Friday, 26 August 2011

Top 5 Most played of the week- 26/8/2011

1. Warpaint- 32
2. Kate Bush- 17
3. Jeff Buckley- 10
4. David Bowie- 9
5. Frightened Rabbit- 9

Songs For the Weekend, Vol.2 & Apologies

Greetings folks,

I would just like to apologise for the absence of a "Songs for the weekend" feature last Friday. Unfortunately I was very busy and didn't have any time to get on and do it. But even so, here's this week's playlist. There's no particularly theme to this list, this is just a bunch of songs that I've recently fallen completely in love with, and hopefully you will too. I hope you find something here that you like.

The Horrors- Still Life

Every album that Southend- On- Sea quintet The Horrors churn out is a complete transformation from their previous album. Their 2006 debut "Strange House" was a dark and ferocious throwback to classic British goth- punk a la The Cramps. Their second album, 2009's epic "Primary Colours" saw the band create Joy Division- esque dark and progressive indie rock songs in layers of feedback and chilling synths. They released their third album "Skying" at the beginning of July of this year, and it's already shaping up to be  a serious contender for album of the year. "Still Life" is the album's lead-off single and perhaps the best and most life-affirming piece of music the band have ever conjured. It's starts off with sketchy synths before adorning that unobtrusive but fantastically rhythmic drum beat, as it builds up into a chorus of epic proportions, before ending on a sky-kissing, gorgeous bout of high-flying synths and trumpets. This will be the perfect soundtrack to your sunsets this weekend.

Foals- Blue Blood

"Blue Blood" is the opening track to Oxford indie-pop band Foals' second album, the brilliant "Total Life Forever" which they released in May of last year. The band's 2008 debut "Antidotes" was a swarm of incredible musicianship and math-y, intellectual brilliance mixed in with the ability to conjour up a brilliant melody and even some sing-a-long anthems. "Total Life Forever" however witnessed a change in the band's ethic, whilst still keeping the old charms ever-present. "Blue Blood" channels all of Foals' new ethic; The lyrics are much deeper, much more meaningful than those of their debut. It's smothered in a light layer of lo-fi fog but it never has the sense of being suffocated. It's got the old awe-inspiring duel- picking by guitarists Yannis Philippakis and Jimmy Smith, as well as Jack Bevan's hugely impressive drumming and Walter Gervers' wonderfully funky bass line. It's still undeniably Foals, but fuller and more mature, and it's one of the best songs they've ever written.

Warpaint- Beetles

Warpaint are an exceptionally brave band. They are four women from LA who exceed all expectations by not only making some of the most heartfelt and stirringly beautiful songs around at the moment, but mostly because they dabble in genres of music that, up until now, have always been dominated by men; Psychedelic, progressive and dark rock music. In 2009 they released their phenomenal debut EP "Exquisite Corpse," which featured six hazy, dark, cavernous and stunningly beautiful jams that were more art forms than mere songs. "Beetles" is just one of these masterful jams. Starting off with swirling and reverberating psychedelic guitar effects and shuffling drums, the song builds into cavernous and reverb- heavy territory, taking it down an unexpected and brilliantly crafted route.

Kate Bush- The Big Sky

As much as Kate Bush was always a master of taking the format and structure of the classic pop song and turning it into something unconventional, weird and still enchanting, she was also a master of producing unashamed big- hitting pop anthems, and "The Big Sky", taken from 1985 classic "Hounds of Love", is one such anthem. As did the rest of "Hounds Of Love", "The Big Sky" shows that Bush was at the height of her fertility lyrically, and that all the passion and life-weary experiences she had and the feelings she felt were being portrayed from her operatic vocals and the hugely memorable melody of the song. And much like the rest of "Hounds Of Love," it's a pop masterpiece.

Lady Gaga- You and I (Wild Beasts Remix)

This is probably the most unexpected thing to come out of the world of music so far in 2011. However it probably shouldn't be- Wild beasts' love of big hitting pop music is no secret. As is typical of Wild Beasts, they've stripped everything back from Gaga's tune, leaving just an expansive and beautifully sparse and minimalistic Junior Boys- esque dance- pop anthem. Also as is typical of Wild Beasts, it's suitably sexy, smooth and sensual. They've turned it into something which is both spectral and ghostly and something that, unless you knew it was Gaga, you may never have guessed that it was. Another touch of genius from the Kendal four- piece.

