by / April 8th, 2013 /

March album round-up

Bleached - Ride Your Heart
BleachedRide Your Heart (Dead Oceans)

A life in the LA sunshine makes some bands susceptible to a certain brand of rudimentary slacker-pop and Bleached are one of them. Ride Your Heart is built on driving guitars, Meg White drums and sugary sweet melodies. Yes, it’s repetitive and harks back to an age all too revered these days (see below), but this all-girl duo know how to compose a pop song. ‘Outta My Mind’ and ‘Ride Your Heat both unexpectedly build to rousing climaxes, while ‘Waiting by the Telephone’ is both love-lorn and defiant (maybe even aggressive) in its dynamic. Ultimately, Bleached are just the latest in a long line of bands to embrace distortion and melody. They won’t be the last, but they’re far from the worst. (George Morahan)

Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving
Chelsea Light MovingChelsea Light Moving (Matador)

Thurston Moore’s latest endeavour, Chelsea Light Moving, finds the former Sonic Youth frontman set in his ways, post-divorce and post-band break-up, and rarely has such stasis sounded so willfully juvenile. ‘Empires of Time’ sounds like it could have been taken from the Daydream Nation sessions, but as a whole, this self-titled effort is aggressively distorted and hard as granite. ‘Groovy and Linda’ has the fuzzy hard-rock stomp of Queens of the Stone Age’s best moments, while a number of tracks work out Moore’s pent-up mid-life angst in the downtuned haze-punk style that he made his name with. Penultimate number ‘Frank O’Hara Hit’ rambles along rather tunelessly, leaving one unprepared for the ungodly guitar squall that ushers it into ‘Holy shit!’ territory. Chelsea Light Moving may be Moore’s meditations from his personal emergency, but they’re a mixed bag. (GM)

Colleen Green - Sock It to Me
Colleen GreenSock It to Me (Hardly Art)

If you like your surf-pop hazy and so murky that Ariel Pink would call it poorly produced, then Colleen Green may be the woman for you. Her latest album, Sock It to Me, shares a lot in common with the work of Best Coast: lazily melodic vocals; distorted attempts at Spector-inspired pop; the naive, ever-yearning lyrics, but there’s a hardness here that Bethany Cosentino and co. probably couldn’t fathom. ‘Close to You’ and the title track are practically Joy Division songs, but with Ian Curtis’ foreboding baritone displaced by Green’s breathy cooing. Even if Green is singing about boys she likes rather than, say, mental illness or unending depression, Sock It to Me is just on the right side of disposable. (GM)

FaustusBroken Down Gentlemen

Given that two of their number feature in the genre busting English folk collective Bellowhead, you might expect Faustus to be of a similar ilk. However Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin and Saul Rose of Waterson:Carthy play it straight down the traditional middle here and, while you do sometimes wish they’d cut lose a little, their day job endeavours mean that they know what they’re doing. (Phil Udell)

Dying Embers - At War with the Eskimos
Dying EmbersAt War with the Eskimos (self-released)

Though originally conceived as a solo album by Dying Emvers leader Dara Ryder, At War with the Eskimos richly benefits from the full-band recording experience. Although ‘Cold Heart’ and ‘The Well’ get things off to a rather pedestrian start, the rambling, steel guitar-assisted styling of ‘Mister, the Birds’ right the ship in quick time. Lines such as “You’re acting like Prometheus, while praying to Apollo” arm Eskimos with an unexpected wit that flows nicely with the album’s bedraggled musical charm. At War with the Eskimos really comes into its own in its closing half, with ‘I Will’, ‘We Wait in Vain’and Jody Rolled the Bones’ hiding Dying Embers underneath melodramatic, hopeful and foreboding guises. A real treat. (GM)

Hurts - Exile
HurtsExile (Sony)

Oh, Hurts. They of perfectly swept hair, tasteful turtlenecks and unironic ear-piercings are back once more to assure us that the last three decades are really just a collective delusion that we’ve all accepted and that we still live in an age where Smash Hits is relevant and cocaine is a suitable entré for the affluent. If ever there was a band to convince Patrick Bateman that Huey Lewis and the News aren’t all that, it’s Hurts, armed with their mock-anthemic attempts at Pet Shop Boys sans wit synth-pop. Much like 2010’s Happiness, Exile is all sheen, a detached recreation of new romantic electronic pop and all that entails. ‘Miracle’ is a legitimate tune, but the rest of Exile is about as cold and sexless as a nursing home. (GM)

