Album Review: Native To - Is Tropical

I've been following Is Tropical since before they were featured on Kitsuné Maison Ten and signed to the Kitsuné label - they feel a bit like a sun bleached, tie-dyed take on the nu rave sound of the Klaxons. It was single 'South Pacific' that really caught my attention however and as such it's a pretty appropriate album opener here, a contradictorily epic shoe-gazing anthem it recalls holidays, the seaside and hope.

The only problem with opening the album on 'South Pacific' is that it gives the rest of the set a lot to live up to. It's a task Is Tropical step up to with a relatively admiral aplomb but never fully address. Native To is short, at just 36 minutes, and therefore has no real problems with overstaying it's welcome but it also struggles to leave a lasting idea within that time. In comparison to 'South Pacific' the majority of the album is considerably more electronic and danceable. 'Land of the Nod' has a thick, warm baseline that splatters things with Is Tropical's trademark colourful sunshine whilst 'The Greeks' hums along, fuzzy and chunky.

But the music is best when rebellious and surrounded by space - 'What ???', with it's rapid fire vocals a soaring chorus ("Temptation to be good”, they sing) is the track that gets them closest to the wonderment of 'South Pacific' and 'Berlin' sounds suitably starry eyed and overwhelmed.

Native To definitely feels like a debut effort - it's a little rough around the edges and content to figure out what it is as it goes along. And sometimes I like that. Whilst Is Tropical are unlikely to top any album-of-the-year lists this certainly cements them as ones to watch. And maybe that is the point - final track 'Think We're Alone' pulls the plug seemingly abruptly, almost like the band are determined to head off before you hear too much of what might be coming next.

BP x

Native To is out now on Kitsuné, available from on CD and MP3 [affiliate links].

Download: South Pacific - Is Tropical

You may recall BlackPlastic recently posted the video for Is Tropical's forthcoming single 'South Pacific' - a lush little shoe-gazey number that gets us excited for the debut album.

Well the single isn't out for a few weeks yet but the good news is that the song itself is available as a free download now.  The single will be backed with the track 'Tan Man' on the 7", the download will feature remixes from Peaces, Database, Yojimbo and Get People when it drops on 22 November .

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Video: South Pacific - Is Tropical

Is Tropical have been on BlackPlastic's radar for a little while now but since recently signing to Kitsune they seem to be picking up momentum.

'South Pacific' is a lovely shoegaze-y number with buzzing melodies and uplifting vocals that feels like running away. Which is appropriate given the video, which has a nice washed out look, basically consists of the band making a raft and sailing away.  Kitsune feeling feel like they have dropped the ball lately - hopefully this represents a return to form... Expect to hear big things from Is Tropical in 2011.

'South Pacific' is out on 22 November 2010.

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Album Review: Kitsuné Maison Compilation 7 - Various Artists

If Kitsuné Maison 6 was the melodic one and 5 was Gold then this one may sadly go down as the phoned in one. It's true ladies and gents, the Maison series has jumped the shark.

It's hard to put your finger on but there is just a general lack of any sense of care and attention here. Maybe BlackPlastic has come to expect too much but, for the first time on a Kitsuné album, there is padding on the tracklisting.

Chateau Marmont's vocodered 'Beagle' is possibly the world's dullest 80s / French house hybrid - whoever picked this out of all the tracks in the world needs a slap. Similarly Renaissance Man's 'Rythym' seems content to deliver exactly 0.3 ideas across the length of the entire track. Worst of all is La Roux's return on Lifelike's mix of 'In For The Kill'. Fine, it's a catchy tune - we already admitted we liked it - and we know Kitsuné were there first, releasing 'Quicksand' last year. And Lifelike is ACE. But seriously - we all know La Roux isn't cool and will be over before her forth single.

However - when Kitsuné Maison Compilation 7 works, it really works. And it is on the laid back, sun drenched tracks this happens most. Two Door Cinema Club sound like Phoenix at the top of their game on 'Something Good Can Work' whilst Phoenix sound like, well, themselves at the top of their game on the blissful Classixx version of 'Lisztomania'. Even the Golden Filter almost manage to explain their hype on the slow and funky 'Favourite Things' whilst Autokratz finally deliver on the Yuksek mix of 'Always More'. The highlight though - Prins Thomas' mix of James Yuill's 'This Sweet Love' is not just good - it's a glorious summer's walk of a track, surpassing anything that's ever appeared on a Maison compilation in BlackPlastic's opinion.

Inconsistent then - some of the best tracks from the series combined with some of the worst. It's a shame - a little more QC and Kitsuné Maison 7 could have been the best yet.

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Album Review: Kitsuné Tabloid - Various selected by Phoenix

In a departure for Kitsuné this is neither remotely dance related nor mixed. It is a compilation in the classic sense, as Phoenix select a range of songs - almost all of which are at least ten years old (usually more) - that they love and that inspire them.

Being the well mannered possessors of catholic taste that they are, Phoenix's first compilation is a considered, methodical and, most of all, utterly beautiful affair. From the opening strains of Kiss' 'Love Theme From Kiss' the latest Kitsuné Tabloid (Digitalism provided the first) is like losing yourself in a good book. It's a journey full of texture and detail and feeling beyond that which should be provided by a mere Tabloid.

As you might expect from Phoenix the overall sound oozes intelligent sensuality. The sublime 'Rise Above' from The Dirty Projectors is a case in point - unbelievably for an artist that specializes in covering Black Flag records they have never heard it is a gorgeous piece of folk music with the kind of falsetto vocals that will soon have you making a fool of yourself when no-one is watching.

Pretty much every track is a highlight - whilst Elvis Costello & The Attractions' morose 'Shipbuilding', Urge Overkill's 'Stull (Part One)', Irma Thomas' 'It's Raining' and Lou Reed's stunning 'Street Hassle' stick in BlackPlastic's head but there are plenty more gems here. Oh, and of course Tangerine Dream's 'Love On A Real Train' is always gorgeous as well.

Phoenix have described this album as selfish - it's just what they would make for themselves. What's great is that in the hands of the right person, the selfish album they make for themslves is the most interesting. It's autobiographical and it's genuine.

BP x

Available on on CD (not available on MP3 yet as far as BlackPlastic knows, plus the artwork is lovely).