Dibder's New Music Series: Entry 11


26 nov. 2009, 12h34m

Just one more month to go after this, then my ludicrous monthly assignments can finally calm down... I don't mind listening to all of this music, but writing, linking and tagging all of this stuff can be very tiresome. Still, November's been a good month thus far, but before I get started... X Factor, despite not having any really good contestants this year (Stacey is adorable but not strictly an international star, same going for Olly and Joe, Lloyd shouldn't have been in the finals in the first place really and Danyl is quite clearly so unlikeably loathsome with his big voice as to make me try to scratch my eyeballs out), is still as galvanisingly awesome as ever, what with everyone FINALLY coming around to appreciating how lovely and astute Dannii Minogue is compared to the others; Christmas is nearly here, which means I'll have to unearth both versions of Black Christmas for yuletide merriment (and on top of that both versions of the remake, featuring two different death scenes for Michelle 'I Nearly Ruined Buffy' Trachtenberg); and my talent show performance is nearly here!!! Will post a P.S. comment below to let anyone who cares know how it all went, rest assured I don't have a chance in Hell, but should still be fun... Wish me luck!

And with that, on with the show...

Given her amazing success after last year’s shenanigans, we can all be in agreement that Cheryl Cole was the winner of The X Factor last year, eclipsing Alexandra Burke's debut both in terms of unit shifts and the quality of the tracks themselves (it still bemuses me, to be honest). And to be honest, given the continued media frenzy surrounding the supposed runners-up of last year's competition, it seems that poor Alexandra has been relegated to third place, which is a shame (still ahead of Eggnog Prick and Die In Her Knickers though... it's not much but still!). Song-wise, JLS have the weaker album; it’s positively awash with the same amount of cynical button-pushing as Burke's and it offers up a handful of decent guilty pleasures (One Shot will probably be their next single for sure); but there is not enough of a distinct personality present to warrant this band’s following and exposure compared to Burke, who at least tries to make the songs given her own. Admittedly, they’re still very cute though!

Echo by Leona Lewis
And the Reality TV juggernaut continues, this time with the UK's first such worldwide crossover star (as lovely as Will Young may be, he’s still yet to attain worldwide platinum sales and Grammy nominations, isn’t he?) delivering an album which, by its title alone, dispiritingly suggests more of the same kind of material found on her major debut. And whilst the familiar formulas of power ballads with major key changes and trendy beats is still present and correct throughout (lead single Happy, though more warbly, is but a lesser sequel to her smash Bleeding Love, and Oasis cover Stop Crying Your Heart Out isn’t remotely as genius as her version of Snow Patrol's Run), Miss Lewis sells it with enough vocal authority to out-caterwaul every other R&B-pop diva to emerge in the charts right now, breathing life into songs that register as less-than-fluff from girls bestowed with lesser pipes (particularly the uplifting I Got You and Brave).

DJ Stupac Presents... Super Lupe Bros. 1st Coin & 15th Credit Edition by DJ Stupac and Lupe Fiasco
(P.S. Sorry, but cannot find a legit site anywhere, so a pic file will have to do on the link to assure its existence...!)
This mixtape certainly receives the prize for Best Artwork Of The Year so far from me, my fondness for all Super Mario adventures pretty much hardwiring that sentiment to my brain. But of course, this is just a promotional appetiser for Mr Fiasco’s upcoming Lasers album, collating a few new cuts (particularly his latest collaboration with Matthew Santos, Shining Down) with older wares and remixes, such as Pharrell's quite lovely re-do of Paris, Tokyo featuring special guests Q-Tip and Sarah Green. As mixtapes go though, DJ Stupac doesn’t really interpolate as well as some of his peers (nothing is really remixed here, rather compiled), and I’m personally a little disappointed that he didn’t carry on the Super Mario motif all of the way through, seeing as those games feature some of the most highly-regarded scores in video game history. But as a precursor to Lupe’s upcoming opus, it whets the appetite wantonly.

Sainthood by Tegan and Sara
Ten years after their full-length debut release, identical twin sister duo Tegan and Sara Quin are still plying their trade of pop-flavoured indie rock, this year seeing the release of their sixth effort despite taking time out to collaborate with other artists. Sounding a lot like how Gwen Stefani could have sounded if she was content to write good pop songs rather than collaborate with production-line hitmakers, both girls are in fine voice here as well as sharing disarming chemistry, particularly on lead single Hell and the longing surge of The Ocean. It’s light, lithe, pretty, knocks shades out of other over-produced pop-rock girl bands permeating the airwaves these days (hear The Veronicas, or not) and proof once again that these girls are far more interesting than the pigeonholes ascribed to them.

