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

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Belle and Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister

It's time for a bit of a catch-up, I think. Now my degree is over and life is still lacking purpose, I have no excuse for not getting this up to date, really. Belle and Sebastian are a band I got into due to the influence of Rob (and the power of being Scottish). This, the band's second album, is the one I have listened to most, and as such made for an excellent choice of Christmas present last year. Thanks, cousin Andy.

The band seem to like having album covers that consist predominantly of one colour. I am a big fan of this. It gives a nice sense of continuity between the albums and I'm pretty sure if you got them all side-by-side it'd look glorious. Really enjoy the variety of shades of red here, too. Mmmm.

Inside the gatefold, we've got a big picture of I have no idea who. The band? Could be, then again it could not. There's also a slightly lengthy story written across the top, which may or may not be talking about them. The thing with Belle & Seb is they seem to be rather enigmatic, and it's not impossible that both of these things are totally unrelated to them just to confuse people. You can make your mind up (or, hopefully, someone can come along and correct me).

Plain black record. Red might have been nice to match the cover, but the lovely red shade of the labels will have to do for me. I also really enjoy the little fox on A-side label, he looks to be frolicking joyfully. The B-side label has some thanks on, beginning with the amusing line "Sarah Martin is our new member for this record. See if you can guess what she did". The back of the sleeve also has the lyrics to the entire album, which gets a big plus from me.

This album is beautifully twee. Guitars jangle, lyrics float around gently and I generally end up feeling like I should be wearing a cardigan to listen to it. It has a slight air of melancholy and yet always brings a smile to my face, most notably on its title track. It has a chorus built to live inside your head for weeks and is promptly followed by my other favourite track on the album, Mayfly. Mayfly has a stylophone solo and that is pretty much all you need to know about it. Amazing. This album is, without doubt, an all-time classic.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Saint Coltrane/Weird Wives - Split 7"

This post is pretty cool. So the other week, shortly after my Bear vs Shark post, I received an email from someone asking me if I'd be willing to do a write-up of his new band's 7". That I subsequently realised the person in question was a member of one of my favourite post-rock bands only made me more excited to get a free record to write about. So huge thanks to James of Fat Cat Records/O Rosa Records/Yndi Halda/Saint Coltrane for sending this to me. The split is still available from Enjoyment Records, who I must admit I hadn't heard of before but seem to have some pretty good releases (including Lions' EP, which is pretty good and free here) so they might end up being the source for some future posts.

With this being a split EP, we're treated to two covers. Saint Coltrane's side is full of crazy eyes, and is pretty creepy. A lot of stubble and facial hair here, too. I only feel slightly emasculated by comparison

Weird Wives' side is slightly less creepy but still features some intimidating facial hair. Bottom-right, I'm looking at you enviously. Also LOOK HOW PRETTY THE 7" IS. There are two coloured versions of this single, the other one is a nice red with a yellow swirl but I'm so glad James sent me this one. I love when the colour of a record matches its sleeve, and this pairs up with both sides of the sleeve. Absolutely top notch. Each colour is limited to 250, for those fact fans among you.

Before James emailed me I'd never heard anything by either of these bands, so this was an interesting listen for me. The single (plus its digital bonus tracks) are streaming on Soundcloud so go here for a listen. That page also saves me the effort of awkward music description by referring to both bands as "sleaze punk" so that's quite convenient. While the bands are musically similar, this release crosses the Atlantic by providing us with a band from the UK (Saint Coltrane) and a band from the US (Weird Wives). I enjoy that a lot, if only because their lack of geographical proximity means their pairing for this release was probably quite well thought out. Saint Coltrane's Iron Dracula is caustic and full of aggression, but is actually quite catchy. It's not the kind of thing I'd normally go for, yet I enjoyed it a lot. Weird Wives' Gila, on the other hand, is much more moody and atmospheric. Unfortunately, it didn't quite click for me but it's not bad by any means. The digital tracks that round this release out consist of a delightfully distorted Saint Coltrane cover of Debaser by Pixies and an even more sinister instrumental Weird Wives track called Nasty Tricks (which I think I actually prefer to Gila). All in all, this is a pretty nice single. I probably wouldn't have listened to it of my own accord, but I'm glad I have and I'll definitely be on the lookout for any future Saint Coltrane releases. I might even give Weird Wives another go. Thanks again, James!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Tall Ships - Everything Touching

As I mentioned in my post about Hit The Floor, Tall Ships' debut album came out on the 8th of this month. I received my pre-order the following Friday and now here it is for you. I bought it from the band's store for a quite nice £12, and there appear to be black copies of the record currently still available direct from them.

