When you think of the words alternative spirit you think -upbeat, raucous indie-pop music and that's exactly what this new PIAS compilation album provides. The album consists of 39 tracks from artists such as Roisin Murphy, Basement Jaxx and Fleet Foxes.
Alt-J's Left 'Hand Free' is a fun opening track with its catchy hooks and upbeat melodies - a perfect intro that leads into The Black Keys track 'Tighten Up' which is one of the compilations many highlights. With a raw, blues sound it's everything you'd want (and expect) from a Black Keys track.
One of the more guitar heavy tracks comes courtesy of Bloc Party and their contribution '3x3'. Its hard-hitting vocal and frantic playing remind us just how good their album 'Four' (which the song was featured on) was.
Continue reading: Various Artists - [PIAS] Alternative Spirit Album Review
Being cynical, you could make plenty of assumptions about 2015's "Best of" charts featuring returns for the likes of The Prodigy, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers. All worthy choices they may be (Okay OKAY except that Prodigy which album was rubbish) but the inclusion of a number of boppers whose best samples are definitely behind them in the gong list pointed to a little stagnation in electronic music around it's edges. Sure, there's been plenty of interesting stuff this year, but much of it wasn't club music in any real sense. This compilation is a good example. The XL label has been around for long enough for it to be 20 years since the last edition of this series was released, a pedigree which suggests they know how to turn water into wine regularly enough. They claim that their "..DNA is made up of weird, outsider, two-fingers-up electronic records that crawl out of the concrete and onto wax", a hefty set of self props, but ones mostly proven here by the intriguing choices the compilers have made.
Firstly you've got to admire their refusal to pander to a specific niche, even in a genre riven by fragmental, insta-movements which germinate in closed forums and are over before you've even heard of them. Instead the selection here bravely spans all kinds of beats, times of night and vibes, looking backwards as well as into your next Friday night rave.
Let's also not forget one final thing: you need to be able to dance to this stuff - and this is where Chapter VI wins. Opener Special Request by Amnesia may sound other than it's odd garage bass flourishes like it was culled from a decades old previous release in the series, with it's spectral up front piano line, funky break and diva sample, but it's still midnight and on the money. Similarly bubbling with intent, MC Novelist rhymes over Mumdance's fuss-free bass lines on 1 sec like he believes it's all the time he's going to get to prove himself, whilst rLr's I Am Paint is fresh but weirdly alienated sounding dubstep filtered with jagged sample loops.
Continue reading: Various Artists - XL Chapter VI Album Review
As the face and voice of Radio One's more cutting edge dance grooves, Annie Mac has established herself as one of the station's more credible ambassadors in recent years. Her rite of passage dates back well before Radio One came knocking at her door. Having learned about the perils of the music industry from brother Davey McManus and his bands' The Crocketts and The Crimea's minor successes and ultimate failings, it's hard to imagine the self-confessed former Camdenite party girl to have been under any illusions regarding her own future status.
These days her show stands out like a sore thumb among the predictable slurry of boybands, watered down R&B and major label puppets permeating the majority of Radio One's playlists. Along with Rob Da Bank and Huw Stephens, she's one of a select few capable of holding their heads up high as devout champions of new music and 'Annie Mac Presents 2012', her fourth compilation since launching the 'Annie Mac Presents.' series in 2009, proves testament to that.
Comprising of a mammoth thirty-seven tracks across two CDs and almost three hours' worth of music in total, 'Annie Mac Presents 2012' might not quite be this year's definitive dance compilation but it certainly stakes its claim with serious intent. Opening proceedings with the more leftfield 'Sleaze' by Knife Party which segues effortlessly into Steve Aoki's 'Beat Down' and the Diplo produced Nicky Da B cut 'Express Yourself', it's anything but an everyday trawl through a typical nine-to-five playlist for the station that likes to celebrate itself as the bastion of new music.
