Tag Archive for 'London'

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #3. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

scaredy rabbits make good paper ghosts

scaredy rabbits make good paper ghosts

In reading through the lyrics of The Haunted Man in the liner notes, I noticed that there are a lot of exclamation points. “Thank god I’m alive!” “Let the perfume drip, let it rise!” “I’m in bloom! Oh yeah!” “Baby throw your head back! Let your hair down!” “And we’re only but a second away!” “And the headiness howls, rise and rise!” In a way, this sums up the album.

Some of Khan’s earlier records (also amazing) are more dreamy, goth, fanciful than this one. The Haunted Man feels more real and earthy: nature lurks in most of the songs, sex in others, little bits of the haunted past here and there, the beats pulse and thrive, and above all, it feels alive. That’s her exclamation here, song after song. This is what it feels like to be alive.

The title implies some sort of haunted feeling, the album cover makes that explicit: the weight of someone else on your shoulders. But instead of feeling the burden, it makes her exclaim.

Bat For Lahes “All Your Gold”

Bat For Lashes “A Wall”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #14. Jessie Ware – Devotion

Devotion

maybe in our wildest moments

Mmm

Jessie Ware “No To Love”

Jessie Ware “Wildest Moments”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #16. Ultraísta – Ultraísta

xxxxx

strange formula

Ultraísta is a band formed by Radiohead’s producer, Nigel Godrich, partnering with Joey Waronker, Beck & Thom Yorke’s drummer. They “discovered” a singer named Laura Bettinson and this is their first album. The music is based around Waronker’s groovy krautrock-type beats, the steady repetitive rhythm. On top, Godrich washes it all with keyboards and effects, and Bettinson voice drifts in and out of it all.

There is a slight feeling that the music/atmosphere takes precedent over the songs, but I think that will reverse as they grow together. This is not just a Godrich sound experiment.

I was looking over my list here, and I realized there are not a lot of bands on it, both up to this point and what’s to come. This year was highlighted by solo artists and projects with one main leader. Ultraísta is one of the few that is a real band/collaboration. Godrich may overwhelm due to his name as a legendary producer, but this isn’t going anywhere without what Waronker and Bettinson mix in.

Ultraísta “Our Song”

Ultraísta “Gold Dayzz”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2011 – #4. The Kills – Blood Pressures

Blood Pressures

fate with a single blow has custard pied me now

A couple of albums ago, I mentioned how there were few albums I listened to more than The War On Drugs’ Slave Ambient this year. The Kills’ Blood Pressures probably got my most plays. There was a 2-3 month period earlier this year where I was working 14-15 hour days, 7 days a week. I took to playing Blood Pressures on my headphones every evening at full blast for a nightly jolt of rock energy, to get me through the last few sleepy hours of work.

So I have probably ranked it higher than it should, but I cannot deny–when I look back at the music of 2011, this was one of the defining albums for me. The album was perfect for that energy jolt. Even now, when I’m in that mood, I can play it in the car, and the windows start rattling and it’s AWESOME. Their loud choppy guitar riffs are infectious, the window-rattling lower end and relentless drums are exciting, and Alison Mosshart does the highwire seductive roar better than anybody around.

The songs are usually built around meaningless phrases: “the heart is a beating drum,” “loneliness never truly leaves me alone,” “it’s not the door you’re using, but the way you’re walking through it.” They really do not mean much, but they sound good, loud. They’re simple and effective and with just the right touch of power. “I can’t find enough pots and pans / let alone knives in my kitchen / To keep you cooking” — I mean, only the rockingest rock stars could get away with rocking lines like that, right? “Could be a nail in my coffin / and Lord knows I ain’t ready yet!” Alison Mosshart sings on “Nail In My Coffin.” It pretty much sums up most of the songs–a mix of frustration and temptation and whatever else raises your blood pressure.

The songs aren’t all relentless. Songs like “Satellite” show off their ability to weave some uplifting gospel choruses into their rock and roll. Usually these moments are wordless, and short, but they’re there, providing nice breaks from all the intensity. Similarly, “The Last Goodbye” is a end-of-the-night closing-time piano torch song–I’m surprised it’s not the final track on the album. But since it is not, it also acts as a break between the roar of the other songs.

After The Dead Weather had my fifth favorite album of 2010, I definitely count myself as one of Mosshart’s biggest fans now. Her partnership with Hince has turned The Kills into a great band, and their electrifying Blood Pressures was one of the highlights of 2011.

