Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Coffee And TV Wreck - Better Than Your Friends

Thom Crang, the mastermind behind Cornish folk/indie act The Coffee And TV Wreck releases his latest EP, 'Better Than Your Friends' after honing his craft with two downloadable albums available via his myspace.

The five tracks on offer here, don't stray from acoustic territory, with guitar and vocals at the forefront, occassionally with group vocals, the use of tambourine and once or twice, the inclusion of a xylophone and for '44 and counting', drums. That is however, all that is needed for this lo-fi release, with the concentration on the emotion in both the lyrics and the way they are delivered.

'Trouble Adjusting', is a country sing-a-long, sparse and minimal it relies on its ability to make your head bounce from side to side with the rhythmic tambourine use and you singing along to the chorus line of "Threw all my money and my clothes, away". Its strength lies in that lyrically it is emotionally honest and perhaps even depressing, but musically, it doesn't take itself too seriously, touching upon a sound not too dissimilar to Conor Obersts latest works. 'Watching The World End', perhaps my favourite song on the EP, lyrically concentrating on a feeling of hopelessness with the chorus "You and me on a cliffs edge, watching the world end" as the backing vocals sway in and out, feels more diverse than the other tracks upon the EP, more haunting than emotional and very different to the influences Crang wears on his sleeve, freshening this release up nicely.

'Better Than Your Friends' isn't perhaps groundbreaking, treading on an inoffensive acoustic folk country and indie sound but unlike alot of signed acts that NME is currently dribbling over, Crang has managed to channel huge amounts of emotion into his music that we haven't heard since Noah And The Whale's First Spring. This along with a real nous for song writing, puts The Coffee And TV Wreck in a position where it would be a real shame if they were ignored.

4 / 5

The Coffee And TV Wreck

Friday, 16 April 2010

Ólafur Arnalds - ...And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness

Ólafur Arnalds' second full length album '...and they have escaped the weight of darkness' is a credit to the ever growing list of releases that have formed their way from the independent UK label, Erased Tapes, a collective of music lovers and bands that release beautiful pop to instrumental music that perhaps wouldn't be heard otherwise.

'...and they have escaped the weight of darkness' is a Ronseal quick dry advert if ever I have heard one. Beautiful, melodic and light, there are no hints of darkness or a struggle here, just peace. Sparse piano melodies make up the forefront of this collective of tracks, with intelligently composed string movements filling the void. Ocassionally, like in the final track, brass instruments will come out to play, but it is rare that Arnalds strays from the formula of the other tracks. While at times this will alienate the mainstream crowd in terms of buying this record, that is not to say that these tracks couldn't appear in a mainstream setting with adverts or movies that need dare I say it epic background music, could surely do no wrong in picking any track from this gorgeous release.

Intelligent, polished, beautiful yet subtle, Arnalds has created something worth noticing with his second full length. Lets just hope people start to take note not just of his talent but also the hard work of Erased Tapes to discover and release it.

4 / 5

Ólafur Arnalds Myspace

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

For most, it was a surprise that Laura Marling and her debut solo album 'Alas I Cannot Swim' was nominated in 2008 for the ever more mainstream Mercury Prize. What surprised me more however, was that Marling wasn't accepted with open arms as much as other folk or solo acoustic acts that have followed. 'Alas I Cannot Swim' was an easy but yet harrowing listen, filled to the brim with infectious folk melodies, so obviously built up through her time with the impressive Noah And The Whale but with an added poetic cynacism, that Noah And The Whale would not yet achieve until their latest album, post Marling. Brilliantly intelligent, the album scoped many emotions we all have to succumb to in our day to day relationships but did so in a tongue in cheek manner. The follow up album 'I Speak Because I Can' holds a huge burden, the burden of following up where 'Alas I Cannot Swim' has left off and the task of propelling Marling even further into the mainstream limelight.

