Album of the Fortnight: Air France
No Way Down
AMBIENT MUSIC HAS always been perceived as elitist, often seen as being aimed squarely at the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder crowd. Yet occasionally, the lulling and hypnotic sounds of trailblazing bands such as Boards of Canada can completely eschew these stereotypical preconceptions.
Air France’s No Way Down is one example of an ambient anomaly, thereby acting as a showcase for the most endearing elements of the genre. However, it begins in an understated manner, with ‘Maundy Thursday’ – an atmospheric, Aphex Twin-indebted opener that establishes a sombre mood.
Yet the album tends to ebb and flow in a sense, interchanging such experiments in the juxtaposition of contrasting rhythms with more accessible numbers which incorporate infectious pop hooks. The latter quality is intrinsic to the dazzling ‘Collapsing at Your Doorstep’ – one of the most haunting and beautiful songs you are likely to hear this year.
The track comprises of incandescent otherworldly harmonies which are laced with euphoria. In addition, the song’s elegant question and answer refrain – “Sorta like a dream? No, better” – expertly captures the album’s general sound as it befits the feeling experienced halfway in between sleep and consciousness. While ‘Collapsing at Your Doorstep’ is clearly its centrepiece, there are numerous highlights on this compelling musical journey.
‘Never Content’, the final track, demonstrates the album’s subversive tendencies. Despite the upbeat tune, an underlying melancholy lingers due to the singer’s relentless repetition of the words: ‘never content’. This recurring dichotomy is one of several fascinating features which make listening to No Way Down such a thrilling experience.
IN A NUTSHELL: Inspired.
My Maudlin Career
THIS SCOTTISH SIX-PIECE have been around for a while now and in their latest musical outing they should be set for that elusive breakthrough into the mainstream. With My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura have branched some way outside of their usual romantic songs with lead singer and songwriter Tracyanne Campbell producing some very dark and personal lyrics.
That said, the band know what they’re good at and this album is laced with pop gems. Current single and first track ‘French Navy’ is a catchy melodic tune which should do very well in the charts this summer. There are several clever little tracks which are something of a dagger in the back; appearing to be about one thing, but once you listen carefully transpire to be about something very different indeed.
There are also some harsh contrasts to be found. This can be seen clearly at the album’s end, where the hopelessness of the rhythmically monotonous penultimate track ‘Other Towns And Cities’ is contrasted entirely with final track ‘Honey In The Sun’, which is uplifting and utterly hopeful.
The band have firmly rooted themselves around the expression of Campbell’s hauntingly beautiful voice and their instrumental variety finds full illumination in this album. With experienced Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen at the helm, their rich and room-filling sound should have no trouble finding its way into the mainstream.
IN A NUTSHELL: If only more singers had a maudlin career then who knows what sorts of wonderful heartfelt music we’d have.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
THE ECLECTIC NEW YORK dance-punk trio’s third album may have been three years in the making since their sophomore outing Show Your Bones, but for ardent fans it will have been well worth the wait. Although the release was fast-tracked, this album marks a considerable evolution in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ style.
Two singles spearhead the release; ‘Zero’, a highly-charged adrenaline rush of jolting synths and a somewhat overbearing hypersexuality and the rumbling surge of the highly danceable ‘Heads Will Roll’. They are joined by the softened, but powerful strains of the drumheavy ‘Skeletons’, the mythical aura of ‘Dragon Queen’, the tremendous and soothing qualities of ‘Hysteric’.
The overall tone of the LP marks a major stylistic and aesthetic alteration, which though abrupt, ultimately clicks and hints at the band’s comfort in their own style with which they are keen to experiment and expand their range as a result. This album is solid proof that Yeah Yeah Yeahs can evolve without losing sight of their original appeal.
Rather than the hodgepodge that was their previous release, It’s Blitz is a cleanly arranged, well-paced and mature album moving to a fusion of frenzied dance synths harking back to late-Eighties electro-clash and a hard-edged post-punk energy mixed with deeply sincere emotion. The result is a return to form for the group and what is certainly set to be one of the top albums of the year. Absolutely great stuff.
IN A NUTSHELL: One of the albums of the year – download the whole shebang.
Cajun Dance Party
The Colourful Life
BY THE AGE of 16, most people have accomplished very little… by that meagre age, members of Cajun Dance Party were already playing regular live gigs and signing a record contract.
A few years later and the four 19-year-olds of Cajun Dance Party have released their first LP titled A Colourful Life. The album shows surprisingly mature lyrics and a great amount of technical skill for a debut effort.
Kicking off with the upbeat title track ‘Colourful Life’, the band exhibits a knack for crafting a song that get’s firmly stuck in your head. Unfortunately the lyrics don’t seem to have a great deal of depth or meaning, but if nothing else the tune is perfect for tapping your foot to when you’re in a good mood.
The second single ‘Amylase’ hits the spot as well, with a catchy chorus and slightly more mature lyrics than ‘Colourful Life’. Considering lead singer Daniel Blumberg probably wrote the song when he was not even legally an adult yet, lyrics that compare a failed relationship to a chess stalemate are pretty impressive.
But the melody that best shows this group’s vast potential is easily the album’s final track, ‘The Hill, the View and the Lights’. With strong lyrics and a great use of distortion, the song plays like an upbeat version of Radiohead. Here’s hoping they continue down that path.
IN A NUTSHELL: Buy this album, and in two years tell your friends that you listened to them ‘before they were big’.
Super Furry Animals
Dark Days/Light Years
THE LATEST OFFERING from Super Furry Animals has stellar track titles, with ‘Crazy Naked Girls’, ‘Cardiff in the Sun’ and ‘The Very Best of Neil Diamond’ to name but a few. But when reading the box is more entertaining than the music there is definitely cause for concern. Dark Day/Light Years is not outstandingly bad, but fits a ridiculously specific category.
If you like Welsh psychedelic pop-rock then you have probably hit the mother load with this bad boy. Even so, you would be better off with one of their earlier albums, even if their song titles aren’t half as good.
‘Helium Hearts’, ‘White Socks/Flip Flops’ and ‘Crazy Naked Girls’ are decent tracks that hark back to their early days where SFA had an enjoyable balance of bizarre experimentation, impressive rock and witty lyrics. Unfortunately, the rest of the album lacks the charm that made the band appealing in the first place. It sounds like a collection of unwanted B-sides with far too many sounds effects trying to cover this up.
Look at the box in the shop and be entertained for thirty seconds. It is one of those CDs that you may listen to once but, in the long run, will gather dust on your shelf and you will keep looking at it and getting progressively angrier at the fact that you actually bought the thing and will eventually set your room on fire in protest. Only buy this if you enjoy the tamest of psychedelic experiences.
IN A NUTSHELL: Nothing to shout about.