This week's new releases in Rock/Pop
The Golden Archipelago
Like the tortoise of Aesop’s fable, Shearwater typify the phrase slow and steady wins the race. Originally formed in 2001 as a vehicle for Okkervil River’s Will Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg (Sheff is no longer a full-time member), the Texans have been a consistent yet relatively inconspicuous band. Their sixth album, however, is a record that may give Midlake competition in the brooding folk stakes of 2010. These piano- and guitar-based tunes are dense, certainly, but kept to a compact running time of 38 minutes. Meiburg’s voice is a real treat, fluttering between gloomy croon and primitive yodel. The overall ambience is one of understated, mystifying and occasionally eerie pagan folk. It’s an album that requires persistence, but one that’s nonetheless compelling.
Download tracks:Hidden Lakes, Black Eyes
Field Music (Measure)
Fans of bespoke mature pop will cheer the return of the Brewis brothers. While David and Peter’s various solo projects were well received, it’s what they produce in tandem back at the mothership that sends many into raptures. Field Music (Measure) is inventive, expansive (there are 20 tracks here), sweeping, ambitious and quite enthralling. While earlier work often nodded too much towards the over-arching and over-egged end of the scale (references were always afforded a ticker-tape parade), this sees the duo enjoying the moment for what it is. Sure, they still sport XTC, Fleetwood Mac and Supertramp frills and fringes like the fanboys they are, but it’s really the quality of the songs (such as the title track, Let’s Write a Book and the lovely Them That Do Nothing) that is most impressive this time around.
Download tracks:Them That Do Nothing, Measure
Cocoon of Love
Indie music’s ongoing fling with all things precious and precocious is good news for these LA smart boys. Princeton certainly tick all the boxes: a moniker straight out of the Ivy League playbook (it’s also the name of the street where half the band grew up), preppy clobber and previous releases concerning Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury buddies. On Cocoon of Love, their airy, bright, chamber pop avoids being a slave to any particular new-school indie rock formula by skipping and hopping all over the place. There are touches of 1960s pop and doo-wop, some beautifully referenced Carribean breezes (Calypso Gold is remarkably refreshing), a few splashes of orchestral light and, of course, various degrees of self-obsessed undergraduate ennui to keep their bundle of pop culture references together. Princeton’s swagger can only get more impressive with time.
Download tracks:Calypso Gold, Shout It Out
Scratch My Back
Peter Gabriel doesn’t get into the studio much these days – he’s usually too busy tinkering around with new technology or overseeing his ongoing Womad projects. Scratch My Back may disappoint fans. It’s a covers album, featuring songs by the likes of Bowie, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Regina Spector. But there’s a twist: Gabriel eschews rock instruments for atmospheric orchestral arrange- ments, and the artists covered will reciprocate by recording a Gabriel song. What could be a pointless game of karaoke tennis is actually quite compelling. Gabriel’s voice is a fine, mature instrument that handles each song skilfully, particularly Bon Iver’s Flume, Lou Reed’s The Power of the Heartand The Magnetic Fields’ The Book of Love.And Elbow’s Mirrorballis a doddle – sure, isn’t Guy Garvey Gabriel’s vocal doppelganger? KEVIN COURTNEY
Download tracks:Flume, The Power of the Heart, The Book of Love
Don’t Go Back to Sleep
After a spell as lead singer with the over-cooked Irish band Melaton, Luke Slott turned his back on rock music and headed for his piano. Since then he’s had a bundle of musical adventures in Dublin and New York, all of which have helped him polish the rough ends and embellish the magic on his own compositions. Don’t Go Back to Sleep is a series of subtle, soft- toned and beautifully composed solo works for piano, with Slott following the muse from Erik Satie to Yann Tiersen and tapping into a very evocative, bittersweet seam as he goes. A flawless technique means you’re swept away by the nuances in the title track, The Ladder and the Soul and I Love You for Your Sake. It’s the second album from the Slott clan to be reviewed in these pages in recent months – his brother Mike is behind the glorious hip-hop/electronica of Lucky 9teen. www.lukeslott.com
Download tracks:Don’t Go Back to Sleep, I Love You for Your Sake