As is the case with many follow up albums, 'I Speak Because I Can' is more mature. Gone are the tongue in cheek lyrical quips that I once heavily admired and into the fold come intelligent and dare I say it, more mainstream lyrics. Lead single 'Goodbye England' has been receiving an overly annoying amount of play on Radio One and while it isn't perhaps the catchiest number that you would expect to hear on daytime radio, it is a beautiful piece of music adorned in orchaestral instruments and accompanied by minimal piano melodies and Marlings simple guitar work, that fits perfectly for the song. Lyrically, Marling is in mourningfully good form and while you perhaps don't have the ability to quote the lyrics as much as the singles from her albums predecessor, the emotion strikes you more than anything she has previously released. Opening track 'Devil's Spoke', my personal favourite from the album, is an upbeat hint towards old Americano music and starts off the record in foot tapping fashion, encouraging you to listen further unlike many other solo acoustic artists who are happy to comotose you from the first second. 'Hope In The Air' is bitterly sad, opening with the line "There is a man I know, seventeen years he never spoke, guess he had nothing to say, he opened his mouth on judgement day" and slowly building from a single guitar melody into big haunting piano bass lines and then drums and group vocals before the track falls back for Marling to sing the best lyric of the album perhaps, "A friend is a friend forever and a good one will never leave, never".

There is no doubt that 'I Speak Because I Can' is a different being than 'Alas I Cannot Swim' and in many ways, this will alienate previous fans as Marling blatantly tries to push from her underground success and ride the wave of money that folk artists Mumford & Sons have created and in all honesty, I was alienated until I really paid attention to the album. 'I Speak Because I Can' is keeping to what we expect from Marling, but building on it three fold and there is no way that this won't make it onto every journalists album of the year list come the end of 2010. It will make it onto mine, that is for sure.

4.5 / 5

Laura Marling Myspace
Draw Me Stories - Becomes The Hunted/Oars

On latest double side single 'Become The Hunted/On The Galley', Draw Me Stories sound like the folk/indie monster their previous publications have hinted at. 'Become The Hunted' is drum driven, the frenzied, snare friendly drums of Samuel Souter pushing the song through all of its structures perfectly. Guitar and bass wise, the song perhaps suits its name perfectly, sounding dark and eerie but crashing down into a flurry as vocalist Carl Hodgetts sings "the hunter becomes the hunted" in a Bjórk like fashion somehow. Its more arty indie than folk but it is original and it works, hugely.

'Oars', much like 'Become The Hunted' is driven by the drums again but has more emphasis built around a folkier sounding guitar melody accompanied by intelligent bass playing. What really pulls Draw Me Stories away from the possible folk contemporaries that they may be compared to is their structure use, 'Oars' is particularly strange in its almost Youthmovies or Foals esque oxford guitar work mid song and also the wah wah pedal build up in the middle eight, it sounds like it shouldn't work and perhaps in many ways, it really shouldn't, but here, it really sounds fantastic.

On the strength of these two tracks alone, I am baffled that Draw Me Stories are unsigned. Sure, they perhaps wouldn't reach the dizzying heights of the nu-folk that is Mumford & Sons but I am pretty sure they'd give it a damn good try and wouldn't come far off. All we need from this three piece now, is a full length album as good as this to back me up!

Draw Me Stories Myspace

4 / 5

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bunny And The Bull - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

This is possibly the strangest sensation I have had. A soundtrack for the movie Bunny And The Bull infront of me, composed and performed by Ralfe Band and I am expected to form an opinion of it. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of soundtracks and have bought and listened to many in my life so far but it genuinely seems strange to me because I have yet to see the movie.

Strangely enough, if I were to not know it were a soundtrack to an independent movie, I would guess it within the first 'song' anyway. Beautiful but haunting piano melodies are generally the focus here, violins beautifully move into the fold and often instruments like accordians are brought in aswell often to accent the piano sections more so. It feels emotional at times, particularly towards the end of the release with songs like 'Stephen' but on the whole, it has a gypsy folk feel to it, that makes you want to smile, particularly within the early tracks. On the whole, the soundtrack is vocal-less as you would expect but when the vocals do make an appearance on 'Attila The Dog Man', 'Stephens Finale' and 'Fairground Waltz', they sound somewhere inbetween the great Beirut and perhaps Devotchka.

