The kind of thing we don't talk about anymore

Out of all the possible sounds, the sirens and wailing from the beginning of 'It Takes a Nation of Millions' was NOT how I expected the new Mystery Jets album, 'Twenty One', to begin. Now helmed by superproducer Erol Alkan, the Jets have gone for a less weird second album, and while I certainly enjoyed their debut, this new one is more polished, concise and fun, without sacrificing too much of the creativity they showed before. The first half of 'Twenty One', particularly, is unimpeachably fantastic. Air raid sirens and mad synths herald in 'Hideaway', whilst 'Half in Love with Elizabeth' and 'Veiled in Grey' and short, sweet and ace. Then there's 'Two Doors Down', which sounds like ABC but more great, and with a sax burst toward the end. And don't forget the singles - 'Flakes' (still pretty) and 'Young Love,' (with Laura Marling, whose own debut album just came out and I'll probably write about soon), both of which sound good in their long-playing home. The second half of the album sees the songs getting slightly longer, and sounds a little more like the Mystery Jets we used to know and love. I feel like it veers a little off course toward the end, but for the knockout first six tracks alone, 'Twenty One' is well worth your time.

[download Mystery Jets - Veiled In Grey]

[Mystery Jets myspace / official site]
[Buy 'Twenty One' UK]

A broken collarbone and a dead meerkat

My fondness for Simon Pegg isn't much of a secret, and I thought Michael Ian Black's standup album was pretty good, so I had high-ish hopes for Run Fatboy Run, which the two co-wrote. Alas and alack, the film is a whole heap of okay. There are some funny moments, like when an old lady says "cock" and the cameos from a couple of British comedy giants (seriously, these are tall men), but for the most part it's a really formulaic romantic comedy with not much to get worked up about. Pegg falls over a lot and doesn't give it much as the lovable loser. Most annoyingly, his love rival Hank Azaria's Whit begins as a far preferable alternative, not annoying at all, and then suddenly shifts into the archetypal bad guy far too conveniently. David Schwimmer's direction doesn't really have much flair, there's Fratellis on the soundtrack, and even Dylan Moran can't save this film. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it's far too plain to warrant much more than a shrug and a chuckle.

Like the first cigarette of the day

A lot of things are currently rubbish - personal, political, sports - but the last couple of weeks have seen the release of a few great, great new records by bands whom I love. Let's begin with Manchester's most handsome sons, Elbow, whose new album 'The Seldom Seen Kid' came out last week, and made top 5 in the UK.

My pattern for listening to Elbow records is to just soak them in a few times, and then remembering key lyrics and phrases and quickly falling in love. It's happened four times in a row. Perhaps you've heard the rumbling bar-brawl of 'Grounds for Divorce' already. That's at the loudest end of the album - contrast with 'An Audience with the Pope' or 'The Fix', featuring Richard Hawley. Or 'Mirrorball', even prettier still, with the lyric "we kissed like we invented it" and swirling strings. Or 'Starlings', with huge bursts of brass, and "you are the only thing in any room you're ever in". 'One Day Like This' could potentially be a huge summer hit, with "it's looking like a beautiful day" and more strings.

In the middle of the record is 'Weather to Fly', a story-so-far, which joins the pantheon of incredible Elbow songs that'd probably make me cry if I saw them live. 'Scattered Black and Whites' has done it in the past. It'll knock you on your ass, it's so good.

Damn, I love this band.

[download Elbow - The Bones of You]

[elbow official site / myspace]
[buy 'the seldom seen kid' uk / preorder us]

We must break free and be ourselves

Here's something I didn't know. Colin MacIntyre, the one man behind Mull Historical Society, has a new record out, under the artist name - get this - Colin MacIntyre. And now he's got a perm. I really rate him as a songwriter. MHS' debut album 'Loss' is really, really charming and full of ace songs, like debut single 'Barcode Bypass', seven minutes about how a rural supermarket closure leads to disquiet among an older couple. Also, the album cover features a dog in a wig. His arrangements, lyrics, everything, have always been great. The band's two subsequent albums were also solid, if not as strong as 'Loss'.

