That title's a misnomer. Not that I haven't heard a lot, 2011 is turning into quite the year, but really wrangled - no, I've wrangled little. You've no doubt noticed the lack of updates 'round The Rant as of late, there's a simple explanation for that. Was in Japan for two weeks, then really sick for a week. Which has meant pretty much zero updates. Needless to say, Japan was nothing short of being thoroughly amazing, but you didn't come here to read about Al's Gushing Appraisal (at least I hope not). So let's get straight to the good stuff.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
It was lead single Calgary that was the first taste of Mr. Vernon's curiously double self-titled album, but now that we have the compelete canvas I can confirm that it's nothing less than a work of art. Following the sublime For Emma with an album of similarly bent folk would never have worked. Of course, it's not what we would have expected, but the artistic growth and musical palette that is on offer here is a delightful surprise. All that moonlighting with the likes of Volcano Choir, Gayngs and even Kanye has leaked into the new material. The arrangements are marked as much by synths and electronic textures than guitar patterns and vocal architecture, employing also the talented likes of Greg Liesz and his elegant pedal steel guitar work; as well as saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson to colour his work. There's a lot to be said for this album, which will be said as part of a full review later, but for the time-being assure yourself that it's a strong follow-up and easily one of the best records of the year. If you're looking for a great written accompaniment to your listening though, might I suggest Pitchfork (of all things) and this great interview by Grayson Currin.
Big Scary - Mix Tape
Following on from side-project Dads (featured last month), AMR's favourite Melbourne duo have just released the lead single for their highly anticipated debut album. Holing up in Brisbane for the last couple of months, they've been tinkering on a new set of songs - that, you already knew from 'the biggest and scariest of interviews' - but if the results are anything to go by, it's going to be an essential debut record. Mix Tape plays to the group's strengths in the pop piano field with the bright, nimble ivories pushed to the fore and a big shiny chorus featuring Tom Iansek's winning vocals; while Jo Syme's drumming lends muscular emphasis and momentum. You can hear the track for nada at the band's website. Or do the supportive thing and purchase it through iTunes at the link below.
P.S. In other Big Scary news, their compilation The Big Scary Four Seasons is in the official nomination list for triple j's Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time. Being the lovely, humble sort they are, I'm sure they don't think they deserve it and wouldn't encourage their enrollment. But being the loyal sycophant I am, I'm not above such tactics. So make sure one of your ten noms is for them when you vote
Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
Here's the smart-ass review: had a suck of the new Arctic Monkeys album, and saw that it didn't. That's all you need to know really, I mean after Humbug, the general anxiety was that it marked a (perhaps necessary) change for the group but one that may have steered too far from their original appeal. Suck It And See is really the album that Humbug should have been. Ironically, now that they've left the wing of desert-rock overlord Josh Homme, the Monkeys sound more comfortable in aping his brand of scuzzy rock and roll. The evidence is there in the sixties flourishes and dirty guitars of the album's lead singles; the preposterously titled Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair and Brick By Brick (whose wailing chorus sort of recalls Kasabian's Fire). They are red herrings for the album proper however, being the heaviest cuts amongst a set of lighter, jubilant songs. Cornerstone, one of the last tracks recorded for the Humbug sessions, proves to be a valuable stepping stone to the likes of Black Treacle, Reckless Serenade and Piledriver Waltz. More importantly, it sees some humour and Turner's gobbish turn-of-phrase returning to the group's canon - again, something Humbug sorely lacked. So return-to-form? Definitely, and proving Arctic Monkeys are still a vital force... don't care much for that artwork though.
Wild Beasts - Smother
Even back in February when I first caught wind of a new album, I knew it had the potential to be something special, and Smother is very much special. I think my triple j magazine review neatly captured it so now i'll take the opportunity to lazily reproduce it:
The acerbic post-punk dandies who spat in the face of UK’s cultural mire on Two Dancers have mellowed for album number three, choosing instead to enrich their sparse rhythmic atmosphere and sophisticated delivery. Even Hayden Thorpe’s rubbery, eccentric falsetto has been softened, draped around the warm splashes of Albatross. While co-vocalist Tom Fleming’s brassy grain offers counterpoint on the hypnotic Burning. They’ve traded portent for poignant in a set of mesmerising, magnetic tracks.