Haiku Reviews

SLAP on the wrist, I’ve been struggling to keep up with the volume of review requests I’ve had through recently and haven’t managed to review all the albums I should have done.
So to make it up to any acts who’ve slipped through the net in recent weeks, I’ve penned a haiku review of some of them.
Here they are –
Saint Max And The Fanatics – Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead
Derivative rock,
Made much less derivative,
With inventive horns.
Fighting Fiction – The Long And Short Of It
Rabble rousing band,
With political insight,
Distracted by girls.
HAIM – Days Are Gone
Eighties tinted pop,
Perfect for the summertime,
Released in Autumn?
Deaf Havana – Old Souls
Wanted to review,
Postman delivered the case,
With no CD in.


Review: I want to go to Blackbeard’s Tea Party

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FOLK group Blackbeard’s Tea Party are ramping up to release their new LP Whip Jamboree on the back of a growing reputation for live shows as incendiary as Edward Teach’s facial fireworks – and if the album’s anything to go by they probably do put on a bloody good show.
Now I admit I approached this album with slight trepidation – although I’m a lover of much folk music, the band’s name, I have to say, is pretty rubbish, and the album artwork has the whiff of an amateur effort about it.
Then on opener The Valiant Turpin they started off in a trad folk vein, but caught me off guard when in kicked a guitar solo which wouldn’t have been out of place on an ’80s hair metal track.
This did jar a bit, I’ll admit – but from then on in the group mould the two styles together to create a sound that’s unashamedly trad folk, but with a real edge to it, and bloody good to boot.
Mixing electric and acoustic, the group play with syncopation and aren’t afraid to toy with their energetic Shooglenifty-esque rhythms, stopping and starting and dragging the tracks around, and above all they know how to entertain the listener, from the murder ballad Lankin to absolute standout Landlady.
So by the end of the LP, all the initial fears are well forgotten – Blackbeard’s Tea Party show really does sound like my cup of tea.

Review: Barbarossa on bristling form

BARBAROSSA, named for the Italian for red beard, is a man clearly lost in a seething, whirling maelstrom of feelings.
I imagine he could burst into tears at the weakest of EastEnders plot lines.
Because the red-bearded bard, real name James Mathe, has one of the most emotional vocals I have heard in a long time on LP Bloodlines.
The London-based soulful singer’s voice mixes the on-the-edge sensitivity of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor with a Justin Timberlake-style control and gift for high-pitched melodies.
This is perched atop of of compositions that sound like the studio work of the likes of Jamie Woon and James Blake, but played live and raw through vintage equipment, droning organs and 1980s drum machines, giving a real atmosphere to proceedings.
There is, for me, a small something missing overall, perhaps an absolute killer of a track, but nevertheless I imagine, for a debut LP, Barbarossa must be pretty proud of the results – in fact, I’ll wager he was moved to tears. He certainly sounds it.

Review: Mum’s Smilewound leaves you grinning

ICELAND’S Múm seem more at ease with themselves on Smilewound than ever before in their lengthy history.
Expertly bridging the worlds of folky electronica and dream pop, this collection is more floaty, more airy, more upbeat, more relaxed and more polished than ever.
This means that there’s no doubt that this time out, the group – which has previously fratanised with oft-underground genres like post-rock and glitch – has put together a collection of pure enjoyable pop fare.
The Colourful Stabwound is a drum and bass tinged gem which deserves to grace the charts, and hell, there’s even a Kylie collaboration, Whistle, to close.
So although thematically there’s a jarring in the subject matter, which is often violent throughout, it’s sung in such an angelic way you can’t help but grin.

Review: Magic Arm is wand-erful

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YOU’RE not going out on a limb by picking up a copy of Magic Arm’s new album, Images Rolling.
Because the Manchester-based musician is a clear craftsman, marrying folk-influenced rock with modern production – leading to natural comparisons with peers like Andrew Bird and Grizzly Bear.
To my ear however, underneath the beats and electronic knob-twiddling production, the layers of trumpets and strings over Iron & Wine style compositions give his sound a more timeless feel, like a modern day echo of The Beach Boys.
Obviously, such lofty comparisons are never likely to favour Magic Arm – but as an up-and-coming act, Images Rolling paints a picture of one to keep firmly on the radar.

Review: Laura Marling still soaring high

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LAURA Marling is a darling.
Everyone loves her – she’s the acceptable face of the Mumford & Sons alt-folk juggernaut, she’s been nominated for the Mercury Prize twice, won a Brit for Best Female Solo Artist, won Best Solo Artist at the NME Awards, hell, singer songwriter Beans On Toast even wrote a song about how much he loved her.
Luckily, it gives me great pleasure to say the latest LP from Ms Marling, Once I Was An Eagle, is high up there with her best material.
And it gives me great pleasure to listen to, too – I’ve had it on near constant rotation since I got my dirty little hands on it this week.
From the off it’s a quietly intense affair, with the duo of Kaki King-esque acoustic guitars and Marling’s pure voice stirring enough.
And from here it builds through the album, adding drums and a barely-there bass here, a violin line or two there, peaking with the furious I Was A Hunter.
My one criticism – at 16 tracks, though, there may have been a little fat to trim here – although closer Saved These Words may just be teh stand-out track here.
But hey – on this form, it’s clearly better to have too much than not enough.

Review: CocoRosie cuckoo crazy

SISTERS CocoRosie are harder to pin down than a greased hog on new LP Tales Of A Grass Widow.
The globetrotting American siblings have a real European influence to their work – not least in their vocal stylings which sound like a mutant cross between Sinead O’Connor and Bjork, both distinctive and compelling.
And their music, well, it’s like a bastard cross between freak folk and brooding urban – like the soundtrack to a robot lost in a forest, or a wandering goblin in a metropolis.
You get the idea, it’s odd.
But still it’s oddly brilliant, perhaps more so than ever before, a mesmering magical mish-mash of eccentricity that doesn’t sound forced at all.
I think they really are that crazy.