The Vinyl Frontier

And Why I’m Making The Switch

“Look at this”, my friend says, caressing his latest vinyl purchase, making me swoon. Something he did several times last year. It’s the start of another year and for most of 2014 I was gagging to go vinyl. There will be derision and snide comments made about this, but the truth is that there is more to my decision than the fact that it’s deemed to be “cool” again.

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She & Him – Classics

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Having jumped record labels from Merge to Columbia, She & Him keep up the pace of their output. Classics is yet another covers album – it seems to have come back into fashion lately – but also manages to feel very much in the same vein as their Christmas album a few years back.

As ever, Zooey Deschanel, with her love-it-or-hate-it image, croons her way through the songs, providing entertainment if not a ground-breaking performance. M. Ward, her trusty sidekick in this project, gives good grounding to the tunes with reverb-soaked guitars, and offers up his vocals for Charles Aznavour’s classic ‘She’.

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Manchester Orchestra – Cope

Four albums in and Manchester Orchestra have hit their stride but they’ve also put the band firmly into cruise control, choosing to maintain the success built mostly by previous albums Mean Everything to Nothing and Simple Math. With Cope, however, there is bags of potential and enough to enjoy – pleasing fans but probably not garnering the plaudits they deserve.

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We Are Scientists – TV en Francais

Given the fact that their single ‘After Hours’ from album Brain Trust Mastery did so well, getting them to number 15 in the charts, you’d think that their label might put a bit more behind We Are Scientists now. Whether it was a one-off or not is still a question up in the air, but their latest effort TV en Francais proves that they’re still happily doing what they do best.

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Hospitality – Trouble

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It’s not often fledgling indie darlings get a chance to spread their creative wings but Hospitality have taken their second album, Trouble, and used it bravely as a platform to explore something beyond their niche.

This album sounds like wings spreading, with a variety of landscapes on offer. ‘Last Words’ comes nearer the end of the album but is one of the stand out tracks, using organic piano against swelling synth much like Bon Iver on his second album, while opener ‘Nightingale’ is both brazen and hushed in equal measure, verging on blues rock akin to The Black Keys just as they broke a few albums back.

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Warpaint – Warpaint

You couldn’t accuse Warpaint of short-changing fans. Their follow up to The Fool, an album which gained cult acclaim, is a self-titled effort which, while hardly surprising in its contents, is slow-going and not an immediate banker – but they never promised you the world.

This is a band which was formed in 2004 and are only now, 10 years in, releasing their second full LP. Despite that, they stick to their guns, forming songs from almost psychedelic jams. ‘Keep It Healthy’ displays those eerie, reverb-soaked vocals from Emily Kokal and has a skittering drum heart despite the wig-out going on around them. From here, though, it’s something of an assortment: half-jams, half-songs, half-high – everything is undercooked, which worked the first time around but leaves some songs on this album only half-formed.

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Broken Bells – After The Disco

The unlikely pairing of James Mercer and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) has yielded yet another understated album. Most partnerships of this ilk are very sink-or-swim, but this follow up to Mercer and Burton’s self-titled release, aptly named After The Disco, sees the pairing hit a nice, smooth breast-stroke.

With such prestigious previous work under their belts from their own projects, you could probably throw a lot of waffle around about how this doesn’t match up to the indie-cool of The Shins or that this is just another mainstream vessel for Burton. But that wouldn’t do justice to these guys as a band. With a second album release, there is obviously some intent from them to be seen as such, and so they must be judged as such.

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Swearin’ – Surfing Strange

Following up their solid self-titled debut, Swearin’ give us another swampy chunk of 90s alternative rock with their second album Surfing Strange. It’s all in the title, really; this is a collection of fuzzy jams for the 90s-loving, beach-hopping slacker.

If you take a listen to the infectious opener ‘Dust in the Gold Sack’ (hint: best song of the album) and think that it sounds quite similar in tone to Waxahatchee’s latest release then you’re on to something. Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, is sister of Allison Crutchfield, the singer here. She shares vocals duties on this album. If you could imagine Waxahatchee with a full band then it would probably sound like Surfing Strange, with lines like “Daylight and night on the turnpike/ like the crunch of the black ice and the buzz of the summer”.

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White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

With each passing album, White Denim sound more confident in what they’re doing, and while for some artists that would be a bad thing, for these Texans it helps them to hone their grooves and provide a strategic punch. If there is an album to showcase both their musical prowess as well as their penchant for a tune, then Corsicana Lemonade is it.

This band has gone from a garage, experimental rock sound to the kind of psychedelic rock you’ll hear on ‘At Night in Dreams’. Where Workout Holiday and Fits had them tumbling end over end, this album flies a lot sharper and to the point. It won’t seem straight-forward if you’re a top 40 devotee but ‘New Blue Feeling’ is a far more reserved, short song with comforting lines.

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