I will be honest – I’m not actually going all the way to Stradbally for Electric Picnic this weekend. However, my friend who is going wanted to know which acts he ought to be checking out and obviously such a request massively appealed to my music blogger ego. Thus I figured I might as well write up some suggestions for those of you going, outside of the headline acts (surely I don’t need to tell you why you should go and watch The Cure and The xx?). There are so many amazing acts playing, but here are some that I personally would go and see, in no particular order:
Of course, the album called ‘Devotion’ that everyone is talking about at the moment is Jessie Ware’s debut, but having recently discussed her excellent output, I instead wanted to write about Beach House‘s second album from way back in 2008 for no reason other than I’ve been listening to it quite a lot recently.
When I showed my grandmother this album, she immediately asked if it had religious or spiritual songs on it (based on the track names and the candles on the front cover). I told her it wasn’t – that they were pretty love songs – but the more I listen to it the less I’m convinced by my own assertion because there is something intangibly spiritual about this music; something that goes beyond the fact that the album is called ‘Devotion’ and she plays the forever church-associated organ. Indeed, images of churches wouldn’t go amiss in describing the feel of this album – that sense of calming intricacy, dazzling ornamentation and indescribable holy warmth are things that ebb and flow throughout the album.
It is not a religious devotion that the album showcases though, but more a devotion of the soulful, romantic type – the delicate shuffle of opening track ‘Wedding Bell’ with its woozy promise of “oh, but your wish is my command”; the ocean of steel drums with vocals dancing over them like shimmering moonlight on the sea in ‘You Came To Me’. This album is devastatingly beautiful, which is perhaps emphasised in the often darker turn of the lovelorn lyrics which express a yearning, and perhaps a knowledge that honeymoon-style love tends to end; in ‘All The Years’, Victoria Legrand’s stunningly evocative, lullaby vocals implore, “Let’s go on pretending that the light is never ending”. ’Heart of Chambers’ has this perfect guitar and bass melody that seems to hit you afresh like butterflies in the stomach, accompanying the intensity of the vocals and organs.
‘Holy Dances’ is the first Beach House song I ever heard, and it still has that encapsulating pretty, tranquil vibe it always did – but with every listen it becomes apparent that this is a sense present in the entirety of ‘Devotion’. It’s a charming and fluid album which glitters like the candles on its front cover and is impossibly emotive and, essentially, completely lovely.
Buy ‘Devotion’ here.
To be honest, I dont know what an “entity reunion mix” is. What I do know, however, is that Alexander Tucker’s so-called mix of Mothlite‘s ‘Seeing In The Dark’ is really nice. Twinkling, dainty keyboards dance and trickle like fluttering raindrops over the steady beat and the velvety-smooth darkness of the deep vocals. It’s strange and immersive, and there’s an edge to it that is somehow disconcerting. It is quite far removed from the slightly poppier original, which in itself is very good indeed with a much fuller, rich sound reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’.
Tucker’s remix is great but, more than that, Mothlite’s twisting, shadowy ’80s pop merits listening to in its own right. Mothlite, aka. Daniel O’Sullivan, released his second album, Dark Age (buy it here) earlier this year and – although I’m admittedly only one listen in – it seems pretty excellent. The single, ‘Seeing In The Dark’ is out now on Kscope.
Anyone who’s interested in new music has doubtless already listened to and been loving Jessie Ware for quite some time, but – given the fact that my propensity for being knowledgeable about new music is not as great as having a music blog might suggest – it is perhaps not surprising that I’ve only just managed to listen to the soulfully sweet vocals of Ms. Ware. For those of you who haven’t listened to her before, she might be familiar to you as she’s featured in some SBTRKT songs (listen to ‘Right Thing To Do’ on YouTube), but her debut solo album, ‘Devotion’ is out next week on PMR Records and, judging by what she’s already released, it should be quite something.
