More Statcounter fun

Someone in Norway put "" into Google, presumably looking for some summer-themed promotion from Coca-Cola, on its Norwegian website. Somehow that linked to my post about the Hold Steady from last year. Fair enough. So, they followed through to my site, must have though "oh, this isn't what I was looking for"...

...and then clicked the same link ten more times in fifteen minutes. I appreciate the hits, but even I know my writing isn't that good.

(click to enlarge)

Let's go out and find some trouble

The best thing to come out of Wimbledon since The Crazy Gang, Jamie T has a new EP out today. His first new music since Panic Prevention - a favourite here - is led off with Sticks n' Stones, a song that doesn't see Jamie doing anything drastically different from before, which suits me just fine. The tune has two choruses, though, which throws me just a little. But then I'm easily confused.

Saw some video footage of Jamie and the gang performing the song at Glastonbury on Friday - second to Doves on the Peel Stage is not bad at all - and I can't wait to hear the rest of the EP. Album #2, apparently called 'Kings and Queens', is due later in the year.

Warning: Video contains clowns.

[Jamie T official / myspace]

That's my new favourite camel

For an hour and a quarter, The Brothers Bloom is totally ace. A well-plotted con-man flick with great performances, funny dialogue and great cinematography and imagery. Some have criticized the similarity in look and sound with Wes Anderson's films but I thought it worked really well here. OK, sometimes the quirkiness is overplayed, but I confess, I laughed at loud when Rachel Weisz was rapping and DJing. And I can see why the idea of a hard-drinking, mute Japanese explosives expert seems like it's trying too hard to be eccentric, but it plays just fine here.

The relationship between the principal characters is well set-up and feels pretty natural and uncontrived. There's a very sweet opening segment that shows the brothers as younguns, which sets up what follows nicely. And if you didn't already know, the film is writer/director Rian Johnson's follow up to Brick, which gave high school noirs a welcome kick in the pants a few years back. So far, all swell.

Problem is, like similar themed films, there's too much going on. The final act takes things in a different direction - is someone after the Brothers, or is it all another job? Even they don't know. It gets pretty convoluted toward the end, with there being a new "a-ha!" reveal every few minutes. It reminded me of 'Matchstick Men' from a few years back, which I thought was a perfectly okay film which threw in about six new twists in the last fifteen minutes.

So 'The Brothers Bloom' grabbed me, kept me, but lost me before the end.

De Rosa are no more

Here's yet more sad news from the world of music, though I suppose that a sense of perspective dictates that it's not the saddest news of the week. Still, fresh off the release of their ace second album 'Prevention', Scotland's De Rosa have split up.

This is what Chemikal had to say about it.

It's always hard to break the news of a band calling it a day and in De Rosa's case it's particularly galling because they were so fucking good. Having announced it on their Twitter account it's now our turn to mourn the end of a band who were at the very top of their game.

De Rosa's music was as complex as it was melodic - it exercised the head as well as the heart and their live performances could be as thrilling as any we've ever seen. Great bands are hard to come by - especially ones as literate and engaging as De Rosa - so they will be sadly missed and we can only hope that they go on to release music in some other guise in the near future, they know where we are if they do. A great, great band.

It's a pity.

Here's two delgados talking about it on the new podsketch, and download the highlight from their new album below.

[download De Rosa - Flight Recorder]

The train will invariably come to a halt

It's knee-jerk hyperbole hour here at AYGH towers. I've already peed my virtual pants over the merits of Arming Eritrea, and today its parent album hits stores, both actual and computer-oriented. And dare I say it, Future of the Left's 'Travels With Myself and Another' is the best album of 2009 so far. Yes, I'll say it.

Where 'Curses' saw the band trying to find its voice, 'Travels..' is gloriously focused. It's also hilarious, righteous, rocks like a ten-tonne bastard, and - here's the revelation - has some tunes you can hum the next day.

Witness 'Throwing Bricks at Trains', a song with more melody than anything they've put out before, and with harmonies! 'Drink Nike' has a chorus - not just one sentence (cf "Sausage on a stick", "why put the body where the body don't wanna go?") but an actual, straight-up chorus. 'Chin Music' spins from a fuzzy, accelerated verse to a delirious payoff. And 'Lapsed Catholics' discusses the 'Shawshank Redemption', making this arguably the first rock album of the year to tip a cap to Frank Darabont. They still play their "bass-tuned-all-the-way-down" card, on tracks like 'You Need Satan More Than He Needs You', so this isn't a complete reinvention. They've just smoothed some - some - of their edges and honed themselves into a leering powerful machine.

There's a great interview with Falco over at DiS, where he talks a British inferiority complex when it comes to bands that rock. With 'Travels With Myself and Another', the band has reached the potential we all knew they would. In a perfect world, they'd become massive after this. It's not a perfect world, but this is a damn-near perfect album.

