|Malcolm Middleton — Summer of 13 (May 27, 2016)|
Malcolm Middleton — Summer of 13 (May 27, 2016) ♣ Malcolm Middleton tells all about going electro–pop on his first album in seven years.
♣ “My album of the year so far. The opening song, Steps, deserves to be a huge hit. It's quite different from, say, Into The Woods, but with plenty of expected Malcolm wit/sadness. It's either a downbeat Little Mix album or a really uptempo Malcolm Middleton album. Either way, I love it and you should buy it. Brilliant!” [Michael Legge]Product Description
♣ His first album for seven years and the sixth solo album from the ex–Arab Strap man, is set for release on the relaunched Nude Records. In Malcolm’s songs, hope and optimism have always existed (they were just well hidden) and ‘catchy’ has always been his prime prerogative, but with the new album glimmering with heady production, this clearly shines through. Calling upon the expertise of Glasgow–based dance producer Miaoux Miaoux, the album also features guest appearances by Beta Band/The Aliens founder Gordon Anderson aka Lone Pigeon (also creator of the album’s artwork, technicolour photography and who became a ‘soundboard’ for Malcolm after he moved into the cottage next door). De Rosa’s Martin John Henry and First Aid Kit’s Scott Simpson also add to the albums sonic swirl and sense of fun. A wonky tonk fun–land of squelching synths and sweeping strings, ‘Steps’ is a cosmic space ride through pitch bends and vocal manipulation whilst ‘Information In The Voice’ unexpectedly drops pop RnB hip hop. But it’s never without feeling; take the romantic ‘You & I’ or shimmering and rhapsodic ‘Big Black Hole’ with its twinkling piano hook. Put together, there’s a neon glow of 80s new wave, alongside smoggier shades of the Chromatics or Johnny Jewel’s Glass Candy. Malcolm has always enjoyed challenging his listeners and this time around is no exception. [Amazon.com.uk]
Born: 31 December 1973 in Falkirk, Scotland
Location: Falkirk, Scotland, UK
Album release: 27/05/2016
Record Label: Nude
01 Steps 4:25
02 You & I 3:52
03 Information in the Voice 4:25
04 Brackets 5:16
05 Like John Lennon Said 4:21
06 Little Hurricane 4:08
07 Music Ticks 5:09
08 Summer of ‘13 5:56
09 Big Black Hole 6:15
10 Lullaby 3:27
℗ 2016 Malcolm Middleton with licensing arrangement to Nude Music Ltd
by Ben Philpott May 25th, 2016 / Score: 8
♣ Malcolm Middleton has been a very busy chap these past few years, but there’s a strong chance much of his fan–base have yet to realise. Human Don’t Be Angry, from 2012, was a timed Record Store Day exclusive; a beautifully put together collection of original instrumentals, skits and maudlin pop which received an equally lovely follow up in 2015 (Electric Blue — Human Don’t Be Angry). Then there’s Music and Words; a collaborative pic’n’mix of hysterical spoken word vignettes written alongside visual artist David Shringley.
♣ Though 2009’s Waxing Gibbous may have been the last ‘proper’ solo record to release under his name, it’s evident that Middleton has been anything but idle. Enter Summer of ’13 — an oddly spry electronic record marking a refreshing departure from the “downbeat/miserablist” (his words) nature of previous releases. Still, this is Malcolm Middleton we’re talking about, half of the genius behind those sad fuckers Arab Strap — of course some of it’s miserable.
♣ It opens with the buoyant eletro–pop stomp of ‘Steps’, which perfectly sets the tone for the album’s wry confessionals. “Won’t somebody come and diagnose me with something/ I’m not making progress” decrees Middleton; words any reticent, anxious individual will be able to relate to. Produced by precocious electro wizard Miaoux Miaoux, Summer of ’13 feels like a labour of love, a record that Middleton had to make in order to move onward. He’s always been an eclectic musician, one as likely to lay down a hard rock instrumental as he is something dangerously twee, but here the production brings out another side… a sunnier, danceable side.
♣ With guest appearances from Gordon Anderson (aka Lone Pigeon, who is also responsible for that brilliantly garish cover art), Scott Simpson (drummer with First Aid Kit), and regular Middleton collaborator Martin John Henry, Summer of ’13 consistently surprises in both tone and musicality.
♣ Rhythmically, the album feels equally vivid and serene; as suited to hazy evenings in the sun as it would be animating an off–beat indie disco. The final moments of ‘Brackets’ is a perfect example of this. Here, Middleton uses a cathartic refrain of “We’ve taken a long time getting here” over a hypnotic blend of falsetto harmonies, clouded synth and a classic jangle–riff. Sure, it’s clearly indebted to the best of Eighties outsider pop, but what’s so bad about that? It’s beautiful.