The Kills “Pots And Pans”

The Kills “Satellite”

- almostaghost

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 14/18)

Artist: Shawn Lee

Title: Sing A Song

Label: Ubiquity Records

Country: UK&US

Genre: Neo Funk, Soul, Do Whop

Date: 7-20- 10

Shawn Lee- Sing A Long

Fun tickles a ear

Dance in steps of joy and smiles

Summer is endless

Swimming Pool

- Btrxz

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #8. Goldfrapp – Head First

Goldfrapp - Head First

shiny and warm

#8. Goldfrapp – Head First

Head First is yet another addictive album from Goldfrapp. Their string of records is getting pretty impressive! I find that when I listen to them, I end up listening to them a ton. And sometimes when I do that with other artists, by the time I’m done, I’m thinking, “that’s enough, I’m sick of this artist now.” But with Goldfrapp, I get hooked, and keep wanting to listen to more. Head First is no exception!

While their last album, Seventh Tree, was pretty chill, and showed off the sometimes-strange creativity of their songs, Head First leans back to Black Cherry or Supernature. It is energetic and bubbly, but with their occasional slight touches of darkness or menace. That’s not to say they are repeating themselves. Most press about Head First notes the heavy ’80s influence of the album, mainly in the sound of the keyboards/synthesizers. That is true, but misses some of the subtlety of what they are doing. Jazzercising to it would hardly be out of place, though, that’s for sure.

On “Dreaming,” for example, all the sounds and layers of synthesizers are there to enhance the chorus. Everything is there for that moment: “I, I am only dreaming…” Similarly, “Alive” hangs there, revving up, until the chorus soars in, “feeling alive again!” This is what Goldfrapp does in all their best songs of the past (from “Strict Machine” to “Oh La La” to name two), dropping razor sharp choruses into a relentless groove. They continue to do that on Head First, continue to do that better than anyone.

One new angle on Head First is that Alison Goldfrapp is singing fairly straightforward love songs. In the past, she used a lot of sexy innuendo and surreal language; here, she is using her seductive voice to sing of clearer and more immediate feelings. For instance, on “Shiny And Warm,” she is anxious: “shiny and warm / head in a storm / I’m driving home to you.” She sounds pretty exhilarated, and it’s pretty clear what will happen when she gets home (“you’ll play with my cheek / whisper something in the dawn”). She recognizes sometimes that the feelings might be a dream or temporary. On the title track, she sings “I am your visitor / I’m on the other side of your world.” She’ll deal with that later, but for now she’s “head first in love.” This immediacy certainly makes Head First one of the more romantic albums of 2010.

Goldfrapp “Dreaming”

Goldfrapp “Head First”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #10. M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\

MAYA

down like your internet connection

#10. M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\

Initially, I was confused by /\/\ /\ Y /\. My favorite aspects of M.I.A.’s earlier albums, Kala and Arular, seemed to have been stripped away: the international politics, the world music beats. Do I want to hear M.I.A. using Autotune? Singing about how much tequila she drinks? A song like “XXXO” sounded very much like pure pop music, and I could easily hear a Christina Aguilera or someone singing it. Is this what I really wanted from M.I.A.? But a funny thing happened, even with this initial hesitation. I couldn’t stop listening to it.

The hidden aspects of many of the songs began to reveal themselves. Take the aforementioned “XXXO” which is ostensibly about a hookup. The chorus begins with, “you want me / XXXO” but is followed with the real chorus, “you want me to be somebody who I’m really not.” It is not the mindless situation it may appear at first. Similarly, at first I found “Teqkilla” despicable. But once I got around the the pun-filled lyrics about alcohol, I found it blown to bits by an insanely wild electro-jam. The end of the song is totally drunk on sounds and beats, and is completely awesome. Once I started to get into this song, the whole album started to click. If you start looking into the hearts of the songs, M.I.A.’s intelligence, creativity and lo-fi experimentation are still at their prime. The utterly bizarre echo-y gospel beat of “Tell Me Why,” the rock guitar back-to-back of “Born Free” and “Meds And Feds,” the trippy groove on “Story To Be Told”–they all started to work as clever, catchy tracks. (I still don’t like the Autotune though.)

And while /\/\ /\ Y /\ isn’t as explicitly political as her other albums could be, it does reveal itself too with more familiarity. Many of the songs are about freedom, never being caught. Instead of world politics, M.I.A. is focused on the politics of being an artist. (But it works as an analogy to the world too.) On “Lovalot,” she starts, “I feel cooped up / I wanna bust free / Got nothin’ to lose if you get me.” Later on “Space,” she sings that “gravity is my enemy” as she’s flying around in space odyssey (“I’m ahead of time so you’ll never lose me”). Is she staying one step ahead of expectations? Of authority? She’s out “living on the edge,” which is where the fight is, where the freedom is. It’s a great place for an artist to be.

