Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rage Roundup – @ 4 July '8

There's been a fair number of nice new clips come out over the past few weeks. Maybe I need to be more regular with my rage posts, in future – there's 16 songs here! This post is huge! But it's all well worth reading, I promise.
Anyhow, here's the jig.

(NB, however: I'm not going to comment on Little Red's new single "Witchdoctor", I think I'm probably kind of  biased when it comes to those guys. But they had a cover story in The Age's EG section the other day, so they don't need anything from me. Suffice it to say that their new album Listen To Little Red is awesome, so go and buy it already. In brief: Little Red are superb. (As are The Hondas, but don't tell anyone about that little side-project – it's almost like a secret, that one...)

Hey look, naked people. Isn't it interesting that nakedness stops being sexy when it's everywhere? And that complete nudity is less erotic than partial nudity? As for the song itself, it seems to be a bit of a departure for Sigur Ros: a lot brighter & more uptempo than the ethereal glacierscapes they're best known for. It's a good song, with a fun rhythm and some interesting vocal work. The feel of the song is perhaps a little samey overall, but it's only three minutes long, so do we care? (Answer: probably not).

I found this really intriguing. It's an instrumental – an interesting mix of unnatural synth sounds and squelchy electric guitar, with aggressive (non-synth) percussion underneath. It's not a sonic blend that you hear a lot of (although it's kind of like Battles, I guess), but it's a great sound. Pivot here have a compelling & original feel that avoids the "feels-like-80s-fusion" pit of doom, unlike so many other instrumental groups. The structure and the dynamics of this song are excellent: it maintains great intensity without ever being monotonous. The clip is a nice & creepy stop-motion animation, too. It's a cheaper video than it deserves, but it's still good. Overall: well worth some attention, I think.

From the opening riff, I thought it was going to be yet another plodding 80s retread, but this song surprised me. Although the production is all crappy-80s-power-ballad, Faker prove their chops here by unexpectedly transforming the song into an actually-very-good-80s-power-ballad. There's a genuine grandeur and depth to the whole thing. Somehow, Faker's conviction (and songcraft) overwhelmed my inherent prejudices against faux-80s production, which is no mean feat. They still sound a lot like an indie band angling for commercial radio play, but at least they're doing it well. Good stuff.

I read somewhere that these guys had been disparaged as "like Animal Collective playing Queen covers", which Yeasayer themselves thought sounded like a compliment. You know what? It does sound like a compliment. It's probably sort of accurate, too. Their sound is dense and eclectic, but never at the expense of clarity or musicality. The tune is catchy; the vocal interplay is interesting & quite neat, too. I don't think the clip is as clever or "meaningful" as it thinks it is, but the music is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Even better than their last (ie, first) single. That's because it's a better song: this time, the arrangement is dynamic enough to keep the music from ever seeming too monotonous or derivative. It is derivative, of course, but it's derivative of a style that's never really been explored in depth (or indeed much at all, since the 60s), so that's cool. Ultimately, it's just a really well-written song. The harmonic progression of the chorus is powerfully melancholic, but the rhythm never drags – the interplay of sadness and triumph is wonderfully ambiguous. It's a great melody, and the music as a whole feels genuinely beautiful. The first single didn't sell me their album, but this song just might.

Another driving, punchy, punkish slice of rock – a real locomotive of a track, and it's great. The only other single of theirs that I've seen around, "We Are Amphibious", played almost like a novelty song; this is definitely something else. More sincere, but also better. There's still a nice line of vicious humour underpinning the lyrics, too. Unfortunately, the clip is pretty uninspired; but it does have an explosion and some stuff being set on fire, so it's not a total loss.

Lots of clips have done the "long continuous tracking shot while crazy stuff happens" thing, but this is still an excellent example of the genre. It's a great song, too. The video clip version suffers from "f-ck" censorship of the audio – it's like the song has a stutter – but the damage isn't as bad as it might be. This is probably the song that tipped me over the edge towards actually buying Vampire Weekend's album, and I'm glad I did. It's not a work of genius, but it's very unique, which is almost as good. Catchy songs played well, fun lyrics that aren't what you expect – what more do you want? They may be a bunch of spoilt NY preppies, but so were The Strokes; nobody's perfect.