Keep Shelly In Athens- Our Own Dream

Greek dream- pop duo Keep Shelly In Athens have been on the blogosphere for quite some time now. They released their debut album "In Love With Dusk" in 2010, and it quickly became hugely popular amongst many  music bloggers and fans of that kind of music all over the world. "Our Own Dream", taken from their upcoming EP of the same name is a glitchy, warm, fuzzy and star-gazingly beautiful slice of dense lo-fi pop. It contains starry- eyed synths as well as layers and layers of misty haze, and gorgeously peaceful and enchanting siren- like vocals. It may well be true that the blogosphere is becoming overwhelmed with the swarm of bands producing this kind of music, but Keep Shelly In Athens are more than worthy of your time and attention, for this track alone.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Opinion: Thinking Through Melody

How much does music affect the brain, and is it a cause for concern within our society?

In light of the recent riots that started in London and then spread to other major cities within the UK, there has been much speculation about what the cause of these riots is. The original riot was started after a man was shot by police in Tottenham, but then why should that be a grievance for people in, for example, Liverpool? Many things have been blamed; Our consumerist society, the gap between the rich and the poor, the discipline with which those carrying out the riots were brought up. However, as we should have foreseen, some people have turned back to that old, ever present chestnut: Music.

In a recent article in the Daily Mirror, journalist Paul Routledge wrote:
" Is rap music to blame for this culture of violence? I blame the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and the loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs."

To which London rapper Professor Green put back this stirling argument:
"Yeah ban rap music, silence us even more. Surely this isn't about shifting the blame, but accepting responsibility? Neither my music or that of my peers is to blame for society and its faults. We didn't create the tiers."

Music has, over the decades, all too frequently been used as a scapegoat for blame when an institution (usually a government) wants to hide away from reality. Marilyn Manson got the stick in America for apparently inspiring the boys to commit the Columbine High School massacre through his music in 1999. English heavy metal band Judas Priest were blamed and even taken to court after two devout fans shot themselves in the head after apparently hearing a subliminal message hidden in one of the band's songs. Emo has consistently been blamed for teen suicide. When people don't want to accept responsibility, music is their easiest way out.

It's certainly true that to an extent music does have an effect on the brain. Admittedly, when listening to Mastodon's "Blood and Thunder" I feel psyched up and ready to take on anything in my path. When listening to Warpaint's "Baby" I feel an overwhelming sense of head- over- heels romanticism, and when I listen to Faithless' "Sun to me" I feel like I should be in the midst of a sweaty mid- '90s rave. But when listening to "Blood and Thunder" I don't want or try to beat up the next person who walks round the corner. When listening to "Baby" I don't try and kiss every pretty girl who walks past me in the street. When listening to "Sun to Me" I don't suddenly take loads of acid, don a fluorescent lycra body suit and start re- enacting those '90s rave ups.

The crucial point is that the lyrics and atmospheres conjured up by music, 99.9% of the time, are not meant to be taken literally. Since the dawn of modern music sex, drugs and violence have all been very prevalent themes in lyrics, across all mediums of music. Bob Dylan was one of the original purveyors of misery through music, and most of Jimi Hendrix's lyrics were probably written off the back of an LSD hallucination, most notably "Purple Haze." However when Hendrix wrote " Purple Haze," he most certainly wasn't condoning drug abuse, he was simply describing an experience.

The same train of thought can be linked to a band who have been an easy target for disgust ever since they emerged from the grimy back alleys of LA, the skulking hip- hop collective Odd Future. Consistently throughout their music they rap about rape, murder, domestic violence and loathing of authority, which in their case is mostly their parents. But when Odd Future rap about these things, they are not advocating any of them. They don't WANT you to go out and rape any women. They don't WANT you to kill any policemen. By creating these villainous characters for themselves, they're simply re- iterating an age- old art- form in music, and this is not to be taken literally at all. I mean, nobody actually suspects David Byrne of being a sadistic murderer as he suggested in Talking Heads' classic "Psycho Killer", do they?

The people who commit these crimes do not do so because the lyrics in a song told them to. In the case of the riots, many things are to blame. The ridge between the rich and the poor is huge and is ever increasing. The consumerist society we live in fuels the idea that it's the possessions you HAVE that matter rather than what you achieve. In any other case, it's often because the people carrying out the deeds have been secluded, or have secluded themselves from society. It's a well known fact that the two boys who committed the Columbine massacre didn't have many friends at school and were socially awkward. More recently, when the police arrested Anders Behring Breivik, the man convicted of killing 97 innocent people in two terrorist attacks in Norway in July, they found that he had "far- right sympathies" and was in alignment politically with the Klu Klux Klan.

