Review: Woodpigeon – Thumbtacks + Glue

Artist: Woodpigeon
Title: Thumbtacks + Glue
Label: Fierce Panda / Boompa
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 4/10

Thumbtacks + Glue arrives at the tail end of a period which for Hamilton and Woodpigeon have been so productive that it’s hard to tell which number LP it actually is. Since the last “proper” full-length, Die Stadt Muzikanten, no less than two other albums and three EPs have been put out under the Woodpigeon name, not including extra live material. It’s an avalanche, and it matters because Thumbtacks + Glue sounds, perhaps not surprisingly, like the work of an exhausted Mark Hamilton.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

Justice in the World: Dr. John Grabs Deserved Grammy

So the Grammy Awards took place last night in Los Angeles, and the main headline news is that Gotye and Kimbra won Record of the Year for their dreary and staggeringly successful ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, and that the likes of fun. and Mumford & Sons also picked up awards. Reason enough to not follow the headlines, you might think – fortunately though, the National Academy still has some class. Dr. John won Best Blues Album for his fantastic LP Locked Down (review). Congratulations to the good doctor!

New Project: Manic Street Preachers – A Critical Discography

Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head is probably one of the best books anyone has ever written on a musical subject. In it the late, great writer analyses every track The Beatles ever recorded in the studio, looking at the writing, recording, and many layers of context behind each of their 241 songs. When I got my copy, I followed MacDonald’s journey by reading along as I listened to the 200+ songs I had to hand in the order of their recording. The experience made the Beatles discography seem, if anything, more wonderful even as the book exposed the flaws and compromises – as well as the strengths and moments of true genius – behind the recordings.

Now, I’m no Ian MacDonald. But I am a huge Manic Street Preachers fan, and ever since I first read Revolution in the Head, I’ve felt that they are a band – perhaps the only band since the ’60s – to deserve the same kind of treatment. As with the Beatles, the Manics are a band who have attracted so much attention for their aesthetic, history and overall story that their actual music has been neglected; not just songs, but whole albums have collected dust while countless fly-by-night indie pretenders have column inches lavished upon them.

Without MacDonald’s huge experience and knowledge of musicology, my analysis cannot hope to be as deep and incisive as his. He also had the dubious advantage of being able to scour the recording archives to understand many intricate details of how the Fab Four actually put their songs to tape; that kind of information just isn’t available for the Manic Street Preachers. But with my new blog Manic Street Preachers: A Critical Discography, I’m working to do some degree of justice to the 259 songs they have recorded since 1988.

Right now I’m coming to the end of the tracklisting for Generation Terrorists, the Manics’ mammoth 18-song debut album released in 1992. For an explanation of the cataloguing system I’m using to make sense of the songs (heavily based on MacDonald’s) I’ve written a note on it; I’ll also be writing a special album essay to shed some light on the background behind each of the band’s ten full-length albums. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Review: Bad Religion – True North

Artist: Bad Religion
Title: True North
Label: Epitaph
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 8/10

A succession of yet more confrontational, fiercely intelligent and memorable lyrics set to yet another 35 minutes of consistently searing guitars and drums,
True North simply doesn’t need to be original or inventive. Bad Religion’s sound is as effective a shield against the numbing white noise, both political and musical, that makes up much of the world outside as it was in 2007, 1988 or 1979. Notwithstanding that cruel joke from Graffin, we should be able to rely on this singular, fascinating outfit for a while yet.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

New Feature: Five Dark Parallels Between NIN’s ‘The Downward Spiral’ and the Manics’ ‘The Holy Bible’

It’s been too long since I wrote a feature for PopMatters. Free of the vapid hype of most music sites, the broad-minded, serious site is my sole writing home for the time being. This piece is one that has been in the pipeline for a while, and explores five dark parallels between 1994’s darkest, bleakest albums. Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible has long been a huge favourite of mine; Nine Inch Nails’ similarly gruelling The Downward Spiral feels like its industrial, American, million-selling sister record.

Read the full article at PopMatters

Review: Rebekka Karijord – We Become Ourselves

Artist: Rebekka Karijord
Title: We Become Ourselves
Label: Control Freak Kitten
Review @ TLOBF
Score: 7.5/10

More wide-ranging thematically but also more consistent in tone than Karijord’s impressive last record, We Become Ourselves is a another strong statement of steady, continued development on the part of one of Scandinavia’s most reliable singer-songwriters. Heady and deep without being inaccessible, it is a set of songs which reward repeated listening and one which younger challengers would be right to envy.

Read the rest of the review at The Line of Best Fit


[Audio] Daughter – “Run”

London trio Daughter have been a fascinating prospect for a while now. I wrote a little something about Elena Tonra’s atmospheric folk project towards the end of last year, and now the word is that a debut LP can be expected on 4AD sometime early in 2013. New single “Smother” has just been released, and in an interesting move its B-side is this re-worked version of “Run”, which first appeared on Daughter’s Demos EP. More

Review: Lucy Rose – Like I Used To

Artist: Lucy Rose
Title: Like I Used To
Label: Columbia
Review @ TLOBF
Score: 7.5/10

Lucy Rose’s “haste to state that she is neither ‘just a girl with a guitar singing about how she feels’ nor reliant on love songs is strange given that Like I Used To is, err, an album of love songs about feelings, by a girl. With a guitar, even. But Rose can rest easy – while her record is much closer to established models than she would have us believe, it remains a solid effort which stands up well on its own.”

Read the rest of the review at The Line of Best Fit

Stream – Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One

First things first – Wordcore is still alive! Other things have taken precedence over music writing for a little while now, but relative normality is on its way.

Back to the subject at hand, and in some of the best music news I’ve heard this year it was revealed a while back that Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame and acclaimed composer Ben Salisbury had created an album together based on the world of 2000AD character Judge Dredd and I’ve now had the chance to listen to Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One. It’s not half bad – as one or two people have already noticed it’s very clearly inspired by some of the greats in film soundtracks of the 1970s and 1980s, and the first track immediately put me in mind of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. Fans of Portishead, Brad Fiedel and Giorgio Moroder will also find much to like, as of course will followers of Joe Dredd himself. Happily, you can stream and purchase the music now at Bandcamp.

2011’s Top Ten LPs (My Two Cents)

I read an amusing tweet earlier – Any Decent Music, the Scottish music review aggregator site, announced that “those laggards at TLOBF have finally completed their best albums list, so the Best Of The Best Ofs is now wrapped up”. That’s ADM’s epic undertaking which aggregates “best of 2011″ lists and has produced a top 50 from them. Of all the contributing publications TLOBF took the longest to get their list up, which I think says something about how seriously the editorial team took the exercise. Of course, the whole affair shows just how many publications want a look-in at the best albums game: to the music criticism world, they’re what this time of year is about.

At the same time, having an opinion is what us music writers do, and here’s my hat thrown into the ring. I make no claim that I’ve heard hundreds of records in 2011, and certainly I’ve heard a fraction of even the big ones – but this is my list of personal favourites, the records which have made the biggest impact on me and the ones which I’ll forever connect with the developments the year has brought into my own life. As usual, there’s not a lot of crossover with the lists ADM aggregated, but hopefully a few underheard gems which could do for you what they did for me. More

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"There's a flaming red horizon that screams our names..."

Jeff Buckley - "Eternal Life"


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