Rock/Pop

 

This week's pop/rock CDs reviewed

THE XX

XX

Young Turks ****

You have to wonder just how a bunch of youngsters from south London could have had the time to experience the heartbreaks, aches and misfortunes which inform the lyrical weight of this drop-dead gorgeous dream-pop symphony. Just as impressive as the four-piece's wallowing despair and ennui is the moody sonic space, part atmospheric shoegazing and part slo-mo r'n'b, where these brittle songs are housed. Much of the magic on this record comes down to the sullen, broody duets between Romy Madley Crofty and Oliver Sim. Other bands have tried this boy-girl bad chemistry before, but have rarely had the same enthralling results as what happens when Croft and Sim begin their plaintive call-and-response exchanges. You'll be waiting some time to experience anything as melancholic or captivating as this perfectly realised tranche of uneasy listening. www.myspace.com/thexx JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Crystalised, Basic Space, VCR

TOMMY SPARKS

Tommy Sparks 

Island ***

Born in Stockholm but now based in London, Tommy Sparks has the advantage of a national heritage famed for its pop brilliance behind him – and having supported Bloc Party and co-written a song for The Prodigy’s last album, he’s got a measure of indie credibility to boot. It’s a pity, then, that his debut isn’t more exciting. Dotted with choruses that are almost exasperatingly catchy, much of Tommy Sparksconsists of solid electro-pop songs that are enjoyable, but not exhilarating. She’s Got Me Dancingploughs the same shoulder-jerking pop furrow as The Ting Tings, and Brand New Loveand I’m a Ropeusher in a zippy buzz to spice up the album’s overly smooth second half. There are undoubtedly moments of brilliance here, but overall, it’s a case of too many sparks, too few explosions. www.thisistommy sparks.com LAUREN MURPHY

Download tracks: She’s Got Me Dancing, I’m a Rope

RORY GRUBB

Sketches from the Big Sleep

Brightnight Records ****

It’s as if Nick Drake and David Kitt had lodged their DNA in a laboratory, with this stray offspring emerging from the test tube, beset by a languor more usually associated with the long hot summers of a Tennessee Williams play. Rory Grubb embodies the naked preoccupations of our post-Tiger economic meltdown on his second long player, but instead of wallowing in the mire, he chooses to mine the lyrical riches of life’s darker underbelly. Grubb’s not a man in a hurry to get anywhere. He lolls in the long grass where David Lynch-ian threats lurk silently. Having written, arranged, recorded and produced Sketches From The Big Sleep(not to mention all the art work), Grubb lights a spark beneath his own idiosyncratic material, so relish watching it smoulder on – and on. www.rorygrubb.com SIOBHÁN LONG

Download tracks: Bang Bang We’re Alive, Pirates

EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS

Up From Below

Rough Trade ***

The hippies are coming. While Edward Sharpe and his bunch of merry pranksters are certainly down with the boho playbook – even to travelling around in an ancient bus powered by vegetable oil – the patchouli oil doesn’t quite end up stinking out the music. Up From Belowis full to the brim with euphoric, infectious salvos from the folkier side of the indie fence delivered by a band who’ve certainly heard several kinds of big music. Like Arcade Fire and Polyphonic Spree, they believe in the wisdom of crowds, with up to 10 players sawing, blowing, singing and banging away to send those choruses skywards. A tune such as Janglin catches them at their most likeable, all poppy frolics and wide-eyed prancing, with Alex Ebert leading the combo like a ragged, dusty-booted preacher. www.my space.com/edwardsharpe JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: Janglin, Home

JAY REATARD

Watch Me Fall

Matador ***

Weaned on snotty, no-fi garage- rock, Memphis guitar slinger Jay Reatard has always been one to come armed with short bursts of scruffy noise as his calling cards. Prolific to a fault, Reatard has put his name to countless solo and band releases over the past couple of years. Here, on his first full- length album for Matador, Reatard gives the snarling scuzzpop a break and allows his poppier impulses room to roam. It’s an acute exercise in power-pop, with Reatard’s Cheap Trick fancies making for a helter- skelter burst of enthusiastic songs with a knockabout charm to them. Reatard is still a no-nonsense operator, but he does at least give the hooks and riffs on tracks such as It Ain’t Gonna Save Me, Before I Was Caughtand Rotten Mindtime to develop into more than just mere snapshots. www.myspace.com/ jayreatard JIM CARROLL

Download tracks: It Ain’t Gonna Save Me, Rotten Mind

LIGHTENING DUST

Infinite Light

Jagjaguwar ****

There are warbles and there are warbles – and then there is the acquired-taste trembling vibrato of singer Amber Webber. Webber, in conjunction with Joshua Wells, is the mainstay of Vancouver’s Lightning Dust, itself an offshot of that city’s psych-rock outfit Black Mountain. As sidelines go, Webber and Wells have it sussed – Infinite Lightis a classy mixture of piano- led pop, Cowboy Junkies-like melancholy and Appalachian folk. If the resulting music isn’t dramatic enough (courtesy of Wells’s piano sweep, and some dashing swathes of violin and cello), then Webber’s tales of the extremes of love’s joy and despair will undoubtedly convince: from the opening lighthearted track, Antonia Jane,to the closing melodrama of Take It Home, Lightning Dust ensure that left-field pop continues to reign supreme, if not a tiny bit sombre. www.lightningdust.com TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Download tracks: Antonia Jane, I Knew, Never Seen

DORIS

The Working Title

Doris Ireland **

According to the press release that accompanies their debut album, the music of Dublin band Doris “is representative of Modern Ireland and the coming of age of not only the individual, but a nation”. Good Lord. If this is true, we’re even more screwed than I thought. Apparently, Modern Ireland is a land of bland jangly guitars and blandly simple, utterly forgettable melodies. In fact, it sounds a lot like Ireland in the late 1980s, which is possibly why Aslan’s Christy Dignam is apparently a “big supporter” of the band. It’s all inoffensive enough, but there’s absolutely nothing to get excited about, unless you need some meat-and-veg rock to keep you going until the Stereophonics release another album. www.dorisireland.com ANNA CAREY

Download track: Get Me Home