[Future of the Left official / myspace / buy 'Travels...' US / UK]

I am just a bitter boy

Hey guys, here's the final update of this little wave of prolific-ness. It's mostly a heads up: some of my pals in Tallahassee play in a band called The Woods and they've got a new EP that's out today, and can be yours for free. So go and check it out - five tracks of pastoral simplicity. It's folk music, it's Americana, it's music for when you're looking out of the window in the morning with a cup of tea and appreciating the view before it gets to 107 degrees later. NB: this may just be what I do. They also have a new video up for their song 'The Final Breaths of Main Character'.

All the above can be found by clicking here.

Hit them on myspace too, won't you?

Not at the table, Carlos

It blows my mind, in an entirely good way, that a film starring this guy was number one at the US and UK box offices. I love Zach Galifianakis, have done for ages, and it's so nice to see him getting some props. He ain't gon' email you! So I finally got to watching The Hangover last night, and it's even nicer to see ZG steal the show.

As you've probably heard by now, the film concerns three guys in Vegas who lost their pal overnight and are struggling to piece together what happened over the last twelve hours. Simple enough premise, and to its credit, this is not a film where you can say "I saw that coming a mile off!" because things get sillier and crazier. I don't know if The Hangover is a film I'd rush back to see again, and some have talked about its less-than-ideal portrayal of women and minorities. And while I've got my critical hat on, the much-discussed cameo from professional crazy person "Iron" Mike Tyson seemed like a for-the-sake-of-it pop culture gag, which wasn't as funny as the Dairy Milk ad that also featured 'In the Air Tonight'.

But Zach and Ed Helms make up for all the deficiencies. Hopefully, both will get higher profile roles after this. Zach's song about friendship, and a speech about forming his Wolfpack were clear highlights, and there are enough car crashes, nude men, nude women and wild cats to keep everyone smiling. The best thing about 'The Hangover' is that it really is a comedy about the people, rather than the circumstances - so it rarely feels contrived. And to bring it back to him once more, Zach Galafianakis' Alan is actually quite sweet beneath all the stupidity.

If you haven't seen it by now, you're unlikely to go and see 'The Hangover', but if you're studying for a Bar Exam and you need a laugh, there's little better to offer this summer. So see it. Just don't wear this t-shirt - the only people who'll think you're cool or funny, are people that you don't want to think that you are cool or funny.

[download Gomez - Hangover (live)]

Metal on metal

I've always admired the seige mentality of heavy metal fans. Let me give you an example. My friend Tom has, for many years, been such a person. Grown out the hair, plays in a pretty successful band, dresses in leather, gets excited about going to Donington, etc. Like most fans of that type of music, he knows it's not - and is never going to be - cool, and frankly, he doesn't give a hoot. There's the attitude of "this is what I love, balls to the world" that I think is pretty cool, and that's at the heart of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which is about a band called Anvil and the tribulations endured by the band Anvil. Did I mention that the group is called Anvil?

Anvil is composed of Lips and Robb Reiner (really), two guys in their 50s who momentarily flourished in the early 80s, then watched as their peers Bon Jovi and Scorpions sold bajillions worldwide, and nothing came of them. Following them around a European tour in 2007, having taken a month off from their jobs in Canada, you see how far they've fallen, and also how much they still believe in the band. It's impossible not to sympathize with them as they play to six people in Prague, miss trains, get lost and sometimes don't get paid. The lengths to which they go, and their refusal to throw in the towel and say "well, maybe it's not to be", is inspiring and also moving.

Well worth a watch, and yes, they do wind up at Stonehenge at one point.

You're winning me over

For a change, today I'm going to write about a new album from a Scottish band. Imagine that. At this juncture, I might as well rename this site something like Aye Tunes. Oh, wait. From Glasgow, We Were Promised Jetpacks have not only a terrific name but, in 'Quiet Little Voices', one of the catchiest singles I've heard all year. Comparisons with the Futureheads will abound because of the "woah-oh-ohs" that everyone ought to shout along with. And, happily bucking the trend I've mentioned before, 'Quiet Little Voices' isn't even the first track on the record.

What of the rest of their debut album, 'These Four Walls'? Two words: Drums and Accents.

Oh, you want more words than that? They remind me of the great Northern Irish band Jetplane Landing, not just because of the aeronautical themed band name, but both like to meld riffs with massive choruses and songs that go in about six different directions. 'Short Bursts', for instance, begins with drums being rolled down a hill, then some chords hammered in isolation, then just a pounding wall of sound for a minute, then the repeated instruction to sit back and loosen your ties, and then back to the rolling drums, then some vocals over those drums, then he shouts "We'll teach you to die!" and then the wall of sound for another minute. I love how the opener, 'It's Thunder and It's Lightning' kicks things off, with a really plaintive discussion of walking before running, quite delicate, and then those bastard drums kick in and shake things up like a snowglobe.

