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After all the talk about music last night, I figured it was time for a post about what I've been listening to recently.

Doves, Some Cities: Some Cities is another step in the same direction as The Last Broadcast. The great washes of sound that characterised Doves' debut album Lost Souls aren't gone, but for the most part they're definitely on the back burner. Lyrically things are just about as dark and desperate as ever, but musically the emphasis is on rhythm and bounce, from the rattle of 'Sky Starts Falling' to the outright stomp of 'Black and White Town' (complete with a chorus cadence I'm sure they've nicked straight from some 70s pop tune). Even the Hollywood strings of 'Snowden' and the monkish chant of 'Someday Soon' service fundamentally up-tempo songs; and one of the most chilled-out moments of the album is to be found nestling in the Gershwinesque sweep of 'The Storm'. But it almost all works. I don't think it's quite my favourite of their albums, but it's damn close, and I'm looking forward to their gig in London at the end of the month more than I've looked forward to a gig for ages. Only two tracks disappoint--'Walk In Fire' which sounds, at least to my ears, as though it's trying far too hard to be the new 'There Goes The Fear', and (more problematically) the limp closer, 'Ambition'. It's a frustratingly vague end to an album that really deserves to go out with a bang. Try this: 'Black and White Town', of course.

Idlewild, Warnings/Promises: I guess it was predictable: 'American English' was a hit, so of course the band writes more songs that sound like 'American English'. It's a shame, though, because Idlewild's strength has always been in the Ash-like killer hook, not in epic indie balladry, and between In Remote Part and this album they've reversed the balance of their songwriting, resulting in pure sleepwalking tracks like 'I Understand It' and 'As If I Hadn't Slept'. Sometimes it almost seems like they're aware of it, too, given that 'Too Long Awake' shorts out (it sounds like someone yanked out the cables) just as it seems to be gearing up for the Big Chorus. But the only thing here that comes close to the fire of previous albums is 'El Captain', and even that's really only a poor imitation. There are a couple of decent Document-era REM pastiches, but for me the ballads only pay off with 'Not Just Sometimes But Always', which mines the same musical vein as Green Day's 'Time of Your Life', and the opening track, 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness' (clumsy titles are common throughout). A disappointment. Try this: 'Welcome Home'

Athlete, Tourist: My feelings about this album go back and forth. 'Chances' is not a good opening track: an overblown and entirely forgettable Coldplay-like 'anthem' that outstays its welcome by a good two minutes. Where, you wonder, is the charming, direct, uniquely British (arguably uniquely London-ish) pop of 'Vehicles and Animals'? The answer is that it's not gone, but it's been substantially refitted. 'Half Life' and 'Modern Mafia' come closest to the perkiness that typified the earlier album, but they're embellishments. The heart of Tourist is in the title track, a song for 3am travellers and lost lovers ('I will bring you stories/and bleary-eyed photos/like a regular tourist'), and of course in the genuinely epic 'Wires'. In those songs, and in others such as closer 'I Love' or affecting ballad 'Street Map', there is a simpleness and innocence to the songwriting that manages to be heartwarming rather than irritating. On the other hand, 'Chances' seems outright cynical, and 'Trading Air' and 'Yesterday Threw Everything At Me' seem to be heading in the same direction. Athlete haven't lost their distinctive appeal, but they are much closer to schmindie territory than they were, and I don't know if that's the best place for them. Try this: 'Tourist'

Mercury Rev, The Secret Migration: Like Doves, on their latest album Mercury Rev go for a streamlined version of their established sound, albeit one of a very different timbre. Here it's the odd noises and rambling structures that go; the songs still sound as delicate, as perfectly poised as ever, but the pure ethereality of some of the band's earlier work is gone. I'd say there's a new clarity, but that's a relative term, since this is not a band that's ever going to be entirely traditional. Songs like 'Black Forest', or 'Arise', or 'Secret For A Song' or (especially) 'Vermillion', though, are straightforward pieces of shining pop, veined with joy and hope, and they sound at once like an entirely new band, and like an entirely old one. 'Ain't it amazing when the seasons begin to change?' begins one song, and listening to The Secret Migration the only possible answer is 'yes'. This, for me, is an album for the springtime, and flowers coming into bloom. Try this: 'Vermillion'

Bloc Party, Silent Alarm: Bloc Party are the latest middle-class white-boy guitar-based-but-somehow-still-cool art-rock band to be feted in the music press. They come with comparisons to The Killers, The Open, The Stills and Franz Ferdinand; I like three of those four, to a greater or lesser extent, so you'd think there'd be something in this album for me. Sadly, I can't find it. These are songs with riffs but no tunes, chants but no lyrics, energy but no passion: you could dance to them, particularly to the rolling beats of 'Positive Tension' or 'She's Hearing Voices', but I'm not sure it would be that satisfying. When Kele Okereke sings 'do you wanna come over/and kill some time?' you suspect you're meant to empathise with their eternal teenage longing, but in fact find yourself strangely distanced. Everything about the album seems calculated, a matter of smug posture and calculated charm. It's not for nothing, it seems, that their album cover depicts a snowy wilderness; and if their hearts aren't in it, why should we care? Try this: 'Positive Tension'

