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Phoning It In: Let’s Get Cynical’s Top 10 Albums of 2010

So, here it is, the moment you’ve probably not been waiting for (and if you were actually waiting for it you’ve surely forgotten about it by now) – my top 10 records of 2010. Yeah, I know I did a top 20 last year, but illness and procrastination has sapped my will to write by this point, so I kinda just want to get this done really. Apologies if this article seems massively phoned-in – oh who am I kidding, it’s not like you care anyway, right?

First up, honourable mentions (or the records that would have made up my 20-11 – ok there are 11 here but shush), in alphabetical order by artist.

Arcade Fire  – The Suburbs
Dinosaur Pile-Up – Growing Pains
Grammatics – KRUPT (EP)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
The Hundred In The Hands – The Hundred In The Hands
Johnny Foreigner – You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star… (EP)
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Klaxons – Surfing The Void
Talons – Hollow Realm
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Warpaint – The Fool

Yeah, that is Arcade Fire right there – The Suburbs was originally going in my top 10 but dropped out after I decided it was a tad inconsistent and that I actually liked a couple of other records more. Also, regarding KRUPT, Grammatics have now put it up here for free – so if you haven’t already got it then you have absolutely no excuse not to download it now, you ingrates.

With that said, onward we go to the top 10!

10. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (ii)

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (ii)

While there are still hints of their more abrasive side on show, Crystal Castles’ second record is largely comprised of amazing, glacial floor-fillers. ‘Celestica’ is simply sublime, ‘Baptism’ sounds utterly colossal, and ‘Year Of Silence’ makes brilliant use of its Sigur Rós sample – this is exactly the direction I hoped they’d go in after their first record. I guess it’s kinda cheating to mention the version of ‘Not In Love’ that they did with Robert Smith, but that’s an anthem and a half too.

9. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II

Zola Jesus - Stridulum II

Zola Jesus is in possession of a distinctive, captivating voice – combine that with expansive, atmospheric instrumentation and relatable sentiment, and you have Stridulum II in a nutshell. Whether it be the emotional longing of ‘Night’, the massive-sounding crescendo of ‘Manifest Destiny’, or the beautifully melancholy ‘Lightsick’, the album never fails to impress. Definitely one of the year’s most promising debut records.

8. Sky Larkin – Kaleide

Sky Larkin - Kaleide

Kaleide sees Sky Larkin sounding tighter than ever – they’ve really upped their game on their second record. From the breezy indie-pop of ‘Still Windows’ to more contemplative numbers like ‘ATM’, this album is full of gems, but its mid-section in particular is fantastic. ‘Anjelica Huston’ is effortlessly cinematic, ‘Spooktacular’ is the rawest the band have ever sounded, and ‘Year Dot’ is a sheer bundle of apocalyptic joy.

7. Blood Red Shoes – Fire Like This

Blood Red Shoes - Fire Like This

Blood Red Shoes - Fire Like This

If there’s one album that deserves to be my list for sheer consistency alone, it’s Fire Like This – there’s not a duff track on here. There’s no shortage of the loud, clattering indie-punk anthems that the duo are best known for, but they also find time to expand their sound a little bit too. ‘When We Wake’ demonstrates their softer side, and album closer ‘Colours Fade’ is definitely the most epic-sounding thing they’ve done so far.

6. Foals – Total Life Forever

Foals - Total Life Forever

Total Life Forever contains one of the year’s very best tracks in my opinion – ‘Spanish Sahara’ is a stunning centrepiece to a dark, melancholy and more considered second outing for the band. There are hints of the ‘old Foals’ in ‘This Orient’, but the majority of the album consists of far more expansive numbers like ‘Blue Blood’, ‘After Glow’ and ‘Alabaster’. Total Life Forever isn’t just a departure for Foals, it’s a significant leap forward.

5. Pulled Apart By Horses – Pulled Apart By Horses

Pulled Apart By Horses - Pulled Apart By Horses

Reviewing Pulled Apart By Horses for Muso’s Guide, I called the album “big, raw, gloriously dumb fun”, and that’s a statement I wholeheartedly stand by. Massive riffs, killer hooks and crazy lyrics combine to create one of the most raw, instantly appealing records of the year – and crucially, the album manages to capture the energy of the band’s chaotic live shows. An insane thrill-ride that you will want to take again and again.

4. The National – High Violet

The National - High Violet

I admit that High Violet was a bit of a slow-burner for me, but it won me over with its fantastic lyrics – Matt Berninger has a knack for writing songs that are very much relatable despite seeming deeply personal. Back that up with stately, atmospheric instrumentation and you’ve got a record that you can really connect with, from the heady rush of ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ to the overwhelming emotion of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’.

3. Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring

Romance Is Boring sees Gareth still in fine lyrical form – from orchestrating the downfall of his relationship only to miss out on a place in the top 100 “most heartwrenching breakups of all time” to getting the knives out for an ex-girlfriend’s new lover, he never fails to be relatable or amusing. But what makes Romance Is Boring one of the year’s best records is the feeling that the band have upped their game – and no song quite emphasises that more than the heartwrenchingly brilliant ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’.

2. Lone Wolf – The Devil And I

Lone Wolf - The Devil And I

I first heard of Lone Wolf (aka Paul Marshall) when I saw his video for ’15 Letters’ on the Green Man Festival website. While the puzzle contained within was far too much for my brain to handle, the song itself quickly wormed its way into my head with its beautiful, finger-picked guitar and effortlessly sung lyrics that told the twisted tale of a murderous lover. Seeing him and his band live at the festival confirmed that he is both a masterful storyteller and a skilled guitarist, and I picked up his album The Devil And I at a subsequent gig in Leeds. Like the single before it, I found myself coming back to the album again and again, mesmerised by the way that Marshall weaves an intricate musical tapestry around each dark tale of love, tragedy and death. ‘Russian Winter’ has never sounded more fitting than during the recent cold weather, and spellbinding album-closer ‘The Devil And I (Part 2)’ features a suitably foreboding soundtrack for a tale of dealing with the Devil himself. From start to finish, this is a record that’s beautiful in its bleakness and, in my eyes, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the year’s biggest releases.

1. These New Puritans – Hidden

These New Puritans - Hidden

These New Puritans - Hidden

If I was ranking these records based purely on sheer ambition and inventiveness, Hidden would be album of the year hands down – Jack Barnett learned musical notation from scratch in order to write it, which is a fair indication that the band had set their sights high for this one. Of course, if you’re reading this it’s quite clear that I have put it at number one – and that’s not just for its ambitiousness, it’s also because it’s an utterly amazing album that fuses classical instrumentation with electronic elements, hip-hop, children’s choirs, melons being smashed, the sound of knives being sharpened, and god knows what else. You only need to listen to seven-minute statement of intent ‘We Want War’ to appreciate the scope of the record, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At times oppressive and abrasive, at times utterly beautiful, Hidden doesn’t so much break boundaries as ignore them entirely.

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Constellations Festival Lights Up Leeds

I have no idea how the promoters pulled it off, but the line-up for the inaugural Constellations Festival was ridiculously good – so good that it was inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to see everyone I wanted to. But more on that later.

After getting slightly lost in the rabbit warren that is Leeds University’s union, I find my way to the Refectory, just in time to catch the first band. The band in question is Honour Before Glory, the new project of former ¡Forward, Russia! guitarist Whiskas. Don’t expect a re-hash of his old band though – Honour Before Glory have a more fleshed-out, widescreen post-rock sound, and it’s promising stuff. Next up are iLIKETRAiNS, and despite the fact that they’ve been around for what seems like an age, this is actually the first time I’ve ever seen them live. Well, I finally found out what I’ve been missing – stately, brooding rock, typified by epic set-closer ‘Sea Of Regrets’. I was impressed enough that I intended to pick up their new album before I left but their merch table had gone by the time I decided to commit to doing so. Fail.

Next up are Sky Larkin, whose upbeat indie-pop is as brilliant and always – the band are also full of praise for the festival, their label – Wichita records have eight bands playing today(!) –  and the city of Leeds itself. Following them are Esben And The Witch – the Brighton three-piece are suitably apocalyptic, with the likes of ‘Marching Song’ showcasing their foreboding, ominous sound.

After that, I head over to Stylus to watch Liars rip the place apart with their chaotic, vicious brand of experimental rock. ‘Scissor’ takes loud/quiet dynamics to their logical extreme, while punchy set-closer ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’ gets the crowd moving and even sees Tim from Les Savy Fav rocking out at the side of the stage. Speaking of Les Savy Fav, I would’ve liked to have seen them but unfortunately they clash with Los Campesinos! – and my shameless fanboyism must come first.

However, it soon turns out that I have chosen somewhat poorly – Los Campesinos! start fifteen minutes late because they’ve got about a billion pieces of equipment to soundcheck, so it turns out I could have caught a bit of Les Savy Fav after all. Happily, any ill-will I have towards them for being late has evaporated by the time they’re halfway through ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ – and that’s only two songs in, so I can spend the rest of the set getting slightly emotional and teary-eyed without any nagging doubts. They’re even given a generous time extension courtesy of Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, which means that ‘…And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison’ can get a rare live outing. Happy days!

