Tag Archives: Editors

My Songs Of The Decade, pt II: 2004-2006

I decided that attempting to compile any objective sort of list of the ‘best songs of the decade’ was was ultimately a futile effort, so instead you get this – a vague attempt to recount the songs that not only are great tunes (well, mostly), but in many cases have also had some personal relevance to my life. I’m going to list them year-by-year, so you’ll have to excuse the inevitable fragmentation of my own personal chronology, as I didn’t ‘get into’ many of these songs until years after they were released.

And yes, I’m aware that by this time ‘End of Decade’ lists are “so last decade”, but never mind.

2004

Arcade Fire – ‘In The Backseat’ – (Funeral)

Interestingly, in all the ‘Best Of The Decade’ coverage I’ve seen so far, everyone agrees that Funeral was an amazing album, but not necessarily on which song (or songs) should represent it in a list of the ‘Best Songs Of The Decade’. I’m going with ‘In The Backseat’ because it feels like it really captures the sense of loss that permeates the album – and when Régine’s voice finally breaks down into a desperate howl it’s a moment of truly gut-wrenching emotion. For me, it’s almost impossible to listen to this song without ending up with tears in my eyes.

Feist – ‘Let It Die’ – (Let It Die)

Being prone to wallowing in my own misery, I latched on to this song as a kind of post-breakup ‘cold comfort’. What makes this one of the most beautifully tragic songs of the decade is that it not only captures the sadness of faded love, but also the regret – “The saddest part of a broken heart/Isn’t the ending so much as the start.”

Franz Ferdinand – ‘Take Me Out’ – (Franz Ferdinand)

While ‘Take Me Out’ would prove to be only the first of many dancefloor-slaying behemoths from the Scottish quartet, it’ll probably remain their most memorable. Why? Because of the simple, hook-laden lyrics, and the fact that it contains the kind of instantly recognisable guitar line that is destined to be chanted on nightclub floors for years to come.

Interpol – ‘Narc’ – (Antics)

Yeah, yeah, everyone bums Turn On The Bright Lights far more than its successor, but ‘Narc’ makes this list because it was one of the first Interpol tracks I heard. Paul Banks’ cryptic crooning and that utterly infectious guitar riff had me hooked – and happily, they had even better tracks than this in abundance.

Kasabian – ‘Club Foot’ – (Kasabian)

Ah, remember when it was actually ‘acceptable’ to like Kasabian? Remember when the words ‘lad-rock’ weren’t permanently associated with them? Remember when ‘Club Foot’ was, simply, a massive tune?

Oh, my bad – it still is.

2005

The Bravery – ‘Unconditional’ – (The Bravery)

For a while, The Bravery were one of my absolute favourite bands – and while ‘An Honest Mistake’ will inevitably be the tune they are remembered for, ‘Unconditional’ was largely to blame for my own personal fanboyism. Yes, that synth line does sound a lot like a ringtone (indeed, it was mine for a good while), but to me it was possibly one of the most euphoric-sounding things ever. Couple that with easy to relate to (if only vaguely meaningful) lyrics, and it was easy to latch on to in my confused, early student days. Not that I’m trying to make excuses – I still think that ‘Unconditional’ was both criminally overlooked and a sublime tune.

On a more general note, The Bravery can be credited as among the bands who made me start going to gigs in earnest – I’d been to only 4 or 5 gigs before 2005, but I dare not think about how much I’ve spend on tickets since then…

The Duke Spirit – ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’ – (Cuts Across The Land)

Speaking of criminally overlooked, The Duke Spirit would like to say hi. Their debut record was a fine work of art – sexy, dark and raw, in complete contrast to many of their shinier, chirpier peers. ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’ in particular was an alluringly dirty slice of rock – the kind that forces you to shake your hips in a way you didn’t even think you were capable of. If I ever run a clubnight, I will play this every week until the end of time – to make up for the fact that it should, by rights, have been all over dancefloors back in 2005.

Editors – ‘Bullets’ – (The Back Room)

Editors, on the other hand, had no difficulty becoming an indie-disco staple. It’s not difficult to see why – incessant beats, big, reverberating guitar riffs and catchy choruses make for great dancing/singing material. However, Editors mean so much more to me than that. Not only did I form a massive emotional attachment with the band’s music, they also lead me to meet someone who would become a very good friend at a time when I didn’t really have all that many – more than ever, I realised the power of music to bring people together.

