Friday, July 29, 2005

The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black

Well this is a CD which will go down in the varied history of CD purchases as the CD I bought purely because it had four extra bonus tracks on it. Honestly. I hadn't heard a Raveonettes song before, and I really did look at the cd case and think "wow, four bonus tracks...that's really good value" and that is why I bought it.

But anyway, what of the end result? Surprisingly good as it turns out. There is very much a 50's pop feel to this and to me there is often the feel that the songs would play off wonderfully in a David Lynch or Quentin Tarrantino production (and yes, I do mean that as a compliament :D ).

Here Comes Mary sounds like the Everley Brothers at their best, Twilight had the amazingly funny moment upon hearing for the first time (before knowing the name of the tune) of thinking this sounds like the Twlight Zone theme and bonus track Black Wave is the kind of haunting melody that sticks in your brain immediately.

The standouts for me are Ode To LA (in which the Phil Spector sound is aided by Mr Spector himself on backing vocals) and Love In A Trashcan, with its handclaps (and boy, do I love handclaps).

I can take or leave the cover versions (Everyday, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, My Boyfriend's Back) which really only have comedy value and some of the tracks are too samey, but for an impulse buy this is pretty good stuff and a welcome addition to my CD collection.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Aimee Mann - LIVE

She's been flying solo now for 12 years and at last The Dean gets to see Aimee Mann in concert and back at the old favourite Manchester Academy too. A nice warm up to proceedings saw me kick Gee's ass as the golf game in the pub opposite, and copious amounts of alcohol were drunk leading to a real feel good atmosphere, which rarely subsided throughout Miss Mann's classy set.

Ok, so there was a bit too much of an over-reliance on stuff from new album The Forgotten Arm (but hey, I've been going to concerts long enough now to know the score), but there was very few songs which didn't sweep you off your feet. And to boot she did my absolute favourite (Driving Sideways) AND also the Big Gee's fave (Amateur) as well. In fact most of her solo albums were well represented, and it is perhaps a sign of her class that songs from right across her back catalogue were warmly received.

This was, quite simply, a top notch concert from a top notch talent and throw in a bit of Phil Collins :) and you have all the ingredients for a great musical night out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Charlotte Church - Tissues and Issues

Look, lets get the whole "Matt fancied Charlotte Church" six years ago thing out of the way before we go much further. I was mis-quoted. Well ok, not so much mis-quoted, more mis-interpreted...Ok, so mis-interpreted might be a bit, to hell with it, let's just move on before I dig the hole for myself any deeper.

Only the deaf (or pop pariah's) could deny the charms of Crazy Chick, with it's Mowton-tinged groove, and there is little doubt it my mind that it is one of the pop singles of the year so far. It also proves that Miss Church is more than capable of carrying a decent pop tune.

The problem seems to be that the pop industry has spent so long with artists that can't carry a tune, that they don't seem to know what to do with a girl who really can sing. The album starts with a bang. Call My Name is the kind of sexy pop song that Girls Aloud would do really well, the afformentioned Crazy Chick is a mini-classic, and Moodswings is that pop rarity - a ballad you don't need to skip. The problem is that it's pretty much downhill from thereon in.

Playing the "which songs were written with Guy Chambers" game is as easy as it always is, Let's Be Alone sounds like a blatant attempt to sound like Girls Aloud (and fails to come anywhere close to being as good) and after a while, young Charlotte's seemingly constant whinging about how bad her life gets can get a bit tiresome. Pop music is about fun and at times Charlotte would do well to remember that edict.

This is not the terrible album it could have been, but nor is it the blinding success that it perhaps could have been given Church's obvious talent. Memo to her record company...give her better songs to sing next time.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Feist - Let It Die

Ok, so this was originally released in 2004 BUT i only bought it this year AND it is now being released in America for the first time. Which means that in this increasingly global community that we live in, this album counts as a new 2005 release for my collection.

