NEWS: Bloc Party announce new album!

Four - Bloc Party

Bloc Party have officially announced details of their fourth album, and it’s called Four! The past few years have been an anxious time for fans. As the band went on hiatus and various members set out to do different things, the fate of the group seemed up in the air. But with a handful of live dates recently set and videos of the band in the studio, this was almost an inevitable announcement.

Four will be released on the 20th of August. You can pre-order it over here, where you have a variety of bundles to choose from. You can also read a post Kele wrote on the album and the past few years over here.

Check out the album trailer below, where you can hear snippets of some songs. Bloc Party’s past three albums have not disappointed. This is exciting!

NEWS: Astronautalis, Justin Vernon, S. Carey, and Ryan Olson start a band

Un-named new band

Astronautalis (genre-bending rapper Andy Bothwell), Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame), S. Carey (Sean Carey, known for his work with Bon Iver and his solo output), and Ryan Olson (aka Arson Only, founder of Gayngs, and member of Marijuana Deathsquads) have formed a new band – and tracking for their album is complete already!

I’ve gone all Storify on it below, collecting all of the information I can find so far from each of their Twitter accounts and Facebook, but what can we expect from this new project?

To be honest, I think it’ll be a bit of a surprise to everyone. Carey’s drumming is nothing short of stunning, as I observed when he performed with Bon Iver at the Opera House, and I don’t think there’s much he couldn’t do. Olson’s noisey, experimental work with Marijuana Deathsquads could throw something unexpected into the mix, and Astronautalis’ sophisticated flow is sure to show up. As for Vernon, it’s been confirmed his vocal talents will be making an appearance, but apart from that, who can tell.

All we can know for sure, is that it’s going to be a very interesting collaborative effort from 4 very talented musicians. All they need now is a name!

Check out my Storify piece below for more info, and follow the four of them (Astronautalis seems to be the most frequent updater) on Twitter to keep up with the project.

[View the story “NEWS: Astronautalis, Justin Vernon, S. Carey, and Ryan Olson start a band” on Storify]

REVIEW: Georgia Fair – “All Through Winter”

Georgia Fair - All Through Winter

It’s been a while coming for Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley – the duo also known as Georgia Fair. Their debut album – All Through Winter – is due for release on the 21st of October, and it’s fair to say there’s been a few people waiting on it. Touring with The Panics, the band have been showing off their new work recently, but how does it sound recorded?

Starting with the slow-burning “Times Fly”, the album kicks off with a strong start. “Blind” brings out intense, rolling drums, and “Where You Been?” is the perfect first single from the release.

Georgia Fair weave these beautiful vocal harmonies into folk music that goes beyond the whole cutesy idea of finger-picking some guitar chords. With lush strings and deep guitar, the songs sound mature and layered. It’s a much fuller sound, and it’s all the more interesting because of it. The best bit: the production is beautiful and sounds just as it should.

What it lacks for the most part, are stand out hooks. All Through Winter is rewarding when it has your attention, but rarely does the album grab it naturally. “Blind” and “Simple Man” both seem to take it up a notch, and so do a couple of others, but nothing really jumps out. Aside from that, too often do Wilson’s vocals feel under-stated. He has an amazing voice, and when really pushed out during some choruses, it explodes, sounding stronger than ever. Unfortunately, too often it feels restrained.

Maybe this album isn’t for me. When cherry-picking tracks for analysis, everything positive I’ve said stands – beautiful folk harmonies alongside a matured sense of song-writing – and it’s consistent in this sense too! But as an album, the release can’t sustain my interest. I feel I’d enjoy it more as an EP. Chances are, that’s more a reflection on my personal tastes.

Whether or not you listen to this as an album or not, if you dig great melodic folk music, you should have a listen. Georgia Fair have made leaps and bounds in many ways, and while I don’t think they’ve found their feet just yet, they’re getting pretty damn close.

NEWS: Los Campesinos! and “Hello Sadness”

Los Campesinos!

Have I got some news for you today! This post is all to do with the most eloquently gloomy and cathartic band in existence right now, Los Campesinos!

Firstly, Harriet, the violinist for LC!, has left the band to pursue her studies. It will be interesting to see whether the band find a touring violinist, or another permanent member, but at any rate Harriet will be sorely missed. Good luck to her in the future!

We also now have what is a tentative cover for the second issue of “Heat Rash”, LC!’s quarterly zine. Unfortunately new subscriptions to the project are closed at the moment, but keep your ears open because it’s well worth your money. On top of getting a quarterly zine, vinyl, and exclusive tracks, you also get discounts from their web store! The first issue was astounding for a debut, with contributions from every member of the band, alongside some brilliant artwork from Rob “Sparky Deathcap” Campesinos! Definitely try and get your hands on it if you can.

