Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sam Amidon - I See The Sign

I first became aware of Sam Amidon shortly after a break-up with my girlfriend. His 2008 album 'All Is Well' seemed revolutionary to me, containing folk sensibilities with Amidon wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout the release and it was something I found myself relating to and continuously listening to as a form of therapy more than anything. Times have moved on and I no longer need Amidons counselling but all the same, I am eager to hear how he has moved on with his new album 'I See The Sign'.

From the off, it's clear the this isn't going to be a reworking of 'All Is Well'. Opening track 'How Come That Blood' is full of bass and violins drifting in and out as Amidon sings in his usually folk alt country way, it isn't as emotional and memorable as I have come to expect but at the same time, it is a change of direction that should be admired and musically, it is more interesting and different than Amidons previous work. 'Way Go, Lily' is more Amidon as we know him, simple guitar melodies and simple song structures done effectively and beautifully with layered orchestral instruments creating the highlight as Amidons subdued and repetitive vocals really make you listen to every lyric. 'You Better Mind' is a folk single if I have ever heard one with Amidons deep vocals harmonised by the soulful Laura Marling-esque female vocals as the catchy guitar line keeps the song steady and violins slowly rise up to engulf you, if you want to hear a track that will make you want to listen to the rest of the album, this is probably it. 'Rain And Sorrow' does pretty much exactly what you would imagine it would from the title, slow and haunting, the cracks in Amidons vocals sending shivers up your spine as he sings "I'm not going to be treated this way" before the drums come in and swiftly drop out to allow space for the minimal piano melody. Lyrically it is a story of pain and struggles and you can really feel it throughout the whole song. 'Climbing High Mountains', another standout track, is a simple campfire sing-a-long song with lyrics that stick in your head until the sun comes up, "I'm climbing mountains, trying to get home".

On the whole, this release is a great start for my 2010. Initially, on first listen, I was utterly depressed, wondering why artists who I adore have to follow up great albums with average ones but after the third listen, the album starts to sit more comfortably with your ears and you embrace it for how different it is to 'All Is Well' rather than slating it because it isn't that album. With all albums there are weak points and this one is no different, some people won't agree with the vocal tone of Amidon and that hasn't changed so much on this release, plus, if you don't like more subtle folk music, then you won't like this album either. That aside, this album is great and it would be difficult not to put Amidon in folks forerunners, at least for this year.

4 / 5

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Jud Vandy - Children Lost In Fantasy Part 1

The artwork for Jud Vandys 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part 1' is bright yet bleak and abstract which portrays the contents of the album perfectly. Opening track 'Edison Fair' is a rousing and aggressive start driven by marching drums, distortion seething in and out while the guitars make a devilish impact on the track with the use of alternative tunings and tones often making it sound much akin to an emergency alarm. Melody is supplied in the form of Vandys original vocals and synth use giving the song its personality. 'Small Town Claustrophobia' opens sounding like Pelican or Isis with its dirty distorted riff surprising you after the melodic 'Silhouette of An Ending'. It keeps you on your toes by cutting between this memorable riff and a beautiful guitar melody as Vandys floating vocals provide the glue that stick the piece together. 'Liquid Night' is eclectic, emotional and mysterious, driven by its quirky slide bassline it becomes more memorable as Mella Cottons haunting vocals bring chills to the your spine in the chorus offering something different in tone than Vandys has previously on the song. 'Please Please (Winter Song)', the stand-out track for me, starts beautifully with guitar harmonics before it explodes driven by a stuttering drum beat behind melodically dirty guitars as Vandy begs "Please please...". What really makes this song stand out for me however, is the mid section of the track, where everything drops away into a beautiful quiet moment only for you to be surprised by the huge evil metal sounding guitar riff which on the whole is something that I would expect a band like Deftones to come up with.

'Children Lost In Fantasy Part 1' is an adventurous piece of art that continuously keeps you on your toes, touching on several genres including post-rock, metal and even folk. Its attractiveness lies on how eclectic it is, happy to flirt with both beautiful and dark melodies and even more happy to move from slow to upbeat tempos which works incredibly well from the downbeat and quiet 'Hey You' to the dirty and angry guitar riffs on 'Please Please (Winter Song)'. Considering Jud Vandy is an unsigned artist and recorded everything on a home computer, you have to at least hope that he can gain some form of career in the music industry from this because everything from the CD digipack to the musicianship and production on the album is really something to write home about and people should definitely be opening their ears to this album.

