Monthly Archives: November 2012

HPH Spotify playlist – Nov 2012

Yes, it’s that time again! The almost-monthly collection of musical nonsense in Spotify playlist format! Hurray!

Eleven tracks for your listening pleasure this month. Although Spotify will only let me display eight tracks in the little box do-dah down there. Cheeky buggers. So somehow I completely missed the news that Hundred Reasons had reformed to do a couple of shows recently. To make up for this pejorative crime against my soul, one of my favourite tracks of theirs leads the way this month.

There’s a little more retrospective action too with an old Postal Service song I rediscovered this week. But, like my sock draw, we must keep things fresh, so there’s some exciting new stuff from Joey Bada$$, The 1975 (although this track was floating around when they were ‘The Big Sleep’, that band has had more name changes than I have pairs of socks), Ra Ra Riot and Chad Valley.

(This post is a little sock-heavy. Guess who just did some washing. Rock n’ Roll!)

Finally, some Gunning For Tamar (a HPH interview with them soon) and, apologies, but I snuck a Christmas song in there. In my defense, it is the greatest Christmas song of them all. Thanks Sufjan Stevens.

Alarm Bells – Cocoons

Close to a year ago today, I saw Dananananakroyd playing in Oxford as part of their farewell tour. It ended up being my favourite live show of 2011, and made me all the more sad that the band were calling it a day after two LP’s and a whole lot of wall of hugs.

The timing is significant, as one year later, a handful of the former members are back as a new band, Alarm Bells. They’ve been playing a few live shows here and there over the last few months, but now we can get our grubby mitts on the first physical release from the band.

The first piece of music we get to hear is ‘Cocoons’, from a 4 track, 28 minute long, limited-edition 12″. And it’s gloriously batshit crazy. The first minute or so act as a rottweiler on the doorstep saying: “If you’re here expecting Dananananakroyd 2.0, keep on walking or I’m going to tear your face off.” This new guise and new formation has given Alarm Bells the chance to expand on the post-hardcore sound that we’re used to, but ‘Cocoons’ is darker, creepier and heavier than anything we’ve become used to. Also helping to create this atmosphere is the loopy video, looking a little like how a Sim’s game  circa 1985 might look. Pre-order the LP on the band’s Bandcamp page, and check out the video for ‘Cocoons’ below.

Alt-J – Oxford O2 Academy (First show after Mercury Music Prize Win)

A little under 24 hours after winning the Mercury Music Prize, Alt-J arrived into the rigid and angular O2 Academy in Oxford as they got back to the business of touring their debut LP, An Awesome Wave. As a reluctant regular of this venue, experience shows that it takes something special to meld this performance space into something out of the ordinary. Alt-J, with their love of triangles and unexpected sing-alongs were able to poke some holes through the fabric of what might have been expected.

An Awesome Wave is something of a solitary listen, with delicate intricacies seeping out with every spin. This is something that one might expect as the record was able to creatively stew for so long, with every detail being meticulously combed over by the four-piece. However, unleashed into a live setting, and with a joyous appreciation of the band’s achievements, it becomes an entirely different beast.

The band took to the stage beaming and not looking too worse for wear after the previous evening’s forays. With only an album worth of tracks plus a cover (a mash up of Dr Dre and Kylie Minogue), the set is svelte yet fulfilling. Every obtuse lyric that can be deciphered turns into something that the crowd can sing back to the band. The more amusing moments come with the ooh’s and lalala’s, particularly on ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Ms’. The minimalism of the role that the guitar plays in the group’s sound is also exemplified. So often it is the first and foremost thought in this genre of music, but here it acts as a finesse instrument to add delicate brushstrokes to the work of the rhythm section and keys.

In catching the fantastic Japandroids play live in Birmingham on Tuesday night, lead singer Brian King was turning 30 at the stroke of midnight as well as it being the final date of their huge European Tour. With a slightly damp midweek crowd, King exclaimed: “I want this to be a fucking moment.” Sadly it never really came to be. From the offset of the Alt-J show, it felt like something special. However, both the audience and the band could sense a shift in what will be expected from both of them moving forwards. Their sound is something they have cooked up over such a period of time, but it no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the audience, to do with as they wish. On this night, it was a euphoric connection between audience and band. The next question is, where do they go now? To draw on recent Mercury winners, do they produce something similar to their previous efforts (The XX), or do they try to innovate again and wander down a different path (Portishead)?

We’ve seen Elbow go on from winning the Mercury Prize to create big singalong anthems, and now with a huge following and big venues to play, they can do that. However, stadium-indie would not be something that could easily be imagined for Alt-J. The beautiful coyness of their record plays well in venues like this, even if the nature of the record gets stretched into something different. Of course, this is what should happen with a live show, it should be offering an added dimension. The band have said they have a few new songs in the bank, but on this post-Mercury (awesome) wave, and £20,000 in the bank, how will this change things?