Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Trial and error: the search for virtue

Written by

Emmy The Great – Dinosaur Sex

Emmy The Great’s Virtue is an elegant record, touching upon the themes of religion, immigration, feminism, place, morality, and even climate change (in the most unique and approachable fashion). It’s astoundingly engaging and is – I say with readied gag reflex – a much more mature offering than 2009’s First Love. Emmy The Great’s Virtue is the best album I’ve heard this here year.

“Crane’s are lifting cargo to the sea …” “Dinosaur Sex”, an opener of engaging title, offers a theatrical edge, with the entrance of Middle Eastern horns and jungle birds broken only by reaching guitar. The juggling of power station imagery and Earth’s end etches a funereal march for humanity upon the song, like scars upon its pretty face, “Skin is peeling off of us in sheets”. It’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world and she knows it. Or at least she dreams it. “Dinosaur sex led to nothing.” And might we? Emma-Lee Moss dreams so, and such despair bleeds through to “A Woman, A Woman, A Century Of Sleep”, as women lock-in their subservient roles, straighten their broken backs over boiling pots, morphing to objects for positioning and pleasure. Here there are great moments of depth to her voice, as well as a cinematic layering of messy backing vocals.

There’s intimate and telling disconnect on “Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)” as Moss elongates “I’m blessed” as if to force conviction. And the spiritual or religious attachments fail to be shunned following a first utterance, as “Creation” reads like a spoken instruction manual to the Genesis formula. There’s a perpetual line of creators within creators, and, whether intended or not, the song’s structure allows for Moss’ storytelling and her band’s instrumentation to feature in tandem. It’s a neat trick and breathes real strength into the core of the record.

“Exit Night / Julia’s Theme” brims over with the sort of painful and definite cycle of generations ending that the English grasp so well, capturing the death of a country and its people; death of an age, as certain as sunrise, and characters caught in-between, heads over shoulders with nostalgia and forward with fear. “An exit night is coming through – an exit night is coming for you.”

Such longing is cause for a stupendous interlude to the record’s penultimate track, “North”, a song whose narrator is in search for a sense of place and inclusion, speaking of land and borders and the uncelebrated arrival of the world’s immigrants: “I can’t help where I was born … if I take what I have to the North, is there room on your piece of heaven or would you turn me away again?” For the time we’re in, it’s a necessary and demanding commentary. It’s beyond the self, providing a clear gap between Emma and her peers. (Note the Dylan-styled delivery on “heaven”.)

Emmy The Great – Trellick Tower

Virtue’s closer, “Trellick Tower”, sets Moss on a course most personal and startlingly true: disclosing a lost fiancé and the vanquishing of their shared love as a result of his religious conversion, “He heard the voice I couldn’t hear … and now I’m praying for this pain to clear [yet] he’s waiting on ascension.” With admirable restraint, Moss shelves any desire to dampen the legitimacy of his decision or the subsequent pain endured, instead bathing in the flavourlessness of a home once of two but now just one.

As with every first listen, it’s a disconcerting matter to conclude anyone as either poetic or just wordy, but here it’s poetry that proves the triumphant battler. It wins in the musicality of her chosen words over any obvious classical poetic device. Variation of theme, if anything, is the triumphant winner. It works for me. Sure, this is just music and pales if not fondled by our own curiosities for the minds of storytellers, but this record has shapely depth and is stylised by terse observations over the most euphonic of instrumentation. It’s a serious offering and must be treated as such.

[Virtue: Album stream and track-by-track guide in her own words.] [Out today.]


Written by

The Fool, the album, by Warpaint

Set Your Arms Down – Arabella traveled every inch of the world collecting every gun she could find, she could take, from the limbs of havoc. She hopped grassy knolls and wandered the deserts and climbed in through back windows across the Earth. She hoarded every firearm, every piece, every bullet and trigger and chamber. A stockpile of steel glistening in the throbbing sunlight. Arabella knew now, unquestionably, that every gun in the world was right here, right in front of her. I’m closer to peace than I’ve ever been. She didn’t feel that much happier. Arabella lit a match, breathing thoughtfully, and flicked it into the pile. The powder lit, sparks in the air, pistols and shotguns and revolvers firing in a Kalian sprawl across the noiseless flatlands. Arabella fell in a dusty heap, insides creeping out from open wounds.