Maxïmo Park – ‘Apply Some Pressure’ – (A Certain Trigger)

Perhaps a bit of a cop-out selection on my part given that there are Maxïmo Park songs with far more personal resonance to me, but this is arguably their best tune and certainly the most succinct summation of what the band are about. It also contains a sentiment that I’m sure anyone can relate to: “What happens when you lose everything? You just start again… you start all over again.”

Patrick Wolf – ‘This Weather’ – (Wind In The Wires)

Ultimately, the appreciation of music is a personal thing – and so it stands to reason that we connect it to events in our lives, and indeed to other people. People introduce each other to music, and thus one of someone else’s favourite songs can become one of your own. But music can also be representative of a time, a place, a person, or even a specific moment.

For me, ‘This Weather’ is all of those things, but – just as importantly – it’s also a genuinely beautiful song.

Test Icicles – ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ – (For Screening Purposes Only)

Perhaps one of the decade’s most famously short-lived bands, Test Icicles splurged onto the scene only to implode shortly after – and if they left any sort of lasting legacy, ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ was arguably it. Pounding drum-machine beats, coruscating, criss-crossing guitars and lunatic screams combined to create a completely unhinged, yet utterly compelling dancefloor-slayer. Hell, it’s never gonna happen, but I’d take a Test Icicles reunion over another Led Zeppelin or Sex Pistols get-together any day.

2006

Arctic Monkeys – ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ – (Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not)

It’s difficult to pick one, defining song from Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, but Alex Turner’s urgent delivery on ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ lends his ever-wry observations an extra edge, and it’s matched by the song’s searing guitar. The fact that this is just one highlight of many is a stark reminder of just how good this album is.

Grinderman – ‘No Pussy Blues’ – (Grinderman)

This is picked purely because of its objective brilliance, and is not in any way a reflection of the sexual frustration which has so often been a part of my life. Honest.

But really, any man who can’t relate to Nick Cave’s exasperated cry of “DAMN!” just before the frazzled guitar kicks in is a liar. Or a massive dickhead.

The Horrors – ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ – (The Horrors EP)

It might seem overly indie-faggy to cite this as being from the EP rather than debut album Strange House, but doing so more accurately represents the time-frame in which I got completely obsessed with this song’s snarling sub-two-minute blast of venomous, gothic garage-rock. They may have moved on (and gained greater critical acclaim to boot), but this is one hell of a reminder that The Horrors were an exciting proposition from the get-go.

Howling Bells – ‘In The Woods’ – (Howling Bells)

Howling Bells’ debut album was a sublime record all round, but, for me, ‘In The Woods’ stands out as its most amazing track. Evocative of fragile love in a lonely place, it’s spine-tinglingly atmospheric and stunningly, beautifully naked in its introspection. It’s one of those songs that can, for a few minutes, transport you to another place – and it’s a place you’ll want to visit over and over again, all the while yearning for it as if it were real.

The Long Blondes – ‘You Could Have Both’ – (Someone To Drive You Home)

I mentioned in my last blog that I’m a bit of a sucker for spoken word sections in songs, and I think this was the track that started it all. It is a bloody brilliant spoken word section though – in places referential (“I feel like CC Baxter in Wilder’s ‘Apartment’…”), paranoid, (“I was in full time education when I got scared of the future”), resigned (“and I’ve only got a job so I don’t disappoint my mother”), sardonic (“And you don’t have to worry that much about the future/and it’s not as if you ever did before”) and more besides. Overall, it just felt brilliantly relatable – especially the line “and you’ll always have someone to drive you home,” which seemed like it was written especially for teetotal designated drivers like myself.

Oh, and the rest of the song is pretty damn good too.

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My Favourite Songs Of 2009, In Five Words.

I do appreciate that my posts can be very wordy, so I thought I’d impose a challenge on myself – describing some my favourite songs of the year in no more than five words. These are purely in alphabetical order – let’s go, shall we?

Animal Collective – ‘My Girls’

Album? Meh. Single? Utterly brilliant.

Bat For Lashes  – ‘Two Planets’

Makes any moment instantly cinematic.

The Big Pink – ‘Velvet’

Epic shoegaze meets emotional sensibility.