Unfortunately, after that things start to go a bit pear-shaped. A combination of Drew’s earlier generosity and a ridiculously drawn-out soundcheck sees Broken Social Scene take to the stage half an hour late. By this point I’m kicking myself for not going to see Four Tet – especially as I should have probably seen the delay coming. The combination of their lateness, my own flagging spirits, and my unfamiliarity with most of their material means that they’ve got a mountain to climb to really impress me. And while their big, upbeat indie rock sound is in no way bad, I find myself not really getting into the show. I imagine if I was a massive Broken Social Scene fan then this would probably be a life-affirming experience for me – but I’m not, so it isn’t.

After half an hour I finally give up and do what I probably should have done in the first place – go see Four Tet. Unfortunately, by this time Stylus is only sparsely crowded, and those who are present are barely moving. This feels like the wrong time and the wrong atmosphere for his music – his electronic sounds feel like the kind of thing that wants to be heard (and danced to) late at night in a festival tent. I’m only there for about ten minutes before he decides to call it a night, thus compounding my poor decision-making.

There is a silver lining to my headliner-related cloud, however – on a whim, I decide to head to Mine to catch a bit of Sleigh Bells. If you’ve ever wondered what an unholy fusion of Crystal Castles and Test Icicles would sound like, then this is pretty much it – their insane noise pop turns out to be pretty entertaining, and I probably did enjoy the two or three tracks I saw more than I enjoyed watching Broken Social Scene. I’m not really sure what it says about my musical tastes… I do, however, decide to give BSS one last shot. But there is no epiphany for me, and I leave feeling a little underwhelmed. However, that shouldn’t take the shine off what has otherwise been an awesome day. Let’s hope the promoters behind Constellations can pull off some similarly stellar events in the future.

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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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Ultimate Power, Maximum Life.

On November 5th, as fireworks exploded in the sky and the MTV EMAs continued to prove their complete irrelevance by awarding Tokyo Hotel the ‘Best Group’ award, a rock act of a far more genuine, primal kind took to the stage in Leeds. I’m talking about the band Huw Stephens introduced as “the best new rock band in the world” (and in my opinion that’s not a hyperbolic statement), Pulled Apart By Horses.

The gig itself was slightly unconventional, taking place at Eiger Studios, a new rehearsal room/recording studio on the outskirts of Leeds, which had been converted into a venue for the evening. And as the gig was organised by Xbox Reverb, there were plenty of video games on offer to while away the time between bands, including the chance to embarrass yourself in public by playing Guitar Hero 5.

However, the music was the main draw tonight, with Napoleon III opening the line-up of local acts – and despite being a one-man band, he’s an engaging performer. His music is a bizarre mashup of looped vocals, synths, guitars, toy instruments and more besides – and with so much going on it’s to his credit that it works more often than not. Next up were Sky Larkin, a band who’ve earned well-deserved praise for their debut album The Golden Spike, which was released early on this year. For me, this performance was a real reminder of just how good they actually are. Nestor is an absolute machine on the drums, and singer/guitarist Katie is in possession of both a wonderful voice and an endearing cuteness – she’s the kind of girl you’d happily take home to meet your Mum. As well as rattling through tracks from their album, they also premier a new song – it’s the first time they’ve ever played it live, so they ask for the cameras to be turned off so they don’t get freaked out. It’s not a big departure from their previous material, but it still sounds brilliant, so why fix what isn’t broken?

Finally, Pulled Apart By Horses prove that they bring the rock with a raucous set, blasting through fan favourites like ‘Meat Balloon’ and ‘The Crapsons’ as well as previewing tracks from their forthcoming album (due in early 2010 apparently). While some might sneer that the band aren’t doing anything particularly nuanced or innovative, it doesn’t matter one bit because they are still a hell of a lot of fun – raw, powerful and energetic songs mix with a stage presence that combines reckless abandon and wilful irreverence. The band throw themselves around the stage like their lives depend on it, and guitarist James is up to his usual speaker climbing antics, even swinging from a ceiling beam at one point – wryly quipping “thanks for the support” to the fans directly below him afterwards. And despite confessing a love for gaming, they also aren’t afraid to have a dig at the show’s corporate sponsors. “This is how much money Xbox have,”  says lead singer Tom, holding up a setlist that’s been hastily scrawled on a paper plate. It’s the songs on that setlist that matter, with filthy riff after filthy riff mixed with guttural howls and big, dumb, grin-inducing chorus hooks – a formula that is perfectly encapsulated on set-closer ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’. With the moshpit in full force and the crowd screaming along with Tom as he howls out the song’s coda of “Ultimate power! Maximum life!” this is all the evidence you need to prove that Pulled Apart By Horses are one of the most exciting live bands around right now. Their current support slot with Biffy Clyro is well deserved – and here’s hoping they’ll go on to bigger things. But failing that, there’ll always be a hell of a lot of love for them in Leeds.

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