Monday, 29 December 2008

Stef Reviews... Revisiting Sonic 3 and Sonic 2

Beginning christmas day, I started replaying Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 via a Sega Megadrive emulator on my DS (very cool). I absolutely love this series of games, and cruelly was denied a Megadrive of my own in my youth, so I had to make do with the Game Gear variants (which weren't even a tiny patch on the mega drive epics). Either way, a few years ago, when emulators and roms and that became all the rage (which they still are, to be honest), I downloaded and completed Sonic 1, 2, Sonic and Knuckles, and a plethora of other games. However, Sonic 3 got me stuck in the Carnival Night Zone, and so this was where I began. 


This game is probably the most epic of Sonic games, introducing Knuckles as a bad guy (because Robotnik had tricked him! Read the comics already!). At the time, this must have been one of the most epic games to come out, I mean, I didn't even own a megadrive, but I read Sonic the Comic and other gaming magazines almost religiously, and this game was HYPED. Especially in Sonic the Comic where the comic's storylines started being about the game's storyline. For a kid, that stuff is huge, and I still get that excitement now. Especially when re-reading all of the past Sonic the Comic's. And I've finally finished this one now too, the Carnival Zone bit where I was stuck was ridiculous. Stupid bouncing barrel thing.


Right, I've gotten sidetracked, and am now going to spend my night watched the old Sonic TV series (Not the slapstick one, the GOOD one) and most likely read more STC. Sonic 2 was an ace game though, I finished it again today, in two fairly short sittings. Good times!

NOTE: In both game completions, I didn't collect all the emeralds. I do plan on doing this at a later date, but I'm all about quick fixes at the moment! 


Friday, 26 December 2008

Stef reviews... His christmas presents '08

So, let me explain the feelings behind this post first; It's early saturday 27th december, and I'm planning on catching up on my christmas tv via iPlayer (Charlie Brooker and Gavin and Stacey are calling me...), but i'm currently listening to Okkervil River - The Stage Names on vinyl, and it's that lovely that I have to do something else than watch things for another half an hour, cos I'm a little bit involved in this record right now. So; My christmas presents '08: The Review.

Okkervil River - The Stage Names 12" LP

Released in 2007, this is THE alternative pop album you need in your life. Currently making my ears very happy. Recommended listening? Unless It's Kicks.

Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance 12" LP

Sexy album, the beginning of track one is a bit overly scratchy due to the vinyl, but All Medicated Geniuses and This Is Our Emergency are absolutely classic art-rock songs.

Boys Night Out - Make Yourself Sick Blue/Black 12" LP

Loved this album for years, when I saw that Vinyl Collective were released it on black and blue vinyl, I had to get it. Arrived in the mail on christmas eve, this gets the "best timing of the year award"

Saves The Day - Stay What You Are 12" LP

F. I. R. E. F. L. Y.

Enough said. That song on vinyl is pretty much happy thoughts all round.

Watchmen by Alan Moore graphic novel

Having already read this on my computer via the interweb, I decided to actually get the real thing, and it is by far the best graphic novel I've ever read. Such a great story, and there is so much depth to it as well.

Sonic The Comic #100

Years ago, I collected Sonic the Comic. I read it every week without fail, and when I eventually stopped, my parents got rid of them all :(  But now, pretty much over ten years on, I found a site where I could order the old copies, and thought i'd get the epic issue 100. I'm currently reading all the back issues online, i'm up to #55 :) And i'm back to playing Sonic 3 via a Sega MegaDrive emulator on my DS. Good times.

Rhys Darby - Imagine That! DVD

He isn't just Murray the manager off Flight Of The Conchords (or just the manager of Jim Carreys workplace in Yes Man (which is awesome!)!), he is also a wicked stand up, with an act that highlights his amazing talents at mime with sound effects. You ever wonder what the whole "trapped in a box" mime routine would be like with added noises? Wonder no more :D

Peep Show - Series 1-5 Boxset

I want to be more like Johnson if I'm honest. You know this series is ace already, right?

Russell Brand - My Booky Wook

Yes I like Russell Brand, he is both funny and interesting. And that whole Andrew Sachs thing was BLATENTLY Jonathan Ross's fault. Either way, this looks like a really interesting life story.

