5. Elegies to Lessons Learnt by iLiKETRAiNS
Sometimes I hate being right. I championed these guys last year. I really
thought Progress/Reform had something, something special elevating
iLiKETRAiNS beyond the rabble. So I stuck my neck out over the last New Year
placing iLT as ones to watch. Yet there was always a nagging doubt. Are
they one-trick ponies? How often would iLT play that same card? How many
ridiculous, pompous songs backed by the same chiming crescendos? How many
more doomed figures of history? Not without its good moments (Death is the
end, Spencer Perceval) Elegies eventually proved that across a full album the trick would wear disappointingly thin.
4. Hvarf-Heim by Sigur Ros
Just to prove that there are no sacred cows where Brett Spaceman is concerned, into the dud list come my favourite band going, Sigur Ros. If you are a fan like me, you will most likely be aware Hvarf-Heim is a contractual obligation rather than a full-blown release. Brief explanation - as the band's Heima film went further over budget, EMI insisted on a record release to hedge against losses. Along came Hvarf-Heim. In theory even a disc of out-takes and acoustic versions by the Godlike ones should be a winner. Yet this really won't do at all. Hljomlind is acceptable. But the rest, ah, we wait for the next album proper.
Oh and did you know: that z shaped double CD packaging? They patented that!
3. An End Has a Start by Editors
I never had a problem with them sounding like Interpol. Just so long as they didn't follow the Interpol blueprint of flabby, overproduced sophomore album. An End Has a Start could have been something. What a start it had! Well, forgive the studio sheen and the stadium ambitions while tracks like Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors and the title track are on show. The truly exceptional Weight of the World, arguably the best indie waltz since NYC, raised expectation levels to further heights. Sadly, this is where Editors faltered. Put simply, the group ran out of ideas. Musically they even plagiarize themselves at one point (Spiders). Additionally the subject matter proved too unremarkable to carry the albums beyond its misgivings.
2. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
Let's be honest. This is the one we were all waiting for. Arcade Fire proved themselves one of the most vital acts around with their mix of 80s indie sensibility and solemn chamber music. For starters, they're about the only band able to make the accordion sound acceptable. Neon Bible though smacks of afterthought. By anyone else's standards, it'd be an interesting record. By their lofty standards it simply doesn't measure up. Sure, it'll feature in every end of year top 5. I can imagine the magazine hacks all desperate to make up for the fact that Funeral slipped past them. All but a discerning few anyway. To me, making Neon Bible an album of the year is akin to giving Scorsese the Oscar for The Departed rather than Goodfellas or Raging Bull. A compensation award.
So yeah, I'm partial to their Cajun take on Echo and the Bunnymen myself.
Neon Bible is far from awful with nuggets such as Ocean of Noise and Keep
the Car Running. Yet if were honest, the best track on display is No Cars
Go, warmed leftovers from an old EP/mini-album. It's a superb
track. Indeed it always has been, dating back to 1985 when The Cure first
released it, entitled The Exploding Boy (B-side to Inbetween Days).
And if you don't believe me, just go and play it and hear for yourselves. This
isn't meant as a sideswipe at Arcade Fire and doesn't mean No Cars Go is
anything less than exhilarating. My point is, are we to accept an album with No
Cars Go as highlight and what does this say about the album? Much of the
rest smacks of filler to me. Sorry, I'm not giving up on them. I'm just being
honest. Do yourselves a favour, buy The Strange Death Of Liberal England instead.
1. Tillbaka Till Samtiden by Kent
If I'm honest, this was the one I was waiting for. But my God, the Christmas turkey came early with Tillbaka Till Samtiden. (Back to futurist) Anyone who knows me knows how highly I value Kent. These guys are the biggest band in the world. In Sweden. No, seriously, they look down on the likes of Radiohead and U2 from the Swedish charts. Faint praise you say? Well I don't. I love Swedish music and Kent have been kings of Sweden for a decade. Put it this way: if they had released B-sidor in 2007, it'd be album of the year. A collection of b-sides! Irritatingly Tillbaka Till Samtiden is as abject as its predecessor Du & Jag Doden was superlative. Quite deliberately, Kent have forsaken their dark, chiming indie for electro-pop. I respect them for trying something different. Indeed, each of the band's seven albums to date offer something distinct from previous releases. But I cannot give my heart to Tillbaka Till Samtiden. It's a stinker.