IN TYPICALLY inexplicable New Order fashion, their new album Lost Sirens was cut a mere eight years ago. Sessions for 2005's Waiting for the Sirens' Call produced almost two records' worth of material, and these eight tracks are the second disc that never eventuated. Finally released, it arrives to mark a line-up of the Manchester group that no longer exists, with the subsequent acrimonious departure of bassist Peter Hook. The group's role as electronic music pioneers in the 1980s had long ago dissipated, and much of Lost Sirens is a weighty mix of keyboards and guitars. Textured washes and Hook's expressive bass parts drive Shake It Up and I'll Stay with You, while Sugarcane continues vocalist Bernard Sumner's history of at least one daft lyric every album. Lost Sirens is amenable and occasionally invigorating, but then New Order's studio albums have never been essential. Their definitive release remains the Substance 1987 compilation. Lost Sirens has a muscular certainty to it but, in comparison, it's just jogging on the spot.
Stompy and the Heat
Stompy and the Heat
KNOWING that this is a punctiliously crafted genre album of blues-pre-Beatles rock'n'roll should not dissuade you. It's true Scott Wilson, who wrote, produced and played guitar, makes it clear from the band's name and cover image that we're in quite specific territory. However, apart from the too-many-cliches-in-one-room track of Badaling, there is fun and satisfaction to be had with most of these songs as they chunk up (Zombie and Black Lightning should come with a cut-down engine and cropped-sleeve shirt) or sometimes hit the highway (to the surf in the case of twanging instrumental Alien Death Ray; to an outdoor festival for Your Affections). Other times, they hit the back bar (Here Comes Stompy and Don't Tell Me suggest the drinking of brown spirits), and even throw the girl over their back on the dance floor (Merle Haggard's Honky Tonk Night Time Man). I hope Dan Sultan knows what he's doing breaking up his songwriting partnership with Wilson, who got too little of the attention for his crucial work.
AFTER a decade and two albums spent searching for the right sound - while trying to build a career in the enormous shadow of her famous sister, Beyonce - it seems 26-year-old Solange Knowles has finally found it. Indie interest arrived through her 2011 collaboration with dance producer Rewards on underground dance hit Equal Dreams (released on DFA Records), her signing to Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor's Terrible Records, and now her collaboration with Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), her new co-writer and co-producer. At seven tracks, True is an entree-size prelude to Solange's third album, expected in 2013, mining '80s-inspired dance, new wave and edgy indie pop. Lead single Losing You is a summery block-party jam reminiscent of Borderline-era Madonna, Some Things Never Seem to F---ing Work is a bitter-sweet meditation, and Don't Let Me Down cops Blood Orange's scratchy guitar atmospherics. Knowles is widely tipped for stardom in 2013; it's assumed she is saving the best for later but these songs offer deceptive depth.
Don't Know What Happiness Is
IN A field bordered by the carnivorous pub-rock power of the Swedish Magazines, the whimsical lyrical brilliance of Van Walker, the soulful tones of Liz Stringer, the hirsute charisma of Cal Walker, and the distant memories of Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls can be found in Melbourne's latest supergroup, Livingstone Daisies. Don't Know What Happiness Is comes replete with the pop sensibility of the Replacements, the Posies, Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. On Wednesday, the Daisies journey down the road to Ardent Records in Memphis, while Everything Has Got to Go affirms John Lennon's proposition that in the best pop songs live the saddest stories. Blue Solitude is emotional withdrawal in its ideal power-pop guise; Van Walker's and Liz Stringer's rich harmonies on Safety in Numbness can barely disguise a heart-wrenching narrative. When the rumbling beats of former Coloured Girls drummer Michael Barclay usher in Die on the Vine, the Livingstone Daisies are in full bloom.
Yo La Tengo
THIRTEEN albums in, and indie-rock all-timers Yo La Tengo have yet to make a bad record or make fans yearn for past glories. Fade, their first LP since 2009's Popular Songs, finds the trio at their most elegant and melancholy; it's a suite of songs about grieving that recalls 2000's hushed And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. Produced by John McEntire of Tortoise, Fade creates a sustained mood, with even the LP's more ''up'' moments - psychedelic six-minute opener Ohm; groovy Well You Better; indie-rockin' Paddle Forward - tinged with sadness. Otherwise, form often follows theme: I'll Be Around has hushed organs and fingerpicked guitars; Cornelia and Jane sets soft horns against Georgia Hubley's even-softer singing; Is That Enough finds Ira Kaplan crooning over a paisley swirl of classic-pop strings. Before We Run is the LP's epic finale: a seven-minute orchestral build whose brass, woodwinds and strings reach for hope. Being this good this far into their career, Yo La Tengo are living up to any hopes their fans could have.
Learn How: The Essential Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma
PUNISHING concert volume broke up Boston's Mission of Burma in 1983. Guitarist Roger Miller's hearing was so damaged that after one album, an EP and a single, they folded. The band re-formed in 2002, just as aggressive and inspired. Mission of Burma exist somewhere between the battle-cry hardcore of their '80s contemporaries like Husker Du and Minutemen; the angularity of New York No Wave; and the art punk of Wire or Pere Ubu, whose Heart of Darkness is covered here. Even at their most melodic, Mission of Burma experimented with texture and structure. Off-stage at live perfromances, member Martin Swope would sculpt, loop and intricately layer the band's sound. Listening to Academy Fight Song, That's When I Reach for My Revolver and Peking Spring, Mission of Burma's influence on indie giants such as R.E.M., the Pixies and Nirvana is obvious and they adhere to punk's ethos of subversion, a singular mix of complexity and immediacy you can pump a fist to.