30 September 2010

Skunk Anansie: "Wonderlustre"

When veterans release music, I usually brace for the worse; when veterans release music after a long absence, I assume the worse. Skunk Anansie’s “Wonderlustre” (13 September 2010 in Europe and digital download in the USA, 21 September 2010 in the USA as an import), their first studio release in over ten years, came into my radar a few weeks ago, as the hype of its imminent release had some of my friends acting like fifth grade girls in Catholic school. Now, do not get me wrong, their first three albums were excellent… beyond excellent really. This is a band that set the bar higher and higher for themselves with each album, and, at the end of it all, never got the full international credit they deserved. So after last years’ greatest hits release, “Smashes and Trashes,” my curiosity started to get the best of me: what could they offer this indie-saturated, 80s electronic obsessed, post-punk feigned depression scene? My answer: If you want something done right, if you want music that is beyond urgent and relevant, leave that to a tried and true veteran band that can get the job done. “Wonderlustre” is an amazing album, not only raising the bar higher in their career, it sets it higher for any release this year.

Neither Britpop nor shoegaze, far removed from grunge or traditional metal, Skunk Anansie did not fit into any category nicely in their nascent years in the mid 90s UK. And a decade and a half later, they still do not fit into any mold – not even the mold that they build for themselves. They have not given into the indie clichés, nor are they trying to resurrect an old sound – not even their own! This is new territory for the band. So if you were expecting some drum smashing, power chords, then you are going to be disappointed – but remember, those are your expectations, not the bands. What you get is highly crafted, amazingly arranged, songs that prove that the band has matured and honed their song writing. Reality is that if they would have released the same raw power that they had in the past, the same detractors would probably say, “But this is the same, what’s new?”

The band (Skin, Ace, Cass, and Mark Richardson) has never sounded better. Their ability to be emotive, intensely urgent, and relevant to the music scene has never been more evident. And here are some tracks to play close attention to.

The lead single, “My Ugly Boy,” should have been the tip off that what you were going to get is not what you may have expected. Skin sings, “… the ways I love is rough and beautiful, ‘cause wherever he likes to go, the freakiest boys will blow… blow away, my ugly boy, my sweetest toy, my ugly boy.” Lyrically sexually ambivalent, the music is just as ambivalent and uncommitted to swinging one way or another: is it going to careen into hardcore? Is it going explode into orgiastic arrangements? And that is the beauty of this song: both lyrically and musically there is an air of endless possibilities that generates a world of visceral effects as you listen.

“Talk Too Much” has the best set of poetic lyrics: “Blessings come, but favours they go, troubled by the whispers they know…” Laced with ambient string arrangements to really draw out the visceral, this is the one song on the album that shows that simplicity and the basics can create a bigger effect on the listener than all the bells and whistles in the world. But if ever Skunk Anansie has proven their pop sensibilities, it is with “The Sweetest Thing.” This song is one infectious hook after the other, from the pulsating bass line to the vocal arrangements, from minimalist approach to the guitar arrangements to the steady (dare I say) indie beat, the song is hard to ignore. Lyrically, it is very playful, with lines like “Survive the grind or ego queens will sharpen their heels…”

My favorite track is “Feeling The Itch.” You may think from the opening line, “I wanna wake up to you,” that Skin is about to be vulnerable, but follows that up with, “I wanna satisfy myself,” and later, “I wanna burn inside your mind.” Musically, this is one of those songs that just has it all. Big guitar rift chorus, near ethereal arrangements during the verses, and the straightforward urgency that only Skunk Anansie can generate, it is the culmination of years of honing their chops as song writers.

So let me end this with one simple question: Did anyone say album of the year?

Track Listing:
1. God Loves Only You
2. My Ugly Boy
3. Over The Love
4. Talk Too Much
5. The Sweetest Thing
6. It Doesn’t Matter
7. You’re Too Expensive For Me
8. My Love Will Fall
9. You Saved Me
10. Feeling The Itch
11. You Can’t Always Do What You Like
12. I Will Stay But You Should Leave
13. Would You? – digital bonus track

Keep up with Skunk Anansie at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “My Ugly Boy” from their YouTube Channel: SkunkAnansieOfficial.

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28 September 2010

Orphan Boy Answers 5

Hands down, the biggest surprise this past summer was Orphan Boy’s “Passion, Pain & Loyalty” (link to review). Rubbing elbows with everything from Madchester to shoegaze, this is a band that may know the past really well, may know all the trends out there at the moment, but are not content with simply rehashing or reproducing some one else’s sound. What I like the most, especially about the final track, is that they hit on something that Bowie did: how to balance the experimentally inaccessible with the accessible. I knew I had to ply the band with a few questions, so I would like to personally thank Robert Cross for taking the time to Answer 5.

(Orphan Boy / Photographer: Roger Sargent)

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

When I was growing up, my top five bands were The Clash, The Pixies, The Stone Roses, Radiohead and Pink Floyd, in that order. Then you start to veer off a bit: Tom Waits, DJ Shadow, I Am Kloot, Billy Bragg, Dexys, Pulp. Then you start meeting loads of great unsigned bands on your quest: Nacional, Frazer King, The Whiskycats, The Heartbreaks, Richard Dutton, The Dandilions. Then you get a bit disillusioned with music and start drifting into other areas: five-a-side football, Charles Bukowski, Chekhov’s short stories, wildlife documentaries, Grand Theft Auto. That kind of thing.

2. "Passion, Pain & Loyalty" is definitely different from your debut, "Shop Local." How did you approach composing and recording your sophomore effort, and were you consciously trying to go in a new direction?

With the first album, we wanted it to sound urgent and unpredictable. We banned choruses. After that we took a step back, started using keyboards, trying out dance beats, using simpler structures and arrangements, thinking more about melody, writing more reflective and personal lyrics. The result is a more accessible, assured and evocative record, I think. But we love both of them just the same.

3. I find it interesting how the press typically wants to place a band as part of a city's scene, whether London or Manchester, Los Angeles or New York. But the reality is that most of these bands come from elsewhere. I am more interested in knowing what parts of Cleethorpes still seep in and/or have formed your music.

