Archive | December, 2011

Secret Colours Premiere Brilliant New Video: “Faust”

19 Dec

After all the fun of last week’s year-end list-a-thon we’ve been playing a bit of catch up with the contents of our inbox. One item that stood out was the new video from Chicago based psych-rockers, Secret Colours. The promo, which you can watch below, is a tale of what happens when a group of hedonistic young things take their life of criminality and lawlessness to the wrong convenience store.

Directed by Elijah Alvarado, the track is called “Faust” but the video could easily be called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Bottles of True Blood.It’s a great little flick that brilliantly compliments this fuel injected, attitude filled number.

“Faust” is taken from the bands forthcoming release, EP 3, which is out on 1 January 2012. You can pre-order the EP here.

Albums Of The Year – Part 2, The Full List

16 Dec

Well folks here we are, the end of another year. So far Adam S and I have looked at our favourite tracks (part one & part two), gigs and EPs of the year.

Yesterday we started the countdown of our 50 favourite albums of 2011 and now, today, right here on Alphabet Bands, we will complete the countdown with one big list and the unveiling of the Top 5.

It’s been a cracking year for music and we are already extremely excited for what 2012 has in store. Business will return to normal next week with a couple of reviews etc and then it will all kick off again in January with more additions to the Alphabet Bands family, new videos, sounds and interviews, as well as the odd focus on deserving artists. We can’t wait; hope you are looking forward to it as well.

For now though, let’s finish our look back at 2011 with a big old list of some of the very best albums of the year. These are my personal choices of albums that I have really loved this year, nothing more than that.

To the list.

50. Young The GiantYoung The Giant
49. The Civil WarsBarton Hollow
48. Lamb5
47. Lykke Li Wounded Rhymes
46. Wolf Gang Suego Faults
45. St. Vincent Strange Mercy
44. Lanterns On The Lake Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
43. Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean
42. Anna Calvi Anna Calvi
41. Blouse Blouse
40. Hercules & Love Affair Blue Songs
39. Danger Mouse & Danielle Lupi Rome
38. Mogwai Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
37. Washed Out Within and Without
36. WU-LYF Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
35. The Decemberists The King is Dead
34. Raekwon Shaolin VS Wu-Tang
33. Radiohead The King of Limbs
32. Braids Native Speaker
31. Cashier No.9 To The Death Of Fun
30. Twin Sister In Heaven
29. Treelight For Sunlight A Dream Before Sleep
28. The Phoenix FoundationBuffalo
27. EnnuiFormation Of Tide
26. DestroyerKaputt
25. Friendly Fires Pala
24. Fenech-Soler Fenech-Soler
23. Nerves Junior As Bright As Your Night Light
22. Cults Cults
21. Arctic Monkeys Suck It And See
20. Nicola RobertsCinderella’s Eyes
19. Apparat The Devil’s Walk
18. White Denim D
17. SBTRKT Sbtrkt
16. Mara Carlyle Floreat
15. Yuck Yuck
14. Talib Kweli Gutter Rainbows
13. Youth LagoonThe Year Of Hibernation
12. Kyle AndrewsRobert Learn Love
11. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
10. Ladytron Gravity The Seducer
9. Caveman Coco Beware
8. Joan As Policewoman The Deep Field
7. Summer Camp Welcome to Condale
6. Metronomy The English Riviera


And now, the final five. Enjoy…

5. Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Panther Sounds

Embracing the old and drawing influence from artists of yesteryear is not the most difficult thing to do in music; the real trick is making it sound entirely new and unique. With Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Christopher Owens et al have done just that. We‘re not talking about the kind of ‘making this sound your own’ that Louis Walsh bellows at every karaoke performer he sees on a Saturday night. No, we’re talking about the heartache tinged sadness of a prog-rock guitar solo, the jaunty pop sounds of a mainstream head bobber, the grind of early nineties Seattle based bands, all thrown together with delicate and emotionally raw lyrics and vocals. This is an album so carefully and beautifully crafted, with such exquisite melodies and musicality. Girls have truly established themselves as one of the most exciting bands around and in Father… they have produced an album that will remain on stereos long into 2012 and beyond.

