Category Archives: Reviews

Everything Everything – Arc – Review


2013’s challenger to the Art-Pop throne approaches. (My Beardfood review of it is here)

Everything Everything - Arc

It’s a brand new year and the first record to grab AiA’s attention is the second album of mancunian art-poppers Everything Everything. Their 2010 debut, Man Alive, featured some of the most insane, and most brilliant songwriting and spawned a number of alt-radio insta-classics in ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ and ‘Schoolin”. Unfortunately they couldn’t sustain the genius/insanity balance across a whole album, but they were widely praised for creating a unique and innovative sound with their first record. No pressure then, for this follow-up… Fortunately most fears about what could go wrong were allayed by the fantastic first single, and also opening track, ‘Cough Cough’. It was so successful that last year it actually snuck into the top 40, an impressive feat for a band so experimental.

But that of course, is where Everything Everything’s true genius has always been. While other bands like Django Django and fellow mancs Dutch Uncles seek the same sonic experimentation, EE have always had the pure songwriting chops to accompany their musical adventurism and it is on Arc that this songwriting gets it’s true showing. Let’s cut to the chase, this album has no ‘Photoshop Handsome’, EE have toned down some of their more insane moments and it is slightly dissapointing, but they haven’t abandoned their sound at all. Instead they’ve pushed it towards a more coherent model. The pop songs on Arc have more in common with Man Alive track ‘Final Form’ (no coincidence that was the last track released), while much of the album sees EE persuing ballads in the vein of Man Alive’s ‘NASA Is On Your Side’. This yields mixed results. There are only 5 tracks that could be considered the Art-Pop that made up the majority of their debut, the rest are all variants on this balladic form. Some, like the orchestral ‘Duet’ and ‘Choice Mountain’ seem to echo other bands, the former touches very close to Coldplay while the latter wouldn’t have gone awry on Alt-J’s debut Album. They’re good songs, certainly better than the troughs of Man Alive, but not quite as good as the heights hit by the pop singles of ‘Cough Cough’ and latest release ‘Kemosabe’, whose nutty lyrics will satisfy long term EE fans.

However where this album really earns its stripes, and where it deserves to be called an improvement on their debut is when their ballads work. ‘Feet for Hands’ and ‘The House Is Dust’ are good, but ‘Radiant’, ‘Undrowned’ and ‘The Peaks’ are just majestic. With atmosphere’s that build beautifully to explode and unleash a torrent of musical awe, these songs rapidly became my favourites on the album, and earns Everything Everything their new direction. These ballads have a stronger permanency than the singles, however brilliant and mad, and canm have a much stronger emotional impact, even if they don’t give you that earworm of a whistly hook that ‘Schoolin” did.

The overarching theme of the record is some sort of technological apocalypse, picking off perhaps where Photoshop Handsome left off. ‘Undrowned’ sees frontman Jonathon Higgs’ trademark rapid-fire falsetto vocals deliver some deceptively relevant lyrics about modern Britain, only to close in an echo of Radiohead’s cult favourite ‘True Love Waits’, with a earnest plea of ‘Don’t leave’. ‘Radiant’ brings in enough of the art-pop to allow it’s monstrous nerdy cry of ‘I see a geiger counter / I see a richter scale’ to be genuinely terrifying, let alone it’s despairing chorus of ‘Go! Leave your homes! Take whatever you can! It’s no joke! It’s coming towards you.’ and just as the song fades Higgs drops in the line ‘I can make a difference so easy / I could make a difference but I don’t / Darling, I’m closing.’ It’s left to following track ‘The Peaks’ to gather it together, but all we get is what reads like a deity looking at the collapse of civilisation ‘And I’ve seen more villages burn than animals born / I’ve seen more towers come down than children grow up’, a couplet which twists in an even more horrific plea towards the song’s close. Why one of Britains most forward looking bands is so terrified of the future we’ll never know, although it should be mentioned that the undertones of ‘Cough Cough’, with it’s video footage of the London riots, might’ve been about some large impending doom to our society: ‘There’s something wrong but it’s okay if we’re still getting paid’.

