Heading down to Brighton’s Resident Records at 7.15am I was shocked to see that the queue already stretched to the end of the street. This was a pretty clear guarantee that any items I was interested in would sell out before I got there, so I headed a few streets away to join the long (but significantly smaller) queue to Rounder Records.
Somewhere around 9.20 I entered the shop, and around 15 minutes later I was at the till. By this time a number of the ticked items on my list had already sold out, but I did manage to pick up four of the records I had selected. Now, one quick whinge. Record Store Day is a celebration of the record shop, but also of the record shop customer, so would it have killed the record labels to make the items a little bit cheaper? I know that the items are limited, but the cost of most of them was almost double what you would expect to pay for a similar record normally stocked in the shop. The Flaming Lips box-set was a nice package, and contained their five best albums, but was an eye watering £99. But hey, I guess that nobody is forced to buy anything.
So, on to the records. Here is my first-impressions review of the three singles and one CD EP that I picked up on the day.
Broken Bells – Meyrin Fields EP
The Broken Bells album was one of the best albums of 2010 and Brian ‘Dangermouse’ Burton seems to have developed one of his many excellent partnerships with The Shin’s James Mercer.
The Meyrin Fields EP is an evolution of the sound found on the album. Nothing radically different but the emphasis here has shifted a little and the tracks have more of the electronics, bleeps and sounds that you would associate with Dangermouse, and less of the melodic guitar pop you’d expect from the Shins frontman. This is particularly true of the title track and ‘Windows’ both of which sound like Broken Bells but wouldn’t have fitted in neatly on the album. ‘An Easy Life’ moves back to the more familiar sound and features some strings and effects that recall ELO. ‘Heartless Empire’ mixes cheap keyboard sounds with Jesus and Mary Chain guitar and is probably the song with most in common with the Shins.
In all an interesting and intriguing set of songs which we can only hope is a teaser for another full album lateer in the year.
Radiohead – Supercollider/The Butcher
Just a couple of months after the surprise release of The King Of Limbs Radiohead deliver two new songs ‘Supercollider’ and ‘The Butcher’ as an exclusive 12″ single.
It is no surprise to report that the band haven’t decided to go back to The Bends’ style indie guitar pop for this release, it is very much a counterpart to The King Of Limbs. ‘Supercollider’ is a long mellow track that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the band live at recent concerts, although it was new to me. It is track with precious little drama but as an exercise in atmospheric mood music it is very well executed. ‘The Butcher’ is more interesting with some doom laden piano and echoed funky drumming be the main backing to Thom Yorke’s typically ethereal vocals.
Not a release that will convert any listeners who have tired of the current Radiohead sound, but a couple of tracks that fans of The King of Limbs will love.
Of Montreal/Casiokids – Expecting To Fly/London Zoo
I’m not familiar with Casiokids, but I picked this up as I’ll buy anything that the great Kevin Barnes (AKA Of Montreal) releases.
‘Expecting To Fly’ is a production heavy version of the Buffallo Springfield song featuring just piano and some multi-tracked vocals. It would probably be a big disappointment to someone wanting the more histrionic Prince influenced Barnes as featured on his last couple of albums, but is is actually a very effecting performance and makes me wish that Barnes would do an album of more low key tracks to showcase that side of his personality.
‘London Zoo’ starts with a dour organ sound and some synth trumpet before a range of instrumental sounds and some sprightly drum machine kick in. The vocals are high pitched and the (presumably) Norwegian lyrics make it impossible for me to identify the songs meaning, which initially sets up a barrier for me. However, it is a really interesting building sound with a nice bass groove running throughout. Certainly enough for me to give the bands album a try.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues/Battery Kinzie
I like the Fleet Foxes and their debut album is a joy, and one of those rare albums that everyone seems to like, but this is one of the weakest Record Store day releases. Not on a musical level but as an artifact. It features two songs that will both be on their much anticipated second album one of which is freely available already and the other has received radio play (and the subsequent illicit distribution). So in terms of exclusivity it is pretty weak, and at £7.99 it is quite an expensive promo. However, I got carried away, and a little flustered in the queue, and I only have myself to blame.
The songs themselves are good if unexceptional and lack the impact that the band had when they first appeared. It is inevitable that second time around the band is going to sound more familiar and it means that they have to raise their game more than is on evidence here. ‘Helplessness Blues’ is nice enough but the vocals seem less haunting and the melodies less inspired than on their debut. ‘Battery Kinzie’ is a more upbeat piano lead effort that brings Simon and Garfunkle to mind, it is an enjoyable few minutes and shows that the band want to try something more than just emulate their first album.
By Dorian Rogers