Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

Straight Lines @ The Enterprise – 23/02
February 28, 2010, 6:28 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , ,

The Straight Lines album has been one I’ve been meaning to review for a little while now as it’s up there for one of my favourite albums of the year so far. Luckily, I’d got hold of a copy of the album a little before the release date (legitimately as well may I add) and thought that they were a band that I would definitely have to catch live if given the chance. And so I was rather happy to hear that they were doing a headline tour of the UK just after the album’s official release with the London date bringing them to the Enterprise in Camden.

The Enterprise is yet another venue that I had never been to before so I went with absolutely no idea of what to expect (although their website wasn’t exactly the most welcoming I’ve ever seen). After eventually getting there and grabbing a drink from downstairs, I wandered up to the venue and was slightly surprised to find that I’d seemingly walked into the world’s smallest venue as it appeared to only be about two or three times bigger than my bedroom ( I do admittedly have a decent sized bedroom.. but that’s not the point). It was also a little concerning that there seemed to be less than ten other people there at the time. But that’s no reason why a gig still can’t be great fun..

The opening act of the night were A Wolf Like Me who were decent enough as an opener. They played a punk rock sound that is difficult to say whether it was good or not as it felt like the kind of music that you might hear your annoying 15 year old neighbour’s band playing in his garage but could also be played by a fairly established band. If you get me. The vocals were okay but nothing overly special but I will admit that their guitarist was pretty damn good and played some solid riffs that were probably the best part of the band’s sound.

Have a cheeky listen to their stuff on their myspace page if you should so wish.

The second support band of the night were the sightly oddly named The Cape Race. This Mancunian five piece played a more pop punk sound than the previous act and sounded good with it. Their bouncy, tight riffs backed up some solid vocals and it was the frontman who made the band with his leaping about the stage and making the most of the obligatory space at the front of the crowd that support bands seem to be given, bringing the microphone down into the crowd and running round singing into people’s faces. It was unfortunate for them that they were plagued by technical problems through their short set but this didn’t stop them putting in an impressive and fun set.

Lend your ears to their myspace for a couple of demos of theirs.

And so we finally came to the main act of the night; Straight Lines. The crowd had filled out a little more by the time they came on but half the crowd was still made up of the support bands and their friends and family. Not that this bothered me in the slightest as I was right at the front at centre stage so I could have been the only person there and it would have made no difference.

They kicked off their set with the raucous ‘A Place to Stay’ which was apt for me as it was this song that first got me into the band when I downloaded it from the Banquet Records website through their music advent calendar. This was a great opener with top energy and a good singalong chorus. However, the sound levels didn’t quite seem right where I was with the guitars feeling a bit too heavy on the treble and the vocals being slightly drowned out.

The sound did improve later on in the set thankfully and this initial problem didn’t hamper the show too much but was noticable to me. The set itself consisted of the majority of the album with only ‘Perfect Mistakes’ and ‘Oh Blue Eyes’ being the only tracks I don’t remember hearing. The mix of big riffs on tracks like ‘Antics’ went alongside the slower tracks such as ‘All My Friends Have Joined The Army’ really well and all the tracks had enough singalong parts to get the crowd to join in with.

As I already said, it was a shame that not that many people there seemed to know the band too well with only myself and a few others singing along. Admittedly, I was lucky to get hold of the album as early as I did so knew the songs a bit better than others there but it was still a shame.

That said, it didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the show. The guys played a great show and it was pretty relentless with only a few breaks between songs through the whole show. The final two songs of the night were probably the highlight for me though with ‘Set Me On Fire And Feed Me To The Wolves’, which may be one of my favourite tracks of the year so far with it’s hugely catchy chorus, and the slower, soaring ending to the show with ‘The Ballad Of Peter Devine’.

I really enjoyed the set myself and it was great to see an up and coming band in a small venue like the Enterprise. I strongly recommend you pick up their album and go see them if you can and I will definitely be taking up Todd on his offer of guestlist tickets for their next London show!!