Continue reading: Various Artists - Annie Mac Presents 2012 Album Review
While the major record labels have been in financial decline for over a decade now, mainly bemoaning the increasing influx of illegal internet downloads for their peril, many independents have thrived, largely by operating purely within their means and little else. One such imprint to have prospered is Bella Union, the label founded by former Cocteau Twins Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde in 1997. Having initially created the label as a medium for putting out their own music - Raymonde's first solo record 'Blame Someone Else' being the first release on Bella Union - it was the early signings of The Dirty Three and Lift To Experience that set the cat amongst the pigeons as it were. Although Guthrie essentially took a backseat in 2000 to concentrate on his solo career, leaving the running of the label almost solely to Raymonde, Bella Union has gone from strength to strength in releasing records by then-unknowns such as Beach House, Fleet Foxes and Midlake while recently putting out pivotal long players from the likes of The Walkmen and Explosions In The Sky.
It's perhaps rather fitting then that Rough Trade; themselves figureheads of all things independent, should choose to honour Bella Union's fifteenth birthday as the latest incumbents of their "Rough Trade Shops." compilation series. Collecting together a whopping thirty-four tracks from Bella Union's extensive back catalogue, all recorded and released by a selection of the many artists to have graced the label, it's an eclectic and somewhat flawless mix documenting the history of one of the UK's finest independents.
Picking favourites is a thankless task when faced with so many to choose from. Indeed the absence of some of Bella Union's finest artists; Lone Wolf, The Kissaway Trail and Phil Selway are among those not included here; highlights the quality Raymonde and to a lesser extent Guthrie have assembled over the past decade and a half. 'To Guard And To Guide You', the penultimate track from Lift To Experience's classic and only long player 'The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads' serves as a timely reminder for one of the greatest debuts since the turn of the century. Midlake's 'The Jungler' from 2004's 'Bamnan And Silvercork' hints at the greatness set to follow and subsequently occurring in later years.
Continue reading: Various Artists - Rough Trade Shops: Bella Union 15 Album Review
Isles Of Wonder is somewhat of an oddity. It's a soundtrack to a Danny Boyle production, but it's also a historical document of a moment that galvanised the British public on a world stage. Now that the Olympic fervour of London 2012 is fading, it's interesting to note that part of the legacy of the Games hangs on Isles Of Wonder. The double disc collection is a concrete reminder of the night in July that saw millions of people around the world glued to their TV's. A resounding success in its own right, the opening ceremony was at its heart an ambitious theatrical production. While Isles Of Wonder conveys the drama of the occasion, it suffers a little in the absence of its intended visual cues.
That's not to say of course that Isles Of Wonder is a disappointment, it's just a little under whelming at times. It provokes a mental game of spot the difference too. None of the takes here were those performed at the ceremony itself, instead for example there's soundcheck versions of the Arctic Monkeys. While you try to place the tracks to the memory of what you saw on the night, the album still has the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Emeli Sandé's modern and minimalist reworking of 'Abide With Me' is one such magical moment here. Equally the especially composed Underworld track 'And I Will Kiss' features some impressive percussion work, notably from Evelyn Glennie.
The track listing follows the proceedings of the ceremony itself, which provides the only other problem. While the transition between so many musical styles as dictated by the magpie eye of Musical Director and Underworld mastermind Rick Smith made sense in the Olympic Stadium, here it can feel a little jarring. Frank Turner's contribution 'I Still Believe' is a great song in its own right, but feels a little disjointed from the Four Nations Choirs medley that follows it here. Frank would be more at home later on the first disc alongside the Arctic Monkeys. While it's a minor gripe for a compilation, a little bit of creative shuffling could have made Isles Of Wonder flow more coherently as an album in its own right.
The tracks themselves are all pretty much spot on though, while they're predominantly not live recordings, they still communicate the excitement of the event itself. Much of the credit goes to Boyle's decision to rope in his old friends Underworld to provide the backbone to proceedings. Smith weaves recurring motifs throughout (bells being just one example) with creative and humorous flourishes (the shipping forecast that appears in Nimrod can't help make you smile), all of which add to the very British sense of occasion.
The second disc focuses on the music used to introduce the athletes to the stadium. Heavily reliant on reworked gems from Smith's Underworld back catalogue along with High Contrast material, it's an atmospheric mix tape that wouldn't be out of place in your local gym. While it lacks the eclectic musical nature of the main theatrical event, it's actually the disc that you're more likely to return to for repeat listens.