Get the album here


4. Cut / Copy Zonoscope
Modular Recordings

Make no mistake, Zonoscope is an exquisitely crafted record. Embracing a multitude of styles and influences, Cut Copy produced something very much of the time, yet quite retro feeling, something that is unmistakably antipodean, yet that infuses an energy and sounds from across the globe. From the beginning, in “Need You Now”, we are treated to over minute of a simple, yet infectious, repetitive beat that behooves the listener to nod away in time. Already you’re hooked, enthralled in its trance. When Whitford’s vocals kick in (which are perfectly suited to this form of pop music) it is like the hypnotist whispering instructions and like that, you’re gone, whisked off to a vast metropolis, bursting with skyscrapers spinning all around you as you run, searching for your loved one amongst the madness as the whole album opens out in front of you like an electro-funk labyrinth, waiting to be explored. This is a superb piece of tropical, tribal and groove-tastic synth-pop. Get it and enjoy it.

Get the album here


3. Cocknbullkid Adulthood
Island/Moshi Moshi

Anita Blay is blessed with the kind of voice that made millions fall in love with Sade and then Skye Edwards all those years ago. It is heavenly and her songs are like ambrosia, uplifting and revitalizing, even when the subject matter is dark and melancholy. Dealing with her spiritually confusing upbringing and teenage depression, it is never an album that feels self-indulgent or melancholy. It is bright, colourful and, quite simply, this is a stunning album of pure pop delight and should be heard by as many people as possible.

Get the album here


2. Blood Orange Coastal Grooves
Domino Records

Given our well publicised love for Devonté Hynes, it should come as no real surprise to anyone that he features on this end of year list. Nor, really, should it come as a surprise that it is for an album recorded under yet another moniker and showcasing a further step in his musical evolution. Hynes is unquestionably an incredibly talented guy. He’s not quite 26 and is already onto his third musical incarnation, following on from previous efforts with Test Icicles and as Lightspeed Champion. Each manifestation too has seen a stylistic jump, he has retained little of his indie-pop sound and instead dived headfirst into an altogether seedier, late 80’s, funk inspired world. Each of the ten songs are a triumph, with exquisite electric guitar patterns and riffs coupled with Hynes’ customary lyrical expertise, he has channelled his inner-Prince to dazzling effect. Coastal Grooves is Hynes’ most complete and accomplished album and on any other year, would probably have sat comfortably atop this list.

Get the album here


1. Kuedo Severant
Planet Mu Records

There is no point wasting anyone’s time, this album is stunning. It’s as simple as that. Severant, as you will soon hear, is heavily influenced by Blade Runner and the sublime beauty of the Vangelis soundtrack that accompanied it. ” I wanted to capture a really futurist sentiment, kind of melancholy and grand luminescent, so I used the instrument that most evokes that for me – that sweeping Vangelis brass sound”, explained Jamie Teasdale (a.k.a. Kuedo). He nailed it. Like the staccato drums, the brass is almost ubiquitous throughout, swirling and swooping through your ears.

You cannot listen to Severant without being transported to some dark, dystopian future. It consumes you, close your eyes and you can see the spacecraft cruising above the gargantuan, neon encrusted skyscrapers, all while the rain teems down around you. Vangelis may be the predominant influence, but there are others. Jazz, hip-hop, drum and bass, UK road rap; all have been taken in, broken down and reconstructed to create dazzling, multi-layered soundscapes. When you’re not staring at this wondrous megalopolis you have been transported to, your head will be nodding, the beat taking you round the corner to the next delight.

There is a lot of synth music in the UK right now, there is a lot of dubstep in the UK as well; none of it sounds like this. Nothing even comes close to sounding as intelligent or as complete as this. You could quite easily find yourself lost in Kuedo’s world for quite some time; it’s a great place to be.

Get the album here


So there you have it, my favourite albums of the year. Now it’s your turn. Let me know what you think and any that you think I’ve missed.

Albums Of The Year – Part 1

15 Dec

So here we are at last, List-o-mania is nearly complete as we look at part one of Alphabet Bands favourite albums of the year, part one. That’s right, we’re dragging this out over two days!

So far Adam S and I have looked at our favourite tracks (part one & part two), gigs and EPs of the year.

