Albums, Albums, Albums: Pharoahe Monch & PJ Harvey

The sceál of 2011 so far has been one of ‘so much great music, so little time’. Managing to listen to so much music can be a daunting task not to mention writing about it. Here’s a quick round-up of albums I have been listening to a lot.

Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R (We Are Renegades)

Pharoahe Monch‘s latest offering is quite simply one of the finest hip-hop records of the past few years, let alone 2011. W.A.R (We Are Renegades) has everything; great rhymes, wordplay and head-nodding beats while lyrically it’s hard-hitting, intelligent and insightful, providing a scathing attack on the industry and society. This is hip-hop with something to say, a welcome relief from the hordes of bling obsessed industry spun celebrity pretenders.

Like his wordplay this one flows effortlessly slinking between the heavy gospel feel of  ‘Let My People Go’, old school vibes of ‘Hitman’ and ‘Clap’ and the fiery anger of  ‘W.A.R’ and ‘Calculated Amalgamation’. If one line could sum up an album it would be from the later, “No justice, no peace, no settle / We are renegades, fuck your gold medal.”

This is the work of a master, no doubt about, this is a going to be classic.

Pharoahe Monch – Clap  (One Day) Ft. Showtyme And DJ Boogie Blind via brooklynvegan

Pharoahe Monch – Evolve via viciosdelaslilas

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

I must admit having consistently ignored and disregarded her output over the years, I am not best placed to write about PJ Harvey. But here I am, prepared to admit how wrong I was and heap praise on her latest album, Let England Shake.

It’s an enthralling collection of brooding and dramatic gothic scores exploring Englishness, perils of colonialism and the ravages of war. While there’s obviously a message here it is not preachy, preferring to explore rather than lecture on these themes of war, death and loss. All of which resonate today.

It’s an album which is both tragic and beautiful, rife with dark and horrific imagery of blood spilt battlefields. It is also one which needs to be listened to in full to be appreciated (that said ‘Let England Shake’, ‘The Last Living Rose’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ where the ones which sucked me in).

Let England Shake is a creative, emotional and fearless record which is an obvious contender for album of the year.

PJ Harvey – The Words That Maketh Murder via VagrantRecords

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Download: Gross Magic – Sweetest Touch

Gross Magic is the moniker of 20-year-old Sam McGarrigle from Brighton. He cites early Nirvana and Loser-era Beck amongst his biggest influences and it’s certainly prevalant on ‘Sweetest Touch’.

There is a massive 90’s vibes for sure, it is also one of the catchiest tunes released this year. There’s an overwhelming warmth to this one which (for me) is heavily reminiscent of early Super Furry Animals (circa Fuzzy Logic/Out Spaced).

‘Sweetest Touch’ it’s taken from his forthcoming Teen Jamz EP, out August 8th.

Download: Gross Magic – Sweetest Touch

Miles Kane – Colour of the Trap

Miles Kane seems to have been with us for an age. Surprisingly Colour of the Trap is Kane’s debut solo LP having already released records with The Little Flames, The Rascals and grandiose ’60s side-project, The Last Shadow Puppets, alongside Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys.

It was with the later that the Wirral-born musician really discovered a deep and abiding love for the ’60s. Turner’s help is enlisted again with Gruff Rhys and Noel Gallagher also lending a hand as we are whisked on a whirlwind trip through a spooky ’60s parallel universe.

Not since the emergence of The Bees has ’60s psych-soul sounded so fresh; authentically swathed in twangs and spooky feedback and atmospheres. It is a record of juxtaposition, finding a balance between the ladish swagger and pulse-raising rock’n’roll riffs of ‘Come Closer’and ‘Inhaler’ with swooning heartfelt love songs ‘Take The Night From Me’ and ‘My Fantasy’.

One of the albums highlights ‘Quicksand’, is a happy-go-lucky indie-pop freak out, of the ilk of The Coral or Echo & The Bunnymen. Like these one of Kane’s greatest assets is his distinctive Merseyside drawl, which dictates the pace ‘Rearrange’ ‘Kingcrawler’ and ‘Colour of the Trap’.

While his musical vision resides firmly in the ’60s Colour of the Trap it is fresh and full of wit, charisma and charm. It isn’t a masterpiece but it is an enjoyable record with equal measures of brilliantly executed explosive indie rock, cheery pop and touching love songs. A great combination.

