Mostly Records – September 2011

by Jim Eaton-Terry

After a summer of not listening to much, going back over the year and and realising I was wrong about some things (James Blake gets better and better) and right about others (PJ FTW!) we’re back to business this month

St Vincent – Strange Mercy

The record of the month, without a doubt, is St Vincent’s Strange Mercy. I first discovered her through this brutal, dazzling live version of Big Black’s “Kerosene” earlier this year. The album – her third – is absolutely astonishing. There are a lot of singer-songwriters around who can put a neat song together and deliver it prettily – I rather like the Laura Marling album – and there are a lot of producers who can construct intricate soundscapes. No-one I can think of puts the two things together as beautifully as St Vincent does here.

Warpaint – The Fool

It seems to be an established fact that Warpaint’s time has come. After appearing at every festival in Europe this summer they’re rereleasing their debut album later in the month. Which gives me a chance to talk about the fact that it’s great, and you should get it now before it turns up on every advert this winter. It’s that kind of abstract, echo-drenched indie that comes from Young Marble Giants and maybe even the Raincoats, but Warpaint replace edgy gloom with the sunshine – and the shiny production – of LA cliché. If I weren’t spending every waking hour listening to St Vincent I’d still be more impressed with it, but it’s still a lovely record.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

The other month Thurston Moore released his second solo album, which stripped all the noise away from imperial phase Sonic Youth and proved that he’s a classicist pop songwriter as much as he is hooked on noise (this would hardly be a surprise to anyone who ever listened to Goo, but it’s nice to have it confirmed). I’m sure Stephen Malkmus didn’t just hear that record and decide to attempt the same trick, but his new (Beck-produced) album sounds exactly like a Pavement record with the guitars turned down and the orchestration turned up. At its best (the single No One Is) it’s absolutely glorious. At other points it just sounds like a slightly boring Pavement record, but slightly boring ironed-out Pavement is still more worth listening to than most other bands. And he’s still got that voice.

Glen Campbell – Ghost on the Canvas

The first time I listened to this I felt very much that the back story – it’s been announced that Campbell has Alzheimer’s and that this will be his final album – had distracted from the fact that it’s a pretty dull record. There’s an obvious link to the late Johnny Cash albums – especially the final American recording – but Campbell’s record lacks the goth overtones of Hurt or The Man Comes Around. Another few listens, however, and though I can’t imagine listening to it again in the future, there’s something rather lovely about it, and it’s far from just being a novelty old person album…

Doris Day – My Heart

Like Glen Campbell there’s a bit of talking dog to this record. She’s the opposite of Joss Stone – 243 years old and her voice is intact! Actually, of course, most of these songs date from years ago, and none of them (I think) are newer than 2004. That aside, it’s a slightly dull album of decent songs beautifully sung and expensively produced.

I Break Horses – Heart

Fennesz – Seven Stars

More softly minimal pop here. I Break Horses are yet another shoegaze band, but they balance drones and prettiness better than any of their rivals. Fennesz, however, make them sound like The Sweet. There’s almost nothing to Seven Stars but textures and washes of sounds, but the washes and the textures come together to bewitching effect.

Bon Iver and James Blake – Fall Creek Boys Choir

The last thing this month isn’t an album, it’s a one-off collaboration between James Blake (whose album, as I mentioned above, grows on me as every month passes) and Bon Iver (whose album still bores the piss out of me). It’s possibly the best thing either of them have done so far.

Jim Eaton-Terry tweets on occasion and is trying to listen only to new records in 2011, but he’s not listening to the Olly Murs album.  

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