Warpaint – In the parklands across the road from the elementary school, children waited in line with their parents to paint their faces, to smear the skin of their cheeks, wearing youthful costumes and smiling with abandon. Those who waited waited impatiently, those who had finished ran to the playground and pretended to shoot the other children wearing cowboy hats and flannel shirts with imaginary arrows.


Beesbzzzzz. limbs prodding through the flowers. picking at the pollen. taunting the drones. the queen is calling! bzzzzz. don’t touch my stinger.

Shadows – Jennifer was an invisible girl – except when she did anything illegal, like steal food because she was starving. She had one pair of clothes and never did laundry. She was nine, an orphan – she was never heard, never knew her parents, didn’t know where she came from, and wanted to be loved by the people who couldn’t see her. She couldn’t sleep in the warm houses because they belonged to others – people would see her and tell her to scram.

“You’re ugly and a disgrace!” they shouted.

Jennifer slept in the trash of dumpsters – in crumpled newspapers and food and plastic bags and things torn to bits – like a warm nest that smelled of the people she wished would love her.

At night she heard cats.

During the day she walked and avoided the heavy people, picking up dropped coins and looking into shop windows.

“I do wish someday to be real.”

(buy Manifesto, written by somebody – not me)

Composure – This song bleeds into your ears like melted clay, waiting to mould something from the misshapen thoughts in your skull. It trickles out, drips from the earlobes, pinpricks of muddled ideas brushing against your toenails. It drum drum drums – “how can I keep my composure?” – and I don’t know and you don’t know.


Majesty – “Do you know your fate?” whistled the parrot to the hounds panting by the gate. Their lopsided grins, unintentional, plastered across their dazed expressions.

Lissie’s Heart Murmur – Lissie felt the murmur some time in the morning too late to go back to sleep and too early to get ready for work. It wasn’t the kind of murmur that doctors furrow their brows over, no, it was more like a ba-bump bump whoosh, like her heart was frightened, fell out of bed, slipped out of its nightgown and into the arms of loneliness; cold, hoping for warmth.

(illustration by Chris Kuzma)

That’s the man I am

Written by

Interpol – Success

Interpol, the album, by Interpol.

SuccessSuccess is a long-play opener of fecund opera. Feverish trading guitars cocoon bass grinds of hypnotised dance; bass lines reminiscent of previous bouts (re: Turn On The Bright Lights) (For one here so close to his leave, Carlos D is ensuring fun is had.). “I’ve got two secrets, but I only told you [of] one. I’m not supposed to show you.” Interpol usher through Success, the albums shortest track, the zestful return, and, with it, lay early claim to the album’s strongest offering.

Memory Serves – The drudge (not limp) of Memory Serves serves (pardon me) only as waste to momentum, gathered by the work of the three and half minutes previous. Still, the drone is widescreen in its offering, noteworthy to be sure, and there’s enough divergence and adventure in Banks’ melodic offering to attain repeat interest. And it’s a love song, to be sure, “It would be so nice to take you. I only ever try to make you smile,” but not in the sense that Leif Erikson is a love song, “She says it helps with the lights out. Her rabid glow is like Braille to the night.”

Summer Well – Oh, the sensory opposite of torture. “All the while, the protests have shined the same, but you will never notice it’s all right.” Unlike the Interpol of a recent past, and like the trend of Interpol the LP, the emotion is only accessible if the notes and melody provide it. There are no lasting drives, no higher pier to catch, no faked surge to raise your gut. There’s comfort in the plateau. It’s lacking false sentiment.

Lights – “Maybe I like to stray… but keep it clean.”

Barricade – The initial rhythmic section tickles excitement and then, too soon, you’ll feel as though nothing fits. It takes time so coerce each melody and instrument track into working as one entity. “I did not take to analysis, so I had to make up my mind.” Barricade is eclectically sullen, but sprite and fresh in approach. It is neither the strongest track, nor the unappreciated first single it once was.

Always Malaise (The Man I Am) – “I will act in a certain way, I will control what I can, that’s the man I am.” A far-reaching track, splintered into two: the quirky, superfluously darkened side-A, and the softening, blood-rush-warmth of side-B – backed by gun-fire drumming, reminiscent of the “aim” “fire!” training scene, charging towards its abrupt end, making way for…

Safe Without – … a Waits-like, well deep, detracted and muffled beat that quickly looms into a composed musical shedding of melancholy and repeat vocal expression, “I am safe without it.” Whatever “it” is, we’re no wiser five minutes on. It’s Interpol, lead by Banks, at their most cantankerous. Remarkably expressive, even by vague means, through every pour of sound.

