Album Reviews 14/1/10
Adam Green - Minor Love (Rough Trade)
In terms of Noughties musical movements, few had less impact than anti-folk. It's hardly surprising it had such limited appeal, considering it was a genre that eschewed craft and production in favour of a sound that was as rough and ready as possible and favoured trivial subject matter above anything significant or profound. And no act epitomised the scene more than The Moldy Peaches.
One half of that band achieved wide recognition thanks to a film. Kimya Dawson's childlike songs resonated perfectly on the soundtrack from one of the best-loved US indie films of recent years, Juno, while the other half, Adam Green, ploughed a lonely furrow in hipsterville.
To put it mildly, Green's output is an acquired taste. Yet, his last album, Sixes & Sevens, showed signs that he was embracing a more conventional approach to songwriting, and that's definitely the case on this collection. With songs inspired by the demise of his marriage last year, there's a more melancholic, introspective mood than hitherto. And rather than spell out what's on his mind, the singer hints at dejection.
There are times on this where you wish he developed his material a little more — sometimes, less really is less.
Burn it: Buddy Bradley; Cigarette Burns Forever
Owen Pallett - Heartland (Domino)
Owen Pallett has released two albums under the Final Fantasy moniker, but, as the Canadian is planning to make this third offering available in Japan, he has decided to dispense with a name taken from the video game that's as much part of Japanese life today as sushi and saki.
After making his name as the orchestral arranger on Arcade Fire's stunning debut album, Funeral, as well as working wonders with Andrew Bird and Patrick Wolf, he won the inaugural Polaris Award for his second Final Fantasy album, the unforgettably titled He Poos Clouds. That was a very fine album. Heartland is even better. Here is an intelligent, highly inventive baroque pop collection boasting frequently exhilarating orchestration.
The quality rarely flags, and two tracks in particular — Red Sun No. 5 and Lewis Takes Action — show the progress that Pallett has made in the four years since his last album. Both songs display the sort of vaulting ambition that Sufjan Stevens brought to his now-aborted 50 States project.
They boast a similar desire for texture and surprise, Pallett's vocals are never less than captivating.
This is one whose charms will only be revealed if the listener works too. Anybody who adores Rufus Wainwright, Jens Lekman or Brian Wilson, will find themselves plenty to love.
Burn it: Midnight Directives; Red Sun No. 5; Lewis Takes Action
Good Shoes - No Hope No Future(Brille)
It might seem glib to congratulate the London four-piece on their choice of title for this, their second album, but the lads could hardly have picked four better words with which to arm their critics.
On this evidence, Good Shoes (lead singer Rhys Jones pictured below) hasn't a prayer. Its guitar-led songs fit very neatly into a box marked ‘landfill indie'.
You can spot a mile away the bands they want to emulate. Several songs find them straining in Arctic Monkeys direction.
Elsewhere, their flirtations with electro-rock make them sound like a second-rate Franz Ferdinand. It gets worse — a surfeit of jerky rhythms and staccato vocal delivery comes across as a poor man's Maximo Park while, in a bid for art rock pretentions, they're more These New Puritans than Gang Of Four.
It's not just that we've heard all this before, it's the palpable lack of verve to proceedings that grates.
The third track, Track Three, is especially offensive in this regard — with frontman Rhys Jones delivering a rant over a soundscape so unremarkable it beggars belief. With the exception of the track Under Control, there is really nothing here to raise the pulse.
Burn it: Under Control