Today we will count down in simple list form albums 50 -11, before looking in more detail at albums 10 – 6 and tomorrow we will look at the Top 5. As with all of these lists, no science has been used in any way, shape or form. We’ll leave that to the guys looking for the fabled Higgs Boson. This is all just opinion, specifically mine.

Here is the big list.

50. Young The GiantYoung The Giant
49. The Civil WarsBarton Hollow
48. Lamb5
47. LykKe Li Wounded Rhymes
46. Wolf Gang Suego Faults
45. St. Vincent Strange Mercy
44. Lanterns On The Lake Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
43. Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean
42. Anna Calvi Anna Calvi
41. Blouse Blouse
40. Hercules & Love Affair Blue Songs
39. Danger Mouse & Danielle Lupi Rome
38. Mogwai Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
37. Washed Out Within and Without
36. WU-LYF Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
35. The Decemberists The King is Dead
34. Raekwon Shaolin VS Wu-Tang
33. Radiohead The King of Limbs
32. Braids Native Speaker
31. Cashier No.9 To The Death Of Fun
30. Twin Sister In Heaven
29. Treelight For Sunlight A Dream Before Sleep
28. The Phoenix FoundationBuffalo
27. EnnuiFormation Of Tide
26. DestroyerKaputt
25. Friendly Fires Pala
24. Fenech-Soler Fenech-Soler
23. Nerves Junior As Bright As Your Night Light
22. Cults Cults
21. Arctic Monkeys Suck It And See
20. Nicola RobertsCinderella’s Eyes
19. Apparat The Devil’s Walk
18. White Denim D
17. SBTRKT Sbtrkt
16. Mara Carlyle Floreat
15. Yuck Yuck
14. Talib Kweli Gutter Rainbows
13. Youth LagoonThe Year Of Hibernation
12. Kyle AndrewsRobert Learn Love
11. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!


And now, we start our look at the Top 10…

10. Ladytron Gravity The Seducer
Nettwerk

Full of haunting, evocative melodies Gravity…, like many a Ladytron album, has the feel of a record that has been buffed and polished until you can see your face in the shine. The smooth synth-rock soundscapes worm their way into your soul, a kind of Kraftwerk meets ride electro-shoegaze if you will. However you choose to label it, it’s just wonderful.

Get the album here


9. Caveman CoCo Beware
Magic Man!

We’ve talked briefly in the past about Caveman and our love of their late summer evening sound. For all the swooping guitars, incessant drums and dreamy lo-fi feeling to the album, the overwhelming and most pleasant aspect is just how far this is a pop record. The choruses and delicate falsetto are to die for and it’s no wonder that this Brooklyn band is generating such buzz. I said before that they sound a bit like Pavement mixed with the Beach Boys, which frankly is ridiculously exciting.

Get the album here


8. Joan As Policewoman The Deep Field
Reveal Records

Warm, rich, witty, Joan Wasser’s latest record is a beautifully sung cornucopia of emotion and fragility. What at first may appear to be an album of self-indulgence is actually a sumptuous, multi-layered affair that offers both dark and light. It is an album that will resonate with the listener long after the less textured but more widely enjoyed soft-pop of the day has long since been forgotten.

Get the album here


7. Summer Camp Welcome to Condale
Apricot/Moshi Moshi

There is something undeniably charming about Summer Camp, the English indie-electro duo made up of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey just exude warmth and tenderness. This debut album, written about the fictional Californian town of Condale and the various lives within it, is full of super-infectious, foot-tapping, pants-swinging retro-pop tunes. It makes you want to sway from side to side like a kid at a disco in the 80’s and bizarrely, that doesn’t feel even remotely weird. It probably helps that Elizabeth has one of the warmest, most amiable voices in pop.

Get the album here


6. Metronomy The English Riviera
Because Music

There is something quintessentially British about The English Riviera, not least the title of course. No, it’s more that Metronomy have produced an album steeped in escapism, like that traditional rush to the seaside we Brits used to make, back when kids would play out on the street until it got dark and everyone went on holiday at the same time and to the same place. But the escapism felt here is not to a white sandy beach, bathed in dazzling sunlight. No, this is an album that conjures a much more realistic and down to earth image, that of sitting on the front, watching the sea through the rain spattered window of a quaint but dilapidated B&B. In that respects it is the ultimate summer album for the UK, in all other respects it is a magnificent album of understated but wonderfully crafted downbeat dance-pop.