Straight Lines – The Ballad of Peter Devine (live)

Stop The Press!
February 13, 2010, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Oh-em-gee, breaking news monkey trackers!

The Rural Alberta Advantage are coming to London! I understand that this is cyberspace so those of you reading are actually quite likely not to live in London but whatever.. THE RAA ARE COMING TO LONDON!!!

If this news moistens your undergarments as much as it did mine, just follow THS AWESOME LINK and nab yourself some tickets.

If you don’t live in London.. well, sorry. Unless you live in Canada or the States and have seen them already.

A big bravo has to go to Bird On The Wire for arranging this show and also being the ones responsible for putting on The Tallest Man On Earth as well. What good people they are.

Have a video of Nils playinga solo version of Deathbridge In Lethbridge;

The Joy Formidable @ The Flowerpot – 10/02
February 12, 2010, 4:15 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , ,

Belatedly, this was the first gig of the year for myself and what better place to go for it than the familiar surroundings of the Flowerpot in Camden.

The Joy Formidable are a band that have always managed to elude me whenever they’ve played in London before and they were a band I’ve been managing to try and catch for a little while as I quite enjoyed their debut album from last year (which managed to chart in the respectable position of #13 in my 20 favourite albums of 2009). In the end, it was a slightly spur of the moment decision to go along, only deciding that afternoon to go along.

On arrival I was a little surprised that the Flowerpot, by their own admission, had broken their own ‘one-band-a-night’ rule and that there were to actually be two acts performing that night. As such, the openers for the night were the Aussie four piece Expatriate, a band that I hadn’t previously heard of.

I was pleasantly surprised with these guys as they had quite a few catchy tracks that progressed nicely with a bit of a mainstream indie rock sound mixed with the occassional dancey/electronic feel to it which worked pretty well. Sadly, not knowing any song names, it’s a bit hard to talk about their set in too much detail but their final song was, for me, the best of the lot. They had a real solid sound and Ben King made a pretty decent frontman for the four of them (and occassionally for the five of them with a friend form the crowd joining them on stage for a couple of numbers).

Check out their myspaz and pages to hear some of their stuff.

After that came the headline act of the night and by now the Flowerpot had begun to reach what looked like full capacity. This wasn’t a problem for me though and a spot down the front was soon acquired.

One of the first things I noticed about the band was the distinct lack of synths or keyboards on stage. This surprised me a little bit as I always felt that electro sound was fairly prominent on their record. In the end, it turned out the these duties belonged to a laptop at the back of the stage. The other think I’d never realised about the band was that it was only a threesome and so Fitzy Bryan take up both guitar and vocal duties.

Anyhoo, it wasn’t long before they took to the stage to begin and kicked off their set with the album opener “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade” which set the tone for the rest of their set with the tempo and quite heavy sound which surprised me as well. The whole set leant a lot more to the rock side of the album than the electro/pop sound which I hadn’t been expecting but it gave the whole show a lot more energy than it might otherwise have.

The rest of their set consisted of a number of songs off the album, with tracks like “Cradle” sounding as good, if not better, live than on the record, with the crowd singing along at various stages. Particular mention has to go to the group of 40 year old blokes in the middle of the crowd who were singing the loudest and dancing the most to the band. On top of this, there were a few songs I didn’t immediately recognise (and didn’t recognise from the glimpse of the setlist I saw) so there were, potentially some new songs thrown in too which worked alongside the album material really well (this is backed up by the fact the band are actually in the midst of mixing the second album so the new material was definitely there to be played).

Overall, I was really impressed with the band; the energy on stage was really good, then music was nice and tight and Fitzy was a great lead for the band with her vocals standing out really well and her (slightly creepy) staring out into the crowd. The sound levels were really good as well so the sound was spot on; I could even make out the bass clearly which doesn’t happen all that often!

Not a bad start for this year in gigs at all.

