Indie Music Hour with DJ HotJack

A regular journey around the music scene

Album Review – Armistice by Mute Math

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Mute Math are an alt rock band from New Orleans and Armistice is the long-awaited follow up to their self-titled 2006 EP. The album opens with ‘The Nerve’ and Cage The Elephant and Kasabian instantly came to mind during this track. Unfortunately, the track outperformed neither.

‘Backfire’ felt weak to me and suggested a definite attempt at being radio-friendly and becoming bland. Sure, it’s got a hook in it but that in itself doesn’t impress me much (apologies to Shania Twain). ‘Clipping’ worked okay I guess. Some have said this track is very Muse-like but it was Evanescence who popped into my head.

‘Spotlight’ had a catchy opening but again I was forced to think of a poor imitation of a couple of Kasabian tracks. And, to be honest, Paul Meany’s vocals are exceptionally generic. ‘No Response’ perked me up a little. It seemed more inventive and, although the lyrics were a little obvious, the track worked well. I guess it was a little like a piece of Radiohead-style introspection.

‘Pins and Needles’ definitely follows the same script. Thom Yorke needn’t worry himself but this was another decent enough track. ‘Goodbye’ brought the tempo back up but it was a whiney track with generic disco-beat instrumentation. ‘Odds’ was interestingly crafted and actually fairly atmospheric. Didn’t mind that one too much!

‘Electrify’ contained a couple of hooks and had good energy but seemed a little cheesy to me. ‘Armistice’ started with some nice guitar work that led into decent vocals until the chorus took the train to cheeseville again. Gosh, I’m such a neg-head tonight huh!

‘Lost Year’ starts off like a generic piano-rock ballad and pretty much stays like that. I must confess, I decided to give the bonus tracks a miss so the album ended for me with ‘Burden’ – a track that might have Jamiroquai consulting lawyers.

I hate being so dismissive of creative output but I have to say that Mute Math have had their chance to show they can develop their early promise and have bombed completely. I just don’t see where they fit in now – other than being poor versions of other stuff.

Seriously, I pretty much detest this album I’m afraid. 4/10 for having two or three tracks I could listen to without stabbing myself.

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August 18, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review – Creaturesque by Throw Me The Statue

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Released today in the UK.

Creaturesque is the 2nd album from Seattle band Throw Me The Statue. The band is essentially Scott Reitherman and a revolving cast of friends.

It’s a perky little album. Reitherman’s vocals bounce around the falsetto range and the tracks feel fresh and tight. Think ‘The Dodos’ on a sunny beach with cocktails.

My favourite tracks were probably ‘Ancestors’ – a song that brought Snow Patrol to mind, in a good way – and ‘Noises’ – a very well crafted tune. Honourable mention to ‘Dizzy From The Fall’ and ‘Baby You’re Bored’.

Overall, a very decent album that is perfect for putting on when a quick blast of cheery indie is required. 7.5/10 from me.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review – XX by The XX

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Album released today in the UK.

The XX are a London 4-piece band with two of the band members sharing vocal duties. A quick look at the band members suggests a ‘miserable eighties’ tribute band and that perhaps isn’t too wide of the mark on the surface. However, scratch that surface and you find something quite special.

The album opens, appropriately enough, with ‘Intro’ – an atmospheric instrumental cavalcade and then moves into ‘VCR’ a beautiful track where the two vocals complement each other perfectly alongside understated guitar and percussion samples. ‘Crystalised’ is up next and this is probably the track that will have been heard most in the lead up to the album being released. Once again, it highlights how well the vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim go together but doesn’t strike me as the strongest track.

‘Islands’ feels very much like a trip-hop track – perhaps similar to something Telepopmusik would do. ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’ sees melodic vocals competing with more understated instrumentation punctuated by a drum machine that, completely deliberately i’m sure, brings a heart beat to mind. ‘Fantasy’ opens with vocals that brought Gregorian chanting, or at least a church scene, into my mind. The instrumentation changes halfway through and Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ forced its way to the front of my brain. I felt the track could have been built upon though. Just as it seemed like it was building up to something it fizzled out.

