Archive for January, 2010

Review: Cracked Latin – The World Is Cracked Latin

Cracked Latin comprise American Lane Steinberg and Luis Accorsi from Venezuela. As their chosen name suggests, the duo create a very twisted form of Latin music which crosses the traditional with indie/aternative songwriting.

The celebratory opener ‘Your Miami’ gets events off to a flier. ‘My Hallucination’ is reminiscent of Beck and it his influence, both instrumentally and vocally, that is prominent throughout the record.

At other times, though, they are in a world of their own. The undeniably infectious ‘Caracas Shakedown’ implores the listener to indulge in shameless bouts of hip shaking and booty dancing. Their “signature” tune ‘We Are Cracked Latin!’ sounds like a cross between the Scooby Doo theme and a Blaxploitation movie whereas ‘Aceite’ and ‘In Memory Of A Departed Therapist’ tones down the frenzy to a welcome, languid pace. Best of all, however, is ‘Diggin Bonez’, which allies breathless harmonies to ramshackle rhythms.

This album occasionally sounds like the work of lunatics but the moments of skewed pop genius make this a fun record to listen to as well. You could file them between mavericks like Beck and The Experimental Pop Band but really Steinberg and Accorsi have their own sound going on.

Web Sites:
Cracked Latin Official Site
Cracked Latin MySpace

Further Listening:
Beck, Kinetic Stereokids, Experimental Pop Band

Review: ClementWave – Invisible Wizard

ClementWave are a new five piece from Cambridgeshire. For a young band, they successfully balance their energetic hook-based guitar music with a plethora of endearing quirks.

‘Big Foot Transmission’ is playful indie which only really gets going for the eager to please chorus. A decent start but the other two songs are better. Their inventiveness is best displayed in ‘Eggs Avec Legs’ which builds from ambient beginnings to high-pitched harmonies, new wave guitars and white funk. Obviously, it’s all over the place stylistically but maddeningly enjoyable nonetheless. Those looking for less hyperactivity and a little more maturity, meanwhile, would best seek out ‘Oxygen Tanks’ (although it sounds rather like “Oxygen Sex” to me) as frontman Seb and post-punk guitars get caught up in a track which crackles with wired tension.

In many years’ time, ClementWave may see this EP as a product of overblown folly. Yet for now it sounds fresh and vibrant and has the hallmarks of a band who could go far.

Web Sites:
ClementWave MySpace
Morph Recordings Label Site

Further Listening:

Review: My Majestic Star – I Haven’t Got It In Me

As far as Australia’s My Majestic Star are concerned, old school shoegazing and a experimental approach are the way forward. Formed around the talents of multi-instrumentalist Chris Mason, ‘I Haven’t Got It In Me’ is an often brilliant record which delivers on both an emotional and melodic level.

Beginning with organ swell and percussion, ‘Stranger’ is a perfect way to introduce fifty minutes of warm melancholia. A rich beast in itself, the same track ends in beautiful layers of shoegaze effects and Miriam Braun’s mournful cello. Next up is ‘Crampling’ and for the first time we’re treated to harmonies as Braun and Mason combine effortlessly. Better still is ‘City Sleeps’, which is spine tingling as soon as Braun’s cello kicks in and the goose bumps are maintained when she teams up with Mason again on vocal duties. It’s a truly perfect song. Adding further strings to their bow, for ‘Silver Tongues’ the guitars ache like the best post-rock records and ‘Dry Lakes’ is an elegant ambient composition of great worth.

Other moments see My Majestic Star apparently revisit their record collections. ‘Like Cracked Glass’ captures Mason and co. in a furious maelstrom, not unlike Ride at their peak whilst ‘Uncertain Terms’ posits the group as heirs to Robin Guthrie’s (of Cocteau Twins’ renown) throne, although this instrumental is kept deliciously slow paced until the guitars squeal in to the life.

The only criticism of ‘I Haven’t Got It In Me’ would be that there are not enough songs featuring vocals. Yet it’s still a tremendous record; superbly produced and varied enough to keep fans of old and new dreampop very satisfied indeed.

Web Sites:
My Majestic Star MySpace
Hidden Shoal Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Ride, Glassacre, Sea Dweller, This Is A Process Of A Still Life

Review: Echo & The Bunnymen – The Fountain

Echo And The Bunnymen are fast becoming the next generation of Rolling Stones i.e. a once popular group trading on past glories but still persisting with new releases to general public and critical indifference. ‘The Fountain’ is the obligatory new album and – although far from a disaster – it only hints at the former greatness of founder members Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant.

The chief difference between ‘The Fountain’ and their other recent albums is that The Bunnymen now have a new rhythm section and they certainly inject the album with vigour even if songwriting inspiration is largely absent. ‘Think I Need It Too’ and ‘Do You Know Who I Am?’ are punchy and serviceable. Yet fine though these songs may be, it’s unlikely anyone will be singing them in stadiums any time soon and Sergeant’s distinctive guitar work and McCulloch’s sneer only excel sporadically. A few tracks should stand the test of time though. ‘Drivetime’ and ‘The Idolness Of Gods’ make up an unexpectedly rich and dignified finale whilst ‘Life Of A Thousand Crimes’ and its stop-start chorus is edgy, hook-filled and not unlike ‘Bedbugs And Ballyhoo’ in its construction.

The fact is Sergeant and McCulloch haven’t made a great album for twenty five years now and most fans of their older material will be hardly expecting a miracle here. As it happens, this is another spirited effort, which shows that though the power to excite has long since disappeared, they are still a sturdy, reliable rock act who are probably best experienced live.

Web Sites:
Echo And The Bunnymen Official Site
Echo And The Bunnymen MySpace

Further Listening:

Best Albums Of 2009

Happy New Year everybody!

As is customary at these times, I have put together a list of my favourite albums of the year and here they are with links to my original reviews.

A Dancing Beggar – What We Left Behind
Depeche Mode – Sounds Of The Universe
Editors – In This Light And On This Evening
Engineers – Three Fact Fader
Epic45 – In All The Empty Houses
Hannu – Hintergarten
Hatcham Social – You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil
Horrors, The – Primary Colours
Hotels – Where Hearts Go Broke
Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care
Lee & Willbee – North Carolina
Hawley, Richard – Truelove’s Gutter
Hours, The – See The Light
Mukaizake – Unknown Knowns
Mummers, The – Tale To Tell
My Majestic Star – I Haven’t Got It In Me
Nheap – Skymotion
Northerner – The Ridings
Nosound – A Sense Of Loss
Painted Romans – Evil Wigs And Bedroom Moments
Prefab Sprout – Let’s Change The World With Music
Seeland – Tomorrow Today
U2 – No Line On The Horizon
Wild Beasts – Two Dancers

Feel free to add your own comments and best-ofs. I’m sure my choices will delight some and frustrate others, whilst the vast majority of the world remains largely indifferent.

Here’s to another decade of great music. I wonder if I’ll still be reviewing music in 2020, at the grand old age of 45!