Sunday, 3 February 2013

January: Ten forgotten gems.

Hey there! How's February been so far? I should have written some words on this blog a long time ago, however, I've began my second semester at University now and as you could imagine, it's somewhat time consuming. That and on Friday night, I went to a party and have discovered the way of University parties which is after said party it takes a good 24 hours to recover. Have I cleared things up? No? Thought not.

Anyway, January proved itself to be a very good start for the world of rock music in it's releases. Both Biffy Clyro and The Joy Formidable unleashed absolute knockouts of albums with Opposites and Wolf's Law, albums that revealed an expert craft for massive stadium filling rock anthems that also showed off a progressive intelligence. Meanwhile Mallory Knox proved themselves new players in the ever-growing empire of great British rock with their debut full length Signals and the internet's sweethearts Black Veil Brides continued to tarnish my reputation as a respectable online music reviewer by releasing another enjoyable album with Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

Of course, as I said at the start of the year, I've been very busy and missed the chance to review a lot of fairly major albums of the year, so I'd like this time to make up for those missed albums in a miniature review form. Here are ten albums from January I never got to write full reviews of.

Funeral for a Friend - Conduit (Distiller Records)
The limelight faded a long time ago on Bridgend quintet Funeral for a Friend. Through various shifts in lineup and attempts to get big by abandoning their hardcore roots for stadium anthems, they really did lose the widespread attention that they so effortlessly achieved in the early 2000's. That said, if you are one of the people that still paid attention to them since then, you'll be in for a treat with their sixth full length Conduit, the sound of a band fully committed to delivering music once more with an emotional intensity and a set of claws attached to razor blade riffs and fiery drumming. While there's still hooks and anthemic melodies to be found, this album sees FFAF find themselves aware that their time as British rock's big thing is over and saying "Fuck it, let's make a wicked hardcore album then!"

Yo La Tengo - Fade (Matador)
In my veering journeys into more dreamy hipster music territory because I'm such a dude, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo have always had a place in my heart as being one of the first indie bands that make excessive use of distortion pedals and vibrant boards of sound that I really got into, embracing their ability to summon up a real feeling of beauty at a time when my music taste... wasn't exactly brilliant. And they manage it again thirteenth album Fade, which invites you to lay within it's slow burning sweeping melodies gently passed out with rattling percussion and delicate patterns of acoustic rhythms taken from the 60's and given a grand modern makeover. It really is quite lovely and not even a complex hipster fest as I used to think it was. Anyone can fall in love with Yo La Tengo.

Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose (Nuclear Blast)
It was never going to be an easy task to write a full length review of a Hatebreed album because let's not kid ourselves here. They're not Porcupine Tree. You know exactly what you're getting with a Hatebreed album and you know fine you'd be extremely disappointed if you heard anything more or less on it. And so we have  The Divinity of Purpose, the seventh album from the world's greatest crossover band right now. It's got anthemic scream-alongs and gang vocals, chunky riffs delivered in pulsing breakdowns and sees Jamey Jasta deliver the powerful vocals and lyrics that make you want to pump your fist in defiance and start a moshpit in your own room. Basically, it's an album you should learn before getting slaughtered by it live. Please don't tell us you expected more from them.

Bad Religion - True North (Epitaph)
I should probably be hung as a punishment for not giving my time to Bad Religion after everything that Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz have done for my music taste with their influence and record label owning. But indeed, they've returned with their sixteenth album True North that still shows them to be torchbearers for modern punk music awash with thundering hooks and sing along choruses battered out by crunchy riffs riding along blitzing basslines. Maybe a day will come when the band are well into their old ages and can't carry the kind of energy they have here, but until that day comes we can do nothing but celebrate what they're capable of summoning on albums like this one. And I'm sorry I never gave my full time to it. I suck at being a human.