The first thing that immediately strikes you when you put this CD on is her vocals. Aural booning indeed, at once sultry yet delicate. The next thing that hits you as you listen to the album is the vast range of styles that Feist can work within, yet always sounding fresh and original. That she has been compared to varied artists such as PJ Harvey and Norah Jones shows indeed that Fesit is not easily catergorised.

Highlights of the album include US Single "Mushaboom", a song so immediately catchy that McDonalds attempted to license it, and "Gatekeeper" which both accenuate the warm and mellow side of her personality. The pick of the bunch however are renditions of Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart" and the Bee Gee's "Inside And Out", the latter being what the Dean could only describe as being foxy.

Not everything on this varied collection works, but even the weaker tracks are emboldened by the feeling that this is an artist working on her own terms. This is the soundtrack to my summer, and is perfect for those long, hot days.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tara Blaise - Dancing On Tables Barefoot

You would never guess upon listening to this album that the same bloke who discovered the Corrs also discovered young Tara. Ok, I jest. That thought may very well be the first thought you have when you listen to this album. It's got that polished gaelic charm that one would associate with the Corrs, but Tara is an artist in her own right, writing all her own lyrics and co-writing all the music.

When the songs are good, such as the summery The Three Degrees, which is sure to get copious Radio 2 airplay when it is released as a single in the near future, Later and Radio Star which is perhaps my particular favourite on the entire album, they are very good indeed. But far too often the arrangements drift into bland Terry Wogan Radio 2 territory and frankly some of the lyrics are not exactly relevatory or interesting.

This album will sell well, and does have a great summery feel, but unless a little more substance is introduced in her next effort, I cannot see the success continuing. If she takes a few more risks next time, she might come up with something really worth listening to. Still this is a good effort and certainly has more than enough to keep you going on a slow day. And a couple of the tracks are crackers. So hopefully the best is yet to come.

Icon's View - 2 1/2 out of 5

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Nouvelle Vague - Nouvelle Vague

As a concept Nouvelle Vague, a collection of two multi-instumentalists producers teaming up with French and Brazillian singers to reinterpret some classic songs in a bossanove stylee, is somewhere down there with the Mike Flowers Pops and seems like someone has set this up purely for a joke. But to dismiss this album as mere frivolity would be to do it a great dis-service.

Yes at times it is playful and will bring many a wry smile to the faces of those familar with the originals, but many of these songs could easily stand on their own feet without the weight of history behind them.

The joy in this collection is two-fold. You can delight at hearing new versions of some classics tunes you know and love (Love Will Tear Us Apart, Teenage Kicks) but you also have the excitement of rooting out the original versions of those tracks you haven't heard before (and shame on you for not having heard of them).

The picks of the bunch are the afforementioned Love Will Tear Us Apart (which rather surprisingly captures the hopelessness I always felt was prevalent in Joy Division's song), A Forest (giving the Cure classic a totally tropical taste - Copyright LILT) and Too Drunk To Fuck (which turns the somewhat dark Dead Kennedy's version completely on it's head).

Whilst not all the collection can reach these heights (and there is only so much of this style of music the Dean can take in one sitting) there are very few stinkers, with even the lesser tracks, such as Making Plans For Nigel, being perfectly pleasant, if somewhat instantly forgettable on occasions. Still this is a worthwhile purchase to say the least for those looking for something a little different.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Subways - Young For Eternity

Much hyped, and hotly anticpated, it was always a question of could the Subways debut long-player live up to two great singles (Rock And Roll Queen and the absolutely fan-bloody-tastic Oh Yeah) and wow across the board...the answer is not quite, but it's not bloody far off.

The two afformentioned singles both play off the tension between lead singer Billy and his lovely guitar playing girlfriend Charlotte and much like last year with the Von Blondies, I fail to see why more rock groups haven't gone for the male/female dynamic, which is totally underused. Sexual frission burns the air throughout this album, and it's all the better for it.

The two great singles are not the only highspots on the album; Lines Of Light slows things down somewhat, and remarkably doesn't bring the quality down, and Holiday, clocking in at a wonderful 1 minute 50 seconds, would be a punk rock hit in any era.