♣ If the idea of Malcolm Middleton pulling all this off still fails to register, the closest musical comparison one can think of is the criminally overlooked 2007 album West Coast by Studio. In fact, the similarity between the fading vocal echo on ‘Information In The Voice’ and that which appears in Studio’s ‘West Side’ is uncanny. Both records carry the same idiosyncratic approach to uplifting electronic pop: an effortless mix of retro and contemporary indie/electro influences which in a just world would have lit the airwaves ablaze. There’s even a moment in the aforementioned track where Middleton is bold enough to threaten a musical ‘drop’…
♣ There are dips, namely ‘Like John Lennon Said’ which, while pleasant, might put off those averse to existential ruminations built upon Lennon quotes. Whether people take to this sunnier approach has yet to be seen, but given his previous eclecticism, there’s little doubt fans will lap this up. Middleton has made a dance record for the disenfranchised, oh sure it’s a cliché, but Summer of ’13 is one of the most refreshing things you hear all year. Come on you miserable bastards, this here is the soundtrack to your summer of ’16. ♣ http://drownedinsound.com/
Words: Andrew Hannah / 24 MAY 2016, 09:30 BST
♦ Summer of ‘13 was recorded with the help of Beta Band founder Gordon Anderson, First Aid Kit’s Scott Simpson and dance producer Miaoux Miaoux. You can read Middleton’s track–by–track take on the album below, followed by an exclusive stream of the record itself.
■λ→ This song was the glue and fuel that got me excited about the thought of recording an album again. It’s a bit daft, but was good fun to make.
You & I
■λ→ This wasn’t going to be on the album but then Miaoux Miaoux added the funky, bubbling bass and I started liking it again. It was written in 2010 so I’d grown used to it. Gordon’s advice to “sing from beneath your accent” was experimented with unsuccessfully here. Or maybe I was trying to sound like Gary McNuman.
Information In The Voice
■λ→ This was written ages ago in a weak attempt at doing R&B. It was probably a reaction to my own preference that all my own songs need to have some meaning or value lyrically. Obviously this one doesn’t. The verses were a song once, I think, and the chorus is supposed to be funny/vanilla.
■λ→ This used to be a normal, dark, indie guitar song. Julian/Miaoux reinvigorated it and did all the programming, only keeping the vocals and bass from the original version. I like it and I like the way it fits on the album. It’s calm and detached and modern. Like me. I like the way it doesn’t sound like something I would’ve done.
Like John Lennon Said
■λ→ Dour cheesy pop! The backing vocals are funny. I was imagining a young East 17 doing this one. It’s all baggy–trouser–crotch–holding, slow forward foot–flicks and sincerity. Lyrically, I had an epiphany once while listening to the song “Imagine”, where I took his words to be meant as literal, with a touch of sarcasm.
■λ→ Cheesy indie pop! Martin John Henry makes this song with his bassline and Kim Deal vocals. Closing credits to Dawson’s Creek?
■λ→ A strange one. Lots of words and humour in the production.
Summer Of ‘13
■λ→ I really wanted to sample “Not Fade Away” for this, but I couldn’t make it fit. The middle is an homage to “Purity” by The God Machine.
Big Black Hole
■λ→ I heard “I Was A Fool” by Tegan & Sara and wanted to write a song with a nice piano hook too. I already had words and a tune so put them together and got this. Gordon added vocoder vocals etc. His advice for this one was to take out any personal references in the lyrics, like “me” or “I” and put in a girls name somewhere and make it universal. Also to cut it by 3 minutes and put the big synth hook at the start. I didn’t do that though. Ellie Goulding probably would have. And maybe they’d both be right.
■λ→ My son was born in 2013 and I made this up for him when he’d nap on my shoulder, back when he was the size of a small frozen chicken. I initially had the idea to do a rock lullaby, so when the chorus kicked in the recipient would wake up with a jolt. But that would be daft, and I needed to sleep too. I like this version though, it’s perfect.
Biography ~ Andy Kellman
♦ In 2003, Malcolm Middleton, the member of Arab Strap regularly credited with “most things musical,” released the cumbersomely titled solo album 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine, issued through Chemikal Underground. Two years later, he followed it up with the more focused Into the Woods, put out by the same label. Neither album was a tremendous departure from his work with Aidan Moffat (both lyrically and sonically), though the songwriting was occasionally more self–absorbed, oozing with self–doubt and heartache. Shortly after Arab Strap’s amicable split, he released the schizophrenic A Brighter Beat (2007), followed by the relatively low–key Sleight of Heart (2008) and another whimsical set in Waxing Gibbous (2009).
|Malcolm Middleton — Summer of 13 (May 27, 2016)|