by / March 8th, 2013 /

February album round-up

BalthazarRats (PIAS)

Released on the continent last October, Rats is a curious slice of indie-pop intent on creating its own little niche. The second album from Belgium’s Balthazar is an assuredly low-key affair that values unnerving, acoustic grooves and melancholy-tinged melodies above anything else. There’s something oxymoronic and inexplicably off with Rats that makes for a rewarding listen, and the three-track stretch of ‘Lion’s Mouth (Daniel)’, ‘Do Not Claim Them Anymore’ and ‘Listen Up’ is particularly inspired in its soothing power. Relaxed yet gripping; plain yet strangely magnetic, Rats makes for perfect night-time listening, just don’t ask why. (George Morahan)

CheatahsExtended Plays (Wichita)

There’s a lot to be said for sun-kissed melodies and fuzzy guitars. Pavement made a career from them, as did Teenage Fanclub, and Cheatahs hope to do the same. As reductive as that may sound, there’s little on Extended Plays that indicates otherwise, and it amounts to little more than hero worship. Much like fellow Londoners Yuck, Cheatahs are sat around hoping to be ushered back to 1991 by a Prince Charming in plaid but without anything as damn irresistible as ‘Get Away’ in their repertoire. At a mere 27 minutes, Cheatahs debut hardly outstays its welcome, but by the end you’ll be itching to find your copy of Slanted and Enchanted rather than play Extended Plays a second time. (GM)

DevlinA Moving Picture (Island)

Time was when a successful UK rapper a novelty, but these days you can’t negotiate the charts without tripping over an authentic voice from the streets. That doesn’t mean they’re all any good though. Devlin comes with the usual street credentials and high profile mates (plus an endorsement from Kanye West) but in reality he’s just more of the same Professor Green-style urban pop. Still at least Emeli Sande doesn’t crop up. (Phil Udell)


FIDLAR have a song called ‘Cocaine’ and one called ‘Wait for the Man’, so one can safely assume they’re partial to the odd bout of hedonism, but lyrics like “I just wanna get really high / Smoke weed until I di-i-ie” are on hand to put paid to any lingering ambiguity. They make loud pop-punk that’s difficult to resist, with any and all of the genre’s anger nullified by a life in the LA sunshine.
FIDLAR are lewd, crude and proud of their old-school lineage. Much like the Black Keys before them, they are able to squeeze new life from a seemingly tired style of music. Though it may sound like they are destined to burn out in an instant, there’s enough on FIDLAR to suggest a career after the comedown, though the band are solely occupied by the present and nothing more. (GM)

Girls NamesThe New Life (Tough Love)

Bass. How low can you go? We’ve come to expect certain things from Northern Irish guitar bands, but 80s sounding goth pop isn’t one of them. Girls Names certainly nail the fragile sound of the era (there’s a big Cure influence at work) and while it’s an impressive tribute, they could do with letting more of their own personality shine through. (PU)

Jamie Lidell
Jamie LidellJamie Lidell (Warp)

Jamie Lidell’s latest album is an attempt at reconciling the British crooner’s brand of neo-soul with his love of 80s pop. In reality, this self-titled effort is merely a kitschy collection of bells and whistles that fail to hide the fact that there is little of any songwriting substance on offer. Comprised of everything bad about the 80s, from slap bass to Maggie Thatcher, the majority of these 11 tracks disturbingly fetishise a famously vapid decade for pop without ever reaching the heights of those that were invulnerable to its legacy-sapping powers – Michael Jackson, Prince, etc. ‘What a Shame’ has more of a modern, dubstep-flecked sound and ‘why_you_why’ is as swampy as the Bayou, so both were lucky to escape the hellish indignity worn by the rest of the album. Grating, and just look at that cover. (GM)

ModestepEvolution Theory (Polydor)

Here come Modestep to blow you away with their filthy drops and face-melting aural cocktails. No, not really. Evolution Theory may be nothing you haven’t heard before, but Modestep deserve credit for straying outside the cut-and-paste culture UKF Dubstep perpetuates. With nods to rock, grime and rival facets of electronic music, the London quartet could be to brostep what Pendulum were to early-00s drum & bass: a genuine genre-bending crossover act. Granted, they’re still about as subtle and refined as a breeze block with the corners sanded off, but they’re more open-minded than many of their peers, and songs such as ‘Time’, ‘Freedom’ and the title track mercifully offer something other than bleep, bloop, bleep, bloop; wob, Wob, WOB! (GM)

Palma Violets180 (Rough Trade)

It’s easy to be suspicious of a band like Palma Violets. Touted by some – mainly the NME – as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll, we’ve been here before (remember The Others?), yet while 180 can’t possibly live up to the hype, it’s still a neat little record with some good songs. Definitely no more, certainly no less. (Phil Udell)

Pissed JeansHoneys (Sub Pop)

More aggressive than No Age and less artful than Sonic Youth, the noise-rock rampage of Pissed Jeans is not without merit. Honeys, the band’s third album on Sub Pop and fourth in all, plays up their their punkier attributes but leaves plenty of room for digressions into extended weirdness (‘Something About Ms Johnson’) and bruising persistence (‘Vain in Costume’). ‘Cathouse’ puts their aggressive energy to good use while the louche fuzziness of ‘Loubs’ is pretty irresistible. Lyrically, Pissed Jeans are still angry, anxious man-children but they make a diverting racket. (GM)

Thao & The Get Down Stay DownWe The Common (Ribbon Music)

Coming straight out of the left of centre, arty US underground T&TGDSD (pictured) are still a remarkably accessible, joyous experience – even if the rousing title track was inspired by a conversation with a female prisoner serving life. Main woman Thao Nguyen thrashes the shit out of her banjo, the frequent brass stabs shine and Joanna Newsom arrives for a country and western duet. Delightful and well worth tracking down. (Phil Udell)

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down “We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

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