Vogelenzangranks : Best of Jan – Mar 2010

14 05 2010

VOGELENZANGRANKS : BEST OF JAN – MAR 2010

Vogelenzangranks has been secretly squirreling away the best tracks from each of the reviewed albums on the site.  You can download the 17 track mix HERE or  HERE.

The plan is to upload a mix each quarter so baring sudden deafness, finger amputation or incarceration in a debtors prison Vogelenzangranks : Best of Apr – Jun 2010 should appear later in the year, although one hopes it won’t take 5  months to write 3 months worth of reviews next time – in any case, as the Vikings used to say, huzzah!

Track listing.

1. LAWRENCE ARABIA look like a fool 2. FOUR TET love cry 3. CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG master’s hand 4. ADAM GREEN bathing birds 5. SPOON i saw the light 6. RJD2 walk with me 7. JOHNNY CASH ain’t no grave 8. BUILT TO SPILL hindsight 9. WATSON TWINS midnight 10. EMMA POLLOCK i could be a saint 11. MASSIVE ATTACK splitting the atom 12. ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT magnetic warrior 13. GORILLAZ sweepstakes 14. DRIVE BY TRUCKERS get downtown 15. HOLLY GOLIGHTY AND THE BROKEOFFS escalator 16. THE CONGOS up on the roof 17. SCOUT NIBLETT meet and greet.





March mini review and round up

14 05 2010

EMMA POLLOCK THE LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS Chemikal Underground Released 01/03/2010.

There was much bewailing on the announcement of The Delgados split in 2005 – as well as producing chamber pop masterpieces such as ‘The Great Eastern’ the band had been central to the Scottish music scene renaissance of the early 90’s with the founding of their Chemikal Underground label. Delgados fans needn’t have fretted though as Chemikal Underground continues to exist and is releasing music from, among others, former Delgados vocalist Emma Pollock, who’s solo sound is not a million miles away from that of her former band.  The album opens in tip top form, ‘Hug The Harbour’ and especially ‘I Could Be A Saint’ are as good as anything on the last few Delgados albums, both feature snaking song structures that coil and twist unpredictably with impressively muscular drumming and heavy bass lines prominent.  Nothing else quite matches those tracks but the maturer sound of ‘Hate’ or ‘Universal Audio’ is echoed in the piano pop of ‘House On The Hill’ (co-written with Kim Edgar) and the fizzy, hook laden ‘Confessions’; that said the jazzy ‘Nine Lives’ does prompt a move away from any previous signature sound.

VOGELENZANG RANK : 6.90

Sample Track: Emma Pollock ‘Hug The Harbour’

V O G E L E N Z A N G R A N K S   S T A N D I N G S – March 2010

  1. 7.45 – Spoon ‘Transference’ (Anti) 25/01/2010
  2. 7.29 – Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’ (EMI) 08/03/2010
  3. 7.15 – Drive By Truckers ‘The Big To Do’ (PIAS) 15/03/2010
  4. 7.13 – Four Tet ‘There Is Love In You’ (Domino) 25/01/2010
  5. 7.08 – Watson Twins ‘Talking To You, Talking To Me’ (Welk) 08/02/2010
  6. 7.00 – Lawrence Arabia ‘Chant Darling’ (Bella Union) 04/01/2010
  7. 6.92 – Built To Spill ‘There Is No Enemy’ (ATP) 15/02/2010
  8. 6.92 – Holly Golighty And The Brokeoffs ‘Medicine County’ (Damaged Goods) 29/03/2010
  9. 6.90 – Emma Pollock ‘The Law Of Large Numbers’ (Chemikal Underground) 01/03/2010
  10. 6.80 – Archie Bronson Outfit ‘Coconut’ (Domino) 01/03/2010
  11. 6.79 – The Congos ‘Back In The Black Ark’ (Wrasse) 22/03/2010
  12. 6.71 – Adam Green ‘Minor Love’ (Rough Trade) 11/01/2010
  13. 6.70 – Massive Attack ‘Heligoland’ (Virgin) 08/02/2010
  14. 6.69 – RJD2 ‘The Colossus’ (Electrical Connections) 01/02/2010
  15. 6.69 – Charlotte Gainsbourg ‘IRM’ (Because) 25/01/2010
  16. 6.60 – Johnny Cash ‘American VI – Ain’t No Grave’ (Mercury) 22/02/2010
  17. 6.55 – Scout Niblett ‘The Calcination of Scout Niblett’ (Drag City) 18/01/2010