Ware is all about soft, pretty vocals floating delicately over glitchy, rough beats and gorgeously woozy, smooth synths. This is evocative, fluid pop music with something of a garage edge to it and it really is a delight to listen to.
Those of you who read my old blog, The Music Journal, might remember the fairly frequent mention of the fresh-faced and incredibly talented young band, Lo-Fi Culture Scene. Clearly The Music Journal has since moved on to become Don’t Watch Me Dancing, and so too have Lo-Fi Culture Scene revitalised themselves with a new name for a fresh start: as such, I present to you the excellent Casablanca.
Whether after the romantic film, the place, or the surname (minus the ‘s’) of the love of my life, Julian, I am not sure why the young Londoners are named thus, although in any case Casablanca certainly summons up the image of something pretty wonderful. Indeed, their debut single, ‘Yes’ is, fittingly, pretty wonderful. More than that, in fact, with silky swathes of entrancing guitar and immersive synths swimming around the smooth vocals, all underpinned by some brilliantly uplifting dance-inducing beats. ’Yes’ undeniably makes for some euphoric listening, with a transfixing and swoon-worthy chorus, there is something dazed, joyous and familiar about it all.
Needless to say, I am very excited to hear more and I can only assume I will be the first of many to make a cheesy joke about how I plan on playing the lovely song again and again, Sam.
‘Yes’ will be released on Party Politics on September 17th, and you can pre-order the 7″ here.
The Cast Of Cheers are one of those bands around whom there has been a lot of buzz lately, and last month’s release of their album, ‘Family’, only saw the hype increase with much critical acclaim and plaudits. Their new single, ‘Human Elevator’ is out on August 20th and sees pounding drums, rousing choruses and a sound with a bit of a darker, more angular edge than previous singles have showcased. Indeed, in general the song has an aggressive catchiness to it in a sort of vintage-sounding way, as though it doesn’t quite belong to this era.
Their music is pleasant, certainly, but perhaps it will take a few listens to convince me of the worthiness of all the hype. Still, they definitely are worth checking out. And the remixes of their songs are generally very promising too – this Citizens! remix of ‘Human Elevator’ makes for particularly enjoyable listening with a lighter take on the track, now decorated with delicate electro intricacies.
Happily enough, you can download it for free:
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a big fan of Aaliyah – and not in an, “I’m so cool and ironic that I like R&B” kind of way, but in a, “this was the music I was listening to and loving when I was eleven years old” kind of way; more than the sentimental value, actually, I think mainly it comes down to the simple fact that I thought and, still think, Aaliyah was making some incredible R&B.
The first time I heard her was when ‘Try Again’ came out, and I can remember my friend and I singing along to it on the radio. But I really took note of Aaliyah when ‘More Than a Woman’ [watch on YouTube] was released posthumously and went to number one. I remember complaining to that same friend the first time I heard it that it sounded creepy; but then, with each listen that was kind of what was so entrancing about her sound – the way the music had this strange almost ethereal middle-eastern flavour which sort of danced and interwove lightly around her strong yet sweet and never overbearing vocals. None of her music is like any other R&B singers I can think of – with Timbaland’s standardly brilliant production and rippling beats and her mesmerising vocals, I have a lot of love for Aaliyah’s sound.
So it was with trepidation I first heard that Drake was working on releasing a post-humous Aaliyah album this year, piecing together bits and pieces of vocals she had recorded before her tragic death in 2001. It is a plan that has been met with controversy, as no one seems sure whether the permission of the late-singer’s family has been sought. But then, the track itself is promising. While Drake’s rap seems somewhat incongruous in the song, the track as a whole retains that otherworldliness and enchanting dissonance of her sound. Aaliyah was never about glossy pop, and this song at least seems to work as a continuation of the strange minimalism of her style. With Missy Elliot and, thankfully, Timbaland purportedly working on the album itself, and given that it’s a chance to hear more of Aaliyah’s work, I for one am very excited.