Tag Archive: god help the girl


The Indie Handbook: best of 2009

The best according to Kristin:

10. Our Temperance Movement, Cats on Fire (Matinee)
9. A Balloon Called Moaning, The Joy Formidable (self-released)
8. The Yearling, Piney Gir (Hotel)
7. The Life of the World to Come, The Mountain Goats (4AD)
6. Where the Wild Things Are [soundtrack], Karen O. and the Kids (Interscope)
5. Tarpits and Canyonlands, Bombadil (Ramseur Records)
4. God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl (Rough Trade / Matador)
3. Aim and Ignite, fun. (Nettwerk)
2. My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura (4AD)
1. Know Better Learn Faster, Thao w/ the Get Down Stay Down (Kill Rock Stars)

Honorable mentions: A Very Cherry Christmas 5, various artists (Cherryade); Reverence for Fallen Trees, The Black Atlantic (In a Cabin With / Beep! Beep! Back up the Truck)

The best according to Eric:

10. Rockwell, Anni Rossi (4AD) – If you caught Camera Obscura on their US tour this summer, you now have a better idea just what one girl and her viola are capable of, but I saw Anni twice this year, and I still can’t believe it.

9. Actor, St. Vincent (4AD) – Though my review of this album for a certain e-zine was “improved” by some hack of an editor who considered my avoidance of clichés downright unpalatable, Annie Clark remains one of the great musical geniuses at work these days.

8. The Big Machine, Emilie Simon (Barclay/Universal) – It’s a departure from her last (and my favorite) album, Végétal, but this, the first of what you might call Emilie’s “American” recordings, proves that a creative powerhouse starting anew is still better than any number of pop idols doing what they do best. [interview]

7. Uam, Julie Fowlis (Machair/Shoeshine/Cadiz) – I hesitated to include this since none of the songs on this album were even written in this century, but few (if any) have done more to make one of the world’s great musical traditions relevant again than Ms. Fowlis. That combined with impeccable musicianship and a killer set of tunes spanning several centuries are enough to obliterate my reticence.

6. Pays Sauvage, Emily Loizeau (Polydor) – On her sophomore release, Emily Loizeau copes with, among other things, the loss of her father. In the process, she will tear your heart to shreds – and you will never again be more happy to be heartbroken. If you had told me a year ago that a French woman would prove this year to have a better grasp of American roots music and slave songs than almost anyone I’ve heard in recent memory, I’d have written you off as a complete nutjob (no offense).

5. My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura (4AD) – Apparently, it’s been a good year for 4AD. “French Navy” is probably the catchiest song by a band I like that your average Starbucks customer may have actually heard this year. Still, I think “Honey in the Sun” is my favorite from the second Scottish act on this list.

4. Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors (Domino) – The only album on this list that I do not actually own and I am ashamed. Even worse, I missed their Columbus show this year because I suck. I streamed this about 3,487 times when it was streaming on the NPR website. Holy crap, it’s brilliant.

3. Lungs, Florence + the Machine (Universal Republic/Island) – You Brits have been hearing about Florence Welch for ages now, but I guess Paste hasn’t given the American indie subculture permission to trade in their Grizzly Bear CDs for one of the most monumental voices of the decade yet, not to mention the super sexy percussion. But her time will come, kids. Now is your chance to get in on the ground floor. I suspect that, if I’d had more than two months with this album before writing this, Florence + the Machine would be finishing even higher on this list.

2. A Balloon Called Moaning/First You Have to Get Mad, The Joy Formidable (self-released) – If you have not heard of The Joy Formidable by now, you a) live outside of the UK and/or b) do not read this blog enough. Technically, these are two albums, one studio and one live and there is a lot of overlap between them. But together, they prove two things conclusively: The Joy Formidable are the best unsigned band in the world (yes, I said it); and they are the band to watch in 2010. If you don’t already own these albums, ask yourself why and the go out and buy them. Then, when they play their three shows in NYC with Passion Pit in January and all those cool Brooklyn kids think they’ve discovered something groundbreaking, you can (gently) remind them that you and some unenlightened hick from the Midwest got there a year before them.

