DiS' editor reflects on the month that was and introduces a new monthly feature....
My desk resides in the shadow of a pile magazines. They sit there in all their dog-eared glory beside my MacBook. The laptop fan occasionally blows hard enough to ruffle the pages, not unlike some sort of digital ghost haunting their paper spines.... The reason I still buy them, despite being a perma-screened blog-founding self-facilitating media node, is that I adore the format. The thing about magazines I really love is that the team behind it are restricted. Not so much bound and gagged but forced to make decisions, whereas the web (the overwhelming, never-ending, never-sleeping web), in many ways still feels like it has failed to replicate this 'listen to this!' experience. Plus you get a nice introduction from an Editor, in a tone that implies that it was written beneath the fug of a hangover and amongst that plasticy scent of ink you can almost smell their morning cup of coffee wafting from the introductory words on the page.
These folks of the print world spent months putting together the pages piled up beside me. At one point they had blank space to fill and through years of experience, knew how to choose who to dedicate space to and which record to name album of the month. These decisions are statements and it's something the web can only replicate by repeatedly mentioning something or sticking it in the featured box and hoping that you decide to click your mouse.
I love that print still provides a true focus. I don't just mean by how many pages they give to one thing over another to suggest that this for your attention. I suppose you could say the thing they really get right (and very often very-very-very wrong) is clarity in that this was worth five pages of our magazine so you should take the time to investigate it. I love the residue their decisions leave with you. It's not until you put the mag down and you go about your business until that horrid moment of choice paralysis inevitably hits. You're gazing at a flashing cursor in a search box and totally confused what to listen to. Your mind clears. Your fingers may even tremble. You open your iTunes and you just keep scrolling and scrolling, unsure what you're in the mood for but you know you don't want something you've played to death. Then you remember that someone suggested something for moments just like this. And not just any someone but someone who spends the vast majority of their waking hours rifling through piles of records and rummaging through their inbox in search of The Good Stuff.
This then, is my attempt to bring things into focus at the end of each month (in much the same way, Spotifriday - which this supersedes - tried to do each week). We begin with January twenty-twelve, which came and went and left behind a pile of records that should make the rest of the year a little bit worried. The so-called quietest month of the year (we had 2,735,788 pageviews, so it wasn't very quiet 'round these parts!) was filled with artists coming back, teasing us with new material and tour dates to look forward to. And there were albums, oh were there albums... Records which had perhaps been in a holding pattern for a few months, trying to dodge the Buble and all that end of year nonsense. They waited patiently for a fresh page, and a year they could fully grasp, perhaps even call their own. And yuhknow, I think quite a few of them chose rather wisely.
Without further ado, here are my picks of the month, which is also an attempt to aggregate some of your picks of the month (as suggested here and here). It's like a micro version of our end of year list, if you like.
1) Drowned in Sound's Albums of the Year 2011: 5-1
2) An Album of the Year 2000 - 11yrson: At the Drive-In Relationship of Command
3) Album Stream: ERRORS Have Some Faith in Magic
4) Review: Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
5) Hard Times for Guitar Music? by Steven from Blood Red Shoes
Album of the Month
Have Some Faith in Magic
If you've spent any time on this site over the past few years, you'll be well aware of our readers and writers' collective love for this band - this new album especially. They've played various DiS shows, including an absolutely incredible set a few years back on our stage at the Summer Sundae festival (will never forget the sweaty kid in an LCD Soundsystem t-shirt who was both elated and gutted that he'd never heard Errors before). This, their third album, released via Mogwai's Rock Action label finds the band further evolving their mathy-post-rock and wandering ever further into the pixelated pool of electronica-verging-on-dance. Have Some Faith in Magic is a truly great record that's swimming in late night joy and leaves you full of early morning wonder for what comes next. Or as Billy Hamilton puts in his 9/10 review of the record:
"Unashamedly, undeniably, unequivocally brilliant. With Have Some Faith in Magic, Errors have out-Mogwaied Mogwai, out-Sadded The Twilight Sad. Through each of these 12 immaculately crafted slabs of grandiose sound lies mesh upon mesh of complex, interwoven melody that, like the beatific swells of album climax 'Holus Bolus', chimes with an array of emotions."
Don't believe any of this? Give it a listen yourself and see if you can refrain from having a little desk-dance...
...And Three More Must Hear Albums
Another release which came up time and time again on our music forums discussions this month was the second record from Chairlift. I can't get enough of its oddball whirl and Caroline Polachek's swooping and sweet voice. Think Au Revoir Simone singing whilst swinging from a chandlier that's dangling over a video game arcade... In his review, DiS' senior contributor Dom Gourlay wrote:
"Having produced the first record themselves, the newly stripped down Chairlift headed to Hot Chip associate Dan Carey's studio in London. Although renowned for a more textured, dance-orientated sound, Carey's wholesome approach has helped create a heavily layered yet simplistic collection of deftly assembled chamber pop nuggets... With Polachek's enriching vocal lying somewhere between the lascivious poise of Stevie Nicks and errant charm of Carly Simon, Something finds itself firmly nestled in the Eighties... With Something, Chairlift haven't so much redefined their sound as papered over the cracks with an added coat of emulsion for good measure. Opener 'Sidewalk Safari' might resemble a synthetic Siouxsie Sioux toying with Rumours while the digitally enhanced 'Wrong Opinion' holds its 'pop' banner high and proud for its entire five minutes duration. Better still is the pulsating 'I Belong In Your Arms', its genre transgressing tendencies highlighted by an intro lifted straight from Ride's 'Leave Them All Behind' onto Kenny Loggins' body double fit for purpose in his 'Danger Zone'..."