So now, apparently, four years after the last one, Colin has a new album out called 'The Water', and has ditched the MHS brand for some real name shenanigans. 'The Water' continues Colin's strong run - it's more direct, more rockin', and more lyrically aggressive than anything before. The targets may be a little broad (religion on 'Future Gods and Past Kings', a song called 'Famous for Being Famous' which, in its defense features the great refrain "Hello! OK!") but there's much to admire. 'Stalker' has a similar sound to 'Delivery' by Babyshambles, without the haze of drugs and tabloid overexposure. 'Pay Attention to the Humans' features a guest spot from Tony Benn. Tony Benn! And the first three words in 'Camelot Revisited' are "I don't know" sung exactly the same way as a recent Oscar winning song.

There are significant advances from the MHS says on 'The Water', but again, for a non-showy but consistently enjoyable listen, you could do a lot worse. Don't think there's any U.S. release lined up, check the official site to buy it digitally. There's a digital player for the album embedded here, too, hopefully it shows up and you can listen to thirty seconds of each track.

[download Mull Historical Society - Barcode Bypass]
[download Colin MacIntyre - Stalker]

[Colin MacIntyre official site / myspace]

My yarns will keep me warm

Kimya Dawson

Gainesville Reitz Union Amphitheater
March 21, 2008

Kimya Dawson
means business. On her massive current tour, she's playing NINE shows in the state of Florida. As I've often lamented on these pages, touring bands rarely play any shows here. And she's doing nine? This is a woman who's just appeared on a number one album, for the love of Pete! Lady sure is dedicated.

Now, many years ago I caught the Moldy Peaches at the Reading Festival, and even among my circle of friends, they really divided opinion. Some of us thought their show charming, silly and fun, while others grew bored, nauseous and borderline sociopathic at what they saw as overbearing precious people in rabbit suits playing songs about shit and piss. Seriously, my friend John would've killed Adam or Kimya if he saw them.

Since then, Kimya has put out a few solo records, which have moments of real darkness and sadness - 'The Beer' and 'Underground' are particularly intense at the show - as well as a kids album and various other projects. The set draws from many different places - no Moldy Peaches songs, though - and the audience was politely receptive the whole time, but it was clear that 99% of everyone - myself included - only really knew the 'Juno' songs. The show stayed on the right side of the charming vs. nauseating thin line - plenty of stories and jokes from the performer, she took requests only from people who raised their hands first, often giggling mid-song, and having the Paul Baribeau - as mentioned on 'Tire Swing' - came along to sing along on 'Tire Swing'.

Things went a little off-beat, though, when she invited "interpretive dancers" for one song toward the end. One girl kept opening and closing a towel. But by the finale, an almost singalong for 'Loose Lips', people were on their feet, and dancing and it was fun without feeling too cutesy. I don't know that I'd pay to see her play, but for free, at a cool outdoors amphitheater, it was a fun way to spend a Friday night.

[download Kimya Dawson - The Beer]

[Kimya Dawson myspace / official site]

Spring Break list

- Stop shaving, everyone! My Morning Jacket are back, and here's their SXSW set, complete with new songs, and without 'It Beats For You'. [NPR]
- The union between Archie and Jarvis Cocker has finally taken place. [Chris's Invincible Super Blog]
- Nice article about how there are too many words in pop music these days. Words like, oh I don't know, 'Shawty' or 'Yahhh!'. [Slate]
- Dunno if you saw them on Letterman this week, but here's a full live show from British Sea Power. The good news? They still play 'Carrion' [Waves and Wires]
- Someone watched 'Hitman' so you don't have to. [AV Club]
- DiS meets Godlike Genius Efrim Menuck [Drownedinsound]
- So the new Tim Bisley is... Robin Williams meets Matthew Perry. This can only continue to go well. [Hollywood Reporter]
- 'Apatow's Cohorts Making Muppet Movie' is the headline. If they desecrate my beloved Sam the Eagle, there will be punches a-flyin'. [I Watch Stuff]
- Carrie Brownstein really nails how I feel about the perfectly okay Vampire Weekend. [Monitor Mix]
- Finally, the new Mystery Jets video will cheer you up. Even if you're already happy.