1. The Love Language, The Love Language (Bladen County) – This album took 150% more turns in my car stereo than any other album released in 2009. That fact alone made my album of the year decision an easy one. (Not a bad accomplishment for one guy sitting alone in his bedroom.) Then there is the fact that the live incarnation of The Love Language, which is considerably larger, put on what is, at the very least, the second best show I saw this year (Los Campesinos are pretty phenomenal in their own right). I am speechless just thinking about it, so go back and read what I wrote after that show, if you’re interested. And, Stuart McLamb, if you’re reading this, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for this record. I hope I won’t have to wait too long for a second one.

Honorable Mentions: Welcome to the Walk Alone, The Rumble Strips (Island); God Help the Girl, God Help the Girl (Rough Trade/Matador)

17 is kind of a sexy, unlike Megan Fox

Someone from Paste magazine recently posted his top 25 songs of 2009 so far (I’m too lazy to go looking for it, so you can find it for yourself). I only agreed, I think, with one of the tracks on his list, so I have made my own. I’m also too lazy to actually come up with 25 songs and put them in any sort of real order, so here are 17 songs, more or less in the order they ranked in my mind at the time I posted this. (Why 17? I don’t know. I like it. It’s prime number and a rather attractive, if slightly abrasive, one at that.) I’m sure, if I had an entire day to work on this (and didn’t have to drive to Chicago after work tomorrow), it would probably look somewhat different. Also, I can’t promise that these all came out in 2009, it’s a little hard to tell with unsigned bands.

1) On My Usual Catch Up with Cecilia – Hari and Aino I think you all already know how I feel about them

2) Close My Eyes – The Peekers Life in the Air is a pretty fabulous album. This song reminds me a lot of Pink Martini’s “Sympathique” 

3) In Knowing – Swimming in Speakers Yeah, we love them a lot. It looks like a lot of people are coming round to our way of thinking.

4) Good at That – The Hard To Get It’s encouraging to know that producer agrees that this is the best song on the EP 

5) Bobby on Repeat – Parlours I haven’t told you about Parlours yet, but I will. Right now it’s a handful of demos recorded by Dana Halferty but I am very excited about the future of this project.

6) And Suddenly – The School Granted, it’s not my favorite song on the MySpace page, but it is my favourite of the tracks to be released this year. 

7) Funny Little Frog – God Help the Girl Yeah, it’s a cover, but Brittany Stallings’ voice is brilliant. This is one sexy recording. 

8 ) Sad Eyed God of Lovers & Drunks – Bitter Things I forgot how much I love this band until I listened through their MySpace again in preparation for this list. 

9) At Least I’m Not as Sad as I Used to Be – fun The new album will be out in August, but you knew that already 

10) French Navy – Camera Obscura This is the one that made the Paste list.

11) Mess of Hope – This is Ember I am sorry to admit that I haven’t really thought about This is Ember since Dutch Week. I miss them. 

12) Keep Cooler – Nancy They are from Brazil. I am pretty sure it is not pronounced quite the way it looks, but I might be making that up.

13) Seventeen – Casxio *Note the irony…

14) Sweetheart – Mari Persen Mari is also a member of The Royalties, from Bergen, Norway. The Royalties have an American tour coming up in October, but it looks like it is going to be limited to the NYC and L.A. areas. Sad. I like them a lot. Mari’s solo work is more inspired by Blossom Dearie and will appeal to fans of the early Cardigans (like Emmerdale and Life). There is an album due out around October.

15) The Magic Between Us – Venus Hum I still don’t really know when the album is going to be coming out, but I’m gettin’ antsy. I love you, Annette. (By the way, is anyone keeping track of the crushes I have admitted to since starting this blog?)

16) Whirring – The Joy Formidable Technically, this song was released in 2008 on A Balloon Called Moaning, but the eponymous 7-inch came out in May. My copy is autographed because they love me and because I pre-ordered. 

17) It’s not the End of the World, Jonah – The Secret History I admit it. This kind of sneaked in at the end of 2008, but I didn’t hear it until February of this year. That is the only reason it falls so low on the list, otherwise it would probably hover somewhere around 6 or 7.

So, there’s my hastily assembled “17 Best of 2009″ list. You probably think I’m a complete whackjob. That’s fine. I’m used to it. Argue with me here or on Facebook.

Oh, I totally forgot that Dear Reader‘s Replace Why with Funny came out this year. In that case, stick “Dear Heart” somewhere up there in the top five.

