ever the optimist…

“I want to pretend, I want to pretend
The shape of the past could walk in the present tense
I’m shaking my head, you’ve certainly said
I don’t like you much now”

I don’t know if I’ve stated my love for Australia’s Modular Recordings enough here. They are by far my favourite indie label these days as they consistently put out quality releases and have brought some brilliant tunes from down under giving some great artists a chance to shine. From the Presets to Ladyhawke to Cut Copy to Van She, it doesn’t stop. Of all the bands on the label that have stolen my heart on countless occasions, none do it quite so effectively or with such stealth as New Young Pony Club.

Their 2007 debut Fantastic Playroom was pure new wave heaven. It speaks to how great and solid a record is when you can easily play it two years later and still feel the impact you did when you first listened from track one to the end. That kind of replay value holds true here. At long last, I’m happy to say the band is back!  There is a new single afoot! It’s called Lost A Girl and it retains the band’s relentless charm while making things a tad but darker.

Less pep, less immediate than The Bomb or Ice Cream but the band is better for it.  Tahita is still the star of the show here with her simple lyrics delivered with such panache, you’re sucked in instantaneously. NYPC , on the debut blended perfect pop moments with killer grooves showcasing some honest to goodness musical chops. That is still evident here in case you were at all concerned. Prepare to fall in love with the Pony Club all over again.

Just remember to pick up the new record The Optimist when it’s released in March unless of course you live in the US where you get to wait…


New Young Pony Club on MySpace
New Young Pony Club on Facebook
New Young Pony Club on Twitter

“Lost A Girl” by New Young Pony Club from the forthcoming Modular release, “The Optimist”

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introducing…spleen united!

“The city really loves you, baby
But the city never really does
The feeling of corruption stays and
And, then you think about the things you’ve lost”

Their sound has been described as “a rock version of Underworld” and reminds listeners of acts such as Cut Copy and Depeche Mode. Upon reading that, I had to take a listen to this track by the pride of Denmark, Spleen United.  I must say I was rather impressed and can hear the Underworld influence in the track called Suburbia. To me, the influence manifests itself not only in the sound but the overall attitude of the song. It simply jumps out at you and doesn’t let go.

The single was just released last week and appears on the band’s new record entitled Neanderthal which was originally released last February but appears to be getting the reissue treatment to a wider audience. A good thing to be sure because I like what I hear from these boys and they deserve to have more people hear them.

Spleen United on MySpace

“Suburbia” by Spleen United, taken from the Popantipop release, “Neanderthal”

the monsters of electro-raaaaaawwwwwk!

 

How nice! Ladytron and the Faint touring together! This should be as massive as last year’s Cut Copy/Presets spectacle! Ladytron comes back to promote their epic Velocifero and the Fainttry to state their case why we shouldn’t leave them for dead following the release of their second straight subpar effort in Fascination. In any event, this has the makings of being a very cool tour and a wonderful example of how bands twiddling with machines can pack a solid punch in the live arena! Dig it!

Wed, Apr 1 – Milwaukee, WI @ Tuner
Thur, Apr 2 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
Fri, Apr 3 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
Sat, Apr 4 – Chicago, IL @ Metrto
Mon, Apr 6 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix
Tue, Apr 7 – Montreal, QB @ Theatre Telus
Wed, Apr 8 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues
Fri, Apr 10 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Sat, Apr 11 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Mon, Apr 13 – Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
Tue, Apr 14 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Wed, Apr 15 – Baltimore, MD @ Sonar
Fri, Apr 17 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
Sat, Apr 18 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
Mon, Apr 20 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
Tue, Apr 21 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s
Wed, Apr 22 – Dallas, TX @ Granada
Fri, Apr 24 – Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
Sat, Apr 25 – Anaheim, CA @ The Grove
Sun, Apr 26 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda
Wed, Apr 29 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore
Thus, Apr 30 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore
Fri, May 1 – Portland, OR @ Roseland
Sat,May 2 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SODO
Sun, May 3 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore
Tue, May 5 – Denver, CO @ Ogden

and the envelope please….

