Wild Mercury Sound

The Stripes, again. The Monkeys, again. Oh, and Jana Hunter

John Mulvey

Plenty of traffic on the blog these past few days in response to my White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys stories. Someone called The_Glory wades into the argument about overhyped British bands with a bunch of decent points, notably, "Why judge bands on their nationality anyway?"

It's a fair question, but I don't think that's what we were talking about on this thread, exactly. For my part, it's a simple fact that the music I like is generally American rather than British, and it seems interesting to try and work out why that is. I do agree with The_Glory that we should be wary of focusing on 'hype' as a subject. But at the same time, there's a post from RockyJ that claims, interestingly, "the ambition of American radio stations to popularise British indie bands is overwhelming".

Is this true, folks? I'm not too keen on getting hung up on the machinations of the music business on Wild Mercury Sound. Nevertheless, the idea that you can't switch the radio on in America without hearing, I don't know, Little Man Tate is pretty fascinating.

Anyway, I did spend the weekend (well, some of it) playing the Arctic Monkeys album, and I'm now more convinced than ever that it's a quite brilliant record - far better than that gilded debut, for a start. And, sorry, but it still makes me wonder why more of their British contemporaries aren't this ambitious, why other lyricists sound artless and parochial where Alex Turner can be so subtle and affecting about ostenisbly the same subject matter? Talent, I suppose.

Moving on. Justifiable excitement over here and here about the White Stripes album. Unlike many of you, I find it impossible to choose which is the best of their albums. I know this is an absolution of anal-retentive critical responsibility, but I like them all for different reasons. I'd caution anyone who expects the new one to be a straight retread of the first album, though; for all its raw power, "Icky Thump" is a much more layered, denser listen in general. There's a note on the press release that describes it as being the first Stripes album recorded in a proper modern studio, and trust me, you can tell the difference.

Ed asks what "A Martyr For My Love For You" is like on the album. The pathetic truth, Ed, is I can't rememember much about that track from my solitary listen. If it's any help, the notes I scrawled at the time read, "layered, richer - acoustic looping - humming, rearing - Led Zep (2?)- organ - but again and again he blasts structure, adds weird stops, frequencies." Is that any use? I'm not sure.

Finally in today's shapeless ramble, a quick mention for the second album by Jana Hunter. Just when you think the market for Devendra Banhart's mates is saturated, another good one comes along. Hunter is from Texas, and her first album (on Banhart and Andy Cabic's Gnomonsong label, like this one) was nice enough, but not really enough to separate her from those other second-string acid-folk types like Diane Cluck.

"There's No Home" is lovely, though: a fuller band sound, often reminiscent of Cabic's band Vetiver - that woody, sleepy, home-cooked thing. Jana's Myspace is here. Give "Babies" a play and let me know what you think.


Editor's Letter

The 46th (And Last) Playlist Of 2014

Sorry I didn't manage to post a playlist last week; a combination of germs, deadlines and various other professional/seasonal distractions meant that I ran out of time.

Here, though, is our last office list of 2014, with lots of strong new entries. A few highlights...