Holly Golighty And The Brokeoffs -Medicine County

14 05 2010

HOLLY GOLIGHTY AND THE BROKEOFFS

MEDICINE COUNTY

Released: 29/03/2010

Damaged Goods

Holly Golighty is probably best known for a guest appearance on The White Stripes ‘Elephant’, perhaps less so for her long time collaborations with art Stuckist and garage rock contrarian Billy Childish, both as a member of The Headcoatees and a solo artist. In fact she’s been a fixture in the British underground scene since the early nineties but she has rarely sounded particularly British, for most of her career she has shown more interest in American folk – from early sixties garage rock through blues and country to hillbilly music – over it’s ‘bastardized’ post British Invasion offspring.

For ‘Medicine County’ Golighty has teamed up with her long time musical partner Lawyer Dave, credited as one man band The Brokeoffs, and between them they have produced  a more upbeat album than some of Golightly’s recent work but it essentially draws from the same pool – Weird Old America- and in order to foster as much authenticity as possible the pair have adopted the musical equivalent of method by actually immigrating to rural Georgia to breed horses and record the album in an old farmhouse.

Opening track ‘Forget It’ takes the form of a Julee Cruse weirdo lament plucked straight from some obscure David Lynch movie with ghostly tremelo guitar and odd atmospherics courtesy of a wheezy and ancient organ. ‘Two Left Feet’ is a bit more straight forward, a standard swampy blues track with some gritty bottleneck guitar that growls and jutters as the song ambles along to a primative beat.  Title track is a nasal country and western track of the old school where the dual vocalists bemoan the temperance of a dry county in the Deep South and asks ‘How the hell did we get here?’ – perhaps a reference to their recent move to rural Georgia.  ‘I Can’t Lose’ is an top tapping barn dance song with some Earl Scruggs style banjo and country fiddle.

A number of cover versions crop up across the album and two of them provide both the albums nadir and epoch.  Some where in the middle is call and response murder ballad ‘Murder In My Mind’, a Hitsville House Band cover (Wreckless Eric by any other name). However ‘Blood On The Saddle’ an old traditional folk tune drags rather despite the guest contribution of baritone voiced retro cowboy Tom Heinl. However although not performing this time, Heinl does provide the albums highlight as a songwriter when Holly and Dave cover ‘Escalator’, a twangy backwoods track on the perilous dangers of moving stairways to simple country folk; the track features a tremendously catchy chorus and amusing lyrics delivered deadpan serious and stands head and shoulders above anything else on the album.

VOGELENZANG RANK : 6.92

Sample Track : Holly Golighty And The Brokeoffs ‘I Can’t Lose’





The Congos – Back In The Black Ark (Blue Wrasse)

29 04 2010

THE CONGOS

BACK IN THE BLACK ARK

Released: 22/03/2010

Blue Wrasse

In the minds of most music fans the year 1977 is synonymous with the emergence of punk rock but it was also the year that roots reggae crossed into popular mainstream culture having previously been restricted, outside of Jamaica of course, to émigré communities in New York and the United Kingdom and a small cognoscenti of cutting edge music fans.

1977 had religious significance to those of the Rastafarian faith and perhaps spurred on by this the period produced what many regard as the golden era of roots reggae and perhaps even Jamaican music as a whole with seminal releases by the likes of Augustus Pablo, Culture, Dennis Brown, Tappa Zukie and of course Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’.  Among this great clutch of reggae albums was The Congos ‘Heart of the Congos’ an album often regarded as among Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s premier production achievements.  Some thirty three years later, the group’s original members and producer have reunited and given us ‘Back In The Black Ark’ – a rather misleading title since the Perry’s Black Ark studio burned down in the early 80’s.

The album opens with ‘Chain Gang’, a light-on-it’s-feet number that stands somewhere between ska and 1960’s soul, a fact that is hardly surprising since the song is a Sam Cooke original.  ‘Celestial World’ conforms more to what one might expect of roots reggae, with some ear bleedingly heavy bass, a slow chugging rhythm and some excellent drum fills from the legendary reggae drummer Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace.  ‘Charriots’ (the group’s spelling) is spritelier than the preceding tracks with the song being built around the very Perryesque idea of someone repeatedly ringing a door bell.  ‘Forever Young’ showcases Cedric Myton’s rather strange falsetto voice, a voice that may not be to all tastes, while ‘Spider Woman’ sounds more contemporary and in tune with current Jamaican mores with its dancehall template.

