Monday, March 30, 2015

March Playlist: Roll Up Your Sleeves

March has been another eclectic month here at The Album Wall. Over the past few weeks, I've grappled with foreign languages, explored Cardiff's local music scene, analysed all kinds of different albums, and weighed in on one particularly stupid petition. Below is a 10-track digest of all the music I've been listening to this month.

Last month's playlist is here.

1. Oder Nicht Oder Doch - MIA.
(from Zirkus)
My blog about Zirkus mostly expressed exasperation at the fact that I don't understand the lyrics. Still, this is a solid opener in any tongue - it's actually track 6 on the album, but if Meat Loaf has taught me anything, it's that motorbike engine sounds are always a great way to kick things off.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Crack in Everything: Alligator

In the previous instalment of A Crack in Everything, I shared some of my personal qualms with The Polyphonic Spree's mostly fantastic debut album. Shortly after publishing that blog post, I clicked over to Twitter and posted this:

That tweet received one response, and it came from @DannyinBelfast:

Grateful though I was for Dan's suggestion, it was a slightly problematic one. You see, A Crack in Everything is all about finding fault with practically perfect albums, and I simply don't consider Boxer to be anything close to a perfect album. It's a *good* album, sure, but it's never quite touched me in the same way as Queen of Denmark or Funeral. I like Fake Empire and I like Ada and I especially like Start a War, but these posts are nothing if not over-scrutinous, and feel that I would have found too much to complain about if I stuck my hand into the mixed bag that I consider the rest of Boxer to be.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

True Romance

The obvious question to ask of Estelle's fourth album is, "What makes true romance?" That's the question I was planning to tackle with this blog post - my initial intention was to go through the record, track by track, and compile a kind of recipe for true love based on the ingredients that Estelle's songs suggest (true romance is passionate, true romance is long-lasting, etc.)

But things got complicated when I actually looked closely at the eleven tracks that make up True Romance. You see, this album is far more than merely a catalogue of components; its a bona fide concept album with its own love story to tell, and in telling it, it presents a different, far more interesting question for us to chew on.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pay Attention!

What do you do while you listen to music?

I don't doubt that some of you will find this question redundant. Perhaps you are able to simply sit still and listen to an album from start to finish without any other distractions or diversions. If so, congratulations - you're made of stronger stuff than me.

Personally, I get kind of restless when I'm not doing anything else, and so the majority of my listening is done in conjunction with some other activity, such as...
  • Browsing the internet
  • Washing dishes
  • Driving
  • Writing
The only time I'm really able to do nothing but listen is when I'm in bed, and even then, I'm usually trying to get to sleep instead of 100% committing to the music that's playing.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Race for Space: Who Wins?

The Race for Space is the second full-length LP from Public Service Broadcasting. It is, unsurprisingly, an album about the USA vs. USSR 'space race', which began in the 1950s and ended sometime in the 1970s. It is also, unsurprisingly, very good indeed. The previous Public Service Broadcasting album (2013's Inform-Educate-Entertain) was very good too, but that was simply a collection of very good songs; this, on the other hand, is a very good *album*.

As boring as you're about to think I am, one of my favourite things about The Race for Space is its sequencing - i.e. the order the tracks are in, and the narrative that this order creates. The title track kicks things off by taking excerpts from JFK's rousing Rice University speech and backing them with an equally rousing choral arrangement, but while this does a great job of firing us up for the various American victories we'll be hearing about later on, it's actually Team Russia that dominates the first half of the record. Sputnik and Gagarin (tracks 2 and 3, respectively) celebrate two big Russian achievements, and they're immediately followed by Fire in the Cockpit, a rather harrowing account of the Apollo 1 accident. Two Russian wins are followed by an utter calamity for America, then another success for the USSR - E.V.A. is all about Alexey Leonov, the first man to leave his spacecraft and move around in open space.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Yesterday, during my lunch break, I logged into Facebook and was greeted by this little bundle of joy:

Here are some interesting numbers for you:
  • At time of writing, that 'Cancel Kanye' petition has 36,058 signatories. That's a lot of people, but...

  • ...a quick Google search suggests that the Glastonbury Festival has a maximum capacity of 177,000. Assuming (perhaps generously) that each and every person who signed that petition has a ticket for Glastonbury 2015, that's still only about 20% of the festival's total attendance.

  • According to the Glastonbury website, the festival has "main music stages", as well as 24 other "areas". Let's make a conservative estimate and guess that only 50% of those areas have something happening at any given time during the weekend - this still means that there will be 13 other acts performing at the same time as Kanye West, at least some of which will probably be rock bands.

  • Judging by this Guardian article from last year, Glastonbury 2014 boasted a line-up of well over 2,000 acts. Assuming that Glasto '15 will hit roughly the same mark, Kanye West will constitute less than 0.05% of the total line-up.