Miles Kane – Come Closer

Miles Kane – Inhaler

Download: The Subways – It’s A Party

The Subways are back! They have unveiled new track ‘It’s A Party’ taken from their forthcoming third album Money & Celebrity, out this September.

The band have hooked up with legendary producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur etc.) to record the album. ‘It’s A Party’ isn’t offering anything overly ambitious, it’s a riff driven three and a half minutes of riotous rock ‘n roll with belly churning bass and drums. 

The Subways will be hoping to recapture the form of debut Young For Eternity, following the largely forgettable album All or Nothing back in 2008.

You can download the track below or sign up for it on their website.

Download: The Subways – It’s A Party

Digitalism – Miami Showdown

Digitalism‘s highly anticipated second studio album I Love You, Dude hits shelves very soon.

The German electronic duo have dropped another track from the LP, ‘Miami Showdown’. It follows up the masterful energetic synth rock of earlier single 2 Hearts. ‘Miami Showdown’ is much more of a slow burner, distorted and caustic electro sound. I’m sure I’m not alone in being really excited to get my mitts on their new album.

You can download the track on the band’s Facebook page, all you have to do is give them your email address.

Mp3: Digitalism – Miami Showdown

via Harderbloggerfaster

Free Music: Electric Sounds Records Compilation #1

ESRCDR01 is the first complilation from London-based label Electric Sound Records, founded in 2010.

ESR came about from a desire to try and promote experimental music following a stint putting on the shows in London catering to this increasingly marginalised canon. They give away digital music for free because ‘no one pays for music anymore anyway’.

ESRCDR01 is an eclectic mix of psych, krautrock and experimental synth all wrapped up in a nice DIY ethic, it certainly gives an idea of what the label is all about. Contributors range from acts on the label, artists from clubnights and some like-minded associates.

You can stream some of my choice picks or download the whole 13-track album for FREE here. The tracklisting is after the jump.

Glass – Battery (PharmaroxXx Remix)

Mirna Ray – Craul

Mark Nicholls – Adamantine

NOW – The Foundary Favourite
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Introducing: Monto

Electronic music in Ireland is in a remarkably healthy state at the moment boasting the likes of SertOne, Moths, Nouveaunoise and Not Squares amongst its ranks.

19-year-old Wicklow native Monto is another such talent and has recently signed with Belfast electronic/hip-hop label Melted Music. Beats are his forte, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter whether he’s cooking up  thumping electronic hip hop beats or beautifully chilled, tranquil soundscapes.

‘Carmusa’ and ‘Strays’ are simply stunning tracks; beautiful, tranquil and uplifting, comprised of crisp filtered beats and fresh chillwave vibes this is the perfect soundtrack for kicking back in the summer sunshine, if we get any. Also, check out the head nodding hip hop majesty of the Dead Set Gemini and Fritz & the Tantrums remixes, sublime.

So taken with the tunes was I, that I decided to catch up with Monto for a quick chat and find out more about this elusive character (after the jump).

 Download: Monto – Caramusa

 Download: Monto – Strays

BG: Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been making music? How did you get started?

Monto: My Name’s Ross, I’m 19 and from Wicklow Town. I’m in my first year of college studying music in WIT, although the college nightlife has probably destroyed my chances of making it to second year. I’ve always been interested in music from an early age, learning instruments and all that jazz, but didn’t start producing it until I was about 16 or so. I started making it when I got an Akai MPC500 for my 16th birthday, I made some pretty nice stuff but it was lost forever, I couldn’t figure out how to get it from the MPC to the computer! Devastated.

BG: What were your musical influences?

Monto: I was quite the 90’s NY Hip hop fan boy as a kid, I was always astounded at how producers like Premo & Pete Rock could take a sample, flip it, and turn into a completely different piece of music. I think it was the whole sampling aspect of hip hop that really appealed to me, and made me want to make music. As a result of this I started listening to more instrumental acts, more recent artists like Flying Lotus, 9th Wonder, and of course J Dilla. It was J Dilla I think that influenced me the most out of these. His beat for ‘Fall in Love’ is still the one song that never gets skipped on my iPod

BG: Your music has a rather unusual flavour; a mix of instrumental hip hop and chilled electronic music. How did this come about?

