Photograph by Paul Phung

After receiving critical acclaim on their previous two albums, Kendal’s lusty pop crooners are back with their latest LP Smother. Although recognizable in style, it is still a departure from 2009’s Two Dancers as it is a slower, more sensual venture into erotic ballads for the four English blokes.

Aside from the first few moments of overbearingly disturbing vocals on opening track ‘Lion’s Share’ (did he just say “I take you in my mouth”?), Smother has a beautiful, haunting undertone that showcases the striking falsettos of vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming, as well as the precision in the instrumentation of drummer Chris Talbot and guitarist/keyboardist Ben Little.  With lyrics that can vary between fitting and inappropriate eroticism, the album is clearly one of love, but whether it is optimistic or pessimistic is up for debate.  There is a continuous theme of guilt in Thorpe’s overtly sexual lyrics.  He sounds like a strikingly similar, though less creepy Antony Hegarty, and although the songs can be at times vaudevillian, it is a delight to listen to start to finish.

Never shying away from eccentricity, Wild Beasts have cited some new influences on Smother. A direct reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is made on the dreamy, heavily-synthed ‘Bed of Nails’ as Thorpe screams “It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s aliiiiiiiiiiive” over alarming keyboards and warm propulsive guitars.  In recent interviews Thorpe even compared the band to the infamous monster, having “always felt like this odd creature that’s sort of hard to love”.

Adding to the ambiguous nature of the album, the daunting alarmclock-like keyboards and heavy drums on ‘Plaything’ blur the distinction between love and lust, as Thorpe’s breathy lyrics play on both emotions as he asks his new plaything to take off her clothes so he can do as he pleases.

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— , June 2, 2011    2 Comments

Photograph by Sarah Cass

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2009. The first half of our list featured Wolf Parade off-shoots, a band experiencing a grand reunion, and an array of talented newcomers. Our top ten features the heavy hitters, the very best 2009 had to offer. Our contributors battled mercilessly to formulate this list. We emerge bloodied and bruised, confident that these are ten albums that will stand the test of time. Without further ado, here are Ca Va Cool’s top albums of ’09.

Photograph by Annie Powers

Photograph by Annie Powers

10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)

Gather around children and let me tell you the tale of four New York indie poppers who dubbed themselves The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In their sugar-coated world all songs were dreamy, dense melodies drenched in saccharine sweet vocals and jangly guitar. Lyrics were emotional proclamations with dark undertones disguised beneath cute refrains and gumdrops. Teenage angst, sexual yearning, misdirected emotions, drug analogies and scattered profanities flowed with their overt sweetness and apparent levity in a musical dichotomy; the battle against light and dark arranging itself into aural beauty. Nothing less could be expected from a troupe of troubadours named after a children’s book and channeling broken hearts of the past into a C86 revival. What will become of the courageous quartet in the new year? The story is to be continued. In the meantime, we can lose ourselves in my favourite track about library love from their self-titled debut album released this year on Slumberland Records. — Sabrina Diemert

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— , December 26, 2009    2 Comments
Wild Beasts

Photograph by Tom Beard

Wild Beasts weren’t a band which was going to make it big. Sure, Domino signed the band after they released their first singles in the UK, but that decision was made with the same motivation as remastering and compiling the work of Orange Juice and Josef K: reinvesting all their Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand profits into promoting post-punk acts long gone that people would otherwise never hear. Some record companies are cool.

The Beasts’ debut album Limbo, Panto was fantastic, but their falsetto vocals and wood block percussion wasn’t the most fashionable music. Now they’re back with a new album, Two Dancers, out September 9 on Domino Records, and it sounds like they’re ready for the top. Bassist and shared lead vocalist Tom Fleming took time from preparing for the band’s first North American shows to answer a few of my questions.

Wild Beasts – All the King’s Men
Wild Beasts – Hooting & Howling

Daniel: Where does the music of Wild Beasts stem from? Is it a personal reflection of the band or a neatly designed aesthetic merging your influences?

Tom Fleming: It’s instinctive, to a point. Obviously it’s closely related to what we’ve listened to in our formative years, but we’ve tried to filter it through who we are and what we’ve seen and done. The aesthetic of the band was formed in practice, in rehearsal in our basement, rather than being an abstract idea of what we’d like to be. I suppose it’s something that’s only about 10% choice and thought, the rest is down to just trusting what you think is right.

Daniel: Many of the musical elements found on your first album Limbo, Panto can be found on Two Dancers: chiming guitars, low growls to high falsetto vocals, and non-traditional percussion. However, where they were once used as an all out joyous assault on the listener, you seem to be trying and succeeding with various new styles by using a more calculated method. How do you describe the new direction in your sound?

Tom: We wanted to pare it down and make something that was more minimal and adult, more telling of where we were when we recorded it. We’d been sitting on the songs off Limbo, Panto for what seemed like a long time, whereas this was more automatic, written and recorded quickly with a lot of things left to chance. We’d been listening to a lot of electronic music, and we’ve tried to think about the structures, sounds and restraint of that approach, while still keeping the human grime intact. And thank you.

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— , September 6, 2009    2 Comments

Wild Beasts

At the end of each year I delight in reading a ton of “best albums of the year” lists on blogs and in magazines to find everything that I’ve missed over the year. I think I listened to quite a bit over the last 11 and a half months, so I’ve decided to publish my own best of 2008 this time around. It was a hard to choose, but I finally got it down to 20.

20 | Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto

I’m starting off my top 20 list with some fauve British guitars. I’ve been following Wild Beasts from their early EPs and singles and what’s great is that they didn’t lose their raw sound on their debut album, Limbo, Panto. Angular guitars, falsetto vocals, and unconventional percussion make this a weird but rewarding listen. Matisse would be proud.

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— , December 16, 2008    10 Comments

Wild Beasts

I have no idea what Wild Beasts are on about, but if ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ isn’t a catchy song title then I don’t know what is. I’ve recommended this on many occasions and no one seems as struck as me. Granted it’s not very traditional, sounding as if Tiny Tim of “Tip-Toe Thru’ the Tulips With Me” fame took over lead vocals for the Archie Bronson Outfit. Oh, and throw in some of those coconuts banged together from Holy Grail. It just, well, goes. It’s so unusually good that I have to love it. If you like it, then check out out all ten tracks on their new album Limbo, Panto.

Wild Beasts – Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants

Here’s the music video from the original 7” recording of the song:

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— , July 9, 2008    3 Comments