Art Is Hard Records is a record label out of Plymouth, UK. Their first release was an compilation album called Brink of the Clouds featuring nine groups from the southwest of England. We recommend this album for many reasons, not the least of which being that it is consistently interesting all the way through, but primarily because the way one purchases the album is through buying a T-shirt and receiving a download code. I personally find this idea really funny, and there is something very inspired about the concept which is something that most labels today seem to be lacking. The label’s second release is the New Years Evil / The Black Tambourines Split 7″, which comes out on vinyl November 29th. The physical copy of the E.P. comes with the record, an original print of a photo by one of the label’s favorite local (to the south of England) artists, a five track digital E.P., and a limited edition zine. The actual 7″ contains two songs, and they are both extremely enjoyable. The first track is “Shame”, by New Years Evil, which reminds the Islander a lot of Mineral. The song features invigorating sincerity, which today is so rare. The track is titled “Tommy” and it’s by The Black Tambourines. It’s a very noisy garage-poppy tune, which despite being pleasantly hard on the ears is actually quite breezy and easy to listen to. This 7″ seems like it will totally be worth picking up, and could quite possibly be very valuable some day.
If one were to listen to Crush expecting Skeleton pt.2 he or she would be very confused. While traces of what Abe Vigoda once were are still apparent on this record, influences seem more akin to Manchester circa 78, than the tropics. It’s also a less squealy album that seem more clean. The most mind-blowing facet of this album is the consistency. From the first track to the last, nothing falls short of the standard that is set. Every element of the album coexists happily, which might seem like a weird notion to an older Abe Vigoda fan, but if one puts his or her prejudices aside and listens to this album with unbiased ears, there is a good chance it will rise to the their personal best of ’10 lists. The title track, “Crush”, is a good introduction to this new sound, displaying even cleaner vocals than Reviver and showing a new level of conciseness within a single track. This undoubtedly different stylistic direction seams to be fully realized across the album, and the first track, “Sequins” is a perfect example of this. The guitar intro is distinctly Abe Vigoda in it’s timbre and timing, but the vibe or the riff is much cleaner than previous works. The moment that took The Islander aback is when the synths come in. In short, they work perfectly. They add a sense of fullness to the song, and round out the instrumentation. “Pure Violence” is a bit washy, but the almost floating nature of the tune perfectly compliments the melody, and energy of the song. The vocals sound very new romantic, intertwined guitar parts make the backing track very thick. The most striking feature of this song is almost Psychedelic Fursy hook, which manages to be melancholy and bold at the same time.
The Islander’s two favorite tracks are “Beverly Slope” and “Dream of My Love (Chasing After You).” The former is song on the album that is the most different from anything the band has done before. The drum part is extremely interesting, and drives the song along. One guitar part adds an eerie atmospheric backdrop, and the other textures the song. The vocals are also very atmospheric, and it’s very easy to just zone out and get lost in the flowing energy of the track. When “Beverly Slope” dissolves into noise, it becomes apparent that no other ending would do the song justice. The latter song is extremely intense. The song starts with an almost helicopter like guitar riff, and immediately a simple synth part enters the mix. The two work together very well. The vocal melody sounds like early Roxy Music, and the harsher synth part is sounds Eno influenced. The vocals turn into a very Joy Division like part. The intensity builds and builds and then the song is over. The entire album is phenomenal, and amazingly, it translates into a live environment. The Islander absolutely recommends this album to anyone.
Crush – Abe Vigoda