No one you know is in the know

'Oh Your God'.

This is the one. 'The Architect' took a few unravellings before it started to seep in. 'Slow' is even better, with the lady from the Knife coming in and being sexy, over nice drums and sexy bass. Also, there's a sexy video that you can download for zero money.

But 'Oh Your God' is first 'Vantage Point' song to get me straight away. With drums that don't quite fit, this is the first song they've done in years that sounds like it'd fit on 'In A Bar, Under the Sea'. That is to say, it's a little nuts. "Did 34 pushups, shoulda done 68" is the lyric that stuck with me. The album is just a month away.

New dEUS. What a time to be alive.

[download dEUS - Oh Your God (web rip)]

[Official site / Myspace / Pocket Revolution]

We spraypaint honky-lips on their garage door

As you probably know, I talk about The Best Show on WFMU a lot on these pages. So, it was very nice to see that sites far more popular than mine gave the WFMU marathon some coverage today. I asked you to pledge a few days ago, and there's still time, people!

The show had Ted Leo, Patton Oswalt and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Postal Service) in the house, and they brought the noise. Patton's "Famous Flamer from Fresno" had me laughing so hard, I almost woke up a housemate.

There were cover versions. Watch videos here.

I made an mp3. It's below. Enjoy. And pledge, you creeps!

[download Ted Leo, Ben Gibbard, Tom Scharpling and Patton Oswalt - Take A Chance on Me]
[download Ted Leo - Chain Fight Tonight] - BONUS COVER OF THE GORCH. HOW'S ABOUT IT!

Gone Gone Gone: The Notwist are back

I generally try to avoid posting songs that I know are available on every other music site out there. Honestly, you don't really need me to tell you to listen to the new Hot Chip or Gutter Twins or Vampire Weekend or whatever. But today I'm making an exception. I'm sure this will be all over the web, because everyone's on the same record label mailing list, but since the last album The Notwist put out is my favourite of this decade, I don't mind joining the throng.

'The Devil, You + Me' will be out in the early summer, and that is exciting news for you, me and the Devil. There's a new song posted below, and it looks like the title track is one that I posted over a year ago. Way to go, me! The press release says:

The band recorded portions of the album with the ANDROMEDA MEGA EXPRESS ORCHESTRA, a way out, 20+ headed classical orchestra that specializes in exciting and sometimes bizarre avant classic interpretations of modern jazz, which compliments perfectly the album's mood and themes of love, loss, alienation, planetary alignment, the positive side to deception, death, refusal and the titular Devil.
Tell me that doesn't sound amazing. I'm very excited to hear this record, enjoy the track.

[download The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me (live and acoustic)]
[download The Notwist - Good Lies]

I'm Bill Murray, you're everyone else

I've seen quite a few films lately. Here, I'll write about them.

Michael Clayton: Finally! A film that tells the truth, that the legal industry - my destination of choice - may be actually quite shady! But seriously, Tony Gilroy, a man who can probably make my daily walk to the mailbox seem tense and dangerous (this is a compliment) wrote and directed a solid, if unremarkable thriller in which George Clooney didn't come off as smug. The plot keeps ticking along nicely, though I imagine that non-law-students may have been a little lost/bored at times. Tilda Swinton won the Oscar, but I wish Tom Wilkinson had too, because he was great in it. Which leads us nicely into...

Dedication: I have real trouble with films in which the main character is entirely unlikeable. This indie stars T-Wilks, briefly, along with Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore. A pretty standard socially-awkward-guy meets free-spirited-pretty-girl-with-her-own-skeletons story, except this socially awkward guy is a rampant misanthrope who's angry at everything. There really wasn't much to like in the film, so stay away.

Persepolis: I've been getting through the graphic novels very slowly (thank goodness for boring classes), so I was glad to finally see the film. And it was terrific! The main thing to note here is that it's far funnier than you'd expect for a first person account of the Iranian Revolution. There's an "Eye of the Tiger" montage in there, and some Bee Gees dissing, which I am fine with. All that, and the animation is swish. Check it.