Whatever you think about religion itself, religious song often carries an uplifting spirituality that is hard for the agnostic to match and ‘Crying Times’ falls into that category – with it’s Jerusalem chorus, it positions its self half way between CoE choir and a choppy reggae summertime beach sound.  The album finishes as it starts with a cover of an American soul track, this time the classic ‘Up On The Roof’ which gets an unusual jittery synth backwash and excellent vocals from the group who, despite appearing to being rather gnarly grey beards these days, can still produce a sweet vocal melody.

In overview the album has an ‘oddness’ to it, neither being completely faithful to roots reggae traditions nor wearing an ultra modern production; it therefore falls between audiences which could be a problem for fans of the former or the latter.  Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry may not be the cutting edge production maverick that he once was and the Congos have still to better their magnus opus of ’77, but those with a interest in Jamaican music, or more specifically in Perry’s quirky techniques, will find things to interest them here.

VOGELENZANG RANK : 6.79

Sample Track : The Congos ‘Celestial World’





Drive By Truckers – The Big To-Do (PIAS)

21 04 2010

DRIVE BY TRUCKERS

THE BIG TO-DO

Released : 15/03/2010

PIAS

Drive By Truckers have earned their standing the old fashioned way, through constant touring and a string of albums that built upon its predecessor’s critical acclaim and commercial success.

However as well deserved as their upward trajectory from bar band to the upper reaches of the US album charts is it has to be said the group have sometimes failed to maintain a consistent quality to their work.  2004’s break through album ‘The Dirty South’ was a case in point, where half a dozen genuinely classic songs, as good as anything released by any other contemporary guitar band, shared running order with a number of flat out clunkers and an equal amount of slightly clumsy and disappointingly generic rockers; the previous LP ‘Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’ also had it’s problems coming across as a sprawling and unfocused effort in the wake of personnel changes and, perhaps, a crisis in musical direction.

Happily then ‘The Big To Do’ see’s the band sustain form across the board and while there is nothing as good as ‘Carl Perkin’s Cadillac’, ‘Where The Devil Don’t Stay’ or even ‘Aftermath USA’ the band seem to have ironed out the crinkles in the consistency of its output.  Thankfully that means the album is free of artistic howlers such as ‘The Man I Shot’ or ‘You And Your Crystal Meth’ that had  fouled up the previous album and provided examples of chief songwriter Patterson Hood’s tendency to pick up lyrical ideas beyond his own experience or ability to develop.

The LP starts with the soaring ‘Daddy Learned To Fly’ which acts almost as an introductory guide to the band itself – all the usual Drive By Trucker characteristics are here which adds up to a larger than life, melodic and hard rocking road house music.  Following up ‘The Fourth Night Of My Drinking’ covers a familiar DBT lyrical concern but does so with the guidance of an excellent organ refrain, although one that seems infuriatingly familiar.  However the album really takes off though when Jeff Cooley, the group’s secondary songwriter but most talented component, enters the fray with ‘Birthday Boy’ a matter of fact tale of a small town girl turned prostitute.  Cooley also contributes the best track on the album ‘Get Downtown’ a reworking of The Rolling Stone’s ‘Rip This Joint’ with added fuzz.

One of the least satisfying aspects to the previous album was bassist Shona Tucker’s debut as a songwriter, frankly her contributions were not very distinguished, but here things take a step in the right direction.  ‘You Got Another’ is a piano led lament on the philandering of a loved one which is, if not an album highlight, certainly a big improvement on the  song writing scale. Her other track ‘(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So’ doesn’t hang around at the 2 minute mark and  lopes around euphorically on the big beats of the oft overlooked Brad Morgan.

VOGELENZANG RANK : 7.15

Sample track : Drive By Truckers ‘Birthday Boy’





Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (EMI)

9 04 2010

GORILLAZ

PLASTIC BEACH

Released : 08/03/2010

EMI

When it comes to making albums the ‘galaxy of stars’ approach is rarely successful, more often than not the whole does not add up to the sum of its parts, any talent involved is watered down by the compromises inherent in a co-operative enterprise and banality of committee planning and execution becomes all too evident.