Try It On – A quickened piano riff that develops through to a computerised cluster of sound, whistles of distance, and dance floor drumming provide a rapturous jump forward onto a modern field for Interpol, even if, ironically, it implements the old EP speak ramblings of Banks, “Somewhere to stay. There’s nowhere to stay.”

All Of The Ways – This track is coarse, yet the chorus offers moments of dramatic rises in sound, as if bombs were exploding beneath the belly of the track. “Who is this guy? Does he know I’ll wait for all-time?”

The Undoing – Panoramic, if not spiritual, with softened Church organ, ingenuous lyrical offering – in Castilian Spanish – atop a layer of trumpet glaze. They are indeed altered. “Please, please, the place we’re in now.” Indeed, the place Interpol are in now. The freshness of ideas and profligacy of elements that this album accommodates, and without sleeve-tricks, too, is generally missed, and was missed on my first adventures in, only to be found in the midst of several spins and drills of listening later. It’s worth pushing through. Aren’t Interpol always worth the push? [Purchase.]

Hook me up and throw me…

Written by

M.I.A. Lovalot (Removed at label request)

The album ‘/\/\/\Y/\’ by M.I.A..

The Message

An intro of modern paranoia and conspiracy theory; rhythmic keyboard replaces the reassurance of drum beats as alarm-like synth swirls throughout.  “… arm bone connected to the hand bone connected to the Internet connected to the Google connected to the government.”

Steppin Up

Industry inspired sound effects splatter this urban feel track; grimy and addictive.


As close to clean pop as M.I.A. may ever get with a chorus of catchy techno glamour, but still that wound causing edge breathes and it won’t sit comfortably in your ears for too long.


The record’s longest track, coming in at a time of just over six minutes, and it is sound chaos. You want to dance to it and you want the dance to end. Better is to come in the shape of…


Underground jungle beats provide the crowd for the surfer that is a plethora of words and rhymes of intrigue – and an Allah reference that may very easily pass your ear on first of fifth listen. “I’d fight – the ones – that fight me, because I won’t turn my cheek like I’m Ghandi.” Maybe Lovalot is to Maya what the National Front Disco is to Morrisey. Or maybe she’s stating her position; foot planted. Either way, it’s wrangled in controversy and is convincingly her greatest song yet.

Story To Be Told

All she ever wanted was her story to be told. Had this not been recorded prior to the event, it’s almost certain the suggestion would be that this song was a backlash directed at Lynn Hirschberg, and for the sake of fun we’ll pretend that’s the case. Again, instrumentally astounding.

It Takes A Muscle

“… to fall in love.” This is a delectable electro-hop reggae blend from /\/\/\Y/\; a vocal track offering the basic (and the profound) as whispers of electrified organ and resounding bass bask under same sun.

It Iz What It Iz

It Iz What It Iz is probably the most melodically moving track on the record. A composed effort of swirling synth and comforting vocals. It also ends with a baby, presumably Maya’s, crying over a looped toy-cow-like sample. Really.

Born Free

The introduction of the single-woman-marching-band on opening with the mind blowing indulgence of damaging beats and that clamorous and inducing surge of bass or guitar or both give us this record’s storm. A frenzied sound.

Meds And Feds

I don’t have any of the productions notes, but if this isn’t a Sleigh Bells collaboration then I’d be very surprised. The guitar riff is furious (as are the drums), flirtatious, frustrated and angry, in-the-know, and simply mesmerising with rage. This is an underground dance floor certainty.

Tell Me Why

The unexpectedly cool-aired sing along of the record, whose only exploration is to ponder varying vague frustrations of life and music and war and more.


Not to use the song title as inspiration, but there are fantastic moments whereby space is allowed as an electronic beat halts for a moment’s pause before continuation and so the air is filled with beautiful, swaying vocals and bubbly, pumping beats. “There’s nothing more new on the news, as I float around in space or the sea.” Reminiscent of earlier M.I.A. work.

Open letter:


Forgive me for obtaining this illegal leak of your record. I have no doubt you put tremendous effort in ensuring its level of excellence through the hard work of your craft. I will purchase a physical copy on day of release. I promise.

Be well,