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Archive for March, 2010

Who? The Ruby Suns

Title: Fight Softly
Label:
Memphis Industries (UK) / Sub Pop (US) / Lil’Chief (NZ)
Tell me more:
The Ruby Suns are the baby of Ryan McPhun, an American Kiwi (two stereotypes for the price of one) who veer between Auckland and California. Nice.
The Lowdown:
Fight Softly shares a spirituality with the Signer album I reviewed in Lowdown … 11, the breezy electro pop and obscure sampling and lush vocals being built upon on The Ruby Suns third album. I can hear effects and synths, and an imaginative mind. Guitars are used sparingly, there’s a hint of 90s disco, and on Cranberry, the genes of Paul Simon, Graceland, 1986, are discovered. Stun me McPhun.

Who? Electric President

Title: The Violent Blue
Label:
Fake Four
Tell me more:
They’re a duo from Jacksonville, Florida, been around for six years and this is their sixth album.
The Lowdown: The Alex Kane-Ben Cooper tag team do a nice yet uninspiring indie take that spans shoegazing and maybe emo. It’s difficult to look at this kind of music subjectively if those genres fail to ignite the inner brash teenager inside of me. Porky’s ears lit up on the near-pop, chant-heavy Safe and Sound, which would undoubtedly fit in with a programme like Dawson’s Creek but alas, Cooper’s brittle vocals and the insipid melodies on much of the rest doesn’t endear it to Porky.
Anything else?
According to the eating/ sf blogsite, The Violent Blue is best consumed with bruleed baked oatmeal.


Who? Buggles

Title: Adventures in Modern Recording
Label:
Salvo
Tell me more:
Recorded in 1981 and only released in France. Includes various b-sides, mixes and demos, should you wish them.
The Lowdown:
In 1980 Buggles and their bespectacled frontman Trevor Horn were everywhere with Video Killed The Video Star. You will have heard of it, even if you can’t remember the chorus. It was, on the initial listens, an excellent piece of electro-pop from the burgeoning snythesiser scene. It was, after a week of radioplay, a piece of irritating bleeps and blips. Listening to this, an archive of the heady electro days of the early 80s, today you feel a sense of aloofness. It’s awfully dated, dear boy. I doubt in an age when technology in music was moving so fast, with the Human League about to dominate the entire world, that this album would have any impact at all but it’s worth listening to a historical document more than anything else, as Buggles were one of a select band who paved the way for a decade and beyond of music that left the guitars in the stand.
Anything else?
Horn was once in Yes. Oh no.

Who? Sarah Blasko

Title: As day follows night
Label:
Dramatico
Tell me more:
All the way from Sydney, Blasko is now being marketed in the UK with her third album, recorded with Bjorn Yttling in Stockholm.
The Lowdown: Blasko is a pretty brunette with a beautiful, fey voice. The world is full of solo female singers so Blasko has to have something above and beyond the roll call of glamorous/ frumpy, talented/ hopeless starlets (delete as appropriate). It’s an album that doesn’t just fade away, it draws you in and grabs your attention. But you’ll fight. You’ll battle against the humdrum harmonies and unimaginative bass, drum and guitars. Her voice is a boon: “Is my baby yours?” she wails over and over, giving me the creeps.
Anything else?
Blasko grabs a snippet of Talking Heads’ Road To Nowhere and tags it on the end of Over & Over.


