Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys: Ethereal, Adventurous, Charming, Bittersweet

Like everyone else in South Africa I really only took notice of Death Cab for Cutie when their 5th album, Plans, was released in 2005. The super EMO I Will Follow You Into the Dark rocketed them briefly into the SA limelight. Watery and badly aimed as it is.
To this day, Plans remains one of my favourite albums to chill to, and Death Cab's masterpiece.
Codes and Keys, released today, comes very close to dethroning Plans from its place in my heart. It is well crafted, bittersweet and searching. The boys have always been philosophical in their approach to lyrics and Codes and Keys is no different.
As always, each track is well structured and the harmonies are effortless. The drama and the steady swell as each track builds to a crescendo will draw anyone in. Codes and Keys, while not quite up to the standards of Plans, is remarkable nonetheless. It has a quirkiness and an adventurous nature that we haven't seen before. They have even managed to do what many bands have not in this age of electro-invasion – incorporate a bit of 80s keyboard without losing their own vision.
The title track is a joyful ditty that puts me in mind of a stereotypical American 60s school dance. You Are a Tourist is catchy with a bounce you can't help but tap your feet to. The guitar riff gets into your head and has you bopping all day (or week). Monday Monday demonstrates the weird uncertain optimism that is evident in many a Death Cab track. Stay Young, Go Dancing - the final track on the album - is also the biggest surprise. It is boundlessly cheerful. And simply so. No strings attached.
Codes and Keys tells a fantastic story and draws you in. Great company for the cold winter months. So hop onto Amazon or iTunes and get it. Get it now.

You can preview the album here: http://n.pr/kuNLl0

Visit www.deathcabforcutie.com for more on the band.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Kills - Blood Pressures: Be still, my beating heart

On first listen Blood Pressures by The Kills was f*cking my mind, man. Good and proper.
With my somewhat limited knowledge of the Atlantic-spanning band that was doing what the Ting Tings do long before they were and that much better, the solid, sexy, raw rockness of Blood Pressures took me a while to wrap my head around. And just as I thought I understood what was happening, along comes The Last Goodbye, straight from a Chicago blues club. Eish, mara wena. It is sultry, it is classy, it is velvety and delicious.
But no, that was not the last surprise. Straight after that comes Damned If She Do - a track that would have been just as comfortable on 2005's No Wow. Having had a brief love affair with The Good Ones – an enthralling single off that album – this was more along the lines of what I was expecting. 
Like any girl that has been thoroughly messed around and left exhausted and confused, I am in love. This time it's for keeps.
The Kills have always been worth a listen, and the rock edge has always been there. It's just that much stronger now than ever before. Their choons are carefully crafted and fit together like Inca brickwork. No gaps here, gazi. Vocalist Alison Mosshart's voice is deep and strong, and is clearly comfortable doing anything. There's a rougher edge to it, a touch of husk, that draws you in. There's something of interest to every song, from a visit to melancholy with Wild Charms, to the aggression of Nail In My Coffin. The album would work just as well accompanying your drive to work as it would during a workout.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to be alone with my album.

For more on The Kills visit www.thekills.tv

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dustland - Horizon: A fireball in your candyfloss

I love it when a tip pans out. It's always so embarrassing if someone is all 'This is awesome' and you have to tell them they're a dumbass. Happily this is not the case with a link sent to us by Nathan Yates.
The resultant video – Dustland's Horizon - was enough to awaken me from my lethargy and get me all excited about the music industry again.

Except for begging to be compared to The Killers by choice of band name, I can't find fault with this Liverpudlian trio. And since they beg, I shall compare.
Their look is streamlined and pulled together. But unlike Brandon Flowers (who just comes off as a pretentious doos), in Dustland it's believable, even effortless.
The single, Horizon, hits you like Hot Fuss. You can't help but sit up and take notice. Unlike Hot Fuss, Horizon has a darker edge and seems sustainable. 
While there's a little keyboard action, it's not overly electro and rather puts one in mind of Depeche Mode.
Lead vocalist Adam Bray's voice is rich, full and rounded. You could bath in that voice if you were that way inclined. The whole lot comes together beautifully and I cannot wait to hear more from them.