I'm a really big fan of the cover. It's pretty simple and yet looks really good. Top drawer.

Inside the sleeve there's a compactly-folded insert. Based on the size, I'd guess it's the same insert as the CD version of the album. One side of it's some more nice artwork, the other side features all of the lyrics for the album (which, if you click through to the large version of the image, you should be able to read. I'm nice like that). I like this insert.

Yassssssssss. I said there were black copies of the record still available from the band but I swooped early and managed to get a white version limited to 100. It's a lovely ever-so-slightly creamy white, which compliments the pastel-shaded art of the inner sleeve and record labels. You can also just about see in the photo that there's a little black streak in my copy, which I find quite pleasant.

Now I need to speak of the music. This is going to be slightly difficult for me so I'm going to offer a short version and a long version.

Short version: it's good. Parts of it are incredible. It is completely worth listening to.

Long version: it's good, but I wish it was different. Specifically, I wish Ode To Ancestors and Books were different. Both have been re-recorded and, while the new versions sound more in keeping with the rest of the album, I can't help but feel that something has been lost. The somewhat cheesy synths of both have been removed and I miss them greatly. Books in particular seems to lack its previous urgency, feeling even longer due to Send News serving as an extended intro to the song. The original version of Ode is probably my favourite Tall Ships song, so I was never going to be able to cope with it being changed very well. This is a personal problem for me though, there's nothing objectively wrong with either song and I'm sure you'll enjoy both if you've never heard the original versions. My disappointment with these changes is tempered slightly by the fact that the two songs are followed by arguably the best tracks on the album. Ode To Ancestors is followed by the appropriately-titled and lyrically delightful Gallop, while Books is followed by the slow-building might of Murmurations. For all the negativity of this paragraph, I do really like this album. I've listened to it an awful lot recently and seeing the band live on Sunday, a lot of the songs come across really well live. For a debut album, this is pretty impressive.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cutting Pink With Knives - Populuxxe

I'm all about the represses at the moment, it seems. Following from Biffy and Bear vs Shark, this time we're moving slightly later in the alphabet to Cutting Pink With Knives (henceforth CPWK 'cause I'm lazy, okay?) and their second album Populuxxe. This repressing is a celebration of the album's 5th anniversary released on their bassist's wonderful label Holy Roar, and comes with THREE BONUS TRACKS because everyone loves a good bonus track. I got it from the Holy Roar store where it's available for a reasonable £12 or £20 with a rad t-shirt (which was totally what I went for). It's probably also worth mentioning that the CD version of this album is an insanely cheap £1.

The whole thing comes in a nice plastic sleeve, which I'm always a fan of. The cover, in case you can't read it, says POPULUXXE. I think it's meant to look like folded paper (the booklet in the CD release offered a guide in making an origami bird of some kind, and various pictures featured them).

Instead of being glued, the outer sleeve is just a single, large, folded piece of paper. Not sure if I like that or not. On the inside of the front cover there is part of the origami guide from the CD release (one of the steps in making a bird base, origami fact fans) and on the inside of the back there are (utterly nonsensical) lyrics and the obligatory thankyous. There is an excellent line towards the end which you can just about make out in the full-size version of this image, that reads "Rhythm 16, Aylburton and Caroline are bonus tracks, cannot remember the lyrics, sorry." which amuses me greatly.

Everything about this release is monochrome, so it should come as no great surprise that it's plain black vinyl here. Even the Pink Mist logo is toned down on the back cover. The B-side label here is the origami bird I've mentioned so many times in this post, and have subsequently tried to make (unfortunately I get lost about halfway through the instructions. Oh) so that's quite nice.

So, see how just above these words that picture lists 19 tracks? Their total length? Under half an hour. Yep. CPWK can, according to last.fm, be described as cybergrind. I'm not sure if that term fully does the band justice, so I'll have to try to explain this cacophony in my own words. This album combines machine-gun drumming, shrieks, synths, and the occasional breakdown, yet has songs that will stick in your head for weeks. It's relentless, absolutely flying through songs (the longest track being 2:19 in length) and reaching its end before you've had chance to take a breath. What lasts, though, is the overwhelming sense of fun. I first listened to this album after seeing the band (I now see, somewhat lazily) compared to Genghis Tron. Sure there are some musical similarities but while GT are at times dark and menacing, CPWK offer nothing but absolute glee. This album is definitely not for everyone, and it is most certainly an acquired taste. To me though, that taste is nothing but sweet and this album is a 30-minute mood-lifter. That it was the band's last is a shame, but what a way to go.