In and Out of Control by The Raveonettes
More timeless pop-punk-rock from The Raveonettes with their fourth full length album, following through on their New Wave homages with some spiky-yet-lovely soft rock that takes as many cues from ‘60s girl group pop as they do from New Wave icons, the spirit of Debbie Harry looming especially large amidst the sweet harmonies of Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed). It happens to steer on just the right side of honorary homage to not appear overly cynical or soulless in its mimicry for most of the time, the fuzzy guitars and Sharin Fo’s hazily demure vocals summoning enough proving to disarming to resist on the likes of lead single Last Dance and especially on closer Wine. To make modern-day misery sound this lovely and gossamer light takes as much gravitas as it does panache, and this likeable duo do more than enough to keep their fans happy; it’s not going to blaze the trails of pop-rock, but its still a fine pop album in its own right.

5 : Five Years Of Hyperdub by Various Artists
In celebration of its emergence as the hip genre of choice for the end of the decade, bolstered by the likes of The Spaceape and Burial who feature prominently on this compilation, London-based label Hyperdub has seen fit to give to the world a double-disc set that collates some of the finer contributors to the world of dubstep, disc one featuring more recent work from Kode9, Martyn and Samiyam whilst disc two includes past work entrenched in the 16-bit sounds that summoned such a cult following in the first place. Comprehensive isn’t the word to describe this set, and there’s plenty to enjoy, though admittedly the first disc edges out the second for listenability, if only because the wealth of sounds being explored by these artists now seems to promise something a lot more epic and amazing than the humble-yet-enjoyable offerings found on disc two, despite some great tracks from The Bug featuring Warrior Queen and Kode9 collaborations with The Spaceape.

Strict Joy by The Swell Season
Musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's path to breakout success is one of the most heartwarming of the decade; a well-received debut album of ornate folk music followed by a small independent film that happened to break big in America and reward the songwriters with their very own Academy Awards for for their rather lovely piece, Falling Slowly. Being the first album out of the gate for the pair since that win, Strict Joy is one that feels positively alive with hushed wonder, of filling up with irrepressible happiness and feeling as if you’re about to burst, only to rein it in at the last second (which is possibly down to Hansard and Irglova’s actually becoming a couple shortly after the film Once’s release after years of knowing one another and making music together). Though Hansard is a damn fine singer (evidenced here best on Feeling The Pull), it’s the Irglová-helmed songs that strike the chords most resonantly, highlights of hers including Fantasy Man and I Have Loved You Wrong.

Glee: Season One - The Music, Volume 1 by Various Artists
Debuting during the final week of this year’s American Idol competition, Glee is the brainchild of Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, charting the ongoing trials and travails of a high school glee club (like a choir, but singing more contemporary pop songs), and plays like High School Musical for anyone over 12-years-old, but with actual pop standards rather than especially-written, sound-alike drivel. So, we have winsome, precocious high schoolers letting rip on hits by Rihanna, The Supremes, Jill Scott, Kanye West, Queen and Neil Diamond, to name a few. Some are a touch derivative and add nothing new (particularly Amber Riley's take on Jazmine Sullivan's Bust Your Windows), but it’s fabulously produced and when it hits (like on take-no-prisoners cheese-fest Don’t Stop Believin’ or the Broadway Diva-Off between Kristin Chenoweth and Lea Michele on Cabaret’s Maybe This Time), it’s the stuff of drama queen dreams. You have been warned; it will be HUGE...

Whip It - Music From The Motion Picture by Various Artists
Pinned as a possible teen hit in the vein of Juno (featuring star Ellen Page on Oscar nominated form), Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It stalled at the American box office in spite of its good-natured goof-ballsiness and boasting one of the cooler ensemble casts of the year (as well as Page and Barrymore, you had Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden, Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig, the ever-watchable Juliette Lewis, even Har Mar Superstar himself!) Charting one high school girl’s self-discovery as a jammer for her local Roller Derby team, the soundtrack released to coincide with the movie could have been a little edgier; though there’s some lovely stuff from Jens Lenkman, Dolly Parton (the classic Jolene, natch!) and Gotye in particular, slow schmoozing from the normally-raucous Superstar and The Ettes dull the mood a little too much.

Phrazes For The Young by Julian Casablancas
It takes someone of questionably high self-esteem and swaggering intent (or perhaps oblivious homage) to invite comparisons to the legendary Oscar Wilde with their debut solo effort after spending a good decade at the undeniably hip end of the international indie pop spectrum. But, with Phrazes, this is what Casablancas has done; that he’s pretty much gotten away with it won’t surprise his fans as much as the music within, however, his being content to concoct a diverting pop record with various wide-reaching influences that would belie his rockier credentials if he hadn’t spent the past couple of years collaborating with seemingly out-of-leftfield cohorts (Santigold and Pharrell, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse). Highlights include lead single 11th Dimension, which is just shy of being a pop-rock stunner, its strident synths striking through the soundscape with unabashed joy, and finale Tourist, which enmeshes Eastern and Western influences brilliantly.

