Monday, June 30, 2014

Familiars: Track-by-Track

Hi. How are you feeling today? Chipper? Perhaps a little over-chipper?

Well, if your good mood needs extinguishing, you'll be pleased to hear that The Antlers have a new album out and that, today, we're going to listen to it. Long-time patrons of The Album Wall may remember that I dubbed Hospice "the most depressing album in my entire collection, if not the whole damn world", and I stand by that hyperbole; such is the stunning misery of the band's 2009 magnum opus that 2011's Burst Apart - which, mind you, contained songs about car accidents and canine euthanasia - seemed oddly uplifting by comparison.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tame Impala: Another Try

Earlier this month, on the last day of the Primavera Sound festival in Porto, we met a girl from Montana. She never told us her name so for the purposes of this blog post I'm simply going to refer to her, Zombieland-style, as 'Montana'.

Anyway, once we'd helped Montana to get on the right train at Casa da Música's metro station, the three of us started talking about music, and it quickly transpired that she was an avid Tame Impala fan. She spoke enthusiastically of their music, and of the time she met Kevin Parker (although she quickly conceded that this was a celebrity encounter that "only hardcore Tame fans" would find particularly impressive).

Now, it's always cool when someone is that into a band, but Tame Impala never really struck me as an act to obsess over. She was talking about Kevin the way some people talk about Benedict Cumberbatch, and it made me wonder if I'd been too quick to give up on TI.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Klaxons Clean it Up

Nostalgic readers of roughly my age will be pleased to hear that Klaxons have a new album out. It's called Love Frequency and it came out about a fortnight ago. I haven't listened to it yet, but it seems to have elicited a somewhat lukewarm response from critics.

But what I want to talk about is the artwork. The Klaxons have released three albums to date; here are their covers, side by side:

From left to right: Myths of the Near Future (2007), Surfing the Void (2010), Love Frequency (2014)

Criminy. I'll concede that Surfing the Void's space-cat was a little more minimal than Near Future's psych-bug collage thing, but this new one is barely even there. It's like if Enter Shikari released an album of minimalist piano music (that's right, today's theme is 'Noisy Buzz Bands of 2007').

Monday, June 23, 2014

Glastonbury: Tips for JR

My friend Joshua 'JR' Robson is off to Glastonbury tomorrow (the bands don't start until Friday, but he presumably wants to make damn sure that he's down the front when they do) and he's asked me to recommend a few bands for him to see.

Now, I've never been to Glastonbury myself, but I've had a look at this year's line-up, and there are quite a few acts whose awesomeness I can vouch for. For the benefit of one man, then, here are my Top 5 Bands to See at Glasto '14:

Note: I haven't checked for clashes, so I apologise if any of these artists are on at the same time.

John Grant (The Park Stage, Saturday)
Three times I've seen John Grant now, and three times I've been bowled over by how powerful his songs are. He's got a great knack for welding plain-spoken emotions to big, brilliant tunes, and I personally think he's got one of the best voices in contemporary music. Oh, and his stage presence suggests that he's one of the most genuinely amiable people you'll ever encounter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Neon Neon's Next Album

I've no idea whether or not Neon Neon (the synthpop nostalgia outfit helmed by Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip) will ever make another album. I sincerely hope they do, but frankly, the world is lucky to have seen even two LPs from the duo; after the release of Stainless Style, an '80s-themed album about John DeLorean, Gruff Rhys told a BBC interviewer: "I don't know about making another Neon Neon album because it was quite a specific record about DeLorean's life story." When a sequel (Praxis Makes Perfect) did materialise five years later, it felt like an unexpected bonus, and it would be ungrateful of me to demand yet more material from Camp Neon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Your Track Twos

Last week, I kicked off The Album Wall's second year with a list of my favourite track twos. Iron Maiden were there, as were Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, ought to read it, it was really quite the blog post.

Anyway, after publishing that list, I then opened the floor to you lot, hoping to be reminded of some other smashing second songs. You didn't disappoint me, and so here are five of your favourite track twos:

The Modern Age by The Strokes (from Is This It)
Suggested by Hertford Soul
The opening track of Is This It sounds kind of subdued, and so The Modern Age is the moment when things really kick into gear. It's the first glimpse of what has become The Strokes' signature sound: spiky guitars, near-spoken vocals, and plenty of opportunities for jerky, awkward dancing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Open Letter to Modest Mouse

Dear Modest Mouse,

Hi. Do you remember this album?

I'll forgive you if not - after all, it came out in March 2007, a whole seven years ago. I was in secondary school at the time, preparing to take my GCSEs. I'm now a 22-year-old man, and you haven't released another album since.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Choosing Singles with Sharon Van Etten

Here's a conversation that I had with Dyfrig Williams on Twitter the other day:

Dyfrig's blog, Music Bendigedig, is well worth a look. He goes to way more gigs than me.

We were talking about Are We There, the new album from American rock chanteuse Sharon Van Etten. It's actually grown on me since I tweeted that YouTube link (you'll notice that Meat Loaf is no longer occupying that slot on the right-hand side of the blog), but I still don't think that Taking Chances and Your Love is Killing Me are the highlights.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Track Twos

The Album Wall turned one year old yesterday, and so today's blog feels like the start of a new chapter - the Season 2 premiere, if you will (that's right, my blog is a TV show now).

This was the first thing I posted, all the way back in June '13 - that one was all about opening songs, and so I thought I'd start TAW's sophomore year with a few of my favourite track twos. The second track of an album is arguably even more important than the first; many is the LP that starts with a bang and fizzles out immediately afterwards, presumably because they hoped that everyone would form their opinions and switch off the hi-fi before the end of the first song.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Primavera Porto (and the Albums I Bought-O)

If you're wondering why I didn't post any new blogs last week...well, firstly, thanks for noticing! It's because I've been enjoying an internet-free holiday in Portugal; I flew from Stansted to Porto on Monday and only came back yesterday.

And what did I do in between? Primavera Sound, baby! This was my second time at the festival's Portuguese edition (I first attended back in 2012, when The Flaming Lips and Rufus Wainwright played) and, happily, I've brought home plenty of blog material with which to end The Album Wall's short hiatus.

So how best to relay the joys of NOS Primavera Sound 2014 to you? I could simply write about all the great sets I saw - Spoon, John Grant, Neutral Milk Hotel - but it seems far more appropriate to let the albums tell the story. I bought four CDs while I was there (the festival site had a couple of music stands), so let's look at each one in turn...

N.B. Bear in mind that I've not had a chance to actually *listen* to any of these albums yet.

The Definitive Collection by Caetano Veloso
Caetano Veloso was right at the top of the bill for this festival - only the Pixies and The National were more prominently advertised on the posters. In spite of his apparent fame, though, I'd never heard of the man, and so it was with some curiosity that I went to watch his set on Thursday night.