Memotone is somewhere between Lemon Jelly and the Cinematic Orchestra, which for a one man act, recording on an 8 track and a laptop is a pretty incredible achievement. William Yates has put together a bewilderingly large array of instruments into a really crystal clear, deep and textured soundscape, blending live instruments, samples, glitchy computer noises and sound effects like air raid sirens, lairy kids arguing in corridors and canned laughter. There are odd moments of humour and unease, drifting clouds of sound, sharp beats that bring you back to your senses and then drop away again to let warm, live double bass lines pour into your ears and build into complex little sonic poems that wrap back to the beats. I really like it. If I wasn’t already listening to it, I would buy a copy. In fact, petition him to get vinyl pressed, so I can buy a copy.
There’s a lot of music on this album. Not just in the sense that there are 14 meaty tracks on it, but in that each one has been painstakingly written and composed. The album would feel uncomfortable being limited by a single genre, so I’ll just slop it into ‘Rock’, and then qualify it with a lot of competing styles: Coup d’Etat is soaked in drawling Country and Western guitars, with a shuffling drumbeat and a simple guitar riff riding over and under the backing and vocals. There are thumping, stadium rock beats, trashy, crashy indie guitar riffs and stabs, bluesy organs, aching prog rock dissonances and breaks, and a whole gamut of influences competing for space and attention in this music. The twin Ariadne’s threads of the album are front-man Ryan Jones’ allusive writing style, liberally peppered with literary references, and his voice, which is very mobile and fluid, and usually backed up with complex overdubbed harmonics. A fast paced, stomping, pop-tastic, sing-along chorus-fest of an album.
Old school revival. Recorded on old analogue equipment in a Brooklyn bedroom by a group of young soul musicians, this album has a sound straight out of the early 70’s. The music sounds like it’s been lifted from a classic film soundtrack: if Marvin Gaye had written the score to a Bond movie it might sound something like this. There are no samples, no casio-tone saxophone parts, no vocoders, just live instruments arranged well, played well and recorded well, like music used to be when people cared about what they were producing, instead of jumping about like strippers in front of a listless, pallid audience of 17 year old girls. Even on the digital version this sounds like classic soul that’s been maturing in someone’s vinyl collection for the last three decades. Like a vintage wine, take it down from the rack, gently wipe away the imagined dust, stroke the album cover in anticipation of the sensual delights you’re about to enjoy, and lift the stylus gently into position. Immediately you’ll hear a snappy, shuffling complex beat, maybe backed with a bit of piano, then a guitar drops into the groove, picked out with a long, reverb soaked xylophone, and then you notice that your head has been bobbing like Stevie Wonder for the last 30 seconds and whoops, here comes the horn section and there’s funk all up in your ears.
I admit it, I’m biased. I love that old funk and soul (although it’s by no means the guiltiest of my pleasures) – there’s so much feeling in it, especially compared to all the angry rap and vacuous pop rock that make up ‘pop’ at the moment. Having said that, Jay-Z was awarded Rolling Stone’s best single of 2007 for his track ‘Roc Boys’, which is basically just a sample of the really cool beat and horn section hook from title track ‘Make the Road by Walking’, with him rapping about how brilliant he is all over it. What makes me sad is that Jay-Z probably made millions from the single, and the album’s producer/creator Thomas Brenneck will have got nothing like as much for actually writing the song. Still, chin up.
If you’re into Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Marvin Gaye or Amy Winebox, or the idea of a bluesy, funky, soulful instrumental album appeals to you, then buy this and you’ll love it. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be hearing it in movies, adverts and sampled in other more ‘pop’ artists songs as soon as the music supervisors of the world feel it’s safe enough, so you might as well get a copy and annoy your friends by telling them who that track on the advert is by, and how they should really go and check out the Daptone records site, because there’re really a load of great music up there, funk and soul as it should be, or at the very least check out The Menahan Street Band or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (the musicians’ other band) on YouTube or iTunes.
Loose, bluesy, indie rock in a style mixing influences from both modern and (to me) 1970’s Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart sounds. The singer’s voice in particular reminds me of ‘The Rod’ at times. As a whole the album is more modern and grungey/garagey than this might suggest. Pick the Diamond out of it…
Glass Shark. Very soon they will need no introduction. Dirty basslines and disco beats conspire with a punky guitar and anthemic choruses to make Glass Shark’s music groin-thrustingly danceable. If you can look up from your headbanging and arm flinging for a moment and listen to the lyrics, you’ll also notice frontman (and drummer) Tam Johnstone’s wicked sense of humour and thoroughly filthy mind. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Buy their album, get out and see them live, join the sweating, grinning ranks of their fans and get a good spot in the queue to worship at the throbbing pink vinyl altar of the mighty Shark. Vote for them on the Orange Unsigned show on T4!
Fast paced, drum heavy, thrashy punk with a 90’s America feel, with a driving beat a clear vocal, and a splash of synth thrown in for good measure. I am a big fan of early Dookie era Green Day, and it’s pretty high praise to say this reminds me of it. If you’ve ever tried to ollie a skateboard there’s a good chance you’ll like this.
Dense, dark electronica, reminiscent of Apollo 440 in their dancier days, but also with a more modern, chiptunesque vibe running through the album. Their single (not from the album) ‘The New Majority’ features quotes from President Elect Obama’s campaign trail speeches, cut up to the same grungey, trancey beats as you’ll find on this record. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this in a Berlin basement club. But I might be surprised to find myself there…
This album is like a chocolate cake. Heavy, dark, rich and possibly too sweet for it’s own good: undertones from viola and double bass provide a landscape over which finger-picked guitar rambles and eddies. These are all secondary considerations, because Hollie’s voice, when it breaks into the drifting feel of tracks like ‘The Swallow’ is clear, pure toned, powerful, and the major feature of this album. Her songwriting shows a remarkable depth of emotion and expressiveness for a 19 year old’s debut, and the sophomoric rack of lust, angst and betrayal is treated with punishingly frank introspection. Despite the subjectivity of the songs and the familiarity of the themes, there is a lyricism and a power of allusion that distinguishes these songs from the run of the mill. Recommended to fans of Laura Marling or Damien Rice.
A club tune in the classic mode, this track features heavily sampled beats and housey vocals. There’s a marked difference in feel between the two versions available, the club mix featuring (as you might expect) a much heavier beat and less focus on the vocals. If you’ve ever been to an Ibiza beach party you might like this…