Four years really is too long. It’s that agonising length of time I mainly associate with the gap between football (soccer) World Cups. Recently, however, it’s become associated with Sigur Rós. It was June 2008 when the Icelandic post-rockers released their last studio albumMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. Since then, front man Jónsi has had a whale of a time launching a solo career but, despite being gifted in 2011 with the concert film/album Inni, some of us have been getting itchy with anticipation for a new LP.
Well, this week was a momentous one for beardy post-rock fans everywhere. Sigur Rós announced that their new album is to be titled Valtari, and is set for release on the 28th of May, as well as revealing an eight song tracklisting. Various audio snippets and the announcement of several shows later this year had indicated that a new release was imminent, but it’s another thing to know it’s for real. The announcement was accompanied by a video for the track “Ekki Múkk.” You can hear some of what the band meant when they described a more intimate and electronic sound, but it’s still classic stuff from Jónsi and the boys (that doesn’t really work for these guys, does it?)
The band have already got a run of festival and one-off shows set for the coming months, and this blogger is blessed enough to be headed to Vienna to catch them. Expect to hear about that one.
Country music is one of those genres which I have long puzzled over. Maybe it’s being a Brit, but I’ve repeatedly grappled with cutting through the layers of sonic stereotypes at work. Every now and then though, I’ll come across something which helps me go a little way further into being able to enjoy the genre, something that helps me get my head around why it’s so popular.
The discovery this week of Good Saints has been a wonder for me. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, the five-piece specialise in an engrossing blend of blues, Southern gothic and country balladeering. Their recent EP Driftwood on the Fire is a collection of mellow, slightly intoxicated country songs, layered gently with slide guitar, banjo and dual harmonies. My favourite track by far from the EP is “Texas Moan”, a lilting waltz whose opening line – “Leave out the bottle and leave on the light” – won me over instantly. The bittersweet chorus is everything I’d already enjoyed about country music, and has given me a line into appreciating the rest of the tracks on this EP as well.
Driftwood on the the Fire is out now on download and vinyl.
I do wonder sometimes how great an influence sessions musicians have had on the legacy of popular music. It’s staggering to think of the anonymous hired guns who were instrumental (pun intended) in crafting some of rock and pop’s great masterpieces, unbeknown to us – the audience.
Kelly Pratt is one such musician. He’s played trumpet with Beirut, various horn and flute parts on Neon Bible, as well as playing with St. Vincent and David Byrne. Now he’s crept out from the shadows with his own solo project Bright Moments. In his lead track “Tourists”, you can definitely see a similarity to the above artists. It’s a piece of vibrant, slightly left-of-centre, piano led indie pop (think Ben Folds at his very best). The chord sequence remains unresolved throughout, and consequently the track has a constant feel of movement, which helps it to build into one massive, almost unstoppable swirl of synths, handclaps, brass and blistering falsetto. It’s a bit of a kitchen-sink number, but Pratt pulls it off jubilantly.
The debut album from Bright Moments is entitled Natives, and is available now on Luaka Bop.
“Feels like I’ve been indoors for a century now.” I’m gonna put it out there that that’s possibly the greatest opening line of any single released this year. It’s a brilliant, electric phrase for Swedish songstress Frida Hyvönen to open her new single “Terribly Dark” with, and sets the tone perfectly for a driving, paranoid slice of synth-pop.
There’s definitely a disco feel to the track, but it sounds more like the soundtrack to an 80’s movie montage more than anything (and no-one’s saying that’s a bad thing!). Stabs of watery synths and Frida’s tradmark piano underscore a cluster of devilishly catchy hooks which have been circulating in my brain non-stop for the past 24 hours.
The single is accompanied by the announcement of Frida’s fourth studio album To The Soul, due out 18th of April. She has a few Swedish shows lined up, but here’s hoping UK and US appearances soon follow.
It didn’t take me many listens of Laura Marling’s most recent album A Creature I Don’t Know to decide that the closing track “All My Rage” is probably the best song she’s ever written. An lilting folky anthem (if that’s possible), an ode to calmly and quietly letting go of your rage and bitterness, it’s just a superbly crafted and visually evocative song. The nonchalance with which she sings about raging seas and burning suns is delightfully English as well.
Here, we have the video for the track, now available as a single. It features Laura and her band setting up shop in what looks like some sort of demonically disused nursery, full of terrifying children’s toys, who eventually starting jumping and spinning around in a sort of unsettling, slightly uncanny ho-down. Why not?