Get the album here


So there you have it, Part one is complete. Feel free to comment below on the list so far, tell us what you think of some of the albums and what you have liked as well this year. Hey, you could even try and guess what will be in the Top 5. Bet you can’t. Join us tomorrow to find out.

Top Tracks of 2011 – Number 5 – 1

14 Dec

Thanks for coming back! Now to reveal my top 5 favourites of MMXI…

5. The Strokes – “Under Cover of Darkness” (Rough Trade)
Released 11 February

It’s been a decade since Is This It? came into the world and it’s a testament to the band that they are still going, albeit with the wheels often feeling on the verge of coming off. A very interesting marketing strategy meant that nearly every single pre-release interview was focussed on how difficult it was to make the album, how Julian barely turned up, and some members didn’t really care, we are only doing this cos y’know, we’ve got to pay some bills. As a long term fan, I’ve always had a big emotional investment in these five guys from NYC and despite the rest of Angles being largely forgettable – this lead off single was just superb, vintage Strokes. Wonderfully spun guitar lines from Albert and Nick, a six note hook, nonchalant, effortless drumming all wonderfully paced and even a decent vocal from Julian. If they could just repeat that over the course of an album…

4. Bombay Bicycle Club – “Shuffle” (Island)
Released 23 June

I am delighted to be following the onward and upward success of Jack Steadman and his merry band of club members. I am so monumentally fed up with “LAD rock” – Viva Brother/Kasabian et al, that it refreshing to see some down to earth normal guys demonstrate their growing maturity. None more so than here, on this first single from their third album, A Different Fix. It’s so simple, just a piano riff but sometimes that’s all you need. An instant mood uplifter.

3. Anna Calvi – “Rider To the Sea”/”No More Words” (Domino)
Released 17 January

Bit of a cheat this one, as it’s actually the first two tracks from the debut of Anna Calvi but the opening instrumental very neatly segues into “No More Words”. This album was bought for me as a present right at the start of 2011, and it hasn’t been out of the stereo much since. Dark, seductive and gothic, Anna could teach a certain Ms. Welch a thing or two about light and shade/subtle and grandiose. Sometimes a variety of textures and atmospheres make for a better listening experience than all out, bat wings bellowing (#justsayin’). Best use of a harmonium since Nasrut Fateh Ali Khan.

2. The Drums – “Money” (Island)
Released 19 August

I tweeted back in August about my addiction to this 3 minutes and 51 seconds of pure Brooklyn based, Smiths-indebted indie perfection, listening over and over and over again. The follow up to their debut album very nearly didn’t see the light of day after band member comings and goings, as well as a bust up over “stylistic differences” in June. Fortunately they stuck with it and using the same musical blueprint of lean-limbed, taut and tight rhythms with a more than healthy dose of Marr/Morrissey magic produced this hideously addictive gem about the perils of money, or lack of it. A soundtrack to the gloomy, austere times of 2011.

1. The Horrors – “Still Life” (XL)
Released 11 July

In my opinion, the best band in Britain right now. An unquantifiable amount of love, care and attention went into the recording process for Skying, their follow up to the game-changing Primary Colours. On producer Geoff Barrow’s advice, they branched out on their own, starting with building their own studio to record in. Google it for photos, it’s like a set out of a dark noir-ish David Fincher scene. Continuing the DIY theme, it must be handy when your guitarist has a degree in physics and builds his own pedals to create some unique sounds. On to the track itself, and it is certainly their most accessible work yet, there is even a crowd-pleasing, anthemic chorus. It helped the album crash land into the charts at the heady heights of number 3. The whole thing feels like it’s gone through the Instagram filter, washed out synths over firm, precise bass and drums. Lead singer, Faris Badwan’s voice has grown from early “Sheena is a Parasite” screaming to help drive the track in a mature, honest way that critics surely didn’t think possible when the Southend five piece started out. What next I wonder?