Dinosaur Pile-Up – ‘Summer Hit Single’

Feelgood hit of the summer.

Editors – ‘Papillon’

Monolithic synth-lead floor filler.

Fever Ray – ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’

Bleak, beautiful and simply stunning.

Grammatics – ‘Double Negative’

“HEY SUGAR! What d’you say?”

(Recorded version is on Myspace)

HEALTH – ‘Die Slow’

Convulsing, pounding, disco-noise headfuck.

The Horrors – ‘Sea Within A Sea’

Utterly compelling – a fantastic transformation.

Johnny Foreigner – ‘Criminals’

Their most vital song yet.

Los Campesinos! – ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’

Thoughtful, epic, and heartrendingly emotional.

Pulled Apart By Horses – ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’

Rage against the animal kingdom.

(Recorded version is on Myspace)

The Temper Trap – ‘Sweet Disposition’

Heart-swelling, uplifting indie-pop.

The XX – ‘Crystalised’

Sparce, intimate late-night confession.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Zero’

Instantly infectious and deliriously uplifting.

I could probably pick many more than these, but that’ll do for now I think.

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Obligatory End Of Year Megapost, pt II: Albums of the Year: 10-1

This is the second part of my end of year series, covering my personal top 10 albums of the year – you can find the previous 10 here. In fact, I’d recommend you read it first, if you haven’t already.

Done? Without further ado, then…

10. Editors – In This Light And On This Evening

Editors - In This Light And On This Evening

I’d imagine that there were quite a few people who balked at the fact that Editors were poised to ‘go electro’ on their third album – and I’d also imagine that some of these people continue to shun In This Light And On This Evening to this day. These people are silly, silly individuals who should open their minds a little and realise that the abundance of synthesisers on this album has done little to change the core essence of Editors’ sound – that is, the juxtaposition of gloom and hope that has been the band’s primary draw since The Back Room.

Indeed, the synths only help to focus and expand the band’s sound, whether it be on the sweeping majesty of ‘Bricks And Mortar’ or the queasy, sinister ‘The Big Exit’. They haven’t lost their knack for a hook either – ‘Papillon’ should, by rights, be as much of an indie-disco floor-filler as ‘Munich’, and the creepily-titled ‘Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool’ houses one of the biggest choruses the band has ever written. While many bands from the class of 2004/2005 have found their third album to be a bit of a stumbling block, I’d argue that Editors have succeeded in creating something that easily stands up to their previous work. And that’s not despite their new electro sound – it’s because of it.

9. The XX – XX

The XX - XX

It took me a while to get round to listening to this album, but since then XX has grown on me with every listen. The XX have combined fragile, plucked guitar, minimal beats and echoy electronics to create something that’s sparse and expansive in equal measure. However, the loneliness conjured up by the music is contrasted with the comforting warmth of the lyrics. The theme of quietly stated but undying affection runs throughout – “Don’t think that I’m pushing you away/When you’re the one that I’ve kept closest” sings Oliver Sim on ‘Crystalised’, while on ‘Islands’ Romy Madley Croft replies “I am yours now/So now I don’t ever have to leave.”

As a whole, the album feels like an intimate, personal confession – taking you to a secret place where two star-crossed lovers are tentatively baring their hearts to each other at three in the morning. XX is easily one of the best debut albums released this year – this is truly spine-tingling stuff.

8. Johnny Foreigner – Grace And The Bigger Picture

Johnny Foreigner - Grace And The Bigger Picture

You may think this represents somewhat of a fall from grace (ha ha) for Johnny Foreigner, given that their debut full-length Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light was unquestionably my album of the year in 2008. So let’s get this out of the way first – Grace And The Bigger Picture is not a bad album. It is in fact, a great album. However, even as a gushing Johnny Foreigner fanboy I’d be lying if I said it’s as good as their debut. This is due mainly to a somewhat patchy mid-section that contains two or three solid but unspectacular tunes amongst the good stuff.