Lucky Charms cereal from my Dad

I was so excited I didn't see the lid of the cereal box was taped down a bit. My heart visibly sunk as my parents chortled at me. Inside the box was:

- A note explaining there was a credit crunch on (back story needed here; Lucky charms arent sold widely in the UK, just imported in from the US and sold for like £7.49 a box in Selfridges stores), and instructions on what to do with the rest of the contents of the box.
- A packet of standard marshmallows
- A packet of cheerios
- My epic sadness

I'll say this; The thought that went into this elaborate scheme is amazingly commendable. However, it calls for revenge at some point.

Lucky Charms cereal from my sister

LUCKILY (haha) my sis saved the day; She bought me some real Lucky Charms. WOO

New Wallet

It is okay, but I fear lack of card slots/money sections will prove an eventual hinderance. Will seek out more heavy duty alternative, relegating this to the still-quite-sexy "my night out wallet" status.

Chocolates and Sweets 


Aftershaves, Perfume stuff

Issey Miyake (?) stuff I already use, but I have run out of: Win.
The other two new ones I got: Win.

Should keep me smelling delightful for another year

Gift vouchers

Always appreciated.

I think that covers it, thank you's go out to all of my loved ones.

Note: I did actually buy the majority of my presents myself, with my parents letting me off two weeks of rent in compensation. There's still some thought that counts there :)

Merry Christmas 2008 all!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008 15-1

Part two of the biggest countdown this side of 2009. Oh yes.

15: Flight Of The Conchords - S/T

First off, the Flight Of The Conchords TV programme is absolutely amazing, and I implore you to watch it if you haven't already. Bret and Jemaine are two musicians from New Zealand who have their own special brand of comedy-folk. That said, this album is an absolutely fantastic collection of songs from the award-winning first series of the TV programme, and no track is quite like the last. Whether they are being influenced by the Pet Shop Boys ("Inner City Pressure"), Gangsta Rap ("Mutha'uckers"), or David Bowie (er.."Bowie"), Flight Of The Conchords always manage to bring a smile to your face. Definitely the comedy music album of 2008. Here's to the second series of the show, and (surely) the second album in 2009.

14:Hot Club De Paris - Live At Dead Lake

Despite the slightly misleading title, Live At Dead Lake is the second proper album from Liverpool alt-pop band Hot Club De Paris, and how it hasn't escalated them to levels of Wombat-esque stardom is absolutely mental. Lead single "Hey Housebrick" is a big highlight here, being one of the indie singles of the year. Elsewhere, the quality remains high, with the ever-so-slightly dark "My Little Haunting", and the ultra-catchy "This Thing Is Forever". "Boy Awaits Return of the Runaway Girl" is also worth mentioning, with it's perfectly mellow chorus. Hot Club De Paris are a band who definitely deserve your attention right now. Check out the "You've Been Framed" style video for Hey Housebrick below.

13:Pockets Filled With Matches - Strobe Lights and Ambulances EP

First off; EP's count in my top 25. Just in case a fuzz was kicked up. This debut EP from Sheffield's Pocket's Filled With Matches is a brilliant 7 track showcase of beautifully fuzzy female-led post-punk rock, with splashings of Pretty Girl Make Graves and Help She Can't Swim all over. Stand out tracks include the exhilarating "The Monophonic", and the frantic "So Sorry, Simone", and between the clever guitar lines and the energetic vocals of siblings Paul and Elie respectively, you'll barely have time to catch your breath. With several singles being lined up to follow up this EP in the new year, bigger things are surely on the way for Pockets. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this EP is entirely free? Download it from here (rapidshare link)

12:Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing

This is one of the most blissed out indie-rock albums to come out of America this year, and it's not hard to see why, with opening number "Glue Girls" inducing the type of surf-rock feeling that the Beach Boys were once king of. The whole album just gives off the aurora of one of those perfect sunny days you see on adverts where everyone is just chilling out at the park eating ice-creams, so as you can imagine, listening to this album in the depths of winter is an extreme headfuck, but a worthwhile one at that, as it warms you up inside quite awesomely. I also challenge you to get album highlight "Modern Mystery" out of your head after a few listens. Perfec'

11:Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Speaking of blissed out indie rock, we come to number 11, and Narrow Stairs by Death Cab For Cutie. This album took all the good parts from previous album Plans, and combined them with the atmosphere of album-before-that Transatlanticism, and it is absolutely fantastic. Obvious album highlight is the 8 minutes-plus "I Will Possess Your Heart", a song about longing made perfect by a 4 minute intrumental buildup at the start of the song. Single of the year? Very possibly. After this, the album turns into a mix of american indie rock anthems ("No Sunlight", "Long Division") and slower, more atmospheric numbers, which are what we've come to know, are Death Cab's strong point. And they don't disappoint, with "Talking Bird" and album closer "The Ice is Getting Thinner" being so full of longing, that you can feel it in every drum hit, every guitar line, and every syllable of every word. Overall, this is one of those albums where each track has it's own special reason for being, but when brought together, they become something special indeed.

10:Lykke Li - Youth Novels

About a day after reading Lykke Li's name for the first time, I entered a competition to see her live in Manchester for free. I won said competition, and then saw her for the first of two times in the same month on that night, and both times I was absolutely in awe the whole time. Lykke Li's stage presence is so unique, so demanding, that it's hard not to get trapped in the almost tribal performances of the synth pop tracks that dominate Youth Novels. That said, Lykke Li's music sounds a lot more organic than the synth pop tag gives her credit for, and tracks like "Dance Dance Dance", "Breaking It Up" and "Little Bit" can't help but make you want to groove along with them. Online bonus track "Tonight" proves to be a fantasticly longing closer to the album, and demonstrates an exposed fragile innocense that the rest of the album manages to hide behind tribal drums and acoustic guitars.

9:Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim

Laura Marling must surely be on track to becoming a national treasure. On the the release of this, her debut, mercury nominated, album, she has had only just turned 18, and the songwriting on display within this album does not suggest such a youth. From the start of "Ghosts", to the end of the hidden track, this album swells with a timeless romantic yearning, sometimes so close to the edge of despair that it can literally pull your heartstrings and start sawing at them with a small, delicate blade. 2nd Single "Cross Your Fingers" puts an upbeat alt-folk backing track to otherwise downbeat lyrics ("Cross your fingers/Hold your toes/We're all gonna die when the building blows"), and it has a habit of being one of those songs you start singing at random times without really realising it. Warning;This could be a potentially awkward situation. 

8:Anathallo - Canopy Glow

Whenever I try to describe Anathallo to people, I always tend to go for the description of "Like the Arcade Fire, but a lot more uplifting", and this seems to be a good starting point. Anathallo is a 7-piece band from Chicago, and they play some of the most delicate, uplifting music you are likely to hear. Seeing them live is an utter delight, and I was honoured to support them down in London recently. Canopy Glow builds a lot of the grandiose foundations laid by previous album Floating World, and is absolutely full of alt-pop moments, from the "When you wake up" vocal lines on "Italo", the killer chorus of "The River" and pretty much everything about "John J. Audubon", from the handbell intro, to the enchanting "Ooh's" and "Doo's" and background vocals. In all seriousness though, it's live where these guys truly astound, when they are next playing near you, I recommend you see them. You can download "The River" here. (right click save target as)

7:Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

From the strange machine like drum beats that lead into album opener "Centennial", Tokyo Police Club grab you and don't let go, taking on a tour of their short snappy indie rock, like The Strokes hyperactive younger brothers. Almost every track on this album clocks in at under 3 minutes, and because of this, it is absolutely impossible to get fed up of it. The more mellow "Juno" appears at track 4  with its glacial lyrics and glockenspiel to slow proceeding down again, but as soon as the last glockenspiel note rings out, we're straight back into the urgent post-punk indie rock with the fantastic single "Tesselate". This album also wins an award for the strangest chorus to get into my head on a regular basis, and this is "Elephant shell/You're my cave and I've been hiding out" from "In A Cave". I can't fault this album. Even though it's only about 25 minutes long, it all fits perfectly.

6:Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

To say that Los Campesinos are prolific is nothing. This was their second full-length release of 2008, and if anything is improves on their debut wholeheartedly. This record is a feast of amazing lyrics, and the twee instrumentation highlights Gareth Campesinos amazing vocal work. The title track's lyrics in particular are amazing, if only for the brilliant little run where Gareth reminisces about "the one in Canada/when you got drunk/ate loads of crisps/and threw up by a football pitch". Elsewhere, teenage heartbreak, revenge and hundreds of awesome little references are to be found on an album that manages to switch between naive optimism and sharp realism at the drop of a violin bow. Almost perfect indie pop. You haven't seen the end of team campesinos in this countdown though...

5:The Maple State - Say Scientist EP

The second EP to make this top 25, and rightfully so. This EP is a collection of six songs by The Maple State that are absolutely perfect. Opener "We Swear By The Light Life" is a great little pop song, with driving bass sneaking underneath the glossy guitar lines, and passionate vocals, that are found all the way through this EP. Things turn dark on "Don't Take Holidays", which is the most straightforward rocker on here. However, the best is saved for the second half, leading off with the anthem-in-the-making of "For Our Temperature Lives". I dare you to find another song that utilises the line "Now i'm not so fucking chipper". I dare you. The syrupy sweet synth lines in this track are absolutely perfect, and manage to dig inside you and just take up residence. Personal highlight for me is "Starts With Dean Moriarty", a song which seems to fit my whole year of being an overly poor student perfectly, with it's chorus of "This is a bad sign/I'm believing my own lies/The money is gone/Now there's no-one left to bail me out". With the members of The Maple State still being at university themselves, i'm guessing that they were in the same boat as myself. Nice. Roll on 2009, and hopefully their debut album.

4: Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster

The debut album from Los Campesinos (their first of two this year;see no.6 on this list) was pretty eagerly anticipated by myself. Ever since hearing "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" on a Drownedinsound podcast (which is a song that has been cruelly left off this album, uncondonable), I got officially hooked on Los Campesinos. Hearing the opening track "Death To Los Campesinos" for the first time before the album came out was the icing on the cake; It's possible the track that encapsulates what LC are all about - good clean fun indie pop-rock, with subtle dark undertones. Early single "You!Me!Dancing!" acts as a centrepoint for the album, with an extended post-rock noise intro bursting into dancey twinkly indie pop town. Good times all round. "We Are All Accelerated Readers" deserves extra special mention as being one of those "gets in your head" songs, and the exhilarating ending of "One blink for yes, two blinks for no" makes "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" one of the uplifting highlights of the album. I just realised that I almost forgot to write about "My Year In Lists". This is probably THE track of the album, and the video to it can be seen below, and I HIGHLY recommend it!

Even though this album is rated two space higher than "We Are Beautiful..." I think I rate both albums about the same; This one just edged ahead due to the fact I've been listening to it all year, whereas i've only had "We Are Beautiful.." for just over a month. So there that is.

3: Gregory And The Hawk - Moenie And Kitchi

I've only had this album for just over a month, and it's completely sucked me into it's delicate off-kilter world. This record is one part acoustic guitar, one part off kilter drums and percussion, and multiple parts of sweet, beautiful vocals, courtesy of singer Meredith Godreau. I can say with complete 100% honesty that I think "Oats We Sow", "Doubtful" and "Ghost" are absolutely perfect songs, and the rest aren't far behind. Also worth checking out, although not strictly album related, is her acoustic cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable", with is absolutely stunning. You can listen "Oats We Sow" here, and I really recommend you doing so;

2: The All New Adventures Of Us - Best Loved Goodnight Tales

This album is so close to being my favourite of the year. For one, single "Firetruck Doki Doki" has been one of my most played tracks since TANAOU put it on their myspace page for the first time. Next, when the actual album was first released earlier this year, it was released on vinyl only, which made me madly excited, being a huge fan of albums of vinyl to say the least. Next up was when it arrived, because it wasn't just a vinyl record; there was a (photocopied) handwritten lyric booklet, a badge, a 7" record adapter in the shape of the TANAOU logo, a sticker, and even a CD-R with the album tracks on, as well as a tonne of random sideproject songs and demos. Can I say awesome? 

