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Slipped Discs 2007 Part 3

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(Mute; US: 10 Apr 2007; UK: 5 Mar 2007)

Review [9.Apr.2007]
Review [9.Apr.2007]

From Bad Seeds ringleader to novelist to 21st century rock ‘n’ roll punk rock poet ponderer, Nick Cave—who’s been making brilliant music since 1983—seems to have only just begun to hit his stride with Grinderman. Cave stands among a short list of frontmen who can blend double-edge literary metaphors and searing existential comedic commentary with blues garage-rock and have the result be one of the year’s most transparent albums that rocks you silly, while plastering a goofy elated grin on your face. The psychedelic organs hum behind that crouching monkey on album’s covers, creating a prophetic peek into the Grinderworld where old age, celebrity worship and sublime self-loathing are the sarcastic punching bag as the guitars blare and fuzz and Cave lays down a murderous meter and on “No Pussy Blues and “Get It On”. Released in March, Grinderman never fell from the top of my list as the year had many worthy contenders. Chris Catania

Multiple songs: MySpace

Grinderman - No Pussy Blues

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Richard Hawley

Lady’s Bridge

(Mute; US: 2 Oct 2007; UK: 20 Aug 2007)

Transforming himself from a respected supporting player to one of the best singer-songwriters today, Richard Hawley is going through a career renaissance that any other 40-year-old musician would kill for. In fact, Hawley’s growth as a songwriter in the years since his 2001 solo debut is simply remarkable, and it’s gotten to the point where all we can do now is marvel at the seemingly effortless way he churns out song after memorable song. Continuing where the gorgeous, ornate retro pop of the Mercury Prize-nominated Coles Corner left off, Lady’s Bridge manages to top it, buoyed by the sweeping, Jack Nitszche flourishes of “Tonight the Streets Are Ours”, the sprightly rockabilly of “Serious”, and the swooning, Scott Walker-style orchestration of “Valentine”. For all the romanticism, with his velvety baritone, Hawley’s real charm lies in being the loveable sourpuss, as tracks like “Roll River Roll”, “Dark Road”, and “Our Darkness” hint at some real darkness lurking underneath the exterior of both Hawley and his muse, the city of Sheffield. Adrien Begrand

Multiple songs: MySpace

Richard Hawley - Tonight the Streets are Ours

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Koop Islands

(Ada; US: 9 Oct 2007; UK: 29 Jan 2007)

Review [13.Jan.2008]

In short, Koop Islands is the best album of 2007 that you never heard. It’s a shame, too, considering that the Swedish production duo’s latest release is a seriously nifty electro-jazz fusion, firmly rooted in pop song structure, just as suited for a Prohibition speakeasy as it is for your headphones. The revolving door of obscure yet talented guest vocalists is a plus, too, most notably Yukimi Nagano. And really, don’t let the ‘20s swing aspect turn you off. You don’t have to be a retro hepcat to recognize the flawless songcraft of “Come to Me”, “Strange Love”, or “I See a Different You”. And if you can’t dig on that “Zoot Suit Riot”-esque groove of “Forces… Darling”? Well… check for pulse. Zach Schonfeld

Multiple songs: MySpace

Koop - Come to Me

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Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers


(Yep Roc; US: 18 Sep 2007; UK: 17 Sep 2007)

If Shack*Shakers frontman Colonel J.D. Wilkes is right that “every dirt road leads to the South for you this time”, then you might want to lock your car doors. Swampblood comes across like a Flannery O’Connor fever dream, full of jimblyleg men, vengeful grandmothers, bloody baptism, hangmen, and other strange goings on under the live oak trees. To say that it’s some kind of Southern Gothic freakshow, though, shortchanges Wilkes’ efforts to reconcile the South’s quirkiest dark corners with its heavy religious identity, its hospitality with its attitude of “what we do with our own is our own damn business”. Swampblood falters a bit towards the end, but only because the band opts to explore the jauntier side of its sound. Until then, though, they sound like they have the angry ghost of Slim Harpo trapped in a Mason jar. Hellbilly, Psychobilly, Southern Gothic Rock ‘n’ Roll, whatever you want to call it, the Shack*Shakers raise a ruckus on Swampblood. With a sound that’s half Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp choogle and half rockabilly raveup, Colonel J.D. Wilkes and company produce their most focused, satisfying effort yet. Andrew Gilstrap

Multiple songs: MySpace

Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers Swampblood EPK

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Eugene McGuinness

The Early Learnings of

(Double Six; US: Available as import; UK: 6 Aug 2007)

A singer-songwriter in the loosest sense of the term; live, Eugene McGuinness strips his songs bare to reveal the underlying, acoustic melody within; but on record he packs them full of instrumentation to render a maelstrom of sonic idiosyncrasies. But the joy in his mini-album of Early Learnings lies as much in his observational lyrical wit as much as his enviably (pre)matured eye for melody in the most unexpected of places. So lead single “Monsters Under the Bed” packs an albums-worth of hooks into a cartoonishly lively narrative of insomniac procrastination, while “Bold Street” is an affectionately derisory ode to his former hometown Liverpool’s high street, perfectly encapsulating the city’s contradictory clash of culture and binge drinking (it’s not often “Shakespearean sonnet” suffers the ignominy of rhyming with “vomit”). An injection of colourful life into the singer-songwriter trade not seen since Patrick Wolf barged his way onto the scene, expect this far more reserved but equally talented 21-year-old to go just as huge as Wolf when his debut full-length drops later this year. Chris Baynes