There’s still enough brilliance on show to make up for it though – ‘Criminals’ is possibly the most vital-sounding thing the band have recorded yet, ‘Every Cloakroom Ever’ is a wonderful mix of poignant sentiment and fuzzy bass, and ‘The Coast Was Always Clear’ steps up to take the mantle of “epic last song” from Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light’s ‘Absolute Balance’. Even when they diverge from their normal formula it works – the beautifully fragile 40-second acoustic ‘(Graces)’ is a particular highlight. Grace And The Bigger Picture probably isn’t going to convince any doubters, and I’d recommend that newcomers start with the band’s first album – but for JoFo fans, this is more of the band you know and love.

7. Sky Larkin – The Golden Spike

Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike

I do sometimes wonder whether I’m overrating this album, but then every time I listen to The Golden Spike I’m reminded exactly why I love it – because it manages to be poppy without being cheesy, overblown or gratuitously in-your-face. Sky Larkin demonstrate quite brilliantly that you don’t have to be Beyoncé or Lady fucking Gaga to make music with a pop heart – and there definitely is one here, deep underneath all the band’s genuine indieness. But this is not the cold, calculated heart of manufactured pop – it’s natural, it’s instinctive, and it certainly doesn’t let the idea of ‘pop’ music get in the way of musicianship.

If a genre as oxymoronic as ‘indie-pop’ exists outside of faux-indie dross such as Scouting For Girls and The Hoosiers, then Sky Larkin should by all rights be held up as one of its champions. In some happy idealist place in my mind, the likes of ‘Fossil, I’, ‘Molten’ and ‘One Of Two’ shouldn’t so much sit happily alongside the year’s biggest-budget pop hits as playfully shove them out of the way and claim their rightful place in the public consciousness. I can dream, can’t I?

6. George Pringle – Salon Des Refusés

George Pringle - Salon Des Refusés

Even with all the great new music around these days, it’s rare that you get an artist that genuinely seems to represent a unique proposition. George Pringle is, arguably, that artist. A&R types were quick to pick up on that fact, only to then back off (one record label apparently dropped out at the 11th hour) because they simply didn’t know what to do with her. The fact that she’s manage to self-release her album anyway represents a triumphant “fuck you” to the industry – indeed, it adds another layer of meaning to the title, Salon Des Refusés (which translates to Salon Of The Rejected in English, for the curious).

Granted, there’s a certain feeling of “oh, I could have done that” about Pringle’s work, and that’s perhaps because of its very DIY nature. Her half-sung, half-spoken monologues are backed by home-made Garageband beats to create a style some commentators described as ‘blogtronica’. But, let’s be honest here – even if you had thought of it yourself, there’s no way you could have pulled it off as well as Pringle does. Whether or not you can actually relate directly to whatever she’s talking about, her delivery and way with words sure as hell makes you feel like you *want* to. Childhood, adolescence, suburban parties, going to university in a “dead little city”, nights down the indie disco (“everyone’s dancing to all the songs, two years too late”), and finally collapsing into a mire of introverted self-loathing on ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ – which features a suitably morbid, woozy backing track. Pringle covers all this and more in effortless, engaging prose, backed by surprisingly well-constructed electronica.

I’m sure some of you might be scratching your heads at this selection, but I genuinely love Salon Des Refusés – the only reason this record doesn’t make my personal top 5 is because I already owned about half the tracks (of course, I bought it anyway). But that doesn’t make it any less brilliant – whether you’re a newcomer to the world of George Pringle or you’ve been keeping an eye on her for a while now, this is absolutely essential.

5. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport

While I did eventually come to like Fuck Buttons’ debut album Street Horrrsing, on Tarot Sport the duo made one adjustment to their sound that meant I couldn’t help but like them more – they got rid of the garbled toy microphone screaming. As such, what we’re left with is the fantastic purity of their pulsating electronic noise, has definitely taken on a more dancey aspect than their debut – it’s a noise record, sure, but it feels accessible, friendly almost. This is, simply, an album that builds, and builds, and then builds some more, like some sort of euphoric noise pile-up. Trying to describe Tarot Sport in conventional terms seems like a futile effort – the tracklisting is essentially a formality, as this is basically one long, constantly shifting, ever-evolving piece of music. You’ll either be blown away by this record or walk away wondering why you wasted about an hour of your life listening to it – for me, it’s most definitely the former.

4. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

Following on from the Mercury-nominated Fur And Gold was never going to be easy for Bat For Lashes, but Natasha Khan not only managed it but was awarded with a second nomination for her trouble. And the judges were quite right to do so – Two Suns is absolutely a big step up from Khan’s already brilliant first record. For me, its best moments are those where she really turns up the widescreen bombast – see jaw-dropping centrepiece ‘Siren Song’, or the thundering drums and almost palpable atmosphere created on ‘Glass’ and ‘Two Planets’. The album also contains Khan’s biggest pop number to date – ‘Daniel’ is effortlessly catchy whilst losing none of the ethereal sensibility that made us fall in love with Bat For Lashes in the first place. Add in fragile ballads like ‘Moon And Moon’ that really see her shine as a vocalist, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the year’s most captivating records – the end result is nothing short of stunning. In a year that almost seemed to make a mockery of the concept of ‘difficult second albums’, Two Suns stands out as one of the most masterful progressions, boldly staking its claim as one of the finest records released in 2009.

3. The Horrors – Primary Colours

The Horrors - Primary Colours

As much as I loved The Horrors’ debut album, Strange House, I have to admit that its raw garage rock sound would have struggled to sustain the band for a second record. They were essentially faced with the choice to evolve or die – but little did I realise just how spectacular the band’s evolution would be. In hindsight, it seems more obvious – the band are avid record collectors, so any influences here could probably have been picked out of their stashes of vinyl even around the time of Strange House.

But to say that The Horrors merely have a good collection of influences would be to undermine the quality of music on Primary Colours. Meticulous synths collide with sludgy guitar noise on ‘Mirror’s Image’, ‘Scarlet Fields’ builds itself up from a relentless bassline into a hazy, swirling masterpiece, and album-closer ‘Sea Within A Sea’ is frankly astonishing. This is a record that’s atmospheric, accomplished, and even (*gasp*) emotional in places – ‘Who Can Say’ sees Faris replaces his vicious snarl with a surprisingly sincere tone as he tackles the theme of fading love. Judged purely on its own merits, Primary Colours is a fantastic record – that it came from a band who the critics were all but ready to write off just makes it all the more of a victory for The Horrors.

2. Grammatics – Grammatics

Grammatics - Grammatics

Sometimes, you feel lucky – privileged even – to have caught a band in the early stages of their career. It was a feeling I definitely felt upon seeing Grammatics live for the first time, and having followed them since their first 7″ single (‘Shadow Committee’) I was absolutely thrilled to see the band’s talent come to fruition on their debut full-length. Their ambition shines through in the sheer diversity of their music, which effortlessly transitions between different styles and sounds – sometimes even mid-song.

And what songs they are. ‘Relentless Fours’ builds from a fragile, off-kilter keyboard loop all the way to histrionic howling and thrashed-out guitar, via an effortlessly graceful mid-section. The tense, paranoid atmosphere of ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A.’ contrasts beautifully with the understated, sweetly-sung pop of ‘Murderer’,  and melancholy epic ‘Polar Swelling’ is aptly titled, building itself up to an emotional finale. Indeed, this is an album of gut-wrenching, heart-stopping emotion throughout, whether it be on the plaintive ‘Broken Wing’, the shimmering hope of ‘The Vague Archive’, or the brief but brilliant rollercoaster of ‘Rosa Flood’. Owen Brinley’s soaring voice is constantly underpinned by stirring, varied backdrops stuffed full of melodic hooks – and yet, on fragile acoustic track ‘Cruel Tricks Of The Light’, he proves that his voice is a beautiful instrument in its own right.

Grammatics is an unparalleled debut album from one of the most inventive new British bands in recent memory – but thrillingly, I can’t help but feel that they have every potential to better it. If there’s any justice, this should be just the beginning of something very, very special.

1. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Fever Ray - Fever Ray

Mesmerising. Unsettling. Affecting. Bewildering. Brilliant.

I could throw descriptive language at you all day and still struggle to capture exactly what it is I love about Fever Ray’s self-titled album. Whether I listen to it in the hazy light of morning or the very dark of night, it never fails to come across as anything but completely, all-encompassingly atmospheric. Karin Dreijer Andersson has produced some of the densest, most richly layered soundscapes I’ve heard all year, but it’s her voice that’s the star of the show.

