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

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

Interview: “Not the Beginning of the End” For Laura Veirs

Laura Veirs’ song “July Flame” is one of my favourite things of the last few years – there’s something about that vocal and the atmosphere it creates that is incredible. When its parent album proved to be a real critical success for the Oregon-based singer-songwriter, she didn’t choose to simply do the same thing all over again: instead, Veirs has just released an album of songs intended for children. A while back I gave her a call and asked all about the background and recording of Tumble Bee, which has earned some glowing reviews over the last couple of weeks. My interview is now up over at PopMatters.

Read the full interview at PopMatters

Review: Jonathan Coulton – Artificial Heart

Artist: Jonathan Coulton
Title: Artficial Heart
Label: Jocoserious
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 7/10


A few years ago after a show in Seattle, singer-songwriter and former computer programmer Jonathan Coulton was approached by two developers from multi-billion dollar videogame empire Valve Corporation. Agreeing to work with them on their new project, Coulton wrote “Still Alive”, the song which closed Valve’s 2007 puzzle game Portal. Featuring the vocals of a deranged artificial intelligence played by opera singer-turned-voice actress Ellen McLain, the piece drew on Coulton’s experience with geek culture and added millions of gamers to his expanding audience. Given the break of a lifetime, what is a self-described “internet superstar” to do next?

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

Review: Ane Brun – It All Starts With One

Artist: Ane Brun
Title: It All Starts With One
Label: Balloon Ranger
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 5/10


An idiosyncratic use of the English language, a seemingly impenetrable mystique, and songs that balance emotional expressiveness with a kind of northerly chill—when it comes to Scandinavian singer-songwriters, Ane Brun ticks many of the boxes. While in recent years contemporaries of hers like Robyn or Lykke Li have built increasingly successful pop careers on these foundations, Brun has always been different. More a serious chanteuse than a pop princess, she has nevertheless found a warm response in her native Norway.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

Review: Peggy Sue – Acrobats (US Release)

Artist: Peggy Sue
Title: Acrobats
Label: Yep Roc / Wichita
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 9/10

 

Acrobats is no Beatles for Sale, no abrupt admission by a sunny pop band that yes, love can be messy and complicated and fraught with difficulties. Instead, this tense and highly-charged album is part of the progression of a group that was once called Peggy Sue and the Pirates into a mature outfit increasingly in control of its own promising destiny.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

Review: Alessi’s Ark – Time Travel

Artist: Alessi’s Ark
Title: Time Travel
Label: Bella Union
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 6/10


At 16, Alessi Laurent-Marke left school in London to pursue a career in music and made a fateful promise to her parents – if she hadn’t found success within a year, she would admit defeat and return to education. At 17, her intense gigging and self-promotion had paid off, with her acoustic guitar playing and disarmingly breathy voice attracting attention to her gentle folk. Signed to a major, she was flown out to Omaha, Nebraska, and recorded a well-received debut with her dream producer, Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes. There are worse ways to start out.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

PopMatters’ Top Summer Performances of 2011

The folks at PopMatters love their lists, so they do, and in that spirit they’ve put together a compendium of favourite live peformances that took place this summer across the US and Europe. Selections include Phish playing in Nevada and Colorado, Friendly Fires in New York and Beach House at London’s Alexandra Palace, but my selection was Bellowhead’s triumphant performance at Summer Sundae in Leicester this August. The list is here, and once more features the photography of Stevie Denyer.

Review: Mason Jennings – Minnesota

Artist: Mason Jennings
Title: Minnesota
Label: Stats and Brackets
Review @ PopMatters
Score: 5/10


A band like the Beatles were the exception, not the rule, as a group of extraordinary creatives who had the immense talent to put out thirteen superb albums in less than eight years. Conversely, Hawaii-born singer-songwriter Mason Jennings is among a comparatively small number of modern musicians whose bid to maintain an almost 1960s-esque work rate is arguably to the detriment of his records,
Minnesota included.

Read the rest of the review at PopMatters

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