infinity Land era has a distinct "feel" to it (something that has been continued since, as we will see soon).

Black vinyl, although this is somewhat of a rarity when it comes to my Biffy collection (seriously, if you like coloured vinyl as much as I do then you're in for a treat). It's nice though. The fairly plain red labels on the black vinyl look nice. In terms of songs, the A-side is obviously Only One Word Comes To Mind. It's a quiet, beautiful song with one of the greatest cymbal hit sounds I've ever heard. It's one of my favourite songs from my favourite album, which should tell you all you need to know. The B-side is Tradition Feed, the "hidden track" on Infinity Land. It's a poem read by Simon Neil about his late mother over some tuneless noise. I like it. I like this. I like you.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax

It's now the summer, and there's almost no band better for the summertime than Dananananaykroyd. The band are apparently named after a combination of Dan Aykroyd's name and the old Batman theme tune, and describe themselves as "fight pop". That should be enough to get a smile on your face already. The band's music is a mixture of aggressive guitars, yelping and pop hooks. Their debut album, Hey Everyone, is absolutely rammed full of brilliant songs and the A-side to this single is one of them. I bought this a good few years ago, back when I first started collecting vinyl. I think it was from recordstore.co.uk and I think it cost about £3.

It also came signed! Rad. This was also from before Laura (bassist) left the band, which is kinda cool. I really like the artwork. It makes absolutely zero sense but the colours are nice.

For once, black vinyl that I don't object to (it is called Black Wax after all)! Black Wax itself is a great song, with one of the catchiest choruses on the entire album (which is saying something). The video for the song is a bit odd. It's a performance video, but with.. extras. I don't properly understand it, but listen to the song anyway. The B-side is a song called No Wage, which I still haven't listened to. Maybe I will tonight. Maybe.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs (Newspaper Edition)

I feel this post is about two months too late to be relevant, but ah well. Unless you've been living in an internet-free zone, you'll be aware of Radiohead's latest album The King Of Limbs and the special "newspaper edition" of it that was released. I, being a sucker for special editions, went ahead and bought it. It came a good while ago now, opened as soon as it came, and since then I've been looking forward to writing about it. Why? Well, there's a fair amount of stuff to write about. Yay.

Right. The entire thing comes in this "oxo-biodegradable" plastic bag, which looks pretty cool but I ripped it open to get to everything inside (stupid me didn't use scissors) which spoils the effect a little bit. I'm not sure I like everything being held together with a fairly thin piece of plastic instead of a cardboard box/sleeve but I think the idea is that it's "degradable" (although the reverse of this says that it should last longer than me if I take care of it).

Having gotten inside the plastic sleeve, this is what we find. From left to right we have a CD of the album in a cardboard sleeve (which is fairly boring, and as such this is the only image of it in this post), the first cardboard sleeve containing the two records (the reverse of which I forgot to take a picture of. It's the same as the plastic sleeve but without "The King Of Limbs" on), the "625 tiny pieces of artwork" and the newspaper itself. Let's go through these things from right to left because why not.

The newspaper itself is a slightly odd affair. It's massive in length and contains a lot of weird artwork, as seen above. I haven't had a proper look through it yet, for reasons unknown to me, but I imagine it's all a lot like this. Pretty though.

This is the "625 tiny pieces of artwork" and, although it's cool, I expected something somewhat different from the description. In my head, it was going to be a whole bunch of tiny pieces of paper with different things on them, probably kept together in a small bag of some kind. Instead, it's just one large piece of card (or thick paper, whichever) with tiny tear-off squares arranged into a nice pattern. The bear head in the centre is, of course, distinctly "Radiohead" but I was expecting somewhat more from this. A shame.

Inside the first cardboard sleeve for the records, there is another sleeve for each one. I suppose it's necessary, since the bag itself would offer no protection and one sleeve might not be enough, but it's good to see they went the whole hog and gave firm sleeves with predictably strange artwork. This side, which I have mentally deemed the "front" of each, has some creatures with strange limbs (geddit?)...

...and the other has awesome trees (if you weren't aware, the album is named after an old oak tree in Wiltshire). I really like that these sleeves aren't plain, and the trees look really good. Good effort, chaps.

Annnnnd we have more clear vinyl! This is only my second (and, I suppose, third) piece of clear vinyl (after the Forward Russia single) and possibly some of the most well-done clear records I've ever seen. When you hold them up they look almost as though they're made of glass. They're only 10" records, but the overall package is the height of a 12" sleeve and not as wide, so it shouldn't be odd to store in a record box (when I finally get one).

