So I'm a few days late with this one apologies ...
Record of the Week
Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light
"Crying Tears Of Happiness"
If `The Johnsons' was a weak stab at genitalia-based humour, the tears shed on this album are therefore ones of `happiness'. Joking aside, Antony Hegarty's beauty contained in `The Crying Light' is sufficient to reduce the listener to warm tears. The music possesses that same warmth that only Richard Hawley can imbue in a piece, the vocals are finally well pitched.
Where I Am a Bird Now squawked and screeched, `The Crying Light' coos. Yes, Hegarty still sounds like a eunuch minstrel, but the fingers-down-chalkboard grating that some detractors identified in early work is here toned down into a soothing warble. As is the music, and the two are well suited. `The Crying Light' is more mute than earlier work, in parts more restrained and elsewhere much richer thanks to calling in favours from his classical friends. It is pitched more squarely, away from the contemporary edge, and as such is less challenging than the debut and all better for it.
The orchestral inclusions: the piano, the alternating light and menacing strings, the woodwind: all are perfect for Sunday-morning paper reading and quiet but soaring introspection. That alone should supply enough to decide whether a purchase is required.
`Another World' and `Daylight & The Sun' are piano-led masterpieces, every bit as beautiful as Nick Cave's No More Shall We Part, the latter perhaps one of the most poignant pieces ever committed to posterity. Hegarty's sublimely neutered, tear-jerking is present throughout. `Aeon' even embraces electric guitar to accompany the swelling sound, and there is no better example in Hegarty's work of his heart being firmly on sleeve. This is the sound of a man entirely comfortable with his ability and with himself.
Antony Hegarty is a special talent that has finally matured to fruition. His Mercury-winning past was deserved, and this is one step beyond; mercury is also known as quicksilver, and now `The Crying Light' can be synonymous with gold.
Blitzen Trapper - Furr
Furr is a loving waltz through period Americana with Bob Dylan’s shadow cast long across the proceedings. The album starts in light pyschedelia, true RnB and organ rhythms, ‘Sleepytime in the Western World’ immediately recalls Manfred Mann’s cover of Dylan’s own “Quinn The Eskimo”. Title track ‘Furr’ is an exemplary drawl through Dylan’s laboured vocal strainings and anecdotal, rhyme-heavy folk. It is a tour de force in simple done well.
The charm Blitzen Trapper evoke early in the album shines resplendently at all corner’s of ‘Furr’, showcasing toe-tapping, bluesy rhythms, and harmonica-flecked alt.country. This sunny homage to 60s and 70s Americana recalls fellow partisans Wilco and Ben Kweller, though the sound is always truer to the originals. Neil Young is constantly brought to mind, despite newer sounding number that gently alt.rock their harmonies through the speakers as heard on ‘Gold For Bread’ for example, which also hints at Fleetwood Mac’s most bluesy output.
‘Fire & Fast Bullets’ returns to pyschedlia-tinged garage-rock, ‘Black River Killer’ is pensive plucking of the highest order; ‘Love U’ is awash with pleasing harmonies and ‘Stolen Shoes & A Rifle’ is country, lonesome trail kind of stuff, again hinting at Fleetwood Mac, and Midlake for modern comparison.
Blitzen Trapper have achieved the often difficult, producing an eclectic album that is at the same time cohesive. That glue is a love of Americana and its (bluegrass) roots. All that is missing is a fiddled, hoedown finale and for that we cannot really complain, as there is as much art it knowing when to hold off, as there is in knowing when to hit the (effects) pedal to the metal.
Magic Magic - Magic Magic
This eponymous release consists of ten earnest spirals of sun-kissed pop. Woozy, fall-in-love, walks-through-long-grass harmonies create an album as lazy and sunny as a whole afternoon with Ray Davies spent on Brian Wilson’s private beach.
Album opener ‘Over Your Head’ is a melodic, folky gallop, ‘Sleepy Lion’ an endearing, pleasantly pounding track that recalls Ra Ra Riot, and Arcade Fire in its tempo changes. ‘Washington Or Bust’ is a smile-invoking, slow waltz that could be a future Slow Club release.
Where the album is slightly let down is in its few moments or rambling filler, the bonus track is mildly annoying with its forced vocals and ukulele / banjo strains. ‘Talking Smoke’ is just anonymous.
So special they named it twice, Magic Magic really are, nit-picking detractions aside.
Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances
“Neither Tragedy, Nor Comedy”
Fancy garage-punk and alt.country all on one record? Titus Andronicus did, and this concise opus is the result. Titus Andronicus sound like Cursive as a result, and quite often recall (m)any of the fractured beauties from the Saddle Creek stable. There is a respectful duplicity in the often-raw garage-punk fuzz and the wistful harmonica and steel strings of alt.country.
‘My Time Outside The Womb’ is a toe-tapping affair stained with Bright Eyes and a dark heart. ‘Joset Of Nazareth’s Blues’ recalls Rilo Kiley but that bit more abrasive. The self-titled ‘Titus Andronicus’ is a bouncy, shambly number which brings Black Lips to mind, their nihilist call to arms rings in the air long after the spinning stops, “Your life is over” the mantra. ‘No Future, Pt. 1’ is a poignant lament to that future-scape just described.
Their control and clarity is commendable, only afterwards seeming to add the shambolic façade. This is a stripped album containing no excess, except perhaps in its members’ presumable, personal vice. Neither tragedy, nor comedy, Titus Andronicus are very serious contenders indeed.
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