Liars & Saint Laurent – Women’s Spring / Summer ’14 – Collection VIII (30/09/2013)

A video from Paris Fashion Week 2013 showcasing the Saint Laurent Spring / Summer 2014 collection, soundtracked by an exclusive remix of ‘Mr. Your On Fire Mr.’ by Liars. The stark neon catwalk design also evokes the angular sleeve stylings of Liars’s WIXIW album.

Saint Laurent Women’s Spring / Summer 2014
Collection VIII
The official Saint Laurent page for this video can be found here.

Liars – ‘Mr. Your On Fire Mr.’
Originally recorded 1999 and available on the album They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top (Blast First).
Remix and additional recording for Saint Laurent by Angus Andrew in LA, September 2013
Soundcloud stream available here.

Content (c) 2013 Saint Laurent / Liars
Blog post (c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

2014: End of Year Wrap-up

First Aid Kit 'Stay Gold' album artwork

2014 was a year where I probably wrote more than any other year, but hardly any of it was for the Documentary Evidence site that began my journey into music writing over a decade ago. The year saw me start what turned out to be a slow and not exactly fun process of moving content from my original site to a new WordPress home, a process which will have to accelerate soon given that all of my archive writing for DocEv is now offline.

Most of my writing this year was for Clash, where I continue to contribute three of four short album reviews each month. This year I made a conscious effort to diversify who I write for, and lucked out when Electronic Sound gave me a last-minute opportunity to cover Jonteknik‘s debut Apt album for the innovative iPad magazine (I know Jon hates end of year round-ups, but Jon, I owe you a beer for that album and the door it opened for me with Electronic Sound – thanks.)

Since then I’ve delivered a number of pieces for the magazine, culminating in a major feature on Simian Mobile Disco in the summer. It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be working for Electronic Sound. The magazine’s team includes two people who undoubtedly shaped my interest in music writing back when I read Muzik as a teenager, back when I had no aspirations toward writing at all. Through their guidance I’ve become a better writer. I’ve also learned the value of full stops again.

I also started going to concerts and writing live reviews again this year. I reviewed Laibach, Nik Kershaw and Erasure for This is Not Retro (all with typically brilliant photos by Andy Sturmey), as well as a clutch of gigs at my closest music venue, The Stables, for a local Milton Keynes site (TotalMK) – Dylan Howe (my first jazz piece), Tom Baxter and Martha Wainwright.

2014 saw me write the least I ever have in the last five years about Mute releases. I covered the latest Cabaret Voltaire compilation, Erasure’s The Violet Flame and the Plastikman live album for Electronic Sound, Liars‘ Mess for Feeder and a couple of albums for my own Documentary Evidence site, but on the whole I’ve largely ignored Mute releases this year. Partly this is because I’ve been busy with other music writing, and partly it’s because I have struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of albums that the label have issued this year.

Critics are afforded the opportunity at the year end to come up with their favourite album of the year and so I feel justified in doing the same. Head and shoulders above everything else, for this writer it was Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. As is so often the case with the albums that capture your imagination the most, this was an album that I was hardly interested in when I read the press release.

I came back from a three and a half week vacation in New York and Florida in May and immediately found myself being asked to review a clutch of new albums by bands I’d mostly never really heard of before with hardly any time between them being commissioned and the print deadline. One of those records was Stay Gold. First Aid Kit are two sisters from Sweden and the press release seemed to lump them in with a folk scene that I am not always comfortable with, so I wasn’t exactly excited about covering this one.

Sitting on the train on a sunny, May morning, still feeling jet lagged and wondering why I ever signed up to write the reviews when I was so jaded and missing America, I decided to start with the First Aid Kit album and within seconds – the slide guitar sweep that quickly ushers in the opening track, ‘My Silver Lining’ – I was hooked and alert. Something about the music just talked to me in a way that lots of music never has before and I still can’t put my finger on precisely why; it’s possibly the combination of youthful innocence mixed with a sort of mature worldliness with which First Aid Kit approach their songs that got me, possibly the close harmonies of the two sisters, possibly the stirring quality of the title track ‘Stay Gold’ – I still don’t know, really.