What Isles Of Wonder lacks by being divorced from Boyle's visual feast, it certainly makes up for with its ambitious nature as a slice of Olympic history. While it may make some odd omissions (I can't be the only one surprised back the lack of Paul McCartney here), there's very little to quibble with in the track selection. If you want a musical snapshot of Britain in the early 21st century and how we got here, Isles Of Wonder paints a compelling portrait of a country celebrating its rich heritage on a global stage.
Tribute albums are often considered musical minefields. All too often, a collection of a band's contemporaries take apart a selection of their classic tracks before being packaged and released in their own right. Occasionally, these albums offer a handful of excellent cover versions but the majority take away more from the originals rather than offering something new and exciting. This release sees Fleetwood Mac's back catalogue get a 21st Century reworking.
Continue reading: Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac Album Review
Sydney based independent Modular Recordings have been one of the most forward thinking labels on the planet since their conception fifteen years ago. Initially responsible for launching the careers of artists like The Living End and The Avalanches, they've become something of a benchmark for fledgling labels trying to gain a foothold within the industry. It's this eclectic approach that has helped cement their reputation, and this year alone has seen excellent releases from fellow Sydney dwellers Canyons and highly recommended Perth collective Pond among their enticingly exciting catalogue.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Modular Presents: Leave Them All Behind 4 Album Review
For the cynical music fan, there's much to be suspicious of when looking at The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond. On one side of the coin, it's a companion album (not actually the soundtrack) to one of the most eagerly awaited movies for a teen audience this year. Then there's the lead single 'Safe & Sound' by Taylor Swift (appealing to the core audience of the film, but not necessarily a tent pole artist, especially for a British audience). "Cashing In on the film's success!" would be the knee jerk reaction of many willing to jump to a quick conclusion, but the answer is actually quite the opposite.
If, like me, you were a child of the 1970s, it's likely that your first dalliance with a strange gadget known as a computer would be the Sinclair ZX81. Or if you were really lucky maybe the Commodore Vic20 even. As the 1980s progressed, so did new technology and in January 1982, Commodore launched its newer, enhanced model, the C64. At the time considered something of a market leader thanks to its 64k memory and unique sound and graphic capabilities, the C64 undoubtedly served its purpose as the launch pad to the all-singing, all-dancing world of the PC we know and can barely function without today.
If ever there was a title that told you what you were getting, this is it. Taken from an American drama television series, these tracks are just a sample of those from a show that regularly utilises music to help set the tone.
There's no disputing the musical brilliance that Manchester has born unto the world; The Smiths, Oasis, Joy Division, the list of its' icons could go on and on. This compilation showcases some of the damn finest of Manchester's current musical greatness in attempt to raise money for Manchester's Music Aid to Kosovo appeal; a compilation released ten years on from Cohesion, the first fundraising compilation released by said organisation.
'Heavier Than Water' screams a distorted charging entrance to the compilation with Nine Black Alps' characteristic guitar-driven, scuzzy rock blend, complete with swaggering rock and roll chorus geared by a fuzzy charging riff. The track occasionally sounds a passage of relative calm but a psychotic leap into fuelled riffery is never far away. Keith's 'Don't Want To Be Apart' then contrasts entirely with the relative calm of a gently moving piano line moving over a simple electronic beat to develop with the inclusion of Keith's gentle vocals into a sensitive melancholic track. Of Manchester's finest, any compilation from the city would be frankly incomplete without the kings of brooding melodic indie-rock brilliance, Doves. Jimi Goodwin's vocals sound clear in an anxious blend above gentle drums, piano, guitar and a distinctive melodic bass part; a blend that builds and builds geared by crescendoing charging snare into a riff-driven rock blend and out into a trademark oozing climax.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Manchester Music For Kosovo - Ten Album Review
Sadly, it is not at all uncommon to hear some out of touch oik of a journalist declaring that 'rock' or even 'guitar music' is 'dead'. While I would certainly agree that guitar music does not feature quite so prominently in the charts as it did some ten years ago, to even think about suggesting that rock music is on its way out is a daft thing to do. Rock music is not dying; you just have to look in the right places for it. New Heavy Sounds Volume 2 is one such place.
