New Borns: The Charlatans, Matthew E White, Dick Diver, Twin Shadow, Modest Mouse

With the year kicking off to a rather fine start when it comes to new music, we put last weeks New Borns at top place in terms of damn fine music.  Sarah, fell in love with Matthew E. White this week, the result was another Golden Ram (we give away 10 of these accoldates a year).  The Charlatans delivered there 12th studio album and James went against house rules and reviewed an album he has been waiting on for some time. It was the final straw….and man did it deliver.  Jerome our international lamb (an island east of Madagascar) gave Twin Shadow a listen hoping to be swept away by his usual 80s influenced soul pop.  Shauna, delivered a review on Modest Mouse for those who are partial to bit of noughties poster boy inde pop, while Jackob paid respect to Melbourne’s very own Dick Diver.  Another cracking week.


matthew e whiteArtist Matthew E. White

Album Title Fresh Blood

Label Domino

Genre Soft Pop, Soul, Alt

Moments Of Father John Misty, Beachwood Sparks, Eels

Stand Out Love is Deep

sarahmottMatthew E. White’s latest offering is a joyful mix of joy, cynicism, erotica and despair in ten beautifully orchestrated songs. Whether it is due to his unique style that differentiates him from his peers, or the contrasting ecstatic and excruciating idea of love he sings of, or the perfect way he manages to turn each tune into a tsunami of empathy and emotion that washes over you and pulls you into his musical bosom, Fresh Blood is a triumph and already a permanent spot on my top albums of 2015.

As soon as Take Care My Baby swells into my ears, I know this album is going to be another winner from Matthew E White. It’s intimate but with a big sound, perfectly choreographed and just weird enough to keep me interested. The only artists that have achieved this so far are Eels and the Beatles in their Abbey Road album.

It only gets better with Rock N Roll is Cold, picking up the beat with na na na’s and ooh la la’s, regardless of the fact I’m not quite sure what he means with the refrain ‘everybody knows that rock n roll is cold’ – the unforgiving industry? The often misogynistic atmosphere that comes with a genre traditionally dominated by men?  Let’s all interpret in our own way, yeah.

It’s a heady mix – glockenspiel, piano, definitely a tambourine in there, plus the deep and mellow rumble of Matthew E White’s tones floating over the sweeter voices of his backups. Is that what makes it such an addictive sound? Or is it the romantic yet slightly cynical lyrics that suggest a stab of reality in the traditional love story sung by most pop crooners? Feeling Good Is Good Enough kind of suggests this to me – White’s little spin on clashing a love song with real life. Yet he still manages to give you that lovely tightness in your chest when all the instruments jam togeter and create beautiful, joyful noise.

He certainly left the most emotionally and musically climactic song till the end, and it does well for a closer – Love Is Deep gives you musical closure on this listening journey yet leaves youdesperately wanting more.

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the charlatansArtist The Charlatans

Album Title Modern Nature

Label BMG

Genre Indie Soul Synth Pop Melodic

Moments Of Ian Brown, The Kinks, The Style Council, Beach Boys

Stand Out So Oh, Keep Enough

jameslondon1_blue_blurThe Charlatans release their 12th Studio album, Modern Nature in somewhat sombre circumstances with the death of their tremendously talented drummer John Brooke in late 2013 not to mention losing Rob Collins, their Keyboardist in 1996.  Without focussing on these facts, that sadly cloud most of their reviews and interviews, Modern Nature, goes against the grain and offers a laid-back, earnest and reflective album that may well be their best album since their debut Some Friendly.

Each week when we put words down for the New Borns, we really try and push our musical ears and select artists/albums that we may well have not listened to otherwise.  Well this week, the rules have changed a bit as I review The Charlatans, very important new release.  Why have the rules changed?  I have followed the Charlatans from the day Some Friendly was release in 1990.  At the wonderous naïve age of 15, I stumbled across the band after seeing it in my musical store (Big Star, Adelaide) and seeing that there was a free T-shirt with its sale.  It was  cassette in those days.  I kind of like the T-shirt so  I made the purchase.  My musical life changed from the moment I edged the tape into my cassette player and wedged the play button with a crumpled bit of paper (memory recalls).

