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Autumn Tone Records

It’s amazing how you sometimes stumble across treasure by accident.

At the height of Autumn, whilst wistfully day dreaming and listening to music in my room, I considered what sounds and music best represented the leafy season. In my curiosity, I typed the words ‘Autumn sounds music’ into the search engine in the hope of finding perhaps a list of possible suggestions. Instead, what came up was a link to the recently established Autumn Tone Records, which was instantly intriguing. I set about exploring the site, and checking out the varied list of artists, until I was satisfied that it was exactly what I was looking for. I felt like a child who discovers a den whilst playing in the woods; an image quite fitting when considering the alternative and natural character to the music offered on Autumn Tone Recordings.

Following it’s creation in 2005 by the music blog Aquarium Drunkard , Autumn Tone Records, based in Los Angeles, has been host to a number of acoustic, indie, folk, harmonic, and rock outfits who have all been driven out of obscurity and into the public eye. Currently, at least ten artists are represented on the label’s main website and are all definitely worth a listen.

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RETROSPECTIVE: Daft Punk – Discovery (Virgin 2001)

Everybody has an album that reminds them of their youth; an album which, when played, never fails to bring them back to another point in their life.

For me, Daft Punk‘s 2001 release, Discovery, is the album of my youth. To this day, opening dance masterpiece ‘One More Time’ remains one of my favourite all time tracks, due entirely to it’s energy and the power screaming out from it’s anthemic refrain. Even when I re-visit the album now I still feel as moved as I did the first time I heard it. I suppose that’s the sign of a truly great album; it continues to educate and surprise.

Two years after the release of their hugely influential debut Homework, Daft Punk set to work on a new album which they hoped would sonically encapsulate the idea of discovering and exploring life as a child. The resulting 14 track collection has a playful and more gentle feel to it than some of the more raw moments on Homework. Although trademark Daft Punk traits can be clearly heard throughout, such as the crisp 4/4 rhythm on tracks like ‘Face To Face’ and ‘Verdis Quo’, a more synth-heavy approach allows the album to gracefully flow through a number of themes and styles.

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REVIEW: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue (Nonesuch 2010)

Back in 2002, English novelist Nick Hornby published a collection of 31 short essays documenting how different songs have influenced his life. 31 Songs is a fascinating read; very well written, offering the reader a unique insight into the mind of a music lover and how his love of music can carry him through any hardship. Amongst the tracks chosen by Hornby to describe his life was Smoke by the alternative indie rock trio Ben Folds Five, which held the most resonance in the collection due to the subtle lyrical connotations depicting the breakdown of marriage. This appreciation fused a friendship between Hornby and Folds, resulting finally in 2010 with their collaboration, Lonely Avenue.

The album contains eleven tracks with all lyrical content written by Nick Hornby and all music performed by Ben Folds. This inspired marriage instantly gives the collection an intelligent narrative, enforced with a strong piano-led musicality, turning each song into a beautifully crafted short story. This quality can be found throughout the album, especially in the bitter-sweet ‘Picture Window’, the soulful character portrait of ‘Practical Amanda’ and the tale of childhood innocence in ‘Claire’s Ninth’, which was actually Hornby’s first ever short story. The most striking track on the album is ‘Doc Pomus’; a driving melody and rhythm referencing the 1960s songwriter, whose story provides this collaboration’s namesake.

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REVIEW: The Spinto Band – Moonwink

Autumn has an image. The season is in full swing as the darkened leafs and conkers litter the ground, the nights creep in, and everyone starts wearing scarfs again. But rarely does Autumn have a signature sound. For me, the Delaware-based outfit The Spinto Band will always feature on my Autumn soundtrack. There’s something about their uniquely jerky yet enchantingly melodic character that fits perfectly with the withering scene outside.

Quality exudes out of the band’s 2006 debut album, Nice And Nicely Done; an album that flittered between styles and themes with a quaint elegance. With the release of Moonwink in 2008, it is clear that the group have tried to go further into solidifying their signature sound, but it seems as though they somehow fall short of the charm of their first effort.

Moonwink isn’t bad by any means. With upbeat tracks like ‘Vivian, Don’t’, ‘Pumpkins And Paisley’ and ‘The Carnival’, this sound bursts into life in a flurry of energy. There are also some slight nods back to the more soul-filled moments on their debut, as seen on the sullen ‘They All Laughed’ and the jaunty yet oddly delicate ‘Summer Grof’. One stand out gem, the anthemic ‘Needlepoint’, crystallises exactly what The Spinto Band do best, and that’s exciting the ears of the listener. However, despite these high points, the direction that the band have taken appears to have corrupted their former, rich character. It’s as if Moonwink is the band’s attempt at being younthful and exciting, as opposed to Nice And Nicely Done which now acts as the soulful maturing album. Whether or not this was intentional, Moonwink fails to deliver the same chills and goosebumps that were present in the debut, for example on tracks like ‘Oh Mandy’ and ‘Direct To Helmet’.

Having said all that, Moonwink still manages to impress and delight, and in turn leaves you longing for more material from the band – the hallmark of an engaging album. So, one question remains: what else would feature on the perfect Autumn soundtrack? Any suggestions?

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REVIEW: Interpol – Interpol (Soft Limit 2010)

Subconsciously, the first listening of a new album by one of your favourite bands might instill a feeling of anxiety, leaving you longing for a rehash of earlier material to satisfy your original love for the band. Fans of the New York based indie rock outfit Interpol may do just this, having 2007’s critically disappointing Our Love To Admire fresh in their ears. Thankfully, as is often the case with Interpol, this new offering continues to surprise, impress and mesmerise the more you listen to it.

Ok, so in terms of sound, Interpol isn’t far removed from it’s predecessors; a heavy consistent rhythm section coupled with shimmering guitars, and covered with smirking vocals. But, despite giving the band an identity, this signature sound has been updated in places. For example, in ‘Always Malaise (The Man I Am)’, the conventional Interpol set-up is challenged by the shifting mood and rhythm carried over by the layering of harmonies. The band appear to have also branched out and dabbled with piano effects and electronics to achieve a fresh sound. These new effects give the track, and indeed the album as a whole, a lighter tone, albeit with heavier lyrics.

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REVIEW: R̦yksopp РSenior

Naturally, as we travel through this life, our emotions and attitudes change and the blissful, naive days of our youth slide further and further away. As these innocent times fade, so do the memories, up to the point where our perception of experiences becomes unclear and hazy. One is ultimately left with the haunting urge to recapture said youth whilst dealing with the hard times ahead.

Too bleak?

Well, somehow Norwegian electronic wizards Röyksopp have managed to capture this feeling of dread within a glorious spectrum of sound and colour, making the whole idea of depression fade like a distant memory.