Continue reading: Various Artists, New Heavy Sounds Volume 2 Album Review
2011, the year the guitar became redundant. Or at least that's what the doom mongers of medialand would have us believe. Of course that first sentence isn't strictly true, but at the same time it would be fair to say most groundbreaking artists of the past twelve months emerged clutching a keyboard in one hand and an Apple Mac in the other. And no, we're not talking about Skrillex either, thankfully omitted from this twenty-two artist-and-song strong compilation. That doesn't mean there aren't any glaring omissions that perhaps should have graced Rough Trade's near perfect selection either. Factory Floor, Oneohtrix Point Never, Walls and SBTRKT are all conspicuous by their absence, each one having enjoyed relative degrees of success in their respective fields last year.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Rough Trade Shops Electronic 11 Album Review
There is nothing like a mad, loud compilation to warm us all up through this cold winter that is ahead of us. Luckily, Northern Star Records return, bringing out their second Revolution In Sound compilation album and if it is anything like the first album, it is going to another loud roller coaster of fun!
John Peel's revered Radio 1 show pushed boundaries: it played music no other programme (or at least no other legally broadcast programme) would touch. Peel's early embrace of punk rock, together with its various splinter movements, is often cited as an example of his vision and open-mindedness. Too often, in fact. While Peel was alive, he played music of all kinds, constantly seeking new and interesting sounds; but interviews with him, and articles about his life, frequently focused on his love for a handful of bands and songs. His untimely death did little to re-shift this focus. What would you expect to find on this compilation? Something by The Fall, of course, together with 'Teenage Kicks' and all the other songs in the Peel-approved canon, even though the idea of an established canon of approved acts could not be further removed from the man's own view of music.
Due for release on November 14 through Sony Music, 'American Anthems 2' is a 58 song, three cd set of what is described as a 'great rock repertoire that has stood the test of time'. A quick scan of the track listing reveals no obvious cohesion, but plenty of quality is evident.
Continue reading: Various Artists, American Anthems 2 Album Review
The global recession, environmental disaster and the battery life of the iPhone 4S - none of these things are probably bothering Andy Whitaker and Dan Foat, supremos of the revitalised R&S label. Founded in Belgium in the 80's, the original imprint was, along with the likes of Warp and Plus 8, one of those that produced a stream of high quality releases, a very long list of which brief highlights would be Jaydee's Plastic Dreams,
Continue reading: Various Artists, R&S Records - IOTDXI Album Review
You're a revered folk musician with a wonderful back catalogue. You tragically passed away back in 2009, but the songs you sculpted continue to inspire people, old and young, all across the world. You took elements of folk, blues, and jazz, and you moulded them into new shapes, creating music which acknowledged its roots and drew power from the traditions which inspired it, but never abased itself meekly before them. Your finest creations, tracks like 'Solid Air' and 'Small Hours', still glint with genuine genius. They're beautiful and personal without lapsing into sticky sentimentality. So far, so good. But can you pass the Snow Patrol test? Have you created music so timeless, so special, that not even the lumbering, mawkish indie chancers can ruin it? Johnny Boy Would Love This: A Tribute To John Martyn sets out to answer that question.
This compilation by long-running German dance label Peppermint Jam features three discs, labelled 'Past', 'Present', and 'Future'. 'Past' opens with an edit of a track by label boss and fleetingly famous producer Mousse 'Horny' T. 'Present' features a remix of a different Mousse T track. 'Future' features two further reworkings of Mousse T songs, one of which is, inevitably, 'Horny'. That's progress!
