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Cat Power – Sun

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Cat Power – Sun

Posted on 10 September 2012 by Dorian

It has been some time since we have heard any new music from Chan Marshall, AKA Cat Power. Her last album of cover versions, Jukebox, was released in 2008 and it was two years earlier that she released The Greatest, her last album of original material. The Greatest was a collaboration with Al Green’s musicians and showed a fuller more soulful sound when compared to her earlier work. Sun is both a move backwards and a move forwards taking in the more sparse sounds of her earlier albums along with a new embracing of digital studio production sounds.

Cat Power - Sun

Sun is one of those albums that I instinctively wanted to love from the outset. Cat Power is such a singular artist, with a unique vocal style, and I was a big fan of The Greatest and her earlier work, but Sun just doesn’t quite hit the mark with me. It is by no means a bad album, and has plenty of points to recommend it, but the sound and style seems a little badly conceived.

Opening track ‘Cherokee’  is a case in point, the layered vocals and sounds seem overdone and amateuris and suggest someone who has spent too much time tinkering with the song. ‘Sun’ suffers a similar fate and at times it just feels like something has gone wrong in the recording process.

The simpler songs fair better and the piano lead ‘Ruin’ works much better, and the melody and vocal combination are good enough to excuse some rather clumsy lyrics. Another stand-out track is the lovely ‘Manhattan’ which floats along beautifully and shows off Marshall’s vocal skills perfectly.

In general the musical compositions on the album are good, and the playing of  a high standard – including contributions on guitar by Blues Explosion veteran Judah Bauer. Marhsall’s vocals are excellent throughout, and the over-layering of them on some of the tracks is the worst kind of lily-gilding.

This is an album with plenty of good elements to recommend it, and I can hear an excellent album trying to get out. When it falls back on vocals, melody and simple production it is at its best, when the more heavy handed production elements come to the fore it starts to fall apart. All in all it suggests that Chan Marshall needs less time, not more, to produce an album that truly reflects her unique talents.

7/10

By Dorian Rogers

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September Preview

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September Preview

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Dorian

This is the first of a new monthly feature where we preview the best music releases and events in the coming month. Items marked with an * are currently scheduled for review on the site.

Albums

Album of the month: Cat Power – Sun*

Chan Marshal returns with her first album of new material for six years. The sound has moved away from the soul-pop of The Greatest and has more in common with her 2003 release You Are Free. The album has a modern feel with a focus on studio production techniques and features guest appearances from  Iggy Pop and Judah Bauer. Out now.

Cat Power - Sun

Cat Power – Sun

3rd September

Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

Deerhoof – Breakup Song*

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

Various – Metronomy: Late Night Tales (Read our review)

10th September

The XX – Coexist

David Byrne & St.Vincent – Love This Giant

Calexico – Algiers*

Racehorses – Furniture*

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Throw It To The Universe

17th September

Grizzly Bear – Shields*

Jim Noir – Jimmy’s Show*

Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Meat & Bone*

Menomena – Moms

24th September

Efterklang – Piramidia*

Mark Eitzel – Don’t Be A Stranger*

Yoko One with Thurston moore and Kim Gordon – Yokokimthurston

Tim Burgess – Oh No I Love You

Gigs and tours

Tour of the month: Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’ play a string of dates this month with a set drawing strongly from their excellent recent album Europe:

  • 4 Sep Fleece, Bristol*
  • 5 Sep Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle
  • 6 Sep Queens Social Club, Sheffield
  • 7 Sep Deaf Institute, Manchester
  • 8 Sep Kazimier, Liverpool
  • 9 Sep Blackburn Art College, Blackburn  1.45PM SHOW / ALL AGES
  • 10 Sep Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
  • 12 Sep The Haunt, Brighton
  • 13 Sep King’s College, London
Allo Darlin'

Allo Darlin’

Former American Music Club singer Mark Eitzel plays just two gigs in the UK:

Sat 8th Sep – The Palmeira, Hove*

Sun 9th Sep – SXSC Festival 2012, the Railway Inn/The Attic, Winchester.

