John Meagher's album reviews: Jamie xx, Major Laser, Sun Kil Moon, Slaves
John Meagher reviews this week's big album releases and takes a look back at a classic album with The Stooges Fun House.
Album of the week
The debut album proper from the founding member and producer of The xx is a beguiling excursion through electronica's more intricate, textured pastures. While so many of his peers strive for a propulsive, arena-oriented racket, Jamie Smith is fixated on making music that's slow-burning, emotive and capable of delivering more and more if given the chance.
Thanks to his sterling remix work (Florence + The Machine, Radiohead), Smith has proved to be a master of the studio and so it proves again with these painstakingly layered tracks built around samples and synthetic sounds.
While there are unmistakable echoes of The xx here - and band-mates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim pops up on a number of songs - this album is nowhere nearly as downbeat: in fact, several tracks are positively life-affirming, not least the memorable opener 'Gosh'.
But there are delicate, quiet moments, too - and that's where Smith's skills truly shine. It takes considerable skill to deliver a song as minimal as 'See Saw' which features the vocals of Madley Croft and is co-produced by low-key electronica maven Kieran 'Four Tet' Hebden. And it would be a rare soul who is not beguiled by the (not so aptly named) 'Loud Places'.
Fun House (1970)
Classic album revisited
The second studio outing from Detroit’s proto punk rockers remains one of the rawest, wildest albums ever made. Pretty much everything was done in one take with the irrepressible Iggy Pop laying down the gauntlet to a slew of frontmen who followed. The energy is utterly infectious and visceral songs like ‘TV Eye’ and ‘Down in the Street’ remain vividly alive 45 years on.
Peace is the Mission (Because Music)
The third album from one of the more acclaimed EDM outfits — as Americans like to reference ‘electronic dance music’ — lacks some of the spark of their earlier work, but main man Diplo still knows how to deliver the commerical goods. ‘Lean On’ — the global hit featuring Danish newcomer MØ — is super-sized and he makes good use of Ellie Goulding’s talents, too.
Sun Kil Moon
Universal Themes (Rough Trade)
The 14th album from American songsmith Mark Kozelek is a mixed bag that encompasses garage-rock, spoken-word interludes and pretty, folk-inflected ballads. He’s a writer who largely avoids cliche and there’s a storytelling quality to his intimate songs. Former Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley is on board and the pair seem to have fun on epic centrepiece ‘The Possum’.
Are You Satisfied? (Virgin EMI)
The much hyped Essex duo go for broke on a batch of frenetic songs that flit from garage rock to in-your-face punk. Laurie Vincent’s guitar and Isaac Holman’s drums tick all the boxes — especially on standout track ‘Cheer Up London’ — but the album feels quite samey and one feels that Slaves truly come into their own in the live arena. A decent debut, though.