So in the end, I consider /\/\ /\ Y /\ a great album. It is not showing up on many end-of-the-year lists that I’ve seen, and I reckon in the future it will continue to be overlooked, forgotten. Heck, I’m probably underrating it myself, even at #10 on my list. It is something that I will keep listening to, more and more. It’s not Kala, but it’s not trying to be.

M.I.A. – “Story To Be Told”

M.I.A. – “Teqkilla”

and for fun, here’s a great song M.I.A. threw on the web, after she got in a little pseudo-controversy with a journalist who wrote a less-than-flattering profile about her.

M.I.A. – “Haters”

- almostaghost

‘And This is My Lovely Friend Amanda’: The Tallest Man on Earth & Alessi’s Ark 15 March 2010, Bush Hall

This was my first show at Bush Hall, and had I not been walking with someone who knew where we were going, I probably would have walked past the entrance. Past innumerable hair shops (and a really good pub) on Uxbridge Road was the modest doorway into Bush Hall.

We got in and weaved through a portion of the crowd that filled up Bush Hall, a spacious yet intimate room with lovely Rococo ceiling detail. It got quite warm in the hall, given the full audience and the apparent lack of ventilation.

Alessi’s Ark started her performance with her friend on backing guitar. Alessi Laurent-Marke gave a lovely performance, despite the ceaseless chatter among the audience–mostly towards the back–which I thought was a bit unfortunate. The music of Alessi’s Ark is very darling, filled with a shy and earnest charm. She’s opening for Laura Marling on at least a couple shows next month in the UK, so if you haven’t had a chance to do so, and you like your indie folk feminine with a heavy dose of wide-eyed wonder, you may enjoy her.

Because I was having difficulty seeing Alessi perform during her act, in-between acts the suggestion was put forth to move up closer, since I’m such a shorty. Bush Hall is very flat. There was a balcony/mezzanine area towards the back of the hall, but already my companion and I were in the thick of the hot crowd, so the only way forward was to move forward, which we did until the crowd didn’t seem to allow us to go any further. There was seriously a gigantic beanstalk next to where I was standing, and I was utterly paranoid he was going to somehow wind up standing in front of me, but luckily, this was not so.

Kristian Matsson sauntered onto the stage, giving a sort of suspicious pirate glare at the crowd as he swigged from his bottle of beer. It was quite an entrance that seemed to have a lot more bravado than when I had seen him in Orlando last year opening for John Vanderslice. I think it was quite amusing.

So, the performance was quite lively and fantastic, punctuated by moments when Matsson would talk to the crowd. At one point, a man in the crowd shouted ‘I love you!’ to the performer. Everything stopped, and you can see Matsson’s face twist into this serious, stern facade as he slowly approached the microphone and asked, ‘What?’ It was comical, but what was interesting about these moments is that you never really knew if Matsson was joking with the crowd, or if he really acted this peculiar way, or if this is him being The Tallest Man on Earth.

I’ve been asked by friends unfamiliar with Kristian Matsson, so I will say no, he is not really very tall. I don’t think he reaches up to 6 ft, but his performances–the way he moves so kinetically to the point where at times he seems to nearly be trying to shake out of his skin–are very big.

Because the staff at Bush Hall did not make me check my camera at the door, I was able to take a few shots of The Tallest Man on Earth. I didn’t take very many, as I normally only like taking a very small handful of photos at an event, because I don’t wish to bother other people around me with the clicking of a camera, and also I because I came to a show to enjoy the performance. A few photos, then I’m done. The performance from The Tallest Man on Earth was definitely interesting and enjoyable, and he will be coming back to London on the 9th of June, and during the performance at Bush Hall, he said, ‘You know what? Next time, I’m gonna bring the banjo! Yeah.’

So yeah, they may get the banjo over at the Tabernacle in June, but we got to meet, in a way, Matsson’s ‘lovely friend Amanda,’ a young woman who did a duet with him on stage, which was quite a treat unless you were a young woman in the audience (or man, for that matter, like the guy who yelled out earlier) who was smitten with The Tallest Man on Earth. Heartbreak rippled through the crowd, as Matsson and Lovely Friend Amanda squeezed close to a lone microphone, or at least so it went in my imagination. Still, it was quite a performance, with a stunning final song that may be from his new album, which is something definitely to be excited about.

- quitepeculiar

Frightened Rabbit at Camden’s Koko (aka Will the Bar Staff Please Stop Giving These People Next To Me Alcohol?)

