Album reviews published in the Agenda supplement of the Sunday Business Post throughout February 2012:
Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador)
Grabbing seductive cues from the likes of Sigur Ros and Flaming Lips, Perfume Genius’ second LP is tragically beautiful, raw, and delicate. Leaning heavily on the moving falsetto that vocalist Mike Haldreas himself once described as ‘elf tranny’, ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ is slyly, subtly organic; perfect nature-documentary fodder. The backing track, serene and soaring, only adds to a reverential aesthetic that quietly yet emphatically peaks with epics like ‘Take Me Home’. The result is an album that’s cumulatively spellbinding.
****James Hendicott Download: No Tear
Point Of Go (Blessing Force)
In emerging from their traditional recording spaces – abandoned houses and cluttered bedrooms – and recording their third full-length in a studio environment, Oxford foursome Jonquil opt for maze-like layering and mellow, staccato explorations. ‘Point Of Go’ peaks with sublime vocals from Hugo Manuel, crossing accessible alt. indie with elements of playful free jazz with a summery, hook-ridden take on indie pop. In stand-outs like ‘Run’ and ‘Real Cold’ they serve up afflicted yet sunnily accessible gems, a first step along a charming new road.
*** James Hendicott Download: Real Cold
Extra Patience (After Sebald) (V/Vm)
Semi-ambient electronic virtuoso The Caretaker’s sound is a distinctly unconventional animal. Riddled with disarming static and vocals that belong to the pre-climax moments of a hugely twisted horror flick, his sporadic orchestral interludes hint at the dank, amnesia-fuelled concept beneath. It’s a tough listen, a far cry from radio-play material and often strangely disturbing, yet while Extra Patience (After Sebald) is certainly not for the casual listener, it’s a sobering, poignant and perverse demonstration of non-traditional music’s true power.
*** James Hendicott Download: Of Grace And Providence
Aussie ‘intensindie’ act The Jezabels are the kind of newcomers that stretch superlatives. The DIY four-piece, who found acclaim with minimal commercial backing, channel an edgier Florence Welsh in debut full-length ‘Prisoner’. Crammed with searing melodies and wrought, fist-pumping power ballads, the shiver-inducing highs of this wonderfully hook-ridden work of goth-pop shimmy with class. From Hayley Mary’s sensational vocals on ‘Endless Summer’ to the angst-pop splendour of opener ‘Prisoner’, the lofty hype suddenly seems very real. Expect to hear far, far more.
***** James Hendicott Download: Endless Summer
As the benefactor of seemingly relentless blog hyperbole over the past year, Montreal’s Claire Boucher – a.k.a Grimes – has sometimes flattered to deceive. Third release ‘Visions’, however, unveils two hypnotically magnificent pieces of robot-esque pop in ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Visiting Statue’, and fills the gaps with trademark squeaky vocals and an energetic dance-floor-pop aesthetic. With previous gloominess left floundering in the dust, ‘Visions’ shines in its quieter corners, too, its unabashed accessibility only enhancing the highs. Much-lauded potential, it seems, may finally have been fulfilled.
**** James Hendicott Download: Oblivion
We All Raise Our Voices (Rough Trade)
Portland indie-folksters The Decemberists are now six studio albums deep, leaving ample interludes to explore, the finest of which makes up the core of this two-hour live release. The on-stage set-up is tight, filled-out and extols a slightly rockier vibe than the slow-builders’ normal folk-pop angle. Sure, the quantity of banter can get a touch irksome, and the vocals are a class below studio standard, yet this is absorbing stuff and – in peaks like ‘Down By The Water’ – a solid introduction to a weighty band.
**** James Hendicott Download: We Both Go Down Together
Changeling (Little Cat Records)
Soft, sullen, occasionally waif-like yet starkly, boldly emotive, Cork-native Camille O’Sullivan has a voice that tugs effortlessly on heart strings. In Changeling, she soars and swoons her way through a series of semi-operatic pop ditties, taking a minimalist, vocal-heavy angle that makes charming simplicity the album’s greatest asset. Leaning on covers of indie staples galore, though, Camille’s quirks are often borrowed as much as created. The highs are superlative, there’s just a little too much indifferent familiarity to traverse along the way.
*** James Hendicott Download: All The World Is Green