Monto: I started out making purely sample based hip hop for a while, but after I sold the Mpc I started working with Fruity loops. I could never find decent quality samples to use, so I found myself trying to recreate the songs I would be sampling with synthesizers in Fruity Loops. I guess from here I just became a lot more reliant on producing sounds myself rather than sampling them. I’ve played piano since I was a yung’un too so I think it always felt right that there would be a heavy influence on chords and strong melody lines in my music.

BG: You’re from Wicklow, is there much happening musically there at the moment?

Monto: Not much, to be honest. Wicklow is one of the more unfortunate counties in the pale in the sense that there’s no real great platform to share your music with people, and even if there was there’s not a great number of people in the area that want to hear music that’s a bit more underground than they’re used too. There’s a great organization called The Monkey Club in Wicklow that are doing their best to promote local music and organize gigs. In saying that, there are some great bands doing well for themselves without the need of a local platform, instrumental bands Enemies & God is an Astronaut are probably the cream of the crop in Wicklow at the moment. Also, if you can remember as far back as Hybrasil a couple of years ago, they’ve since split up, but one of the members Spud is still doing some really nice indie/electronic stuff.

BG: What have you got in store for the rest of 2011? Gigs? Releases?

Monto: As of now I’m not sure what the summer has in store. I’ve recently been signed to Melted Music, so you can expect an E.P to be put out with them soon enough. That’s about all I can say for now, hopefully a few gigs will spring up during the summer, and I’ll be putting out music onto my soundcloud & bandcamp as regularly as possible!

Download: Dead Set Gemini – Get Wrecked (Montos After Hours Remix)

Download: Fitz & The Tantrums – Moneygrabber (Monto Remix)

Video: We Are Animal – Luminous Lights

I really can’t get enough of We Are Animal‘s Welsh wizardry, be it their debut LP Idolise or latest single ‘Luminous Lights’.

The band have dropped a fabulous Mirza & Nicolas Booth directed video for the later. ‘Luminous Lights’ boasts a slew of guttural melodies mixed with jolts of guitars, fast riffs and heavy bass lines.

An exciting band deserving of much more attention. ‘Luminous Lights’ is out now.

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We Are Animal – Luminous Lights

Toddla T – Watch Me Dance feat. Roots Manuva

Toddla T is preparing to release his second album Watch Me Dance this August. ‘Take It Back’ featuring Shola Ama and J2K not so long ago heralded the return of The ‘Boom DJ from the Steel City’.

His latest offering is ‘Watch Me Dance’. Not only does it feature the vocal talents of label mate Roots Manuva, but it originally began life as a Roots tune. It takes shape more as a collaboration between the two producers with startling results. ‘Watch Me Dance’ is full of dancefloor grooves, funky basslines and electronic strut, not to mention Roots’ vocal prowess.

The single features a wealth of tasty remixes from Sebastian, Andrew Weatherall, Heartbreak and SX, as well as the original Roots Manuva version of ‘Watch Me Dance’.

 Toddla T – Watch Me Dance feat. Roots Manuva

 Toddla T – Take it Back

via Toddla T

Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion

Brooklyn quartet Crystal Stilts, received much acclaim with the release of Alight of Night back in ’09. While their debut sounded a little rough and slightly unfinished we were unknowingly witnessing the blossoming of what became a lo-fi garage rock revival.

This time they have a much better grasp on what works for them and along with considerably brushed up production values, In Love With Oblivion sees them develop and grow beyond obvious comfort zones.

‘Sycamore Trees’, ‘Through The Floor’ and ‘Alien Rivers’ capture this expansion beyond the band’s usual musical MO and embracing their murky side. While ‘Silver Sun’, ‘Half Moon’ and ‘Flying Into The Sun’ are the most closely related to the jangly instrumentals of their debut. ‘Invisible City’, ‘Blood Barons’ and ‘Prometheus At Large’ capture an urgent psychedelic style of indie/post-punk perpetrated so perfectly by Echo & The Bunnymen in their early days.

What binds it together is the overwhelming dream like and nocturnal atmosphere, developed in no small way through singer Brad Hargett’s signature warbling vocals, transporting the listener to a ghoulish ether.

They are not mucking about with the formula but they, like In Love With Oblivion stand tall against the bulk of fellow imitators. The beauty is in the balance between their influences, penchant for ’60s psychedelics and ’80s post-punk and talent. Crystal Stilts have a promising future.

Crystal Stilts – Through The Floor via popfrenzy

Crystal Stilts – Shake The Shackles via I-D