Through each consecutive album, Between 10th and 11th (under-rated), Up To Our Hips (outsanding) The Charlatans (brilliant) Tellin’ Stories (their peak) Us and Us Only (contented) Wonderland (worthy and grown up) Up at the Lake (hmmm) Wonderland (different) Simpatico (directional) You Cross My Path (difficult) Who We Touch (hmmm), Modern Nature (NECESSARY).

Opening Tracks, Talking in Tones, soothes its way to the ears with a samples, a shuffling beat, a gliding organ and a gliding guitar…what a damn fine intro.  Full of mood and head nodding coolness as Tim Burgess, swaggers his vocal, sound like much like a more accomplished Ian Brown….”I never liked the fact, and I don’t like to moan”…this is The Charlatans, once again soundling like a band in true harmony.

With the very sad news of Jon Brookes passing away, many of us wondered where the band would go, indeed if they would go any more.  In replacement was Peter Saisbury, once drummer of The Verve, and in complete admiration to Brookes, what Salisbury does for this album is subtle but extraordinary and respectful.  Bass Player Martin Blunt (the reason I started to play bass), finds life in his playing and offers some of the grooviest and soulful bass lines I have heard in such a long time.  The uber smooth sounds of So Oh, Come Home Baby, Keep Enough and Lot To Say just cruise along to a beautiful and laid back groove that simply cant avoid a nod and toe tap.  Huge fan aside, these are some effortless tracks played by a band who are SO SO SO back on form.  Kind of makes me proud of the lads.

In The Tall Grass, lined with bongos (going back to their Up To Our Hip album days), gentle organ keys, samples and harmonies with thanks to Tony Rogers who makes his sublte mark on this track, shows a band who have been jamming for years.  The track brings together a bit of jazz, funk, groove and typical Charlatan swagger.

There are a few tracks that slightly move away from the overall laid-back vibe of the album, I Need You To Know and Lean In, that although fine tracks in themselves do take the album slightly off path.

The shuffling drums of Emille and the always improving vocal ability of Tim Burgess make for another toe tapping wonder, that can also be said about closing track Lot To Say.

Perhaps it is age that has finally brought The Charlatans around to delivering such a fine album, perhaps it’s the sadness of lost that has lightened their hearts, perhaps the influences of Tim Burgess having worked with Kurt Wagner on his solo work (clear influences on this album)… my biased but honest opinion, irrespective of my devotion for the band, Modern Nature is an important album in reminding us that persistence and not losing your self to the strains of commercial bullshit, you will come through in the end.  A proud moment for me.

9 lambs in musical worth, a golden ram from this devoted heart.




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twin-shadow-eclipse-album-coverArtist Twin Shadow

Album Title Eclipse

Label Warner Music

Genre RnB pop

Moments Of Bad Lenny kravizt

Stand Out_ Locked & Loaded (only because I HAVE TO put one !)

Faceless 1Georges Lewis Jr, of his stage name Twin Shadow, release this month his third album, from which is extracted the single turn me on. After two albums with laudatory criticism (forget in 2010 and confess in 2012), album describes as an ” hazily new wave-tinged pop with sophisticated melodies and poetic lyrics ” (Forget even was 26th at The Top 50 Albums of on 2010), the young songwritter, native of Dominican Republic  and raised in Florida, returns with an album which leaves at least perplexed.

Twin Shadow has surprised more than one 5 years ago with the release of his first album Forget. Eclipse, his new album, is filled up with passion and love. Diverted from the pop style of the first two reccord, Twin Shadow has forsaken guitars and turned towards originality. Completely recorded in a cemetery (this is more than original), Eclipse constitutes a panel of song softer, sweeter, smoother, sexier, without being for all that deprived of rhythm.

Musicaly speaking, it is nice to see (and to hear) that tests for researches of originality combined with the inspirations of previous periods can still be successful.
His sound finds its interest and its qualities in the influence of  the 70s and the 80s, expressed through modern instruments and  structure. In spite of his contemporary rhythmic, the sound is treated in an old school way with tools of today. A mordern/past creation really well succed.

Above these original musical creations  place the soft voice of Georges Lewis Jr  (without forgotten Guests  Lily Elise and D’Angelo Lacy). A voice of his most sensitive. A  “RnB I m in love” vocal style , which does not miss talent, but may be missing a little bit of eccentricity and boldness. The musical explosions are under exploited. They remain kind, very “cute” as if the interpreter prevented from taking risk. It shows pieces closing into a reduced dynamics (Locked & Loaded). We want the song to explode, we expect for an explosion but nothing come. Furthermore, The permanent  lining of the singings adds a sweetness that quickly becomes “Too Much”!

