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Best Of 2008: Albums

 
By on Sunday, 28th December 2008 at 1:30 pm
 

It’s been a pretty amazing year for music around the UK, and following on from my top 10 of 2007, here is my top 10 of 2008.

Viva Stereo (roar lion roar album cover)10 – Viva Stereo – Roar Lion Roar
You’ve probably not heard much about this Scottish collective. However, their third album was a surprise favourite for me – anthemic, accessible, slightly My Bloody Valentine and yet still so gorgeous.

Read more about Viva Stereo here.

Favourite: Knee High Boots.

9 – Sigur RósMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
As ever, an amazing collection from the Icelandic group. More pop than previous albums, their songs sound all the more amazing. I caught them live at Hydro Connect Festival in Scotland, where they preceded Franz Ferdinand and blew them out of the water. As the sun went down, they soundtracked the festival for us, showing their sense of humour and making beautiful music that had more than a few grown men in tears.

Favourite: Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

8 – Ra Ra RiotThe Rhumb Line
Dark in places, Ra Ra Riot come from the same school of musical geekiness as Vampire Weekend, but with a bit more serious and a bit less money. Dark in places, the group are still recovering from the death of their drummer in summer 2007, which shows on tracks like “Winter ’05”.

Favourite: Dying is Fine

Continue reading Best Of 2008: Albums

 

Death Cab For Cutie / November 2008 UK Tour dates

 
By on Thursday, 14th August 2008 at 8:16 pm
 

Death Cab For CutieDeath Cab For Cutie have announced four UK tour dates for November around the UK, including their biggest headlining show to date.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (15th August) at 9am.

Friday 14th November – Edinburgh Corn Exchange
Saturday 15th November – Nottingham Rock City
Sunday 16th November – Bristol Colston Hall
Monday 17th November – Sheffield Academy
Wednesday 19th November – London Alexandra Palace

 

Live Review: Death Cab For Cutie at London Koko (14th July)

 
By on Wednesday, 16th July 2008 at 12:34 pm
 

This review originally appeared on Londonist.

On Monday night I caught US indie supremos Death Cab for Cutie at Koko in Camden as they played as part of the month long iTunes festival at the venue. Needless to say, after having a number one US album, appearing on the OC back when it was good, having a platinum selling big-label debut and selling out two nights at Brixton Academy in the past two years, getting to see them at the relatively intimate Koko was an amazing opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.

The tricky task of supporting Death Cab went to Das Pop. Normally if you play the hottest pop band to come out of Belgium in a few years to a room full of indie Death Cab fans you’d be seeing a mass exodus for the bar. Somehow though, they managed to win just about the whole auditorium around, with their catchy tunes that sound like Alphabeat songs done by Iggy Pop. Led by Bent Van Looy who looks like Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand), but with the energy of Mika, the four piece hurtled through 45 minutes of pure pop bliss. Culminating in a mass sing along at the end to “I can’t get enough of your love” and then current single “Underground”, we realised that although we’d come to see Death Cab for Cutie, they’d got a tough act to follow.

Bursting onto the stage from behind a very plush red velvet curtain, Death Cab for Cutie arrived and plunged through a mixture of old favourites and newer tracks from their massive selling “Narrow Stairs”. The new songs such as “Cath”, “No Sunlight” and “Long Division” fit just perfectly next to old classics such as “New Year”, “Crooked Teeth” and “Soul Meets Body”. A few technical troubles blighted the band throughout the set, prompting lead singer and chief songwriter Ben Gibbard to joke “I feel like I’m in a movie and I don’t know what’s going to happen next!” as he introduced “Movie Script Ending”. One of the biggest cheers of the evening came for the epic “I will Possess Your Heart”, an 8 minute rock out that looks set to be one of the best things the band have done, and a chance for them to stretch their legs musically.

Closing out the main set with “Sound of Settling”, Ben came back on his own to do an enchanting version of “I will follow you into the dark”, featuring everyone singing along for a proper hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck moment. To finish was the classic “Transatlanticism”, a slow builder that builds into a frenzy, a fitting ending to an evening with some of US indie rock’s biggest stars of today.

