Yet again, I find myself apologising for a dire amount of writing. This week I have a valid reason: I had to revise for an exam. Luckily, the exam has been dealt with and I can get back to writing. That is until I think up another excuse to distract everyone from my writer’s block.
This week’s new band is called Elephant Parade. They are an indie-pop duo (Estelle and Ido) from New York and have been kicking around since 2005. I stumbled upon them while searching through Slow Club tracks on YouTube. The first song I heard was ‘Goodbye’; 1:33 minutes of simplistic beauty. Right from the start, I was entranced by the minimalist synths and Estelle’s delicate vocals. In most of the songs I have heard, their voices are almost a murmur; there is a peacefulness to them that is not normally found in the music I listen to.
I have started to clear the metaphorical pile of albums I need to review, but it seems to grow faster than I can write. I will probably only be able to write two posts a week from now on; I haven’t got much time to write due to school work and other boring commitments.
This week’s new band is called Born Blonde, they are a five-peice indie band from London and will be releasing their next single, ‘I Just Wanna Be’, next month. It is a combination of guitars and synths, with an addictive chorus and lyrics that get stuck in your head. I wasn’t massively keen on it when I first listened to it, but after I had listened to it a few times, I realised it was pretty great.
Lana Del Rey has grown a lot from very little in a short space of time; Lizzie Grant was almost unknown, but now her new persona has gone on to release a debut album that topped the charts in seven countries. Del Rey’s first single, ‘Video Games’, has a deep and meaningful feeling, her voice is gritty and emotional and is simply backed by a piano and strings, leaving the vocals to generate the song’s power. Unfortunately, the rest of ‘Born To Die’ doesn’t follow suit.
Although the album opens on a relativity high point with the title track, it progresses downhill quickly after that. It seems like the only subjects covered are money and men, and while the lyrics may talk of love, they feel synthetic. Songs like ‘Off To The Races’ and ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ employ false-sounding girly vocals that are far from Del Rey’s contralto voice in ‘Video Games’.
‘Born To Die’ is not to my taste thus I may be the wrong person to review it. Del Rey has moved from the beautiful pop of ‘Video Games’ towards R&B and has described herself as a ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’. To me, her debut album is a massive disappointment, it’s just the story of a girl’s shallow dreams.
This week, I have struggled to find a new band. One reason for this is because I have been listening to two albums continuously: the new Beth Jeans Houghton album and the new Sharon Van Etten album, both of which I gave 9/10 in my reviews. Another reason was that I haven’t actually looked for a new band, unlike last week where I spent the best part of two days trawling through songs trying to find something that fitted my picky taste. I ended up choosing Big Scary, spending another day listening to them almost non-stop. In the end, I picked Sweet Lights as this week’s new band.
I found out about Sweet Lights when I was sent a promo of their most recent single called ‘Endless Town’. Although at first I wasn’t sure that I liked them, they have grown on me a lot. Sweet Lights is the solo project of Shai Halperin, lead singer of The Capitol Years, though other people do play on his songs. The music sounds similar to The Go-Betweens, though I wouldn’t like to say I have listened to both of them enough to be sure.
From the few songs I have heard, Sweet Light seem to produce indie-pop music, with a wealth of sounds creating the songs. The single ‘Endless Town’ is a bright song with a slightly nostalgic tone, and it is hard to resist from tapping a foot along to the drum beat. I think, but am not sure, that there will be a debut album soon, and a tour to support it. I know that Sweet Lights will be playing ‘End of the Road’ festival, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they play more than one festival this summer.
Sharon Van Etten was abused and stopped from playing music by her ex-boyfriend. Her third album, ‘Tramp’, shows her recovery from this dark history. Produced by Aaron Dessner from The National, it is an emotional portrayal of her past and raw feelings.
Although the opening song, ‘Warsaw’, summarises the album with the line “I want to be over you”, it is the awe-inspiring single ‘Serpents’ that tells the true story: “You enjoy sucking on dreams / so I will fall asleep with someone other than you”. The single also starts to show forgiveness with the lines: “Serpents in my mind trying to forgive your crimes / everyone changes in time”. For most of the album, the music is just a simple mix of a guitar and drums, yet Van Etten’s vocals bring an incredible energy to the songs, resulting in something of beauty and depth.
‘Tramp’ features some guest appearances in the songs, such as harmonies with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. The most notable of these supporting roles is in the optimistic ‘We Are Fine’, in which Zachary Condon of Beirut sings a whole verse by himself, as well as providing backing vocals. It is a cheerful song, even though it is about helping a friend through a panic attack, and it shows a feeling of hope for the future.
The name ‘Tramp’ brings words to mind that are complete opposites to those that could be used to describe the album. It is an epic ending to a chapter in life, as well as the exciting beginning to a new, brighter one. Sharon Van Etten has skilfully crafted an album that contains subtle emotion and tremendous power; it is a creation of near perfection.
With the British folk scene almost completely controlled by the Communion crowd, it is refreshing to hear something new and quirky, Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny are just that. Their name may be a mouthful to say, but their debut LP is truly magical. Driven by harmonious vocals, backed glorious yet chaotic instrumentals, ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is a great album.
Beth Jeans Houghton is different and odd, there is no denying that. From the bizarre video for ‘Sweet Tooth Bird’ to dreaming about 12-sided polyhedra in ‘Dodecahedron’, the album proves it is not ordinary. But while you can’t take it totally seriously, you can respect that the music is brilliant. Take ‘Nightswimmer’ as an example. The lyrics are about getting rather sweaty at night, but if you forget about the words’ meanings you are left with a beautiful, graceful song. Luckily, some seriousness can be found in the song ‘Humble Digs’. Starting out as a marching beat and simple piano notes, it escalates into an epic crescendo, with Houghton’s angelic vocals perfectly contrasted by a choir of deeper voices.
If you can handle its quirks, ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is an amazing album. Even though it is peculiar in name and nature, the music it contains is different in a good way. Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny may of created the best alt-folk album of 2012.
I am very sorry for the lack of posts recently; I am still at school and have had to put work before writing. I am in the process of writing new content that should be going up over the next few weeks. I also apologise for not doing a ‘This Week’s New Band’ post last week, I did start to write one, but it did not get finished in time so I just discarded it. I will try to be more reliable in the future and keep a steady stream of posts coming. Anyway, enough of me apologising and more music related scrawl.
The band that I found this week is called Big Scary. They are a duo from Melbourne and their music ranges from indie folk to a sort of garage rock. I first heard their song ‘The Apple Song’ last night and I quite liked it but wasn’t instantly won over. Then I listened to a few more songs and realised how amazing they are. They released their debut album, called Vacation, in Australia last year but it has not yet been released on iTunes so I am guessing it hasn’t been released in the UK either.
Big Scary’s music is generally indie pop though there are some rockier songs and some acoustic folk-sounding songs. I am not too keen on some songs, like ‘Tuesday is Rent Day’, but others, such as ‘Thinking About You’, are absolutely amazing. I think it is worth checking out the song ‘Microwave Pizza’ because, as well as being generally brilliant, it is the only song I have heard Jo Syme, the drummer, sing in and her voice is beautiful.