At the end of the day, papers like the Daily Mirror are always going to blame something anti- conformist. The fact remains however that music cannot be blamed for the disgusting aforementioned crimes that have been carried out over the decades. The only people extreme enough to commit such horrors are those on the outer rims of society, with a deeper- burning hatred for something. The likelihood is that music will always be used a scapegoat for such times. Rather tragically though, the inclined unwillingness to accept responsibility only decreases the trust we have in those we put our faith in in the first place.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Artist: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Album: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Release Date: 17/6/2011

2011's most DIY album comes in swirling pints of psych, funk and garage- rock fun

Since the emergence of the chillwave scene, becoming a bedroom- based pop artist/ producer has been all the more cooler. Even though it's been the ethic of artists like Ariel Pink since the early '90s, artists like Washed Out and Memory Tapes have bought its home- made charm to the 21st century forefront.

New Zealander Ruben Neilson's new project Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a bit of a contradiction, but in the most artful way possible. Each of the nine tracks on his self- titled debut hangs heavy with the lo- fi thug and blissful haze typical of bedroom pop, but yet the music itself harks back to a much more organic time. "How Can U Love Me?" is a deliciously minimalistic slice of white- boy funk, given a futuristic twist by its foggy but not dense production. "Nerve Damage!" starts off in a whirl of loops before plummeting into a raucous, riotous desert rocker on which Neilson lowers his voice a la Captain Beefheart circa "Safe As Milk" to a backdrop of jangly Black Lips- esque guitars. "Little Blue House" is a throwback to '70s British stoner- rock, whilst "Strangers are Strange" is borrowed from all of the more funky moments of David Bowie's back catalogue.

Sometimes the music lets the side down; Opener "Ffunny Ffrends" is persistently annoying, as is the ridiculously titled "Jello and Juggernaut." However Neilson has proved that by taking influence from the past and making it into something that is entirely your own leads to ultimately fresher sound. It's a lesson that a lot of bands would do well to learn.

Download: 1) How Can U Love Me?, 2) Nerve Damage!
For Fans of: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, David Bowie, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band



Artist: The Horrors
Album: Skying
Release Date: 11/7/2011

The Horrors reach new stratospheric heights with their third album

In a world where the music industry, and more directly music fans, are the most fickle incarnations known to man, it's very hard for a band to know what to do after releasing their debut album. If The Horrors had stuck to the same sound that they churned out on their 2006 debut "Strange House", then they would have accused of being complacent throwbacks, harking back to a time irrelevant to anyone who didn't want to dig any deeper underground than Klaxons.

At the same time, the band took a massive risk with their 2009 second album "Primary Colours" which roped in a more shoe-gaze/ post- punk style and drew heavily on the influence of Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine- So far removed was the sound from their debut that, whilst now more versatile, they were in danger of alienating the black- clad, eyeliner worshiping hordes they had garnered with the unexpected success of "Strange House."

However in 2011 it seems that any concerns that the band had of alienating anyone have long flown out the window, because "Skying" is a different beast entirely. On "Primary Colours" The Horrors certainly proved they were dab- hands at a variety of different sounds, but it's with "Skying" that they provide real substance to that statement. It's an album that with its newly found resonance in sky- kissing psychedelic pop, yearns with ambition.

Opener "Changing The Rain" opens up with cavernous percussion before exploding brightly into a flurry of soaring synths and darkly wailing guitar lines. Immediately this is a new Horrors; They now churn forward with a sense of open- armed grandiose and no more are the melodies stripped back by a persistent lo- fi fog. This is The Horrors truly opening up and releasing all the creativity that their juices allow them. "You Said" is full of echoing atmospherics, and even the ingredient of brass horns makes a penetrating appearance. The song is also packed out with reverbed- out guitars and gorgeous, twinkling and star- gazing synths. "Still Life," the album's lead- off single, is a life- affirming slice of organic euphoria. Glacial and rushing synths carry the song along with a starry- eyed sense of wonder, whilst a pulsating drum- beat meticulously keeps the song moving forward. It's perhaps the most euphoric and stratospheric song the band have ever conjured.

