Category Archives: Albums

Mercury Prize 2008.

So, the cat is well and truly out of the bag: the Mercury Prize Shortlist has been announced, and the twelve albums of which it is comprised are:

Adele – ’19’
British Sea Power – ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’
Burial – ‘Untrue’
Elbow – ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
Estelle – ‘Shine’
The Last Shadow Puppets – ‘The Age Of The Understatement’
Laura Marling – ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’
Neon Neon – ‘Stainless Style’
Portico Quartet – ‘Knee-Deep In The North Sea’
Robert Plant And Alison Krauss – ‘Raising Sand’
Radiohead – ‘In Rainbows’
Rachel Unthank And The Winterset – ‘The Bairns’

My immediate reactions were twofold: firstly, what happened to Portishead and MIA, whose stellar albums have been improbably overlooked; and then, perhaps predictably, who on earth is Rachel Unthank, not to mention her beloved Winterset? Continue reading

Beck – Modern Guilt – Closely-related reviewers?

Modern Guilt, the eighth LP from perennial shape-shifter Beck, is upon us, and with it come an avalanche of reviews from wildly differing publications. Yet it fell to Drowned In Sound to give us a rare preview review of the album, about a month ago, where, having attended an XL Recordings listening party, Sean Adams heaped praise upon it. Just this morning, I drove over to Pitchfork to read their review of the same album (in which they awarded it a 7.0 score, giving it some decent justification), and now, this evening, turning to Drowned In Sound on a whim, in actual fact looking for another review of Mercury, which I’ve already approached with a smile earlier on this evening, what should I find but another review of Modern Guilt, penned by Dan Wale.

So far, so normal. It’s perfectly fine to publish a preview, and then a review. But I advise you to read both the Pitchfork review and then the new DiS review side by side, and perhaps comment on the numerous similarities in detail and in tone between both reviews. I think someone’s got a case of cold feet.

Sorry if I sound ridiculously paranoid, but it appears that Mr. Wale has given to his readers a veritable simulacrum of the review provided by a rival publication earlier on today.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless.

Pitchfork ranked it as the second greatest album of the 1990s (no prizes for guessing what came top!), and its influence can be heard in countless albums of the post-rock and shoegazing genres. And yet, though I have been able to appreciate so many of the bands that count My Bloody Valentine as their inspiration, I’ve never really been able to connect with MBV themselves.

Thus I have decided to open my mind to Loveless one more time, to see if I can finally come to understand its genius, which has thus far eluded me. I really do hope I can love it, if only so that I won’t feel so guilty enjoying other, even more noisy, reverb-drenched stuff.

When I do decide to give it another go, I’ve also decided to ‘liveblog’ my experiences of it, here on the blog, which should be fun. I dare say that it won’t quite achieve the fame or reputation of this particular liveblog series, but, still, what with MBV setting out on their reunion tour as we speak, it should be a timely occasion for me to approach such an influential work.

Field Music – Tones of Town.

I’m not sure about the current whereabouts of Sunderland’s Field Music, but I am comprehensively certain that they don’t get nearly enough praise for their blend of Beach Boys-style harmony and diverse instrumentation; Wire-esque post-punk; and a dusting of Steely Dan studio perfectionism. They just about ambled onto the scene in 2005 with an eponymous debut but, for me, their creative peak was definitely to be found on last year’s follow-up LP, Tones of Town. Continue reading

Mercury Prize.

Last year, the shortlist for the Mercury Prize was announced on the 17th of July, suggesting that in just under a month’s time, this year’s shortlist is sure to make an appearance. My interest in the Prize waxes and wanes, depending on the shortlist: all too often the judges fall back on lowest-common-denominator material such as, on last year’s shortlist, the thoroughly boring Hats off to the Buskers by The View, along with every Coldplay album ever. My experiences of the winning albums have also been something of a mixed bag: in 2006, Arctic Monkeys won with their debut, ahead of (in my opinion) more worthy albums from Muse and Guillemots; conversely, last year, Klaxons won the prize ahead of Arctic Monkeys, who had since returned with the infinitely superior Favourite Worst Nightmare.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubting the Prize’s ability to – overnight, frequently – thrust a struggling yet talented artist into the limelight, thus ensuring a short-term boost in sales. Elsewhere in its history, the nominees and winners have definitely caused me to further investigate a particular artist, as in the case of Antony and the Johnsons in 2005 (who won), and Richard Hawley in 2006 (who didn’t).

Though I have no fear in saying that British music is at an all time nadir, it is with some optimism that I would suggest the past twelve months have seen signs of a resurgence among our more experimental and esoteric, risk-taking artists, and I really hope the judges take a careful look at such albums when making their decisions this year. Though I doubt my selections will bear any relation to the real shortlist, here are some British albums that have been released since last August (the usual cut-off point) that I feel the judges would be loath to ignore: Continue reading

25 Albums of 2007.

I do realise that we are half-way through 2008, but, still, I thought it worth mentioning, if only to elucidate anyone of my personal preferences. And, with the nominations for the 2008 Mercury Prize surely but a month or two away, it’s worth recounting some of the albums from the latter half of last year that may be eligible for this year’s award.

In alphabetical order:
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
Battles – Mirrored
Bloc Party – A Weekend In The City
Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Burial – Untrue
Deerhunter – Cryptograms
Dizzee Rascal – Maths + English
Field Music – Tones of Town
The Good, The Bad & The Queen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Interpol – Our Love To Admire
KanYe West – Graduation
Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
LCD Soundsystem – 45:33
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Low – Drums And Guns
M.I.A. – Kala
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
The National – Boxer
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Prinzhorn Dance School – Prinzhorn Dance School
Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
Radiohead – In Rainbows
The Shins – Wincing The Night Away Continue reading