Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Welcome back, and more music

Well, I've made it back on time from my hiatus. I haven't really had time to catch up with what music is red-hot and current right now, so I'll just talk about a band with releases this year, instead.

While I was away, I discovered that a single GB of music on a hard drive is not quite enough to keep me occupied for three weeks of work abroad. However, I came to depend on a few songs, and Back To Back by Dusty Brown was one of them. The picture above is from their Myspace, in case you were wondering. I don't know who it is.

In true RWL fashion, here are Dusty Brown in five bullet points.

1. They are the three Brown siblings from Sacramento, Dusty (keyboards), Jessica (vocals) and Zac (guitar). They have been a band for eight years.

2. Back To Back sounds like someone single-handedly reviving the Bristol trip-hop sound of the mid-1990s, complete with soaring Beth Gibbons-style vocals, understated beats and a delicious air of mystery.

3. There has been a DB album at some point, but I can't find it. I have no idea what it sounds like.

4. Their other output is not all the same. It runs from breakbeat-assisted guitar pop (Weather, How's That) to moody downbeat instrumentals (This City is Killing Me), with a string of operatic-voiced pop-noir mysteries in the middle.

5. This City Is Killing Me is their latest EP, which can be downloaded free, or for a small donation. It came out in June. Download it here.


Monday, 2 August 2010


As you might have noticed, I'm not updating RWL at the moment. Don't worry, I'm not quitting, it's just that my RL life is intervening.

This is not an indefinite hiatus; I should be back at the end of the month.

Enjoy August!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Gig Review: School of Seven Bells, Manchester Ruby Lounge, 19th of July 2010

Sorry for the missed post earlier in the week - things have caught up with me.
Right, now. Where was I? Oh yes, the School of Seven Bells gig I went to on Monday.

I now feel completely vindicated in my mini architectural reviews that I do of venues I visit. The Ruby Lounge is really a poorly-designed gig venue, with a massive lounge and bar space, but a tiny, cramped stage shoved in an overheated corner, with the view obscured by pillars. This isn't helped by the lowness of the ceiling and the lowness of the stage itself. I didn't actually see much of this performance at all.

The main support act, Active Child, pulled out at the last minute, which was disappointing. Another support was playing when I arrived. She was a solo female singer with an acoustic guitar, a reverb pedal and quite a lovely, powerful voice, but I spent most of her set locating my friend and talking (not near the stage, I might add), which was really rather rude of me. I don't know who she was, although she might have been part of a band called The Steels. She was quite good.

School of Seven Bells take the stage after a suitable delay. They are augmented tonight by a live drummer. For most of the set, I can only see a bit of Claudia Deheza, with the odd glimpse of Benjamin Curtis. Claudia struggles with her monitors and other issues to begin with, and is not quite comfortable during the first number. Things loosen up with the first big song, Windstorm, which makes a welcome, but surprisingly early, appearance.

Understandably, SviiB live is a different experience from SviiB on record, and this is most evident during the newer numbers. On record, these are heavy on the electronics with clean, bright vocals, but live, there is a pleasing fuzzy texture and rawness to them. Both Claudia and Alejandra have strong live voices, and their harmonising chimes well with the washes of guitar and synth noise.

At first, their demeanour is shy, with little eye contact or communication, but they open up considerably after declaring that Manchester is one of their favourite musical cities. Stand-out tracks from the latter part of the set are the new songs Camarilla and Joviann, which combine strong vocal hooks with hazy guitars. The latter's Jesus&Mary Chain-esque drumbeats are especially good and hypnotic.

The set contains songs from both albums, but there are some surprising omissions: Connjur and Prince of Peace do not get an airing. However, the set proper ends with a pretty, note-perfect My Cabal, which leaves the crowd wanting more. The Deheza sisters and Benjamin Curtis oblige with an extra number, a new song I cannot remember the title of.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Album Review: Best Coast - Crazy For You

Best Coast has kindly put their album online for our streaming pleasure, prior to its release on the 27th. For a reliable UK-friendly stream, go to this Guardian page.

Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno play sunny, fuzzy Californian cool-kid guitar pop. Their sound is not groundbreaking, experimental or even particularly innovative, borrowing heavily from Sixties surf anthems, garage rock and lo-fi Americana. However, Bethany's smart songwriting and bright voice save them from AN Otherness, and their songs are just so likeable, it's hard to ignore them.

Crazy For You has an impressive thirteen tracks, but still clocks in at a sweet and concise 31 minutes and 40 seconds. Everything is small (sub-three minutes, usually) and perfectly formed, with not a wasted note. Despite the definite Best Coast sound and set of influences, there is enough variation in tempo and tone to retain interest, as well as the presence of some previous blog favourites like This Is Real and When I'm With You.

In some ways, the album is like a plate of biscuits; you know you're going to get a biscuit when you pick one, but will it be a crunchy lo-fi slacker biscuit, or will it be a crumbly, hazy one with lots of reverb?

Enough of the silly analogies. If you want a great summery pop record about beaches, boys, and worlds gone crazy, this is for you.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The WTF Files #1: Forum Fetishism

While trying to think up themes for my weekly token non-music post, I go on forums. I spend far too much time on forums, if I'm honest.

After coming up with the idea for "The WTF Files", which was originally going to be me bitching about bands I don't like, I realised there was a whole can of WTF just waiting to be opened in this particular corner of online culture.

