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Our Top 20 Albums of 2015

in Blog by

Every December the staff of Here Today meet to decide our favourite albums of the year. It’s an ugly brawl, with scars lasting well into the next Spring. This year, to save ourselves a bit of dignity, we thought we’d ask our readers to pick the best of our 20 candidates for best album. The voting will end at midnight on the 20th of December, but we will be arguing the case for each album until the final day.

[yop_poll id=”2″ tr_id=””” show_results=”-1″]

Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?

When relationships end, it can get ugly fast. Some people lash out, and some turn it inwards. The source of heartbreak on Majical Cloudz’s Are You Alone matter far less than the overarching contemplation of what it means to be in love or alone. The down tempo album of pianos, synths, and solo vocals on this particularly lovelorn album makes it your best friend and companion for rainy days or just days when you can’t bear to face the world. And it’s still got more dignity to it than a Netflix marathon.

Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

Protomartyr had all the makings of the next garage rock band of the minute, but there are already enough swampy vocals out there. What there isn’t enough of is the deadpan delivery that makes this band instantly recognizable. It’s as if that voice has given them license to go ever so slightly off the rails; with atypical narratives and atypical song structures, The Agent Intellect wraps its frayed ends around you and grips tightly. All the proof you need is in the second movement of “Why Does It Shake?” If that doesn’t make it a contender for song of the year, there’s no hope for any of us.

Jamie xx – In Colour

It seems ridiculous that In Colour is actually Jamie xx’s debut album as a solo artist. After two LPs with the xx, producing Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here, and countless remixes, finally we have a full-length album with Jamie’s name on the cover. Not that he is alone: xx bandmates Romy Croft and Oliver Sim make an appearance, as well as Young Thug and Popcaan. The result is a bright collection of down-tempo dance tunes with a nostalgic bent.

Viet Cong – Viet Cong

The Canadian quartet’s self-titled album is a soundtrack through a dystopian fairyland (and with song titles like “Pointless Experience,” “Bunker Buster,” and “Death,” that’s not really projecting). Pulled between ambient synths and math rock guitars, pulsed by deceptively understated drums,Viet Cong falls into loops that you could easily roll through for hours at a time without wanting to break out of the cycle. You’ll snap out of it, though, when the faux nice-guy vocals kick in and remind you that these guys have a fatalist streak in them. It’s definitely one of the most exciting debut albums of the year.

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

It’s been exciting to watch Chelsea Wolfe develop as an artist, and even more still to see how she’s harnessed the competing elements of her music in new ways. Abyss is her most balanced record yet, allowing her voice to float through quieter arrangements instead of always serving as a contrast to the intensity and harshness of the noise she works with. Songs liked “Grey Matter” hit that sweet spot of letting her voice shine over the aggression instead of in spite of it, but never let us worry for a second. Wolfe can make even the ugliest noises sound beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens  – Carrie & Lowell

Where other albums this year have distinguished themselves in their inventive production, Sufjan Steven’s seventh studio album takes the opposite approach: the instrumentation is limited, often nothing more than a finger-picked guitar, and effects are kept to a minimum. What we are left with is the deep melancholy of Stevens’ soft vocals, and his lyrics of loss. As a counterpoint to this close focus on the singer-songwriter’s emotional state, there is a limpid precision to his playing that cuts through the whole record, elevating it from naked confession to finely-wrought statement.

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Noah Lennox, co-founder of Animal Collective, returned with an album that showcases his signature blend of electronic pop and off-kilter psychedelia. It’s all there: the weird tropicana, angelic Brian Wilson voice, the bouncy synths. Noise and melody intertwine until they are indistinguishable from each other, lyrics melt into chorus-laden chants. Some critics have complained that none of this is particularly new with Panda Bear, but when the results are this good, it seems like a rather minor complaint.

Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa

From Kinshasa to the Moon: this is the trajectory declared by the Congolese 7-piece at the beginning of their debut album. The record label may have neglected to append the destination to the album title, but the rest of the world hasn’t. It’s an often-bewildering journey, full of unfamiliar pulsating rhythms and dark bass lines, that don’t conform to what we would comfortably like to call ‘afro-beat’. Acoustic elements clash with lo-fi synths, the synchopated drums countered by the regularity of the electronic beats. It’s the sound of a big, busy, alien city moving into the future: crowded, idiosyncratic, chaotic and heady.

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Some of us refused to believe that a member of Fleet Floxes could have a sense of humour. But say what you like about I Love You, Honeybear, it is not an album that takes itself very seriously. Josh Tillman has produced an album of nostalgic bar-ballads and folk love-hate songs suffused with bright colour and a sly wit. Perhaps what has captured the imagination of so many listeners is this odd juxtaposition between, on the one hand, Tillman’s emotional delivery and sentimental arrangements, and on the other, his withering treatment of millennial culture. It might be ridiculously mean-spirited, but if Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” is anything to go by, most people are down with you insulting your former girlfriends as long as you do so in such an obvious way that it ends up biting your own ass.

Tobias Jesso Jr – Goon

Father John Misty was not the only one this year to make waves with some retro singer-songwriter nostalgia. But Tobias Jess Jr is less barroom depressive, more of a grand piano melancholic. Double-tracked vocals, minimal instrumentation, and heartfelt lyrics: it’s probably not a stretch to guess that plenty of weddings in 2016 are going to feature “Without You” on their playlist.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

West-coast rap’s rising star exploded this year with To Pimp A Butterfly. Grandiose yet subtle, rooted yet avant-garde, the album is the perfect distillation of the best of both the old guard (Dre, Snoop, George Clinton, Ronald Isley) and the new (Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Rapsody). Full of the smoothest grooves and catchiest beats, the real strength of the album is how even the smallest details contribute to creating a vibrant, exciting whole. There is a moment at the end of “Wesley’s Theory”—when what sounds like a phone vibrating turns out to be the saxophone intro to the wild jazz of “For Free”— that perfectly sums up the level of creativity, humour and dedication that has had critics call this the definitive rap album of the decade.

Joanna Newsom – Divers

A new record from Joanna Newsom should always be considered a notable event. But if Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly can be considered a defining part of 2015, to say the same of Divers would feel faintly ridiculous. Divers is as much part of 1715 and 2215 as it is of this year. And that is what makes Newsom such a unique, fearless voice, one that can dedicate itself to the research of how humans work through and against time without even a hint of pretension. And an album whose first single opens with these lines is worthy of every accolade: “The cause is Ozymandian / the map of Sapokanikan / is sanded and bevelled / the land lone and levelled / by some unrecorded and powerful hand.”

Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

Sometimes what makes an album stand out is the reception it gets when you play it to other people. This year Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida stood out for this very reason. The sound is instantly familiar, songs distantly remembered from a past life, worming themselves back into your working memory. Those more familiar with the Aussie quartet will point out that the band have already made a name for themselves with their first three albums, but I can personally testify that everyone I’ve introduced to “Waste the Alphabet” and “Tearing the Posters Down” already has these engraved in their minds alongside the best that 80s and 90s indie pop ever produced. And don’t be fooled into taking this as twee: with song titles like “Beat Me Up (Talk To a Counsellor)”, there is a dark, caustic wit to Dick Diver that makes them worth anyone’s time.

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

After dazzling us with the dark, swirling chaos of Loud City Song in 2013, Julia Holter’s follow up, Have You In My Wilderness, presents itself as something of a return to the light. Gone are the dark horns and paranoid bass, replaced by harpsichord and dreamy strings. But don’t be fooled, there is still plenty of dark weirdness in Holter’s lyrics and vocal delivery. It’s just that they have been transferred into the bright, white room shown in the cover art. Opening with “Feel You” the closest thing to a pop-song Holter has ever produced, Have You In My Wilderness demonstrates a new, luxuriant side to an artist that will always be a part of Here Today’s personal pantheon.

Holly Herndon – Platform

If there’s an album that would be ridiculous to listen to in any analogue format, it’s Holly Herndon’s Platform. This collection of glitchy digital compositions captures the often-overlooked joys and perils of living through computers. Herndon has taken the Knife’s school of heavily-effected vocals to new extremes, sounding more like a computer that is trying to reconstruct music from a broken hard-drive. If that sounds a little off-putting, one can only respond that this is the whole point, but that is not to say that songs like “Chorus” and “Morning Sun” aren’t almost danceable. It’s just that they re-create what it’s like to listen to dance music on headphones, whilst browsing the internet: fractured, distracted, introverted. And it’s about time that we focused on the way that most of us listen to music day to day.

