This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze
This Is The Kit are a band I’ll admit to having pigeonholed. It’s the fact that they’re so easy to confuse with First Aid Kit, another, not dissimilar indie folk group; it’s the unholy vision of twee which comes to mind when you read the words ‘indie folk group’. I assumed the band’s records would be laden with indistinct acoustic warbling, destined to get them bookings at Latitude and Green Man until the end of time.
Researching the album did little to alter my prejudices. Rough Trade’s profile of the outfit notes that they’re favourites of Guy Garvey, which turned me against them before I’d heard a single note. A visit to the band’s website, meanwhile, informed me that the first 500 orders of the LP would receive “an exclusive This Is The Kit tea towel”, which was a more damning indictment of their sound than anything I could muster.
At its most uninspiring, the album duly vindicates these stereotypes. The middle of the record is a real lull, with four sleepy, fingerpicked cuts placed in ill-advised succession. At its best, however, it’s dynamic and instantly engaging, the folksy arrangements inflected with moody saxophone bursts. Kate Stables’ voice is refreshingly unaffected, her lyrics earnest without being cloying. You won’t find me scouring eBay for a tea towel any time soon, but the highlights here are worth a listen.
Listen to: the first three songs, “Two Pence Piece”, “Solid Grease”.
Haim – Something to Tell You
The first time I listened to Something to Tell You, I could barely be bothered to finish it.
The album seemed irredeemably front-loaded, the second half bogged down by repetitiveness – overstuffed with indistinguishably sun-kissed harmonies and samey bass licks. STTY rewards a second listen however, and on closer inspection it’s not nearly as bad as I’d thought. It’s a grower, but even having had it grow on me for a week, I’m still not entirely convinced. It’s a well written record, but it’s not a hugely memorable one.
I don’t have anything particularly nuanced or insightful to say about why this is the case; the songs just aren’t as good. Does anything here hit you the same way “The Wire” did? Or “Falling”? Or “Forever”? Or “My Song 5”? Days Are Gone was so ludicrously packed with instant hits that it was always going to be difficult to follow up, but STTY is so comparatively bangerless that it’s hard not to feel unenthusiastic. I’ve seen several reviews describe their brand of soft-rock as ‘spacey’, which I can’t help feeling might be code for ‘a bit slow compared to the last record’.
It’s not a bad album, but it is an underwhelming one. Given the exuberant confidence of their debut, and the band’s obvious potential to scale even greater heights, the caution of their sophomore effort is disappointing. Haim say they’ve got something to tell us, but there’s little here that we haven’t heard before.
Listen to: the first four songs. “You Never Knew” and “Walking Away” are also worth a try.
Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
As Broken Social Scene return with their first album in seven years, the blogs that catapulted them to indie semi-stardom are lapping up what’s being touted as a triumphant return to form. To my ears though, they sound thoroughly past their sell-by date, a sentiment epitomised by a recent feature on the band from Pitchfork (who else?).
In the accompanying interview, unofficial band leader Kevin Drew outs himself as a colossal bore, smugly espousing some of the most trite cultural commentary 2017 has to offer. Instead of writing a proper review, I’m tempted just to paste in some of his worst lines, and have them do my job for me. Here he is on the group’s creative process:
‘We’re not 5 years old going to EDM concerts like, “This is the best laptop show I’ve ever seen in my life!” No, we want to be a part of the effort of creation.’
Drew isn’t far behind Moby in the race to be crowned king of the nerds; he’s a sentient Yer Da tweet, all ham-fisted technophobia and whiter-than-white musical conservatism.
‘We’re trying to create that hug of thunder. That sound. That embrace amongst the chaos. Touch is as fucking connected as you can get. You’re supposed to fucking talk to someone and put your hand on their shoulder and look into their eyes. If you’re staring at a screen, how do you have that?’
Frankly, I’d be reaching for my phone if I had to hear this new material live. I’d be able to forgive all the dad-philosophy if the music was good, but it just isn’t; for all Drew’s bluster about screen-free authenticity, the record is a damp squib.
Reviews of this album are littered with words like ‘anthemic’, ‘uplifting’ and ‘rousing’,but the crescendos on “Vanity Pail Kids” and “Mouthguards of the Apocalypse” feel forced, the musical equivalent of Jeb Bush having to ask his own audience to clap for him. “Mouthguards” aside, the second half of the album can’t even conjure affected excitement, meandering as it does, one forgettable song after another.
“Skyline” in particular is unspeakably bland, as if Fleet Foxes had tried to write a song after being put under anaesthetic. Spin praises its “cyclical structure”, Pitchfork its “mesmeric repetition”; both are creative ways of expressing the fact that it’s dull as fuck, and goes nowhere over the course of four long minutes.
Hug of Thunder will always exist in the shadow of the band’s much-loved early work - even the cover looks like it’s trying to imitate that of You Forgot It in People, the band’s critical and commercial breakthrough. It’s tepid, a pale imitation of their best albums; regurgitated scenester music for a scene that doesn’t exist anymore. It desperately wants to be an urgent message of hope, but it falls well short: ‘Looking at the general state of the world right now, we knew that putting our unified friendship out there was a great protest that we could do.’ Oh, fuck off. Drew’s revolution won’t be televised, but it’ll probably get played on 6 Music.
Listen to: I’ll give them “Stay Happy”. The title track’s not bad. Really though, just listen to You Forgot It in People instead – it’s much, much better.
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