Who? The Olive Branch

Title: Drummers Hill Experience
Label:
Invisable Records
Tell me more:
It’s always helpful if a band can label themselves, and on the cover, The Olive Branch inform the listener that it’s ska/punk/ reggae. A bunch of ska-nuts from Leeds, hugely influenced by the 2-Tone sound of the Specials, the Beat, Madness et al and who can possibly object to that.
The Lowdown:
I always cringe at the term, ska-punk, it invokes imagines of Americans armed with punk records but little knowledge of the Jamaican ska scene of the mid-6os. These three tracks, plus a bonus one, aren’t in that vein, this sounds like they were fed Gangsters and One Step Beyond with their baby food.
Anything else?
http://www.myspace.com/theolivebranch1

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Who? The Bravery

Title: Stir the Blood
Label:
Island
Tell me more:
When The Bravery came to Porky’s attention in 2005, they were one of the Bright Young Things, a serious challenger to the wave of exciting bands on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Franz Ferdinand. The self-titled debut was excellent and the hit singles and TV appearances were forthcoming.
The Lowdown:
Given the above, it’s justified to ask what happened to The Bravery. They haven’t come close to usurping their supposed rivals The Killers or gone on to achieve the success of some of their contemporaries. With this third album it seems The Bravery are anything but. Stir the Blood fails to do that, they haven’t really moved ideologically onward and seem to have become hardcore Sisters of Mercy fans. It has it’s moments, however, Slow Poison, is crisp and beautiful in its audicity and the oblique 80s indie feel works. But they still require some lustre and purpose.
Anything else?
Is this something they want us to know – apparently singer Sam Endicott is the writer of Shakira’s She Wolf.


Who? Ten City Nation

Title: At The Still Point
Label:
Sturm Und Drang
Tell me more:
TCN hail from the east of England, a region that doesn’t have the same musical traditions as, say Liverpool or Manchester, but has had some great bands over the past decade and beyond. For more on Ten City Nation please check out the interview I conducted with Seymour Patrick last month, which will be either below or via the link on the right.
The Lowdown:
As the band have progressed from their days as Miss Black America, they’ve become even more nihilistic. More guitars, more anger, more Stooges and Nirvana influences. The opener, Flashing Lights is very accessible – punk with discipline – but Room 10101 is, shall we say, the kind of thing that would scare mothers around the world. At times we need noise in our life. Not the Korn or Green Day form of noise, but something more digestible, even though At The Still Point might give you that bloated feeling after listening to all 12 tracks in one go. This is one Nation to cheer on at the Rock Olympics.
Anything else?
Buy for a very reasonable price at http://www.tencitynation.com

Who? Chris Bradley

Title: At The Outpost
Label:
17 Seconds records
Tell me more:
Second solo album from a member of uber-indie Scottish band Aberfeldy.
The Lowdown:
Jolly pop songs with lightweight melodies and the odd slowdown. Running Song is bursting with harmonies; The Beatles was recorded in a gloriously genre-defying glam-rock manner and Hand-me-Down is the kind of thing Shack do extremely well. Bradley’s got a dandy voice and writes perky songs, but there’s a laboured feel to Outpost, as if it doesn’t really matter if it sells or not.
Anything else?
Curiously, his website puts a lot of focus on his television and radio arrangement works: “Whether you’re looking for live instrumentation or sampled electronica, the limits of a musical solution end only where your imagination does.” Indeed.


Who? Don Franks

Title: ‘Safer Communities Together’ Blues
Label:
self-released
Tell me more:
Franks is a well-known left-wing activist around Wellington. He also sings and plays guitar. The title refers to the New Zealand Police’s moto.
The Lowdown:
Titles that namecheck unions, the police, the two main political parties, guns, and Mumia Abu Jamal earmarks this album in the “awkward left-wing buggers” section. I don’t have a problem with that, in fact, the more politics the better. Who else apart from Steve Earle or is actually saying something these days? Safer Communities Together Blues is predominantly acoustic with the odd burst of activity, as on Take the guns out of their hands, which frizzles with guitars. He sounds deadly serious, but sometimes comes over sounding like English eccentric John Otway. Adds new, and appropriate, lyrics to All things bright and beautiful and White Christmas (re-named Red Christmas).
Anything else?
The album was recorded in a student flat “between strikes, demos, barbecues, cricket and Workers Party branch meetings.” To buy, email Daphna on wpnz@clear.net.nz

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