Current Listening

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Let’s start with five new and newer records.

The Dø – A Mouthful
Portishead – 3
Why? – Alopecia
Foals – Antidotes
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

The Dø are rocking my world in many unusual ways; I shan’t say too much about specifics because I’m covering them for DiS, but they’re a Franco-Finnish odd-pop duo, who are possibly the most eclectic and fun band I’ve come across in an age.

The Portishead I acquired yesterday, and have been really impressed with off a couple of listens. It’s really not what I expected; very groovy, droney, subdued, lacking the dramatics one might expect of the trio. It’s still very cinematic however, but in a different way – more Vangelis than Cotillard, if that makes sense? Backgrounded, sci-fi, not an actor but a composer. You can see the influence of Beth’s solo album. Bits of it sound like they’re about to break into Kyuss-esque guitar sludge; that they don’t is testament to the unerring control and taste of the record. It’s utterly insane to think that it’s been a decade since the last Portishead album; it’s been five since Beth’s solo album! How?

Why? is someone that a lot of friends of mine have liked for a while; I never really got into cLOUDDEAD despite buying their eponymous album some years ago. I never really got into Elephant Eyelash a couple of years ago either. So I am resolved to try harder with this. I think the voice is a bit of a barrier, especially given that the lyrics are meant to be integral; I’ve not been a lyrics man for a long, long time.

Foals are both annoying and intriguing. My initial reaction is that they’re Battles for preschool kids; I know a lot of people are really hating on them, though. The voice is difficult to get to grips with, but is less offensive than the fringe on the singer. Songs are more direct, more linear, less jazz than Battles. There’s some controversy over them remixing their album from the mixes that producer Dave Sitek did originally; not having heard the Sitek mixes, I can’t comment, but the sound is pretty good to me. (Not exceptional, but interesting.) Good use of horns. Franz Ferdinand have been mentioned, but I’m not really feeling that so much.

The Elbow album I already reviewed for DiS, and the full, hagiographic piece can be found in a link to the right. I’m not actually listening to it much at all now, having listened to it intently while writing about it, because I’m saving it. I want the CD. I want to go back to it and enjoy it in a few weeks time, and have it take me anew.

Now let’s try five older records that I’ve been playing.

e.s.t. – Tuesday Wonderland
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
Gravenhurst – The Western Lands
DFA – Compilation #1
Mouse On Mars – Autoditacker

I reviewed the e.s.t. for Stylus back in the day when it came out, and dug it out the other day for the first time in probably a year, only to be very pleasantly surprised at how tuneful and enjoyable it was. This shouldn’t have been a surprise at all – I gave it a glowing review when it came out. There’s a certain trepidation preventing me getting thoroughly into jazz, neatly encapsulated in the title of this ILM thread. The worry being that it means I’m old. But if it comes to a choice between the latest alumni of the Brit School and… Empirical, or e.s.t., or The Blessing… then I’m with the fogeys.

Both Les Savy Fav and Gravenhurst released records last year that I missed; Amazon has been pimping the Les Savy Fav one at me for an age, but it took seeing it for £6 in HMV to make me buy it. Initial contact was unspectacular, but, like all good records, there’s more and more to go back to each time you hear it anew. I almost feel like it’s a concept record, but I’m not sure it is. There’s a bit of Caribou, a bit of Fugazi, a bit of Dismemberment Plan, and a bit of something else I can’t quite place, in there. The more restrained stuff is winning me over; but all if seems more restrained the more I play it.

The Gravenhurst I was alerted to by a vague allusion in relation to the last Radiohead, which I’ve found myself enjoying thoroughly, much to my… shame? Folky shoegaze. On Warp! That particular label has come a long way since it’s reputation as a “weird techno only zone” in the early 90s. I’m glad of this – a listen to Rest Proof Clockwork yesterday revealed way more guitars than I ever remembered.

The DFA compilation I went back to last night to see if it still worked; it does. Likewise Mouse On Mars. That does too. Bob was a bit freaked out by me dancing to it.

Sunday morning. Off to Sainsburys now.


Sunday, March 09, 2008


Blogger John Blonde - 7:38 pm

I'm excited by your take on the Portishead. For months last year they were playing tracks from their first two albums in what seemed like every restaurant, bar, and er, drugstore. The world is ready for 3.

Blogger Webby - 8:15 am

Nick said "Years ago Elvis Costello said that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I always thought it was a prickish thing to say, a mithering musician bitching about bad reviews and doing down other people’s work, and I’ve spent years vehemently trying to disagree with him, but maybe he’s right?"

Of course he's not right Nick. I love to read about music. Reading about music makes me want to listen to music, and, ultimately, isn't that what it's about? Spreading the word, telling someone, anyone who'll listen, how great this record is.

A few years ago, at a time when I wasn't really into The Beach Boys, I read a book by Paul Williams; Brian Wilson and "The Beach Boys": How Deep Is the Ocean? Boy, the enthusiasm, passion and love for this band and their music just meant I had to listen to them. I began to see (and hear) in them what Paul did.

So, keep writing Nick, and I'll keep reading. And listening.

Blogger Rashed - 4:10 pm

heyy Nick,

i've been reading a bunch of your reviews as of late (on stylus mainly) and have to say you are my favourite of all time. Love your Codename Dustsucker and Herd of Instinct reviews so much. Keep rocking man, and do let me know if there's anywhere else I can consistently read your stuff.

keep writing man. cheers,



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Nick Southall was born in southwest England at the tail end of the 70s, and is the youngest of three brothers. He has a degree in popular culture and philosophy and has written about music for Stylus Magazine, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound, amongst others. He likes red wine, expensive headphones, spicy food, and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s. His favourite record is the last one he listened to. You can contact him by email via sickmouthy @ gmail dot com should you so wish.

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