Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Writing the Wrongs by Poundstore Riot

I'll admit that I didn't have high hopes for Poundstore Riot, any more than I would for the contents of an actual pound store. Call it snobbery, but that's not a band name that makes me keen to find out more.

But then I read the duo's (presumably made-up, although who knows?) back story, and I became a lot more interested. The conceit, roughly summed up, is thus: four-track enthusiasts Ash Cooke and Stu Kidd were arrested for inciting a riot at a pound shop, and they were encouraged to embrace their DIY musical talents and record Writing the Wrongs as part of their rehabilitation.

Yes, it sounds like a wobbly premise for a GLC-style comedy album, but that's not what this is at all - it's actually a wonderful love letter to the art of home recording.

Friday, September 26, 2014

First Impressions: Tim

It's First Impressions week here on The Album Wall, which basically means that I've been listening to various albums for the first time and blogging my thoughts on the fly. I've already shared my primordial opinions on Sparklehorse and Superchunk; now it's the turn of The Replacements.

First, though, a little context. My first exposure to The Replacements came when I purchased Let It Be at a CD and record fair in St. David's Hall. More recently, I bought all five of the band's albums in a bargain box-set thing from Fopp. I've already listened to Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and Hootenanny, but I've been saving Tim for First Impressions Week, denying myself its splendour until today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

First Impressions: No Pocky for Kitty

We're slap-bang in the middle of First Impressions Week, in which I listen to albums I've never heard before and blog as I go. Monday's blog was all about Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain by Sparklehorse; today, I'm going to take a look at Superchunk's No Pocky for Kitty.

I bought I Hate Music - Superchunk's latest album - last year, and while there were some fantastic songs on that CD (Low F and Me & You & Jackie Mittoo were highlights), I found the overall album to be...well, not quite a classic. I had expected Superchunk to be a legendary indie rock band, but some of IHM's less spectacular songs sounded like the work of old jobbers from the '80s who were still churning out albums long after they should have called it quits.

Monday, September 22, 2014

First Impressions: Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain

Last year, I bought three albums that I'd been meaning to listen to for a while (AWOO by The Hidden Cameras, Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats, and Curtains by Tindersticks) and blogged my thoughts on those albums, track-by-track, as I was listening to them.

This week, I'm doing the same thing again: three albums, three blogs, three first impressions. First up is Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, the fourth and final LP in the Sparklehorse oeuvre (Mark Linkous, of course, killed himself back in 2010). My first listen to this album is long overdue, so let's not delay it any further...
  1. Don't Take My Sunshine Away
    Will this be a gentle opener (like Homecoming Queen and It's a Wonderful Life) or a harsh, dissonant cruncher (à la Pig)? It's somewhere in the middle, as it happens; Don't Take My Sunshine Away is a reasonably laid-back rock song, but there's a mean-sounding lick running through it, and this takes over at around 2mins 30secs, briefly transforming the song into a twisted beast of a thing. There are some burbly Grandaddy noises in there, too, which are always appreciated.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sequencing 69 Love Songs

Sequencing is an under-appreciated art. Putting everything in the right order is a big part of the game; the ebb and flow of an album is very important, and if you put no thought into the running order, you'll usually end up with a disjointed mess, even if each track is individually very good.

Still, the average album only has about twelve tracks, and just because you're able to arrange a dozen songs into something cohesive doesn't mean that you'll be able to do the same for a three-disc behemoth like 69 Love Songs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why I've Never Bought a Beatles Album

I am currently on holiday in Merseyside. Over the past few days, I've visited such five-star local attractions as Chester Zoo, the Tate Gallery, and the Picton Reading Room.

I also went to the Museum of Liverpool, which served as a stark reminder of just how much this city loves The Beatles. There was a whole exhibit dedicated to John, Paul, George and Ringo, and while it was very informative, I can't help but feel that I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was, y'know, a Beatles fan.

Depending on how you count 'em, The Fab Four's back catalogue consists of anything from 11 to 24 studio albums, and I own precisely zero of them. It's not that I dislike their music; I simply never felt that it was especially worth adding to my collection. As Liverpudlian bands go, I always preferred Echo & The Bunnymen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Songs (Guest Post)

or, Sarah's 10 Songs to Cheer You Up After Josh & Joel's Bogus Journey

Last Monday, I listed 10 of my favourite sad songs. The Monday before that, my friend Josh listed 10 of his favourite sad songs. Today, I've something a little more cheery for you - a list of 10 super-happy songs, compiled for your enjoyment by my girlfriend Sarah.

