Wednesday, December 4, 2013

5 New Albums I Now Own

Back at the '-er' end of October, I posted a blog called 5 New Albums I Want Right Now. It was pretty much exactly what the title promised: a quintet of newish releases that I simply couldn't wait to get my grubby little mitts on.

I now own all five of those albums, so today I'm going to sit down and see whether or not my excitement was valid. After all, a new album isn't necessarily a good album...

Reflektor by Arcade Fire
I've already mentioned that I prefer this album to its predecessor, but just because it stomps on The Suburbs doesn't mean I'm going to hand it an 'Album of the Year' trophy as a reward. My opinion of Reflektor shifts every time I listen to it; at first, I thought disc one was genius and disc two was boring, but after another play, I decided that they were both completely brilliant. Then I started to like disc two more, because the songs on disc one had started to lose their novelty (the Jonathan Ross cameo on You Already Know will never not be jarring).

Now, I find the whole album to be something of a mixed bag. Both discs have astounding highlights like Here Comes the Night Time and Afterlife, and both discs have slightly less interesting moments like Flashbulb Eyes and Porno. It's still a far tastier brew than The Suburbs ever was, but I don't think it's quite as good as Funeral and Neon Bible obviously were.

My favourite track: The wonder that is Afterlife. That stuttering organ line could go on forever and I wouldn't switch it off.


Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
I was a little disappointed by this album, I have to say. After opening with a smashing one-two punch (consisting of Copy of A and Came Back Haunted), Hesitation Marks kind of hits a wall. The other songs are interesting, but the record struggles to maintain that initial energy, and it certainly never hits the heights you'd expect from the hitmaking pop genius that brought you Head Like a Hole and Closer.

So there I was, having more or less written off Hesitation Marks, when I received an email from the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. If you follow The Album Wall on Twitter (as you damn well know you ought to), you may have seen my gleeful tweets about how NIN are the best live band evar and how I shall be seeing them again in May 2014. I'm still slightly amazed that they're coming to Cardiff, but when something like this happens, you don't question it. You just listen to their latest album over and over again until all the songs are firmly lodged in your brain. Those quieter songs have already grown on me a little bit.

My favourite track: It's lean, it's mean, it's Copy of A.


The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
I did a frigging three part analysis of this album a couple of weeks ago, but I barely paused in any of those blogs to mention how much I like these songs. As you'll see on the right-hand side of this page, The Silver Gymnasium is currently my favourite album; it's still getting regular plays on the iPod, and that intensive hunt for meaning only brought us closer together.

At some point this month I'll be putting together some kind of 'Best Albums of the Year' list, and this record will certainly be a contender for the top spot. Watch this space...

My favourite track: It's a toss-up between Down Down the Deep River and Lido Pier Suicide Car. The former is an instant classic with a knockout chorus, while the other is a slow-burner with a truly fantastic climax. I'm going to give it to LPSC on this occasion, simply because it gets stuck in my head more often.


Arrows by Polly Scattergood
Arrows, of course, was the subject of Monday's blog, but just like my scratchings about The Silver Gymnasium, that post didn't really discuss how I felt about the music. Arrows is a flawed album, certainly; witness the overly narmy Silver Lining, for example ("the dirt, it tastes like broken hearts and smells like trampled dreams!")

Nevertheless, it's an album I keep coming back to. It reminds me of UN by Dan Black - best known for the Rihanna-sampling, British Gas-advertising, toally awesome single Symphonies - and the heady mixture of broken-hearted songwriting and electronic instrumentation gives tasty results. It's rife with big choruses, too.

My favourite track: The opening track, Cocoon. Dan Black also has a song called Cocoon, but I swear that's not the only reason why Arrows reminds me of UN.


There is Nothing More Frightening Than the Passing of Time by The Superman Revenge Squad Band
Everyone already knows how I feel about this album. I practically broke my knees in bloggy worship a few weeks ago, and it even enjoyed a short stint as my 'current favourite album' before The Silver Gymnasium came and usurped it.

The songs that make up this album are very upfront, very heart-on-sleeve, and while that was a big part of its appeal to begin with, it also means that most of its mysteries are uncovered within the first listen. I haven't listened to this one as much as, say, The Silver Gymnasium, and that's probably because I feel like I've 'done' There is Nothing More Frightening... at this point.

That said, there are a couple of songs that keep me hanging on; Kendo Nagasaki is one that takes a few listens to really get, and the same goes for A Funny Thing You Said. Then there are songs like Lately I've Found Myself Regressing and Paulie in Rocky Three, which are awesome no matter how well you understand them.

My favourite track: The aforementioned Paulie in Rocky Three, which is so true to my life it's not even funny.

So that's that. I still haven't bought any of the albums mentioned in this blog post, so perhaps that should be my next port of call. Maybe Father Christmas will bring them - he probably reads The Album Wall, right? 

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