 

Album Review: Death Cab For Cutie’s Narrow Stairs

 
By on Tuesday, 10th June 2008 at 8:54 pm
 

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs (album cover)It’s always tricky when a band starts to grow up. Some bands away and come back weaker, weedier, lacking versions of their former selves (Weezer, Placebo, Travis etc) and others come back stronger than ever (Green Day’s American Idiot? The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi?). However, Death Cab for Cutie has balanced the thin line between the two with their latest offering, Narrow Stairs. Neither weedier, nor stronger than their predecessors, it’s simply, well, bland. Not lacking anything in particular, it’s good, but fails to have any of the grab-you-by-the-ears stuff that Transatlanticism or Plans had.

With many of the band now into their 30’s, “Narrow Stairs” treads a narrow pathway to well-constructed popularity: nothing on the collection will offend old listeners, and it will probably appeal to new listeners too, but nothing that will have the effect of “Soul Meets Body” or “The Sound of Settling”, and the mass OC-style appeal they have earn. Their sixth album, we get a feeling that Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard and their friends have carefully constructed the collection to “tick” the A&R boxes: 8 minute experimental “rock out”? Check –‘I will possess your heart’. Happy, summery upbeat song? Check – ‘No Sunlight’. Rousing, motivation building song? Check – ‘You Can Do Better than Me’. Sensitive end-of the-relationship song? Check – The Ice Is Getting Thinner.

Relying throughout on their well-refined “safe” sound, Death Cab rely on Chris’ jangly guitars and Nick’s driving bass lines to get them through the album, with none of the tracks sounding particularly “out there” like they did on some of the suburban angsty anthems of earlier albums “We Have The Anthems And We’re Voting Yes” and “You Can Play These Songs With Chords”. Both of these featured an innovative mixture of moany angst and, well, just plain strange tracks (remember “Flustered / Hey Tomcat!”‘s cut up hip-hop beats?). We understand that bands have to grow up and move on, but Narrow Stairs just looks too much like a “safe” bet that wouldn’t alienate, will sell well, and keep the A&R people happy at Atlantic’s money counting department.

Many of the tracks sound like they could provide the soundtrack to many a moderately successful indie flick – you can imagine many of the tracks sound tracking this year’s new Juno or Garden State. It’s the inoffensive stuff you could put on a car stereo with a group of friends with wildly differing senses of humour – nobody will complain, but likewise nobody will go “wow, who is THIS band?”.

One saving grace for the collection is Ben Gibbard’s lyrics. Whilst his story-telling skills will never reach the level of the Morrisseys of this world, he sure knows how to tell a tale, be it regrouping at the start of the album, dealing with rejection in the middle and the final blow to the relationship at the end of the album. Lyrics such as “The Ice Is Getting Thinner’s” “We bury our love in the windsory grave / Along came the snow, was all that remained” hawks back to the Gibbard of old, obvious yet familiar and friendly.

Don’t get me wrong though – Death Cab can sure make an album that would put many of their pretenders to the thrown quiver in their boots (yes, The Fray, I’m looking at you). Just we’ve grown accustomed to more aurally pleasing albums from them, more challenging works. It just would have been nice if they’d had the balls to take a few risks that got them to where they are now, and took the plunge that would alienate some, but draw more new fans in.

 

Death Cab For Cutie / July 2008 UK Dates

 
By on Monday, 7th April 2008 at 8:32 pm
 

Death Cab For CutieDeath Cab For Cutie have announced a trio of dates around the UK for the summer, almost exactly two years since their last trip over the Atlantic.

Tickets are on sale now for all dates, but expect them to go quickly as they sold out Brixton Academy last trip over here. Prices are £16 for Birmingham and Manchester, £17.50 for London.

Tuesday 15th July – Birmingham Academy
Wednesday 16th July – Manchester Apollo
Thursday 17th July – London Brixton Academy

 
 
 

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