Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Adult Contemporary Essentials 13.12.09

Divide & Conquer
Death By Polka
You’ll like the voice of Vandaveer. It is a burnished mahogany thing, warm to the touch and comforting – aged like the finest whisky, but with a youthful tone. Vandaveer is Kentucky singer-songwriter Mark Charles Heidinger, the son of (to quote his bio) a preacher whose father was a gambler whose father was both judge and US congressman. Those fathers are important to the band name – Vandaveer was the name inscribed on a pocket watch handed down the generations. Vandaveer’s first, Grace and Speed, was full of songs that seemed instantly familiar. Divide and Conquer is a better album – genuinely affecting timeless folk-y indie. Think Johnny Cash’s later American series, run through a young wood filter, or think about this being the best thing that Ryan Adams has done these past 10 years. The songs manage the same trick of seeming like old friends on first listen – essentially simple, but actually tastefully crafted from the finest ingredients. The voice is augmented by incredibly powerful male-female duets with Rose Guerin, which adds a lovely tone to this lovely album.
ACE rating 9/10

Grand Theft Bus
Made Upwards
Forward Music Group
Seems everywhere you look now, there is an outstanding band. Grand Theft Bus, who hail from Canada, are like a non-pretentious Shins, a modern Steely Dan – the music is intelligent, and so naturally laid back that it draws you in for a closer listen. Automatic is a hypnotic piece, with a wonderful melody, and some elegantly great musicianship. Grand Theft Bus have been described as a jam band for indie fans – there is something to that. The band aren’t all about attitude, and posing. Instead, the music seems to flow, take its own directions and a somewhat natural course. Winning awards in Canada is one thing, but this isn’t distinctly Canadian music. Any fan of Minus The Bear, Hey Mercedes or even The Police would find a lot to like in this third album. It improves on its predecessors by focusing in on the songs a lot more, tightening up the ideas and nailing the dynamics perfectly. Lovely.

ACE rating 8/10

White Rabbits
It’s Frightening
White Rabbits are a Brooklyn-based band (Bushwick, New York City), and they play a new, not-easy-to-pigeonhole indie music that draws from bands like Cold War Kids, The Walkmen, The Strokes, maybe even Spoon. This is a band that revels in its rhythmic sense (two drummers...), spiky sound and a great collective noise. All of that comes into the opener, Percussion Gun, which is one of 2009’s great singles. This is a band whose music is as addictive as nicotine - it's fun, melodic, a little anarchic. They're The Walkmen with a sense of humour. On the release of its predecessor, Fort Nightly, it was written that there was every chance that its successor would be outstanding. ‘Outstanding’ may be a step too far, but Its Frightening stands out in many places. Get that lead single for all the evidence you need.

ACE rating 8/10

Adult Contemporary Essentials rating
9-10 Essential purchase
7-8 Good, definite buy if you've liked this artist in the past
5-6 OK only, don't say I didn't warn you
3-4 Poor, even for this artist
1-2 Awful

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