“I could probably fill this entire space just writing about ‘Glass’, the album’s aggressively propulsive opener, and about how its strange mix of elements (chamber pop, prog metal, new age—what?) magically coalesced into some entirely new genre that I wish existed and yet still can’t quite wrap my brain around.” So wrote Mark Pytlik, reviewing Bat For Lashes’ 2009 sophomore, Two Suns.
Well, notch up another victory, Miss Khan, because the opening song on its follow-up is no less deserving of column inches. True, she’s reined in the melting-pot of genres, a little, on “Lilies”, the listener’s gateway drug into the intoxicating world of The Haunted Man. But that just leaves this reviewer wanting to spend more time writing about all the other layers of this strange and beautiful song. There’s the buzzing, gut-churning bass synth which anchors the choruses. There’s Khan’s voice, fragile and expressive and almost cracking under the strain. There’s the gloriously lilting orchestral arrangement, whose efflorescence is all-too brief. And the lyrics, which showcase the greater maturity she has located in describing—away from a fantasy playroom and a grimy future-city—the natural world and her place therein. Continue reading Bat For Lashes — The Haunted Man
I like the fact that Yeasayer appear on Bat For Lashes’ thoroughly excellent Two Suns LP, even though I’m still not exactly sure what they contributed to the album. Both artists are big on percussion; both major on otherworldly sounds that creep into memorable melodies. Now, as a taster of Yeasayer’s second album, Odd Blood, we have the free single “Ambling Alp”, whose title captures perfectly the loping, jaunty rhythm of the song.
“Ambling Alp” emerges from a pool of electronic gurgling and ethereal, percussive cries of joy. The beat is triplet-heavy and rolls about between the channels; Chris Keating’s vocals recall a bygone era of impassioned pop music, occasionally breaking into a spectrum of harmonies. The chorus benefits from parps of brass, and the repeated couplet of
Stick up for yourself, son; Never mind what anybody else done
is going to be sticking around in my head all week. Unsurprisingly, it’s a blast. As the song rides out on a turbocharged tropical melody, I was left relentlessly upbeat and perfectly content with the freezing cold weather outside. Yeasayer have brought the summer back to the world, even in the harshest depths of winter. Can we ask for anything more satisfying?
Yeasayer – Ambling Alp
UPDATE: Grab a convenient playlist featuring two key tracks from (almost) all of the albums featured here.
2009 has been a year when I’ve taken stock of a fair bit of older music – thank Spotify for that! – which might explain my profligacy in terms of listening to some really highly-regarded new albums. Nonetheless, in the last few weeks I’ve clawed back lost ground and taken the opportunity to investigate the hype surrounding some of this year’s gems.
In the interests of economy, I’m only listing my fifteen favourite albums; there were plenty of others that I enjoyed, but couldn’t justify adding to this list. So, as well as the albums listed below, do please go and have a listen to wonderful albums like Doves‘ triumphant Kingdom Of Rust, The Cribs‘ Johnny Marr-enhanced Ignore The Ignorant, and Atlas Sound‘s mesmerising Logos. But without further ado, and a bit more explanation where necessary, here are my offerings: Continue reading Albums of 2009 – Lis(z)tomania!