If you missed it, you can catch numbers 10-6 here and don’t forget to check out my Top 5 gigs of the year as well. Adam H will be taking a look at his albums of the year over the next two days but if you can’t wait until then, go see the list of his favourite EPs of 2011 as well.

Top 10 Tracks of 2011: Number 10 – 6

13 Dec

As the digital age of music continues its unrelenting march, I am as guilty as anyone of dipping in and out of music like a toddler at the pick n mix. When my blogging partner in crime, challenged me on my top albums of the past 12 months – I had to do a lot of head scratching, blowing out of cheeks and general soul searching. I could barely find three or four albums that I have enjoyed the whole way through, so coming up with 10 would have been a step too far. I’ll make it an early New Year’s resolution to spend more time with the 12” rather than the 7”. In the meantime, here is part 1 of a countdown of my favourite tracks of the year.

10. Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast” (Domino Records)
Released 8 August

Everyone I’ve asked about this one, has said surely “Sutphin Boulevard”? But I found the debut LP from Dev Hynes’ latest incarnation, Blood Orange, so terrifically consistent it was very easy to pick almost any track from the album. I’ve been lucky enough to catch him live on three occasions in 2011 and “Champagne Coast” is always a high point of the set. Funky, sexbeat (copyright – new genre for 2012) drums and synths bubble underneath a hip-shaking, luscious guitar line as Dev croons – “come into my bedroom”. I’m not sure if we’ve seen the last of Blood Orange and 2012 might see Dev morph like a chameleon into his next project, but this was one of 2011′s finest offerings.

9. Metronomy – “The Bay” (Because)
Released 10 June

Joseph Mount has such a quiet, unassuming style that it is perfectly believable that he knocked up “The Bay” in about half an hour. On the surface it all appears so easy, so sassy in style. Repeat listens though, reward the listener with hidden depths that saw their album reach the masses and achieve a Mercury nomination. Sweet harmonies, a swerving bass line and a climatic guitar solo help to make this song appeal whether you are from Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong or even Tokyo.

8. Spector – “Never Fade Away” (LuvLuvLuv Records)
Released 29 April

A Marmite band if ever you heard one. But if I was to name one band who have put the biggest smile on my face over the course of this year it would be Dalston’s Spector. This, their debut single and current closing song in the set – is simplicity itself and its intro and outro of handclaps is unquestionably made for the bigger venues and festival fields that they will surely inhabit soon. Still only 24, lead singer, Fred Macpherson, is now onto his third band, but unlike the more.. er.. avant-garde Les Incompetents and Ox.Eagle. Lion.Man, absolutely huge, crooning choruses are the order of the day. One final footnote, great drumming section ripped off from Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”. Love it.

7. Tom Vek – “A Chore” (Island)
Released 18 April

Such was the worry amongst the caring indie community for the whereabouts of Tom Vek, during his period of hiatus, multiple Facebook groups were spawned – Where is Tom Vek? Tom Vek Detective Agency. After releasing his debut We Have Sound, Vek chose to slip back into the shadows for a period of reflection. Several of my favourite acts of the late noughties (Friendly Fires, Foals) owe his rhythmic, sparse, spunky riffs and stabbing synths a great debt. So it was with huge excitement that within the space of 24 hours in April, we had a single, a video and a promise of a return to the live scene from the man himself.

6. Foo Fighters – “Burning Bridges” (RCA)
Released 12 April

Foo Fighters know how to set the tempo of an album and nearly always come storming out of the traps with a blistering song to kick start proceedings. This effort from their seventh album, Wasting Light, immediately set out their stall. Finding home comfort, in Nirvana producer Butch Vig, recording in Dave’s garage on reel-to-reel tape “Burning Bridges” sounds suitably heavyweight. The return of Pat Smear, means that at full pelt, the Foos have three guitars battling it out for supremacy. If you wanted to define the Foo Fighters to an alien visitor, playing them the first 37 seconds of this song would be just as good as almost anything else in their vast back catalogue.

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of the countdown of my favourite tracks of the year as I reveal numbers 5 -1. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out my Top 5 gigs of the year and Adam H’s favourite EPs of 2011 as well.

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