Tag Archives: The National

In with the new: a hasty look at the most interesting albums of 2009

back in 2009So you’re sick of reading end-of-the-year polls are you? Me too. I’ve already exorcised that demon. With nowt else happening as the nation sinks into the collective food and drink binge known as Christmas, maybe it’s a good time to have a quick peek at what musical treats next year has in store…

Only a handful of release dates have been announced so far, so it’s impossible to preview the year as a whole, but what do we know about already?

In late January, if all goes to plan, Animal Collective will have critics all a-flutter over their new album Merriweather Post Pavillion. I wasn’t too keen on last album Strawberry Jam, but you can guarantee this will be nothing if not experimental. On the same day Andrew Bird releases his eleventh album, Noble Beast, which I’ve already heard a muso friend describe in glowing terms.

A week later and we have a big new album closer to home to get excited about. Franz Ferdinand return after three years with Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. You’ve probably heard one of the singles – Lucid Dreams or Ulysses – and it sounds like the stylish Glaswegians are aiming straight for the indie disco, if indie discos still exist in 2009. Also on this day The Strokes’ bassist Nikolai Fraiture releases his first album as Nickel Eye. I’ve already heard the promo: it’s alright.

Into February and Montreal’s latest buzz band Handsome Furs bring us their second album Face Control. It’s being put out by Sub Pop, which means it must be good. Fact. An early contender for album of the year also arrives in the form of Hush by Asobi Seksu. I’ve heard it already and it’s rather good – poppier than Citrus but as epic as ever.

Commercially, the big album of February will most probably be Lily Allen‘s follow-up to the six times platinum  Alright, Still. Called It’s Not Me, It’s You, expect more ‘witty’, ‘edgy’ lyrics from the mouthy LDNer.

In March The Decemberists return with The Hazards of Love. Can we expect more sea-shanties and literary singalongs from these Pitchfork favourites? Time will tell.

And that’s about the point where all firm dates for your diary dissolve and we are left with lots of TBA-style conjecture. But others virtually guaranteed to come up with new music in 2009 include these notables: The Strokes (they’re expected to return to the studio in February), Outkast, Rufus Wainwright, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, The National, Morrisey, Matisyahu, U2 (yawn), The Fray (yawn), Kate Nash (yawn), Lionel Ritchie (yas!), Papa Roach (yawn), The Rifles (meh) Lady Sovereign (meh), The Feeling (YAWN!!!) and Kylie Minogue (yawn).

But all these pale into insignificance in comparison to what will surely be the album of the year: X Hits, the long-awaited greatest hits collection from failed reality TV show group Liberty X! Get in!

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T in the Park: Sunday roving report

So much for Saturday. Sunday was all set to be the great day, with the clouds clearing and a glut of exciting bands to enjoy. The only problem was how to take it all in…

After a brief sojourn in the Media Village that proved uneventful (no ‘celebs’ to watch being slobbered over by the Daily Record), we take a walk in the sun to hear one of the more promising of the early starters in the Pet Sounds tent. Don’t be fooled by the name: 1990s are all about the 60s. There is a pre-LSD innocence to their guitar-bass-drums pop simplicity – and even in the way Jackie McKeown shakes his head like a young Paul McCartney. The fans at the front love every fresh-faced second of it, but some neutrals are left checking their watches.

An early afternoon lull in the programme allows refreshments and time to draw breath before the line-up really holds sway. Fed and watered, I follow the muso gang to Battles in the Pet Sounds. I thought Mirrored was an interesting record, but it didn’t completely win me over. That same effect of admiring indifference prevails today. They are all jaw-droppingly talented musicians, and the songs build and build like a gathering storm, but at the back of your mind you can’t help thinking it’s just all a bit pretentious.

YeasayerAnyone barred entry to Vampire Weekend’s stowed-out show could have done a lot worse than take a walk to the Futures Tent for fellow New Yorkers Yeasayer. Singer Chris Keating endears himself by saying that the few hundred fans present are worth a 10,000-strong Main Stage crowd, and despite a few disparaging whisperings about their live reputation, Yeasayer are phenomenal. ‘2080’ and ‘Sunrise’ are spine-tingling at such close quarters.

Straight over to the infamous Slam Tent, and after 15 minutes of filler techno and a further ten minutes of uncharacteristically mellow pop tunes, the crowd welcomes French dance wizards Justice, the DJs with the rock band image. The twin banks of fake Marshall amps and the illuminated cross all feed into the image: imagine if Daft Punk took off their space helmets and upped the glitch factor.  “Got any eccies mate?” asks a bug-eyed face in passing. Justice bang out highlights from last year’s Cross album, meshing ‘Genesis’ into ‘Phantom Pt I’, followed by crowdpleasers ‘DVNO’ and ‘D.A.N.C.E’. The answer to the preceding question was ‘no’ by the way, and judging by the fact that I seem to be alone in my lack, I decide it’s time to move on.

Stumbling through the masses outside the Slam Tent, I pass a motorbike display show. They’re jumping up ramps and then landing on the other side, and people are actually missing bands to watch this. I keep moving, as the sun disappears behind a bank of grey and the Pet Sounds Tent beckons once again, with its promise of some passionate American indie.

Justice, somewhere behind that pillarUp on stage Matt Berninger, in his usual black shirt/black jeans combo, is leading The National through a beguiling set of their world-weary, heart-broken paeans. It takes a good three songs for them to get into gear, but once they let loose with the eerie majesty of ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, the set takes a steep trajectory towards the sublime, with ‘Fake Empire’ and ‘Squalor Victoria’ the highlights. As he waves goodbye to the T crowd, Berninger looks genuinely moved by the experience.

By this point it had been a long weekend, but a further dilemma remained, the oldest dilemma in the history of festival going: which headliner? REM? Saw them headline here five years ago. Primal Scream? Tempting, but their recent output has been so-so. Aphex Twin? Love to, but can’t handle any more Slam Tent insanity tonight.

So I decided to sample the most talked-about band of the day (in our circle at least): the Brian Jonestown Massacre. A last-minute realisation that a Formula One boss and his misguided rock dream might not be the best headliner for the Pet Sounds Arena resulted in a promotion from the early afternoon for the BJM. And while their heady sonic brew is intoxicating, the small crowd shrinks further during the set. We are asked four times who the band on stage are by curious passers-by. Not that BJM particularly care, especially tambourine man Joel Gion, who resorts to a hissy tirade after being drenched by a thrown pint. As we leave for the bus, he’s still at it: “Is that all you got? Can you spit that far you fucking fag?” Nothing like a bit of aggro to round off a summer festival.

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