Lastly, the band have just revealed the details of their new album – Hello Sadness.

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

Set for release on the 14th of November, Hello Sadness is:

“ten songs of love, loss and heartbreak nail-gunned to a back-drop of broken, tangled bodies, creeping, dead-eyed animals, suffocating, looming shadows and World Cup exits. It is an honest, bare bones documentation of breaking up and trying not to break up in the process.”

I don’t think I could expect anything more from Los Campesinos! – this sounds like the exact album I’ve been waiting for. Bring on November!

You can check out the track-list and all of the pre-order bundles and details OVER HERE. I can tell you want it though, so pop right on over to the store and start getting excited.

VIDEO: Thrice – “Promises”

Thrice have a new album out on the 20th of September (the 6th of September if you’re getting it on vinyl!). It’s called Major/Minor. I’m a little excited, I won’t lie. Thrice really know how to fill their rock with a bit of aggression and and energy. Not only that, but they know how to set the pace of their songs, and rhythmically they really keep their riffs interesitng. If you haven’t given them a go before, you really should.

You can stream and download (for free!) the opening track of Major/Minor, “Yellow Belly”, on SoundCloud below. It’s been floating around for a little while now.

What’s really new though, is the lyrics video they just released for new song Promises”. Check it out below. You can pre-order Major/Minor over here.

NEWS: New Kaiser Chiefs album!

The internet has certainly opened up more opportunities for bands to release music on their own terms, which is a brilliant thing. But I’ll admit, I never would have thought something quite this strange or out there would happen.

Kaiser Chiefs have just released their latest album, The Future Is Medieval, and it’s a fan-made album. A huh what?

Basically, you pick 10 of the 20 songs Kaiser Chiefs have made available, put them in order, then design the artwork. After which you fork over £7.50 and download your new album.

Now here’s the really interesting bit. For every version of your album they sell, you make £1.

At first I thought “Well, lots of fans are going to have to buy two copies of the album now – that’s a bit harsh”, but the last bit of information spices things up a bit. Kaiser Chiefs are letting other people make money from their music! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that concept before.

If you feel like making your own album, or buying someone elses, jump over here and check it out. It’s a pretty neat idea.

And for all of you huge Kaiser Chiefs fans out there, or people who simply want all of the tracks, here are links to two albums which put together comprise of all 20 songs: Album One and Album Two. Downloading all 20 and re-ordering them over time sounds like the way to go I reckon.

BRAND NEW: The Living End – “The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating”

This morning Aussie rockers The Living End premiered their brand new track on triple j at 7am – it’s called “The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating”.

The band teased fans earlier this week by posting a short snippet on their website, a sample of lyrics, and a timer counting down to, well… pretty much now.

So what’s it like? Chris Cheney’s vocals sound great as per usual, and the song has a bit of an old Western vibe to it with the bell rings. The guitars sound great with the chugging verse, although I’m a bit concerned the chorus lyrics (the title) don’t have any kind of special hook to them – it just sounds a bit dry. On the other hand, in a live setting I can see the whole track going down brilliantly. It’s got an anthemic kind of feel, and I reckon it’s going to please fans of their more recent work.

Interestingly, the timer is still there after the premiere! But it’s longer. It’s counting down to 9am on the 22nd of July – the release date of their new album.

Take a listen to “The Ending is Just the Beginning Repeating” for yourself over at the band’s website right now. It’s out on iTunes too.

NEWS: So, as I mentioned – Radiohead!

Wow. Just wow.

Last night, news reached me via Twitter that Radiohead had finally made plans to release their 8th full length – entitled The King of Limbs. They sure know how to keep a surprise! I’d been waiting for an announcement like this for quite some time, but didn’t expect it so soon.

Interestingly, Radiohead have dropped the “pay-what-you-want” model in favour of just asking for a bit of money. There are two packs available – a digital download, and a gigtantic-enormous-mega-super-deluxe package, which includes vinyl pressings, a CD, the digital download on the 19th of February, and of course a tonne of awesome sounding artwork! Personally, I’d like to purchase the latter, but I’ll have to see how it goes. I hope they sell CD’s invidividually later anyway.