The eight minute thirty seconds of "Moving Further Away" embodies the entire ethic of a 2020 dance floor; Twirling synths and psychedelic swirls lead the way into a clashing, apocalyptic close of dramatic synths and crunching guitars. Closer "Oceans Burning" swarms itself in a lo- fi haze and is propelled along by a mournful, ghostly appeal, before climaxing in wispy and haunting synths.

As much as "Skying" does sometimes seem like a sum of its parts, The Horrors now have a new target. No longer are they confined by any walls of sonics or criticism; They are fully fledged beasts now, ready to take flight high into the sky and beyond. And they'll keep moving forward- They never look back.

Download: 1) Still Life, 2) Moving Further Away, 3) You Said
For Fans of: The Psychedelic Furs, The Verve, Suede


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Nine Types Of Light

Artist: TV On The Radio
Album: Nine Types Of Light
Release Date: 12/4/2011

Something that has often been overlooked when considering the music of Brooklyn post- punk band TV on the Radio is just how much fun they're having. Behind the lovelorn tales and howls of 2008 breakthrough album "Dear Science" lay a backdrop fueled by the desire to just be well and truly fun to listen to.

"Nine Types of Light," the band's 4th album, is seemingly the first time that the band's poetic romanticism and sharp- tongued political rhetoric is put aside somewhat for a more fun and ready- to- laugh- in- the- face- of- life approach. Opener "Second Song" starts from humble beginnings before building into one of the most jovial and possibly best choruses that the band have ever conjured. "No Future Shock" makes the political meltdown in America seem like the greatest party on earth, as Kyp Malone coos " Shake it like it's the end of time." They couldn't have made their political rhetoric any sexier than on "New Cannonball Blues," which builds up from sleazy synths and an almost dubstep- esque beat which gives way to a brilliant vibrant fanfare of finger- picking funkiness and trumpets.

The old and vivid troubles of love and heartbreak are still present, most noticeably on the wonderful and chiming lullaby "Will Do." But as Tunde Adepimbe yelps on raucous closer "Caffeinated Consciousness": "We live our days now/ 'cause we might not sleep tonight". It's with this kind of buoyancy, skill and the will to have good fun that proves that four albums in, TV on the Radio are having more fun than ever, and we should be having fun with them.

Download: 1) New Cannonball Blues, 2) Second Song, 3) Will Do

For Fans of: LCD Soundsystem, Rain Machine, The Antlers


Zeroes QC

Artist: Suuns
Album: Zeroes QC
Release Date: January 2011

When Suuns released their debut EP last year, it went under the radar almost straight away. Apart from a limited level of blog hype and hipster intrigue in that they had found something utterly head- fucking and interesting, most people seemed to deem Suuns a terrifying prospect, a band only for those who were brave enough to dig deeper underground than Battles.

The Canadian quartet's debut full- length "Zeroes QC," whilst still ultimately a creative mess of a record and regressive in sound, should cast the foursome into the light of being one of the most extra- ordinary and talented new bands in recent times. The secret to the magic here is the quiet and regressive progression that swarms the album, which instead of making you feel like they're holding something back, is a pensive and intense invitation from the band to seek more. Opener "Armed For Peace" starts with sleazy synths before building up into a near- anthem that sounds like "The Bends"- era Radiohead were they given a 2037 edge. "Arena" builds up and up from humble beginnings into a swirling and climatic freak disco, whilst the 7 minute "Sweet Nothing" starts off with swirls and bleeps before ending on a sound that wouldn't have been far out of place on either of Queens of the Stone Age's first two albums.

The real winner here though is the acid- fried, space- rock stomp of "Pie IX." It's throbbing and dark electronic underbelly and screeching guitars make it unnerving enough, and with Ben Shemie's soft and somewhat disturbingly innocent vocals, it's a song that tingles all senses.

Despite some less impressive moments ("Gaze," "Up Past The Nursery"), "Zeroes QC" is an album that reeks of ingenuity at every turn. It conjures up the sounds of many distant dimensions- unnerving, but fantastically exciting all the same. Suuns are the new band most worthy of transporting us there.