Blur – The Magic Whip

Since their reunion in 2009, Blur have peeked their heads around the corner every so often with a tour and a new single to make their existence more than a nostalgia trip. The Magic Whip, however, is the first real evidence that there is intention left in them. They’re a band whose members have gone in different directions in the last 10 years and brought those experiences back with them, but remember what it is everyone loves about them. Crunchy, abstract guitar solos? Check. Moody broody ballads? Check. Big, joyful singalong choruses? Check. Any memory of Britpop? Successfully traded for the here and now. Rather than argue that this is the best album of their career, it’s more apt to appreciate that this is exactly the record you would hope they would make now.

Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, Girl

It’s taken five albums, but with Apocalypse, Girl Jenny Hval has finally found a way to skip down the weird/accessible line with just the right balance. The Norwegian singer (who is one fourth Danish) got us all grooving to references to breast cancer and soft dicks, sneaking in feminist and anti-capitalist declarations with admirable wit. Her avant garde pop is a patchwork of electronic music, chilled beats, spoken word and gentle vocals. And yeah, you do feel a little dirty singing along to some of it (most of it?), but a huge part of Hval’s appeal is that she never forgets that the most effectively subversive music is, at its heart, fun.

Various Artists – Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton

Karen Dalton was a literally unsung hero of the New York folk scene in the 60s. She released a couple of albums of covers, but was too affected by anxiety to keep recording, and never shared any of the songs she wrote herself. Fast forward to 20 years after her death and her songs are seeing the light of day, albeit through the interpretations of other artists. While Sharon Van Etten had chords for the title track, other artists had only lyrics to work with, making this album a collection of songs by artists like Julia Holter, Marissa Nadler, Isobel Campbell, and Josphine Foster, with lyrics by Dalton. The lineup alone should make Remembering Mountains an overlooked gem, but the thread of Dalton’s work tying the songs together makes it truly special.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BBNZIKlMpw

New Order – Music Complete

New Order have existed under that name in various incarnations for 35 years, but they still hold a place as the quintessential party band for the types of kids who don’t get invited to a lot of parties. Music Complete will definitely get you dancing, and the loss of Peter Hook means that there’s something really genuine in the laments of broken relationships (and with such a distinctive style, Hook is actually pretty easy to copy). Plus the guest appearances from Iggy Pop, La Roux, and Brandon Flowers also bring in unique sinister vocals, over the top pop shine, and a kind of meta-New Order interpretation respectively.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is one of those artists that you really feel you could be friends with. She has no trouble relating the mundane in life with a dry delivery and a sense of humor that holds your interest. On Sometimes, she’s learned to use that voice to convey a deeper sense of ennui, as on “Depreston” and even hint at unexpected emotions other than boredom in “Dead Fox” before amping things back up with “No One Really Cares If  You Don’t Go to the Party.” And that’s really why Courtney Barnett could be our pal; she’ll tell crazy stories and entertain a full room, but probably spend the next two weeks hiding at home. We can get behind that.

Festival report: Copenhell

in Live Reviews by
Copenhell crowd

Photos by Alexander Brandel. Text by Oliver Brandel

Placed at the old facilities of B&W. A Modern waste land in central Copenhagen. Just 50 meters

from the old metal foundry, we find Copenhell. The biggest metal/rock in Denmark( and probably

the only one worth mentioning.) The festival saw the day of light in 2010, and have now grown

quite big over the last 5 years.

Before arrival I heard that the tickets for thursday and friday was sold out. The expectations were

high. After entering the gate to Copenhell I was mildly disappointed. So much space, so few

guests. I stood in the food area, where every kitchen was given a cliché name, like “Hell Burger”

and “Devil’s Thai Corner”. From there I could spot all 3 scenes at the Copenhell. Helviti, Hades and

Pandæmonium. No music, just people walking around, laying down on the hill, that surrounds and

the area, and enjoying the sun, just like the rest of Copenhagen.

Gojira live at Copenhell
Gojira live at Copenhell

All in all, the surroundings didn’t really impress and I thought that this was going to be a very long

festival. Yeah sure, you had all the vital stuff a true metal festival needs. Viking land, pop-up tattoo

shop, patch shops, beers and pork barbecue. But all that couldn’t counter the the fact that it felt

deserted and some how half finished.

Suddenly, the warmth of a thousand suns (It felt that way) blasted through the area. Copenhell

used a very clever technique to tell the audience, that a new band was entering a stage. BIG A**

FIREBALLS. Now we were talking!

I was soon to realize the real nature of Copenhell.

The strength of the festival wasn’t this half-finished apocalyptic waste land. It was amazing bands,

amazing audience and an amazing vibe of love, not just for the music, but for all fellow metal

heads gathered at the end of world, or at least Copenhagen.

 

Solbrud live at Copenhell
Solbrud live at Copenhell

Solbrud

Solbrud went on stage and gave the audience what they asked for. Uncompromised black metal,

just as it should be. With the debut album “Jærtegn”, Solbrud really made something special. An

album that made all the critics bow down to the new heroes of black metal.

The frontman Ole Luk screamed like he was possessed by Satan himself. The quartet from

Denmark showed everybody why the hype was so big and very real. For the first time in my life, I

actually enjoyed black metal. An demonstration of brutal force and big talents.

Primus live at Copenhell
Primus live at Copenhell

Primus

Big mushrooms on the stage, funny smelling tobacco in the air. Primus was about to enter Helviti.

With Les Claypool in front, slapping the bass to pieces, Primus took us to their psychedelic world.

the cartoonish and wierd music that makes the band who they are, doesn’t really work at a venue

like this. Slow beats and a lot of funny noises didn’t make the crowd go crazy. They tried, they

really did. I don’t blame the band, I blame the bookers. It was not a bad concert at all, it just

seemed misplaced, especially when 80% of crowd only know the for their contribution to the South

Park intro.

Turbonegro live at Copenhell
Turbonegro live at Copenhell

Turbonegro

The Norwegian band Turbonegro is mostly known for their parody of rock n roll and Pride worthy

outfits. It was stupid and funny, just like you want Turbonegro to be. Who dosen’t love Hank von

Helvete, the chubby frontman in hot pants and face paint. They gave everything they had and the

audience enjoyed every second of the musical comedy on stage. Always funny to watch. If you

don’t like music, just bring your best earplugs and have a laugh!

Gojira

The best concert at Copenhell. Period. No one stood a chance. No friendly chit-chat with fans, no

funny comment, just pure evil death and technique. The French band Gojira dominated the stage

and spanked the ears of the audience. Hypnotizing death mixed with the sounds of djent makes a

perfect cocktail, just ask your bartender. Especially the L’Enfant Sauvage gives a perfect picture of

what modern death should sound like. There is nothing more to say. The came, they saw, the

conquered.

Crowd at Copenhell
Crowd at Copenhell
Marduk live at Roskilde Festival
Marduk live at Roskilde Festival

Marduk

Probably the most evil and satanic band on the bill this year. The devil frontman, Mortuus, screams

out “are you fucking with us tonight?!”. The responds was silence. People just stood there, liked

they were nailed to the pavement. I’ve got the feeling, that this concert was going to fall directly to

the ground. Sure it was last day and people were drunk and tired, but still, there was almost no

response for the 2/3 parts of the concert. At last! Marduk succeeded with getting the crowd going,

but it wasn’t enough to save the concert, although they play quite well.

Asking Alexandria live at Copenhell
Asking Alexandria live at Copenhell

Asking Alexandria

The pretty boys from Great Britain went on stage and first pit was filled with women, waiting for

their One Direction of metal. Mixing metal with electronic music from Sonar festival, is not best

combination, but the ladies didn’t care, because the band is cute. It was quite obvious to see, that

a lot of the crowd only bought their ticket to see AA, and didn’t come for the “real” metal. But what

can you say. Their music is catchy and the hardcore fans loved it. No great technique or lyrics, but

a hell of energy and presence. It was actually not as bad, as I would have thought.