You make a good point there. Manchester-based musicians have suffered because of the city’s strong heritage, much the same way that Liverpool-based musicians have. People (or, more accurately, industry people) can’t seem to make sense of anything from Manchester that doesn’t sound like a ‘Manchester band.’ And so there is a lot of great music from the city that has been ignored by the mainstream because they couldn’t put a label on it. Thankfully this seems to be changing slightly, with the new wave of Manchester bands, which don’t sound like Oasis, New Order, etc, but are still getting recognition. Like you say though, many of them are not Mancunian, and people are saying they should not be included because of this. Which is untrue and unfair. It’s hard enough for a small-town band to move to a big city and fight to win exposure, only to be denied that exposure because they are not native to that city. It’s a no win situation for these bands. From our point of view, no one was ever going to pay much attention to the Cleethorpes scene, were they? But that’s a shame because there are some great bands in Cleethorpes. And yes Cleethorpes does play a big part in our lyrics these days. I figured that tons of people had written about life in the city and yet you rarely hear anyone singing about deserted docks with cobbled streets and one-armed bandits.

(Orphan Boy / Photographer: Roger Sargent)

4. After listening to "Popsong," I really want to hear your take on the music industry.

My take on it is far worse than anything described in “Popsong.” From what I can gather, for the last five years the major labels (in Britain, at least) have wasted all of their money on, and forced upon the public, endless amounts of safe, soulless guitar music. And now no one is getting signed and the labels are claiming that people aren’t buying records and that guitar music is not fashionable – it’s no fucking wonder after five years of the Kooks, Kaiser Chiefs and Kasabian. The mainstream press is looking to the big labels (who bankroll the mags through advertising) for the next Strokes and who’ve they come up with? The Drums? Aren’t they just The Strokes but ten years too late? So mags like “The NME” are re-trawling through past glories, digging up the ghost of Oasis, The Libertines and (in a recent issue) Jimi Hendrix for their cover stars. The mainstream is dead on its arse. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great bands out there. I’ve heard them with my own ears, just by getting around a few gigs and using the Internet. Writing good music is not hard. All you need is a soul and a crap job. We’ve written two great albums on our dinner-breaks while the pop-stars can barely string an idea together. But the A&R people are not looking for that, they’re looking for radio-friendly production with catchy choruses; they’re looking for mad haircuts and zany costumes; they’re looking for a scene, a soap opera. They think this is what people get excited about. They think this is what captures the imagination. It’s not. When we play gigs in Manchester or Cleethorpes, our mad little fanbase (full of random waifs and strays from all corners of society) goes nuts; they throw themselves around the stage and sing every word back at us. They don’t get this excited because we look cool, because we don’t look cool. We look like what we are, which is a bunch of scruffy Northern chancers. But we got songs. And after all the hype dies down, that’s all people really take to their hearts. The A&R men don’t know this because they’ve not grown up listening to records, they’ve not lived their young lives by the beats and the tunes and the sounds of great music. They’re money men. Twats from business school, talking about demographics and market patterns and synchronisation. They follow each other around like well-dressed fools, desperately trying to figure out whom the hip band is that everyone wants to see; all the A&R men cramming into one venue, all trying to outbid each other for some doomed buzz band. They know fuck all. They’re finished. Viva la revolution. The cabbages are coming now, the Earth exhales...So that’s my take on it all. Would we take a publishing deal with Sony if they offered us a shitload of money? Yeah, probably. I got bills to pay.

5. I am very intrigued by the imagery bands employ; so on that note, what message are you trying to convey with the cover of "Passion, Pain & Loyalty"?

There was the donkey photo, which just kind of looked right. And then there was another photo which suggested more of a story and had a lot more happening, with the three of us as hitch-hikers. In the end we went with the donkey photo because it just looked more striking. I voted for the other cover actually but lost out. In the end I think the donkey photo works best, especially with the way our art guy (Keef Finnegan) has played around with the colours and tones. There is the strong Cleethorpes connection made by this cover, which is reflected in some of the lyrics. And purple and sepia, who’d have thought it? Together at last.

Keep up with Orphan Boy at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Popsong” from their YouTube Channel: orphanboyuk.

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25 September 2010

David Bowie: Retrospective on "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)"

Any artistic creation, whether a song or a poem or a book, goes from good to great when it transcends its own medium, exists beyond its intentions, and survives the test time to touch one generation after another. This could and should be said about the music of David Bowie (born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London, UK, 8 January 1947). As the three-hundredth post dawned upon me, I knew that this one had to be special to me; it did not take me long to admonish myself when I realized I had yet to dedicate a post to Bowie. And when I listened through his entire catalogue once again, again it was “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” (12 September 1980) that reached out to me more so than any other album. More so than any other album ever recorded, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” was able to juggle the inaccessible with accessibility, the unspoken with the recorded, and the surreal world of fantasy with the realities of the world that created it. In short, it is a unique gem in musical history that should be admired.

The release of this album was a journey of years, which started in 1967 with the release of his eponymous debut; essentially, the album is a pop album within the music hall tradition. But with the sophomore album, “Space Oddity” (1969), Bowie would start experimenting like no other artist before. “The Man Who Sold the World” (1970), “Hunky Dory” (1971), and “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972) solidified his place in rock history; by this time he had exerted his influence all over rock, “progressive rock,” and glam rock, not to mention the upcoming punk and post-punk movements would always go back to these albums as references. And the glamorous glam kept coming: “Aladdin Sane” and “Pin Ups” (both in 1973), and “Diamond Dogs” (1974). But the following year, Bowie would take another direction with “Young Americans” (1975) and “Station to Station” (1976); he started to look towards funk, soul, and blue-eye soul for new references to mix up in his ever-growing catalogue. Such changes normally destroy other artists and bands, but not Bowie – change has continued to make him a better and stronger artist, while all the time creating, controlling, and outliving controversies. (Madonna surely took a few pages out of Bowie’s playbook.)

Then there was the “Berlin Trilogy”: “Low” (1977), “”Heroes”” (1977), and “Lodgers” (1979). Welcome to the world of krautrock and Brian Eno, Bowie takes his biggest leap to date, which would send shockwaves through the punk, post-punk, and new wave scenes. Though commercially the trilogy has been defined as lackluster, again Bowie managed to influence an entire generation of new musicians. And it is the midst of closing the chapter on the “Berlin Trilogy” that Bowie composes and records “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).” (Could The Cure have decided to record “Trilogy” in Berlin because of this?)