What I do know is that a pair of lines on ‘Master Pretender’ – ‘Oh the streets of New York City / Look so pretty from way up here‘ – seemed to capture everything that I missed about New York and tapped into the way I was feeling as I closed the door on an incredible family holiday and went back into an uncertain work life.

Toward the end of the year I found myself listening to a lot more female singers – Martha Wainwright, Addie Brownlee and a singer called Natalie Prass, who I was introduced to by the same PR chap that sent me First Aid Kit (thanks Nathan), and whose debut album is really, really impressive; the sort of sound that might see this young singer scale the same heights as one Amy Winehouse did, all soulful sensuality of a style that has – criminally – more or less fallen out of favour. Check out ‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ below.

Oh, and in the last few days I’ve been playing a Canadian band called Viet Cong whose self-titled debut (out January) made me get all nostalgic for classic Interpol again, even if their debut knocks spots off my beloved New York band’s 2014 El Pintor effort.

Wishing all the readers of this blog a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Favourite sounds: First Aid Kit Stay Gold, Conor Oberst Upside-down Mountain, Ryan Adams Ryan Adams, Fats Waller, jazz, ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ by Gershwin, soundtracks to Woody Allen films, The Residents ‘Santa Dog’, Ghostly International, Front and Follow, my eldest daughter playing Latin guitar, my youngest daughter whistling or practicing her keyboard

Least favourite sounds: the announcer on X Factor, ‘What Does The Fox Say?’, arguments and shouting, alarm clocks

Record shops visited: Resident (Brighton), Rough Trade (New York)

Liars – There’s Always Room On The Broom (Mute Records single, 2004)

Liars 'There's Always Room On The Broom' 10" artwork

mute records | 10″/cd mute317 | 09/02/2004

New York’s Liars made their transition from Blast First to Mute with this, their second UK single, and the first track to be taken from They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. A marked change in direction, ‘There’s Always Room On The Broom’ – albeit rather nursery rhyme-esque in it’s title – takes an influence from the paranormal, using German witchcraft mythology to provide its themes. This release comes in a very tongue in cheek sleeve that rips off Einstürzende Neubauten‘s sleeve for Strategies Against Architecture. (Just over ten years after this single was released, I found myself at a Laibach concert in London talking to a member of the Mute team, who was sporting a Neubauten t-shirt, which he said he wire to Laibach gigs just to piss off the band; we got to talking about the pastiche that was created for the sleeve of ‘There’s Always Room On The Broom’. He said that Mute approached Blixa Bargeld to ask for permission to use his original sleeve for Strategies…; apparently Blixa loved it and thought it was pretty funny.)

How to describe this music? Well, on the lead track, an exciting meeting of Neubauten and Sonic Youth wouldn’t actually be a bad starting point. Vocalist Angus Andrew bears a striking aural similarity to the Youth’s Thurston Moore in his early, naive, punked-up deadpan style. Musically, with its breakdown into fuzzy whitenoise and lo-fi percussion – cardboard box rhythms a la Moe Tucker duelling with Neubauten’s N U Unruh – this could be from almost any combination of points along indie rock’s ancestry. Some ghoulish whining reminds you of the Germanic folklore which inspired the album’s creation. Some densely-savaged organ sounds leads you to imagine Clint Boon inside a cauldron with The Lonesome Organist playing devil with a distortion pedal.

Track 2, ‘Scull And Crossbrooms’ [sic], is a miniature percussion and feedback affair, lasting just over 1.5 minutes, with some early Aphex-esque grainy synths evoking a ritualistic, covenly atmosphere. ‘Broom’ is similarly atmospheric, straight outta Bad Moon Rising, featuring some soft vocals and rolling, reverberating timpani and percussion, with which William Winant would be suitably impressed.

Despite its slightly goofy leanings, this is a pretty earnest slab of prime rump post-rock, and if you’re getting bored of that whole flavourless low-carb Strokes / nu-punk-lite nonsense, then this could be just what you need in your diet.

Track listing:

A. / 1. There’s Always Room On The Broom
B1. / 2. Scull And Crossbrooms
B2. / 3. Broom

First published 2004; edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence


Liars – Mess (Mute Records album, 2014)

A review of the new Liars album, Mess, for the Feeder website. Words by me.

(c) 2014 Feeder