ALBUM OF THE WEEK: OUR LOVE - CARIBOU
Canadian Dan Snaith has been making music under the Caribou moniker for just under a decade now. In that time, he has dabbled in a variety of different styles and genres, never really settling for too long on any definitive sound. Our Love is his best album to date by some distance - it is a beautiful slice of melancholy electronica, pulsating with a warmth rarely found in the icy confines of that genre. From hypnotic opener 'Can't Do Without You' to closing track 'Your Love Will Set You Free', Snaith utilises an array of gorgeous analogue synth sounds to embellish these wonderfully understated songs, creating a kind of soulful electronica. Snaith is not afraid to lock into a groove when the opportunity presents, resulting in a collection of songs that appeal to the heart while nudging you towards the dance floor at the same time. A delight from start to finish.
TIED TO A STAR - J MASCIS
As lead singer and axe hero with seminal eighties rockers Dinosaur Jnr, J Mascis is a long established and fully fledged member of the indie royalty set. His scorching guitar pyrotechnics on albums like Bug (1988) almost single-handedly made the much maligned guitar solo cool again with the indie crowd. Tied to a Star is very much in the same vein as his last solo album Several Shades of Why, released in 2011. It's a stripped back affair, primarily acoustic based, with the guitar shredding placed in storage for this one. Songs like 'Me Again' and 'Wide Awake' showcase this quieter, more pastoral approach and while the mood is pleasantly laid back and undemanding throughout, it's some way off the standard set on some of his more vital work.
TOO RICH FOR OUR BLOOD - WOMEN'S CHRISTMAS
Mere babies on the Irish music scene, Women's Christmas impress with debut album Too Rich for Our Blood, a riotous blast of indie guitar noise. Formed in 2013, and comprising of members of Villagers, Jogging and No Monster Club, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is some throwaway side project but on the evidence of this thrillingly fresh debut, this is very much a band in their own right. A song like 'Chalklines' is typical of the kind of fare to be expected on this twelve track debut; there are passing nods to the Wedding Present, Wolf Parade and the Replacements but it's all bundled up in one exuberantly cacophonous package. Women's Christmas offer further compelling proof that right now, the Irish music scene is as richly diverse and exciting as it has ever been. Well worth your full attention.
('Too Rich for our Blood' is released on 24 October by Out On a Limb Records.)
PLOWING INTO THE FIELD OF LOVE - ICEAGE
Formed in 2008, Danish four piece Iceage started life as a punk band in the purest sense. Their first two albums New Brigade (2011) and You're Nothing (2013) were snarling, charmingly retro punk artefacts. What they lacked in maturity and originality was more than made up for by the sheer energy and commitment on show. They had that little something extra, an intensity and self-belief that made them stand out from the crowd of garage band hopefuls. Plowing Into The Field of Love marks a surprising shift in direction - the intensity remains but the endearingly juvenile punk wannabe leanings have been discarded. In its place we get a band that have reinvented themselves - it takes a few listens to de-scramble and figure out what's going on here - the twists and turns, the tempo changes, the new sounds - but once these songs take root, it makes for their most rewarding album to date. Think early Nick Cave fronting a less competent, more ramshackle Bad Seeds and you get the idea. Moments of brilliance - welcome to the new Iceage.
A NEW NATURE - ESBEN AND THE WITCH
Brighton three piece Esben and the Witch started to gather some serious momentum on the back of the Goth pop of second album 'Wash the Sins Not Only the Face'. Marked down as ones to watch, they employed the services of legendary producer Steve Albini for follow -up A New Nature. The result is something of a mess and might just represent a serious mis-step so early in their career. A New Nature is a bloated, meandering and grating listen with lengthy, turgid instrumental passages and shrieking, portentous lyrics, making this a very disappointing third outing. No doubt someone, somewhere along the way thought it was the right time to take a more experimental approach on this record but songs like 'Press Heavenwards!' and 'The Jungle' just sound loose, aimless and pretentious. One to avoid.