This Week's Best Album Streams: 17th January 2013
Y'know, I could write about pretty much whatever I want in here? I could write about how bat-shit crazy the Spider-Man comics are getting at the moment (SPOILER: Doctor Octopus switched brains with Spider-Man, and Spider-Man consequently died in Doc Ock's body, so now Spider-Man has a supervillain controlling his body. Messed up, right?). I could write about how I saw Django Unchained the other day and it was wicked. I could write about how I watched the Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah gospel singer dramedy Joyful Noise, too, but that was less than wicked. But I probably won't, because you probably wouldn't read it, because you just want to hear the music, don't you?
My advice, after listening to these streams – and some of them are really, truly excellent – is to make a note of them, and keep listening to them year-round; whilst the start of the year is a dumping ground as far as crappy book and film releases go, with music it seems to be the exact opposite. There might be some albums-of-the-year material here, people! Listen, listen!
Esben and the Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (Pitchfork)
There was a time, before I was born, when Goths didn't listen to ear-splitting grindcore missives about necrophilia and other such vulgar activities – they just wanted to sing about bats and stuff. Esben and the Witch's first album was a little heavier on the eighties-Goth-sounds – your Siouxsies, your Sisters of Mercy – whilst Wash The Sins Not Only The Face goes for shoegaze, creeping keys and tribal drumming to conjure up a Mary Shelley sorta atmosphere. It makes me want to pogo on top of a Victorian tomb. It's bloody brilliant.
New Order – Lost Sirens (Rolling Stone)
It's been eight years since Waiting For The Sirens' Call, New Order's last – and surprisingly decent – latter-day album. Since then, bassist Peter Hook left and spent more time flogging Ian Curtis' corpse than making music, and Bernard Sumner made a sort of Diet New Order under the name Bad Lieutenant. So, this is the last “proper” New Order music we're likely to get for a while. These offcuts from Sirens' are similarly unforeseen in their quality – like the rest of that album, they're much more traditionally guitar-heavy than the 'Blue Monday' heyday, but they'd not lost their touch at a good pop melody (or a cheesy lyric).
This Town Needs Guns – 220.127.116.11.0 (Soundcloud)
One of my favourite albums of the past ten years was the self-titled LP by American Football. And if you haven't heard it, my comparing This Town Needs Guns' newie to Mike Kinsella's finest hour probably won't mean very much. So people who know what I'm talking about can go ahead and scroll down to the excellent music; for the uninitiated, let me explain. You know how people use “emo” like it's a dirty word? It's not. It's actually excellent. American Football – and, consequently, This Town Needs Guns – are a sort of tributary off the main emo river, since their music is all sad and stuff, but not too heavy with the guitars or vocals. Delicate, chin-pressed-to-chest guitar lines weave around the drums, trying not to bump into them, and the singing is a sort of heartfelt Milquetoast thing. It's all rather melancholic and gorgeous.
Hilly Eye – Reasons To Live (Paste)
I was pretty gutted when Amy Klein left Titus Andronicus at the tail end of 2011 – she stopped the band from being a total boy's club, she always looked like she was having the absolute on stage, and her blog showed (and continues to show) what a smart, articulate and progressive person and performer she is. So obviously, on the basis of that last point, she wasn't going to be gone from music for too long. And lucky us, because Hilly Eyes are fantastic – with Klein on guitars and vocals, Catherine Tung on the drums and singing too, they go storm hunting after some brilliantly destructive, loud psychedelia, the vocal harmonies like Vivian Girls at their rougher-hewn moments. The most noise I've heard two people make since Death From Above 1979; or possibly my house mate and her boyfriend from my second year of university. Either way, it's a lot more tuneful and thoughtful than either of them.
Toro y Moi – Anything In Return (Pitchfork)
Whilst for the most part a draft excluder seems to have been wedged beneath the door of music criticism to keep any mentions of “chillwave” out, the progenitors of the “genre” are still slipping through a crack in the bottom, and good thing, too. Chazwick Bundick (who beats Ernest Greene in the awesome name stakes) is on album number three now, and whilst he still includes many hallmarks of the oft-maligned genre he helped define, it should be pointed out that's not all he's got – Anything In Return has a trip-hoppy beat and crackling Stones Throw-style samples, some choppy/pitched-up post-dubstep vocal cuts, and – fuck it, chillwave was excellent, and I love the loops, processed effects and synth lines, and Bundwick's infrequent, Ambiened-up singing.
My Twitter feed has been jammed with people talking about one central topic this past week: the John Lewis Christmas Advert. Has this become a thing? Have we so lost sight of tradition through our free market capitalism that we no longer see Christmas as a magical time? A time when people come together for one single, special event which we can all share - the first airing of the Coca-Cola Christmas Advert? [read more]
So I guess iTunes is the proprietary platform for streaming albums now? Last week it was the place to hear the new Bowie, and this week it's holding an exclusive listening party for that guy from N*Sync's comeback record (which maybe isn't quite as anticipated as The Next Day, even if they both the performer in question turned out to be pretty good actors and have both had terrible haircuts). You know Justin Timberlake owns MySpace as well, right? [read more]