Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Hidden Cameras Come Home

The last couple of Hidden Cameras albums have seen Joel Gibb and co. moving further and further away from the signature sound that Gibb once dubbed "gay church folk music". 2009's Origin:Orphan explored a variety of different genres and tossed bombastic brass arrangements and cool electronic touches into the pot, while 2014's Age had a darker atmosphere and an '80s underground sort of feel that incorporated elements of goth and dub music.

But now it would appear that Joel Gibb - who was born in Ontario but moved to Berlin some time ago - has had his fill of exploration for the time being and is ready to go home. The Hidden Cameras' new album is called Home on Native Land, and Gibb has described it as both "a return to my homeland" and "an inquisitive ode to Canada".

Monday, December 5, 2016

EP Corner: Wilds EP

Wilds are a band from Seattle who cite Mclusky and Built to Spill among their influences. Their debut EP - simply titled EP - came out back in October, and at just over 9 minutes in length, it's a bite-sized chunk of thick, fuzzy indie rock with a pleasantly noisy centre.

The first track, Endings, sounds a bit like Death Cab for Cutie, but it's less clean, less neat than any Death Cab track I've heard, and the stuttering snare drum blast that kicks in about two-thirds of the way through is probably too harsh to sit comfortably on the likes of Plans or Codes and Keys. It's the sort of song that Ben Gibbard might write after driving through a Mad Max-style wasteland for a day or two with Single Mothers on the car stereo.

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Playlist: Winter's On The Phone

Hey everyone - it's December! But before you break out the Christmas hits, here are 10 non-Yuletide tracks that I really enjoyed listening to in November and that I hope you'll enjoy listening to right now.

1. Holy Hell It's Cold by Quiet Marauder

(from MEN)

I tend to revisit MEN (originally released in 2013 - read my three-year-old review of it here) every year at around this time, and this rib-tickling but also slightly sobering cut seemed like an appropriate choice given the current temperature outside.

2. Treaty by Leonard Cohen

(from You Want it Darker)

You Want it Darker - which it's probably safe to assume was written and recorded by a Leonard Cohen who knew that he would soon be dead - has a certain duality to it. Many of its songs make it sound like Len had made his peace with the world and was ready to go, but a couple of songs (including Seemed the Better Way and this beautiful number) suggest a certain amount of regret, a desire to go back and change something. More thoughts on You Want it Darker here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ruminations on Conor Oberst's Ruminations

Given that I'm a huge fan of Bright Eyes (especially Lifted and Fevers & Mirrors), it's perhaps odd that until a few weeks ago I'd never listened to anything Conor Oberst released under his own name. There have been almost half as many Conor Oberst albums (4) as there have been Bright Eyes albums (9), and yet it wasn't until the 9th of this month - the day we learned that Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States - that I bothered to buy one of them.

Ruminations came out last month, and it's *wonderful*. I quickly formed a closer bond with this album than I formed with either of the last two Bright Eyes LPs; Cassadaga and The People's Key were both fine records, but in my view they lacked the intimacy and feeling of Oberst's best material.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Don't Believe the Hyperreal

Don't Believe the Hyperreal by Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom was one of my favourite albums of 2015, but oddly enough I never really wrote anything about it here on the blog. One year on from its release, I'd like very much to rectify that state of affairs.

Airel Sharratt and Mathias Kom are both members of The Burning Hell, but sometime towards the end of 2015, they took a break from their day job and recorded a collection of duets called Don't Believe the Hyperreal. The album's artwork is a collage of famous couples such as Princess Leia/Han Solo, John Lennon/Yoko Ono, and Rachel Green/Ross Geller, and most of the songs here are pretty lovey-dovey in theme (Sharratt and Kom are themselves an item), but as love songs go, these ones do a really good job of being sweet without ever being sickly. Fuck the Government, I Love You chronicles Mathias and Ariel's first meeting with arch humour instead of gooey 'love at first sight' hyperbole, while the likes of Your Military and What You Want show how perfectly these two complete each other but do so in an off-kilter sort of way that tugs at the heartstrings but never makes you want to roll your eyes.

No roses or chocolates here - just lines about druids and broken stereo speakers. There is a Princess Bride reference, but they don't even compare themselves to Buttercup and Westley; instead, Sharratt likens herself to Inigo Montoya, and her lover to the six-fingered man who slew Inigo's father. I Got You Babe it ain't.