Bowie returned to his character Major Tom for the first single from the album, “Ashes to Ashes.” And just as Bowie is prone to continually reinvent himself, he reinvents Major Tom. He is no longer the man we remember from, “This is Major Tom to ground control, I’m stepping through the door and I’m floating in a most peculiar way and the stars look very different today” (“Major Tom”). No longer is he the happily floating-out-of-existence astronaut. That would be to passé for the then punk and post-punk era that faces the political and dark realities of the world. He may still be floating high, but it has nothing to do with space: “Ashes to Ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie, strung out in heaven’s high hitting an all-time low.”

As for the video (link – from the officialdavidbowie YouTube Channel), Bowie would set a new standard. From an eerie Pierrot (like the clown in Placebo's song) to sitting in a padded room, the vivid colors, the very postmodern “fractured” narrative structure and pastiche does not just compliment the song, but brings it into a another level. In the pre-MTV world, Bowie created a video where the visuals arrest your senses, not the music. (Is it any wonder that Billy Idol would work with co-director David Mallet for his first major MTV-era video, “Eyes Without a Face,” which shares so many stylistic characteristics with “Ashes for Ashes” video?)

Bowie would release the iconic “Fashion” next (link – from the officialdavidbowie YouTube Channel), followed by the titular track, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” and “Up the Hill Backwards.” “Fashion” in this single becomes a very powerful metaphor. The song is about the fascism of fashion, but also for political fascism as well; take this verse: “There’s a brand new talk, but it’s not very clear, that people from good homes are talking this year. It’s loud and tasteless, and I’ve heard it before.” The circular nature of fashion, you’ve seen (“heard”) it before. But it is gibberish and tasteless, like most of the mainstream that conforms to the lowest common denominator. And just as “fashion” mandates that everyone carries on in the same mindlessness, so does fascism – where both individuality and individualism are frown upon, where what you are even allowed to say is dictated for you.

So with a little bit of reinvention, political and social criticism, and artistic (cinematic) posturing, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” already has the making of a great album. The rest of the album is just as amazing. “It’s No Game (Part 1)” (the opening track) rears in with cold, in your face guitar arrangements, while Bowie sings “Silhouettes and shadows watch the revolution, no more free steps to heaven. It’s no game.” At one point or another, every major post-post punk band has ripped off “Up the Hill Backwards” (whether they are conscious of it – or willing to admit it – or not). The titular track is as harrowing as its title implies and would also be the blue print for many a song, including in the upcoming industrial scene – I see where Reznor got a few of his ideas. There is also “Scream Like a Baby” – Bowie’s political magnum opus: “Well they came down hard on the faggots, and they came down hard on the streets, and they came down harder on Sam, and we all knew he was beat. Thrown into the wagon, blindfolded, chains and they stomped on us…” Later, “He just sat in the backseat, swearing he’d seek revenge, but he jumped into the furnace singing old songs we loved.” The texture and sound of Bowie’s voice/vocals change consistently: sometimes nearly inaudible (you must keep quiet in a fascism!) and sometimes the piercing voice of defiance. Of course, Bowie was writing during the times of the Berlin Wall and the divided Europe, which may explain the genesis and meaning of the song, but today’s audience should not overlook his tale of political imprisonment, because one never knows.

Any youngster listening to “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” today may not think it as cutting edge as it was… actually to today’s audience it is quite accessible, but not because it was intended to be so – and this is the evidence of just how influential Bowie is; the future conformed to “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” and not the other way around. This album is iconic, this album defines everything Bowie did to this point, and so much of what would come from other artists hereafter. Just look at who he has influenced (not a complete list!): Arcade Fire, Bauhaus, Blur, Marc Bolan (T.Rex), Duran Duran, Hello Operator, Joy Division, New York Dolls, Madonna, Morrissey, Gary Numan, Psychedelic Furs, Placebo, Iggy Pop, Pulp, Lou Reed, Radiohead, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Semi Precious Weapons, Robert Smith (The Cure), (The London) Suede, Tears for Fears, and TV on the Radio. And think of the countless that do not even realize that Bowie influenced them, as they have been influenced by others who owe a great debt to Bowie, like Bauhaus or Duran Duran or some other iconic band.

The next time you are reading through one of those lists that list the most iconic, influential artists, if Bowie is not on the top, it is a sham. And if “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” is not ranked as one of the greatest and most important albums ever recorded, it is not just a sham, it is shameful. David Bowie is the most underrated and under-appreciate artist of all times, arguably the last true great visionary of modern “rock” music, and is the most influential “rock” musician of all time. “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” alone guaranteed that position, and any Bowie fan would agree. And if you are not familiar with Bowie’s music, this is perfect starting point.

Track Listing:
1. It’s No Game (Part 1)
2. Up the Hill Backwards
3. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
4. Ashes to Ashes
5. Fashion
6. Teenage Wildlife
7. Scream Like a Baby
8. Kingdom Come
9. Because You’re Young
10. It’s No Game (Part 2)
11. Space Oddity – reissue bonus
12. Panic in Detroit – reissue bonus
13. Crystal Japan – reissue bonus
14. Alabama Song – reissue bonus

Keep up with David Bowie at his homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.
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23 September 2010

Videos.... But First....

Below are a few new videos, but first ever heard of Comateens?

I reconnected with an old friend, and of course one of the first conversations we had was all about music. As we lounged in his living room, the laptop was whipped out and we surfing through YouTube, and of course our selections were obscure (and some may even say obtuse at time!). His very choice of video to bring up was “Get Off My Case” by Comateens, which I had not heard in many, many, many years! So let me share that video upfront.

(From comateensnyc YouTube Channel.)

My friend later shared some information, which I now want to share with you now. As we are in the midst of an 80s revival, I think that when we look back, we need to remember those bands that are truly “unsung heroes.” So, here is a bit of information on Comateens: a new wave New York City trio that formed in 1978 and released three albums. They were part of the original wave of new wave on this side of the Atlantic, but the band would dissolve in 1985. We will skip tragedy and years now and simply say the story does continue….

First, the limited collector’s edition of their eponymous debut album is available for purchase again. What is going to really catch your attention is that the band directly transferred the original analog tapes to digital, keeping the original early 80s electronic feel to it. You can purchase the CD directly from the band at their shop: link.

Furthermore, the band will be re-uniting to play the Mudd Club / Club 57 / New Wave Vaudeville Reunion Show at the Delancey Lounge. The line-up is going to include: Joey Arias, Bush Tetras, Comateens, John Kelly, Richard Lloyd, Lisa Lost, Ann Magnuson, Marilyn, Sic F*cks, Walter Steding, Tina Peel, and 3 Teens Kill 4. You can purchase tickets at this link.

