lightspeed champion

Album Review: Coastal Grooves - Blood Orange

Dev Hynes continues to blow my mind. As part of Test Icicles he helped play a (severely underrated) role in the birth of nu rave and proved that kids that dance can still rock hard. As Lightspeed Champion he made folk cool years before Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale (and let's not forget more interesting, as Falling Off The Lavender Bridge is still way more interesting that the Fleet Foxes). And here he is again, taking the long road home.

Hynes seems destined to make things difficult for himself - each time slotting into a slightly more oblique genre and changing his name like selling records is the last thing he wants. It's both a shame and a miracle, for he is exactly what us musos pine for: a well kept secret.

Blood Orange is, unsurprisingly, a rather different project to either of Hynes' previous incarnations. And, frustratingly for me as reviewer, it's rather difficult to describe. There are elements of post-punk, a retained country influence, an electronic edge and what feels like an oriental influence. It is also Dev Hynes' most obscure project to date. But it also might be his most interesting.

Whilst it feels instantly unrecognisable from Lightspeed Champion's honest Americana there are some similarities - 'S'Cooled', for example, may have a shuffling electronic beat a mile away from anything Hynes has used before but it still boasts the delicate guitar picking of ...Lavender Bridge.

Coastal Grooves feels more consciously produced than anything Hynes has released before but ironically it also feels more honest and exposed. The melodies feel like they bounced out of his head and the lyrics drooled out of his sleeping mouth agape even more so than before. That makes it sounds throwaway but that isn't the intention - this just feels like artist having an idea and acting on it without worrying about the listener at all. Which is refreshing.

And there are still memorable tunes - 'The Complete Knock', with it's disco influenced bridge complete with snappy guitars and a electro-inspired bridge, for example. Or 'I'm Sorry We Lied', a rapid fire blues record - insistent drums and picked out melodies like a foreign delicacy.

More than anything Coastal Grooves proves Hynes continues to care about his art and that he doesn't care if you care. But trust me, you should.

BP x

Coastal Grooves is released on Domino on Monday, available to pre-order from on CD, LP and MP3 [affilaite links].

Five Non-Electronic Albums of the Year

Lists of the year are lame, everyone knows it and yet everyone loves reading and writing them. Given that there is very little else to right about at this time of year it makes sense to take the time to take stock.

2008 has been, without doubt, a vintage year for music. The number of fantastic albums released within the first few months is testament to that, especially when the pace didn't let up all year.

This is the first of four separate lists - generally BlackPlastic concerns itself with electronic music but there have been some fantastic releases outside of this area. Here are the five best non-electronic albums from 2008:

5. Dear Science - TV On The Radio

BlackPlastic is still not sure this trumps Return To Cookie Mountain but what is does do is snap, crackle and pop with sheer verve and ambition. Cookie Mountain may win out on emotional depth and angsty retribution but Dear Science is a sign of the times bill board for a generation's confusion at the state of the world. This is a celebration of our times - the problems may seem insurmountable but our achievements also seem to be getting greater every day.

4. Stay Positive - The Hold Steady

Like a rowdy night on the sauce The Hold Steady's 2008 release is an exciting and heady rush that feels like you just don't care any more.  Never less than thoroughly charming Stay Positive is like the badly behaved friend that everyone seems to find too endearing to ever get offended by.  This record is an absolute ball with the emotional journey of a buddy-movie-road-trip. Grab yourself some ice 'n' bourbon and slam this on the jukebox.

3. Falling Off The Lavender Bridge -Lightspeed Champion

Fresh out of the energetic yet nihilistic Test Icicles, Dev Hynes was left directionless and drifting. Lavender Bridge is the sound of recovery and growth. A fantastically timeless record that mixes a mature-yet-contemporary country sound with lyrics that reference crunk. A record to be hung-over and to feel sorry for yourself to.

2. Twenty One - Mystery Jets

Destined to top this list right up until the last month or so when the actual number one won over BlackPlastic's heart, Twenty One is still a fantastic record.  From the opening air-raid siren of Hideaway to the closing piano refrain of the ghost track (the source of the album's title) and its Joy Division referencing lyrics ("even Love Will Tear Us Apart don't ease the pain" - what a line) there is never a dull moment.

Already criminally overlooked in most end of year lists this album has it all - whether the emotional gravitas of 'Flakes' or the sheer pop ambition (not to mention the best use of a saxophone in years) of 'Two Doors Down', Twenty One is a glorious record that is destined to age like fine wine.  A proof not just of producer Erol Alkan's ability but also that Mystery Jets are one of this country's finest.


1. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

One of those records that it was all too easy to miss at the time it is now getting some of the attention it deserves. The basic facts everyone seems to love to repeat:

  • The band name would mean 'good winter' in french if it was spelt correctly.
  • This is actually a chap called Justin Vernon.
  • The album is the result of Vernon's break-up with the eponymous Emma and his previous band.
  • The sound that ensues is what happened following this breakdown, a bout of sickness and a winter in a log cabin in Wisconsin.

Now that the above is out of the way, here is what is important: This record is absurdly beautiful, in a 'clinging to the edge of this spinning chunk of rock as we hurtle through space' type way - just listen to the thrum that builds in 'Creature Fear', it sounds like life itself.

It's difficult to do the songs on this short little record justice because the sound of this album transcends anything that can be put into words - For Emma, Forever Ago is all the longing and regret that gets pushed down in our daily lives erupting like rainbow coloured magma on a background of snow and ice.  It is the perfect soundtrack to winter days.  It is the soundtrack to nights on the bourbon with the fire raging.  It is the words BlackPlastic would never be able to find to convey what goes on behind these eyes.

This is probably not just the best record this year, but one of the best records this decade.