Tag Archives: the strokes

Nickel Eye – The Time Of The Assassins

Nickel Eye

Rating: ***

A cynic might observe that members of The Strokes seem to feel obliged to each release a solo or spin-off album before the most celebrated of New York garage bands end their hiatus. In the past six months alone we’ve had guitarist Albert Hammond Jr’s second album, a debut from drummer Fabrizio Moretti’s side-project Little Joy, and now bassist Nikolai Fraiture gets in on the act with his ‘other band’, Nickel Eye. Making up the numbers are London trio South and – Fraiture being a Stroke n’all – cameos from Regina Spektor and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. Unsurprisingly, the bass sits in the foreground of the mix, especially in the ska-tinged Brandy of the Damned, while there is more than a passing resemblance to Fraiture’s full-time band on You And Everyone Else. Putting preconceived expectations aside, this is a satisfying work of homespun folk-rock. Not the most earth-shattering of debuts, but it plugs a gap already part-filled by Hammond Jr and Moretti.

Released on 26 Jan

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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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The Blakes – The Blakes (album review)

Rating: 2/5

It’s easy to get an idea of what to expect from The Blakes by citing their apparent influences: early Strokes in the playful kick of ‘Modern Man’, ‘Country Girl’-mode Primal Scream in the bluesy ‘Magoo’, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in the loose, grungy sway of upcoming single ‘Don’t Want That Now’. And the problem with that is that none of the above are doing anything remotely exciting these days, and neither are The Blakes. The Seattle trio sound like they’ve been kept in storage since 2001, and now arrive blinking in the glare of an indie scene that’s taken a few more interesting turns than they’re capable of. Interest is piqued by the darker, detuned guitars of ‘Vampire’, or the wall-of-sound effect in ‘Streets’, but a combination of weak songwriting, uninspiring musicianship and generic production values equates to a debut that’s already behind the times.

The Blakes is out on 4 Aug via Strange Addiction.

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Albert Hammond Jr – ¿Cómo Te Llama?

Albert Hammond Jr – ¿Cómo Te Llama?

Rating: 3/5

You can’t really begrudge Albert Hammond Jr his solo career. The Strokes aren’t exactly prolific, Julian Casablancas does most of that band’s songwriting, and with their Lower East Side hipster image to keep up, it’s easy to imagine that private universe becoming an exceedingly cramped place for someone as individually creative as Hammond Jr. But as much as he’d like us to forget about his other band when in solo mode, it’s hard to get too excited about side-projects, no matter the sincerity invested in them. Yours To Keep was a perfectly good record, and so is ¿Cómo Te Llama? He employs a similarly lackadaisical singing style to Casablancas on ‘Bargain Of A Century’, although it begins to strain by new single ‘GfC’. ‘Victory At Monterey’ and the instrumental ‘Spooky Couch’ (featuring a piano cameo from Sean Lennon) take Albert Hammond Jr as far as he’s been, but so far that extent has never gone beyond a certain other band.

¿Cómo Te Llama? is released on 7 July by Rough Trade

You can currently listen to the entire album on Albert Hammond Jr’s MySpace. What a generous chap.

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