REVIEW: Yr Friends – “Yr Friends Am Shit At Poetry”

yrfriendsamshitatpoetry

Alexei Berrow’s “press release” for his third Yr Friends EP isn’t like the hard sell drivel that clogs my inbox. Refreshingly honest, it lacks the braggadocio of artists and dull PR agents who really ought to know better. Which is great, but as a result you can’t help feel that Berrow doesn’t expect much to come out of this side project. You get the impression that it’s a bit rushed. Done not without love, but still out of “necessity”. Which as it turns out, isn’t always a bad thing.

The instrumentation and recordings presented easily surpass Yr Friends’ previous efforts, but don’t quite break free of the DIY bedroom aesthetic – which is just as well, because this time around, Berrow’s heartfelt spoken word stories thrive off it. Never once does he sound contrived, yet you can never quite tell whether these words were penned in an afternoon, or over extended months. But does that really matter? The lyrics and instrumentation complement each other perfectly, and those familiar with his work will attest to Berrow being an excellent story-teller more than capable of turning a phrase or two.

Lewes Herriot, Johnny Foreigner’s longtime artist and new guitarist, called these songs “plays”. After multiple listens, it seems like a more than apt description, because disregarding the cover of Modest Mouse’s “Third Planet”, that’s exactly what we’re presented with: a loose three-act structure. A set of narratives that fit together in the most unassuming, yet graceful manner.

The drunken tales of girls, parties, and relativistic fame of “My Summer in Ibeefa” develop a hazily bright start to the release. The sullen beats almost make you want to dance, in a shuffle-around-your-bedroom kind of way.

We’re then rather abruptly thrown into “Adults, At Last”, which deals with heartbreak in its most potent, perspective-ridden form. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a bedroom musician doing spoken word about romantic loss would be self-indulgent and clichéd, but you’d also be wrong. The ticking metronome in the background annoyingly grates, but as Berrow reaches his final verse, the song pays off, painting a nuanced and visceral picture of an adult life removed from its past.

“I swear, I’d rip out the tongue of each boy that you kissed, martyr myself in the hope that there’s something you’ve missed, but six years later, we can sit round the table, make small talk with no sparks and call ourselves adults at last.”

So many artists rely on their youth and oft-projected naivety to form a connection and justify their feelings. Here, we’re told a story that bundles similar emotions together, but concludes with a numbing sense of maturity and resignation. While everyone is guaranteed to take different things from these songs, this is a blunt reminder of change.

“Another Friday Night at the Chloro Party” (I’m not entirely sure what a chloro party is either, but don’t Google it while you’re at work) begins by telling the story of a woman’s wedding, and gradually moves through her life’s moments of celebration towards that inevitable conclusion we all share. There are a few dark undertones, but the bright guitars chime out and make it without a doubt the warmest track present. It’s in this melancholic afterglow that Berrow, for all intents and purposes, concludes the EP, forming a loose arc of narratives around growing up and getting older.

Despite the conviction of the love interest in “Adults” (‘convinced yr future was uni, and uni meant out’) and the ‘plans for life’, part of a ‘future scripted out’ by the woman in “Chloro Party”, it would be presumptuous to suppose any the characters overlap in these tales. It would be equally presumptuous to suppose that Berrow even features in them himself, especially given that numerous songs on Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything were penned about the lives of others (“200x“, “(Don’t) Show Us Your Fangs“). This is ultimately irrelevant though, as the emotional sentiment expressed is as convincing as ever, feeling both effortless and devastatingly honest – immersing us in someone else’s life, fictional or otherwise, that would have gone unnoticed.

Yr Friends has developed rapidly over a short time. Following a distinctly lo-fi debut, Berrow then put together a refined, pleasant, and aching second release. Which brings us to his third EP, Yr Friends Am Shit At Poetry – which is a leap ahead (and side-ways) of its predecessor. Berrow’s cover of “Third Planet” by Modest Mouse closes the EP nicely, despite feeling tacked on, and it begs the question – would three songs be too short for an EP? Not necessarily, and regardless of Isaac Brock’s song-writing ability, Berrow’s original material is much more alluring here.

Alluring enough to draw you in and not only make you think, but make you feel.