Overall, a strange listen without knowing the film but an interesting and entertaining one at least. On the strength of this soundtrack, I shall be trying to get my hands on the film, so in many ways, this soundtrack has done its job perfectly.

Bunny And The Bull Official Website

4 / 5
Trail - To The Rest Of The World

Trail and their album 'To The Rest Of The World' isn't something I hugely want to write about excessively. Somewhere inbetween the rocky mainstream moments of bands like Lifehouse and perhaps just the ability to pen a catchy song like let us say Take That, they are both listenable and if you are me, unlistenable, in equal measure.

Musically, they are very standard. This is ground that has been successfully covered by the likes of Nickleback already in that it is rock but it has that polished over feel that shouldn't offend you but yet somehow does. Vocally, Trail are extremely strong, Charlie Afif somehow venturing into perhaps a Savage Garden niche, which to my surprise works a lot better than expected and certainly brings out the emotion double fold in comparison to your gravelly Scott Stapp-esque rock singers. Every song on the album has that potential single feel about it and you can imagine each one being played at a mainstream time on Radio One and even some making it on those cheesy american teen sitcoms that seem to be ambusing E4 currently. 'Worry Free' is perhaps the stand-out track for me, mostly lyrically. If you ignore the sickly sweet "If you journey with me, I'm worry free" then you will get to what I deem to be the near perfect line of "What is life if not a collection of treasured moments", Gary Barlow would be proud indeed.

It isn't original and it isn't particularly fantastic but if your mum enjoys the likes of Take That mixed with Nickleback and other watered down rock acts then I am pretty sure that she would enjoy this.

Trail Myspace

3 / 5
Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side

Slaraffenland are, yes you've guess it, a quirky pop band from the colder climates of Europe. Denmark if you haven't guessed. They also are friends with Efterklang, which wouldn't be difficult to guess either given the locality of them both and both their musical directions. 'We're On Your Side', is their third full length album following 'Private Cinema' and their self released debut 'Slaraffenland'.

As well as being collaborators with Efterklang, it is quite obvious that they share the same pop sensibilities as well. Drums are fairly driven, working around tribal melodies but feel spaced and clear so that they can bring out instruments like trumpets, shown deliciously on lead single 'Meet And Greet'. Guitars are bright and bouncy, showing very little aggressive punch but entwine and develop with both the drums and the occasional impressive audible bass lines. Vocally, Slaraffenland very rarely move from that Scandinavian pop feel, which in very Efterklang fashion, is slow, haunting and perhaps even with roots in folk influences, but with brilliantly visual lyrics.

Anyone reading this, will perhaps say, stop mentioning Efterklang, even the band might say it but they are so painfully alike at times, it is hard not to. On songs like 'Stars and Smiles' they branch out slightly, with a dirtier use of tone, that overall adds a foot tapping element to it making them more accessible. 'Postcard' is also a stand out track, sounding slightly in parts akin to the new Yeasayer album with funky bass at the forefront, it is upbeat and infectious, pushing the album up an extra gear before its finish which is a delicate and beautiful song called 'Away' filled to the brim with hand claps and absolutely breath taking keyboard melodies, really one to admire.

I like Slaraffenland, much like I like Efterklang and many others like them. There is just something about these Scandinavian 'experimental' pop acts that draw me in but I can't help but say "if only". If only, there was more experimentation in terms of tempo and perhaps even in terms of melodic hooks because at times, these songs just need a massive chorus, or to just go anywhere at all.

But if like me, you like Efterklang, you won't find these half bad at all.

Slaraffenland Myspace

3.5 / 5