The Darkness live at Copenhell
The Darkness live at Copenhell

The Darkness

Wasn’t this supposed to be a metal festival? Sure, all the people at Copenhell knows “I Belive In A

Thing Called Love” and can probably sing the most of it, but aren’t these guy like 60 years old by

now? It is clear from the get-go that this is going to be one hell of a tough crowd as the audience is

filled with conservative metal heads. But the guys from The Darkness actually did it! With their 70s

rock and roll attitude, funny performance and well mastered instrument, it was possible to conquer

the audience. They gave a good show, but it was possible to tell that the band was a bit road-worn

after the last 15 years. Especially when singer, Justin Hawkins, couldn’t hit his signature high

notes. Very funny, but not amazing.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Calexico, Amager Bio, 14.04.2015

in Live Reviews by

Photos by Johannes Leszinski

Where are you from? Where are you going?

Amager Bio on a drizzly Tuesday. A diminutive blonde woman plays a lap steel guitar on a stage that surrounds her in shadow. Seated and dressed in white, she arches over the instrument in her lap, running the slide over the strings with one hand while she plucks them with the other. Her wispy tremolos are accompanied by a nylon-string acoustic guitar, the maraca rhythms of a drum played with brushes, and a cello.

Maggie Björklund doesn’t introduce herself until the last song of the supporting set, after someone in the audience calls out for the name of her band. Earlier, before a song she described as “film musik,” she had encouraged us to substitute our own narrative, as the film had yet to be made. It isn’t entirely fair. Björklund’s music conjures images of desert vistas at dusk where the mind can go wandering. It’s airy and expansive, but there’s little to draw your attention. Sometimes when the band crescendos toward a climax, you wish the lap steal would snag like a pinched nerve. But no—Björklund’s resigned to a mood. It’s music by the bonfire. At least it’s warm.

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Calexico’s set opens with “Cumbia de Donde”, a track off their new album Edge of the Sun where the Latin reference points are front and center, and that seems to be the point. “I’m not from here/ I’m not from there,” sings Joey Burns in a call-and-response interplay with trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela and guitarist Jario Zavala (“De dondé eres?/ A dondé vas?”). It’s instantly infectious, and it helps that the capacity-crowd is super responsive. Syncopated rhythms get your shoulders popping on the off-beat as you join in the refrain: “I’m in the moment and I’m on my way/ I’m on my way.”

After nearly 20 years, Burns and drummer John Convertino remain the driving force of Calexico, and much of their success is credited to a wholehearted embrace of the collaborative spirit. Though neither Sam Beam nor Neko Case are present to sing their respective parts on “Bullets & Rocks” and “Tapping on the Line”, you’d think the touring band was comprised of other contemporary heroes of alternative country you just hadn’t heard of.

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Valenzuela and Zavala in particular are standouts. Zavala, a powerful axman, is in kind blessed with natural charisma. During the elegiac “Maybe on Monday”, a song about a departed love, he manages to whip the crowd in whoops and cheers with a searing solo on baritone guitar, totally earning the applause break and mean mugging all the while. Valenzuela is a less showy performer, who gets his moment with a beautiful solo vocal performance of “Inspiracion”, a song he wrote for 2008’s Carried to Dust.

Calexico’s always had a nack for capturing a sense of place. Even when they’re paying tribute to other bands from other eras, with faithful covers of Love’s “Alone Again Or”, R.E.M.’s “The One I Love”, and The Minutemen’s “Corona”, their set is charged by an ambiance that transports you. As with their namesake, Calexico’s music is a port of entry to the sounds and themes of the American Southwest, where the steady warble of slide guitar and horns hold your soul in the borderlands of darkness and light. Toward the end of the set, on “Not Even Stevie Nicks”, Burns takes us “into the blue, into the blue”. The song then builds magnificently into a familiar tune—Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Though they may have “the wound that the sun won’t ever heal”, I’ll always “Follow the River” when Calexico’s in town.

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LIVE REVIEW: Lower, Jazzhouse, 29.08.2014

in Live Reviews by

“This is a strange set-up for a punk concert.” So says our dear photographer Morten, and to some extent he is right. I didn’t quite expect the poetry readings and the hour-long performance piece that lead up to Lower. Half an hour into the slow-burning piece, in which some blond guy shyly and ploddingly gave out lighting instructions, the mood becomes restless. But it is really a testament to the tolerance of Copenhagen audiences that they last that long. But the second part of Morten’s statement, that this is a punk gig, is the one I have problems with.

At some point the international press has to stop talking about the Danish “punk” scene. Whatever the influences of Iceage, Lower, Communions et al. might be, the sounds that emerge from these bands have quite specific reference points: the baroque post-punk of the Chameleons and the Comsat Angels, and the twisted Americana of the Bad Seeds and the Gun Club. Even the standard uniform (baggy, buttoned-up-to-the-collar shirts and waist-high jeans) is more reminiscent of 80s goth and new wave. Black Flag this ain’t.

Lower (Jazzhouse, Copenhagen)

Though their music has as much dramatic flair as any of those previously mentioned bands, something in the demeanor of Lower indicates that, however emotional or personal their music might be, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Halfway through the set guitarist Simon Formann serves the whole band, including an extra percussionist and a pianist/cellist, cocktails. The sight of frontman Adrian Toubro singing while holding a pink concoction in a lowball glass harks back to the decadent crooners of the 60s and 70s (also referenced by Iceage in their Mina-inspired “Morals” and in the video for “The Lord’s Favourite”).

Lower’s debut album, Seek Warmer Climes, is full of chiming and wiry guitars, the mid-range vocal crooning favoured by 80s darkwave bands, and drums that sound like they are falling down several flights of stairs. The rhythmic chaos of songs like “Lost Weight, Perfect Skin” are enhanced in the live setting by the extra percussionist, whose tom and snare work almost takes the band into Adam Ant territory. The added cello and piano are a clear attempt to push Lower into different territory, though by now it has almost become standard in Copenhagen, with Shiny Darkly and Iceage using classical instruments to greater or lesser degrees.

Lower (Jazzhouse, Copenhagen)

Among all ruckus of drums and guitar, Lower have a melodic heart in Tourbro’s vocal delivery, particularly evident in the glorious chorus of “Soft Option”, the standout track from their debut. It is almost impossible for me to write about Copenhagen bands without making a very long list of references (often very obvious ones), but that is not to dismiss these acts as carbon-copies of their heroes. Perhaps none of them would fit well in a chronological chart of the “progress” of pop music, but they are a reminder that the important thing is not to create a sound that has never been heard before, but to make the music sound new.

View the photos from Lowers concert here

Trailerpark Festival report

in Live Reviews by

Arriving early at a concert in Copenhagen is tremendously unfashionable, and at a festival doubly so. The benefit of being at Trailerpark in the afternoon is being able to explore the various tents, trailers and assorted installations before they are covered under a mass of pretty people. The festival focuses as much on constructing creative and comfortable spaces as it does on the music, and this year is no exception. As well as the eponymous trailers—one made up to look like a Lynchian crime scene, complete with smoke machine and eerie music, another a Tinder-sponsored shag-shack—there are swings made of recycled pallets, surrealist plush sculptures, rum cabañas and a tent devoted to what can only be described as audio-visual terrorism.

trailerpark_thursday-3281
The Tinder-trailer during a quite moment.

Fans of poor decision-making are welcome to try a spot of tattoo roulette—quite literally spinning a wheel to decide what image will be indelibly etched onto your skin—and in the wilder hours of Friday even an over-cautious curmudgeon like yours truly has to exercise a significant amount of self-restraint to avoid it. Those in search of less permanent damage can get a lopsided haircut and a single leg shaved by a bunch of clowns in bondage gear. Pretty standard fare, really.

trailerpark_thursday-2736

There is perhaps no better place than here to take stock of the quality and diversity of the Danish scene, the line-up consisting almost entirely of homegrown talent. This, however, is the only constant. One can wander away from a hip hop act at Royal stage and suddenly come across an emissary of the Mayhem/Posh Isolation scene at Outdoor stage. Throughout, DJs and smaller electronic acts are blasting away in the intimate enclave of Rebel stage.

Thursday

The day starts relatively peacefully with Alice Boman’s wistful folk pop, which transitions neatly into the music of CODY, Copenhagen’s post-folk collective and arguably one of the most talented groups of musicians in the city. Drawing primarily on material from Windshield, their latest album, the six-piece (but depending on the day there could just as easily be eight people on stage, or even just the one) manage to work their wealth of instruments into a beautifully simple whole.

The rest of the day is devoted mainly to electronic acts. Among the most promising newer artists are Mont Oliver, who add a touch of Madchester swagger to their performance (seriously, the guy at the keyboards is even wearing one of those floppy 90s fishing hats). Later on, Ice Cream Cathedral filled Outdoor stage with their pop pyschedelia, followed by a mesmeric Sekuoia.