There are some duffer tracks in amongst all this, but for a band so young this is a remarkably strong debut and makes you salivate at what else might be in store in the future. It's brash, it's cocky and it's hormonal. You just have to hope "maturity" doesn't set in too near in the future...

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Arcade Fire - Funeral

Anyone who is anyone has told the world just how great this album is, which always fills me with a slight sense of dread. How can it possibly live up to the hype and even if I like it, will it just look like I am following a trend to be "hip."

Well screw any of you who would think that of me, because this is one record which proves the hype is totally justified AND is one that I would be failing in my duty not to shill just as much. The cracking single Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) is surely one of the tracks of the year so far with its rousing and uplifitng chorus, but it is by no means indicative of the whole album with only Rebellion (Lies) really matching the tempo of that.

But that's not to say that the rest of the abum is a disappointment. Neighbourhood #2 (Laika) is a song Franz Ferdinand would be proud of (if indeed decent lyrics were anywhere on their particular check list) and Neighbourhood #4 (7 Kettles) captures the mundane everyday existance yet makes it seem alive with passion and love.

As evidenced by the title, the making of Funeral was shrouded with death and despair (witness the dedication to recently departed familty members in the cd booklet - the song Une Annee Sans Lumiere sums this up as well) but this album does not leave a feeling of despair. If anything, it's underlying message is that love truly can conquer all. Let this album conquer you.

Icon's view - 4 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Family Guy - Live In Vegas

Family Guy may well be the single most funniest programme of the last 10 years or so, and really does beat off the likes of The Simpsons and Futurama to certainly take the prize of best animated show of the moment. And much like the Simpsons before it, music has always been a big part of the shows; but can the Family Guy make the transformation to a full on musical extravaganza?

Including a 48 stong orchestra, all your favourite characters are here and it's certainly pant-wettingly funny in places. "Babysitting Is A Bum Deal" sees Stewie duet with Haylie (sister of Hilary) Duff and also was nearly responsible for me crashing my car with Stewie's "Go Fuck Yourselves" opening and Quagmire's sexual perversions are laid bare in the classic "The 'Q' Man Loves Nobody." Stewie and Brian's medly of 1980's Theme Tunes is hilariously funny too (The Different Strokes and Golden Girls themes are worth the price of admission alone) but the show-stealer has to be "All Cartoons Are Fucking Dicks" where the likes of Barney Rubble and Elmer Fudd's supposed faux pa's are laid wide open by the whole Family Guy crew, and guest star Jason Alexander.

Not all the jokes hit the spot, and there are a couple of Lois and Peter songs which only raise a mild chuckle, but overall this is a dangerously funny "show" which no Family Guy fan should miss. As ever, Stewie and Brian are the stars, and even Mr Hubert makes a welcome appearance. As always with these comedy music albums, it's debatable whether six months down the line that this will be quite as funny as it is now, but this is a wonderful stop gap until Season 4 hits our shores.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers

First things first, lets get the "they don't look like your average pop stars" bit out of the way. Ok, so they may not, but then The Magic Numbers are hardly appealing to those music buyers who place a great importance on "image" anyway.

There has, and indeed IS, a great deal of fuss surrounding this quartet but, sad to say, my first reaction upon hearing the album was more "what's the fuss?" Still, you have to give these things time, but here we are, two weeks down the line and the album still strikes me as decidely average.

First of all the flowery "summer" attitude of the whole thing starts to get annoying about three or four tracks in, and secondly whilst the harmonies certainly impress (until you get sick of hearing them over and over again), there isn't much else that does. "Forever Lost" is a good single, and Long Legs is pleasant enough, but really the album is the same old, same old, and not very good same old at that.

So if you're in need of a summer lift-up, this might work in the short-term, but there is just not enough of interest, and not enough variation to sustain the interest. Much like The Thrills found out second time around, The Magic Numbers routine might not pack anywhere near the same punch. They should enjoy the adulation whilst it lasts.

Icon's View - 2 out of 5