I usually blog about gigs, and I think that’s because it’s a specific moment in time where I connect with music. It’s an occasion that’s only matched by getting blown away by a track or album you’ve never heard before, which can be a hell of an experience.
I recently headed off to Oz for three weeks for an epic road trip. And because it was a solo mission, it gave me the chance to immerse myself in a few albums. Driving around a country that’s the size of a continent gives you time and space to do that.
I started off the trip with Lakefield‘s Swan Songs and Songs From the Treeline, who I decided to give a crack after reading Sarah Lay’s review for Louder than War, where she described them as a cross between Far and Belle and Sebastian, which I can definitely see with the big Emo sound and subtle brass. I’d like to chuck some more bands in the mix – early Saves the Day (poppy/melodic/emotional rock) and Death Cab for Cutie (often ambient guitar parts and picking). If, like me, you got into Emo pre-Fall Out Boy, then this band is for you. Your Conviction is Sweet embodies a lot of what is good about both the album and EP, which is sadly their last material as they’ve broken up. You can get both for a bargain $10 from their website though.
As an overly emotional dude, my next stop was Chuck Ragan‘s latest effort, Till Midnight. I’m a massive fan of Chuck’s band Hot Water Music, and I’m an even bigger fan of his voice – anybody who can sing whilst sounding like they’re gargling a mixture of gravel and glass is ok by me. Sometimes driving round the back of beyond felt like driving through images of the Wild West, and the folk/country-ish twang of this album, like the lovely Bedroll Lullaby, was pretty much the perfect accompaniment. My personal highlight is Non Typical, a brilliantly catchy but off-kilter love song.
When I saw Warpaint at Reading Festival I didn’t quite get it, and in retrospect I don’t think it was the right place to see them live. Their gently troubling, ambient sound would be much better suited to a claustrophobic club, or the next best thing – pumping out the speakers of a Nissan Micra. There are elements of Radiohead and some trip hop sounds, a la Portishead in there. It also reminded me a little of a more esoteric Team Sleep stuff, Chino Moreno from the Deftones’ side project. It’s an absolutely beautiful album, with the bass playing a big part in driving their sound forward. It feels wrong to pick a highlight, if you’re gonna check it out I’d suggest listening to the album as a whole and submitting wholeheartedly to its awesomeness.
Talking of Chino Moreno, next on my list was Crosses, or ††† as they’re technically called. I blame Prince for this symbol as band name shenanigans. The band includes both Chino, and Shaun Lopez of Far. Shaun’s fingerprints are all over the intense production. He produced Far’s At Night We Live and Deftones’ Saturday Night Wrist, but he’s taken it to the next level with this effort, and added an electronic twist. At times it’s a very poppy yet gothic affair, and bears an 80s influence. Trophy is a good track to check out, with its reverb heavy guitar strums and big synth. It’s a great mix though, which fits well with Chino’s airy, breathy vocals.
Last but not least was La Dispute’s Rooms of the House, the heaviest of the bunch. But it wasn’t the heaviness that grabbed me, more the contrast of the softer tracks such as Woman (in Mirror). It certainly seems to fit with Jordan Dreyer’s spoken word-esque, storytelling delivery. This sets it apart from their earlier efforts, and hopefully they’ll play some softer stuff in and amongst the big songs (which are equally decent – check out the opening track Hudsonville MI 1956) when they play Cardiff next week.
Above all though, these aren’t just good albums because of where I listened to them. As Nick Hornby says in 31 Songs, ‘If you love a song, love it enough for it to accompany you throughout the different stages of your life, then any specific memory is rubbed away by use.’