And now they’re proving why I’ve been so intently calling this band Art-pop. You don’t have to think about these songs to enjoy them. The cries of ‘Yeah! So, Um? Wait a second!’ are catchy and fantastically fun (even though ‘Duet’ apes Coldplay, there’s no way Chris Martin would ever sing a line like ‘and of all the dead vocanoes on earth you just happened to retch and roll through mine’) and musically they’re just astounding to listen to, but these songs all carry some sort of emotional and intellectual weight too. It’s one of the hardest tricks to pull off but it’s the reason Everything Everything are so good and the reason this album works so well.

However, the album isn’t without it’s flaws. It’s a great shame that the title track is so transient. It would work better if it’s brief hook was more memorable, but it doesn’t quite have the effect it could which seems a missed opportunity, especially as giving it your album title makes listeners more keen to have it as the crux of the record. The record will never get a perfect score because only half the ballads are mind-blowing, the rest are merely average, which makes it all the more frustrating so few true pop songs make it on and that the three best of those all come right at the start. But by far the most frustrating thing is that the final song, ‘Don’t Try’, admittedly a great song, wastes the chance to have the sublime ‘The Peaks’ as the album closer. There would be few things more magnificent than having the last sounds on the album Higgs’ cry of ‘Tell me that my world is gone’. It’s so annoying to feel fully sated by an album, only to have a song pop up and ruin the perfect calm, although I can understand if Higgs and Co. wanted a slightly more upbeat ending, but if ‘Don’t Try’ had been slotted in around the equally good ‘Amourland’ it would definitely improve the overall feel of the record. Even without that change, it’s still a fantastic album, with some great emotional moments, but beyond that it’s also one of the most purely fun records I’ve heard in the last few years. I’ll leave you with what is probably the most fun song on Arc, ‘Torso Of The Week’, a wry look at our fitness obsession with a brilliant chorus.

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Who Will Make The Album Of 2013


So having just finished my end of year list way too late to have anyone care, I thought I’d get ahead of the game for once, and have a go at guessing which artist will make what would be the album of 2013. It’s clearly ridiculous, but it’s just a bit of fun, and also a way for me to bag some proper ‘I told you so’ rights in the coming year.

The Indie Rock Debut Contenders

Here we have the bands, championed by the NME and the odd critic out there for Indie Rock crown. The best of the bunch seem to be the following: Peace, Palma Violets, Savages and Haim. The latter just won the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll/list/whatnot, which should make them major players, but they don’t do anything for me. The songs are good and fun (their rendition of The Chanukah Song was a highlight of 6music’s Christmas playlist), but they sound too much like what my head thinks the 80s sound like. They are undoubtedly good, but not fresh enough to make an album that would stun. Palma Violets on the other hand are exactly that. Their lead single ‘Best of Friends’ was the NME’s song of 2012, they deftly signed to Rough Trade after never releasing any songs and having seen them live, the phrase ‘Fucking Amazing’ does spring to mind. But my main worry, is that they haven’t got enough songs of ‘Best of Friends’ caliber. ’14‘ and ‘Tom the Drum’ are songs that I do think rock, but don’t quite have the catchy power of BoF. Ultimately though, their secretism about releasing tracks will work in their favour, as it makes guessing this much harder, they could still come out and stun us.

Savages are in a tight bind. While probably my personal favourite of all four (how can you not love a post-punk band of Siouxsie meets Joy Division), they have one stonking track in ‘Husbands’ and a great sound. But I can’t help feeling they’ve rushed into the making of their album, especially as they have remained independent, on their own ‘Pop Noire’ label. They need to take the time, tour even more than they already have so that when they have a full album out, it will be packed with tight and infectious intense songs like ‘Husbands’, a poor record here could kill them early on.

