Posts Tagged ‘london’

The Chap – Well Done Europe

June 9, 2010


 
Last summer I discovered avant-pop weirdos The Chap, thanks to Ghostly International’s annual Ghostly Swim compilation. Hailing from South London, The Chap craft irreverent and infectious songs that groove and rock and shimmer and bump with nods and influences ranging from post-rock, new wave, electro, punk, funk, techno, folk, and French pop. Wooh. Lemme take a breath.

The Chap are a veritable musical melting pot and they pull it all off with so much style it’s almost as if they have none at all. 2008’s Mega Breakfast and last year’s EP Builder’s Brew are excellent albums that made me dance, head bang, and laugh my ass off on account of some brilliant lyrics. Imagine a dead pan delivery of these lyrics: “Nice Face/ Shame about the haircut/ Good body/ Bad conversation” over a tight 4/4 techno beat for six minutes. Makes me chuckle every time. Their roving hitter “Proper Rock” from Mega Breakfast is so good I imagined it could not be topped, but the band has returned with brand new full length Well Done Europe, and have effortlessly outdone themselves. After a few listens you begin to notice just how incredibly adept they are with regards to composition and the ability to add that little extra something to make each song sparkle and stand out. On the whole, Well Done Europe plays out beautifully all the way through — their isn’t a throwaway guitar lick or snare pop, and although they’ve kept their irreverence and cheekiness intact, the album also manages to pack a solid emotional punch.

“Even Your Friends” is the feel good song of the summer, and makes LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls” sound flat and dumb in comparison. Its chorus is a rollicking sing-along that you’ll already be singing to yourself before the first listen is done. Yet the catchiness doesn’t stop there. “Obviously”s almost haunting refrain: “Is anybody still out there?” seeps into your brain and stays there, just as the chorus to the groovy “Your Horoscope”: “Get the funk out of here, or my bandwith flows…” will do the same. The penultimate track “Chalet Chalet” perhaps best reveals the group’s maturity, with its ‘forget about it all, let’s get away’ vibe, Stereolab-esque refrain, and buttery guitar line reminiscent of Jeff Parker near the end. Just lovely.

To get a sense of how infectious the album really is, I’ll provide a brief anecdote: Me and my friends Matt and Kristiann went to Montreal for Mutek this weekend (which was awesome btw) and during the drive up we listened to Well Done Europe, smiling and singing along the whole way. On our return to Toronto, we didn’t listen to the album, but only because we were still humming the refrains and choruses lodged in our brains from two days before.

I wanted to put Mega Breakfast on my end of year list for 2009 even though it came out in 2008. As it stands right now, Well Done Europe will be high on my list for 2010. I am ready to go steady with the summer time love that is The Chap’s Well Done Europe. Check it! Now. Please. Yay.
 

The xx

October 15, 2009

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Yes, I know this album came out a few months back, and yes of course, I know that it’s been Pitchfork’d and deemed by the ostentatious reviewer as a winning album worthy of repeat listens, but guess what? The P-fork team actually got it spot on for a change. The xx‘s debut album really is a melancholic grower of ambient indie-pop goodness.

The band are mere kids, just graduating from the Elliot School of Music in London where Hot Chip, Burial and Four Tet are also alumni. But whereas the latter graduates are all heavily steeped in leftfield electronica, The xx are writing sparse pop songs for shattered hearts, introspection, and the coming grey weather.

Upon first listens, I kept feeling like I wanted more. A loud distorted swell of guitars at the end of a song, a ridiculously catchy hook, or at least one verifiable “hit” for Christ’s sake, but the album gave me no such thing. I thought back to Bloc Party’s “Silent Alarm”, and how infectious “Banquet” was – aka the verifiable hit. I also remembered that even though “Silent Alarm” was uber-hyped, it was still an amazing album that you couldn’t help but want to slap on repeat and play extra loud. But The xx’s debut is a different beast entirely, and should really in no way be compared to Bloc Party or any other “rock” band coming out of the UK at this time.

The album is minimal, slow, and moody. The vocals a very accomplished attempt at the boy and girl back and forth. Their lyrics contemplate sex, the idea of love, and experience. The drums are programmed but done with style and class. The guitars jangly, reverbed, and simple, but every so often the bass will just drop about 50 decibels and wobble your chest (and maybe your heart?) and this is when you begin to notice there’s quite a lot more going on here. And of course, this is when the album grows like an ill-fated relationship, doomed to cause that beautiful sadness you hate but also secretly love to wallow in.

A damn good album, an impressive debut, and pretty much all alone when it comes to trying to classify. Give it a few listens in the mornings, or better yet, try it out at night with candles flickering on the nightstand and lips puckering on the bed.

Cheers.

Edit: The XX’s self-titled debut hits number 7 on my Best Of 2009 List!

Edit 2: Check out my review of the xx in Toronto on April 4, 2010.

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