Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Playlist: Blood on the Front Row

I'm off to fabulous Barcelona today for the Primavera Sound festival, so this month's musical digest is going up slightly earlier than usual. There will be no new blog posts while I'm away, although I may fire off the odd update from Spain over on Twitter (I'm @TheAlbumWall).

Anyhow, here to tide you over in my absence are ten of the songs that have run barges through my ear canals over the past few weeks:

1. From Nails to Thumbtacks - The Baseball Project
(from 3rd)
My first blog post of May 2015 compared wrestling with baseball, and 3rd with The Mountain Goats' more recent album about professional wrestling. Wrestling emerged victorious from that comparison, at least in the grit stakes, but this true story of superstar-turned-carjacker Lenny Dykstra demonstrates that America's pastime does have some fairly gritty stories of its own.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: Kind of Blah by Frog

Here are some lyrical excerpts from the songs that make up Frog's Kind of Blah:

"Bar moans with calzones and verses from the Rolling Stones" - Wish Upon a Bar

"All dogs go to Heaven, all songs end in quiet refrains, smart moms buy generic, say it tastes the same" - All Dogs Go to Heaven

"Judy Garland hit the bathroom floor of her cold apartment 'bove a Chelsea store and all the drag queens and all the whores couldn't get poor Judy back up off of her laurels" - Judy Garland

Fuckin' poetry, no? If I had written those lines, I would want to make damn sure that everybody could hear them, that my genius was plain to all who listened.

Friday, May 22, 2015

This is ESKA

From what I've read, most reviews of ESKA's self-titled first album can be summed up thusly:
Did you know that ESKA has been a well-regarded session musician for quite a few years? It's true! But now she's stepping into the limelight and finding her own voice - and what a voice it is!
Many debut albums have been named after the artist responsible (Franz Ferdinand, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and The Magic Numbers, to name just three), but while it usually seems like a slightly lazy decision - made in lieu of any ideas for a proper title - it does make a lot of sense in the case of ESKA. The album is an announcement to the world that the musician is ready to be seen as an artist, to sing her own life instead of assisting with someone else's ideas.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Long Farewell

Has this ever happened to you?

You buy the latest CD from one of your favourite bands. You take it home, peel off the cellophane, and pop it into your computer to rip this new acquisition to iTunes/Windows Media Player/whatever.

After a moment, your PC recognises the fact that you've given it an album to chew on, and up pops the 'Rip CD' screen, which looks something like this:

And that's when you spot something unusual in the 'Time' column. Most of the songs on this album are between two and five minutes long - pretty standard stuff - but the last song clocks in at just under a quarter of an hour.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Neil Hannon...a Horse Fancier?

I purchased The Divine Comedy's A Short Album About Love back in August 2013, and from practically my first listen, I suspected that the entire thing was conceived as a love letter to Neil Hannon's favourite horse. Just listen to If I Were You (I'd Be Through With Me), the album's penultimate track:

"You see, if I were you, I'd end my days
In a field of stupid sheep, just grazing
The grass so succulent and sweet
If I were you I'd be through with me"

Yes, it seems to me that the man who sang My Lovely Horse may not have done so entirely without seriousness. If the lyrics above aren't evidence enough, witness this excerpt from a 1997 Observer article:
"It’s no wonder he ends Casanova with a song called The Dogs and the Horses, a paean to the only animals capable of dopey, unconditional love. 'The most meaningful relationships I've ever had were with these animals,' he said, half-jokingly."

Friday, May 15, 2015

EP Corner: Inc.A

When you think of 'dance music', you probably picture lasers and sythesisers and a bass drop. But dance music, as it turns out, doesn't need lasers and synthesisers and a bass drop. Sometimes, dance music can look like this:

The band in that photograph is Inc.A, who described themselves as an "eccentric 7-piece jazz, Balkan, drum and bass mash-up". They sound like this:

Well, it makes me want to dance. And there's not a synth in sight.

I suppose I'd better mention the EP, hadn't I? Inc.A came out back in the summer of 2012, and it's a five-track hootenanny that smelts all sorts of styles into something strong enough to chop off your head. Or, as I stated in an article that I wrote about Inc.A many a moon ago:
"They’re doing for dance music what Bellowhead have done for folk, jazzing it up and making it sound big enough to conquer a mid-sized country."
- Joel Dear, The Miniature Music Press

I stand by that summary (which, incidentally, is still quoted on the band's official Facebook page); when I finally get around to putting together an army and turning the world into my own personal Risk board, Inc.A will get first dibs on the role of military marching band.