Multiple songs: MySpace

Eugene McGuinness - Monsters Under the Bed

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Nellie McKay

Obligatory Villagers

(Hungry Mouse; US: 25 Sep 2007; UK: Available as import)

Review [24.Sep.2007]

Nellie McKay remains a bright, shiny voice in the face of an increasingly cruel world. She takes on a number of serious political topics from the state of contemporary feminism to the war in Iraq, in a gaudy, upbeat fashion. She delivers her acerbic word play with a delicate touch and reaches for the funny bone to clobber her audiences with. McKay’s latest album crams in more musical styles (Broadway, reggae, rap, rock, samba, cabaret, etc) in slightly more than 30 minutes while still providing room for tap dancing and stand up comedy. She also employs a top notch crew of jazz veterans (including octogenarian Bob Dorough of “Schoolhouse Rocks” fame) to keep the music snappy. “Ignorance isn’t a right/It’s a privilege,” McKay croons with a wink. She understands music has to be smart and engage the world to matter. Steve Horowitz

Nellie McKay - Real Life

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Friend and Foe

(Barsuk; US: 23 Jan 2007; UK: Available as import)

Review [22.Jan.2007]

Menomena’s exuberant atmosphere and meticulous arrangements are evident from the album art alone: an endless barrage of intertwining cartoons and doodles, incorporating lyrics from the album. The music itself is reminiscent of the Flaming Lips circa Clouds Taste Metallic—had Ronald Jones been a keyboardist, and filtered through Deeler, the Portland group’s self-invented recording software. (“Deeler keeps the process democratic, which is the only way we can operate,” says member Danny Seim.) Tracks like “Boyscout’n” and “My, My” fit layers of piano, acoustic guitar, organ, and even whistling in a joyfully complex, yet wholly melodic blend. In addition to working fantastically as a whole, though, Friend and Foe is filled with those fabulous moments that make you grin your face off: that deceptively simply build-and-release piano solo in “Wet and Rusting”, for example, or the oddly tribal postlude to “Air Raid”. Don’t pass it up.  And by the way—it’s pronounced “Mih-NAH mih-NAH,” not “MEN-o-MEN-uh.” Zach Schonfeld

Multiple songs: MySpace

Menomena - Rotten Hell

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Thurston Moore

Trees Outside the Academy

(Ecstatic Peace; US: 18 Sep 2007; UK: 17 Sep 2007)

The first thing you notice about Thurston Moore’s Trees Outside the Academy is that even when he begins the album with a violin it sounds like a guitar. But even if the start of “Frozen Gtr” sounds curiously like that of Nirvana’s “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”, the album quickly settles into a more laidback groove, which is where, for the most part, it stays. Moore leads his three-piece on acoustic guitar, and his duet with Christina Carter on the gorgeous “Honest James” makes you wish that he and Kim shared vocals more than they traded them. The art-noise faction of Sonic Youth fans will hold on to songs like “American Coffin” or “Free Noise Among Friends” as their touchstones to the older material. But don’t let them fool you. Trees Outside the Academy brings to the fore what those of us who listen carefully have known all along: there’s something lovely not only in Sonic Youth’s distortion but under it, as well. Kirby Fields

Multiple songs: MySpace

Thurston Moore Solo Album Preview

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Roisin Murphy


(EMI; US: Available as import; UK: 15 Oct 2007)

While Justice garnered critical effusiveness for their stuttering, stunted rhythms, Roisin Murphy’s soulful second LP dropped, bombastically reinventing the four-to-the-floor anthem, and resurrecting Donna Summer by way of Marlene Dietrich. Honing her experimentalist bent, displayed on her former band, Moloko’s, final two densely obtuse disco records, she has become an accomplished Giorgio Moroder acolyte. If Madonna actually created astride the cutting techno edge rather than simply dulling its blade, she might have made Overpowered, a record where dance music fills imaginary stadiums atop Murphy’s serpentine growl, Bjork couture, and lyrics filled with gorgeous menace and eerie dissections of love, misery and global warming. Terry Sawyer

Multiple songs: MySpace

Roisin Murphy - Overpowered

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Nine Inch Nails

Year Zero

(Interscope; US: 17 Apr 2007; UK: 16 Apr 2007)

Review [15.Apr.2007]

The greatest thing about Year Zero is that it is what you make of it.  If you simply want it to be an album full of Trent Reznor’s latest foray into whispering, yelling, noise, and angst, then that’s all it is. If you want it to be a full on multimedia experience, it’s that, too, with a marketing scheme that includes a website, phone numbers, and viral videos all pointing to the day when our freedoms are gone and those who would lead us to freedom are forgotten. Reznor also gleefully leaked the album, little by little, allowing those so inclined to “pay what they want” months before In Rainbows. Best of all, Trent himself sounds revitalized, willing to experiment with things like vocal style, song structure, and even lyrics that look outside himself.  Reznor at 40 years old (With Teeth) was a shadow, a near-parody of what he had once been. Reznor at 42 has found the fountain of youth by simply looking somewhere other than his belly button. Mike Schiller

Multiple songs: MySpace

Nine Inch Nails - Survivalism

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