Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Adult Contemporary Essentials 03.01.10

Jesca Hoop
Hunting My Dress
Last Laugh
Jesca Hoop used to be Tom Waits' kids' nanny, but with this record will be known for so much more.
A follow up to her debut, Kismet, this is a short record at 9 songs, but that is quickly irrelevant as the promise of so many wannabe off-the-wall female singer-songwriters is finally delivered. Mix in some Kate Bush with some Bjork, some Emiliana Torrini and then give it a Tom Waits rhythmic arrangement, and you have something that should keep advert makers in soundtracks for years. The apparent simplicity of the songs covers their complexity the way that Feist's 1,2,3,4 did, and the voice with its impressive range and its gorgeous accent says so much so easily. With Elbow's Guy Garvey on one track, and people like Tom Waits describing her music as 'like swimming in a lake at night' (which is a good thing, it seems), Hunting My Dress deserves its re-release. This is a perfect little album that will make the Joanna Newsome fans realise what they've been missing.

ACE rating 9/10

Royal Bangs
Let It Beep
Audio Eagle
Royal Bangs' debut, We Breed Champions, was an amphetamine rush of an album, with its sludgy electro-rock, straightahead punchy indie and the sound of a 10ft square studio. Like a Stoogier version of the Walkmen or a dirtier Weezer, this is a record that deserves your attention. There aren't many songs out there that are better than Cat Swallow or Brother. Let It Beep is a quickly released follow up on The Black Keys' Patrick Carney's Audio Eagle label, and it is, if anything, even messier than its predecessor. That's not always good - although the energy is undoubted, there is an occasional sense that you'd just like them to nail a song, as they do on 1993, or opener War Bells. When they do that, this is an essential band - the raw production takes nothing away. They also add in some Battles-like electronica for good measure. No doubt about it, Let It Beep is as disjointed as the debut, but Royal Bangs on their day are one of the most exciting bands around.

ACE rating 8/10

Great Lake Swimmers
Lost Channels
The fourth album by Toronto, Canada, band Great Lake Swimmers is a revelation. The band, whose core is singer songwriter Tony Dekker (whose looks, like a modern-day Jesus, accompany his gentle, warm, angelic voice perfectly), have made albums of fragile beauty, with the odd standout track – like Shearwater without the melodrama. In Lost Channels, however, unlike its predecessor Ongiara, there is no weak track – this is an album of sheer understated loveliness, its rare beauty intact and a mood as deeply affecting as the best of Dekker’s work. There is not even the semblance of a doubt that anyone who took something from Fleet Foxes’ debut or Shearwater’s Rook would love this disc, with its updated Horse With No Name America feel – harmonies and acoustic guitars spin a magical web here.

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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