‘Shelter’ reminded me of an Everything But The Girl track. This could have been my head playing tricks on me as I’m conscious of the vocalist from EBTG, Tracy Thorn, doing a track called Shelter with Massive Attack but I’m gonna stick with my instincts. Again, the trip-hop genre springs up heavily here. ‘Basic Space’ heads in a slightly more upbeat direction with a more RnB tempo shining through.

‘Infinity’ makes a quiet start but is atmospheric as hell and becomes something quite epic. Listen out to the guitars on this and I defy you not to think of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. This track made me smile for some reason – not something I’d associate with the rest of the album. ‘Night Time’ is okay but never really evoked much interest from me. The album ends with ‘Stars’ and this track is another great example of how perfectly the dual vocals work together.

I’ve mentioned a few influences in relation to specific tracks already and, overall, I’d say Jesus and Mary Chain and even The Pixies come to mind. It’s impossible to dump the whole album in a single category though and, in fairness, is pretty hard to pigeon-hole the band too. It seems to me that they have created something pretty unique within the contemporary music scene.

This is a clever album. It doesn’t try too hard – it is simply what it is. I’d suggest you listen to it in the dark, with your eyes closed and with headphones on. It’s wonderfully atmospheric. I can’t wait to see what the band produce next.

Overall, 8/10 from me. It’s not perfect but it’s a very confident collection.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album Review – Miike Snow by Miike Snow

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I should begin by pointing out that this album has been out for around two months already but I have so much music to listen to that I’m a lil behind with reviews. Apologies ๐Ÿ™‚

To get the band title out of the way, it isn’t a spelling error. Those crazy guys decided to name the band after a friend and added an extra ‘i’ for effect. The album opens with a strong track called ‘Animal’ – unashamedly pop music but with good layering of instrumentation to give it a less straightforward vibe. ‘Burial’ is up next – a more subdued but every bit as catchy track as the opener. The plinky-plonky instrumentation on this track doesn’t automatically fit with the lyrics but, if anything, that gave it extra charm.

‘Silvia’ is 6 minutes long and isn’t unpleasant but I was left with a sense of them trying too hard for an epic ballad whereas a tight 3-minute exploration would have been plenty. ‘Song For No One’ followed – initially punctuated by a marching band drum beat before settling into a laid-back summer groove. Not a bad track but unlikely to have much lasting appeal. ‘Black & Blue’ is a solid piece of ‘handbag’ dancefloor music with over-the-top synths and slickly delivered camp vocals.

‘Sans Soleil’ instantly took my mind to the beach but the story behind the song takes things in another direction (which was kinda expected from the title!). It’s a nice track with a lot of heart. The wonderfully titled ‘A Horse Is Not A Home’ followed but unfortunately the song didn’t live up to the promising title. This felt like something recycled from the 80s without anything new being added. I’ve gotta say, I found this track extremely annoying.

‘Cult Logic’ was up next and I also found that one annoying by around 1 minute into the track so I was starting to lose some faith in this collection. ‘Plastic Jungle’ did little to dismiss my pessimism with no real sense of originality of excitement coming from the track. It felt like pop-by-numbers. ‘In Search Of’ was a moodier affair but it did little to engage me. The album ended with ‘Faker’ and this wasn’t too bad a track. It felt like a bit of 60s pop.

Finding out that two of the guys had done production work for Britney Spears made sense. It felt to me as if she, or any other current pop singer, could have performed these songs. Don’t get me wrong – I like camp! Hell, I even love the Frankmusik stuff but this album just didn’t have enough balls. A couple of decent tracks and a couple of ok ones with the rest of the album being annoying or quickly forgettable.

I’m afraid I can’t score this very highly at all. 6/10 from me.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Unsigned Artist Alert – Good Morning, Captain

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Tyler got in touch concerning his music project (Good Morning, Captain) and has made both of his EPs available to Indie Music Hour readers free of charge – see links at end.

The first EP I listened to is the one released this year, The Rewind. It has a sparse, stripped-back feel to it that creates a fragile and beautiful feel. Male and female vocals feature and portray an honesty much like Iron And Wine, The National or Band of Horses. ‘Umbrellas’ was probably my favourite track but it only just beat ‘Come Wander With Me’ as the female vocals on that were haunting. Although the EP is pretty new, it has an ‘old’ feel to it like much of the contemporary folk movement has.

