Unfortunately this musical month was almost overshadowed by an unrelated event in which the often immoral British public expressed their extreme moral disgust at the actions of a few of their immoral members. Days were spent wondering whether it was more important that Rebekah Brooks looks like a media-mogul version of The Simpson’s Sideshow Bob or that she may have been editor of some newspaper at around the time that the whole voicemail listening thing happened. Just incase anyone was thinking of hacking it, you can listen to my voicemail anytime. It’s just my Mum asking where I am constantly.
Musicians were all engaged in the time consuming activities of the month; registering topical domain names such as hasrebekahbrooksbeensackedyet.com and hasthenewsoftheworldbeenshutdownyet.com, therefore they only managed to release 5 albums between them all last month, so they’re the only 5 that I’ve written about. And one of them’s not even out until September… I guess everyone really did get caught up in the whole sanctimonious criticism of the scandal thing. Hopefully we shall return to music next month, but until then, here’s 5 albums which are all quite brilliant in their different ways. Continuing the trend started last month, our non-existent Album Of The Month award goes to Washed Out and Youth Lagoon.
Each listen of “Within And Without” reassures me that music becomes ‘cool’ at least partly because it is amazing. The thing is, I could barrel out a rambling essay about how good “Within And Without” is, but ultimately I would just want it to look like this, and seeing as that already exists, well, there’s not a huge amount of need for it. All that is needed is for me to urge you, even if you won’t read that entire review, to at the very least listen to Washed Out’s gently propulsive, nostalgia drenched ‘Amor Fati’ below just so that you can be convinced that he’s brilliant and then buy the album. That’s almost 90% certain to happen, and in the 10% of cases where people don’t agree, he’s the coolest thing going so they’ll buy it/illegally download it anyway. Go for it.
Youth Lagoon – The Year Of Hibernation
Not that it’s a particularly recognised category, but Youth Lagoon has easily become our favourite new artist to stumble out of nowhere in 2011. “The Year Of Hibernation” is the only reason why; its considered, hazy take on heart-wrenching anthems is emotionally intense in the way that Bon Iver achieved with his guttural debut. Buried beneath the layers of hipster-attracting lo-fi, though, is a set of mournfully constructed pop songs that are packed with hooks in their own distinctly melancholic way. He may not be the happiest of chaps but he’s completely enthralling, and its hard to want it any other way when his paranoia and disillusionment have created such a remarkable album.
The Horrors – Skying
“Skying” has managed sell 13,924 records by sounding like Echo and the Bunnymen, a band popular with people around the age of 40. These people do not know that the internet exists and are therefore unable to illegally download music, thus resorting to the old fashioned purchasing. Also, it has received glowing reviews that are enough to make you think that Faris Badwan is, in fact, the Rupert Murdoch of alternative music journalism. This is related to the first point; established music journalists for newspapers have, generally, also notched up a few years, and are reassured that The Horrors sound like music that was cool when they were.
But there’s also the fact that “Skying” is breathtaking in many parts. At its best, moments like “Still Life” are wide-eyed euphoric, others like “Changing The Rain” steadily breath new life into trodden textures, and some others are slightly underwhelming, but let’s not concentrate on that too much. There are only 5 albums here so there’s not much room to be too critical. Honestly, it may not be the masterpiece that almost everybody is heralding, but its got a cracking cover and some perfect moments.
SBTRKT – SBTRKT
Today is a big day for Mr SBTRKT. And not because he is partaking in the Commons Committee’s grilling of News International bosses, although it would be perfect to see him interject half way through proceedings with the “All I see is you. Stars. Open-arms. Pharaohs. God. Kings and queens” refrain from ‘Pharaohs’ with his crotch waving infront of Murdoch’s head. It is quite unlikely, though. Instead, the Mercury Prize Longlist will be announced, and according to an extensive survey we commissioned earlier this week, approximately 95% of people are certain that SBTRKT will be on the list. This is mainly because his debut album, imaginatively titled ‘SBTRKT’ is unstoppably brilliant, crossing the post-dubstep zeitgeist with garage, soul, pop, and even something that’s strangely similar to disco; the album highlight ‘Pharaohs’. The thing is, even if the Mercuries don’t give him a mask-covered nod, ‘SBTRKT’ will still go down as the most interesting, addictive, and pioneering electronic album that 2011 has offered us.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm
Undeniable evidence that Mr Leftwich is talented comes in the form of the fact that he’s Radio 2 endorsed whilst avoiding being the sort of inoffensive bollocks popular with my mum. Not that anything about “Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm” is particularly offensive; Benjamin is definitely a softly spoken type, but at least he isn’t deliberately trying to be uncontroversial. Instead, everything on “Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm” is racked with honesty; his melodies are more adorable than this guy but avoid being contrite courtesy of his breathy sigh of a voice. He might not be wanderingly inventive, but he’s got enough character to avoid being anybody else but himself.