Ice Cream Cathedral
Ice Cream Cathedral
trailerpark_thursday-2496
Cody

Baby In Vain did their best to convert the crowd to Satan, before Julias Moon could do is darndest to become the Danish equivalent of Michael Jackson.

Friday

Though every day at Trailerpark has its moments, Friday is the one that does its best to physically and mentally destroy festival-goers. In the most positive sense of the phrase, naturally. Hand Of Dust and Get Your Gun bring a dark and twisted version of Americana to town, though their early slots mean that only a handful of the most dedicated are able to witness any of it.

The tone for the rest of the evening is set by New York rapper Le1f. Preceded by a brief display from an acrobat in bondage gear (a phrase I don’t get to use enough), Khalif Diouf exudes equal parts sexuality (consider that barely an hour later will see a DJ set from someone called DJ Cockwhore) and flighty exuberance.  Cutting songs short when he gets tired of them, Le1f makes it clear that he is here to have as much fun as the audience.

Le1f
Le1f

Though Sleep Party People’s mix of lullabies and post-rock is both a visually and aurally captivating experience, the true energy of the evening is found with two bands:  Reptile Youth and Broke. Though the former is considerably more famous, the two share similarities in sound and attitude, guitar-led dance music and physicality. I can personally attest to having had Reptile Youth’s frontman Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen land on my head twice during improperly announced stage dives, and Broke’s frontman developed a liking for humping one of the central tent poles of Outdoor stage.

Reptile Youth
Reptile Youth

All this can only be topped by the utter perfection (in the eyes and ears of this reviewer at least) of The Felines, who bring wide smiles and awkward attempts at the twist to the 4am crowd.

Saturday

Fans of Danish “pop sensations” and hip hop acts must forgive me, but the real stars of the final day of Trailerpark are all at Outdoor stage. First Hate are possibly the dorkiest duo I have ever seen, which automatically makes them cooler than anyone in this tremendously well-dressed audience. It helps that they almost flawlessly channel Speak and Spell-era Depeche Mode, down to the Dave Gahan-esque vocals and dance moves. It’s pure and unabashed synth-pop, and it instantly converts all those present.

If prizes were being awarded, one would have to go to Communions, who have transformed into a much more mature band in the intervening months since our last encounter with them. The punk attitude is still there, but it no longer has a stranglehold over their sound, and finally they devote themselves to the wiry jangle-pop that was always lurking underneath the discordant tone and shambolic compositions. Those of us who spent the bike-ride to Enghave listening exclusively to Felt (or is that just me?) are in for a very pleasant surprise.

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Communions

As people gather to watch Shiny Darkly, it is evident that they are precisely the same hand-picked audience that attended First Hate and Communions. Apparently I have become a stereotype, though what that might be is unclear. Though perhaps the most obviously post-punk oriented of all the acts at Trailerpark, Shiny Darkly do not simply emulate their elders and betters. The raw riffs and chanted vocals are driven by a spartan and effective rhythm section, and on occasion even joined by a violinist or a trumpet player. The extra instruments are used with an ear for noise and harmonics as much as they add an extra layer of melody to the songs. At any rate they bespeak a level of ambition that is the mark of a healthy music scene. The likes of S!vas and Christopher might bring in the punters, but visitors looking for the true energy of the city should follow the leather jackets.

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Shiny Darkly

 View  the galleries from Trailerpark Festival here:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

All days

Thanks to Sony for letting us try the new Sony a7S camera.

All photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Roskilde Festival 2014, Sunday 6th July

in Live Reviews by

Deerhunter

After several days of stage theatrics and moody band introductions, it’s a surprise and a pleasure to see Deerhunter conducting their own soundcheck. Frontman Bradford Cox’s awkward charm does more to connect with the audience than any set of laser displays or smoke machines. As the band launch into “Agoraphobia”, the refrain of “comfort me” seems particularly apt, a love letter to the warmth and comfort of the shoegaze bands that inspire it. But Deerhunter replace the ethereal quality of bands like Slowdive with a certain degree of quirkiness which is clear in Cox’s stage banter as much as in his music. After regaling us with a description of a 4th of July celebration chez Deerhunter, the band launch into “Nothing Ever Happened”, drawing out its motorik energy until it starts to melt into a cover of Patti Smith’s “Horses”. A moment of brilliant free-association genius, and a great begging to Sunday at Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Julia Holter

The warmth and energy of Deerhunter are replaced with an almost unbearable heat and humidity inside Gloria, where we wait for Julia Holter. But that same discomfort put this reviewer into a mind frame that perfectly suited the David Lynchian-quality of Holter’s music. The avant-garde singer-songwriter is accompanied by a drummer, a cellist, a violist, and a tenor-saxophonist. The effect is altogether different than that of her latest record, Loud City Song: the noise, reverb and general swirliness of the album are replaced with a crisp, stripped-back sound, as intimate as it is unsettling. “Maxim’s I” is transformed from the kind of song you’d expect to be heard in a Twin Peaks road bar into something closer to jazz or minimalist classical music. The intimacy is helped by Holter’s approach to her audience: offhand questions about what wine people in the front are drinking turn the affair into a secluded, friendly if off-kilter microcosm.

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Julia Holter (Roskilde Festival 2014)

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Kasabian

I have this image in my mind of Kasabian sitting around a few weeks before a tour or album release. Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno turns to frontman Tom Meighan and says “mate, why are we still doing this? We’re not even that great.” Meighan puts his hand on Pizzorno’s shoulder and says “Serge, it’s because we’re massive LADS!” They then discuss ‘banter’ or something. At Roskilde, the vision becomes reality as Meighan makes exactly the same motions with his (relatively sparse) audience. It’s about half an hour before their set is due to start, and they’ve summoned only a few dozen to wait in line for the pit. This is the same band who closed Glastonbury. Why have they failed to crack Denmark? The majority of the small group waiting are all British. The lone Dane standing next to me says his friends didn’t even want to come with him to watch. Maybe Danes don’t really go for lead singers who look like Eye Ball Paul from Kevin And Perry Go Large, but it’s entirely their loss.

Meighan is unashamedly confident and cocky, but he justifies his behaviour onstage, introducing the band as ‘The Mighty Kasabian’. He engages with the audience by pointing and waving his tongue at them, and between songs stands pouting triumphantly on the edge of the stage, beckoning the crowd to shower him and his band with all the woops and claps they can muster. Basking in praise comes naturally, he relishes it, and shows enough vitality in everything he does to make it work. Who gives a fuck if his audience is only half full; as long as a few people are enjoying it, he can hype them up enough to adequately rub his ego.

From opening track ‘Bumble Bee’ taken from new album 48:13, to closing number ‘Fire’, which is extended and dedicated to Leicester, the performance is unfailing. The final track sees Meighan and Pizzorno telling everyone to bounce on the ground for the guitar riff, before jumping incessantly for the rip roaring chorus line. It’s got even more energy than the actions for ‘Vlad the Impaler’, which followed a similar routine. As the rest of the band depart, Meighan sings, surprisingly well, the chorus line from ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ a capella. A few punters are still screaming the riff from ‘Fire’ after the band have left and the hosts have stepped on. The only disappointment is the lack of encore.

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Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

 

MØ: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your plait and scrunchie combo. I love the tennis skirt and dirty trainers you’re wearing. I love your complete disregard for the ‘No Crowdsurfing’ rule. From kangaroo jumps three feet in the air to sprawling onto the ground and singing from the floor, watching MØ perform is a visual spectacle. It’s tiring just looking at her, as sweat drips from her forehead. Always in control, her voice never once falters or fails; it stays completely powerful and enchanting, as she accompanies herself with looped “huh”s and high pitched “ow”s. She’s a beautiful clash of soft feeling and urban style, both in look and sound.

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MØ (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

MØ (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Stevie Wonder

If there’s a place for legends, the Orange Stage is it. From The Rolling Stones on Thursday, to Stevie Wonder on Sunday, it was the performance space for two entirely different but well loved acts, and the latter’s evening set brought the festival to a joyous end before a few thousand punters stayed on for Jack White. Wonder’s band is so extensive it takes several minutes to credit them all. For the entirety of the two hour set, the singer remains enthusiastic, engaging and encouraging of the audience to partake in his soul celebration. He introduces all his tracks with an invitation to “sing this”. The chorus forms the base of a hit track for him to sing over. This is not Wonder’s show alone; he ensures it belongs to the tens of thousands of tired, dirty spectators too. As he moves into ‘Ebony and Ivory’, the musician asks the crowd: “can you imagine how much people have missed out on because of the prejudices we have in this world?” and once again beckons for Roskilde to join him. “If you agree with me, sing… You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it.” Whether the subject matter is love, adultery or racism, for Stevie Wonder, music is the channel through which people should come together and reach greatness, solidarity and power.

