The best (and the rest): new album releases…
Crush Songs is the debut solo release by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O. On offer is a collection of lo-fi songs, recorded from 2006 onwards. Karen has taken the inventive idea of producing a heartfelt half-hour in a distinctly “bedroom-recording” style. This works well as the low budget technique used feels raw and personal. We are treated to a very David Lynch affair, with dreamlike song blending into dreamlike song. The album does take on too much of a monotone Velvet-Underground–on-a-bad-day vibe at times. However, when it works well, there are moments of genius – floating between angelic falsetto and discordant resonance, in a very good way. The problem is when an album is only 25 minutes long, you would hope for perfection, instead of looking for the bright moments.
Worship The Sun is the second LP to come our way from Los Angeles-based Allah Las. Unsurprisingly this is tinged with more rose-tinted hippy vibes than a Glastonbury Greenfields reunion. Had It All sounds like a poor man’s (I’m Not Your) Steppin Stone by The Monkees. Buffalo Nickel has the kind of “la-la-la” sing along lyrics that should be invigorating, but seem quite dull. Pleasingly, 501-315 has a Blonde on Blonde Dylan feel to it, and Better Than Mine takes a rare departure to sound more British 80’s than San Fran 60’s. But that’s where the standout tracks end. The issue here is, even on repeat listenings, tracks just don’t stand out. The whole album starts to blend into an ill conceived retro-psych filler. Several times over the course of the album I stopped myself from pulling out the latest ‘Black Angels release, or digging deeper for some classic Brian Jonestown Massacre. This alluded to similar grandeur, but just couldn’t deliver the goods.
Simian Mobile Disco attempt to slip under the radar with their slow-burner Whorl. Album opener Redshift builds over 3 minutes 55 seconds of ambient whirls and bleeps. Track 2, Dandelion Spheres, takes us… nowhere really. More ambient whirls, this time with some blips to accompany the bleeps. Halfway through track 3 I was wondering how SMD were going to justify this release, until a song emerged from the ambiance. Track 4 continued this slow uphill build with more tempo, bleeps and this time a rhythmic bass line. I’d completely forgotten my opening concerns, and by mid album ambiance filler track Z Space, I really didn’t mind. The LP creates a Brave New World. It’s exclusively futuristic and electronic, but the soundscapes it creates also seem quite retro. It’s the aural equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey – the setting is clearly the future, but the product seems dated, almost as if it was a bygone generation’s vision of a sci-fi future. Whorl, to me, seems like a classic concept album inasmuch as you have to digest it in one go. I left it with the feeling I’d travelled on a cosmic journey, albeit in a 1980’s TV universe.
Mazes‘ new release Wooden Aquarium sounds like a familiar beast indeed. At first they remind of The Seahorses. Then a bit of Ian Brown resonates through one or two tracks. A few more songs sound like they would make their way into a Stone Roses b-sides collection. Essentially, they sound like early 90’s Manchester. It isn’t a surprise to learn they formed in Manchester then. There are other influences at large here: American tinges of Dinosaur Jr and Stephen Malkmus can be heard, there’s The Moldy Peaches and Sonic Youth channelling through them too. Having said that, they wear their North West England roots proudly on their sleeves. At times they sound punk enough to have an edge (but not in a scary way). A pleasant listen, even if they’re not reinventing the wheel in the process.