Josh Rouse, Nashville: Josh Rouse is one of those singer-songwriters I've been aware of, and meaning to check out sometime, but never quite got around to. Then, a few weeks ago, Amazon made a slight packing error and sent me a copy of Nashville along with the rest of my order; and I'm damn glad they did. Nashville is a beautiful, warm, life-affirming album. At times, Rouse is not afraid to take himself less than seriously ('maybe later on/after the late late show/we can go to your room/I can try on your clothes', from opener 'It's The Nighttime'); it's a self-awareness that helps make some of the more emotionally simplistic songs ('And if you're lost/don't be sad/there are good times to be had', from closer 'Life') into something more than mawkish sentiment. Stylistically it's pretty diverse, and not the all-country all-the-time extravaganza that the title might suggest. Obviously there's some of that, but there are also echoes of 70s rock on some tracks, and at least one ('Why Won't You Tell Me What') is straight-up rhythm and blues. Others are simply pop: 'My Love Has Gone' may be fairly lyrically bleak ('Love ain't on my side/love ain't special/love ain't great') but it's coupled to one of the prettiest tunes this side of a Belle & Sebastian album; and the best track, 'Winter in the Hamptons', has a chorus that is pure sunshine, all handclaps and ba-ba-baas. It's just gorgeous. Try this: 'Winter in the Hamptons'
yeah, i wasn't sure about the bloc party album. i thought about the purchase, but in the end... i didn't.
Bloc Party are the latest middle-class white-boy guitar-based-but-somehow-still-cool art-rock band to be feted in the music press.

Does only 50% white really equal a "white-boy" band?

I think I will still be buying this one.
Does only 50% white really equal a "white-boy" band?

No. Clearly the photo I thought was of them was of some other band...

I think I will still be buying this one.

Good to know you value my aesthetic judgements. ;-)
Good to know you value my aesthetic judgements. ;-)

:) I have a soft spot for populist art-rock and 'Banquet' was one of my favourite songs of last year. We'll see.
Idlewild, Warnings/Promises
Idlewild's strength has always been in the Ash-like killer hook, not in epic indie balladry, and between In Remote Part and this album they've reversed the balance of their songwriting,

That's very true, and it's my main complaint with the album.

I do think it has strengths - and a few superb songs - but it's hard to get past the lack of energy and excitement. I was going to say more, but it turns out I've rambled on so long I'm going to stick it in my own journal rather than clog up this page. :-)
Hmm. I think you're kinder to it than I am, but I've been so underwhelmed that I just haven't listened to it that much.

It really *is* sticking in my head. I keep humming bits. It doesn't quite make up for the three or four really dull tracks, but there's good stuff. Go and listen to it again. Go on. Do it. You know you want to. :-P

I genuinely rate: Not Just Sometimes But Always, El Capitan, I Want a Warning, I Understand It and The Space Between All Things, plus...er, a couple of others like that one near the end that starts out Country & Western but then develops some oomph.... 'Disconnected', I think.
Hmm, these all sound sort of genteel and passionless to me. The Doves' track appeals most, but even that's a bit light ad fluffy somehow. Still, thank you for the reviews, and I may do a listening-post attack on the Doves' back catalogue next time I'm in Virgin.

Goddammit I used to be so up-to-date on indie music. Now the last albums I bought were some Beatles ones I was inexplicably missing. Sigh.
I have to say the Idlewild sample is possibly the least interesting song on the whole album for me! But it *is* a good indication of the album's faults.
I've only heard a couple of Idlewild tracks (this one, and 'these wooden ideas'). Neither really inspire me to seek out more of their music, it has to be said.

Actually, I guess I've heard Idlewild play a bit more than that, since they were doing a soundcheck in Virgin megastore on Tuesday while I was there. But they probably don't usually play while Destiny's Child is being pumped at full volume over the sound system, so that's not really a good basis for judgement.
They're hard to describe, because they change from album to album.

Their first album is punk. I don't like it. At all.

Their second album, 100 Broken Windows is sort of jangly early-REM style indie rock, with big, catchy repetitive choruses. These Wooden Ideas is a typical example. The album never steers far from that formula, but it's vibrant and likeable.

Their third album, The Remote Part, is the same basic idea but less catchy, more wordy, and more mainstream indie-tinged. I like this too, but in different ways.
Mrm. The only thing that sounds appealing to me there is the word 'punk', but I suspect I should try listening to more of all the albums.
Hmm, these all sound sort of genteel

Heh. I think you may have just pegged my taste in music. ;-)

(Well, not entirely, given that my complaint about the Idlewild album is that it's too genteel. But it's not a massively unfair generalisation...)
.... and what about the 'Aloud?
Not listened to it enough yet. Look for a mention in the next music post. :)
tizzle_b saying:
LJ will eat this because it's booted me out BUT.... you lie! You're in denial of your love!