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Male Bonding

Nothing Hurts

(Sub Pop)

Review [12.May.2010]
Male Bonding
Nothing Hurts


Male Bonding, a young punk band from London’s artsy Dalston neighborhood who sprung from the rib of English noise rockers PRE, completely eschew the trappings of Sub Pop’s newer, softer era by creating a debut LP rife with the kind of harmonious caterwauling that made the label’s first ten years in business so revolutionary. An educated ear can pick up several of the primary sonic touchstones these young Brits levy across this scant-yet-powerful half-hour set: a scent of Bleach on tracks like album opener “Years Got Long” and “TUFF”, a chunk of pure Every Boy Deserves Fudge on “All Things This Way”, even a little vintage Sebadoh, both Jason Lowenstein raveups (“Nothing Remains”) and the Lou Barlow comedowns (the acoustic album closer “Worse to Come” featuring guest vocals from the Vivian Girls). And when coupled with a heaping dose of vintage English shoegaze and a touch of frenetic surf guitar, Nothing Hurts coalesces into one of the loudest, proudest and purest Sub Pop albums to come out since the heyday of Eric’s Trip. Ron Hart


 

 



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Olivier Manchon

Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Vol. 1

(Obliqsound)

Review [3.Jun.2010]
Olivier Manchon
Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Vol. 1


Musical crossovers can be tricky. Despite the best of artistic intentions, the mash up of two musical styles stand to be remembered for what they got wrong rather than creating anything exciting or new. And no crossover attempt has been more forgettable or insufferably brainy as the rise of “baroque pop” (take indie songs, add a string section, you’re done). And although Olivier Manchon has lent performing and arrangement talents to the likes of Clare & the Reasons and Sufjan Stevens, Manchon tucked his violin under his arm and chose to paddle up the third-stream when it came to having a his own solo career. Orchestra de Chambre Miniature, Vol. 1 is a delicately arranged and expertly performed synthesis of classical and jazz forms. Given the slim variety of third-stream music being composed today, this album deserves to be remembered as a 2010 highlight. John Garratt


 

 



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Mares of Thrace

The Moulting

(Arctodus)

Mares of Thrace
The Moulting


Comprised of guitarist Thérèse Lanz and drummer Stefani MacKichan, Calgary, Alberta’s Mares of Thrace pulled off one of the most confident metal debuts of 2010 with an album that left the majority of their male peers choking on their dust. Deriving equally from the noise of Unsane and the massive style of Neurosis, The Moulting quickly finds its own niche thanks to some rather unique touches. Lanz’s baritone guitar riffs find an even balance between pure force and melody, and her screaming/singing does likewise, while MacKichan is a powerhouse behind the kit, bringing such a fluidity to her complex cadences that it feels more derived from jazz than, say, the Dillinger Escape Plan. Most importantly, though, these talented women are good composers and arrangers, capable of moments of devastating heaviness, but never coming at the expense of the song. It’s catchy, it’s brutal as all get-out, and it could very well be the beginning of something truly special. Adrien Begrand


 

 



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Laura Marling

I Speak Because I Can

(Astralwerks)

Review [11.May.2010]
Laura Marling
I Speak Because I Can


Released a month after her 20th birthday, I Speak Because I Can is already the second album by the ridiculously precocious Laura Marling, a young woman whose astounding depth and maturity suggests both a female Nick Drake and a 21st century descendent of English folk luminaries June Tabor or Sandy Denny. But if Marling suggests yet another step in the UK music scene’s current retro tendencies, what she has over soul wannabe’s like Amy Winehouse and Duffy is a truly authoritative command of her adopted genre and the sheer confidence to infuse her personal narratives with the weight of tradition. Still, what really impresses about I Speak Because You Can is neither the prodigious age nor the uncanny authenticity of its creator but rather her flawless songwriting chops. It’s an album that is always dramatically forceful and urgently melodic despite what would appear to be polite trappings, boldly obliterating any perceived stylistic or generational barriers by not even acknowledging them. Jer Fairall


 

 



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John Mellencamp

No Better Than This

(Rounder)

Review [16.Aug.2010]
John Mellencamp
No Better Than This


John Mellencamp established long ago that he’s an artist with his own voice and not just a poor man’s Springsteen. Now, easing into his 60s, Mellencamp is writing music to fit his life’s new chapter. Recorded in mono to a vintage recorder with a single microphone and no studio trickery, No Better Than This finds Mellencamp visiting familiar themes about making it through life (and now looking towards life’s end). Sonically, it ranges from rockabilly to Sun-era Johnny Cash to Robert Johnson, but none of that ever overshadows the songs. Recorded while Mellencamp was touring to support Life Death Love and Freedom, No Better Than This joins that album in encouraging listeners to re-evaluate Mellencamp as more than the anthem-singing firebrand. It puts his songwriting skills front-and-center, and the songs don’t wilt in these unadorned arrangements. Andrew Gilstrap


 

 



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Menomena

Mines

(Barsuk)

Review [4.Aug.2010]
Menomena
Mines


In a year where Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs has drawn much attention, Portland’s Menomena also released their third album. Both artists are at the pinnacle of their career, both have produced equally challenging albums, yet Mines, whilst somewhat overlooked, is arguably a more unique and rewarding experience. Initially, it may seem like the band is moving towards something more straightforward, as this album has less immediate pop-art bombast and avant-garde loop-tinkering than in previous outings. However, Mines is deceptively layered and the band’s most mature collage of isolation and heartbreak to date, fuelled by a dark core of enchanting sadness, which is only illuminated over time. Menomena have always seemed to thrive on division, as ostensibly the three members work separately, with a compartmentalised writing and recording process, often working alone, turning what might be perceived the endgame for more conventional bands, into their greatest strength. So with the recent news of Brent Knoph’s departure from the line-up, it leaves the future unclear for a band who, in Mines, have finally distilled their sound to its perfect essence. Tom Fenwick


 

 

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