Download: 1) Pie IX, 2) Armed for Peace, 3) Arena
For Fans of: Radiohead, Clinic, Queens of the stone age



Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Smother
Release Date: 9/5/2011

What's normal is different to different people. Hayden Thorpe, the flutter- voiced tenor with Kendal four-piece Wild Beasts can claim that his band makes "normal" music all he wants, but let's face it... Oasis fans are never going to agree with him. But in a world where normality in music means three-chord sequences, mundane attempts at euphoria and starkly obvious lyrics, the existence of bands such as Wild Beasts is ever more vital. As one of the most unique and creative prospects of their time, the band never cease to conjure up the most magical and sensual soundscapes, and third album "Smother" is no different.

The sexual tension is barely kept at bay throughout. It throbs and crawls beneath the surface, a dark and desperate need. It seems the band lock arms and intensify, creating something dark, tempting, uncomfortably erotic at times, but all the while claustrophobic and stomach- churningly awkward. The band's 2009 album "Two Dancers" was more of a fun play-a-long muscially, but "Smother" sees the band reach out and tingle all senses. Sonically it's a slower- burning record, but that just adds to the intensity.

Opener "Lion's Share" has a throbbing electronic underline and a chilling piano overture whilst Thorpe intones menacingly "I wait until you're woozy/ I lay low until you're lame/ I take you in the mouth like a lion takes his game." Straight away you feel like you shouldn't be there, as if you're watching some dark and sinister ritual, but that's what's so beautiful about "Smother." The feeling of impassioned sexual darkness is summed up in the album's highlight "Plaything." A pulsating, almost tribal beat ripples through, before it is joined by a sparkling, cold synth- line and Thorpe singing "New squeeze/ Take off your chemise/ And I'll do as I please". This is turning to sex when times are dark and desperate, hoping to find five minutes of solace, but failing to conjure the hoped relief.

The sense of loss is kept throughout, most notably in the tear- jerkingly sad "Deeper," it's mournful tone and the vulnerability of Tom Fleming's vocals bringing that quivering sense of loss to the forefront in the most heart- clenching fashion. Some of the musical playfulness of "Two Dancers" is present and correct here still. "Bed of Nails" carries a Caribou- esque electronic rattle. "Reach a bit further" is a brilliantly percussive, almost dance-able offering, whilst the more subtle "Loop The Loop" wouldn't have been too far out of place on the second half of "Two Dancers."

Wild Beasts have created a masterpiece. In a way, it feels like the album they were always supposed to make. All the playfulness and eccentricity of their previous works have lead to what "Smother" is; A stunningly beautiful, near- perfect and tragic journal of when things go wrong.


(Sidenote: I would just like to thank my dear friend Evangeline for contributing this part of the review: "The sexual tension is barely kept at bay throughout. It throbs and crawls beneath the surface, a dark and desperate need.")


Artist: Panda Bear
Album: Tomboy

In 2009, Animal Collective released their breakthrough opus "Merriweather Post Pavillion." Whereas before the band had always focused on burying the modern day pop song beneath a swarm of tribal drums and exotic squeaks and squawks, "Merriweather...", although clinging to the base sound, was their most accessible album to date. Whereas "Merriweather..." often relied on abstract simplicity, the music of founding member Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, has always rooted itself firmly in the bizarre, conjuring the soundscapes and effects that re-enforce the idea that Lennox wants to make it harder for the listener.

With this notion of "artistic dexterity" in mind, Panda Bear's 4th "Tomboy" wants to set itself up as one of the most visionary albums of recent times, but- Shock! Horror!- it's actually the simpler moments here that have the most impact. "Slow Motion" is a festival of reverberating synths and a clicking beat and trademark Lennox harmonies, whilst lead-off single "Last Night at the Jetty" contains easily the best melody heard from one of the AC since "My Girls." There are times though when Lennox takes "artistic dexterity" too far. The songs flutter by prettily, but as songs like "Surfer's Hymn" and "Friendship Bracelet" prove, there is occasionally too much going on, and it's easy to get lost in the confusing swirls and beeps.

So Panda Bear's "Tomboy" is visionary in a way. It's a good reminder that Lennox is one of the most interesting musicians out there at the moment, but also an encouraging reminder that below the surface, extraordinary and wondrous things are still holding field.


The Decoys Live @ Mardon's Social Club

The Decoys
Mardon's Social Club

The Decoys take to the stage at just the perfect time tonight. As is the tradition at most gigs, people only really start to pay attention when the second band emerges, and if first act The Unforgiven provided a skillful warm up to a luke- warm reception, then the crowds that gather around the stage when the Decoys arrive make it look like U2 following on from The Enemy.