Onto the actual content of the album, and every single second is filled with beauty. Singles "45 Forever", "Firetruck Doki Doki" and "St Crispins Got Our Back's" shine out brightly, and they are surrounded by beautiful tracks such as "Loftets Grand", which is an amazing 8 minute centrepiece that somehow manages to place you into a snow covered carpark outside a service station in another country. The lyrics are picturesque and subtle, and are delivered with one of the most sincere and emotional voices in musical history. This album is your new best friend on cold quiet nights, I promise.

1:Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light

Firstly; Salt Peppa and Spinderella, otherwise known as song of the year. Birmingham's own Johnny Foreigner score the number one slot on my top 25 albums of this year, making a perfect messy indie rock album. This band are absolutely exhilerating live, and this album is the perfect collection of songs that showcase how amazing they are. In particular, "Salt Peppa and Spinderella" features the most satisfying build up and finale in any song this year, fact. Elsewhere, single "Our Bipolar Friends" and "Eyes Wide Terrified" speak for themselves, whereas tracks such as "Lea Room", "The End and Everything After", and "Yes, You Talk To Fast" are all waving their arms in the air trying to get your attention, with both Alexei and Kellys vocals on great display all over. Some quiet respite is offered with a slower acoustic track "DJ's Get Doubts", but as soon as you hit "Absolute Balance" and "The Hidden Song At The End Of The Record", you are hit with the most beautiful cacophony of noise. Which sums this album up quite succinctly really.   

So, that's it for this year! Coming up soon, my tips for 2009, and a few other more brief lists. 
Like top 10 tracks of the year perhaps.

What are your favourite albums of this year?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008 25-16

It's that time of year! Let's kick this off in reverse order style;

25: Ladyhawke - S/T

When I first saw the video for "Dusk Till Dawn", I was convinced I was watching the new Ting Ting's video, as Ladyhawke definitely shares a lot of synth-pop characteristics with the here-today-hopefully-gone-tomorrow indie-dance outfit. However, after hearing the 80's-tinged (not a pun) "Back Of The Van" played inbetween bands when I went to see Hot Club De Paris in Birmingham, I checked out Ladyhawke's Selftitled album, and was amazing to find a pop album where every single track is as catchy as the singles. Definitely a party soundtrack album.

24: Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux

Although this album technically isn't out yet (god bless the internet), it has definitely managed to creep onto the end of my top 25. Essentially, those who gave up on Fall Out Boy after the last album will still hate this one, but for those like myself who still like Fall Out Boy (heaven forbid), this album is a mixed bag of amazing songs, from the synth-rock single "I Don't Care", to the absolutely awesome "typical" Fall Out Boy tracks, such as "(Coffee for Closers)" and "27". This album is all about clever lyrics, big choruses, and switching between pop punk, rock, and r n'b at the drop of a hat. Album centrepiece "What A Catch, Donnie" is a major highlight, with a huge ending that brings in a ton of guest vocalists, and the ghosts of Fall Out Boy songs past. Nice. 

23: Elle Milano - Acres Of Dead Space Cadets

I have a pretty strange history with this band. First off, i only realised a few years after hearing Elle Milano that i'd been a fan of a band called Psirens, that some of the members of Elle Milano had formerly been in, so that was quite a weird coincidence. I first saw Elle Milano live supporting Nightmare Of You in Manchester in 2005, and was quite impressed by them, but after a few weeks listening to random demo mp3s of theirs, I kinda forgot about them. That is, until this year, with the release of their first full length. The album explodes with "Laughing All The Way To The Plank", which has one of the most amazing, adrenaline inducing choruses you'll hear all this year and next. See youtube link below for proof! Elsewhere, this album is packed full of dark indie-pop tracks, such as the almost spooky sounding "Curiousity Killed The Pop Star", to the amazingly upbeat indie-west-west-saloon-piano-led "I Know It's Good But I'm Playing It Down", which could almost pass as a happy indie-disco version of Muse. Sadly, Elle Milano have parted ways now, but I am definitely glad they released this album before splitting. RIP.

22: M83 - Saturdays=Youth

From the cover art, to the music videos, to the synth laden dreamy poptronica found when you press play, it's clear to see that this album is in the wrong decade. Everything on this album, from the drum fills on "Kim and Jessie", to the guitars on "Graveyard Girl", just screams 80's. This is an album for those that loved the soundtrack of Donnie Darko, as this album perfect channels the spirits of 80's bands such as Tears For Fears, and Echo and the Bunnymen, and combines this with the most dreamy atmospheric vocals this side of the next millenium. Perfect morning-after music.