El-P – The ATP promoted hip-hop act plays a short UK tour:

  • London Scala on Wednesday 12th September
  • Brighton The Haunt on Thursday 13th September
  • Birmingham The Rainbow Warehouse on Saturday 15th September
  • Bristol The Fleece on Sunday 16th September
  • Manchester Academy 3 on Monday 17th September

Grandaddy – Tuesday 4th September, Sheperds Bush Empire London

Deer Tick – Wednesday 5th September, Scala London

Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – Thursday 6th September, The Haunt Brighton

The XX – Monday 10th September, Sheperds Bush Empire London

Jens Lekman – Wednesday 19th September, The Ruby Lounge Manchester

Dexys – Saturday 22nd September, Colston Hall Bristol

Festivals

The festival season is almost over, and with cancellations, abandonment’s and wash-outs it has not been a vintage year. However, there are still a couple of interesting festivals left that could prove the perfect end to the Summer.

Playgroup Festival, 213ts to 23rd September, Eridge Park – This festival has already moved once this year due to flooding on the beautiful Eridge Park site, so some late September sun would be welcome for the rescheduled dates. Expect fancy dress, games and an eclectic range of music – the theme this year is ‘Lost Toys’. http://www.playgroupfestival.com/

Playgroup Festival

Playgroup Festival

Festival No.6, 14th to 16th September, Portmeirion – A new face on the festival scene, Festival No.6 promises a interesting mix of live music, DJs, comedy and arts at the unique Welsh venue. Acts include Gruff Rhys, Field Music, King Creosote and the Wave Pictures, with New order, Primal Scream and Spiritualized headlining. http://www.festivalnumber6.com

Other stuff

Last Shop Standing, 10th September – Last Shop Standing is a film, released on DVD, that looks at the rise and fall of the record shop in the UK since 1960. Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr and Nerina Pallot contribute to a fascinating film that explores the role of the record shop and considers whether they will survive in the modern music climate. http://lastshopstanding.com/

Last Shop Standing

Last Shop Standing

To get your album/gig/tour/film/book/festival/t-shirt included in our monthly preview please send details to dorian@neonfiller.com.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

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Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Dorian

Everyone has their own Top 100 Albums list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. There are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this third instalment. Here’s our previous instalments (90 -81 , 100-91).  See you next week for 70-61.

Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

80. Midlake – Trials Of Van Occupanther


No this is not from the 1970s, but this 2006 release from American folk rock act Midlake is as near as you will get to that era of flares as it beautifully recreates the classic American rock production of Fleetwood Mac and Crosby Stills and Nash.  The effect is that tracks such as Roscoe and Bandits already sound like 30 year old masterpieces. Lyrically the influences go even further back, evoking images of the old west, log cabins, woods and pioneering. This is powerful decade skipping stuff with some sumptuous melodies. Midlake didn’t quite reach the same heights with their follow up album, The Courage of Others, proving just how special this album is.

79. Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars

Under Cold Blue Stars

Josh Rouse initially came to our attention through his collaboration with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on the Chester EP. One trip to see him play in a small room above a Brighton pub and we were hooked. His first five albums are all essential listens, but Under Cold Blue Stars remains our favourite and should have been the album that broke him from a cult act to bigger things. The album looks at some of the darker areas of a relationship, focusing on a mid-western 1950s couple, but softens the blow with some of the sweeter, more tender moments. It is a beautifully warm album, excellently produced by Roger Mountenot, that demonstrated what an ambitious songwriter Rouse had become. On top of this it features some great pop tunes, especially ‘Nothing Gives Me Pleasure’ and ‘Feeling No Pain’ which demonstrate that his influences lie just as much in UK acts of the 1980s (especially The Cure and The Smiths) as the traditional American acts he had become associated with.

78. Mclusky – Do Dallas


Mclusky from Cardiff were among the angriest  and funniest bands around during their short career straddling the millennium.   With  Steve Albini as producer their relentless energy and humour never sounded better as on their 2002 second album Do Dallas.  Has there ever been a better opening song title as ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’? The music industry itself was a popular target of the band especially on standouts such as ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’,  ‘Collagen Rock’  and ‘Fuck this band’.  They split in 2005 and singer Andy “Falco” Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone currently plough a slightly more serious furrow with Future Of The Left.

77. Cat Power  – You Are Free

You Are Free

Cat Power’s hushed fragile, yet powerful voice would reach a bigger audience on The Greatest in 2006 but this 2003 release is the best example of her songwriting, whilst retaining some of the edginess of her earlier recordings. Cat Power (real name Chan Marshal) plays most of what we hear here but a diverse group of musicians including Warren Ellis, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder contribute to some of the tracks. The sparse piano lead ‘I Don’t Blame You’ sets the tone for the album but fuller sounding songs such as ‘He War’ mean that it never sounds one paced or lacking in variation. It isn’t always an easy listen, break-ups and child abuse are some of the lyrical matter, but it is certainly an enriching experience and Marshal’s voice is one of the loveliest things on record.