I've talked about Ladyhawke in the past, but on the other hand practically no-one knows that this blog exists. No harm in a little repetition, then. I don't think this particular track is quite as good as a couple of her others floating around, but it's still very good. If she can produce an album to match her best work, I'll tell you now: it will be awesome

Look, "British India" is a great band name and all, but I just don't see where these guys are getting all their local success from. To me, it just sounds like the same old pseudo-emo-rock crap; the singer's voice is gratingly monotonous, the songs are uninspired, their haircuts & outfits are only average. What's up, fellows? I just don't get it.
On the other hand, I guess they're not really all that successful, yet... so prove me wrong, guys.

So the record company let them keep "Black Kids" as their name? Seriously? Like, maybe they thought it would give them an "edge", or something? If they're trying to distract me from their music, it isn't working as well as I'd like it to. It's a nice enough indiepop tune, but it just feels too much like a crappy ripoff of Operator Please, and OP aren't exactly perfect to begin with. Black Kids' myspace claims that they're from Florida, but that might be a lie – here they sound as English as a damp crumpet. A crumpet that gets the kids dancing with abandon on Top Of The Pops, mind you. The band all seem to be extremely young, too; so they're probably bound to do well for a little while, before a) evolving into something less twee and not so embarrassingly earnest, or b) breaking up and going off to university.

That's The Horror The Horror, not to be confused with The Horrors. This is a great video – extremely no-budget, and the image-and-sound editing isn't flawless, but it's full of great ideas.
The robot dance! Handclaps! Bright colours! Seriously, it's well done. Good music, too; an interesting sonic mash, almost Britpop but more contemporary, yet with a feel that's a bit 70s punk-lite – almost like The Knack, maybe? There's no immediately obvious influence to reduce it to, which is a worthy quality in itself. It's a good song; I thought the bass riffs and the insistent guitars were irresistible. The breakdown at the end is especially fun – there's even something of a guitar solo! Very neat.

Fantastic clip concept – a continuous pastiche of all those 1980s animated production company promos that played at the beginning of a film or at the end of a tv show. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the clip for a minute). It's a classic & underused style of animation – great fun to watch, and a clever visual hook for nostalgic 80s kids. It also distracts from the fact that while the music is a pretty decent piece of electrish dance, there's not that much to it as a pop song. But it's fun, well-produced and better than most slices of the genre, so thumbs up.

This took a while to grow on me – it's so damn mellow – but gosh, she has a lovely voice. I've grown to think that the song is ultimately a real nice one, too. It's cleverly arranged, and it progresses in unexpected directions despite the classic feel of the changes. It feels like lounge indie, or something; it's in an unusual place, somewhere between Feist, Cat Power and Antony. She's wearing a silly helmet in the video, but who wouldn't?

This is a pretty decent pop tune, but the up-&-down chromatic verse riff sure sounds like a total ripoff of "Like A Feather", that Nikka Costa single (you know, from... holy cow... from way back in 2001, actually; Vanessa Hudgens was only 12 years old at the time). It's a pretty basic riff, so it's not a huge creative deal, but... ah, who cares, this song is distinct enough aside from that. I also like the fact that the repetitive singalong line of the chorus here is "basically what we're gonna do is dance". In a pop song, that's a pretty funny line. And the lyrics promote responsible footwear, which is nice. And the singer apparently has the moxie to attempt a pop career without losing a surname as clunky as "Hudgens", so good on her. Oh wait, she's from that High School Musical thing, so she's already famous. Youth of today, what's up with yr pop? etc.

Summertime – New Kids On The Block
Just in case you wanted to see a boy band made up of guys in their 30s. It would be easy to be instantly judgmental – "oh ha ha this is so shit", without even listening to it – but that doesn't matter. Because the truth is, this IS pretty terrible. Or, in other words: this is TERRIBLE. And you should feel comfortable taking my word for that.

That's a bit of a downer to end on. Let's cheer ourselves back up with some Little Red, okay?

-the Musical Thoapsl

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