Friday, April 16, 2010

Los Campesinos's "Romance Is Boring."

There have been lots of
albums out recently from established acts trying to balance pushing forward with their sound but also retaining the quality of their past releases,

    with varying 
       degrees        of 

None of them have managed to keep this tricky middle ground with more skill than Los Campesinos. “Romance is Boring” is an album of (at least) two sides, and both of them are compelling.

I have written about this band before. When I did, I was wowed by the cheery energy and humor of their youth. They were witty and intelligent, the elements of a gang of seven friends playing together on stage and off.

Our Founder I could see in them a connection to a new drive to put the intelligence back into British indie music, along with other excellent bands like Maximo Park and Lightspeed Champion. They were, in short, the kind of band that moved past the bombast of muscular rock, to give us all the energy and add to it the intellect that gives songs depth and long-lasting appeal.

The Los Campesinos of “Romance is Boring” are a band with all the droll gags and word play, but something novel too, which makes them addictive on a whole new level. The best examples are in songs like “Who Fell Asleep In” and “The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future.” Both show singer Gareth to be a mature and serious vocalist, with a deft touch over his words. Emotionally charged lyrics about troubled relationships and desperate friends are a turn you wouldn’t normally expect from this band, or this vocalist, but Gareth sings them with huge conviction. They really are all grown up, at least in the ways it counts.

What remains young about Los Campesinos is their veracious desire to throw themselves into music. It’s an admirable trait that I hope they never grow out of. They are playing at the Paradise on 24th April, and I will be there, laughing with them at times, and silent when they move me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lightspeed Champion's "Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You."

Lightspeed Champion (the name for Dev Hynes’s current musical persona), produced one of the best albums of 2008. Will he repeat that feat with his second release? It’s really hard to say. Let me back up a little and explain…

When Dev was last in Boston in 2008, playing at Great Scott, he told me that he was quite literally living on the road, and had no home anywhere in the interim – when he went back to London, he was forced to sleep on friends’ sofas. I understand he’s now put down some roots, back here in the country of his birth (he’s originally from Houston, TX). Now though, he lives in New York, where he recorded “Life is Sweet!”

Despite all this distance from the London music scene that he came out of though, this album, like the last, is about as English a project as I can imagine. I don’t mean that it’s better or worse than music from elsewhere, but that there is something almost uniquely eccentric about Dev’s sound, which seems to scream Southern English indie.

You can never really be sure if the strange juxtapositions of instrumentation that flit in and out of these songs are serious or tongue-in-cheek. The video for “Marlene” is a good example of the generally bizarre direction that Dev takes with songs.

What’s most remarkable about this background though, is that the songs that end up on “Life is Sweet!” while they have clearly come from a very ‘creative’ and experimental place, are still basically very catchy and addictive tunes. Songs like “Middle of the Dark” and “Sweetheart” are built from really complicated mixes of instruments, but they are completely digestible. This means that you can enjoy listening to Dev’s music quickly, but keep hearing more and more in it as you spend time listening. You have to admit that that’s a pretty good proposition for any new music purchase.

Judging this music though, is difficult. There is very little to compare it to, for one thing. All it makes me think of is Dev himself: charming, funny, poignant, and precocious in turns, but on a planet all his own.