Whether maintaining her distinctive accented tones or warping them into a menacing, otherworldly growl, it’s absolutely captivating – as is the way her lyrics mix the mundane, the surreal and the fantastical with a constant sense of raw emotion. From the wide-eyed, childlike hope of ‘When I Grow Up’ to the oppressive claustrophobia of ‘Concrete Walls’, you’re constantly made to *feel* something – and if you manage to listen to ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’ without it stirring up *some* sort of emotion, then you should probably check your pulse. The fact that Fever Ray may well be a one-off solo record for Karin may be good news for fans of The Knife – but it also means we should treasure this wonderful piece of art all the more. Simply put, this is a record to lose yourself in – it’s nothing short of completely immersive and stunningly beautiful.

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Let’s NOT Get Cynical About: Editors

If there’s a case to be made for being cynical about Editors, then I certainly don’t need to be the one to make it –  they’ve seen enough of that over their career already, from the sneering ‘Boy Division’ jibes to dismissive comparisons to Interpol (and yes, there is enough room for both bands to exist). Indeed, some critics have been quick to snobbishly deride third album In This Light And On This Evening as the moment when the band stopped aping Unknown Pleasures and started copying Closer and/or New Order instead. However, if you’re expecting more cynicism here then turn away now – I love Editors, and shamelessly so. I couldn’t have been more pleased for them when the slow-burning success of The Back Room set them up to go huge with follow-up An End Has A Start. I loved the former so much that when my brother managed to ‘lose’ my copy of the special edition after he lent it to a friend, I felt compelled to search the internet for another copy, no matter that I ended up paying £19 for it. The latter threw me at first – or specifically, discovering that ‘Bones’ was basically a massive red herring threw me. But after taking another couple of listens, it all fell into place, and I adored it almost as much as the first. And let’s not forget that the band are even better live than on record – and their live sound is something that they’ve openly said they wanted to capture on their third album.

They arguably come closest with the record’s first single ‘Papillon’ – a song that I first heard played live at a festival in Switzerland, and the track that wiped away any doubts I may have had about Editors new, more electronic sound. Monolithic, Depeche Mode synths permeate the track, along with a drumbeat that pounds and skitters in equal measure – the song simply doesn’t let up, and should surely sit alongside the band’s early singles as a staple floor-filler. ‘Bricks And Mortar’ also makes a strong case for capturing the band’s live sound, with its incessant pulse and slow, layered build-up replicated almost perfectly. In fact, certain aspects of the song are improved on record – the almost comedic tyre-skidding samples that jarred when I heard the song played live sound more like aggressive bursts of feedback on record, which seems more fitting with the overall feel of the song.

Elsewhere, opener ‘In This Light And On This Evening’ sets the tone for the album with sinister, looping sci-fi electronics and Smith’s haunting baritone declaring “I swear to God/In this light and on this evening/London’s become the most beautiful thing I’ve seen” before the song bursts into distorted guitar and what sounds like a panicked Morse-code transmission – from start to finish, it’s completely captivating. They definitely haven’t lost their knack for a lyrical hook either – ‘Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool’ contrasts the creepy imagery of the title and verses with the biggest pop chorus on the album, while the dark, queasy instrumentation ‘The Big Exit’ still eventually gives way to not one, but two emotive hooks.

But for those who are put off by the bands new-found synth obsession, it’s important to realise that Editors are basically making the same music as they did before – they’re just using different instruments. ‘You Don’t Know Love’ and ‘Like Treasure’, for example, are tracks that would happily have sat on previous album An End Has A Start if you played some of the synth lines on guitars instead (or, arguably, even if you didn’t). The album even ends in a similar way to The Back Room, with the reflective, almost ethereal shimmer of ‘Walk The Fleet Road’. The point is, that Editors haven’t changed the most key aspect of their sound – the juxtaposition of dark and light, of gloom and hope. The fact that they’re using synthesisers this time round is almost irrelevant in some respects – and yet, it is undoubtedly a progression for the band, and demonstrates a willingness to experiment, to make something different rather than just sitting on their laurels.