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Stevie Wonder (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords

If Forest Swords’ Matt Barnes feels hard-done-by in his allocated slot—playing Gloria at the same time that Stevie Wonder and Moderat are playing the Orange Stage and Arena—he certainly doesn’t show it. The space that isn’t occupied by the scattered but enthralled audience is instead filled up with the Liverpool-based producer’s approach to dub music: lung-fizzling bass, unsettling samples, sharp keyboards and even the odd spaghetti-western-influenced guitars. Barnes is accompanied by a bassist, and divides his time brooding over the sampler, hunching over the keyboard or swaying around with his guitar. Tracks like “Thor’s Stone” and “The Weight of Gold” from his debut Engravings are without doubt some of the standout electronic songs of 2013, and are even more effective live.

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Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Jack White

Those of us who watched clips from Jack White’s set at Glastonbury last week knew what to expect for this, the concluding set at the Orange Stage: an expansive retrospective of his work, from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and his solo work. His band band, including a fiddle-player and a lap-steel-guitarist, help to reinvent as much as they reproduce the sounds from his back-catalogue, adding a certain amount of country twang to the overdriven swagger of much of his later work. A slight hint of reserve blends in with the excitement as White begins his set with a drawn out jam of the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump”: is this going to be a display of utter indulgence, an artist at the height of his success revelling in his apparent freedom to do whatever he likes? That reserve is also to be found in White himself, who largely refrains from talking much in between songs except to get a little annoyed when the crowd doesn’t seem to know the lyrics to “Hotel Yorba”. “You guys speak English, right?” This is going south fast, but a split-second later White recovers by making some quip about his own level of English. Thankfully, the experience seems to humble him enough to really begin engaging with the crowd, rather than taking their adulation for granted. The extended jams end, and are replaced by a quick series of White Stripes medleys that drive the audience forward through slower songs from Lazaretto.

Throughout White pays tribute to fellow Detroit-native and predecessor on the stage, Stevie Wonder, and even makes the odd joke about sharing his doctor with Drake. It is clear in these moments that Jack White’s ability as an entertainer take precedence over his sometimes rather insular and self-aggrandizing approach to his “art”, and that on stage he is able to fully embrace that. A festival crowd might not know the lyrics to all his White Stripes songs, but they can end Roskilde on a jumping high with set closers “Steady as She Goes” and the obligatory, perennial “Seven Nation Army”. But even in this last instance, White doesn’t rest on his laurels, but reworks the song in such as way as to work best with a band of six rather than one of two. We can only apologize to poor Londoners, from whom apparently we snatched him at the last moment. Such is the power of Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Roskilde Festival 2014: Thursday 3rd July

in Live Reviews by

Photo by Morten Aaagard Krogh

Earl Sweatshirt

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has rammed out the newly installed Avalon stage. Those who didn’t run from the gate to the pit queue for Outkast have come straight here to see the Odd Future member in action as their first show of the festival proper. Earl Sweatshirt takes the Avalon’s virginity by jumping straight into his set, and launching the audience into a joint smoking, grinding, nodding frenzy. Before too long he has, predictably, told Denmark how glad he is to be there, and what a difficult time they’ve had at security. It’s a tough life. He then gets the audience of 12,000 to shout, as loud as possible, “I’ll fuck the fucking freckles off your face, bitch,” in preparation for his performance of ‘Molasses’, a track that’s about as charming as the portaloos in Camp L. Then another call and response activity, this time of “I say sweat you say” “SHURT”, which didn’t really get the party going but maintained the awkwardness which kept raising its head between songs. If the Earl had cut some of the chat and kept the beats going instead, his set might have been less weird.

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Earl Sweatshirt (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Electric Wizard

The big dustbowl that is the Arena tent is filling up with an uncharacteristically sombrely dressed crowd as the screens project grainy, Super8 films of the bald Hollywood Satanist Anton LaVey and a profusion of naked women (on the screen, that is; the audience was not quite so uninhibited). Electric Wizard are one of the few bands to really deliver on their name: their look is modelled after the denim’n’beer-faction of the metal 80s, while their music achieves the seemingly impossible – out-Black-Sabbathing Black Sabbath. Their heaviness comes from an almost perverse slowness in the tempo, the sluggish, menacing plodding of Romero zombies. It is this exploration of the boundaries of the genre that makes this band much more than a metal band, or even a doom metal one. Their drones are, in their own way, liturgical, sacred music for the unbelievers. Standing before this unhallowed quartet, this fanged four, will transport you either to the bliss of sensory overload, or the worst hangover of your life. From what I could make out of the yells between songs, they seem pretty keen on getting high as well. And they seemed such nice boys and girls.

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Electric Wizard (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Outkast

The Orange Stage is legendary for it’s design, colour, the duck and the people who’ve performed there. Outkast are legendary for telling us what’s cooler than being cool, appreciating good dance moves, discussing the aroma of shit, and apologising to Ms Jackson. And, as their concert yesterday demonstrated, not much else. It was all about the deep cuts and minor hits for the good majority of the performance. For better or worse, especially on anniversary tours, people come to the Orange Stage to hear the hits, but it was at least thirty minutes before the non-hardcore fans heard anything remotely recognisable, in the form of ‘Ms Jackson’. By this time, much to my chagrin, I had wandered to the loos for a wee. To my dismay, I came out of the toilets and got told they’d just played ‘The Way You Move’. Just my fucking luck. Until this point, atmosphere had been pretty flat. A few hopefuls nodded heads and tapped feet, but it wasn’t enough to shift the fact they’d tuned out after 20 minutes. The antithesis of this with ‘Hey Ya’ was unimaginable, but the moment the track wrapped up, the mood fell flat once again. Boring, except for the hits.

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Outkast (photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Lykke Li

As the sun began its long descent, Lykke Li brought out her blend of moody, orchestral pop and dark electronic tones to move Roskilde into the nighttime. Lykke’s vocals were drenched in soul, heart and difficulty, but this was matched with an unshaking confidence in her skill, and an infalable ability to ignite those watching with a presence and passion. Soft, melancholic piano and dreamy guitar, clashed with stark and forceful vocals. Effortlessly, Lykke Li used her Roskilde set to confirm her position as the Queen of Scandinavian indie pop.

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The Rolling Stones

It’s the set everyone has been talking about on Thursday, and probably the one they will still be talking about today. I could try to review the Rolling Stones in a measured, rational way, but that is not the way anyone with a heart and a sense of perspective viewed that concert. The big red lips and tongue ooze and pulsate on the screen in a way that is as much unsettling as it is anticipatory. I’m stuck just by the outer barrier, with an ok view of the stage if I head butt the guy next to me. An hour before the set spirits are high, although sporadically dampened by the Gandalf of Roskilde, a grey-faced Swede declaiming “You shall not pass” to any poor kid who tries to get past for a better view. Some Americans next to me are betting on what the opening song will be. One of them wins. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” erupts on stage as the band does, and everyone knows it’s on. In some ways this is the easiest concert to communicate to someone who wasn’t there. Mick Jagger was Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood was Ronnie Wood, Keith was Keith, and Charlie Watts was looking haggard as fuck on the drums. Do you really need more? Well, fine.

The Rolling Stones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

There are many jokes made at the expense of the Stones’ Palaeolithic age, but the mark of true greatness is how they shed all that weight as their set progresses, how Ronnie gets more and more animated, Keith flashes his cheeky grin, and even Charlie Watts cracks a smile. Our Blessed Jagger moves in ways that were previously thought physiologically impossible, and regales the crowd with half a phrasebook’s worth of rather garbled, but highly appreciated, Danish. Who else bothers to do that?  The set spans over two hours, ensuring that, even counting a seemingly endless guitar battle between Keith, Ronnie and Mick Taylor (who joins them for “Midnight Rambler”), there is ample space for the classics. “Gimme Shelter”, “Start Me Up”, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar” follow one after another, building up the rapture until a short break, followed by a devastating encore. A full choir begins to chant “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, which stands out from the blues-rock that characterizes most of their set, and has that Dylan-y vibe that makes crowds wave lighters in the air. But it’s back to their primordial, bluesy best with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, at which point everything explodes, in several cases literally. Fireworks, larynxes, old-man-boners. The lot.