Continue reading: Various Artists, The Jam Files: Past Present Future Album Review
Rather than a clever name for a new band or album (which would work quite well, I think), this is in fact a tribute album. In celebration of his 75th Birthday, someone has put out this in memory of the great man himself. Step forward a diverse group of musicians with little in common apart from popularity, in order to show how far Buddy Holly's particular brand of rock and roll has permeated modern day music.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Rave On Buddy Holly Album Review
It seems apt that for the latest instalment of a franchise based on metal objects hitting other metal objects that the soundtrack reads like a who's who of Alt-Rock/Metal acts. The third album for the Transformers series continues in the tradition of the first three with Linkin Park, Goo Goo Dolls, and Taking Back Sunday being just a few of the acts to feature time and again, it's just a shame that as the films have lost the plot the music has too.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Soundtrack Album Review
This 10" vinyl release by Leeds-based Brew Records features four tracks, all of them new: Kong's 'Ribbons', Shield Your Eyes' 'Jessica', That Fucking Tank's 'Nwonwobh', and Castrovalva's 'In Our Prime'. It's an impressive line-up, and there's plenty to savour here.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Brew Records Split 10" EP review
Dane Ander Trentemoller created a minor stir in electronica circles with his 2006 debut The Last Resort, an exercise in minamalist techno which owed a debt to Riche Hawtin's work as Plastikman. Taking the road less travelled since, his career has subsequently extended out to creating a soundtrack for the Danish film Det Som Ingen Ved in 2008, and this cinematic influence extends directly into his turn at the controls of Late Night Tales.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Trentemoller's Late Night Tales Album Review
Let's start with some good news: this compilation contains precisely no second-rate Arctic Monkey pastiches. There are no half-arsed tributes to the Kaiser Chiefs, and no songs with more than a passing sonic resemblance to The Cribs. If any bands are still performing 2005-vintage laddish northern rock in the pubs of Doncaster and Wakefield, then the compilers of this record have wisely decided to ignore them, and as a result Showcase: Independent Sounds of Yorkshire and Humber 2011 (or SISOYAH2011, as I believe the kids are calling it) does a good job of dismantling a popular preconception about the music being produced in the region. It doesn't, however, try to construct a new identity for the area; this isn't an attempt to showcase a fresh scene. It's a collection of nineteen eclectic tracks, some of which are interesting, some of which flawed, and some of which are both: no more, no less.
We all know that records for charity will sell. They are usually performed by well know and popular artists, and it's a winning situation, you get the music you like (if it's not one of the cringing ones), and you feel like you have done a good deed for the day. Sometimes it works from both sides though, and it's not always the big music bosses and charities looking to raise awareness.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Raise The Bar Album Review
Fresh of the back of the Dirty Water compilation series Kris Needs takes on his most ambitious compilation series to date. Watch The Closing Doors: A History of New York's Musical Melting Pot is a six volume, double CD series, charting the musical and social history of New York from the mid-40s through to present day.
Dirty Water II: The Birth of Punk Attitude is the follow-up to last year's Dirty Water compiled by renowned music author and journalist Kris Needs. Volume 1 received an excellent review on this very website and Dirty Water II takes up right where Dirty Water 1 left off.
With three albums worth of music, there is certainly a lot to get your teeth into with this years Brit award collection album. Its obvious from looking at the track listing (as well as the nominees and winners) that the Brits have tried to get a little more credible this year, mixing in a few supposed edgy indie acts with the usual arrays of Pixie Lott's and Take That's. This year sees the surprising inclusion of the XX, whether anyone that watched the ceremony or owns this album actually enjoyed their acclaimed album Islands is debatable, but somebody on the board of the Brits clearly watched the Mercury awards and thought the bands inclusion would prevent a slide into Smash Hits Poll winners party territory. The XX are joined in pop hell by Paul Weller, Vampire Weekend and Biffy Clyro, although you can't help but feel Biffy are only included thanks to the Matt Cardle factor. Wont Brits fans be a bit confused as to who's singling their beloved Mr Cardles song?
Continue reading: Various Artists, Brit Awards 2011 Album Review
There's always been the feeling that the Late Night Tales series was more one for the connoisseurs than some of its contemporaries. When compared to say the bottle of Jagermeister and deep pan Hawaiian post-club experience of the Back To Mine imprint, throughout its history, everything from the mission statement to the diverse roster of tune pickers (For example Arctic Monkeys, Flaming Lips, Four Tet) has given Late Night Tales the more sophisticated air of an erm, "jazz cigarette" aided chill out.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Midlake's Late Night Tales Album Review
There is no denying the influence of afrobeat currently in modern music. This sound born in Lagos, Nigeria and created by the master himself Fela Kuti, has inspired the 37th State project, an afro-centric take on new urban music. Initiated by Stephane Malca, a composer/producer with roots in funk and hip hop, this musical venture emphasizes on the Nigerian music heritage, from old school afrobeat to nu soul and hip hop. Some of the most prominent artists of Fela Kuti's legacy such as Dele Sosimi and Tony Allen are featuring on this album, along with Keziah Jones, Tony Kofi or Ty, and many more talents from the British new urban scene.
