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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Monthly - March 09

Welcome to March’s edition of The Monthly, your guide to what’s great and good in the world of music. This month’s tracks all have one word that links them – quality. Some songs are right for the moment, perfectly capturing the mood for that time, but these songs all exude a more enduring quality. As befitting the natural selection ethos of The Monthly, this time round we’ve got brand new indie-rock dominating, which I know will please some of you and will balance out a recent run in the spotlight for hip hop and electro – it’s all proof that this endeavour is a genuine attempt at passing on all the good stuff that comes my way. It’s quality, not genre that wins out on The Monthly! And despite trying to keep the selection to a dozen tracks, it was impossible to cut this lot down from the fifteen here but they’re all winners, if you ask me, and I hope you agree.

1. The Dead Weather - Hang You From The Heavens Hot Off The Press
Jack White is truly a renaissance man, and here he is again with another great new band. The Dead Weather is effectively a supergroup, comprising a Queen Of The Stone Age, a Raconteur and Alison Mosshart (of The Kills) on vocals. And if you’re thinking that this track seems to be all about the drums, that’d be because that’s where Mr. White is sitting in this band. It’s a thundering number and puts a bombastic glam rock feather in White’s cap, next to the Led Zep shaped feather for the Raconteurs and the garage blues feather for the White Stripes.

2. Fever Ray – Keep The Streets Empty For Me Hot Off The Press
Fever Ray is the nom de musique of Karin Andersson of The Knife, the Swedish group who originally recorded Heartbeats, the track that was reinterpreted to such great effect by Jose Gonzalez. Andersson’s become a press darling very quickly, most recently picking up a full five stars in the Guardian for her album, also entitled Fever Ray. This may take a couple of listens, preferably on headphones, but it’s absolutely worth persevering with – it’s a desperately brooding track, with atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a Knife.

3. Midlake – Roscoe (Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve reanimation) Hot Off The Press
This one’s all about the name above that’s in brackets. The duo Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve (Erol Alkan and Richard Norris) have been building up a solid underground reputation for the past year or so as remixers and producers of quality leftfield edits of lost nuggets (Get Ready To Fly was on The Monthly last August). This track, taken from the first collection of their remixes, is a reworking of a song by Midlake, a Texan Americana band, and BTWS have upped the vocals, dumped the guitars and let the whole thing breathe to turn a standard alt-rock track into something truly special.

4. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead Hot Off The Press
Passion Pit hail from Massachusetts and have created a modern masterpiece here, living up to the masses of hype they’ve already had. Psychedelia, hip hop, The Beach Boys and Kanye West all seem to collide in this sub-3 minute track taken from the forthcoming album Manners. The only complaint is that it’s just too damn short.

5. Miami Horror – Make You Mine Hot Off The Press
No, they’re not from Miami, but from Melbourne, and they seem to have taken the spirit of Daft Punk and Justice down under. They’ve even remixed Music Sounds Better With You (and it sounds like a bit of that is incorporated here). This track is a little ray of sunshine that’ll make you want to order a mojito, put on your Ray Bans and sit on a beach checking out the beautiful people. Featured on February’s The Monthly were fellow Aussies Empire Of The Sun. Is it coincidence or are we about to see the beginnings of an Antipodean music trend?

6. Phoenix – 1901 Hot Off The Press
Now these guys are definitely French. Favourites amongst the more hip indie crowd, Versailles’ Phoenix are back with what sounds like their best stuff since United (and the gorgeous single Too Young) way back in 2000. This comes from forthcoming album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

7. The Low Anthem – Champion Angel Hot Off The Press
With more than a little of the classic American rock about them, The Low Anthem hail from Providence, Rhode Island. They’ve put their debut album out on Rough Trade, the intriguingly titled Oh My God, Charlie Darwin and while you can read up on the ideas that informed the recording and titling of this album, you’d be as well to just enjoy the well-crafted sound of an exciting new band. If you buy the album, try and track down one of the 5000 hand painted copies – lovely.

8. Cursive – From The Hips Hot Off The Press
Similar in style to The Low Anthem, Cursive have already been touted in NME as a band to watch, although they have been releasing albums since 1997. Signed to famed indie label Saddle Creek (founded by doyen of the alternative scene Conor Oberst), this track seems to be getting some coverage that their previous efforts have missed.

9. Art Brut – Just Desserts Hot Off The Press
The most fun track this month by a long shot, and from this half German/half British band’s forthcoming album Art Brut Vs. Satan. The lyrics are fantastic - in other hands it could come off as comedy, but with the punky music and their ‘Art Wave’ credentials, it stays on the right side of cheesy. You may disagree, in which case I’ll be happy to sit you down and tell you why you’re wrong.

10. The Thermals – Now We Can See Hot Off The Press
Back to the US and this anthemic number comes from Portland, Oregon’s The Thermals. They’ve been around a bit, but like Cursive, seem to be getting what, in the industry, they like to call traction. It’s a great track that summons up The Hold Steady and should get this three piece some love.

11. Eagles Of Death Metal – Wannabe In LA New To Me
What began as a bit of a jokey side project for Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme seems to now be getting more focus from him than QOTSA. Once hilariously christened by Axl Rose as the Pigeons Of Shit Metal after a falling out, the band’s latest album (Heart On) came out last Autumn and all the tracks on there are as fun and frollicky as this little number.

12. The Virgins – Teen Lovers Hot Off The Press
The latest cooler-than-thou band to come out of NYC, The Virgins are at least producing good tunes, even if this one does sound a bit like David Bowie covering Neon Neon. Hang on a minute, that sounds like the coolest thing ever, which must be why I love this so much!

13. The Soft Pack – Red Headed Girl (Acoustic) Hot Off The Press
The Soft Pack were originally called The Muslims, giving them lots of attention for non-music reasons, and a seemingly never-ending supply of NME coverage. A name change later, and their debut album is now out, called, you guessed it, The Muslims. They’re garage rock through and through, but this is a non-album acoustic track and shows a different side to them. Another one living up to the hype.

14. The Leisure Society – The Last Of The Melting Snow Hot Off The Press
After featuring recently on Dermot O’Leary’s Radio 2 show, these guys sounded like a band worth checking out, and their debut album is due soon, though they have put a couple of EPs out, one of which bore the title of this pretty track. Band founder Nick Hemming used to be in She Talks To Angels, which also happened to feature director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine. Weird.

15. White Antelope – It Ain’t Me Babe Hot Off The Press
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’ve saved the best for last, but I’ve probably listened to this track more than any other this month, and it’s one of the best covers I’ve picked up in a long time. If you think you recognise those beautifully pure vocals, that’s because White Antelope is the name that Fleet Foxes’ singer Robin Pecknold releases his solo music under. He seems to have such an effortless ease that carries the music into a near perfect state, and this should keep any Foxes fans happy until the new album arrives, apparently later this year.

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