76. Pylon – Gyrate


“We’re not the best rock ‘n’ roll band in America,” Pylon deserve that accolade, said REM drummer Bill Berry in 1987. Formed in REM’s hometown of Athens Georgia in 1979 they were helped along the way by another of that college town’s bands The B-52s to create frenetic, danceable new wave music that was wholly unique. Singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s raw and emotional vocals, backed with a sparse Gang of Four influenced rhythm section is expertly captured on this their debut album, with highlights including opener ‘Volume’ and final track ‘Stop It’. All bands should aspire to be this original. Berry certainly knew what he was talking about.

75. Field Music – Measure

Measure

Field Music’s Measure has the distinction of being the most modern album in our top 100, it was also the number 1 album in our 2010 round-up. Field Music, brothers Peter and David Brewis, recorded Measure after a hiatus where they focused on solo projects as The Week That Was and School Of Language. In an age where most people consume songs track by track it is a brave move to release a double album, but the quality of songs is so good here that it demands to be listened to in its entirety. The vocal harmonies are great, the playing typically tight and the variety of songs styles greater than anything they had released before. Read our full review here.

74. Kings Of Convenience – Quiet Is The New Loud


If a revolution for those that like subtle melodies, beautiful guitar playing and melancholy lyrics were likely then Norwegian duo of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe would be leading the charge. The title of their album itself is a statement of quiet revolutionary intent for all the poetic and moody waifs of the world and the album delivers a stunning array of understated and downright lovely indie folk tracks. Their Scandinavian background echoes through each track with highlights including ‘Winning a battle, losing the war’ and a stripped back cover of A-Ha’s’ Manhattan Skyline.’ This album received mixed reviews when it came out in 2001, but over time has been rightly seen by many as up there with the best naval gazing folksters, earning them justifiable comparisons with Simon & Garfunkle and Belle & Sebastian.

73.  The Dead Milkmen – Beelzebubba

Beelzebubba

A band called The Dead Milkmen is unlikely to attract a mainstream audience, and an album containing songs called ‘My Many Smells’ and ‘Life Is Shit’ is not an easy sell. However, if you are looking for snotty punk with a sense of humour then you can’t go far wrong with this album. ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is the album’s standout moment, and their one MTV hit, but there is plenty more to entertain here including songs about rednecks, James Brown and a vengeful Ringo Starr buying a rifle to get back at John and Paul for overdubbing his drums (sample lyric “Hey Paul, you asshole… Dub this!”). The band sound bad tempered and angry and the music is fast and furious, great fun throughout. You probably don’t need many Dead Milkmen albums in your collection, but you need one and this is the pick of the bunch.

72. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

Perfectionist Kevin Rowland built up and smashed down incarnations of his band Dexy’s Midnight Runners seemingly at will during the 1980s. But it’s this 1980 debut from the band’s first incarnation as a soul band with a punk heart that is our pick. Littered with stomping singles such as ‘Geno’  this album is also home to some contemporary soul classics penned by the band, such as ‘I’m Just Looking’ . The album was reissued to mark its 30th anniversary last year including a welcome set of extras of singles, B sides and radio sessions of this first and best Dexy’s line up.

71. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The  Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has become a staple of ‘best album’ lists in recent years, which is strange considering what an odd record it is. The combination of stream-of-consciousness lyrics, over-wrought vocals and erratic instrumental arrangements is like nothing else, and all the better for that. Lead by former Olivia Tremor Control member Jeff Mangum and produced by Apples In Stereo front-man Robert Schneider Neutral Milk Hotel were the most esoteric act in the Elephant 6 roster. There is some of the psychedelic 60s garage sound, ‘Holland 1945’, but also aggressive folk and songs built around acoustic guitar and horns that sound like nothing else. From the twisted pop of ‘The King Of Carrot Flowers, Pt.1’ through to the Dylanesque folk of ‘Two headed Boy, Pt.2’ it is a surprising and unique album that never disappoints.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Top 100 (90-81)Top 100 (100-91)

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