Maiden England 88
Iron MaidenMaiden England ’88 (EMI)

Despite the fact that they’ve produced some remarkably coherent new work of late, Iron Maiden have still slid into the nostalgia act – a state of play not helped by their revisiting of past highlights on stage and on record. Maiden ’88 is yet another nod to the past in the shape of a polished up live recording from twenty five years ago, capturing at the moment when they’re incredible run of albums (from self-titled debut to Powerslave, excluding Killers maybe) had ground to a halt with the ponderous Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Thus while there are less than impressive moments along the way, the reliable classics still sound ace but really this offers nothing you won’t find elsewhere and invariably better (Live After Death being a prime example). (PU)

leisure society - all aboard the ark
The Leisure SocietyAlone Aboard the Ark (Full Time Hobby)

Nick Hemming is certainly well connected (his old band She Talks To Angels featured both Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine) yet his reinvention as The Leisure Society has hardly been a major event. All Aboard The Ark shows why, a crafted, good hearted collection of perfectly pleasant pop songs strongly reminiscent of Pugwash and likely to earn him a similar status as loveable underdog. (PU)

Mudhoney - Vanishing Point
MudhoneyVanishing Point (Sub Pop)

A Mudhoney album in the year 2013 should be a complete anomaly yet the grunge veterans have shown enough spark late in their career to make it an enticing prospect. Sadly Vanishing Point is just that, a record that sees such hope disappear from view. In fact its problems hark back to their early days, when they would invariably forget about writing decent songs to match their dirty punk power. When they did manage to combine the two they were a joy but there’s nothing here to save the album from becoming a disappointing mess. (PU)

Ra Ra Riot - Beta Love
Ra Ra RiotBeta Love (Barsuk Records)

Vampire Weekend are still faffing around with Steve Buscemi and a few weeks away from mounting a proper comeback, so Ra Ra Riot are here to take care of that itch you have for upbeat NYC indie-pop in the meantime. Although they lack VW’s intellectual undertones, RRR have created a pulsating, mindless collection of songs. Taut and unashamedly poppy, Beta Love weighs in a just over half-an-hour and is sure to bring a smile to your face while also being completely forgettable. The synth-aided peppiness of the title track and the tight bounce of ‘Binary Mind’ are diverting enough, but ‘When I Dream’ eschews the happy-clappy energy in favour of something a little softer and introspective. The song’s padded keys and reflective falsetto will leave an imprint on the mind, but little else on the Syracuse band’s third album will. (GM)

Rachel Zeffira - The Deserters
Rachel ZeffiraThe Deserters (Universal)

Lush, rolling pianos and restrained strings mark The Deserters, the debut album from Canadian songstress Rachel Zeffira. Best known for her Cats Eyes collaboration with Farris Badwin of the Horrors, Zeffira has a soothing voice that nicely fits her neo-classical musical palate. The eponymous opener has an great sense of drama about it, as pianos swirl and brood, but it is pretty much the exception. The album is committed to mid-tempo pleasantness, by and large, with numbers like ‘Star’ and ‘To Here Knows When’ establishing a formal easy-listening template. The Deserters is a well-crafted album of gentle piano balladry, bookended by two tracks (‘The Deserters’, ‘Goodbye Divine’) free of such demure limitations. (GM)

StereophonicsGraffiti On The Train (Stylus)

Quite why Stereophonics are still a major draw is a mystery yet each new album is greeted with enthusiasm in more than a few (non-media) parts and they continue to top festival bills and fill arenas. It would be lovely to say that they are critically misunderstood and come down on the side of the people but Graffiti On The Train is another woeful effort and one that takes them another step further away from that truly wonderful debut, before Kelly Jones had seen globe but had a world of things to say. (PU)

Suuns - Images du Futur
SuunsImages du Futur (Secretly Canadian)

If there is one thing that has captured the indie world’s imagination recently, it is repetition. Intricate, extrapolating rhythms are the order of the day, but Suuns’ fascination manifests as droning and tense, Doppler-effect guitars. Second album Images du Futur is ineffective on first listen. Methodical and joyless, it treats the listener with utter disdain, but further scrutiny finds Sunns ringing an amiable lo-fi mumble from their ever-winding monotony. The consecutive pleasures of ‘Sunspot’ (which adds a meticulous new wrinkle to loud-quiet-loud dynamic) and ‘Bambi’ (with its fidgety grooves) make Images du Futur worthwhile. (GM)

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