Adam Ant - Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter (BlueBlack Hussar)
That's right! Adam Ant has new stuff out. You remember Adam Ant probably through people trying to impersonate his screams from Adam and the Ants' Stand and Deliver. And because of that, his legacy on many great names in alternative music today is greatly undermined and no one becomes aware of the fact that he can still release something brilliant today in the form of the dubiously titled Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. Indeed the man returns after twenty years of music changing and receiving various forms of tabloid slander but he's still able to return with something wonderfully off-the-wall and purely chaotic in it's outlook. It's a charming and delirious statement from an artist you probably thought was destined for cheap imitation.

Blockheads - This World is Dead (Relapse)
No ladies and gentleman. Ian Dury's backing band haven't returned with their own project. Although if they have, it's certainly gone from Dury to Fury with them. This is grindcore with a heart of pure black in the vain of Pig Destroyer and on their fifth album This World is Dead the French crew are taking no prisoners with their wide collection of songs that choose not to pass the 3 minute mark and choose to obliterate listeners with the time that they have. This is effectively annihilation in musical form that has come from in influence of 30 good years of pain and brutality. Keep it coming boys, we need all the pain we can get! It makes a change from sex, drugs and rock and roll, right?

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar)
Looking for something groundbreaking? No? You may as well stick around with Californian duo Foxygen then, because their second full length We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is basically the sound of your cool middle aged parents record collection coming back to life, as the band tear through their Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones influences, making a raucous noise as they do it. All they do carries a vibe of "tried and tested" yes, but as they go onward it's so gleeful and done with such a belief that they could get as big as the Brian Jonestown Massacre that you can't help but chill, smile and laugh with them as they go along. And chilling on the ground can sometimes be more desirable than breaking it.

Dutch Uncles - Out of Touch in the Wild (Memphis Industries)
Many reviewers have looked at the current state of alternative music and have realised to some extent, we're coming back to popularize that musical sound that existed in British music of the '90's when bands belonged to a ridiculous collective name based on where they come from. In the case of Dutch Uncles, the "Madchester" sound has been re-popularized albeit under a more subtle layer with a modern indie sophistication, as heard on their third album Out of Touch In the Wild. There's massive choruses built up around arty synthesizers and jangly guitars lifted to a higher level of grace by Duncan Wallis' airy vocals. It's the Madchester scene returning only the simple madness has matured. It's delightfully mad Chester. What??

Midnight Spin - Don't Let Me Sleep (Self Release)
This is probably my favourite out of the pack just for the reason that it's good to just have a proper example of a modern rock band around the place. Midnight Spin aren't a band that deal in bullshit. They're five guys from New York armed only with guitars drums, rough vocals and a lot of time spent playing in garages. And it reflects in the straight pilings of attitude and grit that goes into their debut offering Don't Let Me Sleep. It spits out servings of blistering punk venom through grungy distortion that only wants it rough while exploring enough themes and tones in their songwriting to make it a more diverse and thoughtful listen than having some cool riffs to headbang to. It's an album for late night times of restlessness, most likely written by those that experience late night restlessness. A good accompanying piece for Uni life I suppose.

The Plot in You - Could You Watch Your Children Burn (Rise)
We'll stick this one in at the end because Rise Records metalcore bands can be so much fun, even when they don't mean to. Bands like early Attack Attack! and Upon This Dawning have provided me with endless amounts of entertainment and amusement whether that was their intention or not. But Ohio quintet The Plot In You are leagues above those two with a real emphasis on making their stuff genuinely heavy fitted into their second album Could You Watch Your Children Burn which means the moshpits fitted to songs of personal anguish are going to be off the wall. What were you expecting? It's chuggy, the vocals are whiny, in the best way possible and the main parts of the song are always when the breakdowns kick in. And actually, that's cool sometimes.

Okay, that's ten good albums I would have loved to have written full reviews for from January but never got the chance to. Obviously there are lots of other albums as well, and I'm sure they'll all manage to make an appearance sometime, but I promise nothing. The idea is to do this every month because I'm guaranteed to miss several albums out per month. I've probably missed out several from February already. But after this, I'm going to make up for it.

I have to deal with the only Valentine that matters this month. My Bloody one.

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