There's a lengthy track called 'Keeping Warm' towards the end, which is nice enough as a gently building instrumental, but it lost me before its eight minutes were up, and then the album closes, quite literally, with 'An Almighty Thud'. Well, that's the name of the track, but musically it's anything but - the album's only moment of quietness, just Adam Thompson's voice, an acoustic guitar, and some feedback. I do like albums that end peacefully, and so the change in gears is welcome, but I wish there'd been a little more variety in the record prior to the last song. I don't mean within each song, where there are plenty of shifts and speed-ups. But a couple more slow songs might make their next album a bit less exhausting. Maybe I'm just getting old.

[We Were Promised Jetpacks official / myspace]

Make it for yourself

I'm by no means the first person to write about this new single from the San Francisco band Girls, but I'd wager that I am the swarthiest. 'Hellhole Ratrace' is ostensibly about the high speed of modern living, but it's told really calmly, with uplifting lyrics, a gentle melody, a vocal that sounds like Elvis Costello, and some nice harmonies in the background. The tune stays in one gear throughout, though the feedback builds and builds, and that suits it just fine. Snag the single, watch the video, and hear a couple more tunes at their myspage. Just don't try Googling them, the results may not be work-appropriate.

[download Girls - Hellhole Ratrace]

Give it to me, Andrew Ridgeley

Since I don't listen to the radio much anymore, it's very infrequent that I hear a song without immediately knowing what it is. The magic of hearing something in passing and then trying to hunt it down is mostly lost now. Last summer, I always heard the same catchy-as-hell tune every morning when my clock radio went off, and it took me ages to figure out that it was 'Hot N Cold'. Man, I spent ages trying to figure out what it was.

Similarly, last night while listening to the Comedy Death Ray radio show, I heard a song that was pretty silly but actually quite funny, and worth looking into. It took some work, but it was a song by R.O. Manse, who's got an album out on AST Records. Comedy music is really hit or miss, but this song - a moderate hit in Denmark - definitely made me chuckle. The project is the brainchild of Chip Pope, and features a little help from various L.A. comedy types, including Natasha Leggero and her incredible English accent. Don't know about the rest of the album, but in the meantime, check out Ladyboy. And try not to think of Alan.

[download R.O. Manse - Ladyboy]

[R.O. Manse facebook / myspace]
[Buy 'R. O. Magic: The Best of R.O. Manse']

The greatest shakedown

Posts on here are once again few and far between, as you may have noticed. This is not - entirely - as a result of the pure and unbridled contempt in which I hold all my readers, but because I'm studying for the Bar Exam, which I'm taking at the end of July. If I pass it, I'll get to chuck an "esquire" after my name and charge everyone hundreds of dollars for the privilege of talking to me. So, as you can imagine, I want to get it right on the first crack.

That said, there is plenty of new music out there worthy of your attention. Today, I wanted to write a little about two albums that recently were released in the UK, which I am lazily lumping together because the bands are from the same country, have both been written about favourably on this site before, and frankly, have a similar sound to one another. Though both albums are accomplished and deserve their own attention, and though music is not a competition, I'm going to pit them against one another for no reason other than my own personal convenience.

In the red corner, My Latest Novel, with their follow up to 2006's 'Wolves', a previous fave here. For the new one, 'Deaths and Entrances', the band has stuck with the formula which worked so well the last time out - massive arrangements, huge strings, a million things going on, layered, harmonised vocals and, for want of a better term, sweeping grandeur. There's less musical variety on offer than was on 'Wolves', and as a result, it can sound a bit samey at first, but I've played the album a few times now, and it definitely seeps in. There's much to admire but some changes in pace would definitely have been welcome, especially in the second half. I'm thinking specifically of the playfulness on songs like 'The Job Mr Kurtz Did' or 'The Reputation of Ross Francis' from the first album - where they kept it small.

The tremendous opening track, 'All in All in All is All' can be downloaded for free here. Do that. Also, see if you can't hear some Arcade Fire in 'I Declare a Ceasefire'. In a good way.

Edinburgh's Broken Records, meanwhile, also have a new album, with the equally dramatic title 'Until the Earth Begins to Part'. I wrote about their EP more than a year ago, and now they've followed through with the album, delivered under the hype and burden of being called "the Scottish Arcade Fire" by people who really should know better. Broken Records have the temerity to name a song 'If Eilert Loveborg Wrote a Song, It Would Sound Like This', and yet the song itself is not absolute pretentious dogshit. The album is conspicuously uneven, though - while 'A Good Reason' still bounds along like a demented gypsy wedding, songs like the title track seem to be BR on autopilot. Start quietly, and then gradually build to majesty. They do the trick well, but they do it repeatedly. They do the same on 'A Promise' and 'Wolves', the latter a song apparently and confusingly named after My Latest Novel's debut album. Crazy. The potential is clear here, but a little more ambition would have gone a long way.

[My Latest Novel official / myspace / buy 'Deaths and Entrances']
[Broken Records official / myspace / buy 'Until the Earth Begins to Part']

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