And again, if you don't believe us, bash play on here and give it a listen in full. 'Amanaemonesia' is my suggested must hear track on the album.
Given To the Wild
Surprising nearly everyone, Given to the Wild saw those polite young chaps with posh names like Felix and Orlando finally shake off some silly preconceptions that they were little more than a advert-friendly Futureheads. In fact, their debut was stunning, full of the exuberance and killer hooks that every first album should be riddled with. Anyone who saw them on the main stage at Reading a few years back wouldn't have been left thinking 'oh, yeah, just another band of also-rans' as there were arms aloft as far as the eye could see and cameras zooming in on girls crying and lads shouting. Everything about it was genuine and emotional and I get a wave of goosebumps just thinking about it. Anyway, that was then, this is now, and their new record stunned quite a few critics who'd written them off and zoomed up the album chart, despite it being, like, a Wild Beasts album for Muse fans (which is very much a good thing in my Bellamy-signed book). Dom also reviewed this one, remarking...
"It's perhaps no surprise then that the near three-year gap between that release and Given To The Wild represents an even more significant development in the band's sound. At times it's hard to believe this was the same band that churned out the sprightly pop of 'Latchmere' or 'First Love', with most of the arrangements on Given To The Wild focussing on complex layers and brass segments while mostly clocking in at the four-and-a-half minutes mark or longer. When singer Orlando Weeks recently described the album as having 'a soundtrack quality' he wasn't talking in jest. Bold in intent and ambitious by way of execution, The Maccabees cannot be accused of resting on their laurels or taking the easy option, both of which should be commended.... Somewhat uneasy listening in places, yet sublime in others, Given To The Wild should rid The Maccabees of those 'landfill' jibes once and for all. If points were awarded for bravery, Given To The Wild would score 10/10 hands down."
Bad Dream Hotline
January is meant to be all about new music. Whilst some folks were blathering about buzz and bands that might never get as far as releasing debut albums, I was somewhat oblivious due to being totally lost in the world of Foe. This is the exact record I've been hoping a British artist would make for quite some time. It has that stalking from the suburbs eeriness that only seems to be exist in the home-counties. It's brash, it's bratty and it doesn't care if you spill all your drinks all over it because it knows something you don't know. What that is, is contrary and it's anyone's guess what's up and where's down but that obtuse, pixies-may-care attitude excites me. It's something that only British acts seem to have the balls to do and Foe seems like the first sign that the children of Patrick Wolf, weened on their parents Roxy Music box sets, might be about to disrupt the global consciousness once again. For now, this is a record that wants some of you to care enough to hate it. She wants you to get annoyed from from the outset. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be waiting to see what she does next. This is my debut album of the month, should such an award now exist. Or as David Edwards put it in the closing lines of his 8/10 review:
"Bad Dream Hotline is a gleeful shove in the back to anything of a devilish pop slant that may be planning to peek over the parapets into 2012. The gauntlet has been thrown down; even if it is most likely pink, glittery and streaked with blood and mascara."
Gig of the Month
A Winged Victory for the Sullen
@ Cecil Sharp House, London
They featured in our albums of the year list, and their first London show since featured a lot of DiSsers with their bums on the seats. Some of them were sobbing. Sophie Herdman went along to catch the show...
Month as a Playlist
Here we present the sound of the DiS stereo. Some of these had album out this month. Some have records due and 'released' singles or streams. And I've thrown in a few acts I'm expecting big things from later this year (Stay+ and ††† which is Chino from Deftones, I'm looking at you!) plus a song from the new Leonard Cohen record because leaving it off would just seem sort of wrong.
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
The Shins – Simple Song
Chairlift – Amanaemonesia
School Of Seven Bells – Lafaye
Errors – Pleasure Palaces
FOE – Deep Water Heartbreaker
The Maccabees – Pelican
The Twilight Sad – Sick
The Internet – Web Of Me
Stay+ – Fever - Fever
Air – Seven Stars
††† (Crosses) – Prurien†
Sharon Van Etten – Serpents
First Aid Kit – Emmylou
Porcelain Raft – Gone Blind
Matthew Dear – In The Middle (I Met You There) [feat. Jonny Pierce]
The Big Pink – Stay Gold
Friends – I'm His Girl
Django Django – Default
Leonard Cohen – Going Home
The Bonus Bit
So, what was your album of the month? What would be on your January playlist? ...and, help us make this column awesome... what did you think of this column? Is it enough of a digest? Too much? Would you prefer it broken down differently? Would you like it to be a more random top 10 list without the confines of albums or singles or any of that? More commentary and explanation? Less rambling?
Wanna help digest February 2012? Join in this thread on our Music Board.