The Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard about the Villagers. It was about a year ago, and my friend Tom told me he was going to see a gig that night by a band called "The Villagers". This was obviously pre-Mercury Prize hoopla, so nobody had heard of them. Tom said "Villagers", but I of course heard "Village People", and then promptly told everybody as such. I feel bad about it now, as it furthered some pretty persistent rumours that Tom was gay.
Some time later, The Villagers became wildly popular, and I ignored it completely. I know I shouldn't, but I generally ignore Irish artists. I think it's because Ireland is so small that the second you have a conversation with someone about an Irish band, movie or terrorist attack, they won't stop telling you about their vague personal connection to it. Remember when Angela's Ashes came out and suddenly everyone had a cousin who played an abused kid?
But this weekend, I've started listening to Becoming a Jackal an awful lot, and it's safe to say I've fallen in love with it a little. The great thing about really great modern pop music (and I'm referencing recent break-throughs like The National and others I can't think of right now) is when a band can creates its own undercurrent, a feeling of quiet desperation that bubbles and always threatens to break through. The real pay-off is for the brief, beautiful seconds where it does.
"He lies awake in his bed every night devising ways to conceal the strain, she never tells of her midnight fears or admits that she does the same. They never meet, never touch, never speak, and for one tired old refrain; Can you hearr me now??" - That DayOther Mighty Tracks: The Day of the Jackal, The Pact, Ship of Promises (I might be crazy, but is this song sound a lot like early Muse to anyone?)
Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo
I really wanted to like this album. I'm not sure why; I don't like Super Furry Animals so there's no real reason I should have any real attachment to Gruff Rhys. Me wanting to like this album is based on a combination of seeing cool-looking people buying it, and the fact that its inspired by the 574 bottles of hotel shampoo Gruff Rhys has apparently been hoarding since 1995, with which Rhys has recently created this:
The album starts pretty strongly: Shark Ridden Waters is the kind of funky lo-fi track that someone puts on a mixed cd for you that you don't notice right away, yet later become obsessed with. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't really live up to even this bit of pseudo-praise.
The whole thing is a bit like a regional radio show from the sixties, most likely a region that had a lot of The Mama's and the Papa's fans. It's all very forgettable. The lyrics, when audible through Rhys's muttered vocals, range from the uninspiring to the truly dire. "Christopher Colombus, he had a lot to answer for" is bleated by Rhys throughout the record. What, Rhys? What does Christopher Colombus have to answer for? Embarrassingly, Rhys adopts the technique used by many average lyricists; finding a line that sounds half-way insightful and then repeating it ad nauseum. "If we were words we would rhyme"
A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
The New Pornographers rarely get the recognition they deserve, and neither does their main vocalist and chief songwriter, A.C. Newman. It's a terrible oversight, and I've often tried to decipher why this could possibly be. The only suitable answer I could conceive is that Newman is too good. That's right. A.C. Newman is so good at writing pop songs that they're too "indie" to be embraced by the cultural mainstream, but not indie enough to be embraced by "indie" lovers. I don't know if that makes any sense, but if your welcome to come up with your own reasons to explain the Newman/Popularity Conundrum as long as you listen to this album. Vitally, Prophets and maybe even more awesome There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve. I defy you not to enjoy this album.
Yuck - Yuck
Around this time every year, the albums that are set to be the soundtrack of the summer get released. These are the bands that will dominate the festival circuit, drinking outside and scraping together change for cans. I could never totally get on board with Summer 2010's soundtrack; yes we had The Drums, but there was also the sickly sweet retro overkill of Best Coast and She & Him. I wanted less Kopperberg, more Devils Bit. That's why I was so pleased with Yuck's debut album. Listening to it on a wet February afternoon made me think about the summer to come, of loud, loud music and short, short dresses.
Yuck - Get Away
The Kinks - Greatest Hits
What I like best about the Kinks is that I don't know any stories about the Kinks. I do not have a favourite Kink. I have never heard an incriminating story about a Kink involving a Mars bar. None of the Kinks children, as far as I'm aware, feature heavily in Heat magazine. The Kinks are one of the few artists of their generation who have managed to preserve their musical integrity for what it is; an enormous catalogue of brilliant, brilliant pop songs. Everybody should own a Kinks Greatest Hits, even if just for "Lola", "Sunny Afternoon" and "Waterloo Sunset". I won't even bother linking these here, because you should own them all already. However, you may not have heard this frankly excellent duet with Ray Davies and Mumford & Sons.