For more information on Comateens, you can go to their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter.

And now for some new videos, and first off is Post Death Soundtrack. And as anyone who knows me knows, I think that singer Steve More is one of the most talented and intriguing musicians out there – and he did not pay me to say that!

Post Death Soundtrack’s “Ultraviolence” from their Vimeo Channel: Post Death Soundtrack.

Post Death Soundtrack - "Ultraviolence" Official Music Video from Post Death Soundtrack on Vimeo.

Miami Horror’s “Echoplex” from their Vimeo Channel: Miami Horror.

Echoplex from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

Howls’ “Hammock” from the parlophone YouTube Channel.

Deerhunter’s “Helicopter” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

Shakespears Sister’s “It’s A Trip” from their YouTube Channel: ShakespearsSisterTV.

Blonde Redhead’s “Not Getting There” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

I Am Kloot’s “Proof” from their YouTube Channel: iamklootmedia.

School of Seven Bells’ “Windstorm” from their YouTube Channel: SchoolofSevenBells.

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Bethany Saint-Smith and The Black Oil Brothers: "American Honey"

Some of you might recall in December I met Bethany Saint-Smith and The Black Oil Brothers (collectively called The Black Oil Family), I reviewed of The Black Oil Bros.’ “Long Way From The Delta,” and Bethany answered 5. If you don’t, lay off the whiskey and check those out here and here. Mind you, the interview and the review were of two separate acts (what a jip!). But! For your listening pleasure, Bethany Saint-Smith and The Black Oil Brothers give us “American Honey”! No, no, that’s not a blues harp in my pocket, I’m just really excited to have heard the record.

“American Honey” opens up to the sound of a commotion followed by some wicked laughter. To me that’s the sound of the devil, and he’s come ta’ getcha! While sadly no, it’s not the devil’s eerie howl, Bethany Saint-Smith has probably heard it before and referenced it for this intriguing bit. “Stop Stompin’ On Me” immediately picks up nice and easy with an old school slow groove with some poignant-yet-understated guitar licks peppered in, and harp work reminiscent of the sound of a train horn in the distance chugging along to the rhythm. One particularly beautiful song on the record, “Acres of Roses,” instantly pulls the mood down and shares hard-won wisdom. This song is so beautiful and sad that I’m making it the official song of my next breakup. Not to say I plan to leave my girlfriend any time soon, but should it ever end, this song will be playing while I drink heavily. One thought that instantly came to mind is quite an interesting paradox: to my ear “Acres of Roses” could have influenced Metallica’s “Low Man’s Lyric.” Mind you, “Low Man’s” was written over 13 years ago. It’s not a case of the old one inspired the new one, oh hell no. A song that was written in recent history could have easily been the prototype to an older tune. To me this speaks volumes to the obvious fact that you just don’t hear music like this anymore. And of course let’s not forget the classic spiritual and cultural icon “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” where Ms. Saint-Smith really lays it on with her sultry pipes.

While I can’t say enough of the dynamic pairing of these two great acts to form the blues juggernaut known as The Black Oil Family, I can say that they’re living proof that some people can still make’em like they used to. This is the blues you should be listening to. This is the music that you should be listening to.

Track Listing
1. Stop Stompin' On Me
2. They Fall
3. Acres of Roses
4. I'm Comin' Home
5. Hold The Knife
6. Swing Low Sweet Chariot
7. Avenue A

Keep up with Bethany Saint-Smith and The Black Oil Brothers on their Facebook.

And individually, Bethany Saint-Smith on her MySpace and The Black Oil Brothers at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook
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22 September 2010

Hurts: "Happiness"

To quote: “Some new romantic looking for the TV sound, you’ll see I’m right some other time” (Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth”). And in this moment of 80s revival, it was only a matter of time before the New Romantics had a proper new champion to prove its legacy. But Hurts, the duo of musician Adam Anderson and vocalist Theo Hutchcraft, is not a replica of Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet, but rather introduce the same visual aesthetics, the same electronic savvy, while all the time mixing up electropop oriented new wave with disco lento and contemporary catchy pop sensibility. Releasing their debut album, “Happiness” (6 September 2010 in the UK, 14 September 2010 in the USA as an import), this is a duo that obviously cares about big sounds, big arrangements, and leaving the listener with a definite impression.

The thing with most electronic 80s revival is that it is either an exact replica of its models (rehash trash) or understated and demure, a quality that much of the new synth- and electropop I like unfortunately shares. But Hurts will have none of that. You will be pressed to find proper models in old songs for this collection; instead they have learned from the veterans and the 80s and pushing forward into the future. Furthermore, the sounds are fresh, the rifts cutting edge, and the attitude very now. This is not your parent’s New Romantics.

Earlier last year, the band released the video “Wonderful Life.” A simple black and white faire, the duo performing with an interpretive dancer, as Anderson stands deadpan and Hutchcraft moves minimally – a mold employed by many, including Petshop Boys. The band would reshoot the video in recent weeks (both below). The dancer appears again (in person and a photograph), augmented by four more dancers, and the man of Susie’s dreams gracing this video version. Glossier, in understated colors of dusk, both Anderson and Hutchcraft keep the same demeanor; this is evidence of their aesthetics and their ability to use minimal sounds and visuals for maximum effects.

The album itself is full of many great tracks. From the melodic opening, “Silver Lining,” to gritty “Devotion,” the album stays within the same tempo range, but many of the songs play internally with the rhythm and tempo. There is no lull on this album. The sounds are big, and play as nicely at low volumes or blaring speakers, while the lyrics accent the sonic mood of each song: “Devotion. Devotion. I’m a slave unto the mercy of your love. For so long, I’ve been so wrong, I could never live without you” (“Devotion”). Sidenote, “Devotion” is a duet with Kylie Minogue, and she is not on their label. Not bad for a fledgling band to attract such a big name.

The magnum opus of the album is the single “Better Than Love.” The ostinato is big, the electro-bassline thriving, and the change ups in the song completely infectious. Lyrically, the song follows the urgency and relevancy of the music: “Another second in the sunshine, a decade in the dark taking part in a dream. Have you forgotten what she looks like? Or do you only see what you want to believe? Does it feel better than love?” Avoiding the cliché and doing the rare, this is a pop song that carries a harsh admonition, and yet it makes you want to dance.