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NEWS/BRAND NEW: Johnny Foreigner – “(small fraud)”

Johnny Foreigner

It’s been a busy few months for Birmingham punx Johnny Foreigner. Between all of the work put into their latest album – Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything – they’ve played launch shows, released singles and an EP, and visited Japan. But that isn’t going to slow them down one bit.

Recently it was announced that their label, Alcopop, will be releasing a double 12″ vinyl of Vs Everything! The album itself will take up 3 sides of it, while the 4th side will bring together all of the b-sides from the singles. Pre-orders will be available from March, and what’s potentially the most exciting thing about all of this is:

“… the first 100 preorders will recieve a totally unique present and an some instructions on what to do with it. This is going to be most grandiose/stupid interactive art thing we’ve ever done, will tell more soon.”

Jump over here to check out the upcoming gigs they’re playing. They’re kind of redoing their launch parties too, and from what I heard, they’d be well worth getting along to.

On top of all of this, they’ve recently thrown a new track up on SoundCloud called “(small fraud)”. It’s from the Vs Everything album sessions, and it’s a spoken-word piece against a busy, whirring, electronic back-drop. Most bands can’t pull this stuff off, but Alexei’s ability to turn a phrase can’t be rivalled by many, and it kind of works for them.

Take a listen below! And if the SoundCloud downloads are all gone, grab it for free here!

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2011

This is more a quick list of albums I’ve enjoyed over this last year than some kind of definitive I-went-through-my-entire-iTunes-library-and-ranked-everything-in-order list. I might have missed a couple of releases – all I know is I really liked all these ones. You might too.

So without further ado, Album of the Year goes to…

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos!Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness sees Los Campesinos! trying to refine their output into a concise body of work. A structured and focused album. Gareth’s imagery is darker than ever, and hidden within the album are melodic hooks and intricacies that take a while to become apparent (the vocal crescendo in “To Tundra” is nothing short of beautiful). Brilliant, and another great release to add to their discography.

Other albums I enjoyed, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, kind of. Just look.

Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything

Johnny ForeignerJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything

A very close runner-up for AotY. Messy on the first few listens, it truly opens itself up after a few sit-throughs, and it gets better and better. Loud, fast, interesting, moving. Time will determine its longevity and significance in their discography, but it’s definitely a huge step in the band’s journey – hopefully one of many more to come.

Thrice - Major/Minor

ThriceMajor/Minor

Consistent and strong. Not one song feels under-baked. There are a lot of huge cathartic sing-a-long moments, and I don’t care whether or not you associate that as being a good thing or not with Thrice, but I think lyrically and musically this is an incredibly good album. Stunning. If you only listen to one song from Major/Minor, check out “Words in the Water”.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Intricate. Delicate. Evocative. This is a great album full of great songs, and they paint a picture unlike many musicians ever could. It’s easy to understand why it got Pitchfork’s Album of the Year.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Arguably a step back towards their more experimental work, this was a tough album to digest. It’s entirely possible that this album takes even longer to appreciate and understand than a year, and maybe with more time I’ll enjoy it even more. It definitely has its high points, and it’s full of interesting textures – but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It still gets a place here though, ’cause it’s quite good.

Grieves - Together/Apart

GrievesTogether/Apart

With the help of producer, multi-instrumentalist, and beat-maker – Budo – Grieves has released a great album here. Criticised by many (unfairly so, I believe) for his consistently emotive lyrics, Grieves tells stories of girls, drinking, anxiety, and those monsters under your bed, amongst everything else, and while it can feel like a long haul at times, there are a pile of gems on this album. If you needed any more proof that the Rhymesayers crew were some of the best out there, this shouldn’t take long to convince you.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The WeekndHouse of Balloons

This particular instalment of The Weeknd’s trilogy of 2011 releases is making my list not because I believe it’s the best of the three, but simply because I haven’t been able to give Thursday or Echoes Of Silence a fair go yet.
That aside, this release is really interesting. I’ve never really been into R&B in a huge way, yet The Weeknd drew me in. And it’s interesting because it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections. It almost feels voyeuristic to listen to. It’s intriguing at any rate, and was well worth my time. It’s free too.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo FightersWasting Light

A great album from a rock band still going strong, after all these years. Consistent, full of energy, and another strong release from a band that really are going to stand the test of time.

These last few albums haven’t had as many listens as those above, but from the amount of time I’ve given them, I like them a lot. Very much worth mentioning here.