The band have also come under minor scrutiny from other artists and figures because of their markup on the price of digital copies. You can buy the album digitally as .mp3 or .wav files, you see. And the .wav files are more expensive than the .mp3 files. That could be to compensate for the bandwidth costs associated with distributing the larger files, but many claim it’s a ridiculous markup. I think I speak for the larger proportion of the music-loving society when I say – really, who cares? THIS IS RADIOHEAD. They are going to make a bucket load of money off this anyway, I seriously doubt the markup was motivated by pure greed.

Anyway. 19th of February. Pre-order your copies now people. This is going to be awesome.

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2010

2010 was one of those odd years where I can’t say I listened to a whole heap of new albums. For example Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs only got a few spins, despite how good I think it is, just because I got distracted I guess. Anyway, without further ado – my top few releases of 2010, and some not from 2010 too.

Album of the Year: Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

I think I knew months ago that this would be my favourite. RiB displays LC!’s true talent in crafting amazingly evocative, relatable, indie-pop/twee music, and the size of the band (they’re an 8-piece) adds another dimension to their music. From start to finish this album doesn’t let up, and I really see it as the culmination of their hard work on previous releases. A brilliant album, well worth trying.

Notable mentions:

The National – High Violet

Birds of Tokyo – Self-titled

Dead Letter Circus – This Is The Warning

Delphic – Acolyte

Los Campesinos! – Alls Well That Ends [EP]

Johnny Foreigner – You Thought You Saw a Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears and That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With the Sky So Clear and the Sea So Calm – EP

There are other releases out there I listened to, but not enough to really appreciate or develop a real opinion of – so I’ll leave them out.

The rest of the year was spent appreciating Johnny Foreigner’s two albums, which are absolutely brilliant. They have cemented themselves as one of my favourite bands in the past three months, and hopefully will one day get the recognition they deserve. I also discovered the rapper P.O.S. who is amazing, with a great delivery and provocative lyrics.

For those interested, the past twelve months on Last.fm show my top artists as:

  1. Los Campesinos! – 2471 plays
  2. Karnivool – 1354 plays
  3. Johnny Foreigner – 1264 plays
  4. The National – 959 plays
  5. Radiohead – 853 plays
  6. Birds of Tokyo – 787 plays
  7. Dead Letter Circus – 664 plays
  8. Bloc Party – 523 plays
  9. We Are Scientists – 325 plays
  10. Death Cab For Cutie – 258 plays
  11. Thom Yorke – 253 plays
  12. Queens of the Stone Age – 231 plays
  13. Josh Pyke – 223 plays
  14. Modest Mouse – 198 plays
  15. P.O.S. – 182 plays

Happy New Year everyone!

REVIEW: Phatchance – “Inkstains”

“Inkstains” is the 2009 debut album from Aussie hip-hop artist Phatchance. In hindsight, I can understand exactly why he’s nabbed spots touring with The Herd and Bliss N Eso, because “Inkstains” has got to be one of the most enjoyable and consistent debuts I’ve heard for quite a while.

Driving brass instrumentation leads the opening title track, and from the off-set Chance’s strong rapping slices through the fray, rising clear and balancing out with every other part, highlighting not only his vocal skills but the high production values instilled in this release.

Dealing with topics such as the difficulty of a music career, alcohol problems, and relationships, inspiration has been drawn from a myriad of situations. They may not all be brilliant feel-good hits of the summer, but as it’s put in “The Catchy Song”:

“That’s not true either, but I’m happy a lot / I just don’t make songs about the candy shop.”

Ultimately this sits perfectly with his music as well. Though that’s not to say this is a depressing album – Chance’s brilliant lyricism walks the fine line between emotive and moving, introspective, and entertaining. Filled with the kind of playful jibes at James Blunt and Kanye West in “The Catchy Song”, and the McDonald’s verse at the end of “Invisible Queen”, we’re given another side to Chance – one that ultimately benefits the album.

To compliment this, the variation in musical sound lends the album some movement. So many artists release material that all seems to blend together. “Inkstains” introduces guest vocalists (though not in excess!) like the brilliant Sam McNeill on “I Don’t Know”, and 360 and Smiles Again on “The Catchy Song”. Incorporating jazzy piano melodies on “Invisible Queen” then drawing in distorted guitar chords during the climax just shows the contrasts that Chance can bring together to form something cohesive and unified.

“Inkstains” is ultimately a solid debut, and the work put into it shows. The vocal delivery is brilliant, and with the lyrics manage to be both witty, serious, and heartfelt at the same time. Musically the album changes tone through a diverse range of melodies and instrumentation. This is a great debut. Let’s hope there’s more amazing material to come!

Verdict: Positive

You can check out some of Phatchance’s stuff at his Unearthed page, or download my I Forget, Sorry! mixtape here!