Addendum: “It’s good to be here. Well, it’s good to be anywhere.” – Keith Richards, Roskilde 2014

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The Rolling Stones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Master Musicians of Jajouka

“We are the Rolling Stones of Jajouka!” Bandleader Bachir Attar’s quip is not an idle boast. Like their British counterparts, the Master Musicians have more than half a century of experience, are consummate professionals and natural entertainers. It also helps that at least half the band that arrived at Roskilde (after apparent transport difficulties in Lisbon) played on a record produced by the Rolling Stones’ very own Brian Jones. They even have their own Mick Jagger, an ancient, kindly-faced man who struts around the stage, waving his drum above his head. You might not have a guessed that a Moroccan sufi band would go down well at a festival, but the wailing of the rhaitas and the hypnotic rhythm section (their music seems to revolve around sequences of threes and sixes, an utter bitch to clap to but captivating in its unfamiliarity) ensure that the conclusion to the first day of Roskilde concerts ends with a happy audience.

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The Master Musicians Of Jajouka with Bachir Attar (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagard Krogh 

CC = Charlie Cassarino
HT = Helen Thomas

Albums of the year 2013

in Blog by

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1. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety

Arthur Ashin’s second album oozes emotional intensity throughout, with the album title perfectly summing up Ashin’s emotions while writing this album. Whether its about the anxiety of calling his grandmother for fear of her death (“Counting”), dealing with hitting his 30’s (“Gonna Die”) or going through a break-up (“World War”). Starting off with “Play By Play”/“Counting”/“Promises”/“Ego Free, Sex Free”, Anxiety has to be one of the strongest back-to-back hit filled albums released for a while. From start to finish this is an album to you can listen to whether its a Friday night ready to go out on the town or on a relaxing Sunday morning nursing a hangover as Ashin soothes you with his alt-R’n’B.

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 2. My Bloody Valentinem b v

If you say you’ve been waiting 22 years for this record, you’re lying. Even the most faithful of My Bloody Valentine fans gave up hope of ever seeing another release from the band long ago. When this album was released in February with little ceremony and an ordering process that temporarily broke the internet, there should have been no shock that it wasn’t another Loveless. Instead we’ve been treated to unexpected guitar solos, unexpected guitar-free compositions, more of Bilinda Butcher’s beautiful voice, and a few genuine what-the-fuck-is-that-sound moments. If you say this album wasn’t worth a two-decade period of absence, you’re lying.

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3. IceageYou’re Nothing

Still pissed off, still drawing heavily on post-punk angularity and tinny black metal bleakness, Denmark’s finest return with a more diverse album than their debut. The fast tracks still explode with spit and bile (“Ecstasy”,“Coalition”), but interspersed are moments of slow, muddy thuds (“Morals”), and even the odd Hüsker Du-influenced riff (“In Haze”).  Iceage are lads of impeccable taste, whose energy elevates them out of the mire of influences that so often burdens hardcore bands. The “New Way of Danish Fuck You” might not be so new any more, but with any luck, it is far from over.

 

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Vampire Weekend

4. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires Of The City

With this album, Ezra Koenig and his gang have progressed from the afro-pop elements of earlier days to a more diverse soundscape. Evident in the infectious pop tune ‘Step’, the playful ‘Ya Hey’ with manipulated chipmunk-voices and the beautiful vocal harmonies on ‘Obvious Bicycle’. The different textures are quite seductive and ‘MVotC’ has been a recurrent visitor on my record player. On top of that Ezra Koenig has a way with lyrics that really enthrals me: ”The harpsichord is broken/The television’s fried/The city’s getting hotter than a country in decline” from ‘Finger Snap’ is a line you don’t hear everyday. A great album that showcases a great band’s development.

 

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factory floor

5. Factory FloorFactory Floor

“Turn it up”. Take their advice: Factory Floor’s first album is a commanding blend of instinct and control, the human and mechanical. The trio’s double LP draws as much on minimalist, New York disco as it does on Throbbing Gristle, resulting in tracks whose power lies in the combination of cold synth lines, ghostly voices, and infectious beats (drummer Gabe respects, as we should all do, the mythical cowbell).

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away

6. Nick Cave and The Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away

Push The Sky Away is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 15th studio album. The first album, where Nick Cave is the only remaining member of the original line-up, and also a masterful example of the growing collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis and Nick Cave. After the end of the loud and noisy Grinderman, which in large parts consists of the same people as The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away can be seen as return to a more quiet expression that makes you recall albums like The Boatmans Call. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was formed thirty years ago; Push The Sky Away is a promise of many more years of great music to come.

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7. Julia HolterLoud City Song

Loud City Song is the third album in as many years by LA-based Julia Holter. As with her earlier albums, the classically trained artists has found inspiration in artworks from the past – this time the 1958 musical Gigi. The album is diverse, yet very coherent, and Julia Holter manages to breed new life and sounds into a classical instrumentation of horns, strings, piano and drums. Loud City Song is atmospheric; it feels more accessible than her earlier albums (that are also great) without losing the playfulness and experimentation.

As she explains Loud City Song began with the end of her second album Ekstasis; more precisely the song Maxim’s III. The song need it’s own album, she thought, and what an album it got!

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8. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me

High Violet was always going to be a tough album to follow up for the Cincinnati quintet, however, I had the same thought with some of their previous albums Alligator and Boxer, they seem to effortlessly write albums start to finish that are hard hitting and grab you in a way no other band can. Trouble Will Find Me gives us an insight into the life Matt Berninger has settled into in his more mature years having admitting “…I didn’t care what the songs were going to be about, or if they were going to seem depressing, or cool, or whatever”, even so, they still manage to roll out the hits with tracks such as, “Don’t Swallow The Cap”, “Sea Of Love” and “Graceless”. 

 

Ed Harcourt

9. Ed HarcourtBack Into The Woods

In the 12 years since Ed Harcourt released his Mercury Prize-nominated debut, he’s explored all complexities for the conveyance of his baroque pop style. So if he decides to strip things back, he must be certain of himself. Recorded in just six hours at Abbey Road Studios in London, Back Into the Woods is the kind of natural, unadorned performance you can only get away with if the songs are really that strong.

At its core, most of the album is just Harcourt at his piano or guitar, and a natural warmth that emanates from the instruments, in lovely contrast to the husky timbre of his voice.

queens-of-the-stone-age-like-clockwork

10. Queens Of The Stone Age….Like Clockwork

Frontman Josh Homme was sidelined for months after complications from a routine surgery, and …Like Clockwork is the manifestation of him literally getting back on his feet. If a little strife provides good inspiration, then it’s no wonder this is QOTSA’s strongest album in years. It’s equal parts brutal and creepy, with tracks like “If I Had a Tail” marking Homme as heir apparent to Scott Walker. Dave Grohl plays a bulk of the drums, and there are guest spots from Trent Reznor, Mark Lanegan, and Elton John. If you haven’t paid much attention to QOTSA in recent years, …Like Clockwork will make you regret ever counting them out.

kanyewestyeezus

11. Kanye WestYeezus

Yeezus‘ bookends feel like a follow on from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a time when he was going through darker periods of his life after the death of his mother and a break up, to his current life with Kim Kardashian with “Bound 2”. If this is anything to go by we can expect the follow-up to Yeezus to be an R’n’B love album…….yeah right! The album contains unmatched production qualities with tracks that will make Kanye’s live set for years to come as he rolls out the albums other hits, “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves”.

Sigur Ros

12. Sigur RósKveikur

In tribute to Jonsi’s made up language, “hopelandic”, I have retranslated my review in six different languages, resulting in some nonsense they can be proud of:

“Finally ROS Sigur dark, interesting bass lines and shiny surfaces with just the ignition Mogwai album in Iceland felt a huge area, sounds more and more electronic sound plan. Browse all Vacuum guitar violin, or Jónsi is much better able to withstand it.”

In English, Sigur Rós have returned with a power that had largely dispersed in their later recordings. The tweeness has been replaced by darker and heavier electronic sounds, undercut by Jonsi’s distinctive vocal style.