For more on Dustland visit www.dustland.co.uk or find them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Dustland?sk=wall#!/Dustland?sk=info

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Southeast Engine: Nailing the art of the concept album

Southeast Engine © bradsearles
Band: Southeast Engine
Origin: Athens, Ohio, US
Genre: Indie/folk rock

The fact that Southeast Engine recorded From the Forest to the Sea live to analogue tape in a forsaken, 1800s middle school auditorium piqued my interest. I then found out that the band tends to make concept albums, which immediately made me beam with respect and cemented my desire to listen to each and every album from beginning to end.

Southeast Engine’s new album, Canary, which is available on CD and limited edition cassette (cassette!?), centres around the Great Depression and an Appalachian family’s struggle to survive. Sounds dire, but the band’s music is full of sincere emotion and detail, engaging the listener and dragging them into the plot. And, their sound is not without a fair amount of upbeat energy. Their forte definitely lies in storytelling through profound lyrics, expressive vocals and alluring accompanying harmonies. Long live the concept album! Long live Southeast Engine! 

Albums: Coming to Terms with Gravity [2005], A Wheel Within A Wheel [2007], From the Forest to the Sea [2009], Canary [2011]

Resembles: Wilco, Okkervil River

Listen here:

Watch here:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blitz Kids: Alt. rock on steroids

Blitz Kids © Katie Anderson
Band: Blitz Kids
Origin: Crewe & Nantwich, UK
Genre: Alternative rock

“‘White-knuckle alt-rock’ that encourages you to take leave of your senses” (Last.fm) and “a schizophrenic force to be reckoned with ... the type of band that will have you headbanging, shaking your arse and singing along all in the same breath” (Rock Sound) – sound good? Well, that’s only two of the many good things being said about Blitz Kids. Well-known for full-throttle, in-your-face live performances, Blitz Kids are alt. rock on steroids. The band has been nominated for Best British Newcomer at the Kerrang! Awards 2011. Expect big things!

Album: Vagrants & Vagabonds [2011]
Singles: Hold Fast

Resembles: Lostprophets, Alkaline Trio, The Dillinger Escape Plan

Listen here:

Watch here:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Top 10 Guilty Pleasure Songs

Ah, songs we are embarrassed to like, but can't help jamming to, giving a whole new meaning to *Blind* Blimp - our Top 10 Guilty Pleasure Songs:

The Hanson brothers, back in their day

10. Boomkat - The Wreckoning
9. Kesha (in general)
8. Billy Joel - A Matter of Trust
7. Martin Solveig - Hello
6. Damien Rice - Cannonball
5. Wheatus - A Little Respect
4. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
3. Alisha's Attic - I am I feel
2. Take That - Shine
1. Hanson - A Minute Without You

Now show us yours!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Black Keys - Brothers: A glass of crisp wine soothing down a Myprodol

Picture yourself in a smoky lounge. Large, comfortable couches are scattered haphazardly around the darkened room. A raised dais stands against a wall, lit by a single spotlight – the only bright light in the room. You are only dimly aware of the other patrons, all as focused on the band on stage as you are. There is barely a rustle from the room. Glasses are refilled, unnoticed, as the band plays.
This, my friends, is the picture that Grammy winning sixth album, Brothers, by the Black Keys paints in your mind. The unbridled cool of this band is simply undeniable. It makes you want to start talking in beatnik slang.

From beginning to end, Brothers is a work of art. It glides smoothly from one track to another, taking you on a blissful journey through your own passive mind. The first track, Everlasting Light, gets you in the perfect mood for what's to come – relaxed, at peace, the knowledge of good things in the future settling comfortably in your mind.

I know I'm pushing it a bit here, but Brothers really is like a crisp glass of wine soothing down a Myprodol or two. The happy is all-encompassing.

Tracks like Ten Cent Pistol and Unknown Brother drag you out of your happy stupor into a more Claptonesque area. Still undoubtedly cool, but of a darker kind. The joy, the joy.
The Black Keys are by far not a new thing, having put out six albums since 2002. Brothers, however, is the only album to make much of a stir. That isn't stopping me from plotting a retrospective purchase of everything this blues-rock duo has ever done. Bring on the blues.

For more on the Black Keys visit: www.theblackkeys.com or visit their myspace page at www.myspace.com/theblackkeys