Sunday, 27 June 2010

Someone Here is Missing/Together

Do you remember in 2001 when you listened to In Absentia for the first time and it was like nothing you’d ever heard from Porcupine Tree or indeed anyone else before? It was such a brilliant and different album and as you listened to it you just knew that it was something special? No? Nor me, because in 2001 I was 9. Let’s try that again then.

Do you remember when you first listened to the entire Porcupine Tree discography and when In Absentia came on for the first time you sat up because it was such a contrast with what you heard so far? It was such a mature, diverse and ingenious album. No? Just me then? Anyway you get the picture. The point is that this is exactly how I felt when I listened to Someone Here is Missing, the latest album by Pineapple Thief. Yes folks, it’s time for another review!

I’m not saying that Someone Here is Missing is the next In Absentia, but it certainly has some of the characteristics. Pineapple Thief are an English Progressive Rock who have been around for 10 years to so but have not really managed to get anywhere, despite being incredibly talented and creating some really fantastic music. Their music is less diverse and experimental than early Porcupine Tree, but they have produced some really fantastic albums, like Tightly Unwound and Variations on a Dream. Someone Here is Missing is a massive step in a new direction for Pineapple Thief in the same way that In Absentia was for Porcupine Tree. However it is a step in a different direction.

Someone Here is Missing is an incredibly dark album, both lyrically and musically. Songs like Nothing at Best and Barely Breathing are perfect examples of this. The album deals with love, loss and suffering in a way that in beautifully romantic without being emo. Lyrically it has the maturity to deal with serious topics without trivialising them into whiney, personal mopes. However it is the music that really makes this album stand out.

Throughout the music is really dark, just like the lyrics, but it’s also very diverse and experimental, exploring some styles that are not present in their previous work. Preparation for Meltdown for example is reminiscent of early Muse (Origin of Symmetry in particular), whereas Show a Little Love would not be too out of place on In Absentia. While the music is extraordinarily diverse, it hangs together as an album really well, even within the space of a song it can go from fairly slow and delicate to thumpingly powerful seamlessly. The entire album is wonderfully united and yet each song stands up on its own as a really fantastic piece of music. I don’t think there is a weak song on this album and there are a hell of a lot of very strong ones.

So in conclusion buy this album! Well, good luck buying a hard copy, I couldn’t find one, but you can download it fairly easily. While you’re at it you should check out the rest of Pineapple Thief’s back catalogue, it is teaming with wonderful albums. These guys are barely know, I mean Pitchfork don’t even have a review of this album, yet they deserve to be far better known because they are extremely talented. Go and buy their album, you will not regret it.

I don’t usually review just one album at a time, and today is no exception. Together is the 5th album from the New Pornographers and their 4th good one – seriously, Electric Version is terrible. Anyway, as I said a few weeks ago, the New Pornographers are another on of those idiosyncratic indie bands that I really love. What makes them stand out is the female vocalist, well two female vocalists, and two male vocalists. Seriously they have a lot of vocalists.

And it pays off. The New Pornographers are incredibly rich vocally; lots of their songs have fantastic harmonies and interplays between different lyricists. It makes them a really interesting band to listen to. Together is no exception. Silver Jenny Dollar, My Sheppard and Crash Years are all fantastic examples of the New Pornographers is full vocal flow.

Lyrically this album has a lot of very well written songs, but it doesn’t really feel all that unified. It is a collection of very good songs, rather than an album that really hangs together well. Unsurprisingly The New Pornographers don’t really do traditional song structure for the most part, or at least they are willing to play around with the rules so much that they almost become meaningless. As such their songs tend to meander around without really arriving at anything concrete. They’re a load of interesting points which don’t quite reach a conclusion. If their songs were essays I’d disapprove, but they’re not, so I don’t. The ambling and incoherent structure is fun to listen to, but it does make it harder to get to grips with a song lyrically.

Together has a fair bit of very interesting and often rather clever music, but most of the time it is hidden behind all the lyrical excitement that is going on. You have to really concentrate and listen out for much of the really good musical bits, although there are some songs on which the impressive music does stand out, Crash Years, Your Hands (Together) and If you Cant See My Mirrors in particular.

Overall, the complex vocals, ambling song structure and hidden musical gems makes Together a real grower. At first listen it is pretty good, but it keeps getting better and better the more you listen to it. While the previous two New Pornographers albums had really immediate appeal (Twin Cinemas in particular), this one takes a while because it is perhaps a little more ambitious, maybe too much so. Even so it is a fantastic album and you should go and buy it along with Someone Here is Missing.

Both of these albums are certainly worth getting. Someone Here is Missing may well be my album of the year unless something really stunning comes out and Together will certainly be up there. It’s not a brilliant album, not even the New Pornographers best, but it is certainly a very good album that grows on you like a tumour. And on that image, goodbye.

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