Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Live Review: Gruff Rhys - Sugar Club, Dublin, November 15th 2010

Review for

Album Review: And So I Watch You From Afar

I’m a bit late picking up on this band from the North’s debut album, released last year. Primarily an instrumental band, the title of the opening track, Set Guitars To Kill should tell you everything you need to know about it. It stomps all over the place with sledgehammer guitars pounding through the song. Absolutely awesome.

The album doesn’t let up from there, offering visceral thrills not heard on an Irish album for some time. A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes A Long Way barrels along for all of 3 minutes.

They remind me of Mogwai with the metal turned up and a little Sonic Youth, Queens of the Stone Age and a bit of the doomier side of The Cure added in for good measure. A good example of this is Clench Fists, Grit Teeth… GO!, six minutes of pure metal carnage. They do take the occasional breather, allowing some tracks such as I Capture Castles to build up gradually, and even take something of mid-song siesta in Start A Band, which itself is almost like 3 songs in one.
Later on the album Tip of the Hat, Punch in the Face reminds me of forgotten Irish band Coldspoon Conspiracy. There’s a lovely Sonic Youth style mid-song break with lots of ringing trebly guitars in Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate, before some “na na na” vocals, one of the few vocals on the album. Final track Eat the City, Eat it Whole perfects the art of the slow build.

It’s the kind of music that influences behaviour, you’ll definitely want to be hell-raising after getting THIS into your ears. Or breaking something. I think you can still get tickets to see them in Whelans this Saturday with Jape and Fionn Regan. So… stop what you’re doing, go and buy this album immediately and get down to Whelans this Saturday. Though by the sounds of things they’ll smash the place to bits.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Album Review: Peter Broderick – Home

Peter Broderick has released a lot of music for a young fellow. This 2008 album was his first in the ‘singer-songwriter’ vein. On the face of it, it’s fairly unremarkable acoustic music. Yet it has some undefined quality which makes it stand out from the rest of the acoustic rabble.

Broderick is classically trained and plays all the instruments and provides all vocals here. Second track, And It’s Alright is typical of most of the songs here. It gently unfurls, with a deceptively simple melody over a gorgeous picked guitar. With The Notes In My Ears, Below It and Not At Home are also examples of this style, and equally good.

He also does a couple of instrumentals which use similar elements. The best of these is probably the six minute Sickness, Bury which starts with sparse, picked guitar before being joined by banjo and keyboard. The tune creates an unsettling atmosphere, sounding like it could soundtrack a journey over a wide expanse. Shards of electric guitar and percussion are thrown in, and even when the brief, wordless vocals come in, it maintains the tense atmosphere.

Later in the album, Maps is a bit of a departure in that it starts out as a plainly sung acoustic track before adding electric guitar midway through and building up to a choral climax, all celestial vocals and crashing cymbals.

It’s a charming bunch of songs, which I think holds the key to why this album stands out – songwriting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Album Review: The Phantom Band – The Wants

This Scottish band have just released their 2nd album. On first listen it sounds very “now”, with a lot going on in the songs, sounding like a crazy mish-mash of Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear, with a bit of Super Furry Animals thrown in. By this I mean the way they take seemingly disparate elements and blend them to make an interesting and engaging song.

The opening track A Glamour is a perfect example of this. It opens with the sound a blunt knife scraping on a piece of wood, then some African-sounding percussion leads into a stomping beat with high-pitched whoops before the singer comes in, sounding foreboding as his deep voice croons “I was foraging…” O continues in a similar vein, with an almost electro beat seeming almost incongruous with a singer who sounds like Nick Cave’s Scottish cousin.

After the playful sounding Everybody Know It’s True, the pace slows down for the epic The None Of One. It starts off with gentle folky guitar and banjo for 3 minutes or so before exploding into life with propulsive beats, synths and vibes. The most straightforward and shortest track is Come Away In The Dark which is a very pretty song, all longing vocals, picked guitars and piano.

One of the strongest tracks comes later in the album. After starting with what can only be described as ‘squelching noises’, Into the Corn is a brooding track slightly reminiscent of the National, with the regretful refrain “into the corn I fled… everyone I knew there was dead” building towards a climax at the end.

The album finishes with Goodnight Arrow, which starts out serenely, evolving into a floating before ending on a nice crescendo. There’s a lot going on these songs, and at times it’s more a case of standing back and admiring them, rather than loving them, but nevertheless I think people are going to be hearing a lot of these guys.