So, my pick for the Indie Rock album of 2013 folks is Peace. Why, because unlike Palma Violets I know their other songs are awesome, I saw them live and know that they rule, and genuinly, every single track this band have put out, (all 8), is golden and that’s more songs than on a Springsteen album. All it takes is one more cheeky single that does something different around when release day for the album hits and they will have nailed it. Peace 4 2013. Rumours of a Rock Revolution are abounding, and are as stupid as they were the first time some hack journalist propagated them… Indie won’t be the place the music revolution will happen, it will be in POP…

The Pop Debut Contenders

Music is changing, and it’s not the way you think it will be. Rather than Indie wiping out stupid boring pop music for big men with guitars who sing about girls and drugs and leather jackets, it’s the Pop that will go Indie. Over the last couple years it’s become increasingly more acceptable for the #cool #indie #types to admit to being fans of pop music, or even hideously uncool pop acts, but 2012 is the first year where artists are properly combining Indie nous with Pop Power, giving a crossover power that will destroy all in their wake. The two new bands leading the charge are both British, one from Glasgow, and one from London. I talk of course, of two nominated for BBC’s poll as well, AlunaGeorge and Chvrches.

AlunaGeorge I’ve been aware of since early on in 2012, when they made me break my unwritten rule of not buying singles when I bought ‘You Know You Like It’ after hearing it on the radio. Something about its awesome production and catchy as hell chorus made me have to grab it. In other words, it worked exactly like pop singles are supposed to, except on twee indie types like myself. The follow-up single ‘You Know You Like It’ was even better, and again, I bought it. The band have nailed making interesting, arty music that can get the pop factor essentials absolutely right, and it’s why they really should have won Sound of 2013. Now with these 2 perfect singles, and a teaser clip for a new song that sounds great, and a sneaky chilled out one that sounds supercool, their album should be a shoe-in for a record that combines pop sales with Indie coolness.

I can’t really split between them and Chvrches for who is better. While AlunaGeorge are more slinky, more post-dubstep, Chvrches are full on synth-pop. The heavy, heavy tones of the synths allow vocalist Lauren Mayberry to plant sugary sweet melodies in your brain with a fantastic scottish accent that makes them especially shine out. Singles ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Lies’ are both impossible to forget, but also rewarding on repeated listens. Their album should devastate if they can even put out one more song as good as the previous two, and from interviews they all seem to have cool heads on their shoulders so it should be no problem. These two bands are just as likely as Peace to make the record of 2013, but so far all I’ve looked at is new bands…

Established Band Contenders

Leading the pack of bands that have already put out albums in Foals. The main single ‘Inhaler’ sounds like someone took their ambient selves from previous album Total Life Forever and trapped them in a room with 1993 era Soundgarden until they were prepared to RAWK. Mighty riffs and screaming vocals make it a breath of fresh air in dainty indie land. Being still the darlings of the press, they have enough about them to make an album that can surprise and twist even if other single ‘My Number’ is just a bit ok.

They will probably be trumped though, if current biggest Alt band in the world besides Radiohead, Arcade Fire, manage to beat the turn of the new year with their as yet unconfirmed but being worked on fourth album. It’s estimated for late 2013, or early 2014, and considering they have put out 3 records of era defining quality, it should seem an easy game for them to take album of the year, especially with James Murphy at the helm of production. But Yorke and pals could have revenge with Atoms for Peace‘s debut album Amok. Only single ‘Default’ was pretty awesome and live footage keeps emerging that finally makes sense of how someone as physical as Flea fits into a sound as odd as the one Yorke creates. Arguably this could even sound better than Radiohead’s last LP which left a lot of people very cold with its Caribou stylings.

A group of assorted older bands will be making ventures into 2013, among them Mudhoney, Eels, Pearl Jam, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but most asonishingly My Bloody Valentine, who have claimed the new album is actually finally mastered, only 22 years after their last was released! Some of Indie’s less hype-intensive small groups are also due to be making 2013 inroads, Everything Everything hope to follow fantastic single ‘Cough Cough’ with a quality album, Local Natives have been gathering a cult following throughout 2012, and thi smight be their breakthrough year, while band-that-I-just-heard-on-the-radio Villagers have a very nice single out in leiu of their album due out in 4 days. Good for them.

