29 April 2010

Darwin Deez: Radar Detector

I'm feeling in a summery mood at the minute and to go alongside it I've decided to try and pick some summery songs to go with that feeling. Hopefully you'll feel the same way about them! First up we've got Darwin Deez, a New Yorker with strange curly hair and an overall too-cool-for-school outlook. His album is filled with tunes just like "Radar Detector", bright, breezy, cheap and cheerful with simple guitars and not over-produced. Enjoy this song for its relative simplicity and feel the breeze through your hair:

28 April 2010

MGMT: Congratulations

Can we get something straight here? MGMT have NOT committed career suicide. They haven't gone and made a weird, super-psychedelic and out-there record that isn't accessible to anyone and everyone, and they definitely haven't left their more poppy, "Oracular Spectacular" roots. Anyone who says that obviously hasn't listened to the full album or if they have, they obviously weren't listening very hard.

The fact is that MGMT haven't disappeared into a weird miasma, even though they never intended themseves to be a pop band. Let's be frank here: if you listened beyond the singles of "Oracular Spectacular" and heard the likes of "The Youth", "Pieces of What", "The Handshake" and "Future Reflections" then you knew that there was more to MGMT than that band who did "Kids" (not that I'm dissing "Kids" of course). To all those people who liked MGMT because of two or three songs, the band have just recorded a two-fingered salute to the lot of you. "Congratulations" is for the real fans.

Here's why: in the middle of the record there is "Siberian Breaks", a 12-minute long, strangely compelling piece that sounds more like several songs strung together. Really MGMT have pieced together a medley of 2-minute long songs to make a hypnotic composition, moving from the sultry to the psychedelic to the downright dreamy with relative ease. You get the niggling feeling that every seed that pops into MGMT's heads just about germinate before flitting to another style or mood here. Basically, they're not fully-formed pieces for people who like a good structure. Much like most of the album here.

Of course, we must all know about "Flash Delirium", the swirling and untamed beast (I think it's fair to call it a beast, in light of the fact that it becomes incredibly raucous by the end) that is dramatic and oddly complex in its own detached sort of way. Then there's "Brian Eno", a kind of mad inside joke that sounds comical and could become incredibly annoying to anyone who doesn't get the strange humour in it (of course, "Time to Pretend" was deeply ironic, but how many people picked up on that?)

We mustn't forget that there are actally songs on here though. MGMT haven't completely abandoned the notion of writing a "proper song" and it shows at the beginning of the album. "It's Working" is a wonderful opener, grabbing you and making you instantly realise that the ideas of "career suicide" were just myths and nothing else. "Song For Dan Treacy" too has a defined structure, even if its psychedelic edge might leave some people slightly irritated. In fact, "Dan Treacy" makes me think that the idea of surfing on the front cover is entirely appropriate: I could easily imagine listening to this song while at the beach, riding the waves (if I could ride the waves). "Someone's Missing" is perhaps this album's "Pieces of What", an oddly strained, tender piece that stands out in the album as the kind of sane moment in a sea of relative madness. If you only plump for one song, you could play it safe and go for this.

MGMT haven't written the obituary on their own musical career, although no doubt this album as a whole will alienate a whole army of fans who believe that they're pop princes rather than odd troubadours. But if you were more gripped by the underplayed, underrated songs of "Oracular Spectacular" then after a couple of plays you really shouldn't be disappointed by their sophomore effort. Stick with it.

27 April 2010

We Have Band: WHB

Okay, so before going any further I think I should just explain a little about We Have Band. They’re a three-piece from London who have been working in the music industry for a while now. So bearing that in mind, they should know how to put a pretty decent record together in a sort of “have a go hero” kind of way, right?

Well the answer is: yes! Yes they can. There might be a couple of small hiccups along the way but WHB is a real grower of an indie-dance record. Oh, and when I say indie-dance don’t be put off. It’s a lot better than that actually sounds.

Just take their most well-known song, “Divisive”. It’s a catchy, fast paced affair that is part Human League, part Talking Heads. Hmm, that’s not a bad way to describe the band as a whole actually. The way that the three vocalists (yes, they all sing) gel together on “Divisive” is brilliant, no-one ever trying to overshadow anyone else, giving the sense that they’re really comfortable working together.

Another standout track is “Centrefolds and Empty Screens”, perhaps the record’s loudest and most complicated moment. While most of WHB is filled with songs that try to focus on a smaller aspect of the band’s talents (some songs are more keyboard-led, while others rely heavily on guitar), “Centrefolds” allows each of the three members to come together in a glorious wall-of-sound moment, from its first creepy bars to the last fading synths. On the first spin, you might be hard-pushed to find a better track.

Hard-pushed because in some ways We Have Band want to challenge you a little more: they’re fast to move tone through each song on the album and this could make it hard for some listeners to really see the joys of the record on a first listen. Even I had to spin it about five times before really appreciating the way that they’ve mixed together the slightly downbeat “Buffet” with the instantly danceable “Divisive” or placing “You Came Out”, with its haunting whistling and invasive bassline, in-between “Centrefolds” and “WHB”, two songs more similar in approach. Mix this with the fact that there’s a distinct rustiness in their ability to play instruments and WHB could have been a strangely detached and uninspiring album. But weirdly enough, this isn’t the case at all: once you’ve mapped out exactly where WHB is going then it’s easy to appreciate what they’ve attempted.

WHB isn’t the most polished of records though; on some tracks there’s a small sense of distortion that creeps in slightly (a bit of fuzz on “Centrefolds and Empty Screens”, a hazy sheen on opener “Piano”….) but this doesn’t take anything away from the songs themselves. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t a deliberate attempt on their part to make WHB seem more industrial and gritty, like they’d recorded it in a shed rather than a flashy studio.

Still, despite the sometimes semi-invasive distortion and the fact that lyrically the band are somewhere between naive and simplistic (it’s probably best to ignore this: it’s not like it really affects your enjoyment of this kind of album) We Have Band have managed to piece together a highly enjoyable, likeable debut album. Roll on new material.