Regina SpektorFar

Regina Spektor is back with a new album (her third or sixth, depending on whether you can count or not). There are a lot of things to like about Far, the new album, out on Tuesday. People who got all pissy over the Begin to Hope, will like that this leans more in the direction of her older albums on this record, while those who loved the last album will be happy to know that, while there is a lot to think about in this record, they don’t have to think about it unless they want to. (Read the rest)

God Help the GirlGod Help the Girl

It’s not unheard of for a band to provide the soundtrack for an album and history would indicate that it is really something of a hit or miss experience. Think about it. Where would we be if Once had not launched The Swell Season into the spotlight? Then again, Björk’s soundtrack for Dancer In the Dark (a sickeningly brilliant film by Lars von Trier) was a major disappointment, if only because the other actors who sang with her could not begin to approach the shear drama and power packed into every pitch she produces. God Help the Girl is, in a way, a soundtrack as well, but one accompanying a film by Stuart Murdoch that does not quite exist yet. So we have to begin the review process at a loss. (Read the rest)

In case you have forgotten, there are some big releases due out next Tuesday the 23rd (Monday for you Brits). I was going to review one of them, God Help the Girl, tonight, but I got distracted (more on that later). Instead, expect a double review on Monday (GHG, and Regina Spektor’s Far). Also on the cards in the near-ish future, Imogen Heap announced yesterday that her new album, Ellipse, will be released (in the States) 25 August, which is also the scheduled release date for Fun’s upcoming Aim and Ignite. But the biggest news of the day, at least for me (and not only because I love Welsh accents), The School have finished recording their debut LP! With mixing and stuff still to be done, they are aiming for an October release. So excited!

So, anyway, why are you not reading a review right now. Well, I was doing a bit of research whilst writing my God Help the Girl review and came across this analysis over at Drowned in Sound. I am not going to argue with the judgment of the author because he has had a lot of time to listen to listen to a hard copy of the record whilst I have had only recently had a couple of passes through an online stream. I do, however, take issue with the tone of the article, because it seems that Mr. Tudor has fallen victim to his own coolness.

We are not 100 words into the article before he declares God Help the Girl to be “another step backwards”–for Belle & Sebastian. Funny thing, though. This is not a Belle & Sebastian record. Judging GHG in light of Tigermilk or If You’re Feeling Sinister is like calling Band On the Run a step back for the Beatles because it’s not The White Album. I suppose it would not be completely justified to take Mr. Tudor too severely to task for the style of his critique. As a reviewer, it is essential to recognize that there are certain landmarks within each genre (for instance C86 or the Velvet Underground) and that they are necessary in describing other albums and artists. And in a genre that was in many ways created by Belle & Sebastian 13 years ago and dominated by them throughout the ensuing decade, B&S references are inevitable. Perhaps, he has simply taken that comparison a step too far. (Ironically, I suspect that, frequently, reviewers are not nearly as familiar with the reference points they invoke as they let on. I, for instance, have never actually heard the C 86 compilation, but that hasn’t stopped me from referencing it on several occasions. Or, everyone touts the “literary influences” of Belle & Sebastian, but how many of them have actually read John Whiting’s The Devils? [For the record, I have.])

Now, it is quite possible that, upon closer examination, I will not like God Help the Girl. They may not arouse in me the undying devotion that Belle & Sebastian do. Be that as it may, it will be a strike against God Help the Girl, not against B&S. Who knows, it might even awaken the ennui in me and I will find something in the album to be entirely indifferent about. You will have to wait until Monday to find out. But I have listened to it a couple of times and, unfortunately, I like it. I guess I’m not a critic after all, but one of those pathetic, toxic creatures who typically reserve their passion for football clubs and SciFi television programs. I am a fan. Luckily, I live in the American Midwest where we’re all backwards, inbred, and friendly to begin with and you will never have to come within 35,000 feet of me.

Come Monday Night

How did we miss this?  Stuart Murdoch, frontman of the iconic indie band Belle & Sebastian, has put together his own project called God Help the Girl, which he’ll be releasing on June 22nd.  The exciting news for today, though, is that the project’s first single was released on Monday!  It is conveniently called “Come Monday Night” (clearly come Monday night we still had not picked up on this news) and you can hear it on his myspace, or you can watch the video below!

After the lovely throwback beginning, you’ll hear more than a bit of Belle & Sebastian’s beloved lilt and soft strings. “Come Monday Night” is a delicious sample of what Stuart Murdoch must be doing with this new project–taking Belle & Sebastian’s ability to create intriguing characters and multiplying it by…an album. Only time will tell! For now, enjoy the first chapter of Stuie’s narrative!

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