And now for the review part of my Oxford special. And dear me the standard was high. But, The August List’s album is in a class all of it’s own when it comes to being different and having it’s own voice. Simply Superb.
Record of the Month
This album left me slack-jawed in amazement when I first heard it. And pretty much every time there after. Could I be declaring the album of the year early? Possibly, as it is going to take something special to beat this. Fabulously and unashamedly lo-fi, rough around the edges and rustic the strength of this collection is in the immediacy of the songs, they are catchy, foot-stomping backwoods folk tunes, infectious and drenched with atmosphere. The subtleties and nuances of the sounds are astonishing, the twin vocals contrast and complement perfectly and the sparse instrumentation just serves to create genuinely tingling moments. Pull up your rocking chair, crack a beer open and enjoy a musical moment on your porch.
The third album from this Oxon / Hants mini super-group (a pedigree that includes Goldrush, Black Neilson and The Dreaming Spires cannot be ignored) is a handsome slice of fabulous dreamy west-coast Americana; full of sunny Beach Boys harmony vocals yet dripping with an authentic melancholy. It is a record of contrasts; the beautiful, sweeping melodies float around deliciously, lifting the spirits as they flow around your ears. However, listening in to the poetic and erudite lyrics and you find heartworm tales of sadness and a mellow misery that is curiously compelling. This is a fantastically deep record, beautifully put together and will have an appeal that will grow and change over time.
Nice little collection of tracks with a great mellow pop vibe about them – Oxford seems to do this sort of dreamy stuff better than most (see Trophy Wife and The Winchell Riots among many others). Featuring a couple of new tracks, a remix and a demo this is a tidy introduction to the band and suggests some promise for the future. Glass is the standout track, building gently into a hooky pop song with catchy melodies and lyrics. The remix of this track boosts the bassline and beats into Friendly Fire territory but doesn’t add a great deal to the song. The Floor is a softer, textured affair but suffers slightly from a lack of drive. The demo track Don’t Ask adds nothing to the package. Frankly I don’t see why bands feel a need to release development tracks alongside complete songs. That gripe aside, with a little more direction and drive (and a more obvious to find internet presence) Yew could be worth keeping an eye on.
More country / folk music, it seems to be the month for it and again it is damn fine. In fact, the only thing that is wrong with it is it is not as good as The August List (unfortunate timing really) as it bears much resemblance – male / female twin vocals, backwoods style Americana with stomping rhythms and a lo-fi attitude. That still means this is pretty respectable and much better than much of the dreary and increasingly formulaic acoustic guitar based music out there at the moment. There is a real atmosphere created and the songs have surprising depth to them. This would have been a standout record in almost any other month.
I don’t usually review older material, or random tracks, but these guys wrote a rather nice email to me and I am in a charitable mood and open to politeness and ego smoothing for a change. Also, following on from last month’s complaining I ought to follow up on someone who has made the effort to get in touch! These guys sent over some links that led me to a complete track and a demo which do show some promise. However, they do seem to have something of an identity issue going on, categorising themselves as an alternative rock band but having a rootsier, folk style to their music. Kicking Up Stones has a great Springsteen vibe to it once the chorus kicks in although lyrically is a tad repetitive. The demo track Between The Rain is stripped back and basic, as you would expect perhaps,but it does sound like this is intentional, and it is a more considered and constructed song with hints of Benjamin Francis Leftwich to it. Keep at it guys!