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   Monday, September 24, 2007  
If all's well that ends well then the End of the Road Festival scored big on the old wellometer. Originally slated to clash directly with last-night main stage headliners Lambchop, circumstances or ye coming to of ye senses saw Jens Lekman pushed back to 11 o'clock in the Big Top thus effectively closing the festival unopposed. (He'd flipped places with Josh T Pearson whose nihilistic intensity would've been an appalling end to proceedings.) Happily, it was horns, handclaps & helpless grins ahoy as the dapper Swede and his six-piece girl band dished up a feelgood set of Tamla-tinged indieboy swoon.
Taking the ever-swelling captive audience largely by surprise with lashings of late-night big pop action, cuts from the gorgeous brand new album were naturally to the fore. Postcard to Nina's sit-com bittersweetness, the joyously contradictory Opposite of hallelujah and Your arms around me's big-beat dreaminess, all advertised the merits of Night falls over Kortedala. Quite simply, it's yet another Swedish essential. Older 'hits' like Black cab and A sweet summer's night on Hammer Hill kept the party rolling til the midnight hour. Just like this, in fact...

Elsewhere that weekend...

...another Swedish act still under far too many radars, Loney,dear's transcendant melodies eventually stirred to sun-dazed Saturday afternoon, er, crowd (a concept this relatively intimate gathering is happily still a stranger to) off their rugs for a standing ovation. Rather unjustly, the same space was then inundated for the rather less sophisticated and now somewhat over-exposed singalongs of I'm From Barcelona, still managing to bring out the inner twat in us all...

And talking of which, David Thomas Broughton is definitely a man with a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous. His set in the Bimble Inn teepee saw more of his hit-n-miss sonic improvisations, setting up some beautiful vocal loops then gleefully sabotaging them with pretty much anything he get an interesting sound out of. Brilliant, barking, occasionally testing, a mournfully unrecognizable rendition of Hungry heart was maybe his most impressive trick of the evening, making the music of Bruce Springsteen momentarily interesting...

The smartly turned indie clatter of Reading quintet Pete & the Pirates kick-started Sunday's action in excellent style. The debut album's out of the traps early in '08 and on this evidence will deserve your record tokens. "We've been criticised for not being 'piratey', which is ridiculous," Pete & the Pirates drummer Jonny tells the latest edition of Artrocker magazine. Absolutely right, leave all that shiver me timbers nonsense to The Decemberists, says reallyrather. The Pirates' second single Knots drops Oct 8 and is a tip-top two-and-a-half minutes...

Last up in the same space the night before British Sea Power rocked about as hard as anyone's ever likely to at this gathering, essentially an alt-folk-pop affair. With hitherto only the vaguest awareness of this maverick outfit's sound, reallyrather's inital benefit-of-the-doubt ten minutes stretched right to the last bonkers note of their epic closer, such was their compelling force this night. And besides, it was getting bloody nippy outside. Finally, local (to here) heroes My Sad Captains' turned in as peachey a performance as this blog has yet witnessed, their trek to the wilds of Dorset doing them no harm whatsoever. Despite already having a sackful of top tunes to call on Ed & co. still keep 'em coming; Great expectations indeed...
   posted by SMc at 6:35 AM |

   Thursday, September 13, 2007  
'Lovers of Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine and classic skewed folkpop really owe it to themselves to check this amazing album out without delay - it's surely one of the year's best!' Ace UK indie/electronica retailer Boomkat goes rather too far overboard for the debut album from Iceland's Seabear. Back in May this blog put up the video for Hands remembered alongside that for a Benoit Pioulard song. If you've money to spend on this sort of sound reallyrather would steer you strongly in the direction of the latter's collection from '06, Precis...
[benoit pioulard]

Looking back it's clear Richard Hawley got so many things right first time out. His retro-tastic debut mini-lp had seven songs with a slightly wider set of influences - Jimmy Webb, the Everlys, Neil Diamond - than the usual list cited in reference to the subsequent albums. The lyrics, too, had a variety and a freshness than before the quiff appeared and all those railways, rivers and long, lonely roads began to pile up. He also - like his influences - grasped the value of conciscion with only one song busting 4 minutes. Halfway through something like The sea calls on the new album Ladys bridge this blog's heart sinks on realizing there's still another three or so minutes to go.
Gorgeous as the record sounds it's clear - and has been since Coles Corner - that there's a limited imagination at work here and rr can't help feeling it would do Hawley no harm to step outside his obvious comfort zone (and away from long-time allies like Colin Elliott). Particularly, an external ear might push Hawley's voice to the peaks some of these (and earlier) songs cry out for. Still, the new album is more completely enjoyable than Coles Corner with a hugely enjoyable sequence taking in Roll river roll, Serious and Tonight the streets are ours; the title track also squarely hits the spot. But tellingly it's the instrumental breaks in these tunes which really lift them. Another very right thing about that original mini-lp was the inclusion of the instrumental number Caravan. Don Peris showed the way with last year's Go when the morning shineth; rr votes Hawley's next one be an instrumental affair with lashings of gee-tar action...

Actually, don't most albums really only have about seven strong songs on them? The last release from Sweden's Boy Omega [go] was last year's seven-track mini-lp, The grey rainbow, a cracker with no filler. Hope on the horizon is the new album out any time now - here's Suffocation Street:

Rilo Kiley's Under the blacklight is either
--'one of this year's most compelling albums.. teeming with creatively executed ideas' [The Onion]
-- five stars [Uncut]


--'the most horrible record of the year' according to Ben Thompson in the Sunday Telegraph
--'The shoddy songcraft is a true disappointment,' says someone else.

Two reviews which appeared in the UK press on the same day highlighted this record's peculiar reception:
' The album is redeemed slightly by two decent tracks – 15 and Smoke Detector. It’s a shame there aren’t more,' said The Sun. Meanwhile ..
'The crass 15 and Smoke Detector apart, this is seductive,' asserted The Times!

reallyrather leans towards the latter in respect of those two songs; The moneymaker, Dejalo and Give a little love are also borderline affairs, catchy but somehow dodgy and forced-sounding. The band are clearly intent on widening their appeal and have 'conventionalized' their song structures and spruced up their sound accordingly. From this blog's perspective, the worst that can be said of the record is that there's not much to be said about it. It's a decent pop record, end of. Silver lining, Close call, The angels hung around and the title track are all great additions to the canon - the Jenny Lewis canon, that is. The best bits here sound mostly like the obvious follow-up to her debut solo release, Rabbit fur coat, guitarist and band co-leader Blake having subjugated himself to a degree this blog couldn't have imagined. His ripping guitar parts are here entirely absent having to content himself with subtle pop fills. To hear where this guy's heart really lies you should turn - as this blog does time and again - to The biggest star, to date the high water mark of his side project The Elected. Here's a tantalising snatch, bringing back memories of their show at the Water Rats last year:

Actually, reallyrather's favourite track on the Rilo Kiley album is it's frothiest, Breaking up, an effervescent and shameless disco-pop throwback. Could this sound revival be the next big thing? Certainly that song's all of a piece with something like Sipping on sweet nectar on Jens Lekman's delicious new album Night Falls Over Kortedala. This blog looks forward to Jens's set at this weekend's End of The Road Fesitval where hopefully he'll have a full band in tow - rubbish dancing ahoy!
   posted by SMc at 9:01 AM |