Another round-up today, following on from the Slow Previewing blogs I filed a week or two back. Again, a few records that I didn’t get round to writing about at time of release, but which definitely deserve flagging up.
First off, Ölöf Arnalds’ “Innundir Skinni”, an album which cropped up in our writers’ Top 50 of 2010 (you can see the whole list in the new Uncut, out any day now), encouraging me to listen again. It’d be lovely if I could find a way of discussing this one without resorting to the reductive “Icelandic Joanna Newsom” cliché (which I used for her last album, too), but it fits so well, I’m afraid. Arnalds doesn’t play a harp, but the spare resonance of her acoustics, and the way gentle arrangements orbit her high, ingenuous voice work very similarly to “Have One On Me”.
Fortunately, the record’s charms, and the strength of the songs – “Vinkonur” and “Madrid” are especially superb – mean that I never feel, playing “Innundir Skinni”, that I should be playing a Newsom album instead. With a certain happy inevitability, Björk turns up for some discreet gymnastics on “Surrender”, prompting another pretty obvious reference point, her own “Vespertine”. Again, though, Arnalds measures up well.
“Butterfly House” by The Coral is, if memory serves, the first of their records where I can see what a lot of the fuss has been about. My wife has talked for a while about how they’ve built up a warmth and communal spirit among their fans which reminds her of Teenage Fanclub’s role for a slightly older generation. And now most of that slightly forced wackiness seems to have been dropped – the sea shanties, if memory serves – it works a lot better for me.
Not much else seems to have changed; perhaps a greater emphasis of a silvery, bold West Coast jangle; a certain oaked mellowness – James Skelly, in particular, now seems to have the gravity to back up his really impressive croon. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve listened to “Butterfly House” properly, and neglected its predecessors. Whatever, after comparing one Icelandic artist to another, I’m going to be as predictable with Liverpudlians: “Butterfly House” would’ve made a much more satisfying follow-up to “Ocean Rain”.
Etienne Jaumet’s “Night Music” was a big personal favourite around the end of last year, very kosmische techno. And while this effort from Zombie Zombie, Jaumet’s duo with drummer Cosmic Neman , isn’t quite up there, it’s still definitely worth checking out. “Zombie Zombie Plays John Carpenter” is nothing more complicated than that: Jaumet and Neman covering old Carpenter themes more or less faithfully; perhaps booting up all the sinister synth washes with a vaguely Dingerish pulse. Maybe some of you might find their excellent take on “The Thing” staring out on the frozen wastes this morning.