The Joy Formidable – Cradle (live)

New Album Reviews – Vampire Weekend and Los Campesinos!
February 9, 2010, 9:06 pm
Filed under: album review | Tags: , , , ,

Vampire Weekend – Contra

It seems much longer ago than two years ago that Vampire Weekend emerged onto the music scene with the release of their self-titled debut album which got a lot of attention in the media with their African influenced indie pop sound. “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” helped soundtrack the summer of that year with the band playing a whole host of festivals and shows. Since then, they had very much slipped off of my musical radar and their album had had very little attention so I was almost surprised to hear that this album was out at the beginning of this year.

The first thing I noticed when listening to the album was that it had a much deeper (with regards to pitch rather than depth of the sound) and how much mature it sounded with the percussion and bass seeming to be at the forefront of their sound even more.

Contra opens with two rather mellow songs that perfectly demonstrate how their sound has evolved but still very much has the Vampire Weekend feel to it; the opening track “Horchata” containing drumming that encapsulates part of their sound and the following track “White Sky” containing the falsetto, nonsensical vocals that brings back feelings of their first album.

The rest of the album keeps up the more mature and slightly more mellow feel with some of the song intros being deceptively bouncy, such as “Holiday” and “Run”, but they mostly go back to the same plodding feel that the album seems to have. That all sounds a bit negative but it’s not meant to be; I really like the album. I think it may be due to the fact that keyboards have seemingly taken on a much more prominent role in the overall creation of this album compared to the guitars that were previously at the fore which has taken away some of the boisterous feeling from before.

“Cousins” seems an odd choice for the first single off the album to me as it feels a little out of place with the rest of the songs and it feels a little bit awkward as though it is trying to act as the bridge between the two albums. For me the best song off the album is undoubtedly “Giving Up The Gun” with it’s pulsing synth bassline, simple vocals and the well constructed percussion that keeps the whole song going.

Overall, I quite like the album and the shift of sound that the band have gone for. The album has held my attention well since I first got it but the songs do get a little samey for me and can feel a little downbeat at times.

4/5 horse riding monkeys

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Sporting one of the more ‘interesting’ album covers of the last few months, “Romance Is Boring” is the third offering from Los Campesinos! following the release of both of their first two albums back in 2008. LC are second only to Frank Turner for total number of plays on my thanks to their fantastic debut album which has had so many listens that I’m surprised the files haven’t burnt themselves out on my ipod. However, I was very underwhelmed with their second album which felt a little rush and seemed to lack the energy and fun factor that “Hold On Now Youngster” had that kept me coming back to it so often.

This album has taken me a little bit of time to get into as it seems to fall between these two albums with regards to it’s sound. It still has some of the upbeat indie pop tunes that made me love the first album so much, such as “There Are Listed Buildings” and “This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind”, but it has a little bit more of a grownup sound around it like “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” had but it feels a lot more complete this time round.

I’m being pretty vague I know but I can’t quite put my finger on what I like about it more than “WAB, WAD” (what a great acronym) but I also get the feeling that I may have been a bit harsh on that album in hindsight. That all said, I do think this is a better overall album and a bit of a return to form as there are plenty of tracks I really like including the title track and, my possible favourite “We’ve got Your Back” with the line “I’ve learnt more from toilet walls than I’ve learnt from these words of yours” which helps show that the band’s obscure but brilliant lyrics are still in place.

A couple of tracks don’t work for me, such as “Plan A” which I just can’t listen to, but there are other songs that lean towards another sound of theirs which I really like. The song that most comes to mind being “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future” and this is a sound I’d like to hear more of from them.

Altogether, I think this album is an improvement over their previous one but sounds much closer to that than their debut album. However, there are a number of songs on the album that hint at another sound of theirs that I look forward to seeing them build on while still producing some top quality indie pop.

Oh, and does anyone else think the end of “Straight In At 101” is a real ripoff of the Superman Revenge Squad sound?

4/5 arty monkeys

February 2, 2010, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello one and all!

Please accept my sincerest apologies for a lack of recent monkey tracking. Things have been a little hectic on the home front and very quiet on the gig front.

However, that should all be changing over the next month or two with a veritable plethora of live music coming up for myself, and thus reviews and audio for your goodselves, plus a whole host of albums that just need to be reviewed.

Watch this space! (please)

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