28 Aug 2010

Summer Moods: Wavves' King Of The Beach VS Best Coast's Crazy For You

A few weekends ago, I was surprised to find write-ups for both Wavves and Best Coast in several of the British broadsheet culture supplements. Firstly, I was impressed that these papers had found room in the very small space allocated to weekly album releases to review two US indie bands that I actually liked. Secondly, it was interesting that these albums had clearly been pitted against each other, both sharing similar themes, related aesthetics, the same timeliness, even comparable cover art (more on that later), and the fact that the lead singers of both bands are (still currently) dating. But most of all, I was surprised that in every case, Best Coast's debut - Crazy For You - managed to collect for itself one or two little stars more than Wavves' third album - King Of The Beach. Although I'd heard neither in its entirety, I'd preferred the bits and pieces that I'd heard from the Wavves album to the material I'd heard from the Best Coast. So... I decided to review them both, weigh them up, and in doing so possibly try to penetrate a little into this whole beach/summer/surf/wave thing that's clearly, clearly been going on.

27 Aug 2010

Ailing Puppets

You wait years for another great video about a dying puppet, and then two come along at once!

MGMT's 'Congratulations' features a kinda Dark Crystal kinda creature that's having trouble coping with the Tatooinian climate.

26 Aug 2010

America - A Prophecy: Sufjan Stevens's All Delighted People EP

So Sufjan Stevens has broken his silence with a very long EP entitled All Delighted People, and the promise of a new album out in October called The Age of Adz. And as delighted as I am that he is still alive and recording, my slightly guilty response - after The BQE, the Christmas arrangements and The Avalanche, which is, after all, an out-takes CD - is that I would be SO excited to pull up the Pitchfork homepage one day and see news of Welcome to Nebraska, or Now Entering New Hampshire, or Postcards from North Dakota. It's a guilty response because I know that Sufjan himself has expressed clearly his own ambivalence towards the '50 States' project, and in fact towards the release of albums in general. He wants to go in new directions and that's good, but my reaction to a lot of the in-betweeny things that he's been producing over the last few years, as well as this EP, has helped me formulate just why I think the 'States' concept suited Sufjan so well, and why it produced (in my opinion) his best work.

23 Aug 2010

Some heartening notions...

I try more and more to view art and culture, as a whole, with as much optimism as I can muster. It isn't hard at the moment, because I genuinely think that pop music has never been better (and the same could be said for cinema and television). There are various lines of cynicism that it can seem easy to subscribe to, but when I start to become more cynical about contemporary culture, then I will know that I am old. Meanwhile, here are some nice (alphabetised) quotations from Pitchfork's column, Poptimist (by Tom Ewing), which present a more upbeat take on some familiar moans:

'B is for Bloghouse: And Bleep, Broken Beat, Bassline... the proliferation of electronic microgenres seems to truly rile some people, who assume any differences are barely detectable. In fact these taxonomies are vital for tracking shifts in the bigger pictures: ways of telling stories about scenes which are often still doggedly star-free. Besides which, they're so much fun-- each one the light-trail of an idea being tested and refined in public.'

22 Aug 2010

Bon Eté: S. Carey

I wrote my third-year dissertation partly on 'the nostalgic evocation of "America as place" in recent independent pop music'. My argument had something to do with the combination of minimalism and folk, and while I'm not sure how much Bon Iver, Sam Amidon, Sufjan or Why? the examiner actually listened to in order to validate my points, it's still a relief when another artist turns up that fits the bill (even if it is the solo work of Bon Iver's percussionist).

20 Aug 2010

Art Folk/Folk Art: Sam Amidon

Artur Dyjecinski/Caitlin Rose/Sam Amidon - 19th August - CAMP Basement, Shoreditch

Seeing Sam Amidon last night in this small, exciting venue was indeed the religious experience that we always knew it would be. Amidon has the voice of ancestral visitations, he owns his songs completely and delivers them with a glazed and eloquent stare, suggestive of the quiet witness to centuries of memories spanning their fireside composition to their continued relevance in the stunned, red-lit basements of today.

Postcard from the Sprawl: The Arcade Fire's The Suburbs

Like much of the Western world, I am currently navigating the Arcade Fire's third album and large-scale portrait of the archetypal suburban sprawl. And sprawl it does, in every direction, to the extent that while each song seems pleasantly familiar now, there's still clearly a lot more ground to be covered before every lyrical and musical detail of the sixteen-track work is mastered, and eventually exhausted.

18 Aug 2010

Curating the Underground: YES WAY 2010

YES WAY 2010 - 13th-15th August - Auto-Italia, Peckham

Upset the Rhythm have hosted many of America's most provocative and exciting bands at their London gigs, but their three-day festival at Auto-Italia, Peckham, was designed specifically to showcase their favourite new UK artists, many of whom have supported at their gigs and released records on their label. The whole event was deeply entrenched in Upset the Rhythm's own 'sound' - where punk meets art, dirt meets paint, chains of pedals meticulously arranged to produce the perfect obstructions. The venue itself, prepared by the resident artists at Auto-Italia, upheld this same aesthetic - a dingy, former car showroom set out with banners and sculptures, and a conscientiously turned-out audience. 'The best and brightest of the UK's art and music underground', the promoters boldly declared. The label and its festival have as good a claim as any to this accolade, but it comes as no surprise that the underground tributaries which Upset the Rhythm chose to tap were ones heavily indebted to their US darlings - No Age, Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko and Times New Viking.