Feel the ground shake as the glorious nation of MonJoelia stomps inexorably towards your borders.

Alternatively, perhaps I could become a wrestler and commission Inc.A to write my entrance theme? They've already done one for Simon M. Read (him out of Quiet Marauder):

You can hear the Inc.A EP in full on their Bandcamp page. I'd also strongly advise you to see them live if the opportunity presents itself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sing and Don't Shut Up

It's another blog about politics. Sorry.

Welsh singer Charlotte Church took to the streets of Cardiff last Saturday to protest against the recently re-elected Conservative government. As you'd probably expect, a lot of people had opinions about this:

Monday, May 11, 2015

His 'n' Hers

Few people would argue that His 'n' Hers is the best Pulp album. Heck, depending on how you feel about This is Hardcore, you may argue that His 'n' Hers isn't even their second best album. 

But this album does do something that neither Different Class nor This is Hardcore really manage: it gives the listener a reasonable impression of what it's like to grow up in Sheffield. Sure, Different Class tackled a lot of social issues that Jarvis Cocker and Co. probably encountered during their formative years in the North of England, but that album didn't really feel like it belonged to any particular location - songs like Common People and Mis-Shapes touched on themes that anyone could relate to, no matter where in the country they lived.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Election Special (or, The Enemy is Still Everywhere)

So the third and final Glastonbury headliner has been revealed, and it's...*yawn*...The Who. At least the brie-eating dinosaurs who whinged about Kanye West getting his black all over the line-up might stop complaining now; I bet those guys can imagine no better weekend than one that culminates in hearing the two members of The Who who haven't died yet play an extended version of Won't Get Fooled Again.

That was *going* to be the first paragraph of today's blog post. I was *going* to write a slightly angry but ultimately inconsequential little rant about Glastonbury, and then maybe list some bands who I personally think would make good headliners for next time.

Sadly, though, there's another - much bigger - bit of news that I'd like to address today. You see, The Who's Pyramid Stage headline slot isn't the only reason why this has been a good week for old, conservative white men.

That, friends, is what a Conservative majority looks like. In case you've been living under a rock (or, y'know, in a different country), the United Kingdom had a general election yesterday, and it's now been confirmed that David Cameron will be our Prime Minister for another five years.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revisiting Little Kix

Poor Little Kix. To call it the 'black sheep' of Mansun's lamentably small discography would be somewhat misleading - that phrase implies mould-breaking and rebellion, neither of which are particularly applicable here - but it's certainly true that the Mansun faithful have very little love for this album.

The recurring conversation within the fandom (such as it is) is always, "Which is your favourite - Attack of the Grey Lantern or Six?" It's kind of a foregone conclusion that nobody will ever choose Little Kix over its brothers; without wishing to put too fine a point on it, the album simply isn't worthy of the band who created it. If I might liken Mansun's repertoire to the Chipmunks: Attack of the Grey Lantern is kooky, loveable Theodore; Six is thoughtful, intelligent Simon; and Little Kix is Alvin, the one that was supposed to be everybody's favourite but actually comes across as completely charmless and unlikeable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dimed Out

There was exciting news from the Titus Andronicus camp last week. The band's fourth album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, will be coming out on the 28th of July, and it gives me great joy to report that it will be a 29-track, 93-minute, double-disc (triple if you buy the vinyl version) concept album.

Here's the skinny:
The central narrative of TMLT (“a work of fiction,” claims singer/songwriter Patrick Stickles) concerns an unnamed protagonist whom we meet in deep despair. Following an encounter with his own doppelgänger (an enigmatic stranger, identical in appearance though opposite in disposition), long held secrets are revealed, sending our protagonist on a transformative odyssey, through past lives and new loves, to the shocking revelation that the very thing that sustains him may be the thing to destroy him.
This announcement was accompanied by the release of Dimed Out, one of those twenty-nine new recordings:

It fucking slays.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wrestling vs. Baseball

Upon hearing Beat the Champ - the latest album from The Mountain Goats - I was instantly reminded of The Baseball Project, the sport-obsessed supergroup that's made up of R.E.M. alumni and various other alt rock luminaries. To date, The Baseball Project have released three albums' worth of songs about baseball and the stories that have become the sport's legends; with Beat the Champ, John Darnielle has done much the same thing, except with professional wrestling.