The Decoys are a band with quite a lot of history in the local area. Numerous line-up changes have left them with a rather late incarnation, but one that is without doubt their strongest to date. The most remarkable thing about tonight's show is the musicianship. It is nearly always tight. There are few mistakes, and when there are, they are covered up and the band recover with the amount of cool that any four young men in an amateur band could hope for, so that any errors are forgotten and barely even noticed. The band provide a vibrant and energetic backdrop for Danielle Folland's soulful croon to take the forefront.

When Folland's vocals work, they work to magical effect. As they open up the set with a startleingly reminiscient cover of Jet's "She's a genius," Folland's vocals fit in well. Covers of Kings of leon classics "Sex on fire" and "Use somebody" are given a magical and perhaps even more soulful quality by the vocals. They aren't always so inspired though. On a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" the vocals just seem out of place.

Other than the occasional mismatching and some "really- don't-want-to-be-here" facial expressions, the band have perhaps performed their best set yet. If the rumors that this will be the Decoys last gig are true, then they've gone out with colours and heads flying high.

The King Of Limbs

Artist: Radiohead
Album: The King Of Limbs

A week after it's release, and there are already conspiracy theories circling about Radiohead's new record "The King Of Limbs." For example, the fact that some people believe that, as this is Radiohead's first album in four years, and it also clocks in as their shortest album to date (in at just under 40 minutes), then these 8 tracks cannot possibly be all that the band have conjured. Also bare in mind the fact that there were two 10" vinyls included with the CD release, and when you download a digital copy of the album the file is named "TKOL1," suggesting there is perhaps another chapter to the "King of Limbs" extravaganza. It's all very...Radiohead.

Considering the complexity and sound of some of the songs on this record, it would be unfair to suggest that the band haven't worked their asses off towards this. Opener "Bloom" starts off with a rhythmic pulsating beat before opening up into a flurry of organic orchestration. But there is something much darker at the heart of this album. Something, cold and bare, lurking in the corners, emotions scrunched up and fueled by some kind of misery it seems. "Feral" showcases the kind of post-dubstep backdrop that could easily have been supplied by Burial, with Yorke's cryptic and woozy wails flying in and out menacingly. The paranoid lurch of "Lotus Flower" and the percussive rattle and dark acoustic riffing of "Little By Little" help to create a more menacing feel. It's all incredibly experimental, the kind of territory that really, besides Thom Yorke's solo album "The Eraser," none of the members of the band have dabbled in since "Kid A."

The only times Radiohead return to the conventional are on "Codex" and "Giving up the ghost." The former is cold, bare and moving, simply comprising of a piano and Yorke's vocals with have an appropriate tint of desolation about them. The latter is a lush and sprawling acoustic floater, again Yorke's vocals given the woozy treatment of microphone effects and high pitched harmonies.

"The King Of limbs" is a masterpiece. When it's exploratory it's cold and dark, unnerving even. But all the while it's enticing and fervent. When the band stick to the conventional it just serves as a reminder of the Radiohead who can be comforting as well as frightening. At only 8 tracks long, it should leave you a little bit more wanting. But then, given the intelligence and beauty of this record, it should be more than enough for now.



Artist: White Lies
Album: Ritual

When they emerged in early 2009 with their debut album "To lose my life," it was easy to see where the three young men who make up White Lies had both their feet firmly fitted. Emerging in a surging swathe of Editors-esque moping and black suits and the influence of Depeche Mode's entire back catalague, with "To lose my life" they presented the British public with something dark and depressing, but easy to sink your teeth into. Throughout, the album reeked of ambition. These three young men were hungry, hungry for the euphoria of selling out stadiums and headlining festivals.

If their debut hinted at their ambition, then their second album "Ritual" seemingly aims to prove that they've got the tunes to finally do what they set out to do from the beginning. There is one major standout here, lead-off single "Bigger than us." It's the band's masterpiece, the most euphoric and heartfelt moment since their debut's title track. The chorus is simply to die for, and it's the kind of thing The Killers probably would have killed to write in their "Sam's town" era.

But "Bigger than us" is probably the only moment here that is accessible enough to even set a glimmer of hope of ever headlining Wembley. That's not to say there aren't other good moments here of course. Opener "Is Love" starts off with woozy synths and pounding drums before exploding into stuttering electronics and another of those uplifting choruses the band just about master. "Peace and Quiet" is less conventional with it's Klaxons-esque harmonising, whilst "Streetlights" sees the band return to the kind of lo-fi fledgling anthem that their debut burst with.

