Feb. 6th, 2009

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Múm - Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK
(ambient, post-rock, experimental electronic)

With their glitchy, ambient, Sigur-Ros-meets-Aphex-Twin thing going on, Múm manage to get it right about 90% of the time on Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK. There's one or two slightly dull stretches during the first half, but they're quite short and are more than made up for by the rest. Highlight tracks include "Smell Memory", "Awake on a Train" and "Sunday Night Just Keeps on Rolling". An excellent debut.


PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
(singer/songwriter, alternative-rock)

What you'll find here is straight-up, unpretentious, well produced, finely performed alternative rock. The lack of To Bring You My Love's ferocious bite is definitely felt, but even without that album's edginess, PJ Harvey still turns in a great collection of "attitude-lite" rockers. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea is unimposing, great fun and very easy to sink your teeth into, with a consistent level of quality across its dozen tracks and nothing in the way of weak points. While it's rarely exceptional, it's undoubtedly a rock-solid album that's sure to appeal to an extremely broad audience.


Juana Molina - Segundo
(folktronica, singer/songwriter)

I'd already heard all of Molina's subsequent three albums before checking out Segundo, and when looking at all four of them taken together, it's becoming apparent that she's simply one of the most consistently great artists out there - the sort of musician who's just incapable of writing a poor song. Her albums never quite reach the heights of masterpiece status, but Segundo is yet another extremely solid, enjoyable selection of mellow, subtle folktronica, constantly engaging and completely free of weak spots. Listen to it on headphones and drift away.


Super Furry Animals - Mwng
(indie-rock, folk-pop)

Super Furry Animal's deliver an endlessly catchy album of teriffic, psych-tinged folk-pop with Mwng, one which is made a little more spacey and alien to us non-Welsh folk by the Welsh-language lyrics (a language in which they don't usually sing). However, that particular quirk should in no way be viewed as a crutch - this is an incredibly snappy and accessible album that'd be a standout in any language. This is how to do straightforward, infectious, guitar-led music right.


Gas - Pop
(ambient, minimalist electronica)

Minimalist electronic music with a natural, organic flow to it. With just seven tracks clocking in at over an hour, the songs on Pop are often repetitive to the point of being hypnotic, only slowly developing across their full duration. To Gas' credit, however, listening to the album (and not merely as background music) never feels arduous or dull - it's actually an extremely relaxing, meditative and intricately structured work, that's pleasantly easy to settle into and never becomes tiring to endure. It's as soothing as anything the genre of minimalist electronica has to offer, but by avoiding sounding stale and clinical or cheap and new-agey, it effortlessly avoids the pitfalls that tend to snare so many albums of its type.
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Two updates in one day! You lucky people! :)


Mirah - You Think it's Like This but Really it's Like This
(singer/songwriter, lo-fi, indie-pop)

Incredibly sweet singer/songwriter fare from the whispy-vocalled Microphones collaborator. Mirah's music sounds wistful and utterly romantic (a bit Frente-like, I thought), and it's a wonder how easily she manages to insert playful, overtly sexual lyrics into the mix (singing about "wanting to mess up my sheets with you" doesn't take much to decipher) without her songs ever sounding anything less than innocently affectionate. With the instrumentation being typically bare, primarily made up of lone-guitar or ukulele accompaniament, the focus remains purely on Mirah's vocal for the duration of the album, which is a good thing given how whisper quiet her vocals can get. You Think it's Like This but Really it's Like This is a wonderful little debut - there's certainly room to go up from here, but it stands as a really great first effort.


Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
(indie-rock, dream-pop)

Cool, smooth, kinda Sonic Youth flavoured dream-pop, with a generous runtime that suggests a lot of patience will be required to get through it. It's a surprisingly easy listen, though, and it certainly doesn't feel like 80 minutes has passed when it ends. There's rewards a-plenty to be had on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, as its songwriting rates amongst some of the sharpest to take shelter under the "indie" umbrella. There's a bit of a melancholy streak evident in the tunes on the first half of the album, but it's nicely offset by some well-placed rock-out gems ("Cherry Chapstick") and breezy guitar pop ("Madeline") later in the tracklisting, not to mention the near-20-minute space out of closer "Night Falls on Hoboken". The whispered vocals also mean this is significantly better on headphones.


Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One
(indie-rock, riot grrl)

All Hands on the Bad One is admittedly one of the weaker Sleater-Kinney albums, which just makes it "merely" awesome (as opposed to really, really awesome, although I fear my personal bias towards one of my very favourite bands is starting to show). The guitars are wicked, the melodies are killer and Corin Tucker's vocals are absolutely massive as always. If "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun" doesn't get yer ass a-shakin', there's simply no hope for you.


The Fall - The Unutterable
(post-punk, electro-rock, experimental-rock)

This relatively little-heard Fall album is a great collection of stompy electro-rock, loaded with Smith's usual unique brand of lyrical madman headfuckery. The tracks come in predominantly short and snappy, making The Unutterable one of The Fall's more economically minded and accessible efforts, and arguably a fairly good jumping-on point for newcomers to the group's rather intimidating discography. It's a very even and consistent effort, but there's a definite major highlight in the brilliantly ranty "Dr Buck's Letter".


Blonde Redhead - Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
(indie-rock, experimental-rock)

Blonde Redhead's fifth studio album is a gauzy, bohemian indie-rock effort, saturated with gothic vobes and showcasing a creative edge that places it highly within its somewhat overcrowded genre. The superb one-two combo of "In Particular" and the notably punchy "Melody of Certain Three" makes for one hell of an opening, while the remainder of the album retains a similarly high quality throughout. Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace alternate on vocals from song to song, with Makino sounding fragile, distant, and trance-like, which makes for an engaging performance, while Pace delivers in a more straightforward manner during his turns, with his vocals often acting as a palate-cleansing counterpoint to Makino's. Cohesive, short and experimental enough to keep things interesting, Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons is an indie-rock highpoint.


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