But in all honesty, if I know myself, if won’t be Peace, AlunaGeorge, Atoms for Peace or Chvrches that turn out album of the year. It will be some weird act that I’d never heard of until mid-July who emerge from nowhere with a completely different sound. And that’s not a bad thing, the internet and the disfigured shape of the music industry mean that any odd record can wind its way into your hands, and it means that taste doesn’t have to be so tribal, we can like what we like. That said, I’m still humming ‘Lies’ by Chvrches, so you can probably count them as favourites.

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The Top 10 Albums of 2012


So turns out I’m probably the only person to put a list like this out after 2012. I’m gonna pretend this is a really good thing and totally not just the sinking in of Christmas/New Year laziness. That said, if I hadn’t waited until now, there is one album on here that I only got on Christmas Day, so if I hadn’t waited there’d be a very different number 7.

What is particularly interesting about this list, compared to last year’s, is that I actually had the stats for which albums I had played the most, which means for this list I can be honest to myself. When I compiled this list, I found the top 5 remarkably easy, and when having written the 5, I then checked my stats, I was very pleased to discover I had listened to each in exactly the order you find them in here, which I hope proves that the music that is the best is the music that you want to listen to most. The other interesting thing is that the latter 5, from 10-6 were incredibly hard to pick, and albums like Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tramp’, The Shins’ ‘Port of Morrow’, and Best Coast’s ‘The Only Place’ came incredibly close to making this list.

Either way, here are Anywhere In Albion’s top 10 albums of 2012.

10 – The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

Gaslight can claim 2012 as the year that they truly broke worldwide. While earlier albums ‘The ’59 Sound’ and ‘American Slang’ earnt the band many fans, among them some of the band’s own heroes in Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, it was with Handwritten that they had major success, charting at number 2 in the UK and getting number 1 on the US Billboard Rock and Alternative Charts and an overall number 3. However all of this is secondary to what is a fantastic album, with Gaslight pushing their sound to it’s peak, openers “45” and ‘Handwritten’ are some of the best songs they’ve ever written, and seeing them live in 2012 showed how well the album tracks work at gigs. The Gaslight Anthem play a type of retro Springsteen rock that aims straight for the heart, it is honest, emotive and open music, and with Handwritten they perfected this style.

9 – Soundgarden – King Animal

soundgarden - king animal

Hopefully I don’t need to tell you who Soundgarden are. If you’re unfortunate enough not to know of them and have liked any sort of hard rock from Nirvana to Black Sabbath then close this tab and go out and buy their seminal album ‘Superunknown’. The problem faced by Soundgarden is how do you recover from going from being one of the most iconic bands of the 90s, then having your lead singer flitter around in mediocre post-RATM Audioslave, A solo career that went from Bond Soundtrack highs to the facepalming of making an album with Timbaland. Well it seems like the rest of the band were in cryogenic storage as they come out kicking. The riffs are just as epic, the time signature work just as ingenious, the characteristic Soundgarden sound just as omnipresent, and yet evolved into something modern and relevant. Tracks like ‘Bones of Birds’, ‘Taree’ and ‘Attrition’ actually trump most of their pre-breakup album ‘Down on the Upside’. Before I heard this album I was assured that they were going to fail and ruin their legacy, there was no conceivable way that they could make a decent album. But I was so wrong, this isn’t just a good album, it’s a good Soundgarden album, and as such, it deserves a spot in this top 10.

8 – Lucy Rose – Like I Used To (full review here)

Lucy Rose - Like I Used To

This is one where I just have to face up to how much I have listened to this album. I have played this a lot. I suspect the ‘cool’ opinion of Lucy Rose is a fairly dismissive one, an attempt to lump her into the bland-folk of artists like The Mumfords, Ben Howard etc.. But I strongly feel that the songs on this album are genuinly great songs. Singles ‘Middle of the Bed’, ‘Bikes’, ‘Night Bus’ and ‘Lines’ are all brilliantly written songs, merging personal lyrics with her fantastic singing, and on the latter using time signatures in a way that would make Soundgarden proud. Show me Mumford’s song in 7/4 thank you very much. But it is on the iconic ‘Shiver’ that Rose earns her stripes, much like Daughter’s ‘Youth’, it’s one of those adolescent guitary ballads that is just immensely powerful. I have to thank Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins of BBC 6music for hearing her session which opened my ears to her talent. I’ll leave you with the thought that only a few months ago I would have opened something like this talking about her role as Bombay Bicycle Club backing singer, but considering her success this just seems irrelevant now.

