The main thing that these Melt mini-reviews have taught me is that a day is not long enough to understand an album! At least, it’s not long enough for me. I don’t know how music critics manage it – surely they can’t give a whole week to each album they review! Anyway, here goes my one-day review, although I reserve the right to change my opinion on this any number of times in the near future.
Howlin by Jagwar Ma is an eclectic album with lots of nice moments. Jagwar Ma are not quite up to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros standards, but this album brings other bands quite strongly to mind at many points. However, unlike the Magnetic Zeros, the references are fresh throughout. Whether channeling the Beatles on Come and Save Me, or Nine Inch Nails on Exercise, Jagwar Ma’s sound retains its modern psychedelic aura.
Dave has nominated the final album for a Melt! countdown mini-review. Howlin by Jagwar Ma was released in June 2013 and showcases the Australian duo’s psychedelic electro-dance style. With one day until we head out to Berlin, we’re pretty excited! Hopefully Jagwar Ma can put us in the mood for Melt…
Jagwar Ma – Howlin
I’ll be honest: I struggled to listen to Metronomy today, because I just wanted to listen to Hold On on repeat. When I did manage to drag myself away from SBTRKT, I found a sweet but unassuming pop record. Title track Love Letters and its follow-up Month of Sundays have a very 70′s pop sound, which is fine for a while, but it’s a welcome change when the electronic instrumental Boy Racers brings the sound racing into the 80′s! I particularly enjoyed Reservoir‘s video game vibe and the ocean sound effects on The Most Immaculate Haircut (surely the best-named track since this one), but the highlight has to be astrological break-up song I’m Aquarius. Although I may just think that because it’s the track I know best – my boyfriend just informed me that the reason I recognise it is that he used to be in the habit of playing it on loop!
Next on our three day whizz through the Melt! line-up is Love Letters. This is the fourth album from Devon-based Metronomy, released this March. I haven’t heard much from Metronomy since their 2011 single The Bay, so a quick catch-up is in order before their set!
Metronomy – Love Letters
Second song Hold On is the stand-out track on SBTRKT. With its light-touch vocals and prominent percussion it soothes the mood and uplifts the spirit in a succinct three and a half minutes. I’m normally a fan of compact tracks, but I could have done with another minute or so of Hold On. Luckily there’s a whole album where that came from! A day is not enough for SBTRKT; I will be listening to this record again.
As we enter Melt! week, we have just enough time for a cheeky countdown of mini-reviews. For the next three days I’ll be picking an artist from the line-up for a one-day-only Musical Adventure treatment. First up is enigmatic masked post-dubstep project SBTRKT’s eponymous first album.
SBTRKT – SBTRKT
Skream! makes 2000s London sound like an awesome place to be. With the fantastic bass of tracks like Stagger and the grime vibe of Tapped you really get a feel for the edgy musical sub-cultures around the city at the time. Not being a cool South Londoner myself, the first I heard of these scenes was when Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner won the 2003 Mercury prize, but as grime and particularly dubstep grew in popularity it was good to hear these slightly grubby bassy sounds starting to creep into the mainstream (incidentally, that link has some of the most bizarre product placement I’ve ever seen in a music video – Britney Spears browsing Plenty of Fish??). It has been an enjoyable fortnight listening to one of the most significant artists of the genre, and ticking off a sneaky branch of the Music Tree while we’re at it!
Being a little pushed for time at the moment, most of my Skream sampling took place in the office. Contrary to my expectations, this was actually pretty good music to work to. Skream makes a sound that’s both laid back and very easy to dance to, truly capturing the essence of dubstep’s regge influences! This fortnight’s tunes had me swaying along as I worked on my spreadsheets, but with their even flow and steady rhythms they were perfect for maintaining concentration. Unfortunately, being good to work to is not generally what I look for in an album, but I’m sure the laid back yet bouncy qualities that made this great work music would come into their own on a late-night dance floor. I guess we’ll find out next week!