Chromatics – Night Drive
This release is a long way from the band's early experiments with clattering punk type music and is an altogether more elegant and refined affair. All current Italians Do It Better releases are tricky to obtain but all are worth the pursuit, and this is no exception.
Like a shyer Glass Candy (or G/L/A/S/S/C/A/N/D/Y, if you like), this album runs with the glacial-disco or nu-disco template but is a different beast to its showier sister. Johnny Jewel plays in both bands so the crossover is substantial, and the breathless, disinterested and sexy vocals are certainly a theme across the two records, but 'Night Drive' is entirely more laid back - one for the after show.
'In The City' is my personal highlight, part wistful, lazy-beat lament, part atmospheric, slow-burning driving (in all its senses) anthem, though some will see the Kate Bush cover 'Running Up That Hill' as the peak, I feel it one step too far toward unforgivable kitsch.
As unlikely a place as Portland is for an 80s Italian Disco revival, I can but only commend the results.
Tapes ‘n Tapes – Walk It Off
“But a short walk from Harvard Square”
There is a reason that these fellows are Pitchfork darlings and it is due to their entirely alternative, jittery and literate line of indie classics. On a first listen, this album seems to pale in comparison to 2006's excellent Americana-laced, lo-fi and skittish indie masterpiece ‘The Loon’. However, repeated listens allow a carefully crafted album of similar material to develop, and the catchier numbers such as 'Conquest and 'Le Ruse' cement themselves as heavy rotators for singing along to absent mindedly.
What it does lack is one killer tune, such as the Harvard Square name-checking 'Insistor' from ‘The Loon’, and may be a touch too long to pay due homage to the adage of leaving the listener wanting more, but as an ensemble it sure hits the mark, and makes for an album as compelling as that debut. File under chin-stroking and knowing-glances.
The Old Romantic Killer Band – The Swan With Two Necks
Save for the lamentably awful ‘Your Girlfriend Is A Drug Addict’, I’d have awarded this album higher marks, as for the most part is passes rather pleasingly, seeping its classic, bluesy-rock influences as it goes. The track in question however is so rage-inspiringly grating that I just couldn’t let it slide. Its near-spoken word delivery, trite story and victims aren’t-we-all consequence, twinned with very average guitar-smithery together embody all that is bad about an age when no matter the music, it finds an audience.
A shame really because the rest of this enjoyable, but not ground breaking, bluesy-country flecked alt. rock ticks a lot of boxes. Quiet-loud - check, vocal nods (if there can be such things) to artists named Howlin’ - check, and a wall of what I assume is plaid-filled noise married with acoustic anecdotes - check.
The greatest issue with this release is that ultimately, no matter how badly you squint, Sheffield isn’t Louisiana and as a result it all just kinda floats on by immemorably.
Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head
This is a difficult album to review objectively as one camp is so strong in their condemnation of Johansson’s ‘sacrilegious assault’ in covering this collection of tracks by Mr. Tom Waits. True, without him, this album wouldn’t exist, and true, what is the need for this album when ‘perfection’ already exists in the shape of the original. However, it is my opinion that nothing is ever perfect and variety is healthy so I gave Ms. Johansson the benefit of the doubt and furthermore a spin or two more than was strictly necessary.
What struck me first was her curiously deep voice, and then man-of-the-moment Dave Sitek’s (of TV on the Radio production amongst many others) lavish overproduction, which at times drowns out poor Scarlett. But that all said, this album inspired in me a renewed desire to sample the original, with whom I am not here to make comparison. Surely, it can only be a good thing when a cover alerts new listeners to a quality artist not yet amongst their collection, particularly when the motive is not ready cash. And, in this example, I think it great that a credible actress has delivered because few others could deliver such a credible homage.
Whimsy of the influential it may be, but for once, it’s a pleasure to share. This is an album of easy listening, dreamy indie music, perfect for most occasions needing of inoffensive, unadventurous but unobvious background stylings. And it is very stylish, and also pleasantly comforting.
The titular track, Fannin Street and Falling Down are rousing highlights that catch the ear, though why an instrumental (‘Fawn’) starts a covers record I am very unsure! Perhaps Mr. Sitek drowned her out completely, which songbird she isn’t, shame it would be. This grand folly of a record may yet stand proud in the grounds of Mr. Wait’s gravel-drive estate.
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