There is a reason why such a young band like Hurts is making waves and getting recognition overnight. Naysayers can say it is because of the backing of a major label, but this is solid pop music that would have risen to the top, as their initial release of “Wonderful Life” proves. If the radio were airing more bands like this, hell I would listen to it more often. “Happiness” is a solid freshman album, which definitely carries the weight of placing the New Romantics back in the spotlight on its shoulders.

Track Listing:
1. Silver Lining
2. Wonderful Life
3. Blood, Tears & Gold
4. Sunday
5. Stay
6. Illuminated
7. Evelyn
8. Better Than Love
9. Devotion
10. Unspoken
11. The Water

Keep up with Hurts at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the original video for “Wonderful Life” and “Better Than Love” from their YouTube Channel: videohurts. The third video is the reshoot of “Wonderful Life” from their MySpace Videos page.

HURTS - Wonderful Life (Official Video)

HURTS | MySpace Music Videos
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21 September 2010

Darren Hanlon: "I Will Love You At All"

Darren Hanlon has been a blip on my radar for some time now, but I have to admit that until today I never really sat down to listen to his music thoroughly. And as I sat back this afternoon for a few minutes and played Hanlon’s latest album for some background noise during lunch, I was absorbed right into it, to the point that it was all I paid attention to. “I Will Love You At All” (16 July 2010 in Australia, 21 September 2010 in the USA), his fourth studio offering, is in many ways the antithesis of what has been streaming through the indie world. More acoustic than electric, more plainspoken than tongue-in-cheek (yet full of metaphors and similes), this is a viscerally powerful collection of narrative songs that whirl you around the existence of one man. Lyrically, what I like the most about the songs is their mundanity – and I mean this is the best way possible. There are so many moments on this album that it is about the obvious, the understated, the never-stated, and often overlooked by other musicians and poets. The music is solid, the lyrics superior – this is a combination that may wow you, if you allow yourself to sit back and feel the listening experience.

Opening with beautiful strumming (a very big plus in my book), “Butterfly Bones” sports out metered, intricate lyrics. Both the rhythm and lead guitar arrangements are some of the most beautiful I’ve heard this year so far. The strength of his narrative prowess comes in “Scenes From A Separation.” Breaking-up has never sounded so subtly beautiful, as Hanlon sings, “We were together forever, but then again what the hell does that mean?” But the most powerful line in the song comes right at the end, when he sings, “I wouldn’t trade one heartbroken minute for one year of dull happiness.” And this is the universal truth that rarely gets stated; we take the risk of heartbreak for happiness, rather than living lonely in “dull” life. This is followed by the lead single, “All These Things.” The obvious single on the collection; poppy and feel good, with an easy melody to follow. Where it belies the depth of the rest of the album, this is no throwaway single either. Later in the album, you come across “Buy Me Presents,” which closing, humorous line really stuck with me: “It’s the thought that matters most, so don’t be dense, and buy me presents.”

I would be remiss if I did not mention in depth the epic, “House.” As anyone who knows me, I favor these long, well-developed songs. Most epics really fall short, because as you listen you feel the length of the song, and you are left wondering when the hell it is going to end already. But not “House,” which is a narrative that many people can relate to. The song is about retracing and reflecting on the past, specifically a love affair. So Hanlon returns to “..the place we rented when you were still mine.” He thinks of a few schemes to ring the bell, and though he realizes that “some stones are best left unturned,” he goes forth with his plan and rings the bell. “The house gave an echo from inside its belly, sounds I recalled from days I left my key…” When the door opens he makes an excuse about coming for mail that has been unclaimed. This is when he notices that the “wall paper’s gone, now the wall is painted green.” It may be the same house, but the changes are obvious – a metaphor of how things change and there is nothing you can do about it, but accept it. And he runs, “’til I ran out of running, I tried to go faster than what I just seen.” Eventually, he falls, breathless, looking as if he had “just come through Halloween.” The final masque broken, the final acceptance – as he leaves the house fast, he also moves on from the past. And he realizes that some memories are “best if they are left in a place you can’t find them.”

And again, another album to raise that proverbial bar this year. Darren Hanlon’s “I Will Love You At All” is a solid, introspective album, which will have you thinking and feeling, though devoid of doom and gloom. Highly poetic, the album will tickle the fancy of any dreamer and yet appeal to those that love to brood. (And I can’t resist posing this question: Best album out of Australia this year so far?)

Track Listing:
1. Butterfly Bones
2. Modern History
3. Scenes From A Separation
4. All These Things
5. House
6. If Only My Heart Were Made Of Stone
7. Folk Insomnia
8. Home
9. Buy Me Presents
10. What Can We Say?

Keep up with Darren Hanlon at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is Hanlon’s video for “All These Things” from the MGMAUSTRALIA YouTube Channel.

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15 September 2010

One Night Only: "One Night Only"

One Night Only recently released their eponymous sophomore album (23 August 2010 in the UK, 7 September 2010 USA as import); somewhere between 80s new wave and current indie clichés, this album is going to be a love it or hate it faire, and I for one am loving it. There is nothing on this album that has not been done before; I for one could even start posting links to songs this year that follow similar formats. But if we put aside the 80s burnout (yes, even I am starting to burn out on all this 80s revival!), this is done so much better than others. The gist of it all is in the mix of influences and references.

The first track on the album is also the lead single, “Say You Don’t Want It.” I am going to be lazy about this one: this is late 80s Xymox gone indie pop. There is an air of ambience and synth savvy, all the time the eye is kept on the rhythm. The song is about demanding a rejection of what money can buy, from “your wives” to “classic cars,” from “the brand designs” to “the picture-book girls.” Considering that this rock-singer is dating a silver screen actress, it may sound a bit disingenuous when he sings, “The big screens and the plastic-made dreams… say you don’t want it, say you don’t want it.” But these criticisms fall aside when you realize that though this track has all the makings of an anthem, it is not; instead, it is a solid way to draw you right in – something about the repetition of “say you don’t want it” sticks in your head.