Big downside: the treatment of the main theme of the album: Love.. Handled under all his forms (” I need it” “I want it” “I d love to have it but i can t “). There is a lack of maturity in these texts which seem to address to young and madly in love listener . I struggled to find myself in this album and I found it very difficult to identified with it, except  maybe for the 17-year-old teenagers or still 30-year-old virgin.

There is too much sweetness, too much romance, too much Fleur Bleu . (I mean, we are all adults right? Come on Georges!)

And it’s a pity! While originals melodies keep coming, the voice, the rnb love style rnb and the lyrics are plunging the atmosphere and the global nature of the titles of this album into the category of these boy bands lover of love.

Songs which remind  a bad  Lenny Kravitz, with the tendency of Boys II men a little bit more sophisticated  (To The Top is the perfect example). Here is the result, an album certainly original because of its musical touch but among which texts and singings seem to come straight out of a Twilight episode. I preferred the Twin Shadow from before. Guess i am too old for this…





Modest Mouse Strangers-To-OurselvesArtist Modest Mouse

Album Title Strangers To Ourselves

Label Epic Records

Genre Indie Pop, Indie Rock

Moments Of Arcade Fire, The Smiths, Vampire Weekend

Stand Out Lampshades On Fire, The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box

shauna v2Mid-noughties indie poster boys Modest Mouse return after a four year hiatus to release album number six Strangers To Ourselves. Returning to the familiar sounds of breakthrough album Good News For People Who Love Bad News and follow up We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse continue to be a unique and intriguing force in indie rock. However, returning from a hiatus is always fraught with expectation. In the case of Strangers To Ourselves, there are plenty of likeable and interesting tracks to hold the ear, but whether it maintains the excitement of earlier work is debatable. 

Good New For People Who Love Bad News was undoubtedly Modest Mouse’s breakthrough album that exposed them to a huge audience of indie loving kids. The unforgettable single Float On will be ingrained into the lives of many for decades to come, an anthem for everyone when you need to remember that shit happens, and “we’ll all float on ok.” This also introduced many to the distinctive voice of Isaac Brock, who despite the number of lineup changes since there formation in 1993, has remained a principle songwriter, singer and guitarist since then. Together with the sing-shout vocals of Brock, the uplifting, intricate and enchanting songs that Modest Mouse were putting out in the 2000’s, this made them a model for many indie bands that followed them.

Now, ten years later and post hiatus (or was it?) Brock and crew have returned with Strangers To Ourselves which returns with an oddball bunch of tracks that in part, return to a familiar bouncing and danceable sound that fans will be familiar with, and a bunch that are definitely going to turns a few ears. Lead single Lampshades On Fire is a great lead off that could have easily been taken from Good News or even We Were Dead. Along with track The Ground Walks, With Time In a Box and Pups To Dust, we are lulled into a familiar vibe that would be part of a cohesive and engaging new release from Modest Mouse. However, in this unfortunate case the album is pasted together with fillers, confusing experiments and uninteresting cuts that make for a overly long album. It does hold your attention for the whole album, but on completion leaves a confused and fatigued feeling.

Clocking in at 15 songs running over 56 minutes, it feels a bit stretched for essentially a pop album. Songs like Shit In Your Cut – a mid tempo swagger without a real hook, similarly with The Tortoise and the Tourist, lack a real twist and intrigue that we have heard on previous albums. The most bizarre offering would come from the song Pistol, of which must only be heard to be described. After Sugar Boats, Modest Mouse’s attempt at a sea shanty (which tips just past the halfway mark on the album), there’s not a lot of interesting things happening past this point. Sure, it sounds like Modest Mouse and the songs are ok, but just unnecessary.

Strangers To Ourselves is a worthy album to the ears of any fan of indie pop, but the overall comparative to earlier work is a filtered version – where only a few of the great songs have made it through. What remains are a few fascinating tracks, and a majority of lukewarm efforts. So the best general advice for approaching this album would be to stick to the first half of the album, and if that seems too much, just pick out the singles.