7 – Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet

I received this album on Christmas day, and it’s one of two albums on this list that you can say is sort-of Jazz, although this one probably gets away with claiming it. This is the third album from this quartet so it may seem as an odd one to give their own name to, but this is an assured and coherent musical statement from a group recovering from one member being replaced. The group make music that hovers between the lines of Four Tet style ambient electronica with interlocking rhythms and the modern Sax-Jazz of this year’s Mercury nominated Roller Trio. The success of this album comes from the way the group fuse these to make something that feels very new and innovative. ‘Ruins’ goes from great ambience to epic jazz as a huge reverb-y drop launches a saxophone solo, while ‘Spinner’ balances 7/8 modern jazz with the clicks of electronica. As the album goes on we get Art Blakey drum cluster-bombs rubbing shoulders with hang loops and delicate piano. By holding back the only track with vocals, ‘Steepless’ (courtesy of guest Cornelia), until track 7, the quartet mixes things up just when the album could start to feel stale and turn great tracks into a fantastic album. It’s pioneering ideas, and breaking genres, paving the way for other artists to harness this merging of the tightness and improvisational freedom of jazz quartets with the experimental parts of electronic music that could become too rigid and pre-ordained on their own.

6 – Death Grips – The Money Store

death grips the money store

Every now and then a piece of music comes along that properly blows your mind, the same way that Kid A could. this year’s mind-exploder was Death Grips, an art-punk-rap-industrial-techno-funk-whatever group from Sacremento, consisting of MC Ride, the tattoo laden rapper and frontman, ex-Hella fantastic drummer Zach Hill, and the mysterious producer Flatliner. Death Grips’ music is genreless and alienating, dividing music fans across the board. The one thing everyone can agree on though, is that this is the most innovative group this year, putting out two albums, one of them laden with a penis on the front cover, and making music no one could ever have imagined. This album is a perfect example of this with tracks like ‘Get Got’, ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)’ and ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ fusing this techno-industrial sound with some insane (in the sense of not entirely sane) rapping and some insane (in the sens of amazing) drums. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear something that has never been done before and changes everything, especially in an age where everything can seem so bland. If you think 2012 was a boring year for music, get this album as soon as you can.

5 – Purity Ring – Shrines

Purity Ring - Shrines

Boy-Girl duos were on the rise in 2012, and aside from the UK’s own AlunaGeorge, this group was pick of the bunch for their debut LP, Shrines. Singer Megan James weaves eery worlds full of ghosts and guts while producer Corin Roddick morphs these vocal lines into odd sounds and layers them over brillaint snappy beats that pulse about. It’s a perfect formula and it spawned 3 songs that made it into my Top 50 of the year, but as an album it still manages to be a coherent experience, allowing for more experimentation with ‘Cartographist’ and an unnerving ending with ‘Shuck’. Each one of the songs this duo put out has it’s own odd hybrid name, which works well to make the record seem consistent and self-contained. While criticisms can be made that the melodies can sound suspiciously similar, or that the album tracks are simply less-good versions of the main singles, these seem unduly harsh when considering how good these songs are, and how well they work as a complete album.