We can easily divide this album in two – we can imagine an old vinyl. Part one (our metaphoric A-side) is the indie faire, led by “Say You Don’t Want It,” then the Britpop “Bring Me Back Down” to “Forget My Name” – the most bubbly song on the album, even though it sports out one of the “toughest” guitar rifts on the album and an odd lead vocal arrangement in the chorus, which only adds to remembrance of it all. Part two (our metaphoric B-side, and usually the side I loved the most in the 80s!) is led by “All I Want” – bass and guitar driven, with amazing synth arrangements competing for dominance of the song, this is a song that is going to explode live. But this part/side gets really interesting when you get to “Anything.” Again the vying between guitars and synths, but this is a sexiest song on the album. But the showstopper is “Nothing Left.” This is one of those tracks when a band throws many different ingredients into the mix, many of which may not normally be compatible, and what you get is amazing song that makes you feel like you are fluttering around on turbulent air.

With a bit of irony, the final track is “Can’t Stop Now” – but it will be in under four-and-a-half. This is the one song that really approaches anthem: “Rooms burns, cherry-red, the jealous eyes, the rumours spread, you’re safe in here. You whisper soft, “If they could see us now.” Don’t despair, you can’t give up; they’ll hunt us down, they’ll catch us up, we can’t stop now! We won’t stop now!” Starting very “synthetic” in sounds, eventually the beat drops into an orgiastic ostinato, and then big guitars. But it closes with a piano – a subtle piano lamenting.

My only substantial criticism of this album, which almost becomes trivial, is that I would have arranged the songs differently on the album. Personally, I would have placed “Never Be The Same” as the first track. It’s subtle synth / vocal intro is hauntingly alluring, and, when the beat finally drops, the track evolves into a pensively and viscerally attractive song. And it is that sort of universal song, albeit sad, that anyone who has lost love can relate to: “All alone you count the days, and all you know just flies away. All in favour scream it wide, just plead your heard to love or cry and say goodbye.” Nevertheless, regardless of what the naysayers say, of which I count many amongst my own personal friends, “One Night Only” is a solid sophomore album. If One Night Only is not part of the hype-machine, they may want to be thankful about that.

Track Listing:
1. Say You Don’t Want It
2. Bring Me Back Down
3. Forget My Name
4. Chemistry
5. Never Be The Same
6. All I Want
7. Got It All Wrong
8. Anything
9. Nothing Left
10. Feeling Fine
11. Can’t Stop Now

Keep up with One Night Only at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video for “Say You Don’t Want It” from their YouTube Channel: onenightonlyonline.

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14 September 2010

Catching up with Cassette Kids and Les Savy Fav

Okay, summer has come and gone, and we were not able to get to a few albums… but better late than never. So one previously released album, and a new one. This post is about Australian newbies and American veterans, and I am just going to say a few things about them to whet your appetite. Hope you all had a great summer (or winter); enjoy the autumn (or spring, depending on where you are in the world).

Cassette Kids: “Nothing on TV” (above)

Les Savy Fav: “Roots of the Ruin” (below)

Cassette Kids: “Nothing on TV”

Cassette Kids’ debut album is finally out: “Nothing on TV” (16 April 2010 in Australia, available in the USA as import since 4 May 2010), following up their debut EP, “We Are.” Though it was released before the beginning of summer, it has taken some time to hit this side of the Pacific. And it surely wrapped up my summer vacation on a bright note.

The lead single, released in 2009, is "Lying Around". It's that type of song that has that very synth-pop rift to it, and you will automatically get hooked on it. Not to mention that the lyrics are quite easy and can easily become a sing-along when you’re in the shower or in the car by yourself, and I better hear no comments about my singing!

You will definitely be spinning when you listen to the second single, “Spin.” And even in your dizziness, you will find the beat very hypnotic, humming along to the song even after the iPod goes off. Though they are talking about vinyls and not a cassette (and I know at least one blogger happy about that), it is besides the point of the song; it’s just a fun fucking song.

"Freaky Sweetie" was by far one of the most interesting tracks on the album. It starts off with a typical white-boy-urban-ghetto-club-beat created by a kick drum and eventually is expanded and accompanied by a guitar, synths, and choppy bass line. I find this as one of my favorite songs for some strange reason. Could it be that the be that my high school years of hearing club music is catching up to me or maybe it just simply works well with the song? At this point, I am done questioning what to think of it, all I know is that it is the type of song you can shake your ass to when it starts to play.

With a name like Cassette Kids, you know that this band is harkening back to the 80s. “Nothing on TV” is the type of album that is just fun to listen to, uncomplicated and not burdened down with broody lyrics. Synthpop and dance punk fans

Track Listing:
1. Insomnia
2. Spin
3. Lying Around
4. Coming Back
5. Big Jerk
6. Freaky Sweetie
7. Game Player
8. You Shot Me
9. Nothing on TV
10. Wherever You Are
11. Hey Baby
12. Fatal Attraction

Keep up with Cassette Kids at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are the links for their videos from their MySpace Video page.

“Lying Around"

Les Savy Fav: “Roots of the Ruin”

Lately, I have been listening to more electronic music than anything else, but there is nothing like a good rocking album. Whether it is old school or (post-)punk, I am game to bobbing my head and zoning out to some kickass guitar rifts. And my latest dose is Les Savy Fav’s “Roots of Ruin” (3 August 2010 as digital release, 14 September 2010 physical release). They are one of these underappreciated bands. Hailing from New York City, they mesh rock, indie trends, post-punk, post-hardcore, and art rock. And in this field of 80s revival and electronically driven music, this is a treat.

They have this unique urgency to them, amazing considering how they can vary their sound and themes. One moment they have a song about the beauty of a woman, and the next sheer carnality, while singing, “We didn’t kiss, we just touched our lips together.” They have everything going for them: diverse approaches to their songs and lyrics that vary from serious to tongue-in-cheek.

The one track that really does the trick for me is “Lips ‘n Stuff.” This one rubs me so right in so many ways! From that post-punkish guitar opening, to that NYC matter of fact attitude, to its sense of urgency, this one is unforgettable. And that rhythm… you want to more than bob your head – pounce around, or maybe body surf.

“Excess Energies” is another phenomenal song by these guys, harkening more towards their punk influences. Just a driving kick drum beat, with some funky guitar playing. This song is almost an insulting song. “I’m not my father’s son, watch me undo what he’s done.” And later, “Was it worth it?” Music as therapy? Maybe. Riveting? Absolutely.

As I am from the NYC area, I have to really say check out Les Savy Fav. “Roots of the Ruin” is an amazing album, and lifts that bar a bit higher for 2010. And again, Les Savy Fav proves that verterans can deliver when left to their own devices.