La Vie en Rose: Marion Cottilard is great, and definitely was a worthy winner of the Oscar. That aside, I didn't care for the film at all. Another pretty interesting real-life story was lost in a very run-of-the-mill drugs/sing/yell at everyone/cry/sing some more/yell at everyone/be old/repent cycle. Also, following Basil Fawlty's instructions, they completely failed to mention the War at all, which was a really odd and conspicuous omission.

The Savages: This film was really heavy, but not heavy in the way a good funk song is heavy. Caring for a parent who's in the throws of dementia is terrifying, and Hoffman and Linney were great and the script really got across their fears and vulnerabilities well. It was just so dark that I had trouble getting much enjoyment out of it. Sorry.

Great World of Sound: Nice idea, low key indie film. It didn't really do much for me, I've got to say, but the dynamic between the two leads was pretty good. The musicians in the film didn't know they were being filmed for a movie, and so all the auditions are completely natural, which is a nice touch. Here's the trailer - worth keeping an eye out if you're a fan of producer David Gordon Green.

Meet the Spartans: Well, I promised I'd see it. No real shocker to say that it wasn't very good, but I was disappointed to see at least two jokes recycled from Epic Movie. This time they throw in "parodies" of television commercials as well as just movies/tv shows, etc. There's an Anna Nicole Smith joke toward the beginning, which I thought was in poor taste, and it didn't get much better for the remaining hour. At least it was really, really short. Tegs, what happened to you?

Be Kind, Rewind: As you may have seen, white people really like Mos Def and Michel Gondry, and I do too. But I found this one mostly unsatisfying. The heart of the film, where they recreate old movies, is pretty neat, because Gondry has a great flair for stuff looking amazing. Unfortunately, the set-up and the ending are really clunky. Check out the Sweded films on their site - especially Gondry's own reworking of the movie trailer, and that's most of the joy of the flick. Better luck next time. Oh, and it's always worth giving a shout-out to Adam and Joe, who did similar stuff years ago. Only, they did it with toys.

The Good Night: I don't know what to tell you. This one was all over the place. Terrible, despite the fact that the first voice you hear, and the first face you see, belong to this man. The characters are all whiny and unlikeable, the plot is so muddled and baffling as to make me furious, and nothing good happens at all. There are people involved here that I like - Martin Freeman, Simon Pegg, Penelope Cruz - but it's a train wreck. Avoid like schoolteachers at bus stops.

You look desperate! You look pathetic!

Having paid my dues as a teenage indie kid with a barrage of pretty terrible hair cuts, I really see the appeal of Cardiff's brightest young things Los Campesinos!, whose debut album 'Hold On Now, Youngster' dropped this week in the UK. It's giddy, fast, often tracks blend into one another, it's hard to retain whole songs but various lyrics stick in your head. Then you listen to it as many times as I have, and it's a joy. Walking around in the glorious sunshine listening to this album on headphones yesterday was great fun. Especially the parts where shouting becomes mandatory. Phrases like "It's not what you like it's what you're like as a person" or "We have to take the car cos the bike's on fire!" or "We! Are! CONTENT!" or just counting really loudly. Even the album's darker sentiments are buried under bouts of giddy guitar and synths work. There's a lot going on in forty-two minutes, and that it's a great album without 'The International Tweexcore Underground', and that 'You! Me! Dancing!' isn't the best song on here says a lot. That'll be 'Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks', which like the opener, is about sixty times faster than its original demo, and features the gleeful refrain "One blink for yes, two blinks for no!" What are these guys, Jean-Dominique Bauby? I've been waiting to make that joke for weeks. Elsewhere there's a lyric about the Breakfast Club that's pretty sweet, a song called This Is How You Spell "HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And The Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics", references to Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia, livejournal and a song with "unison" in the title. 'Hold on Now, Youngster' is an album to listen to loads and loads of times, so why don't you do that?

There's an embedded video below. I hope you watch it!

[download Los Campesinos! - Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (old version)]

Los Campesinos - official site / myspace
Buy 'Hold On Now Youngster' UK

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