4 – Poliça – Give You The Ghost (full review here)

Give You The Ghost

Poliça sound like no one at all. The synths are hard and heavy, the basslines pounding and funky, the vocals distorted beyond comprehension and dancing over the top, the drums are… doubled. This was the biggest grower on the list, an album that at first seemed impenetrable, but with time and the lyrics sheet provided with the CD that I never really intended to buy, it eventually revealed its secrets. And what secrets they are. Give You The Ghost is an album bursting with brilliant moments, from the opening of ‘Amongster with lyric of the year ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my own hand’, to the most dance-esque track ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ that oozes class and coolness. The album ends with yet more stunning lyrics ‘In the days, in the nights, in the hours, leading up to your death, I won’t weep, I won’t weep / I dream of you, I dream of you / Oh my strangler.’ This fourpiece find a completely new sonic space and imbue it with all the emotion and songwriting that you could hope for, to produce a worthy challenger for the top spot. Unfortunately it was held off, by three records of outstanding quality, and as it happens, the exact three albums I have listened to most this year…

3 – Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus, aka Stephen Ellison, the great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, produced an album that just blew my mind completely in two. From opener ‘All In’, FlyLo takes us on a journey, through rhythms and melodies that are never settled, or even seem to be in time. This album can’t and shouldn’t produce singles becuase that’s the exact opposite of how it works, this is an experience, and each moment lingers only long enough for it to be embedded in your brain and then moves on. It’s the closest electronic music has ever come to capturing the mastery of a jazz musician like Ornette Coleman. And Jazz is what it is, as the blood of improvisation and spontaneity run through this album from start to finish. Even a star studded list of guest vocalists seems irrelevant, Thom Yorke and Erkah Badu brushed aside in a wave of melody and rhythm. This description has been incredibly pretentious, which I can only excuse on the lines that I inhabit the same Indie/Alt universe as Pitchfork, but I truly find that I can either talk forever about this record or fail completely to find the right words to say how incredible putting on this album and sitting through it is. All I can do is recommend it if you’re willing to hear the most fascinating music of the year. I do admit though, that if you aren’t a fan of Jazz, or the more weird side of electronic music, then this will probably leave you very cold.

2 – Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood (full review here & interview here)

Tom Williams & The Boat - teenage bloodAnd look who it is, the winners of my previous best of 2011 list for their debut LP Too Slow. Well, Tom and his boat continued into 2012, very early on the year dropping follow up Teenage Blood, which was funded by the band’s own fans via Kickstarter. Now I make no pretense at hiding my fanboyism for this group, they’ve put out two of my favourite songs ever in ‘Concentrate’ and the title track for this record (see video below), and so it is no surprise they ended up here, especially not when the record was so good, earning them high profile fans with the likes of ex-XFM and now 6Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs. Tom’s lyrics, as usual are front and centre the main draw of the band, and with this record he hit fantastic peaks, with every song now being well embedded in my head, and I definitely felt the melodies in this album trumped Too Slow’s, aided by harmonies from guitarist Ant and guest Fiona Keeler. It’s an album that scores The Boat some of their best ‘pop’ songs with the title track again, ‘Too Young’, ‘My Bones’ and ‘Neckbrace (Big Wave)’, but also manages to turn up some incredible atmospheric songs with the pent-up explosion of ‘Trouble With The Truth’ and the cinematic ‘Summer Drive’. It was a sequel that improved in every way possible upon their already outstanding debut, throwing echoes back to Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub and The Band. Not content with just that, they also put out a bonus collection of b-sides, album session leftovers, music videos and a half hour documentary about the making of the record. Oh and a stunning Christmas single as well. So if it was such a better record than last year’s winner, how come Tom Williams and his Boat don’t take the top spot again…

1 – Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (full review here)

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

…because you knew what was coming. How could I not have awarded the album of the year to the one that for the whole year I have been saying was going to win. Alt-J’s continued rise makes me want to yell “I told you so!” to everyone, bringing out my day after release day receipt. But all that’s irrelevant hipster posing. I’m not going to bother telling you why this album is the best, you can read the review for that, or what it sounds like, because by now, you should know, and if you don’t know you can just go to spotify, or press play in the stream below, and hear a record that completely deserves the award it now wins. Congratulations to a band that dominated 2012. Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave is Anywhere In Albion’s Album of 2012. That’s a fucklot of A’s.

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