Ok…enough with the arm-twisting from you kids! Enough with the procrastination from me.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Your best of 2008, I only do albums by the way…

 

 

Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies

20. Cadence Weapon - Afterparty Babies - Epitaph

Canadian Nerd-hop never sounded so good. This could also be picked as the most absolutely slept-on rap              record of the year. Did I just say slept-on? Check out Do I Miss My Friends, Juliann Wilding & The New Face Of  Fashion.

 

19. Tricky - Knowle West Boy - Domino

19. Tricky - Knowle West Boy - Domino

The man with the incurable sore throat has returned. Ol’ Sludgemouth is back after a long absence and even longer period of breathing on fumes (I’ll let you fill in the blanks on that one) to present his most accessible offering in sometime. Maxinquaye or Pre-Millenium Tension, this is not but tracks like Council Estate give notice that Adrian Thawes still has quite a spliff. I mean gift. 

 

18. James - Hey Ma - Decca/Universal

18. James - Hey Ma - Decca/Universal

Another band who was way for far too long. Arguably one of the more consistent band we’ve seen in British rock since the Smiths reunited after having broken up for almost seven years. They were missed but as luck would have it, they’re back and appear to have lost none of the magic. Welcome back, boys. Whiteboy is alone worth the price of admission.

 

17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! - Anti

17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! - Anti

Speaking of consistency…There’s Nick Cave. He and his band of merry men bring us a concept record of sorts. No frills, really. No surprises. It’s just another great Nick Cave record. Salvation. Redemption. Corruption. It’s all here. The guy just keeps getting better with age. Check out his poetry. Insane stuff…

16. Charlatans - You Cross My Path - Cooking Vinyl

16. Charlatans - You Cross My Path - Cooking Vinyl

How do you save face from easily your worst record ever in an otherwise spotless career? Go back to the future and give it away for free. After the abomination that was “Simpatico”, The Charlies went back to the drawing board. Make that New Order’s drawing board. They relearned their lessons about what being a Manchester band is about and put out their most accessible and perhaps best record yet. Listen to O Vanity, The Misbegotten & the title track for some clues. By the way, they’re the Charlatans! Enough with the UK business. No one cares about the 60s group with the name first! Sorry…just had to get it out there.

 

15. Portishead - Third - Mercury

15. Portishead - Third - Mercury

Another band coming off an extended vacation. None as long as these guys. Sitting on the sidelines while Alison Goldfrapp stole their sound with “Felt Mountain” and took off to a career as an electro-glam stalet gone folkie. Portishead quietly did whatever it is they do. Then came Third. After ten years of hearing the new record is coming out next year and finally giving up hope, it arrived. How is it? Well…it sounds like Portishead which means once again never has imminent death sounded so cathartic, frightening yet soothing. Machine Gun is simply ace.

 

14. The Enemy - Well Live And Die In These Towns - Stiff/Warner Bros.

14. The Enemy - We'll Live And Die In These Towns - Stiff/Warner Bros.

Blistering, angry, raucous post punk mixed with a keen eye and ear for the undercurrent that prevails in everyday English city life. Sounds familiar? It should. Friends, this…is the new Jam. Buy the record. They do Paul Weller proud. Someone has to go since he decided being the voice of a generation was too tiresome 25 years ago.

 

13. Beck - Modern Guilt - Geffen/Interscope

13. Beck - Modern Guilt - Geffen/Interscope

Beck + Danger Mouse. One of the more underrated songwriters of his generation matched up with a producer who was scarily accelerating towards the end of his 15 minutes and inflicting Gnarls Barkley on the world.  Quite a pairing, eh? Does it work? Take a listen to Orphans, Gamma Ray, Youthless & the title track and get back to me. Beck never sounded so good. 

 

12. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires - XL

12. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires - XL

What do you get if A Certain Ratio went a bit more dancy? A bit further off the grid? Slighly less jazzy? You get Friendly Fires and a solid debut record. Check out Paris, Jump In The Pool or On Board. Word is ACR has a new record that just came out if you’re interested.

