Wednesday, March 24, 2004

This is the first post - so perhaps it's understandable that I'm experiencing a little performance anxiety. So far today has been one of those days where minor cock-ups have dominated. I've lost my wallet and subequently discovered I left it in a car. I've spilt water everywhere, spoiling some important documents. Anyway, I'll do my best. What you can expect from this blog is lots about the music and film I like, and most likely even more about what I adamantly dislike (I have to admit that I'm much better at articulating negative reactions than positive ones). So plenty about culture. I'll try and keep politics to a minimum - but there will no doubt come a time when I'll be unable to resist it.

Highlight of my week so far has been seeing Hot Chip live at the XFM X-Posure night at the Barfly on Monday. OK, so I'm biased as I used to play drums for them - and since then, I've seen them play roughly the same set about 100 times. Yet, there is no denying that they keep getting better and better. There's real humour and shameless energy in their performance now, and a genuine sense that they really are enjoying what they do. In a world where the worthless po-faced anthemic indie of Keane can grace the top 10 I find their poptastic synth crusading deeply encouraging. They've been described by the NME as 'gameboy bedroom funk' (or something along those lines). This is clearly meant as a complement, but it's a bit misleading. This is not computer game music - it's party music, with intelligent wordplay and celebratory conviction. When I was in Hot Chip, the band definitely had a split personality - divided between guitar-led mordant reflection (which many people compared with Will Oldham) and Timbaland/Neptunes inspired electronica. With 'Keep Falling' and 'The Ass Attack', they have possibly pushed the latter to a dizzying zenith. Whilst they now integrate together on stage perfectly (all five are staged in a line formation at the front of the stage) the path ahead is surely to re-introduce some of the more ponderous and reflective elements to their music. At the moment 'Krap Kraft Dinner' does this most effectively. At the very least, it has an irresistable chorus. I'm sure there will be many similar gems on the forthcoming debut album 'Coming On Strong', out in June on Moshi Moshi records. Check out their website for more details, they're always gigging (

I've picked up a few interesting records this week. 'The Pyramid Electric Co.' is actually the new album from Jason Molina, who now seems to trade under a variety of enigmatic monikers, including Songs:Ohia and The Magnolia Electric Co. Whereas his previous album was with an electric band, with substantial arrangements underpinned by a defiantly raw production, this is skeletal, underplayed and uncompromising. It contains just seven songs, most of them very long, some of them slightly meandering. All benefit from a palpably eerie atmosphere, and some wonderfully restrained guitar playing. Molina's voice is as striking as ever, and his bleak worldview is conveyed with striking clarity. With the benefit of a few more listens, this may prove to be his most original recording yet. It's available on vinyl (with a free CD version inside the sleeve) from Secretly Canadian records.

The wonderful Sufjan Stevens has returned with 'Seven Swans', unbelievably his first official UK release. Stevens is a musical chameleon who has produced splendid, lavishly arranged orch-pop with his last album 'Michigan' as well as some largely unlistenable electronica. This new venture gathers together the tracks that didn't fit on the 'Michigan' album, and mercifully seems to represent a retreat from his modest proposal to record an album for all 50 US States (after all, he can only stall for inspiration when he gets to Kansas, surely?). It's more economic than 'Michigan', and many of the songs build to cumulative effect. There's a lot of unadorned banjo playing, which is remarkably refreshing. His voice is soft and understated whilst the songs are suitably lilting. What is certainly new here is a religious dimension to the lyrics - a lot of vengeance and divine justice, demons and witches. I've yet to decide whether or not he's striving too hard for profundity. In terms of its sound though, this is as captivating and compelling an album as you might expect to hear all year.

I'd hate to end on a positive note - so I'll sign off today with a rant. Now I'm not a musical snob - I can admire pop music as much as the next man, but how shit is 'Amazing' by George Michael? In our office, we have radio 2 on all day and they seem to be forcing it upon us at least once an hour. It's that horrible leap between notes when he sings 'I think it's amaaaa-zing!' that makes me cringe most. Completely irrational, I know, but it's irksome. That coupled with the fact that the production is so bland and the lyrics so painfully earnest is causing me to suffer unwanted bouts of nausea at all-too-predictable intervals during the day.

A long post - I'll be doing some job applications tonight so no doubt there will be plenty of ranting about online forms in the next few days...

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