This EP, the first of a projected series, was issued by Stolen Recordings in March and develops the distinctive musical style displayed by The European on his first album (In A Very Real Sense Now, reviewed here and still much loved by BBO London). The EP is like a double A-side with three extra tracks, if that makes any sense: the excellent ‘Waves on Waves’, where Simon Break’s wistful voice floats over the top of a scintillating tune that’s equal parts Moroder and the Pet Shop Boys; ‘The Fountainhead’, a Randean love song with its tongue in its cheek; ‘Progressive Debris’, a more experimental instrumental; a reworking of one of the key tracks from the first album by the Soft Regime; and a longer version of ‘Waves’. All fabulous. Here’s that full-length version of ‘Waves on Waves’.
And yes, one of the best covers of the year for me 🙂
So it’s Record Store Day this Saturday – you know, support your local independent record shop – and there will be all kinds of treats available: one-off records, gigs, and more. Stolen Recordings’ RSD-special compilation 6 includes two tracks from six of the label’s artists, one new one and one ‘classic’. The album features The European, who isn’t as well known as Bo Ningen and Pete and the Pirates but should be.
In A Very Real Sense Now, The European’s first album, was one of my highlights of last year: nine smart, slightly odd pop songs. ‘I’m Compromising’, the ‘classic’ track on this new sampler, is an excellent example of Simon Break’s way with a tune. I suppose it’s a boy-meets-girl song but it’s really about what that means: abandoning self-sufficient complacency and starting to live for someone else. Compromising, in other words. Break’s delivery is pitched somewhere between melancholic and arch; the songs are funny but he’s deadly serious. They sound like deceptively simple electronic pop too, but there’s all kinds of things going on here.
Break promised that the next album will be a meditation on Dungeons and Dragons and the Enlightenment, and his second contribution to the Stolen sampler, ‘Universal Values’, is a demo of this album’s title track. Another strange and tongue-in-cheek tale, it made me laugh even before I heard the very long ‘guitar solo’ – which sounds like Break bothered a guitar with a hairbrush.
The Stolen compilation will be available from all good shops, including Manchester’s Piccadilly Records, who are also putting on all sorts of good stuff including a great free gig. Details here. You should also track down In A Very Real Sense Now – buy it from Stolen.
I can’t really put either of these tracks up – not the spirit of RSD at all, eh? – but here’s the other standout track from that first album; I’ve posted the video as well but most people find it a rather overwhelming experience (have a look at the hilarious youtube comments) and it’s safer to start here:
THE EUROPEAN – ‘The Settler’ – In A Very Real Sense Now
We used a spreadsheet this year. Yes, a bloody spreadsheet.
It’s still not a perfect representation of what was an excellent year for music or, in fact, what we individually valued, but it will have to do. And at least we arrived at a top ten rather than the fudge of a top four we presented to you, adoring reader(s), this time last year.
Residing in the bubbling under category for 2010 were cracking albums by: The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus, Holy Fuck, Wavves, Silver Mt Zion, The Divine Comedy, To Rococo Rot, Gold Panda, Thomas White, The Phantom Band, and Wooden Shjips.
Which – when we look at it – is a pretty amazing set of also-rans. It was a good year for music, like we said. Here’s a Spotify playlist of (nearly) all the artists we loved from 2010.
And the honourable reissues were:
Nosferatu D2 – We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise. If this had been released this year it would have been in our collective top 20. It’s brilliant.
The Wonder Stuff – Hup (21st Anniversary Edition). More of a remake than a reissue, but still a pile of beautiful bile and hoe-down pop silliness.
And now, in reverse order for the sheer hell of it, here’s our top ten of ’10:
10. Drum Eyes: Gira Gira
Cloaks on! Enormous squelchy head-nodding sounds from DJ Scotch Egg and team. Engaging, mesmerising, sounds ace really really loud.
9. Four Tet: There Is Love In You
Kieran Hebden – one of Putney’s finest exports – leaves the folktronica to one side and steers a rewardingly wobbly path between the tricksy and the tuneful. Consistently rewarding.
8. Mugstar: …Sun, Broken…
Space-rock for the now age. Gloriously large riffage and droned workouts that eat your ears.
7. The European: In a Very Real Sense Now
Deserves a proper review, really, and it might just get one before the end of the year. Simon Break writes tunes your postman could whistle and lyrics than are still making us laugh eight months after we first heard them. Proper pop for the not easily pleased.
6. The National: High Violet
After a good deal of excited waiting we got something like the album we were waiting for. Something of a breakthrough/crossover album, though the production arguably blunted some of the charm. When it worked – particularly on ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ – it made you think there was hope for this big indie band thing after all.
5. Fang Island: Fang Island
A refreshing lack of po-faced sincerity, this record is a joy from start to finish. If you can’t smile to and with this record there’s something wrong with you and the world.
Life Coach – Fang Island
4. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
Baby Lee – Teenage Fanclub
3. I Like Trains – He Who Saw the Deep
Not-so-difficult second album helped out by fan pledges – definitely one of the best ways of getting round the problem of making music pay for itself. Still doing an excellent job at the point on the Venn diagram where songs and post-rock meet, with Guy Bannister’s voice more than holding up against the swelling guitars and drums. Wonderful.
Progress is a Snake – I Like Trains
2. Teeth Of The Sea – Your Mercury
An album that re-instates your faith that the musically new is possible after all. Properly disquieting, epic and expansive, TOTS push at barriers you didn’t realise existed until they’re collapsing around your head. We love ’em.
You’re Mercury – Teeth of the Sea
1. No Age – Everything In Between
Abstract interludes, all out DIY two-chorders, angsty beauty and everything in between. A truly staggering achievement of tortured guitars, noise and harmonies. We both saw them live this year and were left grinning like shit-eating tortoises. Marvellous.
Shed and Transcend – No Age
We hope you enjoyed. Merry Christmas. And see you soon.
Jkneale and angrybonbon
[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones, ones where there isn’t really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records – actually, we really do. And we think you should too, so if you like any of this and haven’t already bought them, go on! They’ll be cheap by now]