The second EP is from 2005 and is called Poverty Hill Lane. It opens very differently to the other EP as ‘Autumn Rhythm’ has a post-rock core to it and a greater sense of urgency. In fact, the whole EP has a very different vibe to The Rewind – as a 4-year gap in recording would hopefully always dictate. I wouldn’t say either of the two were better … just different. On this EP, influences feel more upbeat with ‘Walking Distance’ sounding like an acoustic version of a jangly indie-pop tune and ‘Black Curtains’ ending with a gorgeous fuzzy guitar and electro sample playing counterpoint to the delicate vocals.

These are good pieces of work. Thanks to Tyler for getting in touch and sharing his music with us!

You can visit the myspace page HERE

The Rewind (2009) EP available HERE

Poverty Hill Lane (2005) EP available HERE

August 9, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, Unsigned Artists | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album Review – Julian Plenti is Skyscraper by Julian Plenti

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Julian Plenti is more commonly known as Paul Banks from Interpol. However, he has been working under the Plenti name since before Interpol made it big.

I have to say that the first two tracks did nothing for me at all. Both ‘Only If You Run’ and ‘Fun That We Have’ sounded like poor Interpol songs. ‘Skyscraper’ is up next and sounds like a movie soundtrack, taking fully 2 minutes before any vocals kick in. It’s certainly atmospheric but didn’t leave me with very positive feelings. ‘Games For Days’ is another that sounds very like Interpol … but in a good way. I like this track – full of urgent guitar and stop-start vocal delivery.

‘Madrid Song’ heads back into soundtrack mode with very raw instrumentation and sparse, repeated vocals. In a funny way, it felt more hopeless than ‘Skyscraper’ but more appealing. ‘No Chance Survival’ is a strangely soothing track – almost a lullaby for the dark night of the soul. ‘Unwind’ heads in a completely different direction as trumpets blare to announce crackly vocal samples before Plenti’s booming delivery gets into full swing. It’s actually not a bad track at all – I just wasn’t very sure what I was listening to.

‘Girl On The Sporting News’ seems to be a bluesy lament about a female sports presenter – demonstrating the weakness of the male DNA in being dazzled by the good-looking women that get put on sports programmes to keep guys excited. ‘On The Esplanade’ is another track that almost has a lullaby feel to it but I felt I had heard it already, and done better, with ‘No Chance Survival’.

‘Fly As You Might’ is instantly forgettable and then the album ends with ‘H’ – a strange track that I couldn’t really settle into, though I have a feeling I wasn’t meant to.

Overall, the album contains a few tracks I think are pretty good but more that are fairly poor. I’d therefore score the album 6.5/10.

August 9, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review – Two Dancers by Wild Beasts

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Every so often, an album comes along that is impossible to liken with anything else. Two Dancers, the second album from experimental band Wild Beasts is such an album.

It opens with Hayden Thorpe’s typical vocal gymnastics in ‘The Fun Powder Plot’ and Antony Hegarty immediately springs to mind (Antony & The Johnsons) before Thorpe surprises by announcing “this is a booty call”. ‘Hooting & Howling’ follows and has a playful vocal tempo but still manages to retain the fragility Thorpe can display so easily. I should at this point say that I totally understand why some might not warm to Hayden Thorpe. I’ve heard it said that his falsetto is pretentious but, well, isn’t that the point of falsetto in the literal sense? Personally, I like that I never know where he is going to take me next within the medium to high vocal ranges.

‘All The Kings Men’ starts with chanting akin to a tribal ceremony before it is interrupted by a shriek and then settles into deeper vocals by Tom Fleming that bring Morrissey to mind. ‘When I’m Sleepy’ feels like a brief interlude in the album. A dream sequence that refreshes the listener for the journey ahead. ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ is a glorious pop song that captures the alternative 80s/90s scene that ethereal bands like This Mortal Coil occupied.

Fleming takes over again for the two-part tale that gives the album its title. These tracks take the album in a more introspective and sombre direction and don’t instantly feel like they fit but, as I’ll try to explain at the end, they definitely do belong. ‘This Is Our Lot’ maintains the mournful feel and then ‘Underbelly’ provides another short interlude before ‘The Empty Nest’ brings proceedings to an end. This final track has the feel of drunken sailors sat in a tavern telling tales of life lived to the fullest.