Only Revolutions by Biffy Clyro
Claiming by the band to have been informed by frontman Simon Neil’s recent marriage as well as Mark Danielewski’s novel of the same name, Only Revolutions sees the Scotch three-piece rockers as ebullient as ever, following the breakthrough success of their third album Puzzle in 2007 and Neil’s side-project with Sucioperro’s JP Reid, Marmaduke Duke. The result is a slightly off-kilter rock album full of warm vibes and joyous rabble, played by a band brimming with confidence and more than up for a good time; lead single Mountains is still as enjoyably over-the-top as it was on first listen during the summer months, whilst quieter moments such as God & Satan are proof enough that they are capable of straight-faced sincerity despite their goofball interview techniques. It may not provide as dramatic a sucker punch as efforts from The Horrors and Muse earlier this year, but Biffy’s is still a fine rock album for ‘09.

Them Crooked Vultures by Them Crooked Vultures
Rock supergroups intimidate me somewhat, especially those without a lack of artistic concept, such is the case for this latest venture featuring Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, seemingly thrown together just to see what rock and roll majesty is brought forth. And I suppose if the results were as reliably full throttle as what these three musicians have wrought on this debut; unquantifiably epic, heartfelt, nonsensical and featuring some of the most exemplary rock instrumental moments of the year. True, it crunches the pedal into the ground a little too often, though there is some versatility in the late going from the one-two of Interlude With Ludes (which grinds drunkenly away on a looped sample as Homme delivers a woozy monologue) and the slow-burn frenzy of Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up.

Kingdom of Welcome Addiction by IAMX
Now happily ensconced in Berlin, wherein he claims he can work outside of the music industry much better, Sneaker Pimps founder Chris Corner delivers his third full-length album, self-described as a tour through “Disney World, with lipstick, cynicism and wit”. Of course, many can level that all things Disney are pretty much cynical by design (and the amount of makeup caked upon those pre-teen princesses suggests no shortage of lipstick whatsoever!), but that shouldn’t deter from the dark delights followed through by Corner on this disc. Going it alone without cohort Sue Denim on vocal duties (though receiving welcome help from Imogen Heap on standout track My Secret Friend (feat. Imogen Heap)), Corner heads in a more relatively commercial direction this time; the influences of Depeche Mode are inescapable (as with pretty much any electro-rock album released these days), but give Corner his due in being able to sweep you into his industrial miserabilism so effectively anyway (hear An I For An I).

Turning The Mind by Maps
Riding high off of garlands from those fickle music critics and a Mercury Prize nomination for his debut album We Can Create, Northampton native James Chapman continues on his electro-pop pledge with this fine sophomore album, which embraces elements of rock, house, trance and pop to create a nebulous whitewash of at-times inspired electro symphonies. Described by Chapman himself as being of a darker hue that his previous effort (which comes to the fore most ominously on the opening title track and Papercuts), it eventually gives way to an understanding Zen-like attitude to existence, cheerily exemplified by penultimate number Die Happy, Die Smiling. For those who are a little dismayed by how perky and bright most of the electropop this year has been, this one is most certainly for you.

Everybody by Ingrid Michaelson
If ever there was a pop singer for whom the term “under the radar” applied, none could be better suited to the phrase than modest little Ingrid, an American pop-folk songstress who’s quietly sold nearly half a million records (on her own label too), enjoys sold-out shows all over the world, takes in professional songwriting assignments (the latest being for a certain X Factor judge) and whose work has featured on nearly as many soundtracks as Moby's Play album. Now, with this fourth album charting respectably in the Top 20 in the US, it would appear Michaelson’s finally ready to breakthrough properly; she’s certainly not hampered by a lack of bustlingly enjoyable ditties, sounding more like Aimee Mann's protégé rather than Taylor Swift's moody older sibling. Be it on the childlike singalong of the title track, the multi-layered vocals on The Chain or the adorable entirety of Once Was Love, it’s hard to not be taken in by her charms.

Greatest Hits by Foo Fighters
There are normally hoots of derision from the press regarding a Greatest Hits compilation for rock acts whose fanbases provide some of the most fervent examples, but it’s always worth noting when the respective musicmakers themselves join in on calling out such a cynical moneymaking exercise. Dave Grohl and company are the latest band to make such a fuss, this single-CD playlist timed for just before the Christmas rush and without the consent from a single band member. The dispiritedness is more than valid; Grohl is quoted as saying that the band would have sooner waited for the band to retire and then release a retrospective, something more indicative and expansive of the band’s back catalogue rather than an hour-long CD with half of their singles. The only reason it’s high on my list though is the fact that all of the songs here are worth their weight in rock gold, and there’s no arguing about that!