Yet despite this general rule Gorillaz’s latest album, ‘Plastic Beach’, like it’s predecessor, features an impressive roster of talent that spans the broad church of popular music, both in time line and scope. Those featured include elder figures such as Lou Reed, Mark E. Smith or Bobby Womack through to more contemporary hip hop artists such as Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and De La Soul.  It’s to Damon Albarn credit then that ‘Plastic Beach’ not only works well as an album but that the almost unceasing line of cameo appearances actually enhance rather than detract from the work.

Slow burn electro opener ‘Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach’, features the aforementioned Snoop Dogg and the rapper holds centre stage with stylish and relaxed delivery even if his lines seem more like verbal nonsense than an introduction to the supposed ecological themes of the album. Not many would have the artistic vision to collide UK grime stars Kano and Bashy with the Lebanese National Orchestra but Albarn does and ‘White Flag’ works surprising well with the apparently disperate music blending effortlessly.

As threats of lawsuits might suggest ‘Stylo’ does share some similarities with Eddy Grant’s ‘Time Warp’ but no more than Grant’s own track resembles Kraftwerk and with the Gorillaz tracks deeper groove and brillantly gritty yet soulful vocals of Bobby Womack, one suspects some professional jeously is at play.  ‘Empire Ants’ is melancoly synth pop similar to Pet Shop Boys with Yukimi Nagano standing in for Neil Tennant, while later on Lou Reed provides a sort of robot dead pan on ‘Some Kind Of Nature’.

The latter track deals with Albarn’s theme for the album of an ecological compromise between the disposable culture and the natural world, apparently inspired by travels in African but generally this thematic idea is ignored by his guests and isn’t really explored on anything other than a surface level.  It’s also noticable that on the tracks where Albarn has the stage to himself the result is usually more downbeat than is otherwise the case, almost as if he is trying to give the album a sense of depth that it doesn’t really need.  Despite these minor gripes ‘Plastic Beach’ is one of the best albums released this year.

VOGLENZANG RANK : 7.29

Sample track : Gorillaz ‘Super Fast Jellyfish’





Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut (Domino)

2 04 2010

ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT

COCONUT

Released: 01/03/2010

Domino

Despite being signed to Domino, a label which along with Rough Trade now almost completely dominates the British independent scene, it’s fair to say Archie Bronson Outfit have yet to prick the public consciousness.

The groups second album, 2006’s ‘Derdang, Derdang’, received almost universally positive press yet regardless of the magazine album of the year polls the band failed to find themselves in the first rank with fellow Domino bands such as Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys and in fact remain one of the more obscure acts on the label.  The bands newest effort ‘Coconut’, a frustratingly inconsistent affair, is unlikely to change that.

Perhaps the main reason why ‘Coconut’ doesn’t quite work as an album is that the band cannot seem to decide in which direction they want to go.  They seem at their most comfortable on tracks like the opener ‘Magnetic Warrior’ a fuzzy, bass heavy juggernaut with phased vocals and Middle Eastern sounding elements lurking around amidst the tumult of it all.  With its hard driving psychedelic groove its reminiscent in many ways of groups like Hawkwind.

Likewise tracks like the PiL clone ‘Wild Strawberries’ or ‘You Have The Right To A Mountain Life’ which resembles the sound one might experience while wandering through a Moroccan souk while tripping on a particularly potent strain of acid, retain the musical theme of cacophonous psychedelia but between these journeys to the wild side one can usually find rather tepid indie disco affairs interspersed such as the wilting ‘Hoola’, a track that attempts funk punk but which sounds so half hearted it’s actually quite wearying to listen to.

Similarly underpowered is ‘Chunk’ which could be an disowned early eighties Human League cast off.  So limp are these tracks and so unhappy and uncomfortable the band apparently are one can only deduce the band is doing something it really doesn’t want to do whether it be from producer or label pressure or a misguided attempt to make themselves more commercially appealing. Only once does the band combine its wilder excesses with a radio viable tune, that being on the jittery and murky ‘Shark’s Tooth’ which somewhere beneath the layers of atonal distortion features a pop song.

When Archie Bronson Outfit let loose with their psychedelic freak out music they are rather entertaining but the album is spoiled by anaemic stabs at popularity which are surely bound to fail.

VOGELENZANG RANK : 6.80

Sample track : Archie Bronson Outfit ‘Shark’s Tooth’