Track Listing:
1. Appetites
2. Dirty Knails
3. Sleepless in Silverlake
4. Let’s Get Out of Here
5. Lips ‘n stuff
6. Poltergeist
7. High and Unhinged
8. Excess Energies
9. Dear Crutches
10. Calm Down
11. Clear Spirits

Keep up with Les Savy Fav at their homepage and MySpace.
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11 September 2010

Night Out, Part Two: Crash Theory

Though I always welcome my friends to tell me about their music discoveries and their friends’ bands, I am usually disappointed with the later. It is sort of like parents having to tell their children that they are beautiful, friends are always oblivious to the crap that some of their friends are composing. But that is not the case with Crash Theory. First, let me say that this is a young band, and from what I understand has a new member. So the band is still developing through its “adolescence,” and this is the part of the journey that I like the most when it comes to bands. The potential is limitless: what direction will they go? Will they adopt a thematic image? Will they favor one extreme of their music to another? Second, this is a band with a female vocalist, and rock (and all its derivatives) has traditionally been a man’s world. Just look at any “ranking” of the most “important” rock bands; you don’t see many women. (Years after the punk and post-punk revolution, has Siouxsie and the Banshees really gotten the credit they deserve?)

First off, let’s talk about the components of the band: the members. Vocalist Carlyn has a big voice… and amazing big voice. Her voice is emotive and versatile – from tenderly sweet to dismissively despondent. She is at her best when she is the femme fatale on stage, something I hope she continues. In many cases, front-women shy away from their femininity on stage, but Carlyn has the capacity to make hers what disarms her audience and draws them right in. Guitarist Fonesca (and I am going to assume that he plays the keyboards that were prepped for the backing tracks) is the contemplative member on the stage. From straightforward crisp guitar arrangements to power chords to highly effected arrangements, he demonstrates a wider range of style than most guitarists in nascent bands. This is evidence that they are continuing to experiment with sounds, the mix-up of their musical references, and not complacently churning out the same song over and over till it is a cliché. Jiyo impressed me, and I am not often impressed with drummers; drummers are rare, descent time keepers even rarer, and competent drummers almost an extinct breed. Jiyo is good. He reminds me of a drummer like Budgie in his ability to be diverse, come up with new fresh patterns, and never allow what he does to just meld into the background (as so many drummers do), nor does he give into the cliché of just smashing cymbals. I would love to see this guy experiment with different ideas; I think he has only scratched the surface of what he can do. Lastly, bassist Patrick, who has this really energetic stage presence, rounds out the band. He makes it look easy: working all of the stage, connecting with the audience with ease, while executing his arrangements perfectly. Any successful live band always has two people on stage that can garner attention; it allows for a broader engagement with the band and the overall experience.

As a band, they are tight… extremely tight. The opening song, “Sing Along,” had this ambient, electronic effect going on: an ode to Duran Duran maybe? After the beat drops and the boys are at work, Carlyn enters the stage, dressed in white. And though the show started late (no fault of the band), they did not rush through their set, though I was made aware that they had to cut one song out (“Life Support”). The music does have many 90s references (with a few 80s synthpop-esque moments in the background). Though I would say that prominent references are definitely American, there is that carefree feel that some Britpop artists were definitely known for. Lyrically, forget the 90s, this is 80s: introspective but fun, with off beat references. In “Sing Along,” Carlyn muses/howls about social networks, ending with “What the fuck is Twitter anyway?” Eventually, she will sing, “I need a song to sing along.” You could easily say, “80s non-sense,” or you could take the bait and realize that they are talking about the social decay that comes with technology and we need to return to some of the simpler things in life, like a song.

And that is one way to define their music: fun and bubbly on the surface, but ready to be scratched. The music is not preachy, and often time very personal, but there are bigger statements lying beneath the surface. From technology to intimate interrelations, Crash Theory keeps their eye on accessibility, while keeping substance – à la 80s. This is a band I want to see a few months down the road to see how they continue to grow; I personally hope they veer towards their quirky side, with electronics in the background – because it is there they excel. But the sky is the possibility.

Check out Crash Theory’s music streaming on MySpace (link below). Remember, these are demos, so when you listen, start imagining where the songs can go. As they continue to grow and congeal as a band, the sound and the lyrics will change and evolve. But what you are going to notice right away is that the layers of music in the demos are very impressive – and that convinces me that someone in the band has been listening to Duran Duran!

Set List:
1. Sing Along
2. Stand Up, Stand Out
3. Enough
4. Rewind
5. Get Away
6. Far Too Long

Keep up with Crash Theory at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

[My many thanks to Carlos Aranzazu of Gray Door Studio for the photography.]
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Night Out, Part One: Haley

A friend (an amazing bassoonist) told me about Crash Theory, a New York City / New Jersey area rock band. I got in touch, listened to some of the music, and headed out to see the band play at Don Hills (on Saturday, September 4, 2010). Now I had not been to Don Hills (511 Greenwich Street, in Manhattan, New York, NY) in a few years; though it has the oddity of having the stage in the immediate area of the main entrance, this has always been a locale that is worth checking out. I got there early, with a photographer from Gray Door Studio, and found myself a comfortable spot up in the front: where else would you want to stand at a show?

Being early, I got to see the opening bands; one in particular caught my attention. Now something that I have said before is that metal is in need of a renaissance; I’ve heard how the premier Reading Festival use to be the “metal” festival, but these days, with the exception of Metallica, you are not getting much real metal there. I think that the problem is two-fold. First, there are many, many, many purists among metal bands; every year there is a new band that sounds like the prior one, that sounds like the prior one, that sounds like the prior one…. all the way back to 1979! The same antics, the same clothes, the same feigned attitude on stage… and endless “blah blah blah” that has driven me to run the other direction. The second problem has been the corporate adulteration of metal – or at least what they call metal. (Though some are good, really how much crap is there is nu metal?) But recently I have seen glimmers of the future. The Unravelling (some links: review and interview) from Canada was my first sign that many nascent artists are reviving, experimenting, and expanding the genre. And now I have come across Haley, the second band on the bill.