So, back to the point I made earlier about why the tracks all belong exactly where they are. At first you might be jerked and irritated by the change in mood experienced when you reach tracks 6 and 7 and the temptation to skip by them might even exist but please do stick with them. The reason I say that is (and I fully appreciate this could sound overly grand) the album feels very much like an opera or theatre visit. Tracks 1 to 4 take us through the first act before tracks 5 to 9 lead us through the second and it all comes together with track 10.

If I were to review individual songs without experiencing the album as a whole I would be rather less complimentary but, taken as the sum of its parts, this album truly is an intricate piece of beauty. I don’t gush about everything I listen to (far from it in fact) but I simply cannot deduct any points from this review as I cannot see how the album can be improved.

Do yourself a favour – get this album, remove all distractions and listen to it from start to finish at least twice over. I really don’t think you will regret it at all.

A flawlessly perfect 10/10 from me. An amazing piece of work.

August 8, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album Review – Jewellery Quarter by The Twang

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I like The Twang. A lot of music writers say I should be ashamed of myself for such a sin. Fortunately, I’m not too bothered about what others want me to think. I like them for the same reasons I like bands like The Enemy. They aren’t highbrow and they don’t display musical genius and their lyrics are never going to win awards but they feel honest. They are everyday guys singing about everyday stuff. Sometimes it’s best not to analyse why you like something mind you.

Jewellery Quarter is a deluxe 2-CD set and is the second album from the Birmingham bunch. It contains 18 tracks altogether if you include an acoustic version of Barney Rubble. The album is, in one respect, more of the same when measured against their debut album. That in itself is no bad thing but I do think this collection shows a little progress in terms of finding a musical style. There seems to be a little more restraint and a dash more coherence to the structure of the tracks.

Most tracks are pretty decent and the album flows nicely and is easy to nod along to. I’ll highlight a few tracks worthy of individual attention. The aforementioned Barney Rubble is, I believe, the first single (I never listen to singles charts so I’m never entirely sure) and it’s a competent track. Put It On The Dancefloor is probably a better track and has an energy that demands the listener sings along. Encouraging Sign displays a charming mix of sadness and naive optimism while Got No Interest reflects upon the cards we are dealt in life.

Overall, an enjoyable album. 7.5/10 from me.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alcoholic Faith Mission

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I’ve had the pleasure of finally getting around to listening to the album 421 Wythe Avenue, released earlier this year by Alcoholic Faith Mission.

I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d make a point of highlighting it for others to check out. It’s hard to describe really in terms of what it sounds similar to. I guess it’d be experimental / indie-folk but I’m not huge on classifications. It’s very beautiful though and has the ability to soothe and evoke contemplation.

From their lastfm page:

“…they went back to Brooklyn to seclude themselves in an old factory loft at 421 Wythe Avenue. They tried on a selection of straightjackets for the inspiration. Everything used to make the music, had to be found within the loftโ€™s four walls. For an example, dictionaries beat each other to become an electronically muted bass drum. This way of working turned into their second album; named after the street where they lived…”

Let me know what you think if you check it out ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve linked to some of the tracks below.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews, indie music, Music Vidz, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Album Review – No One’s First And You’re Next by Modest Mouse

No One’s First And You’re Next by Modest Mouse

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Firstly, I should begin by saying what this isn’t. It isn’t, strictly speaking, an album. An EP would be the official tag. Also, it isn’t actually any new material. Rather, it is unreleased work from the previous two albums.

Ok, so now we have that out of the way, is it any good? Well, one could be forgiven by jumping to the conclusion that material not deemed good enough for the previous two albums might be fairly crappy. However, that isn’t the case. Listen, this stuff isn’t going to blow your mind. It’s standard-fayre Modest Mouse. No more – no less.

If you like Modest Mouse you’ll probably enjoy this collection. If you aren’t a fan of the band, this stuff will never change your view. Crappy album review, I know, (although it isn’t really an album but we covered that!) but those are the bare bones of it.

If I had to pick out some tracks I preferred I’d go for Satellite Skin, Perpetual Motion Machine and History Sticks To Your Feet … but none of them are going to feature in my all-time favourites.

6.5/10 from me. Hardly torture to sit through but isn’t going to set my world alight either.

August 2, 2009 Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment