The album opens with Wish We Were a choir of discordant voices that are the same voice, the background echoing the foreground, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The album is very dreamlike and evanescent, constantly shifting through polymorphic rhythms, with plenty of reverb harking back to the glory days of reverb. The only fault I really had with the album was that as good as the songs were they kind of blended into one after a bit, it makes it hard to grasp or get any sort of solid feeling for. Yet at the same time, it’s a pretty good song, electronic, ethereal and evoking feelings of euphoria and drinking with friends on sand dunes. A welcome haunting from the ghost of shoegaze summers past, reminiscent of Lush, the Cocteau Twins and Julee Cruise.
Mount the Air begins with the titular track, capturing the essence of autumn with a saxophone and the swell of an orchestral string section. The song is one that captures loneliness and melancholy, but also hope. The protagonist of the song would “mount the air on swallow wings to find my dearest dear.” The story of a pursuit constantly transforming into different animals is reminiscent of the myth of Taliesin and Ceridwen, but in this case reinterpreted into a melancholy but beautiful story of two lovers and the lengths to which you would pursue love and how love itself and the quest for love is a transformative act. The song itself is adapted and expanded from a single verse in a book called A Dorset Book of Folk Songs, which makes it all the more impressive and beautifully performed.
Flutter ruminates on the temporariness of life and the uncertainty of the actions we take, asking “if I could fly what would I find?” The idea that we all live on the wind, completely at the mercy of forces we can barely understand let alone comprehend is one that is very resonant. If Mount the Air is about the pursuit of love, then Flutter is about the uncertainty of what will come next
Magpie combines the old “one’s for sorrow, two for joy” magpie rhyme and opens it up to more pagan roots or gathering for the harvest, and becomes a tale of Christianity coming to the British isles and supplanting Paganism, denouncing the Pagans as devil worshippers. Whilst the three sisters rebel, keeping to the old ways and ignoring the protestations of bothersome priests, the voices of the three Unthank sisters carrying mythic echoes of the Fates and other triple goddesses like the Morrigan, and providing beautiful melodies and harmonies full of pagan darkness.
Mount the Air is replete with beautifully realised folk songs from the British tradition that at its best reminds me of the gentle lyricism of Kathryn Williams, the soundtrack to the original Wickerman movie and the soaring scores of Joe Hisaishi. It is a journey through the old ways to realise who we are today through the exploration of mythic archetypes, an album about fight as well as flight, love, doubt and consequence.
Unfortunately no review tonight, as the dreaded lurgy has took me, and I'd rather write something good when I feel better than write something mediocre when I feel like arse. To make up for it, I'll be putting up 2 reviews next week, so look out for them. Also, I'm thinking of getting rid of scoring stuff out of 5 stars, as it just felt arbitrary. You can normally tell whether I like something or not, or if it speaks to you enough through what I say without me having to give it a number.
When an album starts with a cockney meeting a Nazi hunter in London, you know you’re on to something special. The album’s opening track Grown Ups starts like this, only to be revealed to be a flight of imagination from two young friends, maybe childhood sweethearts, tracking the couple through childhood through adolescence, and ending on a wistful note at adulthood, and how people can sometimes just grow apart when they grow up.
Amateur Rappers is also a stand out track about joining a cult, includes “the interrupting cow” joke, and ruminates about how Mathias can’t handle the responsibility of owning a dog, but then thinks it would be useful to have one in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Also, the banter and back and forth between Mathias’ lead vocals and Ariel’s is pretty funny and endearing. The charmingly deadpan, leftfield lyrics reminded me a lot of old favourites like Eels or Weezer.
Mathias’s vocals have the low fi, downtrodden melancholy of Lambchop or Cake whilst Ariel does a great job of balancing this out by accompanying him with the melodies and harmonies, contrasting the melancholy with clarity whilst at the same time complimenting Mathias’s voice.
I thought that garage rock was dead, or at least that I’d fallen out of love with it or what it had become. The Burning Hell have helped rekindled that love with no shortage of wit, lyricism, and moxy to spare.
Konichiwa, dear readers! As I have returned from the glorious and strange land of Japan, I thought this month I’d review the fantastically Japanese Kero Kero Bonito’s debut album. Imagine if BMO, Finn and Jake from Adventure Time decided to do a jam session, filled with whistling, beats and keyboards sung half in English, half in Japanese – the result is Kero Kero Bonito. Sick Beat samples Super Mario 64’s beats and boops whilst name dropping Tomb Raider, whilst Cat vs Dog is sung entirely in Japanese punctuated with the occasional “meow!” for good measure. The album reminds me of Bjork in the 90’s – pop gone weird in a good way. Kero Kero Bonito have managed to produce an album of bubblegum pop so sweet I’d recommend visiting your dentist immediately as all of your teeth have now rotten from the sugar rush.
I thought whilst the country was having an on-again, off-again love affair with winter and that albino bastard known as snow, we could all do with a little more summer in our lives, so this week I reviewed an album that can hopefully help you forget all that drudgery, if only for a few minutes.
The album opens with Under the Pressure, a song that captures the romance of running away to find somewhere better, only to find that we can’t live up to the weight of our own expectations and dreams and that sometimes we have to live with the reality that those dreams are too big, unwieldy and abstract for us to possibly achieve.
Red Eyes elicits a feeling of motion, not surprising seeing as “red eye” is American slang for a late night flight that arrives early the next morning. The song’s soaring guitar chords produces a feeling of being divorced from the earth and surrounded by darkness - as if the very nature of flight itself evokes in ourselves a feeling of intangibility and transience when all we long for is to return to the ground and make the world solid again. The War on Drugs has managed to capture summer in an album reminiscent of the best of Don Henley’s music. The whole album is drenched in a nostalgia for lost summers, and the rose-tinted tragicomedy that is our past.
The Wars on Drugs stand in good company with The Smiths and Stereophonics (1st album only) in managing to successfully disguise sad songs as pop songs and for them to succeed as both. This album left me feeling by turns, wistful, nostalgic, happy and just made me want to travel and leave everything and everyone behind like Enid at the end of Ghost World, just hitching a bus to somewhere else, some place better, some place where there’s always a sun.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.