It's not all so promising though. "The Power and the glory" is a slick electro ballad that tries to be epic but only succeeds in being dour, and "Bad Love" is so far up it's own arsehole that you start to wonder if the band  have got a bit ahead of themselves mentally.

If "Ritual" is the band's supposed coming of age then it's done it's job in impressive form. Amped up are the drums and the euphoria and the massive choruses. The emotion is all still there. The band seem to be on more steady ground and ready to head out into the world, their youthful innocence left behind for the fear of having to step out into the wilderness. However they aren't adults just yet. They're still pulling back too much to make you think they would last. Watch out though- it won't be long until they're very nearly there.


Songs for the weekend Vol.1- Rainy Days

As has become typical of mid- August weather in the UK over the past few years, it's raining. Also as usual, there don't seem to be any signs of it improving any time soon. Those planning to return home from work on Friday and sit in the garden, in the sun and sipping Budweiser have had their hopes dashed. It's times like this when, for us musical addicts, music is a saving grace. So whether you fit in to the category of people described above, or you just want some nice and cosy tunes to enjoy this evening, then this mix is for you.

Frightened Rabbit- The Modern Leper

This song from their 2008 album and breakthrough record "The Midnight Organ Fight" is still the band's most anthemic and probably most popular song to date. The lush acoustic chord changes provide a cosy and warm feeling, and the pounding foot- drum and violin add a light- hearted effect to the backdrop for the potty- mouthed lyrics, riddled with dark humour and despair, but then addressing that ever present glint of light at the end of the tunnel, as front man Scott Hutchinson sings at the close of the song: "You and me/ We'll start again/ And you can tell me all about what you did today." Light the fire, make a mug of hot chocolate and revel in this song's wintry charm.

Four Tet- Locked

Keiran Hebden, aka Four Tet, dispensed of his dub- step roots a long time ago, instead favouring the expansive and often intensely dramatic world of long, drawn- out 9 minute minimalistic dance epics and atmospheric two- step. "Locked," Four Tet's first single from his upcoming "Fabriclive" collection, initially starts off with a shuffling dub- step- esque beat, before being joined by gloriously rattling percussion, which then evolves into a beautiful mesh of low- rumbling bass and the twinkling, starry- eyed synths that he has come to master. Every time the man releases something new it's entirely different from his last release. That fact alone is enough to make this an intriguing and wonderful listen.

Crystal Antlers- Summer Solstice

LA psych/ punk/ funk/ garage/ almost- everything- else rockers Crystal Antlers released their second full- length "Two- Way Mirror" in June. This gorgeous track from it has a hazy fog about it and layers of lo- fi mist hanging over it, as a piano leads the way into a gloriously melodic and hazy piece of garage- rock loveliness. It's a song that suits both sitting outside in the garden in the sun, but it's also perfect for those hazy and humid days trapped inside by the rain.

Wild Beasts- The Fun Powder Plot

"The Fun Powder Plot" is the opening track to what is possibly my favourite album of all time, Wild Beasts' 2009 opus "Two Dancers." It starts off a- wash with a gorgeous synth- y haze that hangs heavy before the bass line and the rattling and brilliantly percussive but unobtrusive drumming kicks in, which is shortly joined by the masterful picking of guitarist Ben Little and Hayden Thorpe's fluttering third- sex, Kate Bush- esque tenor. It contains that hazy fog which gives an ultimately cosy feeling, a trait which can be likened to Talk Talk's later albums, a band who the Kendal four piece have cited as a key influence on many occasions. Rarely ever will you hear sexual prowess portrayed in such a genius, minimalistic fashion. Above is a video of the band performing live in the studio for KRCW.

The Smiths- The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
Taken from their classic 1986 masterpiece "The Queen Is Dead" which recently celebrated it's 25th anniversary comes one of the finest slabs of miserabilia ever recorded. It harks back to a time when Johnny Marr's guitar playing was second to none, and Morrisey's lyrics and feelings that he portrayed in his songs were at their most fertile, vulnerable and quiveringly brilliant. The rain and cloud of this evening's weather provides the perfect backdrop to Morrisey's dreary but penetrating story- telling.