Week 13 - Bleached, Ride Your Heart

Spunky girl garage pop punk with a carefree attitude. I can’t put is plainer than that. When I think of these type of attributes I cast my mind back to the Throwing Muses and way more recently Those Darlins, K-Holes and EMA.
Bleached doesn’t measure up to any of these, but there is a lot to like. The first song is the stand out, with it a fantastic surfer chic style, rockin licks and tonnes of attitude. Next Stop keeps it going and Out of My Mind is a change of pace that keeps me interested. I can’t help feel though that the band have invested heavily in the first half of the album and there is a struggle to keep the momentum going for the whole distance. Although the rest of the album has breezy quality that is not hard to listen to. It doesn’t challenge too much and the lyrics are a bit on the forgetful side in parts. My mind drifts back as far as the Go Go’s by Dreaming With You, but that is no sin in my book, but not really what I think the band is promising with the first few songs.

Even for the albums faults I really enjoyed it, I can imagine Bleached going really well at summer music festival. I’d have an expensive (but cheap) watered down beer in one hand, my phone in the other taking blurry and haphazard shots of a band having a great time with their audience.

I’d pay good money for that.

Week 8 - Daughter , If You Leave

Daughter take a dark, brooding, painful path through their work. Whereas contemporaries like Dark,Dark,Dark and Dark Horses employ a modest optimism through melody, Daughter takes time through the album to build atmosphere - a wall of sound that still leaves plenty of room to connect to the lyrics. The singing is front and centre.
This is best left to the side if you are a bit down though. To quote Smother (only the second song)

'I sometimes wish I'd stayed inside my mother never to come out'

It doesn’t get any more uplifting at any point throughout the album’s 10 songs. I admire the bravery though. I don’t know how artists like this do it. Given all of that though , I wavered on this through the week. The music is so polished, and heads directly for territory covered by Dido many years ago, but if you squint and turn your head toward the sun you’ll be thinking more Sigor Ros. It’s a battle in my head that I never quite resolve and will probably take most of the year to finish.

Week 22 - Smith Westerns, Soft Will
Another excellent week where the music inside matched the promise of the cover art. Put the album on repeatedly, neck about 4-8 standard drinks (as defined by the Surgeon General) and while you do that binge out on some Smith Westerns at high volume. Wake up with your ears ringing and you have just recreated 90% of my Friday nights from the heady days of my youth.
I haven’t heard their first album, but the Smith Westerns have to be happy with their second effort … the so called difficult second album has been dispatched with ease.
Probably more for the boys this on and it follows the trend of the recent past by being a bit Indie Pop, a bit Psychedelic, a bit Garage. Smith Westerns are straight down the middle and I must resist making lazy comparisons to the likes of Oasis and the Beatles because you can make that link to so many bands these days and I think the point is worn now.
Smith Westerns are no one trick pony though, each song on Soft Will are well crafted , nearly perfect pop songs, and I’m taken to more places than I can name. I love the 70’s style guitar riffs and I can’t even choose which one I like the most.

Week 20 - Kurt Vile , Walkin On A Pretty Daze

I had Kurt filed into the ‘artists I should have known about but never got around to’ box, but no more as I have finally found time for him.
I’m pretty glad about it, Walkin On Pretty Daze fits nicely as a mid winter warmer.
The most interesting thing about this is Kurt’s ability to create seemingly simple tunes that want to glide right passed you, but give them some time and you’ll realise the full extent of the level of skill used.

Each song develops at a steady pace over the life of the album. The songs reveal themselves at the start putting you on good terms immediately. There aren’t many gimmicks used to hook you in, not many highs or lows, sudden turns or key changes - they are there, but used sparingly and to good effect.
There is plenty of excellent instrumentation, it drives through the whole album, but be ready for a lot of gentle finger style guitars with fingers sliding up and down the fret board at regular intervals. It’s not all the same all the way through though, Shame Chamber breaks a run with some electric work that didn’t seem terribly out of place, the ‘woohs’ pierced through my massaged eardrums and scared the bejesus out of me. I had to get up and check the house was properly secured before I could get back to it.

Week 10 - Guards, In Guards We Trust
I really don’t know what to say about this one. Maybe it would be safer if we just all agree that it isn’t my cup of tea and we can move on with our lives? Not good enough hey?
Well, I really wanted to like this album just on the strength of the stunning cover art, which is probably why I bought it.
The first song ‘Nightmare’ is the stand out and promises something that the rest of the album doesn’t live up to.
I can only describe it like this. There is a 90% chance that we’ll hear at least one of these songs in a beer commercial. One where it’s summer and all of the city’s youth decide to take their own furniture to a local rooftop and start a party; they only have empty beer glasses , but the good news is that it’s summer and the sun magically fills each glass with the purest gold liquid fun. You are passing by and can hear the fun and you go to the rooftop because you want to have fun too, only to realise that you are trapped at a party filled with a bunch of twats and the beer isn’t that good, but they won’t let you leave.

Friends, I don’t come to this opinion lightly , I gave it a long listen. My last.fm playcount proves it - 45 - which equals a little over 4 plays. I read some truly brutal reviews during the week, which were really unfair, I am sure Guards put their hearts and souls into it. Ultimately though, I didn’t connect to this at all.

Week 24 - The Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

If you like your music from the more off-centre, bizzare and even a little avante garde side of life then brace yourself, this week we have a gem.
Even if I didn’t like the music I’d have to be satisfied with the cover art!
It kinda says, you want the strawberries you have to run the risk of being eaten…. right?

The album is a story told in ten parts. Unlike the Besnard Lakes’ Until in Excess Imperceptible UFO, you can digest this in parts. Disentangled, each song is a ripping rock tune and nothing to disappoint.

The story is a helenistic journey from the ancient world and with notable omissions plays out like this:

I came down from the Mountain - the journey has begun, full of expectations I set out to make my fortune attracted by the bright lights and excitement of a far off destination.

Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster is (surely the best titled song for the year) - it blasts for 20 seconds then invites me to settle down, a slow deliberate drawl emerges an undercurrent of menace then suddenly ratchets up the upset.

No Spell - A siren’s song, the title is devilish - this is a calming magic trick, a deception, there is a trap hidden ahead but I have started now, it’s too late to turn back.

Strawberries - A bowl with a sign sits atop saying ‘eat me’. They should be softer, sweeter but it’s aggressive and saccharin. I’m on edge again- have I been poisoned.

Maze Fancier - now I’m trapped and lost in the labyrinth, it’s too late but by now I don’t care about my fate, I carry on (keep turning left, I’m bound to come to the end).

Minotaur - My plan fails and I reach the very centre of the maze where the fabled Minotaur comes to finish me off!! Argghhh the horror!

What a journey, but all I want to do is turn around and do it all over again!