Over to her...

Meow by Anamanaguchi
'Cause cats make everything better.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Jenny Lewis and Her Rainbow Suit

I'm no style maven - in fact, I don't care much for fashion at all, as my prodigious collection of tatty old band T-shirts will testify. And yet here I am, on the cusp of writing an entire blog post about a multi-coloured suit.

The Voyager is the new album from Jenny Lewis, and as much as I've been enjoying the music, it's the cover that's really captured my imagination. Where did this snazzy suit come from? What is it supposed to represent? Surely it must be somewhat meaningful - artists don't just slap any old pictures on their music, do they?


It's worth pointing out that The Rainbow Suit is more than just an album cover - Lewis is wearing it (or one just like it) in all of the promotional photography for The Voyager as well. It's quite clearly a very big part of these songs, but pinpointing the significance of that multi-hued ensemble is kind of difficult to do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Ties That Bind

The latest step on my ongoing journey through Bruce Springsteen's big ol' back catalogue was The River, Bruce's blockbusting double album from 1980.

(Actually, the latest step was also Magic, which I bought on the same day as The River. But, as much as I've been enjoying You'll Be Comin' Down and Livin' in the Future and Girls in Their Summin' Clothes, I don't have anything especially interesting to say about Magic, so I won't be mentioning it again after the close bracket.)

With 20 songs spread across two incredibly varied discs, The River is a real boon to the fledgling Boss fan. If you want bombastic classics in the Born to Run vein, you'll love Two Hearts; if you want quiet, Nebraskan smoulder, vive la Stolen Car. And hey, if you just wanna cut loose, try You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) on for size. There's something for everyone at this party!

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Sad Songs

Last Monday, my good friend Josh blogged a list of his Top 10 Sad Songs. Today, I'm doing the same - here are my favourite nuggets of lachrymose musical loveliness, roughly arranged from least to most upsetting:

Mistakes by Tindersticks (from The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95)
Stuart Staples' stunning song of regret first appeared on Tindersticks II, but this live performance, recorded at London's Bloomsbury Theatre, is the version to seek out - the lush orchestral arrangement is brought even further to the fore, significantly upping the songs 'curl up in a ball and weep' credentials.

Friday, September 5, 2014

EP Corner: Box Rocket

box rocket cover art

Welcome once again to the cosy little nook that I like to call EP Corner. Each of these blog posts focuses on a commendable example of the extended play format, with the overall goal being to demonstrate that EPs can be just as engaging and as artistically rich as full-length albums. We've already covered Chronic Town by R.E.M. and Of The Night by the Guillemots; today, I'd like to talk about my friend Ed.

Ed is many things: drawing, film-making, and music are just three of the talents on his resumé, and while I'm most interested in his music for the purposes of this blog, it should be noted that the physical version of his Box Rocket EP (available here) comes with a pretty rad comic book, because that's just the sort of multimedia guy he is.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why I'm Keeping My Gnarls Barkley CD

In case you didn't read the news yesterday, CeeLo Green has some...unconventional opinions about what constitutes 'rape'. The tweets have been deleted now, but thanks to this Buzzfeed article, we still know what they said.

The general public have taken the tweets to mean that CeeLo doesn't consider it 'rape' if the victim is unconscious. That's a pretty controversial line to take, and if that genuinely is what Mr Green believes, it's going to be difficult to view him in the same light from now on.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sad Songs (Guest Post)

Happy September everybody! Today's blog seems very appropriate for the end of summer - Joshua Price, a.k.a. SCRIBER, has very kindly listed a few of his favourite sad songs. What better way to kick off the cold months?

Hi. My name is Josh and I write and perform in a band called SCRIBER. As he may have previously mentioned, Joel plays drums for us. He's very good. [Aw, shucks! - J]

The music we play is pretty sad and quite bleak. I have a song called Hopeless Lost; some of my songs have made people cry at gigs. After seeing me perform for the first time, my girlfriend asked, "Are you okay?"

As a person, I'm relatively happy and chirpy, but the music I listen to could certainly be shoehorned into the boxes marked 'Depressing' and 'Sad'. So, here are ten of the best sad songs I could think of:

The Spirit Was Gone by Antony and the Johnsons
Antony's voice truly is one of the most upsetting things to listen to. I mean that in a good way, kind of. He really resonates a kind of unique pain that I hope I never feel.