It’s also worth mentioning the ‘bonus disc’ that comes with the special edition of the album – titled Cuttings II, in another nod to The Back Room. But these are no mere castoffs – much like the original Cuttings, these are all tracks that would have been worthy of inclusion on the album itself. Indeed, the only obstacle to their inclusion is likely the fact that the album seems complete as it is, even at only nine tracks long. ‘For The Money’ is a sinister highlight, taking the “One for the money, two for the show…” intro to Elvis’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and bleakly updating it to “One for the money, two for the money, three for the money…” – a cynical dig at the modern music industry, perhaps? ‘A Life As A Ghost’ is also impressive, with Smith sneering “Dance, fucker, dance, you were born to entertain,” over oppressive, almost industrial beats, while ‘This House Is Full Of Noise’ also makes a strong case for inclusion on the album proper, starting with sparse instrumentation and ominous drumbeats before suddenly exploding into a wall of guitar noise. Overall, the five tracks on the bonus disc compliment the album extremely well.

As a fan of the band, I can only hope that In This Light And On This Evening will at least cause Editors’ detractors to re-consider their prejudices against the band. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have put their existing fanbase off – the album went straight in at number one in the UK charts this week. Perhaps that means I’m just preaching to the converted?

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The 8 best things I saw at Latitude Festival 2009.

It may go against the title of this blog to write a post so full of praise as this one undoubtedly will be, but fuck it – there was a hell of a lot of good stuff on offer at Latitude this year and I made a lot of new personal discoveries. Without further ado then, the 8* best things I saw at Latitude ’09.

(*Yes, it would’ve been 10 but there’s already about 1500 words here, and there were too many bands vying for the 9 and 10 slots. I’ll cover everything else I saw soon, promise.)

8. Wildbirds & Peacedrums

Imagine, if you will, the voices of Feist and Beth Ditto compacted into one sleek, Swedish package. That’s Mariam Wallentin, who with husband Andreas Werliin comprises Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums. The duo make music that’s almost entirely percussive, with drums, timpani and other percussion instruments forming an intense background for Mariam’s spectacular voice. The duo play and sing with an energy that makes it difficult not to be drawn in – indeed, their final song sees Mariam whacking her drums so hard that she manages to make one of her drumsticks fly off to the side of the stage. Their set was intriguing throughout, but ‘There Is No Light’ stood out for me with it’s soulful vocal delivery and incessant drumbeat. If you’re looking for something a little different from your average guitar band, then Wildbirds & Peacedrums will definitely sate your appetite.

7. The Temper Trap

Namedropped by the BBC as ones to watch at the start of the year, The Temper Trap showed that they’re not just another hype band with their impressive performance on Friday. The band have a dense, epic sound that gives the impression that they’re made for big stages already, from the swooning, blissful tones and sweetly sung vocal of ‘Sweet Disposition’ to the racy, infectious paranoia of ‘Science Of Fear’. And, true to the spirit of Latitude as a festival for everyone, a cheerful-looking grey-haired chap who must have been at least in his 50s or so bounces past me with his wife and declares to a similarly-aged couple, “This band are fucking amazing!” Broad appeal and massive tunes too? Sounds like the Temper Trap could be on to a winner.

6. Grace Jones

Having got a tad bored of Spiritualized and increasingly irritated by the collection of jeb-ends that I was stood near in the tent, I made my way to the main stage to catch the last half an hour or so of Grace Jones. And you know what? I wish I’d seen the whole damn thing, because the spectacle she put on was fantastic. Within a few minutes of me turning up, she was strutting her way through ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, intent on getting up close and personal with the crowd. “I need a big man,” she intoned, approaching the edge of the stage and pointing to a no-doubt terrified member of stage security, before parading around the barriers on the shoulders of said ‘big man’, reaching out and touching the worked up crowd. Further show(wo)manship was came in the form of outrageous hats (including a crystal-encrusted number that reflected coloured lights across the stage) and enough flaunting of that impossibly-toned body to allure even the biggest prude. Seriously, she turned 61 in May and still has the body of a 20-something – absolutely insane. She wrapped things up by  producing a hula hoop and then casually (casually!) gyrating her way through her final number while effortlessly singing and introducing the members of her band.

As she thanks us and leaves the stage, the clamour for more is deafening, even as the lights go up. But just as it looks like the crowd’s appreciation is going to go unrecognised, Grace storms back out onto the stage. “There’s a fucking curfew!” she booms, frustrated that she can’t continue to play. The plug on the PA is quickly pulled before she can say her parting words of thanks, but the fact that the icon has reciprocated the crowd’s appreciation by simply returning to the stage is enough. I can now honestly say that I’d pay good money to see a Grace Jones show – and that’s something I’d never even considered coming into the festival.