Here, we're at the point where I should talk about the music itself. Perhaps this is an advantage of posting about the album a good while after it's come out, as the general opinion of this album seems to have been deteriorating since the initial good reviews. I still really, really like the album. It's a lot more like Thom Yorke's solo album than it is to past Radiohead albums, but I can only see that in a positive light. Thom's solo work is amazing, so this album is right up my street. Morning Mr Magpie, Codex and Separator are all quality tracks, and listening to this album now after not having done so for a good while, I'm finding myself still enjoying it a lot. The "two albums" prophecy never came true, which does make this seem somewhat on the short side at only 8 tracks (and somewhat on the expensive side for this newspaper edition of the album) but, frankly, it's Radiohead. If there was ever a band to deliberately not do what was expected of them, then this is that band. This album was only announced 5 days before the digital version meant to be released, and even then it was released a day early because they could. I really like this album, and I quite like the overall package. It may have been a touch expensive but I can deal with that.

Guest Post: Dan

Well. The past month or so has been filled with exams and life generally moving incredibly quickly, so this has been neglected somewhat. I apologise, dear reader, for the abscence but now that the summer has come, I'm free as a bird to write things up (I plan to finally tackle the rather large amount of Biffy Clyro things I own sometime soon) and generally do little for two months. Being a student is beautiful sometimes.

Now, as you may have guessed form the title, this is a slightly different post to usual. For the past few months I've been harassing some of my vinyl-buying friends to contribute to this blog with posts about their favourite records that they own. Why? Well, I think it'll be interesting to see why people value certain records over others, and it'd be a nice change from my own posts. That, and chances are we'll see some vinyl I'll probably never buy. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

So our inaugural guest post comes from Dan (twitter here, tumblr here). As I know Dan has a fairly impressive record collection (including a lot of Foo Fighters), I was interested as to what he'd come up with. Here is what he chose:

My favourite records.
I'm nominating two records for this, one for the sleeve, and another for the record itself.
Firstly, the sleeve.  This is the debut album from Leeds band, The Music.  The artwork they had for the first album and the singles from it was fantastic.  It was simple, instantly recognisable as them, and highly visible on the shelves.  As a bonus, it's also one of the best British albums of the last 30 years.  I had this signed outside the Astoria in London (RIP) in February 2004, and they were always up for a chat with fans. 
Finally, the vinyl itself.  This is side C of "Scabdates", a live album from The Mars Volta.In keeping with tradition, GSL's special vinyl version features two full-colour picture discs and this is my favourite of them.  A goblet containing a human with an oversized, exposed brain with flies hovering around it, set against an incendiary background.  I was never much of a fan of the album but the artwork, as usual with The Mars Volta, is fantastic.  

Thanks Dan!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Frightened Rabbit - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

This past week, my beloved Frightened Rabbit commemorated the 5 year anniversary of the first pressing of their debut album Sing The Greys by playing it live in full with their original line-up. This is super-awesome, but it took place in Edinburgh at VERY SHORT NOTICE so I couldn't go. Gutted. As my own form of tribute to this wonderful anniversary, I've decided it's time to do a slightly overdue post about their latest album The Winter Of Mixed Drinks. This, the band's third studio album, was released in March of last year and was definitely in my top 5 albums of 2010. At the time, I bought it on CD (as the only places I could find it for on vinyl wanted £15+) but the wonderful Rise came through for me again by having it on vinyl for the crazily cheap price of £7. Since I own both physical formats of the album, I've included the CD in the pictures for comparison. Let's begin.

I love this cover. Absolutely love it. The design's really clean, and the font is superb. They used the same font on (almost all of) the singles from the album too (see a post about them here) and, as you should know by know, I'm a huge sucker for continuity. The CD, as you can see, is just like its tiny little brother. Aww.

As is the case with most releases these days, it's a gatefold affair. No lyric booklet, which is a shame, but they're printed nicely on one of the interior panels. The CD is similarly fold-out, and shares a lot of the artwork of the vinyl release. Again, joyful continuity makes me happy.

Black vinyl again from Frabbit, and another download code from Fat Cat (as more labels should start to do in all of their releases). I really love that the vinyl labels are the same as the CD design, especially as it's a really nice design. Now, the music. I've expressed my love for Frabbit several times before on this blog alone, including several of the songs on this album in the post I linked to earlier. This is just an all-round excellent album. Much more triumphant than the two that came before it but still with the thoughtful, emotional core that defines the band and the sound that is very much their own. I'd tell you more about the record but a few months ago I found a track by track summary of the album with the band's lead singer Scott, which does it far better than I ever could. Go here and enjoy.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Frightened Rabbit/The Twilight Sad - Demos split cassette

About a month ago, the music-collectors' paradise (or hell, depending on your monetary situation at the time) that is Record Store Day occurred. For those of you who don't know, RSD is a day every year in which a whole load of record labels do limited releases that only get stocked in independent stores. This year's list was predictably big, but there wasn't a lot that excited me personally. There were two Mastodon releases (a split with ZZ Top and an extortionately priced vinyl issue of their recent live album) and a Deftones covers album, but they didn't really pique my interest enough to hunt them down and spend a not-too-small amount of money on them. No, there was only one release that I really wanted, and this is it. A split cassette tape of demos from personal favourites (if you've read much of this blog, you'll realise they come up every few posts) Frightened Rabbit and fellow Scotsmen The Twilight Sad. As it turned out, I was visiting some friends on RSD and didn't really want to drag them into town early-morning just so we could queue outside a little record store, so I asked my good friend John if he could try and pick this up for me. He did, and then decided it would be a birthday present for me. So no money spent. Ace.