Beast Rest Forth Mouth by Bear in Heaven
It’s not hard to hear why this four-piece rock collective from Brooklyn scored a recent Best New Music plaudit from Pitchfork for their sophomore album, for the most part straddling the line perfectly between radio-friendly indie pop and reverent electronic homage. Coming across as a slightly more downtrodden cousin to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart's debut earlier this year, it keeps the sonic indulgences to a minimum and never outstays its welcome (running time is a trim forty minutes for ten songs). One could accuse it of never really announcing its presence and going for the rockier jugular compared to other electro-flavoured indie releases this year (one case in point being The Big Pink's A Brief History of Love), but that shouldn’t detract from what is at times the most thoughtfully calibrated pop release of the year, making up for a lack in passion, perhaps, with plenty of intelligence.

Hospice by The Antlers
Boasting a production history so hideously melodramatic it inspires a certain kind of awe (progenitor Peter Silberman locked himself away from family and friends in Brooklyn for two years to write a musical narrative wherein a man says goodbye to his loved one whilst she succumbs to bone cancer), it would be easy to dismiss The Antlers’ debut album as the kind of pretentious claptrap the alt-art rock world is famous for. However, Silberman’s work isn’t so easy to wipe clean from the memory, summoning up comparisons of Jason Pierce's similarly-themed Songs In A&E from last year as well as Atlas Sound's debut that create a sound that is mournful, angry, delicate, forgiving and ultimately very moving, especially when the lullaby qualities of Bear segueing into the kind of feelgood raucousness that makes the tragedy all the more horrible. An assured, startling debut, but Lord knows where they could possibly go from here!

Don't Stop by Annie
Its release postponed for over a year because of now-infamous differences with Island Records as a result of the more-shocking-than-assumed performance of would-be lead single I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me, this Norwegian popstrel’s sophomore effort arrives a little late to the party after the successes of Little Boots, La Roux and Pixie Lott. Which in the end, is more than a shame, because Annie’s album is arguably the better out of the four (yes, even Boots’ album!), benefiting from production wares from established hitmakers Xenomania (including another source of some controversy, the Girls Aloud-featuring My Love Is Better), Paul Epworth and old friend Richard X, Songs Remind Me of You in particular reminding listeners just how well these two work together. For sophisticated Europop, it’ll be hard not to find anything better this year; shiny, danceable, classy and delicious.

Lovetune for Vacuum by Soap&Skin
I’m a little late to the party with adorning 19-year-old Anja Plaschg with plaudits like “debut album of the year” and such, but hey, I’m glad I took the time to listen to her striking premier work at all, never mind seven months after its release. Influences from the likes of Xiu Xiu, Björk and Aphex Twin in particular find plenty of room on her debut, which is a mix of layered vocals (at times anguished, at times sultry, never less than swoonsome) and frankly gorgeous piano work spliced with surging electronic beats and bass synths that never ceases to impress among the thirteen tracks on offer here. “Prodigious” is a word often tossed around when writing about breakthrough artists, but the assured hand with which she composes and produces these works (standout moments being the instrumental Turbine Womb and the mounting industrial glitch of DDMMYYYY) promises an interesting future ahead of her.

And that is why Lovetune For Vacuum is my Album Of The Month For November...

Now, don't worry, the review next will be quite a bit shorter, but that is in a vain effort to make up for the usual end-of-year malarkey involving Top 100 charts and all that gubbins...

Watch this space, December should be journal-tastic!!

In the meantime, keep listening... x


  • Babs_05

    oooh! Soap&Skin win! Totally agree. What an incredible album that is. I was showing her and Fever Ray's videos to someone yesterday. The two parallel very well together, with their shared themes of beautiful horror and shimmering nightmares. Looking forward to journal-tasticism. (just wanted to write that)

    28 nov. 2009, 16h55m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Thank God for edit features, eh? And thanks to you too, Babs! Can we expect a Top 100 chart from you also?

    29 nov. 2009, 4h03m
  • Babs_05

    You're welcome. : ) Well, I made a start on creating a playlist for 2009 albums in iTunes on my old PC but when it went bust, I forgot to export it! I also made a start on a journal but I got to an album I couldn't decide on and it all halted there. I don't know how you do these journals, I really don't. It's not as easy as it looks! So now I've whined how I can't do it, I'll start giving it some thought. Might need more friendly encouragement. I shall most definitely be referring to your series of journals.

    29 nov. 2009, 10h02m
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Go for it, Miss Babs!! I certainly wouldn't have had the inkling to grab Soap&Skin without your Record Of The Week spot however many moons ago; one such artist I'm so happy you pointed me towards...

    30 nov. 2009, 13h55m
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