Continue reading: Various Artists, 37th State Album Review
There is no denying that Gnomeo & Juliet has been quite successful at the box office, but did they really need to bring out a soundtrack too? It sounds like a good idea I'm sure, but I am more than a little sceptical.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Gnomeo & Juliet, Film Soundtrack Album Review
For those of you unaware of the criminally underrated genius of Tim Smith, he has been the lunatic mastermind behind The Cardiacs for 30 years now, influencing countless scores of musicians along the way, From Oceansize to The Wildhearts. As well as his work with The Cardiacs, Tim has also produced numerous records and directed videos for the likes of Sepultura. To say he is revered in underground circles would be to put it lightly. Sadly, in 2008 Tim suffered a severe stroke, and this compilation - put together with all of the bands donating their time and contributions for free - will raise funds for his on-going care; a worthy cause indeed.
Herve releases 'Cheap Thrills Volume 2' on his label Cheap Thrills highlighting contemporary, cutting edge, bass thumping electro dance music. Following the release of 'Cheap Thrills Volume 1' that became iTunes European compilation of the year, it would only be fitting to release another example of new tunes from the label. Indeed Cheap Thrills is becoming regarded as a good source of electronic music to come from the UK.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Herve Presents: Cheap Thrills Volume 2 Album Review
Woolly Jumpers is an appropriately named album, and not just because it's a compilation of music associated with the French record label Wool Recordings. The contributors, after all, give every impression of being (ahem) a close-knit community of similarly minded musicians, making music which is often as warm and comforting as an old jumper. And just like that jumper, their music's imperfections make it more endearing.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Woolly Jumpers Album Review
The influence of David Bowie on popular culture and music shows no sign of abating, even some forty-three years after his first record landed confusingly on an unsuspecting audience still very much in thrall to all things Beatles, Stones and Elvis. His chameleonic persona, ever changing from album to album both from a musical and aesthetic perspective, has made Bowie one of this and past generations most evocative pop stars. His legendary status pretty much assured back in 1972 (if not earlier) courtesy of the groundbreaking 'Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars', a legacy that has subsequently continued via a plethora of landmark records ever since. While there's a school of thought that the quality control of his creativity has subsided somewhat since 1983's 'Let's Dance', its fair to say that even as recently as 2002's 'Heathen' he's still prepared to take risks, even if the results don't always match the ambition.
While the teenage vampire programme and film makers are in total overdrive to fulfil the current Twilight obsessed market, The Vampire Diaries has gone beyond this fad and made for strangely compulsive viewing. No mean feat for a cheesy teenagers programme whereby it's difficult to differentiate between the popular and the geeks because everyone is so annoyingly beautiful. The music has in no doubt added to its popularity and for avid viewers there is now the soundtrack album.
Disco is the genre of music we all hear towards the end of the night at clubs, and at celebrations such as weddings and parties. It is essentially good times music. The very essence of disco is fun and confident. Created in New York in the sixties and seventies as a statement from gay and cultural groups against the rock domination, it was meant to create a statement.
Continue reading: Various Artists, Disco Fever Album Review
Everyone loves a good compilation, don't they? Step forward good old Dermot O'Leary with an easy listening double CD spectacular. It's the second offering from the award winning Saturday Sessions, which showcases new and established talent. There's a range of original material and covers all played in a laid back fashion, which makes it perfect for your aural pleasure.
Review of the compilation album An Taobh Tuathail released through Psychonavigation Records.
Continue reading: Various Artists, An Taobh Tuathail Compilation Review
Bridge School Collection Vol 2
Continue reading: Various Artists, Bridge School Collection Vol 2, Album Review