I know this is (predominantly) a vinyl blog and this is a cassette, but it's awesome so I don't have any qualms over posting about it. The cover is just a piece of parcel paper with a lovely design printed on it. I really like it, the style fits well with the lo-fi nature of the recordings.

Hey, at least it's not black! I don't really find this cassette as aesthetically pleasing as I would a lovely piece of vinyl, but I really like that the side names and catalogue code have been hand-written. As per usual, Fat Cat continue to be awesome and include download codes. I've edited mine out again, just because. So, the songs. The Frightened Rabbit side consists of some very early recordings of some very good songs, and I enjoy it a lot. Everything sounds scratchy and unrefined, but it's fascinating. The recording of Snake is a particular favourite, due in no small part to it being one of my favourite Frabbit songs. The other side of the cassette features a few of The Twilight Sad's demos and, amazingly, a cover of Be Less Rude by Frightened Rabbit. The recording quality on this side is even more unrefined (the tracklist itself describes the songs as "recorded with 1 really shitty mic") but still very enjoyable. The Frightened Rabbit cover is, predictably, my favourite song though. It's not massively different to the original, it's mostly that hearing James singing in place of Scott feels odd but works. Scott's voice is so key to Frabbit's sound that this minor change makes the song feel massively different. It's worth a listen, so here's a youtube link.

Now, let's talk pressing numbers (because I'm a nerd for numbers). The Fat Cat website itself says there is a UK version limited to 400 (which I can safely presume mine is one of) but also that there is a US version limited to 777? I can't seem to find any information on this anywhere else though, so if anyone knows about it I'd appreciate your knowledge.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tubelord - Our First American Friends & For The Grandparents

The vinyl's coming thick and fast now. In the past 3 days I've received 3 albums in the post, and I've still got a backlog of a few things (including something very special). I'm going to try and work my way through them over the coming few weeks in between revision sessions, so expect a fair few posts.

This morning I went to the post office to collect some undelivered post, and inside the parcel was this plethora of Tubelord-related goodies. Now, there's a handful of non-vinyl things here but I feel they all tie in together nicely and I want to write about them, so I will.

Let's start with the vinyl though. This is cover of the band's debut (and thus far only) album Our First American Friends. I'm not entirely sure what's going on here, there seems to be shiny paper spread like lava onto a hill. It's nice, although the colours are a little muted. personally, I'd prefer them to be a bit brighter but this is pretty good as it is.

This is a nice touch. The dust sleeve is made of card and has more lovely artwork on it. This appears to be some kind of bear in a cave on the mountain from the cover. Okay then.

Yessss, we've got some coloured vinyl again! A lovely, lovely white. I really like the look of this, it's just such a big contrast to the regular black. Behind it is the other side of the inner sleeve, and to the left of that is the back of the outer sleeve. I like both, they look nice. Not a lot more to say.

As I don't have my USB turntable at uni, I slightly presumptively sent the band an email asking if they'd include a burnt CD of the tracks. Thus, they did. What a lovely group. it's about here where I should probably describe the album a bit. Tubelord are a kind of like the halfway point of Dananananaykroyd (who I love) and Los Campesinos (who I don't). If you don't know what any of that meant, they're yelpy with loud guitars but also lots of melody. They're brilliant, as is this album. there are so many out-and-out awesome songs, but my personal favourites are probably Night Of The Pencils and Synthesize. I'd describe them but you can stream the entire album on the band's Bandcamp page, which you definitely should do if you are even faintly interested in what I just said. Let's not forget though, there were some more things in this parcel:

So this is the "summer package" the band did last year. It's an acoustic version of the entire OFAF album on CD and a tote bag. I like both, a lot. Not fussed if the tote bag doesn't suit me, it's comfortable and awesome. I like the mountain.

So this is the CD. The artwork folds out into a mini-poster, which is odd but nice. In terms of the music, I really like it. It's interesting to hear what are at times fairly loud songs reimagined acoustically. Sure, there's a couple of bits that don't quite work but there's a lot that does. I may even prefer the acoustic version of Stacey's Left Arm to the full one. This is also streaming on the band's Bandcamp page linked earlier, so you can listen to it there and stuff. What also makes me happy is the centre strip of each of these CDs is numbered out of 300. Mine is number 50. I like that as a number. It's fairly low AND even AND divisible by 10. Lovely.