Tag Archives: rock

Rob the Music Snob: Viva Machine

24 Jan

A little hyperbole to start this off: the fact that Viva Machine isn’t a household name is one of the great injustices in recent music history. The Welsh rockers had it all. Great riffs, smart lyrics, soaring vocal harmonies and extremely interesting song structures. Imagine Biffy Clyro doing their best Beach Boys impression with Josh Homme noodling away in the background. I’m the proud owner of an EP and album – but even prouder of supporting them in Exeter back in 2008.

viva machine

Because you know what? Time for an extremely uncool admission. I’ve seen a vast number of the so-called best live bands, and Viva Machine were better live than any of them. The Muse live experience can go suck an egg. I’d rather hear “Death Star Trucker” live than “Supermassive Black Hole”.

I fell in love with them because of the live sound, actually – at a packed Cavern Club on a Saturday night. I had heard from a friend that they were great, and they blew the audience away with an air of professionalism that was rare on those nights; most of the acts were essentially there as a warm-up for the resident DJ. All of us were excited to hear what a full-length album had to offer.

We had to wait a while, mind – until 2009, actually – but by god it was great. From the punchy, sci-fi opener “Robot Bodyrox”, to the sprawling epics of “Futuristic Dracula” and “Mental State”, the self-titled album is, surprisingly for a debut effort, a filler-less, lean, mean, rocking machine. Dirty synth, beefy guitars, and a perfect level of quirk without feeling pretentious. I happily have “Viva Machine” in my list of favourite albums of all time.

So what happened? Well, Viva Machine were a young band, and apparently university studies took over, with the band going on hiatus in September of 2009, only a couple of months after the release of their album. A shame – an immensely talented band that I would have loved to have heard more of.

So, there’s Viva Machine. Go give them a listen, and if anyone knows where they guys are now, let them know that there’s still one person carrying a torch for ‘em.

Rob The Music Snob: Sol Seppy

10 Jan

When I was in my late teens, I suffered badly from insomnia. Where possible, I tried to use this time effectively – by writing, reading, or finding new music. MTV2 was a goldmine. Late at night it would play tracks from a variety of unheard, independent-label artists. One of these was Sol Seppy, and I was immediately in love.

Image

Sol Seppy is Sophie Michalitsianos, a classically-trained pianist and cellist better known for her work with the sadly-missed Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse. There are a lot of similarities between the two – the ethereal element, a large but intimate sound, breathtaking lyrics and a deep sense of emotional empathy. The first album, The Bells Of 1 2, is one of my favourites of all time, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Bells Of 1 2 is wonderful. Cohesive yet at the same time full of variety, it manages to bring out incredible levels of depth from a very minimal setup. The opener 1 2 relies almost entirely on piano, as does Enter One, Sol Seppy’s most recognisable track. It’s recognised for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But there’s more than that on show. Slo Fuzz was the first song I heard, pushed forward through – as the name suggests – fuzzy bass lines with floating synth work and excellent quiet/loud dynamics. Move features noisy, shoegaze-esque distortion and a discordant feel. Come Running is upbeat with a brilliantly catchy chorus.

It’s one of those albums that seems to never stray far from my grasp, never accumulating dust. Michalitsianos gave us a new EP last year, continuing the level of quality, and a promise of an album in 2014. I have high hopes, even after the seven year wait. Bring it on.

Rob’s Obligatory Top Ten Albums of 2013

20 Dec

Yep, it’s that time of the year! Here are my favourite albums of 2013. Music lovers have had a bumper crop this year, and it was hard to cut it down to just ten. But here they are, in no particular order.

 

Cloud Cult – Love

This was the first album of 2013 that I actually fell in love with. The Minneapolis collective – currently an eight-piece – released their tenth studio album in March of this year and it was a fantastic, poignant ride. Lush layering, heartfelt lyrics, and wonderful harmonies all helped to create what could be their magnum opus.

 

Kavinsky – OutRun

Love wasn’t the first album to be really, really darn good though. That falls to Kavinsky. Most well known for the use of Nightcall in the soundtrack to Ryan Gosling flick Drive, the French electronic artist released his debut album in February. It may lack emotional impact, but it more than makes up for it in songs that practically drip with 80s movie nostalgia.

 

I The Mighty – Satori

2013 was a great year for rock music, though, nearly making up for the damp squib of 2012. One of the best offerings was served up by San Francisco’s I The Mighty. Their debut, Satori, has it all. Great musicianship, varied and truly poetic lyrical content, and choruses that you’ll be singing for weeks – or months, in my case. This is a strong a debut as you’re going to get.

 

Houses – A Quiet Darkness

Speaking of strong lyrical content, A Quiet Darkness was ahead of the pack. Houses delivered a concept album with a wonderful, heart-wrenching story – two lovers, separated by a nuclear holocaust, trying to reunite with one another. It captures the post-apocalyptic tone perfectly, and the catalyst is not only the dreamy ambience of the music but the sparse, yet graceful, lyrics, which work beautifully with the dual vocals of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina.

 

Enemies – Embark, Embrace

I’m not sure how, but Enemies have managed to do something very unique with Math Rock. Normally the sole haven of musicians and technical music enthusiasts, Embark, Embrace swaps the often discordant noodling with uplifting, soaring melodies without losing any of the complexity that keeps music snobs (such as me) hooked. It’s great, both for pretentious folk like me and for casual listeners.

 

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

2013 also saw the triumphant return of a few of music’s heavyweights. One of the standouts was Hesitation Marks. Trent Reznor had a busy year, also releasing the impressive How To Destroy Angels debut album, and the signs were good that another Nine Inch Nails album would impress. But it surpassed even fan estimations, with not only that unique Nine Inch Nails feel, but with a true progression on show.

 

Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run

There’s nothing not to love about Until the Colours Run: a huge sound, vibrant guitar work, the beautiful strings, and wonderful vocals from Hazel Wilde. Almost every song sounds absolutely massive, and when it doesn’t – such as one of the standout tracks, the ballad Green and Gold – it only serves to further augment the impact. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional.

The First – Take Courage

Enough of that teary-eyed, twee stuff though. The First’s sophomore effort, Take Courage, is a beast of a rock album. Huge riffs, thumping choruses, and a rhythm section you could set your goddamn watch to all come together to form one of the most exciting albums of the year. Listen to this, and you’ll wake up the next morning covered in tattoos next to an empty bottle of whiskey. It’s that hardcore.

 

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Immunity has been included in a large number of ‘Albums of the Year’ lists, and with good reason. The Mercury-nominated album, Hopkins’ fourth, shows the progression of an artist truly doing what he wants to do. Building on the unique sound of 2009’s Insides, Hopkins creates breathtaking, diverse soundscapes that just happen to be some of the best electronica to have been released in years. Immunity is great. Go buy it.

 

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

You know what? I’m just going to say it. This is Queens of the Stone Age’s best album. Rated R has the bizarre, Songs for the Deaf has the heavy riffs, but neither compares to the variety on show here. From the slacker drawl of I Sat by the Ocean, through the psychedelic Kalopsia and the Prince-esque Smooth Sailing, to the delicate piano of the title track, it’s a journey of an album, with every song expertly balanced. A masterpiece.

 

So there we go. A little rundown of what’s been keeping me sane this year. Have a Merry Christmas and a ruddy great New Year!