Music Music reviews

More Recent Listening

It’s been a few months (about three of them, I think), so here’s some stuff that I’ve been listening to lately.

Takk **Takk** by *Sigur Rós*

This is a superb listening experience. The first half of the album is fluid and seamless. I don’t want to use the word repetitive, because of the negative connotations, so suffice to say that it is perfect ambient or background music. I have suggested to Karen that we should be playing this kind of thing to the unborn child for the benefit of its soothing, lullaby-like effects. Not the lullabys of open fires and rocking chairs, but of icebergs and penguins.

Whereas the first half has an underlying dynamic to it, the individual tracks in the second half seem to have their own individual lifecycle, each particular song standing more on its own. There is also more variation within this second half, some of the songs feeling a little louder, heavier, threatening.

I accept that for many people, this album will seem a bit nothingy. But they are clearly idiots.

Clor **Clor** by *Clor*

Clor have split up already, but not before leaving us with this. It’s a mesh of punk and pop and techno with a homemadeness that all adds up to something unlike anything else. I was originally turned onto them when I saw their performance at the Reading festival last year, and was left open-mouthed at the originality of the concept and the grooviness of the basslines. After having listened to the album many, many times, I also have to say that it is startlingly high on singalongability. Phrases like “Our pockets, full of little miracles” wedge themselves in your brain and demand your assistance. Short keyboard riffs are scattered throughout, catchy little melodies that make each individual song instantly recognisable.

The last few years have been a barrage of fabulous debut albums from British bands, with follow-up albums being inevitably delayed or disappointing (see The Zutons, below). Clor are one of the few bands that I think could have had enough mileage for a second album. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Tired Of Hanging Around **Tired Of Hanging Around** by *The Zutons*

Gah, it’s Franz Ferdinand all over again. Who Killed The Zutons was a great album, but they seem to have lost all the quirkiness that made it interesting, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to the mainstream. There are a couple of catchy numbers – Oh Stacey and Valerie are infectious – but it’s a forgettable experience overall. Which is a shame, because I’ve already bought tickets to one of their shows.

The Life Pursuit **The Life Pursuit** by *Belle And Sebastian*

Belle And Sebastian have really grown up in the 9 years that I’ve been listening to them. If you had told me that they would ditch their tweeness and develop their sound into nigh-on danceable pop music, I’d laugh at you and tug your eyebrows ((why not)). It’s sounding very good after two listens. Whether it will stand the test of time or not, we shall see.

Certainly, they deserve brownie points for having the guts to adapt their style. Many bands operate like a business, churning out the same stuff over and over again in order to keep their existing fans happy, rather than poking into new genres as their fancy takes them. In fact, I think there should be a law that states that after recording an album of (say, for the sake of argument) guitar-based soft rock, the band in question are forbidden from recording any more albums of said guitar-based soft rock. Keep the gene pool fresh.

Eyes Open **Eyes Open** by *Snow Patrol*

Lots of people like them. Lots of people whose opinions I respect. And so I feel a little bad for not liking them all that much. Maybe one day I’ll have a revelation and start liking them, but for now I just feel indifference. If the randomiser puts this album on then I probably won’t skip it straight away, but I can’t see myself ever selecting it deliberately. A little too formulaic, perhaps?

From The Cliffs **From The Cliffs** by *Guillemots*

For a little while, I thought that Guillemots were my new favourite band, but upon closer inspection they have only recorded two songs that really blow me away. Trains To Brazil and Made Up Lovesong #43 are absolutely amazing, but the rest of the songs on this EP sound like the simply-fabulous Rufus Wainwright having an off day.

3121 **3121** by *Prince*

TAFKATAFKAP has these occasional flashes of brilliance which make me want to like him. But then I discover that I just can’t listen to an entire album of it. My ears just glaze over and I find my attention wanders to other things, more mentally stimulating things. If I were to write blah blah blah blah blah a few hundred times, you’d just skip to the end of this paragraph and read the review of the Jack Johnson album, and you’d be right to. See the parallel that I am attempting to draw?

In Between Dreams **In Between Dreams** by *Jack Johnson*

This guy makes a guitar sound great. Not in a Jimi Hendrix way, I hasten to add (in case you had got completely the wrong impression, right off the bat), but by reminding us that less is sometimes more. When everything is feeling unnecessarily complex, it takes something like this album to remind you that piling on too many so-called enhancements and ostensible optimisations will eventually result in an unmaintainable mess. Strip the lot down to its core, and you will sleep much more soundly.

Again, I’ve only actually listened to this a couple of times, so my opinion is still subject to the forces that come into play after that all-important Listen #5.

Corinne Bailey Rae **Corinne Bailey Rae** by *Corinne Bailey Rae*

Well, now that Mothers Day has passed, we’ll probably never hear from Corinne Bailey Rae again. Bland and unoriginal, I have no idea how she got so famous, the mind boggles. You know when you see a trailer for a movie, and it looks very funny, and so you go to see it? And then you discover that the trailer contained all the funny bits without exception?

Similarly, you know how you saw an advert for this album on the TV, and there were snippets from three songs, and they sounded quite pleasant? Well, that’s it. The rest is filler.


Eye To The Telescope **Eye To The Telescope** by *KT Tunstall*

By contrast, this is surprisingly good. There are a couple of possible filler tracks in the second half, but for the most part each song stands nicely on its own merits without feeling like ideas are being reused. If I had one complaint, I’d suggest that the incredibly catchy choruses are occasionally supported by rather nothingy verses.

I’m going to stick my neck out a bit and venture that I also rather like her voice. Much like you, I hear hundreds of new singing voices each year, and most of them just sound like a vehicle for the lyrics ((heheheh, I’m reminded of the beautiful line in An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter by Mansun, which contradicts my point entirely: The lyrics aren’t supposed to mean that much, they’re just a vehicle for a lovely voice.)), but I can get quite enthusiastic about Katie’s. I can’t explain it.

It took me over a year to finally get round to giving her a chance. I’m glad that I did. Again, I haven’t yet reached Listen #5 with this one, but I’m quietly confident.