 

11. Ladytron - Velocifero - Nettwerk

11. Ladytron - Velocifero - Nettwerk

A band that’s getting better and better with each record. A rare thng these days and even more unlikely coming from survivors of the electroclash experiment turned embarassment. Most people will tell you Ghosts is the highlight of this record. Don’t believe them. They didn’t really listen to the record. Listen to Runaway and remember why the 80s mattered and still do.

 

10. Foals - Antidotes - Sub Pop

10. Foals - Antidotes - Sub Pop

In a year chock full of great debut albums, this one seemed to fall under the cracks in the States unless of course you read the NME religiously. Take a math-rock band, add Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio to produce and you got the last true solid dance-punk record you’ll probably hear for a while. Dancy, multi-layered and full of hooks. Isn’t that what we all want? Forget world peace, I just want to dance, bruh! 

 

9. Santogold - Santogold - Downtown

9. Santogold - Santogold - Downtown

Did i mention this was a great year for debut albums? Add another one to the list. Santi White aka Santogold, straight outta NYC by way of Philly simply put released the record Gwen Stefani was trying to make before she listened to all the suits telling her to work with Pharrell, Eve and whoever else was big in mall-rap world.  Ska, dub, pop, it’s all here. Unfairly compared to MIA. Santogold is a) not boring and b) brings a lot more to the table. It took a while but the record is finally getting the shine it deserves. If you want true new wave done right and with joy in creating it blaring out of your speakers, buy this record. 

 

8. Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke - Modular

8. Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke - Modular

Another debut! This one came with my hype in hipster-land. It goes with the territory when you’re signed to the best label on the planet. It also begs to pique much interest when your shtick seems eerily reminiscent of one Stevie Nicks. Quite a role model to pick up after. I’ll give an A for originality in that sense but I will also give full marks on a great record. Another record that wears its new wave influences proudly and is every bit the better for it. She and Santogold will be two female artists to keep an eye on as they evolve. By the way, Magic is simply divine.

 

7. Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends - Capitol

7. Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends - Capitol

Yeah… I know what you’re thinking. Coldplay? Really? They’re so bland…Radiohead copycats! Yeah well… Full disclosure: I’m a Coldplay fan. Own the Brothers & Sisters EP and was following them back when they were getting their first press in Melody Maker (RIP).  That said, I’m well aware of their shortcomings and the biggest one is also their biggest virtue: Their earnestness. They try so hard to be great but they fall short. It’s a quality they share with their idols in Radiohead except Radiohead aims higher so high that when they do fail by their own admission, it’s still some of the greatest noise we’ve ever heard. Coldplay just sounds like a band who spent a lot of time listening to Radiohead records and pored over how to play every note just right. 

It sounds like I’m ripping them and I guess I am but they still write great songs and they do it here by applying to the same formula but copying another band. Being the students they are, they realised if you’re going to copy effectively you have to cover all the bases and they did by getting Brian Eno to prodice their fourth record. By doing so they wanted to write The Joshua Tree but end up closer to Achtung Baby. With songs like Lost! or Violet Hill, I guess you can’t argue, eh?

 

6. TV On The Radio - Dear Science - Interscope

6. TV On The Radio - Dear Science - Interscope

NY strikes again. Three records in and TVOTR amazes once again. This time they turn out their most accessible record yet. Groovy, dancy as before but more so as if they completely removed all the shackles and decided to let us into their world just a bit more. Quite possibly the most uncomprimising and unpredictable “big” band out of New Yor right now. God bless them. Dancing Choose, Golden Age, Shout Me Out, Red Dress…just buy it. The band rules.

