Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Short Cuts! New Releases 22 February 2010

This week's new album releases, including Marina and the Diamonds, The Courteeners and Toro Y Moi.

Marina + the Diamonds – Family Jewels
A fairly typical example of the hype-meets-fame-meets-success paradigm instigated by the BBC’s Sound Of poll, Marina Diamandis has swiftly undergone a makeover from East London indie-boys’ guilty-pleasure to pop chart darling. Unsurprisingly then, this record goes for the dual attack of hooks and sheen, both of which flow with abundance. When done well, as on ‘Are You Satisfied’ and brilliant single ‘Hollywood’, Diamandis is allowed to create perfectly legitimate, enterprising pop songs. However, when it’s not so well – as on ‘Girls’, which sounds like La Roux covering Madness – it can be the musical equivalent of fingernails down a blackboard. In addition, for all the comparisons (Regina Spektor, Bat for Lashes, Kate Bush), listening to Family Jewels I couldn’t help but be reminded of forgotten mockney Kate Nash. Whilst the actual flesh and blood of the music has virtually nothing in common with Nash’s chirpy piano-pop, both have affected voices which can border upon irritating, and whilst Diamandis has her eyes on bigger fry (‘Hollywood’, ‘Shampain’) than Nash’s kitchen-sink observational banality, the results of both are close in terms of lyrical accomplishment. Still, it’s unlikely anyone who actually buys the record will notice such matters, so this one’ll doubtless sell by the bucketloads. Ironic lyric: “feeling like a loser, feeling like a bum, sitting on the outside observing the fun” on ‘The Outsider’– not for long love.
Choice Cuts: ‘Hollywood’, ‘Are You Satisfied’, ‘I Am Not a Robot’

The Courteeners - Falcon
I’ve not exactly hidden my insatiable disdain for this band, not least for wretched trailing single ‘You Overdid it Doll’, but nonetheless I approached this one with at least a modicum of journalistic impartiality. Just a modicum, mind. The good news is it doesn’t get much worse than the aforementioned single; the bad news is it doesn’t get much better either. And so, a plateau of eye-wateringly tedious ploddery ensues. Bizarre fetishes aside (“I miss your eyelashes” from ‘The Opener’), this one ostensibly treads a more sensitive path than it’s predecessor, but don’t be fooled – no matter how much Liam Fray might wish he was born a fragile Liam Gallagher, unfortunately he’s just as boorish, unimaginative and fond of a witless platitude as his Mancunian counterpart, just with a voice that’s far shitter and entirely devoid of Gallagher’s early menace and enduring husk. Furthermore, this lot are so painfully proud and constantly aware of where they come from that I genuinely pondered whether ‘Falcon’ was a reference to that literary figure of waxwork Northernism, Kes. I’m still undecided. Fingers-crossed moment: “So I’ll cross my heart and hope to fly, and fuck off right into the middle of the sky, where no-one can find me and no-one can see” from ‘Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly’ – we can only hope!
Choice Cuts: -
Strange Boys - Be Brave
Returning with their sophomore effort, these Decidedly Nondescript Boys appear committed to bridging a rather happy gap between fist and foam. And so, this is for the most part lazy brawlin’ music for surfers. Or tide troublin’ tunes for hicks. It all rumbles along with carefully manicured raucousness, but half an hour of howlin’ vocals and scratchin’ chords later, you might be a-wantin’ a rest – regardless of the unexpectedly excellent garage-Dylan drifters which are tacked on as parting shots (‘All You Can Hide Inside’, ‘You Can’t Only Love When You Want To’.)
Choice Cuts: ‘All You Can Hide Inside’, ‘A Walk on the Beach’
Toro Y Moi - Causers of This
This South Carolinian may have come from the school of hard names (he’s really called Chazwick Bundick – ouch!), but despite the hip-hop twinges evident herein, judging by this effort he certainly didn’t come from the school of hard knocks. Indeed, his dreamy, spacious hip-pop has more moments in common with the like of Empire of the Sun and Phoenix, but avoids sounding derivative, even if it lacks thrust. Unfortunately, most of the groundwork of the first few tracks is laid to waste by a middle section (‘Fax Shadow’ on) which employs the kind of relentless in/out glitching that renders it virtually impossible to listen to. Note to Chazwick (and others): stop tripping over the mixing desk!
Choice Cuts: ‘Minors’, ‘Imprint After’

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