21: I Was A Cub Scout - I Want You To Know There Is Always Hope
When I first heard "Pink Squares" I got hooked on this band way too easily, almost from the word go. I was playing Pink Squares like there was no tomorrow. After follow-up single "I Hate Nightclubs" was released, I was officially excited for the eventual album release. A few months later, and bam, IWYTKTTIAH is released. And I think I was initially disappointed, I mean, from the first few listens, nothing on the album topped "Pink Sqaures", not even the newly version of the same track. I soon forgot about the album for a while, until I noticed that everytime one of the album tracks played on my ipod or itunes when in shuffle mode, I was really loving them. Tracks like "The Hunter's Daughter" (which bursts into life spectacularly) and "Our Smallest Adventures" were absolutely amazing, and when listening to the album again as a whole, I came to appreciate just how goddamn amazing it was, from start to finish. I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot, because this album is ironically a lot more immediate than I took it for on the first few listens.  Quite annoyingly, this the second RIP in this list already, as the beloved IWACS have sadly parted ways already.

20: We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery

In a year where the 80's have been influencing everyone left, right and centre, I don't think anyone thought that the No.1 american indie export We Are Scientists would be taking the same influences on board, but, nonetheless, they did. Brain Thrust Mastery continues on the same track that With Love And Squalor was taking, but instead of continuing on the same, easy, well lit route, they have taken the dark, winding route through the creepy haunted woods, and have created synth laden tracks such as the spooky opener "Ghouls", and the much-more-upbeat single "Chick Lit". It's not all darkness and 80's keyboard sounds though, elsewhere there are more standard rock tracks such as "Impatience" and "Dinosaurs", and of course, lead single, and potentially album highlight "After Hours". The amazing BBC session version of this can be seen at the youtube link below, in all its slide-guitar and strings-laden glory.

19: Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

After Test Icicles, the awesome synthpunk band from 2005, I don't think anything really expected an album of US-tinged acoustica from Dev Hynes, yet here is an album full of exactly that. By recording with Mike Mogis in Omaha, home of Bright Eyes and everything Saddle Creek related, Lightspeed Champion has created a great collection of chilled out tracks, that have amazing lyrics, and make up an absolutely pleasant listening experience. Highlights definitely include the uplifting "Dry Lips", the poetic "Everybody I Know Is Listening To Crunk", and the amazing 9-minutes-long album centrepiece "Midnight Surprise", the video to which is below;
This album comes under the category of great morning-after music, or even just perfect music for a sunny morning.

18:Friendly Fires - S/T
My love affair with Friendly Fires has been a short one so far. Having first heard them during the same DJ set that I first heard Ladyhawke - Back Of The Van, I have become addicted ever since. Singles "Jump In The Pool" and "Paris" are songs I expect to hear everytime I ever go out now, as they have such good crossover potential, it's not even funny. Their energetic note-perfect performance on Later with Jools Holland just solidifies how bright this bands future is. Their performance of Jump In The Pool is linked to below, in all in percussive glory.

17: Forgive Durden - Razia's Shadow; A Musical

From the start of this concept album to the very end, I was completely hooked. Featuring a tonne of guest vocalists all taking different roles in the story (Such as Chris Conley of Saves The Day as a wise man, Max Bemis of Say Anything as a scheming spider, and Greta from The Hush Sound as a love interest), this album pleases from start to finish, with a story that takes a few listens to figure out properly, but each listen proves more rewarding than the last, given the amount of little nuances that pop up on this each track. Love song "The Missing Piece", with all it's sweeping strings and stabbing horns will stick in your head for weeks, and the crazy evil-disney stomp of Doctor Doctor (featuring Shawn Harris of The Matches) paints a fantastic picture of an incredibly imaginative storyline, and altogether this album proves to be one of those albums where you always feel like hitting repeat as soon as it finishes.

16: Foals - Antidotes


Weird video, but this song is amazing. The whole album is an amazing listen. Bring on album number two already.

Stay tuned for 15-1, they will be coming tomorrow, for I am sleepy.