 

5. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul - Reprise

5. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul - Reprise

My! Look how they’ve grown! Yes, it’s true. The brothers Gallagher have been growing up before our very eyes. The pompous twits we knew from Definitely Maybe & What’s The Story Morning Glory have become the elder statesman of Lad Rock or Brit-pop as we knew it.  Put me down as an ardent Oasis fan who thought Be Here Now was a solid record as were the following two. That said, beginning with Don’t Believe The Truth, the boys seemed to finally remove the umbilical cord and move on from the anthems and embrace subtlety and space with incredible results. This continues with Dig Out Your Soul which I can say with certainty may not be the best Oasis record but it is already my favourite. The Shock Of The Lightning, Falling Down, To Be Where There’s Life, Waiting For The Rapture… it’s as solid an effort as they’ve put out and the best of the current lineup. Oasis are proving they’re here to stay.

 

4. Nas - Untitled - Def Jam

4. Nas - Untitled - Def Jam

Untitled, my arse! We all know what the real title is supposed to be. While it’s disappointing he bailed on following through on his plans for the record title, it’s safe to say Mr. Nasir Jones made up for it with the content. Queensbridge’s finest doesn’t let the hood down at all on this set one bit. Scathing political commentary (Sly Fox), his special brand of social commentary (the real title track, America, Testify), and a bit of humour (Project Roach, Fried Chicken). What makes this record my rap record of the year is two songs and they are both my rap songs of the year, hands down. Hero & Black President. These two show unmitigated evidence why once again he is the one of best MC’s of all time. Sorry, Jay but you’ll always have Beyonce.

 

3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours - Modular

3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours - Modular

Lights & music on my mind. Indeed. While 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love showed Cut Copy to be a promising, if slightly derivative electro/new wave outfit, the second record proves that sometimes being derivative can be a good thing especially if you have the songs to back it up. Chalk it up to a band to a band simply progressing and getting better at songwriting because the record packs a whallop with chart-busting potential all over. Start with one of the best songs of the year in Lights & Music, throw in  Hearts On Fire, Feel The Love, Out There On The Ice & Far Away and you’ve got yourself a great record. It should have been my number one but then there came…

 

2. Bloc Party - Intimacy - Atlantic

2. Bloc Party - Intimacy - Atlantic

Three albums in and it’s safe to say these guys are the real deal. Banquet showed but a glimpse of the talent this quartet possesses but Intimacy is just a beautiful record. I will admit that I was one of those who did not get Mercury at first but in the context of the record it fits. It reminds of Peek-a-boo by Siouxsie & The Banshees crossed with something Bjork-esque which is pure genius if you think about it. If you waited long enough to buy the record instead of the download. what makes this record great and shows the further growth of the band is one of the bonus tracks, Letter To My Son, which features an absolutely gorgeous guitar lead throughout and a plaintive vocal from Kele Okereke. The song simply breathes and sends chills. It’s quite Smiths/New Order-eswue in its subtlety. Add in Flux, Talons, Biko, Your Visits Are Getting Shorter and…oh, never mind. There’s a reason it’s number two. The record is brilliant. So sad that only one record could be picked.

 

1. The Presets - Apocalypso - Modular

1. The Presets - Apocalypso - Modular

I mean…where to begin. I mentioned to a friend that to me this record is the vital electronic record since “Dig Your Own Hole”. It’s that good. It’s an assault on your senses, a jolt to the system. It’s everything electronic music is supposed to do. Get you to dance your block off. There is not a weak track here. Quite a progression from the debut Beams which was a solid debut in its own right. It begins with Kicking And Screaming which is quite apropos as it unloads a whuppin on your eardrums. The singles My People, This Boy’s In Love, Talk Like That & Anywhere not only display their might on their dancefloor but also drive the fact home that they were pristine pop singles as well. The secret weapon here is If I Know You. Slow and somewhat menacing to begin but then gives way to an oh so slick chorus so razor sharp, it just sounds so effortless.

The record simply brings the best of pure electro and is the sound of a band that raised the level of their sound and set a new standard for the bandwagon-jumpers out there who suddenly happened on to synthesizers because they couldn’t cut it as an indie band. This is the best album of the year, bar none.

Thank you for reading. Please keep the death threats to a minimum. My inbox is full as it is. 🙂