I had never heard of them before, but their energetic stage presence, the driving music, and just the general vibe really impressed me and kept my attention. Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, this is a band that infuses metal with punk – yeah, I know this has been done before, but Haley pulled it off live better than any band I had seen attempt it before. They capture that “big” metal sound (especially with many of the 80s musical references), but deep down you hear things like Iggy Pop and Misfits – think “Night of the Living Dead.” The punk infusion is not what many people nowadays seem to equate punk with: the socially-acceptable-rebels-with-power-chords being played in Starbucks. But rather what you get here is an array of old style punk: proto-punk like The Stooges, the in-your-face of the original punk wave like The Sex Pistols, and the sensibilities of the second wave of punk like The Germs or Cockney Rejects, all the while retaining a metal’s big feel.

Having self-released their own album (see links below), I am forced to admit that the music live is more explosive than what you will listen to over your speakers – but that’s the way it’s supposed to be, no? This is not a criticism; I can say this about most of bands I listen to. This is a testament to just what an intensive live band they are. Nevertheless, check out the music streaming on their MySpace site – “Burning Witches” is current favorite song at the moment. And if you get a chance, go seem them live; you will not be disappointed.

Keep up with Haley at their homepage and MySpace. And if you like the music, support the band and purchase here: link.

[My many thanks to Carlos Aranzazu of Gray Door Studio for the photography.]
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07 September 2010


I hate allowing a Tuesday pass by without something being posted. I will be returning later this week with a review, and have been working on a post on “darkwave” (hint: been listening to my favorite Dutch band!). Also, counting down to post 300 and no clue what to do for that landmark… still considering my options, but been listening to “Ashes to Ashes” as well and may be turning into something.

I also wanted to share something brilliant with all of you. Check out Discographies on Twitter. Essentially complete discographies of bands, with a twist, in under 140 characters.

Enjoy the videos (I threw in a classic for fun; Domino Records is about to release a boxset of Orange Juice).

The ABC Club’s “43” from their YouTube Channel: theabcclub.

Scissor Sisters’ “Any Which Way” from the ScissorSistersVEVO Channel.

Orange Juice’s “Rip It Up” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Marina and the Diamonds’ “Shampain” from their YouTube Channel: Marinaandthediamonds.

David’s Lyre’s “Tear Them Down” from their YouTube Channel: ThisIsDavidsLyre.

Antony and The Johnsons’ “Thank You For Your Love”” from the RoughTradeRecordsUK YouTube Channel.

Villagers’ “That Day” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Karen Elson’s “Truth Is In The Dirt” from the XLRecordings YouTube Channel.

Stornoway’s “Watching Birds” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

The Disco Biscuit’s “Widgets” from their YouTube Channel: TheDiscoBiscuitsVids.

Hurts’ “Wonderful Life” from their MySpace Videos page.

HURTS - Wonderful Life (Official Video)

HURTS | MySpace Video
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03 September 2010

Miami Horror: "Illumination"

We have been drowning in electronic music lately, which is not in and of itself a bad thing; however, in the past few years, so much electronic music has been led by nostalgia for the 80s and synthpop. Enter stage left: Miami Horror. Neither “sunny” nor “horrific,” this Australian quartet (started by producer/DJ Benjamin Plant) combines retro-disco, house music, electronic savvy, and solid craftsmanship to create their debut album “Illumination” (20 August 2010, available as an import in the USA as of 31 August 2010). Sure there are a few moments that are very 80s influences, I would not call this album synthpop, which in my eyes truly refers to the electropop of the early and mid-80s and the future musicians that follow that tradition. The references here are broader. Australians exist in musical reality that gives them complete exposure to the music scenes of North America and the UK, not to mention New Zealand, but at the same time has its own thriving, often time insular, scenes. As compared to other musicians on current bandwagons, this allows for Australians to really have more to pick and choose from, while allowing them to develop their own niches within musical scenes. Miami Horror is further evidence of this.

Opening with “Infinite Canyons,” you may be deceived that this experience may be heading towards a dark downtempo experience, but when “I Look to You” kicks in with that disco-esque guitar strumming, the party begins. What I like about the disco references on the album is that they are not all American. Think ABBA and Cerrone, so many of the references in style are eurodisco in nature. But, the references do not exist in isolation; they intertwine and dance with one another throughout the different tracks on the album. It gives each of these tracks a very distinct sound.

“Sometimes” has quickly become my favorite track on the album – and anyone who knows me could have guessed this right off the bat. With the New Order / Cure feel to the guitar (or is that a six-string bass), this song is definitely the most 80-esque on the album. Even the lyrics have that post-punk feel to it: “Sometimes, when all that’s lost remains, drink from the fountain of youth and never age again. Sometimes we jump across to every cloud, fly away, get lost, and never be found again.” The following track, “Moon Theory,” is the most haunting. With some acoustic strumming, competing ambient and quirky house electronic arrangements, a thriving bassline, and the most visceral vocals on the album (an amazing feat as the lyrics really do not facilitate this!), the song boasts many different elements that should be contradictory and conflicting, but mesh together into the most memorable listening experience.

As for the rest of the album, it runs the entire gambit. There are big songs, like “Grand Illusion,” and small, understated tracks like “Illuminated.” There is homage to the past, like “Echoplex,” and there are new takes on old musical style that takes a step into the future, like “Summersun.” And then there is the closing track, “Ultraviolet.” The album definitely ends with the most “rock-ish” track on the album; though it is unified with the rest of the album with its rhythm style, a thought should creep up in the back of your mind: they have more tricks in their bag than they are letting on to.

Miami Horror’s “Illumination” is a strong debut that pulls that proverbial bar a little bit higher this year. Inevitably, I am going to predict that they will be compared to another Australian favorite of mine, Cut Copy. No matter how much you love Cut Copy, resist the temptation of that lazy comparison – and I so hate lazy comparisons. Okay, they are both from Melbourne and they both are savvy with electronics, but let’s cut off the comparison there. Not to short change either band, Cut Copy is more analogous to sythpop and post-punk of the 80s, while Miami Horror extends their references towards the 70s and house. Ultimately, this is a party-ready album full of feel good music; and though there is a small theme running through the album, what is going to strike you is how infectious it really is, even if you typically do not fall for disco references.

Track Listing:
1. Infinite Canyons
2. I Look to You
3. Holidays
4. Summersun
5. Sometimes
6. Moon Theory
7. Echoplex
8. Imagination (I Want You to Know)
9. Grand Illusion
10. Soft Light
11. Illuminated
12. Ultraviolet

Keep up Miami Horror at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are their videos for “Sometimes,” “Moon Theory,” and “I Look To You” from their Viemo Channel: Miami Horror.

Sometimes from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

Moon Theory from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

I Look To You from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

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