What are your top albums of 2008?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Kevin Devine - Split The Country, Split The Streets

I'll start at the beginning. The main facts that influence this story are these;

1) I love vinyl records, and am on a quest to purchase all of my favourite albums in this format.
2) At my work, after 6pm, everything goes quiet, and my workload decreases in an epic fashion.

You know what, this isn't even the beginning, it's more like the middle, but we'll get where we need to go eventually.

So, recently at work, wikipedia has been my best friend, and it was on wikipedia that i found out that "Split the Country, Split the Streets" and "Make The Clocks Move", two albums by american singer-songwriter Kevin Devine, had been released on vinyl. In the same package no less.

I got excited. And my debit card got scared.

Further reading and research uncovered some important, and some troubling facts. Firstly, it was only released in Germany. This is ok, thought Stef, with a bit of luck and babelfish I'll be able to decipher this cryptic language. However, secondly was the fact that there were only 500 copies pressed. Ever.

My debit card almost melted thinking of how much this record might end up costing me.

As luck would have it, the website of the label who'd pressed the record (Defiance Records) seemed to still have it in stock. Phew. Lots of translating later, and i'd sent an e-mail (in english no less) asking if I could order it (for only 18 euros and postage, not too bad!)

As luck didn't have it, I had an e-mail back stating that they were sorry, but they sold their last copy the week before. Ouch.

As luck still actually had it (it never lost it, to be fair), i had a browse of some of the vinyl distro sites linked from Defiance Records, and jackpot, had it.

Skip forward two weeks to this morning, and i'm skipping towards the door thinking my new phone is being delivered, only to be given a vinyl shaped package to be signed up, covered in German packing tape and stuff. Score!

So. thats the middle of the story. The ending is that i've been listening to "Split the Country, Split the Streets" all day, but let's set the scene and go to the beginning.

I first heard Kevin Devine when I heard that Jesse Lacey, frontman of Brand New, had sung on Devine's track "Cotton Crush". I promptly got hold of the track, and adored it. It's the lead track on "Split the Country" and it builds up to such a brilliant breakdown, that it's become one of those rare songs that i've loved for years without ever getting sick of it. So what of the rest of it's parent album? 

Cotton Crush Live feat Jesse Lacey

After the intense beginning that is "Cotton Crush",  a more straightforward rock affair is found with "Afterparty", a bittersweet love affair of a song that drags you in the amazing "No Time Flat". This is one of the standout tracks on the album, a mid-pace ambling acoustic-rock song that is lyrically amazing, where Devine sings about aging, Iraq and politics, but somehow manages to not sound preachy whilst doing it, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Side A of the record is completed by another two upbeat fuzzy songs, "No-one Else's Problem" (whose catchy "you're no-one else's problem but you sure are mi-i-ne" refrain will be in your head for the next x amount of years) and "Buried By The Buzz".

Side B is a much more intimate affair, with Devine singing quiet acoustic tracks about stealing a wig that remind him of an ex ("Haircut"), and the assumptive thought process that occurs when noticing someone on the "other side of the train" ("Probably"). Devine closes the album with an ode to love ("You are the daybreak") and an open letter regarding religion ("Lord I Know We Don't Talk"), and honestly leaves you wanting to start the album over again.

I think where the record is so effective is that Kevin Devine manages to sing clever lyrics with an emotional voice that verges more towards "passionate" than "whiney", and especially when combined with Jesse Lacey's background shouting on "Cotton Crush", it manages to both impress and inspire at the same time. Elsewhere, it's lyrical couplets like "The quiet can scrape all the calm from your bones, but maybe it should, maybe we need to be hollowed" and "I got a fistful of shattered seashells that scream like soldiers stuck down an oilwell/I saw a bad sign lit up like broadway, and I watched my head spin, and I heard my voice shake "I'm buried by the buzz of a year gone numb"", that just get stuck with you, and really make you stop and think about the words.

With "Split the Country, Split the Streets", Kevin Devine really managed to create an album that manages to tread a line between romance and politics, and it really manages to hit the mark on both subject matters, with a great mix of anthemic heavier tracks, and subtle slower songs. It's an album I highly recommend, purely because in the three years since it was released, I haven't managed to get sick of it. If anything, I think I love it a little bit more.