Example - Playing in the Shadows

ExamplePlaying in the Shadows

Slow ClubParadise

Phantogram - Nightlife EP

PhantogramNightlife EP

MIXTAPE: On The Tune Mixtape Vol. 4 – Christmas Edition

This is one of my favourite mixtapes I’ve put together for On The Tune.

Merry Christmas everyone – hope you enjoy it.

You should also go over here and check out Los Campesinos!’s post on the excellent “Too Many Flesh Suppers” which closes the mix. Over here.

I should be back early next year with some more regular content, I think.

Tracklist:

1. British India – 90 Ways To Leave Your Lover

2. Elgen and Johnny Utah – Matchbox ft. Phatchance & Steve Hollins

3. Philadelphia Grand Jury – Save Our Town

4. Kele – Everything You Wanted (RAC Remix)

5. The Boat People – Antidote

6. Sleepwalker – Trial By Fire

7. Phatchance – The Catchy Song feat. Smiles Again, 360 & Joyride

8. Montpelier – Last Boat

9. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home (RAC Remix)

10. Alex Walker – Gotta Lose (Feat. Len Xiang and Kobie Powell)

11. Israel Cannan – One Fine Day

12. Sons of Rico – This Madness

13. Bordeauxxx – Heartstrings

14. Johnny Foreigner – Santa Fucking Claus

15. Los Campesinos! – Too Many Flesh Suppers

Download

Size: 94.08 mb

Don’t know how to unzip stuff? Download 7zip here.
Don’t know which download link to click? I don’t know what .msi files are either. Do you use Windows? Try this one.

Thank you to all of the artists, managers, or PR reps that gave me permission to use these tracks!

FEATURE: The Ultimate Summer Playlist

Fret not, all you freebie-hunting music fiends you! This playlist here may not be available to download for free (well, not all of it is anyway), but I have a killer Christmas mixtape coming up for you over the next week or so. Keep your eyes peeled out for it!

In the meantime, here are some summer tunes you should hunt down to brighten up those nights of parties spent by the pool. In no particular order…

Delorean – “Real Love” [listen + free download]

“Real Love” radiates sunny, pulsing, light-hearted electronic progressions with poppy synths and a brilliant pounding beat. As far as laid-back, catchy pop goes, this is pretty epic. The cheery vibe and atmosphere is easy to tap along to. It’s one of those songs you’d hum, if only you knew how.

Midnight Juggernauts – “Lara Versus The Savage Pack” [listen]

How can anyone go past this amazing single from Aussie electro-rockers Midnight Juggernauts this summer? As infectious as swine flu, but less likely to alienate you from your friends, this will have you jumping around and launching off sofa’s and anything else 3 feet off the ground into a party-mood-induced frenzy of coolness. In case you didn’t gather, this is a pretty good song.

Johnny Foreigner – “Feels Like Summer” [listen]

This mildly abrasive, punky track from energetic legends JoFo is not only a racing expulsion of emotions and fun rock, but encapsulates something very special (I feel it’s special anyway) in some of the recurring lines:

Heartstrings will pull nostalgia, but honestly it feels like summer…

The Radio Dept. – “Heaven’s On Fire” [listen + free download]

Blissed-out sample electronic rock with amazing hooks and brilliant variations in tone throughout. The keyboard sections almost sound sorrowful, but contrasting against the bursts of brass and the colour throughout the song, this is a surefire winner that feels too bright to not be a summer song.

Josh Pyke – “The Summer” [listen]

Appropriately titled, this is a slower track about the a time gone by, and the juxtaposition of that with the present. Wishing you could live life like you did before. Pyke’s acoustic guitar and his voice join together largely on their own, and as has been shown before, quite effectively as well. This is one for comtemplation.

Alex Walker – “Gotta Lose (Feat. Len Xiang and Kobie Powell)” [listen + free download]

Merging soulful rap and bluesy guitar, this is a one of those groovy songs that just sound, well… groovy. Play whilst strutting up the main street holding a massive beat-box for maximum coolness.

El Guincho – “Bombay” [listen + free download]

I’ve saved one of the best for last. El Guincho has a way with tropical pop samples. It’s that simple. You know when you daydream, and just imagine you’re lying on a beach in the Caribbean sipping piña coladas? Nah, me either. But it happens in movies, and this would be the perfect soundtrack for such a moment on the big screen. Check it out.