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13. TrentemøllerLost

Trentemøller has gradually shifted away from the more overt, techno style of electronica towards grander, more cinematic compositions. Lost is a sweeping, sometimes broody, cinematic work that prioritizes subtlety. It’s definitely an album made more for headphones than stereos, and maybe it’s most conducive to quiet moments of reflection, but ultimately, it is beautiful. And with appearances from Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, Low’s Mimi Parker, and the Drum’s Jonny Pierce, Lost might prove to be one of those gateway albums that lures unsuspecting rockists into the dark underbelly of electronic music.

Blood Orange

14. Blood OrangeCupid Deluxe

There is a good reason why Devonté Hynes is the producer in quest these days. The Englishman’s musical sensibilities are as sophisticated as a cat walking through a dollhouse, knowing exactly where to place the paws without compromising the arrangements, that is perfectly balanced between the cheesy and the chic – just as if the aesthetic of the 80’s was taken to contemporary society. Exactly the 80’s are along with New York the main point of reference for the album, which combines the best of the decade (New Romanticism, Golden Age Hip-Hop and New Jack Swing) with a who’s who of Brooklyn-socialites such as David Longstreith (Dirty Projectors) and his fiancé Samantha Urbani (Friends). Cupid Deluxe is in many ways the preliminary redemption of Hynes’ vast talent.

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These-New-Puritans-Field-of-Reeds

15. These New Puritans – Fields Of Reeds

Taking inspiration from classical and experimental composers of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten foremost among them, These New Puritans may not be the most light-hearted or humorous of bands, but Fields of Reeds is the culmination of the band’s unique and exacting approach to music. Singling out songs from this tightly woven work may be counterproductive, but “Organ Eternal” signals the power TNP can generate from a simple, “Tubular Bells”-like riff. Don’t think progressive, Fields of Reeds has the best claim this year on the title of “timeless”.

 

overgrown

16. James Blake – Overgrown

Last year, when I told people James Blake was Dubstep, they refused to accept the fact. Whilst ‘Overgrown’ is hardly at Skrillex’s level on the ‘drop the beat’ scale (yuck), it’s a lot closer than the artist’s debut. Blake’s talent means one can never tire of ‘Overgrown”s multiple layers; it has an extraordinary power to be at once very personal, whilst the electronic framework makes it like the grown up echo of a dance album. It’s about when the songs bite, just like a “Digital Lion”. See “Retrograde” for reference. What that boy does with a piano, a vocal warble and a computer is just insane. No wonder that Mercury Prize ended up in his hands.

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Arcade Fire (2013) Reflektor LP Vinyl Record Album 1

17. Arcade FireReflektor

Alongside countless other fans, I was impatiently awaiting the release of the fourth album by the Canadian seven-piece. A release that consolidates Arcade Fire’s position as one of the greatest indie bands on the planet. ‘Reflektor’ shows a more up-beat side to the band, in the disco-tinged title track, ‘We Exist’ and ‘It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)’, alongside rock anthems like ‘Normal Person’ and ‘Joan of Arc’. Utter magnificence that keeps growing on me, fuelled by Win Butler’s intense vocal delivery.

With a playing span of 75 minutes the band’s typical epic scope remains constant and this album is another brilliant addition to an awe-inspiring catalogue.

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Darkside Psychic

(18) DarksidePsychic 

Described as “rock’s cosmic outer edges through the immersive, body-moving framework of 21st-century house and techno”, upon the release of Psychic, Nicolas Jarr and Dave Harrington’s debut album brought a breath of fresh air to the electronic music scene in 2013, just as Jarr has previously done with his solo venture. Post-rock riffs and downbeat electronica dominates Psychic. Tracks such as “Paper Trails” has glimpses of Jarr’s solo work vocally, although admittedly containing a denser and more textured sound. Darkside have left us hungry for more as they continue to take the album on the road in 2014.

cate le bon

19. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

The always-evolving Cate Le Bon found sunshine in California and a more stripped-back sound for her third full length. The Velvet Underground influence on Mug Museum should smack anyone over the head, even if s/he hasn’t gone on a Lou Reed listening binge following his death. Le Bon’s sparse, minimally-produced album has easy sing alongs, a few moments of total chaos, a duet with Perfume Genius, and stays just on the right side of that vaguely surfy vibe to distinguish her from every other band that has hit the reverb a little too hard. Mug Museum is 2013’s best palate cleanser.

arcticam

20. Arctic Monkeys – AM

“Who the F*ck are the Arctic Monkeys?” Only kidding! Perhaps you didn’t see enough of the Arctic Monkeys on every music magazine’s front page and website this summer? Never fear, they’re gonna be on every end of year list. With very good reason. The Sheffield band’s fifth studio album was an absolute masterpiece from those first two drum whacks of “Do I Wanna Know?”, (a song which also possesses one of the best rock riffs of all time), to the dreamy, track twelve cover of John Cooper Clark’s poem, “I Wanna Be Yours”. The pace is sickingly fluctuating, but the adrenaline is never wavering. It also produced a video of Alex Turner wandering around London pretending to be drunk and hallucinating about kebab salesmen humping, so who can complain?

LIVE REVIEW: Iceland Airwaves Day 4, 02.11.2013

in Live Reviews by

Mac DeMarco: Surprisingly there was no nudity in DeMarco’s show this time. He came on stage with three other band members who all had good input on the show. The guitar particularly sounded so clean and smooth it was like you could see the notes float in the air coming out of the instrument. Mac said in the beginning that he had some problems singing because of a sore throat, but he sounded better than I imagined. He went from singing in an elegant high pitched voice down to cool, deep whiskey style. The whole band was lively and had a very comfortable performance. They were louder than I had thought and always very tuned. The best thing about the band’s performance was its inventiveness. When DeMarco announced there were only two songs left they played a couple of cover songs — for example, a heavy metal version of “Blackbird” were the bassist stretched his vocal chords. They also performed Metallica’s song “Enter Sandman”, the Police song “Message in a Bottle,” and then to trump it all they played “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit to which the guitarist was spitting the lines. To end the show they slowed things down and played the beautiful song “Still Together” and DeMarco crowd surfed while providing nice high pitch vocals. 4,5*/5*

Mykki Blanco by C siggi

Mykki Blanco: To get the party started, Mykki sent out a hype man. He performed some odd stunts, rapping and screaming to some hip-hop rock beats. His mission to rouse the crowd failed completely but it sure was interesting. But things were about to get more and more interesting. When Mykki finally came on stage, wearing a provocative dress and turning the concert into a drag show, the crowd went wild and he got the vibe from the audience that was needed. After witnessing him stripping off the dress and showing off some nipple tassels, I didn’t know what to expect musically. When Mykki began to perform his songs the show got to another level. His  rapping skills are admirable and the flow was very tight. Mixing together punk and hip-hop created something I have never heard before. Mykki was obviously exited to play this concert. He did some a cappella rhymes which were very well delivered. I wasn’t so sure about whether I would like Mykki’s music before attending the concert but after this show I am a fan of this drag queen of Hip-hop. 3,5*/5*   

Gold Panda by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Gold Panda: In my opinion it tends to be kind of weird to stand in a huge crowd and watch some guy press buttons and play with his computer. This time it wasn’t weird at all. Gold Panda truly knows how to create some exotic warm electronic beats that are very easy to dance to. The sound wasn’t perfect and maybe he had some technical problem but that didn’t matter considering that he was performing at 23:00 on a Saturday night. Most of the songs he played are from his new album, Half of Where You Live, and the crowed was digging it. 3,5*/5*

Savages by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Savages: The coolest act of Iceland Airwaves this year was definitely the four girls from the band Savages. Just with walking on stage they announced without saying it “if you don’t like our music then fuck off”. The band’s style is punk rock, and they dress and perform in that way. The drummer has a big role in their show and showed some good skills pounding the skins. Also Jehnny Beth, the band’s vocalist, gave a powerful performance and sang with much empathy. It wasn’t so crowded at the venue but most of the people seemed to like what they were seeing. On the down side, the songs Savages perform started to sound the same as the show went on. For that reason I sometimes lost attention, but the drummer always knocked me back in. 3*/5* 

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FM Belfast: There is no better way of ending a Saturday night then attending a FM Belfast concert. The venue was crowded with people in all kinds of conditions but everyone went wild without exception. Originally, FM Belfast featured four band members, but this time they were supported by two guys. That gave the three singers of the band more space to move around and hype the crowd. To be honest, my memory doesn’t recall much about this concert, except for jumping up and down, sitting on the floor, and some ribbons and stuff being thrown off the stage. It truly was a blast. 4*/5*

FM Belfast photo by Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir. All other photos via Iceland Airwaves.