Monday, March 16, 2015

White Skull

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post called Epic Metal for Beginners. In it, I suggested three big 'n' brilliant heavy metal albums that I considered relatively accessible, particularly for newcomers to the metal genre.

I've occasionally thought about writing a follow-up to that blog. I'd call it 'Intermediate Epic Metal' or something like that, and I'd list another three albums for metal n00bs who are ready for something a little more advanced.

The first album on that list, if I ever do write it, will be Public Glory, Secret Agony by White Skull.

Friday, March 13, 2015

EP Corner: Ribcage

Today's blog represents a brave new step for EP Corner. Until now, I've only used these posts to look back on EPs that are at least a couple of years old; today, I'm going to review an EP that came out two days ago.

Albatross Archive are a Cardiff-based duo with a genuinely unique sound: 'electronic-jazz-indie' works well enough as a rough description, but really, it's the sort of thing you just have to hear for yourself. Things, another EP of theirs, is already part of my library, but that was made when Albatross Archive were a four-piece, and they've taken some pretty giant steps away from the pastoral gentleness of that release since then. Nowadays, they're sounding braver, bolder, and harsher than they sounded before.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Patti's Poetry

Poetry, I must admit, isn't really my bag. I've always thought of poetry - proper, dense, artsy poetry, not fun poetry like that of Max Boyce and Dr. Seuss - as a lazy middle ground for people who are neither talented enough to write songs nor inspired enough to write proper stories. Poets don't have to adhere to any rhyme scheme, meter, or musical structure, and where prose is generally expected to make some sort of sense, poetry is often appluaded for cloaking its meanings (where they actually exist) behind several layers of imagery and symbolism and nonsense.

So that's my opinion on poetry. It's a pretty shit opinion, and not one I'm particularly proud of, but the rest of this blog post won't make much sense without it.

I recently purchased Easter, Patti Smith's 1978 breakthrough album, on the back of a glowing recommendation from +Audio Antihero. Patti Smith, of course, is a poet, and much of Easter is made up of the dense, artsy poetry to which I was referring earlier. Here, for example, is Babelogue, a spoken-word rant that's accompanied only by the cheering, clapping, and general chatter of an enthusiastic crowd:

Monday, March 9, 2015

5 Local Women

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and since I've been meaning to write more blogs about female artists, I thought this would be an auspicious occasion on which to start.

And where better to start than at home? The South Wales music scene, brimming with talent, is another demographic that gets criminally under-represented here at The Album Wall, so whatsay we right two wrongs with in one fell swoop?

Here, in no particular order, are 5 of my favourite female artists from Cardiff and the surrounding area. I've been lucky enough to play gigs with many of them, and I hope very much that I'll see them live again in the near future. Each of these people is awesome and inspiring in a very different way; all of their music is strongly recommended.

Chloe Cooke

I met Chloe at university, and she's one of the most talented singers I know. Based in Barry, she's a proper pop star, and while she's mainly been covering other people's songs of late, I can tell you that her original tracks are absolutely great, too. Here's one of them:

Does she have an album? No, but I saw her live a couple of years ago and she certainly seemed to have enough material to fill an LP. Hopefully, Chloe and her band won't keep it to themselves for too much longer.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Vier Bonussongs

Wednesday's blog was all about music in foreign languages, specifically German. I spoke MIA.'s Zirkus, an album that my mum bought me during a visit to Germany some years ago, and I mentioned that, as much as I like the music on that CD, the fact that I can't understand the lyrics is a pretty major stumbling block for me.

Well, for whatever reason, this confession prompted several people to send me their own favourite Deutschesongs on Twitter. Perhaps they thought that MIA. simply weren't the right band for the job, and that their own favourites would be enough to break the language barrier and claim a permanent spot in my heart.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ich Spreche Kein Deutsch

First, a confession: I don't really like travelling abroad. Whenever I book plane tickets or arrange accommodation in a foreign country, my mind instantly fills with thoughts of all the things that might go wrong; I can't help but picture myself missing connections, boarding the wrong flights, and getting stranded in parts unknown, all of which makes it quite difficult to drag me on a decent holiday.

However, I do enjoy listening to music from other parts of the world, and so whenever I do go abroad, I always do my best to grab an album or two from the country I'm visiting. I also ask friends and family members to buy me CDs when they go abroad, and it's always interesting to see what they come back with.

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Into March

Happy March, everybody! We've made it through that arduous January/February period and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight of almost-springtime. To celebrate, here are three of my favourite songs with the word 'march' in the title:

March Into the Sea - Modest Mouse
(from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)
Can you believe that We Were Dead... is STILL the most recent Modest Mouse LP? Happily, though, that situation is set to change this month, with Lampshades On Fire set to finally be released - in the meantime, let's get ourselves hyped up with this stomping, foaming album opener.