I've noticed over the years that certain forum posters, on a variety of boards, are not there to take part in the discussion. They are there to pleasure themselves. They think up ever more elaborate, or simple ruses, to get others to share stories about their strange obsessions. For strictly information purposes only, I'm going to list a few of these. No usernames or forums themselves will be implicated, but you might find yourself recognising one or two.

1. The Piss Fetishist
Sorry for the foul language, but there's no better word for it. This person tries to get others to post stories about wetting their pants. I think it's a he, and he prefers male pant-wetting stories. He has at least five IDs on one forum alone, which are traceable through their similarity and use of the same bland questions about radios and printing to cover his tracks. He also likes to post stories involving policemen and footballers being caught short, or having their dirty underwear exposed. He has a side interest in socks that he finds hard to hide.

2. The School Tie Perv
Known on at least two forums, this individual posts endless threads about school ties, and how to wear them. Worryingly, this extends to the manner in which young and underage actors in TV shows such as Waterloo Road and Eastenders wear theirs. He also likes to talk about other school uniform items, football shirts worn by schoolboys, and tracksuits, particularly worn by young men.
He is seriously creepy and confessed to having a restraining order against him.

3. The Fart Fantasiser
Pops up on several forums posting stories about farting, and tries to get others to do likewise. Usually, they involve a young female office worker who has embarrassed herself at work, or a wife who is disgusted by her husband farting in bed. They are really quite shoddy and post identical stories on different forums.

4. The Knicker Sniffer
Obsessed with women's underwear. Has an imaginary girlfriend who may or may not be a TV weathergirl, whom he allegedly buys the underwear for, thus giving him an excuse to ask about it. He appears to have an imaginary friend who always pops up to agree with him and defend him.

I think that's enough for now.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Music Monday: what is Oh Land doing in England?

I came across Oh Land quite recently on Myspace. There is quite a crop of current Scandinavian bands, from Sweden especially, who I have been following, but Oh Land stands out at the moment.

According to her Twitter, she is on her way to England. As far as I know, she hasn't got any gigs planned here. Who is she working with then? Or is she just here for a holiday? Who knows.

Oh Land, real name Nanna Oland Fabricius, is due to release her second album in August, her first for Sony. Her first, Fauna, was released on Fake Diamond to excellent reviews. In true RWL style, here's why she is worth listening to in five points:

1. She grew up in a family of classical musicians and was not encouraged to listen to modern pop music. The only band she was permitted to hear was the Beatles. Later, she discovered pop music through a Bjork album that she bought for herself. All of these things come through in Oh Land's music, from the Beatles' ear for a pop tune, the subtlety and delicacy of chamber music and the organic-electronic approach of Bjork.

2. She trained for a long period as a ballet dancer, until a back injury forced her to retire. This part of her life informs a lot of her lyrics, both explicitly (in Break the Chain) and more subtly (she has another song called Audition Day).

3. Fauna was mainly recorded by Nanna herself, playing various instruments including keyboards, guitar and orchestral instruments. She got some help with vocals on tracks like Heavy Eyes, which has also been remixed by Trentemoller.
Her second album apparently contains more collaborations with as-yet unknown musicians. It is said to have a dancier feel, so more remixes might be in the pipeline.

4. Her live show is very theatrical, making use of costumes and projections. Her videos are also dramatic, without being "wacky". (Take note, Lady Gaga).

5. Her sound is all hers, but some useful pointers are: CocoRosie (without so much of the self-conscious weirdness), Bjork (some vocal stylings, electronic/acoustic crossover) White Hinterland (soul influence, electronic sounds and textures.

Oh Land Myspace
Oh Land official site

Friday, 9 July 2010

Songs in French

This week's vaguely-themed, vaguely topical music post is running under the banner of "songs in French". It was inspired by the first band in question, Cours Lapin, who I discovered on Line of Best Fit with their latest single, Cache Cache. You will find a download link there, too.

Despite their French name and French lyrics, Cours Lapin ("run rabbit") are not French at all, but Danish. Most of the time, all four of them compose film music, but they like to get together and make slightly sinister, somewhat catchy melodies inspired by chansons Francais and other traditional European music. There are also traces of old fashioned gangster film tunes, Gallic pop and bits of Bristol trip-hop in there as well, although their sound is all their own.

The band is Louise Alenius (vocals), Asger Baden (keys), Peder (keys and production) and Jonas Struck (guitar). They have just played a couple of UK dates, but Cache Cache has proved quite popular, so they may return.

The second Francophone act I wanted to blog about is Chat. Strictly speaking, Chat isn't quite topical at the moment, as her last release was in 2009, but she is starting to play gigs again, and more importantly, she is good, so I'm going to talk about her.

Chat, who formerly recorded as Mademoiselle until about 2006, is a young classically-trained pianist who has turned her hand to singing. She is actually French. Her songs combine superb old-fashioned piano with the sort of whispery, rapid vocals you tend to associate with French singers. She collaborates with other musicians a lot. Her songs divide into Gallic piano chansons and looser, guitar-infused numbers. Below, you can see her performing Alice, a song she has been playing since at least 2006. I once saw her rehearsing this in London on the way to another gig. Her piano playing is really quite superb.

Chat Myspace
Cours Lapin Myspace