ARTICLE: Arctic Monkeys – The Road to ‘AM’

in Blog by

INTRODUCTION

In 2005, when the Arctic Monkeys were first thrown into the arms of the indie music world, a video of the band performing “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor” depicted the young band  looking awkward and boyish, but brilliant. Before the performance began, Alex Turner cleared his throat and drawled, in a thick Northern accent, “Weahr the ahrctic moonkees… Don’ buhleeve the ‘ype.” That proved impossible. The hype was real, and eight years on, it’s time for the band to release their fifth studio album, ‘AM’. After eleven years since their formation in 2002, the infant apes are all grown up, and ready to take over the world, one drunk text at a time. Here Today takes a look at their career up to this point, and why ‘AM’ makes them the greatest rock band of our generation.

THE CHANGING STAGE

Earlier this summer, Arctic Monkeys played the biggest gig of their career when they headlined Glastonbury Festival in the UK for the second time. However, every band has to start somewhere, and they didn’t start on the Pyramid Stage. On Friday the 13th June 2003, the band played their first ever gig at The Grapes, a small pub in their home town of Sheffield. What I would give to have a time machine and a ticket to Sheffield. Their set included “Ravey Ravey Ravey Club”, an unreleased track. But of course, there’s a grainy recording on YouTube:

As teenagers, Alex and ex-bassist Andy Nicholson found employment pulling pints at famous local venue, The Boardwalk, that had played an important role in launching up and coming bands from the area. When they returned to play a homecoming gig at the small venue, ex-bassist Andy pulled on a staff t-shirt and served behind the bar again. Alas, The Boardwalk went into administration in 2010.

In 2005, the band blew up and embarked on its first world tour. By the time they reached the UK leg, every concert was fully sold out, and £7 tickets were being flogged for £100 for two on eBay. Talk about demand.

At The Grapes in 2003, The band made a total of £27 in ticket sales. Less than ten years later, Turner is number 11 on the Heat Under 30s Rich List, and worth an estimated £9.8 million.

THE MYSPACE GENERATION

Shortly after the Grapes gig, the band started producing demo CDs at 2fly studios, to distribute for free at their small concerts. So began the band’s rise to first internet, then global fame. Whilst the boys didn’t know how to put music on the internet, had never heard of Myspace and got a mate to set up the website, fans were sharing the demo tracks online. It was a fan who came up with the title ‘Beneath the Boardwalk’ for the 17 track demo CD, and yes, that is referring to the same Boardwalk where Alex and Andy used to work. Just a year or so later, the band beat the British record for fastest selling debut album with ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ selling 363,735 over-the-counter copies in the first week. There was a time when Myspace was relevant.

 

COOL COLLABORATIONS

You’ve probably heard of The Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner’s incredibly cool side project band, which consists of himself, Miles Kane and James Ford. They’ve released only one album, ‘The Age of the Understatement’, but both Turner and Kane say they’ll record new material “when the time is right.” The Last Shadow Puppets may be on extended break, but Turner and Kane have continued to work together, and prove that mods and rockers can be friends after all. The “Milex” relationship has also been the cause of some slightly creepy tumblr blogs celebrating the bromance.

If Miles Kane wasn’t cool enough, Alex Turner and the Monkeys just happen to be good friends with Queens of The Stone Age legend Josh Homme. As well as co-producing the Monkeys’ third album, ‘Humbug’, Homme features on ‘AM’. Talking to Zane Lowe, Turner described the appearance as “very much a case of one of us returning a back scratch to the other,” referring to his own contribution to the latest QOTSA album, ‘…Like Clockwork’. “Just fun, it’s friends, extended family now,” is how Turner descibed the collaboration. ‘AM’ also features guest appearances by The Coral’s ex-guitarist Bill Ryder Jones and drummer Pete Thomas.

But it’s not just guitar brandishing musicians that Arctic Monkeys have worked with. In 2007, the band joined forces with British rap artist Dizzee Rascal, to create “Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend” and “Temptation”. The former was the Arctic Monkeys track, featured on the ‘Brianstorm’ EP, where Rascal rapped over a verse. The latter was Rascal’s interpretation, a full rap song with Turner’s dulcet tones sampled underneath. The two acts came together again during the Monkeys’ headliner set at Glastonbury in 2007.

THE HAIRVOLUTION OF ARCTIC MONKEYS

It’s safe to say that with each new Arctic Monkeys album, comes a new style, especially for Alex Turner. As a teenager in Sheffield, he sported a polo T-shirt and Jeremy Clarkson jean combo, with some pretty flat snips on his head. Fast forward to 2009, and he’s sporting a rather different look. Luscious locks of shiny brown hair hang around his face like a mop, and a gorgeous Alexa Chung is tucked under his arm. Then 2012 saw the introduction of greaser Turner. This slick LA Alex wears Saint Laurent, a leather jacket to promo shoots, has Topman style guides in dedication to his Teddy boy look, and rolls his hair into a slick quiff. Talking to GQ, Turner said he adopted the look because “All the boys got shorter hair and I thought, ‘What can I do to one-up them?’ I am the singer after all, and you’ve gotta be a dick sometimes.”

Turner is a style chameleon, musically as well as in fashion. ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’ was a perfect, grubby, indie rock storybook of suburban teenage life, and with tracks like “Fluorescent Adolescent” on ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’, their follow up followed on a similar thread. However, as the title suggests, something about their second album already showed signs of a new musical style. ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ was loud, fast, austere and dangerous. The violent opening riff of “Brianstorm” sets the tone for the record: the really great, really well received record.

The view from Alex Turner’s 2009 ‘Humbug’ era eye covering mop of hair must have been pretty dark and confusing to have produced tracks like “Pretty Visitors”. Arctic Monkeys fans obviously think that none of the albums are bad, but this is often the one they don’t like as much. Personally, Humbug is one of my favourites because it’s confidently experimental, never a bad idea for a band that’s been around a while.

Whilst the first three albums got darker with each release, ‘Suck it and See’, also a reaction record, changed the other way. It was more accessible, “vintage”, but not addictive like the previous three. However, it was released just a few months before Turner announced to The Sun that he had “fucking forgotten how do that,” in reference to writing a smash hit. So you never know, maybe we’re in agreement about ‘Suck it…’

Now, in 2013, Turner is churning out different quotes about his song writing and recording process, albeit bizarre ones. To GQ: “The whole thing for me is like a chemical reaction. It’s like you put your different elements into all the test tubes, and you try and mix them together and get the right-colour smoke.”

Or there’s this one to NME: “Writing songs for me is like waiting for deliveries,” he explains. “You get a window: the washing machine’s got to be there between 11 and 5. You’ve got to wait for it. It [the song] is the washing machine, the idea! You’re like, ‘Right, we’re gonna do this record between now and then, and in the middle something is gonna arrive. A loosely metaphorical washing machine.” Turner’s dark patch where he forgot how to write a mammoth single is over. Finito. Gone. Need proof? Just sit back and listen to “Do I Wanna Know?”

AM

Ever since I find out that the name of this album would be ‘AM’, I’ve been totally stumped as to what it could stand for. Then Turner cleared it all up in an interview with Zane Lowe, where he admitted he’d stolen the idea from The Velvet Underground’s ‘VU’ record. Suddenly it all made sense. Here are nine more facts about ‘AM’:

Alex Turner describing ‘AM’: “It sounds like a Dr Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl cut and then we’ve sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.” (Rolling Stone)

On what happened in that LA studio: Matt Helders broke his hand because it “came into contact with something that was stronger than me.” (NME)

On ‘AM’, Arctic Monkeys make their drum machine debut with “I Wanna Be Yours”.

“Mad Sounds”, the seventh track on the album, was debuted at Hultsfred Festival in Sweden.

Josh Homme on the new record: “It’s a really cool, sexy after-midnight record… and it’s really good.” (NME)

Haim turned down the opportunity to be on “Do I Wanna Know?”, as they couldn’t fit it into their schedules. Bass player Este Haim said it was “maybe the worst day of my life,” to call and say no. (NME)

The record was finished in the nick of time. “We were on the phone, getting things finished like adding a tambourine to a chorus, when it should have been mastered. It was right down to the last minute.” Those dastardly tambourines. (XFM)

“Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” debuted at number 8 in the UK charts, making it the band’s first top 10 single since 2007, when they released “Fluorescent Adolescent”.

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