4 / 5

Monday, 18 January 2010

Josiah Wolf - Jet Lag

'Jet Lag' comes from Josiah Wolf, both the brother and fellow member of Yoni Wolf and their band WHY?(Who?).

From the offset it is obvious that we are dealing with a style of music that could only have been influenced by Leonard Cohen. Full of rich tones, multi instrumentalist Wolf is more than happy to show off his talent with each instrumental melody but never venturing into the dark realms of showboating, more than happy to let the music breathe and allow Wolfs fragile and flawed Conor Oberst like poetic vocals.

It all starts in rousing fashion with the drum driven 'The Trailer And The Truck', its xylophone melodies being beaten beautifully with machine gun drumming and frantic guitar playing as Wolfs deep haunting vocals lie baron in the background akin to the much acclaimed Devotchka.

Lyrically, the themes are bleak with Wolf seemingly venting his frustration after the failure of an eleven year old relationship on songs like 'The Apart Meant' with lyrics such as "And my apartment smells like divorce" and also on 'Master Cleanse (California)' where Wolf woefully questions what California has done to him on the beautifully understand chorus.

Wolfs weak depressing vocals often have the effect of making an already sad song sound even more desperately depressing and if you are a fan of happy music, it is my advice not to venture here because despite the often uplifting use of instruments and melody, Wolf seems happy to sit next to the likes of Cohen in making downbeat music vocally.

'Jet Lag' is a promising album from an artist who will more than likely create something better in the future. While 'The Trailer And The Truck' is uplifting and energetic, everything else after slowly becomes the same tempo and offers nothing new in terms of sound. This brings out the worst in Wolfs vocals, with them lying somewhere between Willy Mason and The Moldy Peaches but in a badly out of tune and dull way. Luckily for Josiah Wolf, it is easy to see the talent in 'Jet Lag' and that will carry him through onto further releases, which if there is an improvement, will be well worth checking out.

2.5 / 5

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Nedry - Condors

Monotreme Records, a label that have always been happy to impress me with their choice of acts. Never eager to sign mainstream artists to make a quick buck, they seem more than happy to release music that they can see the talent in and acts that they have nurtured into more well known musicians. You only have to mention 65daysofstatic these days and you see people open their mouths with excitement and a following comment of 'Yeah they are amazing!', not to mention Jeniferever, a band I absolutely adore, who were recently snapped up by Monotreme to record and release their most beautiful and awe inspiring work to date in 'Spring Tides'. Both acts that have only gained in popularity through their releases on Monotreme.

It seems fit then that Nedry would release their debut album 'Condors' on Monotreme. A record that is eager to show the trios versatility in moving from an Ableton friendly Four Tet sound into territory that 65daysofstatic happily own and finally drifting into Portishead and early Goldfrapp meadows. Opening track 'A42' tells you exactly what to expect from Nedry with its introduction of fast glitchy beats and dirty bass sounds but constantly allowing room for melody with the slightly hidden in the mix melodic guitar and synth work while vocalist Ayu allows her haunting Bjork-esque vocals to darken the track even more so. This isn't memorable or even mainstream listening for the most part, aside from the stupidly named 'Squid Cat Battle' that has a bass sample and vocal melody that managed to put Goldfrapp in the limelight and there is no reason why it couldn't help Nedry to do the same but it is hugely endearing. 'Scattered' is probably the reason why Monotreme Records signed Nedry and it will most definitely win people over when Nedry support 65daysofstatic on their next tour as it is exactly what we would expect from the vocal-less rockers: heavy guitars and glitchy drumming sometimes making way for melodic guitar work but rarely letting go of any intensity and despite the lack of vocals on 'Scattered', it is a harrowing listen. 'Condors' is very much in the ilk of Battles. At times, you really don't know what is going on or how people could create something like this but you can't help but like it all the same, while 'Swan Ocean' and 'Where The Dead Birds Go' seem to merely exist as to tie the record up into a satisfyingly bleak ending.

As I will be watching Nedry support 65daysofstatic in May, I am intrigued as to how well the trio can make the album work on a stage. 'Condors' isn't without its faults, I can't see myself coming back to it every day, addicted and just wanting one more listen but I can appreciate that this is one of the better debut albums I've heard since my reviewing started in 2008 and for that alone, I have to recommend Nedry and their trip-hop electronica weirdness.