This Week's Best Album Streams: 21st November 2012
Britain is a very different place than it was just seven days ago. Last Thursday, we went to our local polling stations in our... erm, single digits, and voted to make a vital change to the way the police work in this country. Gone are the ineffective, corrupt bobbies that patrolled our streets for hundreds of years; in their place, a fleet of hyper-capable, bulletproof lawmen with an inability to be bribed and a prime directive for upholding the law. The British Constabulary is now entirely staffed... by Robocops. I mean, it might be, I'm speculating here cos I'm writing this week's round up a day early. And anything can happen!!! (Within reason)
What have I got for you this week? Well, why not scroll down and see? Fine, if you're gonna be difficult: there's some superior indie rock, a remix album actually worth listening to, and some obligatory seasonal fare. Now chop chop, before you get arrested for loitering.
The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know (The Remixes) (The Quietus)
It's difficult to imagine a single Twilight Sad remix, let alone a whole album of them, before this year - how would you go about reshaping some speaker-bursting, shoegazey Scottish miserabilism into something for the dance floor or, well, anywhere? That was until No One Can Ever Know, easily their best record to date, which brought in a whole Eno's worth of electronic instrumentation, from drum machines to synths, making a record as comparable to New Order or Nine Inch Nails as to Mogwai. So in that case, a remix album makes a kind of sense! The best efforts are Liars' take on 'Nil', even more claustrophobic and haunting than the original with added echoing piano chords and what sounds like the multitude of bugs crawling round the dismembered ear at the start of 'Blue Velvet' and Tom Furse of The Horrors doing a sort of haunted dub version of 'Not Sleeping'.
The Guru - Go Easy (Bandcamp)
Now, I was very quick to judge this album - I'd already thought of the exact kind of narrow, uninspiring box it'd fit into when I heard the opening of choppy, thin-sounding indie rock guitar. Except, before I hit the stop button, it got a whole lot more interesting: the drumming is a little showy, a little jazzy, full of interesting little splashes and fills; the vocals are a cut above the usual identikit drainpipe-jeans-appropriate-yelp; and, well, there's a whole bunch of saxophone on that first track, 'Go Easy', and it works really well. The rest of the record could've used that added jazz to help push it into something really interesting, but it's still a rather superior example of its genre.
Challenger - The World Is Too Much For Me (Soundcloud)
There's two things about this album that had me hooked before I'd even heard it: it takes partial inspiration from the "epic pop" of Peter Gabriel, and the keyboard player is also credited as an "animal noise maker". I realise that might not have won everyone else over in quite the same way it did me (mores the pity), so how about I tell you that The World Is Too Much For Me is a wonderfully varied and solid piece of electronica, with a fragile sincerity on tracks like the Fleet Foxes-with-tinnitus 'Are You Scared To?' under threat by the pounding 808s on full-on neon eighties pop numbers like the title track.
Junkie XL - Synthesized (Consequence of Sound)
Yes, the guy who did that remix of the Elvis song. No, there's nothing like that on this album (that is a proper good remix though, don't tell me you haven't had a drunken hip-wiggle to it that you imagine to be like the King in his prime, but is closer to the King near the end of his time). Synthesized is instead the sort of dance record a producer over ten years into his career makes - polished, well-crafted pop songs (like the light, breezy 'Off The Dancefloor') and forays into other genres (the psychedelic 'Leave Behind Your Ego', featuring the voice of acid king/casualty Timothy Leary; the hard-rocking 'Gloria', featuring vocals by Datarock singer Fredrik) sitting comfortably side-by-side, with some more 'artistic' fare like the atmospheric opening track.
Nettwerk Music Group - Isn't This World Enough? A Nettwerk Christmas (Paste)
It's the 21st of November, which means two things: firstly, Tesco have been selling tinsel and Selection boxes for about three months now. Secondly, the Christmas albums are gonna start coming thick and fast. Luckily there's some good stuff out there, along with, y'know, a whole lot of snow-bound syrupy crap. The selection on offer here is along much the same lines; avoid misfires like the Rifles ("Who are the Rifles?" you may ask. Exactly) or the ready-for-Radio-2 indie rock of Fun. and revel in the likes of underrated alt-folkers Great Lake Swimmers and their subtly festive 'Hang A String of Lights'. And no, I dunno what the "Nettwerk Music Group" is either.
The Rosebuds - Christmas Tree Island (Bandcamp)
For a more consistently rewarding Christmas album experience, you could do a lot worse than the Rosebuds - and why would you want to do worse? Surprisingly warm for a wintry album, this collection of what could easily become new holiday standards is unashamedly, childishly in love with the season where we all have to be jolly, which I think's pretty refreshing. I'll probably be listening to Malcolm Middleton by the time I finally get round to doing my shopping in late December, mind.
If you find any good album streams this week, Tweet me @tennis_everyone. COME IN, AND KNOW ME BETTER MAN.
This week I have mostly been reading up on video game addiction. This is both for my real-life job – I'm writing an article based on this particularly amusing news story out of China - but also because I've spent a disproportionate amount of time playing Minecraft. [read more]
This weekend has been a welcome lull. After the excitement of record store day it's the last free weekend until, ooh October, because festival season UK is GO. Live At Leeds, Land Of Kings, Camden Crawl this week, then the 72 hour mayhem of The Great Escape, before I'll Be Your Mirror, Dot To Dot...End Of the Road. Lordy. I'll have a cider if you're asking. [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]
What a week eh? First Lance Armstrong gets burned at the stake for cheating in the Tour de France - which seems a little harsh to me - then the US elects a President who is significantly less dickish than his opponent for the second time in a row. It's a crazy world we live in! You probably need some music to settle you down, don't you? Well, you're on a music website, reading an article about music, so that would make sense. [read more]