With sites such as last.fm and the hoard of excellent music blogs out there, it is very easy to discover new music nowadays. Luckily in the hundreds of acts that come our way, every so often we discover one with real potential - someone that really stands out from the crowd. Thus far this year, two acts have achieved this and I'm gonna talk about them over the next few days.
Today it's the Middle East. An export from Australia (typically that's enough to put me off! Despite producing Nick Cave, Australians tend to fall into the "trying to be Led Zeppelin" category in my experience) I have talked about the Middle East before,[You can read it here if you want: http://bullblacknova.blogspot.com/2010/04/new-music-middle-east.html] and feel the need to bring them back up as I have recently fallen back in love with their debut offering The Recordings of the Middle East.
Reissued in Europe as a 5 track EP, The Recordings of the Middle East was actually released as a 9 track LP in 2008. The modest success of this led to the band splitting up until the blogosphere caught on and oozed over the magic of it. The band have reformed and Spunk Records have released this shortened version of the band's work. They are in the middle of a mammoth tour as we speak. Luckily for us, it includes a stop in Punchestown for Oxegen - NOT to be missed if you are in Kildare that weekend!
The tracks Blood and The Darkest Side are the real stand out offerings on both the 5 track and 9 track versions of the The Recordings.... The former is a gorgeous alternative song. It reminds of Sufjan Stevens' songs Chicago and Jacksonville from his Illinois album. The track starts slowly with acoustic guitars and xylophones intermittent with the subtle vocals. It builds to a Chicago-style closing with a big, anthemic feel. Fantastic. The latter is a simply stunning dual-vocal. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Achingly beautiful, the track comes into it's own when the female vocalist takes over asking "If I died on my bedroom floor, would you cry on your bedroom floor and tattoo my name underneath your arm?" A love song at it's core, The Darkest Side is a very moving track.
As for the rest of the EP, Spunk Records included Lonely, Beleriand and Fool's Gold - three fantastic songs. Lonely is a seven minute long track that builds very slowly to it's climax. It explodes with a flurry of symbol crashes and a steady vocal harmony - not unlike what we've heard from the National in parts, Band of Horses and even Arcade Fire. It even finishes with some trumpets - a really solid effort. Beleriand starts off at a very different pace to the rest of the EP: faster, louder. A welcome change of pace in what is a rather sombre affair elsewhere. A minute in, it dies down before building to an ending very like it's opening bars. Finally, Fool's Gold is a return to the slower, calm pace of The Darkest Side. It is another top-notch track from what is a very impressive EP - one of the best I have heard in a long time.
If you are lucky enough to come across the full length release, I would recommend it. Chances are it will set you back quite a bit - the only CD version I could find was selling at $40 with bidding still going. However, the 4 tracks that were omitted from the EP are really special. Among them are The Fall Of Man, a trumpet driven effort that sounds unlike the rest of the LP and the 13 minute epic Tsietsi. Two magnificent tracks that only add to the overall appeal of the work if you ask me. Baffling that Spunk would just half the album really!
This was not meant to turn into an album review though it seems to have done that! Ultimately the Middle East are an endearing band. Though their sound is not completely original, it embraces the best in contemporary American independent rock and embellishes it with an Australian take. We have pieces of the National, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Band of Horses, Beirut, Grizzly Bear and more all wrapped in a beautiful little package. They have gotten rave reviews for their live performances on this current tour and are rapidly making their way up the ladder of which bands I am most eager to see at Oxegen this summer. They almost seem custom built for the festivals and will offer a glorious alternative to almost everything else that is on offer.
Check out the Middle East on MySpace @ http://www.myspace.com/visitthemiddleeast for more. Highly recommended.
- Cork, Ireland
- An Irish based alternative music blog. Music news, gigs, live reviews, album reviews... You'll find them here. If you want anything featured or removed, please shout. I hope you'll discover something new to love on this little experiment of mine. Currently editing the Music Section of the UCC Express and contributing to Motley magazine on campus, as well as writing for PopCultureMonster and 4FortyFour. Always looking for new projects so please get in touch if interested. Thanks for reading.