5. Editors

I’m sure many people rolled their eyes when they heard that Editors were ‘going electro’ for their forthcoming third album In This Light And On This Evening, but within the space of an hour (or, more accurately, four new songs), the doubters may well have had to reconsider. Starting bravely with a new song that features both smooth synths and somewhat jarring staccato samples that sound like tyres skidding, the transformation is complete when classic set-closer ‘Fingers In The Factories’ segues effortlessly into the last of their new songs – and with moody, Depeche Mode synths, thumping beats and God-bothering lyrics (“If there really was a god here/he’d have raised a hand by now”), it’s absolutely amazing. And yet, it’s still unmistakably the same Editors we know and love – they’re still making upliftingly gloomy music, it’s just that they’re using different tools for the job.

4. Thom Yorke

Some of the people I was with at the festival were disappointed by Thom Yorke’s solo slot on Sunday, but to be honest I can’t understand why. It had classic Radiohead tracks (‘Everything In It’s Right Place’, ‘There There’), brilliant solo songs (‘The Eraser’, ‘Harrowdown Hill’), intriguing new songs (‘Follow Me Around’, The Present Tense’ – floating around on Youtube as we speak, a fact that was wryly acknowledged by Yorke during his set), ‘True Love Waits’ got a rare live airing, and he played an absolutely gorgeous solo version of ‘Videotape’, (my personal favourite track from In Rainbows) – what more could you want? I mean, you weren’t expecting him to play ‘Creep’ or something were you?

3. Bat For Lashes

Anybody who thought that Bat For Lashes don’t quite cut it live was surely forced to eat their words, regurgitate them, and eat them again after Natasha Khan’s utterly spellbinding performance on Friday night. There was certainly a lot of interest in her – the tent was so rammed that I could barely see anything. But what I heard confirmed my love for Khan’s work – big, echoy drums and chiming, swirling, epic instrumentation serve as a wonderful backdrop for her beautiful voice and almost fairytale lyrics. Spine-tingling highlights for me were enchanting opener ‘Glass’, ‘Siren Song’, ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’ and the bombastic, mystical brilliance of ‘Two Planets’. Although it seems that most people were sticking around to hear ‘Daniel’ – saved as a set closer of course, it was undoubtedly the song that got the biggest response. For me, Bat For Lashes stands head and shoulders above the crop of female solo artists that have cropped up this year, and performances like this just serve to confirm that.

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Having only listened to a small amount of his material, I didn’t feel like I knew that much about Nick Cave going into the Festival. But if there’s one thing I definitely know afterwards, it’s this: He’s bloody awesome live. The man has a spectacular way with words and a voice to match, and together with his Bad Seeds he rattled through a cross-section of tracks from their back catalogue. From the chugging, distorted riffs of ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ to the death row theatrics of ‘The Mercy Seat’, every moment is compelling – and never more so than during set-closer ‘Stagger Lee’, with Cave delivering its menacing wild-west story with a swagger in his step and fire in his eyes. To be fair though, violinist/guitarist Warren Ellis (a “big, bearded fucker” as Cave calls him at one point) does his best to steal the show – particularly during ‘We Call Upon The Author’, which sees him sprawled on the floor, inducing an effects-pedal based freakout whilst also shouting out backing vocals. Together with Cave’s imposing presence, it makes for a performance that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

1. Fever Ray

Mesmerising. Bewildering. Brilliant.

Those are some of the words I would try to use use to sum up the genius of Fever Ray, (aka Karin Dreijer Anderson from The Knife), but nothing can quite convey just how amazing it was. Karin and her band were wearing striking, elaborate costumes (and there were huge cheers when she finally removed her cape/mask combination), but that only served to accentuate the bizarre brilliance of the music. Whirring electronic noise, minimal beats, ominous synths, infectious guitar loops, tribal drumming – these are just some of the things that make up the band’s wondrous soundscapes. However, it’s Karin’s voice that’s the star of the show – at times sounding very much reminiscent of her vocals for The Knife, but at others warped to an almost demonic growl. Add into the mix her dark, often cryptic lyrics and you’ve got a package that you can’t tear your ears away from. Stirring stuff, and despite the stiff competition, the best thing I saw all festival.

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