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Album Review: Sweet Heart Sweet Light - Spiritualized

Image source: Double Six / Steve GullickThe advantage of being a one man band is that you never really split up. That means Jason Pierce's Spiritualized seem to just keep on going, continuing to push out albums of similar scale and ambition every few years whilst the world around them changes. Pretty much every other British rock band from the nineties have gon. Whilst the specific sound may shift from one release to the next - noisier here, more drone there, a bit of gospel on this one and country on that - you always know that a Spiritualized record will be a slightly schizophrenic event.

As the only member of Spiritualized to have remained consistent across the years it is clear that these songs are a window into Pierce's head. I tend to avoid reading reviews of albums I am in the process of reviewing but accidentally stumbled across the Guardian's review of Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Kitty Empire. If you take a look you will see the album doesn't fare too well, the primary criticism being something akin to ”Oh not you again, more of this?!"

I can't help but wonder if Kitty Empire just doesn't like Spiritualized, so much of her criticism being levelled at elements that describe exactly what many fans of the band will like. Obviously reviewing music is a personal thing - you can't separate personal enjoyment from professional opinion but reviewing music by bands you either love or hate is never easy.

As for me, I'm a bit mixed on Spiritualized. As with virtually everyone else I somewhat adored Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space - it is the kind of record that takes years rather than weeks to unravel. The albums that followed that one seemed to struggle though, lacking the consistency, the balls and the big ideas of Ladies and Gentlemen.

Sweet Heart Sweet Light convincingly addresses those concerns. This feels like a proper album where previous albums have felt like more of a collection of moments - there is a greater pacing and vision at work. It also has some typically majestic moments - the slight return on 'Hey Jane' is suitably insistent, climatic and dizzying, the chorus at end of 'Headin' For The Top Now' whirling the cumulative chaos around into a little present with a bow on top and the closing 'So Long You Pretty Thing' (co-written with Pierce's daughter Poppy) so charming it is hard to resist.

But for all the big moments this album feels more quietly confident than any other. With the vocals given a more prominent position and several more laid back pieces, see the ballad-like 'Too Late' and 'Freedom', this sounds like Pierce growing into himself. It is here where Kitty and I disagree - Sweet Heart Sweet Light is brilliant precisely because it is Pierce revealing more himself. Yes, it is more accessible and lacks the 'derangement' of earlier work, but that is precisely what makes it a revelation.

Preparing for Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Pierce was apparently inspired by the live performances of the entire Ladies and Gentlemen album, and you can hear that in the comfort he allows himself here. Having stopped trying so hard J Spaceman has made one of the best albums of his career.

Sweet Heart Sweet Light is out now on Double Six, available from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links]. The latter is just £3.99 at the time of publication. Stream now on Spotify:

Video: A Leave Taking - Bill Ryder-Jones

File this under spellbinding. I didn't know who Bill Ryder-Jones was but a trip to Wikipedia soon had me informed that he used to play guitar for the Coral but that he quit for 'reasons unknown'. Being a bit of a hater of The Coral I'd like to think that he maybe just realised their twee folk psychedlia was shit. But that's probably just me being unfair.

Anyway, Bill appears to be heading into the realms of contemporary classical music and if this video, directed by Adeline Mai, is anything to go by then that is a good thing. I struggle to understand within the video what is real and what is post-production, but regardless it's pretty special. The combination of filters applied to the swimming couple feels like a brilliant visualisation of the sounds. Just a word of warning - the video is probably slightly NSFW.

You can download Ryder-Jones' EP, A Leave Taking, for free here. He will be releasing his debut album on Domino imprint Double 6 soon.

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EP Review: Vampires With Dreaming Kids / Color Your Life - Twin Sister

Twin Sister released their debut EP, Vampires With Dreaming Kids, earlier this year. Now re-released on additional formats (previously it was only available digitally) together with their second EP Color Your Life, Twin Sister should probably be your brand new favourite band.

Here's why...

Tackled one at a time:

Vampires With Dreaming Kids slides sideways into rooms like dead girls in horror films before singer Andrea Estella seductively purrs "If you're all alone / bring over your bones / and pay me / anyway you want to..."

As an opening track 'Dry Hump' is a wonderfully spellbinding introduction to a band that manage to keep you guessing. It melds into 'Ginger', a track which features the same raw female vocals but ups the Jesus and Mary Chain quota. The resulting soaring, fragile majesty sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before they got confused about what that should mean.

'Nectarine' is more whimsical and folky with male vocals (presumably from guitarist Eric Cardona). Perhaps best of all, Vampires With Dreaming Kids closes on the soulful 'I Want A House'. It's refreshingly honest and a fittingly lo-fi end to a lo-fi EP.

But if Vampires With Dreaming Kids is pleasurably simple, Color Your Life is anything but. Opening on the seven-minute sprawl of 'The Other Side Of Your Face' it takes longer to get going, but the shimmering guitars that welcome in the 90th second prove this is considered evolution rather than revolution. There is an unmistakable 80s influence at work here.

As mentioned, whereas their first EP undeniably recalls the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Color Your Life feels more like Echo and the Bunnymen and Tears for Fears. As the opening track swells to its conclusion it really does take your breath away - this is the sound of a band who have stripped everything back to the essentials. Every note and sound feels undeniable vital.

'Lady Daydream' is similarly minimalistic, boasting a staggeringly simple yet catchy bassline. What separatesColor Your Life from the first EP is a warm and dreamlike quality to the music. It feels like drowning in honey.

In comparison to the first two tracks 'Milk And Honey' feels psychedelic and disorientating to the point where when the R&B influenced gentle strut of 'All Around And Away We Go' turns up it is a relief. Color Your Life's six tracks are rounded out by the atmospheric instrumental 'Galaxy Plateau' and the 80s groove of final track and ballad 'Phenomenons'. It's another gorgeous end to a thrilling set of song

Understated, beautiful and effortlessly cool, Twin Sister could have stuck these ten songs together and made one of 2010's best albums. That they didn't makes the prospect of their debut album all the more enticing.

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Color Your Life was released today, available from on CD and VinylColor Your Life and Vampires With Dreaming Kids are released as a double pack on 20 September, available to pre-order from on double CD. Both are released through Double Six [affiliate links].

MP3: Under The Influence Of Jaffa Cakes - Joker's Daughter

Danger Mouse's work continues to get more diverse and interesting... In a year that has already seen him sneak out his Dark Night of the Soul project in collaboration with Sparklehorse and David Lynch(quite literally, it not being available to buy officially) Danger Mouse has also released an entire album, The Last Laugh, in collaboration with folk singer / multi-instrumentalist Helena Costas.

Listening to the fruits of their effort it's clear why they partnered - Costas' wonderfully sultry vocals go perfectly with Danger Mouse's production here but what is surprising is just how much Danger Mouse is able to change his approach to suit the artist.

On the track 'Under The Influence Of Jaffa Cakes' there are hints of left-field - the horns for example - but on the whole this is a simply executed, yet enjoyable, folk pop track. It reminiscent of Metric and even the Cardigans, but with just a hint of psychedelia in those swirling guitars.

Download 'Under The Influence Of Jaffa Cakes on MP3 [right click, save as].

Joker's Daughter's next single, 'Lucid', is out on 7 September and is also worth checking out - watch the video (directed by award winning animation artist Hayley Morris):

The debut album by Joker's Daughter, The Last Laugh, is out on Double Six now.

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