I went to go see Frightened Rabbit at Koko in Camden Town, and I was quite excited. However, this excitement was a bit dampened as the night wore on, and I shall explain in this little tale I shall tell.

First, may I say how puzzling it was to be forced to check my camera at the coat check and pay £2 to do so when I later saw loads of people running around and clicking away with their little pocket cams?

This was my first visit to Koko, and the interior of the space is lovely. Originally opened as the Camden Theatre and subject to a number of name changes since, the space has featured such famous names as Charlie Chaplin, The Sex Pistols and Madonna. It was a lovely space, but I was told by two separate people to get there early and to get a good spot in order to ensure I could see the stage. After paying over £4 for a lager (that I subsequently nursed through the two opening bands), I had a look around and plotted. After going to one part of the club only to find that the intended perch was roped off, I retreated back near the main bar area and planted myself against the railing with a good view of the stage, although a bit far, so I couldn’t see the finer details of things, which is just as well.

The first opening band was from Iceland, and I can’t remember their name, which again may be just as well. They began to play, and they were quite enthusiastic but… something seemed a bit amiss to me. It wasn’t their bassoon player, which is an instrument one doesn’t see very often at shows. After the fourth or fifth song, I realised: These guys remind me of Dave Matthews Band. Seriously, it was that type of earnest-but-really-bland music that seemed really out of place.

Upon this realisation, I started amusing myself in counting how many plaid shirts/dresses I could find in the audience. Because of where I was, I had a good view of everyone in the pit before the stage, as well as in the layer of Koko that was the entrance level. The highest number I got was 14.

The next opening band, Airship, was a bit better, thankfully. They were all right, despite looking a bit too hip. The music was actually pretty good, but the boys at the instruments all looked slightly a bit too pretty, like they all were variations of the typical skinny indie boy one could find in a number of metropolitan areas. Still, that being said, their set was pretty good.

During their set, the couple next to me were beginning to progress into hooliganism, with periodic heckles and drunken hoots. After the Airship set, especially during the long setting-up process for Frightened Rabbit’s sound check, the two were beginning to be a bit unruly. And god, that woman’s laugh was easily in the Top 20 Most Annoying Laughs in London. She sounded like she had some high-pitched evil anime laugh going on. “Oh-ho-ho-ho!”

Right, so Frightened Rabbit came on, amid cheers and hoots and shouts and whistles. If you want set lists, I’m not the person for you, because I wasn’t taking notes, and I was periodically distracted by wishing physical harm upon the couple next to me. Actually, it turned out I wasn’t the only one, because after about three songs I think an irate man gave the both of them a bit of a talking-to, and the next thing I knew, they left the spot next to me for some other place far away.

I will tell you that Frightened Rabbit seem to be a band to see in a more intimate setting. Before moving to London, I had found out that they were playing at The Social in Orlando, an area probably a third the size of Koko, and that just seems right. They produce a type of intimate, heart-yanking music that is just difficult to expand into a large performance. At one point in the evening, Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, attempted to sing to the audience without the aid of a microphone or amp for his guitar, and despite the shushings from the audience, he was sadly inaudible, and he eventually said, “Aw, fuck it,” and went back to the mic.

Someone else on Last.fm commented that the show was disappointing, but I don’t think I was disappointed with Frightened Rabbit’s performance. I just think a number of factors aggravated what was otherwise a good show. Some of them were very personal for me, such as having to surrender my camera, dealing with the couple that was next to me for a good while and the fact I’m a cheap bastard who will complain about £4 lager. But there were other things, like the sound quality wasn’t very clear for any of the bands playing that night. And did anyone else see those women to the side of the stage? Were they Frightened Rabbit groupies? Frightened Rabbit has groupies? Frightened Rabbit has somewhat skeezy groupies?

Hmm.

All in all, though it wasn’t an ideal show, it was still a good show. Although they didn’t play one or two of my favourite songs of theirs, I still gasped in excitement a few times upon hearing the opening notes to other songs, such as “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” off their new album,The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, or “The Twist” off The Midnight Organ Fight. So, in the end, I was fairly satisfied at the end of the night as I stood in the queue to pick up my verboten camera and my coat and picked up a copy of The Winter of Mixed Drinks.

It was cold as I waited for the 29 at Mornington Crescent Station to whisk me off through the earlier part of a late night. Once Unknown Pleasures finished on my iPod, I set it to play Sing The Greys to get an extra Frightened Rabbit fix for the evening.

Frightened Rabbit

- quitepeculiar