Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rear Window (Part 2 of 2)

In which Dead Kenny casts another anxious look back at his music purchases, this time focusing on August, the month where normally we start worrying about summer's end, but in 2005 we spent most of it worrying if it would ever START.

The Back Room - Editors.

'See What The Boys In The Back Room Will Have', Marlene Dietrich sang in memorably coquettish fashion in the Jimmy Stewart western Destry Rides Again and on the evidence of Editors' debut album the boys in the back room had a closet full of vocal inflections and rumbling basslines misappropriated from Joy Division and Interpol when they weren't looking. A modern production sheen ensures songs like 'Bullets' and 'Munich' have the 'dancefloor-friendly' polish so necessary in the post-Franz Ferdinand era, but more surprisingly the Birmingham quartet prove equally adept at slower, more portentous songs (eg. 'Camera' and 'Open Your Arms') as well as at mustering impressive levels of intensity for the bone-crunching bravado of standout 'Fingers In The Factories'.

Buy it loved the fact that it rained until September.

Clor - Clor.

Hailing from London via Yorkshire, Clor's self-titled debut represents the sound of awkward and wired young men slowly coming to terms with recently-discovered superhero powers and starting to experiment with them through dressing up in dodgy uniforms; facilitating minor acts of compassion and trying to impress the ladies. The irresistible 'Love + Pain' and relentlessly upbeat 'Outlines' are two of the singles of the year, but 'Good Stuff'; 'Dangerzone' and 'Magic Touch' are the sound of these sonic boffins stretching the limits of their powers in enchantingly elastic ways. Possibly the best album released this year that comes with its own linedancing moves: your mother would approve, and sometimes ma knows best.

Buy it're looking for the geeky-uniquey album of the year (that you can throw superhero moves to).

Into The Woods - Malcolm Middleton.

Arab Strap multi-instrumentalist Middleton teases himself into the mainstream with his second solo album, partly what you might expect (self-effacing, downbeat lyrics and copious amounts of swearing), partly what you might not (upbeat, poppy tunes aplenty), but wholly enjoyable all the same. Self-referential opener 'Break My Heart' owes as much to The Pogues as it does to the Strap, and though bears are used in lieu of girls' names in the lyrics, there's nothing fey or mimsy at all about songs as wearily beautiful as the duet 'Solemn Thirsty' or as aggressively defiant as (former PV Single Of The Week) 'Loneliness Shines'.

Buy it're in the mood for a big fucking surprise.

Underdog Victorious - Jill Sobule.

Until the day crossword-loving Canadian singer-songwriter Jill Sobule gets her own sitcom we need to make the most of her winning combination of social comment, gentle satire and fizzing powerpop while we still can. She may be a crazy lady (Jill wears a dogmask, summerdress and trainers in the cover-art) but it would be woof justice indeed if tunes as stirring as 'Jetpack'; 'Joey'; 'Tel Aviv' and the singalong title track continue to lurk under the radar of the public consciousness. Not satisfied simply with these, however, Sobule reveals she loves a girl in uniform with the bonus track, the breezy C&W of 'I Saw A Cop (And She Pulled Me Over)' bringing the dog day afternoon to an arresting climax.

Buy it've still got a soft spot for heavy petting (and Cyndi Lauper).

Never Say Goodnight - The Havenots.

Leicester-based duo Sophia Marshall and Liam Dullaghan (yes, that really *is* his name) may look like an unassuming pair, and their second album is decidedly low-key in its attempts to provide an anglo variant on Americana, but there are enough dark hints of broader sonic influences and lyrical bite to keep you interested. 'My Heart Is Like A Day' shows they can rock out convincingly when the mood takes them, while 'Sweetest Feeling' is achingly beautiful that wouldn't have been out of place on the last Rilo Kiley album. You may not have heard of them yet, but The Havenots want not for talent.

Buy it believe it's the quiet ones you gotta watch out for.

Capture/Release - The Rakes.

The Rakes' debut represents the exact intersection between The Libertines' decadent chaos; Franz Ferdinand's art-rock stylings and Bloc Party's burgeoning political awareness. The result should be a mess, but producer du jour Paul Epworth helps steer matters into an astonishingly fluid and coherent fusion of moods and sounds that transcends its' component parts. It's a record that celebrates hedonism yet is all too aware of the hangover that must surely follow, made by four young men of above average intelligence, finding their feet and showing the way forward. Result is a contender for album of the year, and nobody was predicting that at the beginning of 2005.

Buy it believe beer and books aren't necessarily mutually exclusive leisure interests. Um, that's everybody, I hope.

Set Yourself On Fire - Stars.

Following on from The Arcade Fire's Funeral, this is another epic achievement from a previously overlooked Canadian outfit, angry and sometimes profane lyrics contrasting with intricately-constructed but devastatingly pretty pop tunes. Opening track 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead' exhumes then re-ignites The Delgados; 'Ageless Beauty' pours honey down the spine of Lush then licks it off gently; 'What I'm Trying To Say' patiently articulates inarticulacy, 'One More Night' reloads chamber pop while 'Calendar Girl' is a hymn to the hardy perennial ('November, December/all through the winter/I'm alive') that's an appropriate climax to this year's most elegant break-up album.

Buy it believe time is the great healer, but thank fuck there's whisky and rock music in the meantime.

You'll all no doubt be mightily relieved that Dead Kenny bought exactly zero new albums in September, so record reviews now almost up to date. Meanwhile, keep things Parallax View as a weekend linkdump seems as inevitable as avian flu and taxes.



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