Album Reviews

Night Verses – From the Gallery of Sleep (2018)

Image result for Night Verses From the Gallery of Sleep

                                                Night Verses’ Bandcamp – From the Gallery of Sleep

Back to an instrumental trio Night Verses have released album number three, what is the result of three years is the recording studio? Nothing can be guaranteed but one would be foolish in thinking that it was not going to be technically sound, Herrera, Improta and DePirro yet again display that they are true masters of their respective craft.

Trading Shadows like a lot of this album it is fluid, seamlessly moving from calm still waters to blasting storms, it’s so engaging with many layers to unpack, smooth bass, reverbed guitar, picking up pace and cranking the brilliance up far beyond 11, flying by before you know it is ending. For a song as long as this (6:31) to be so easy to listen to like the best radio hits, only boosts the level of respect the three men garner.

Lira is one of the shorter songs at 3:30 (a radio friendly length, one can hope it gets a wider release and may hit the airways before a 10pm show other than the big rock/metal or alternative shows). It is here as well as on Harmonic Sleep Enginea segment in the fourth instalment to the Phoenix saga were picked acoustic guitar shimmer adding another facet to the ever growing, ever expanding sonic universe Night Verses venture through, the cosmos has always been a theme for the band being present on this album to.

One of the most diverse and interesting tracks on From the Gallery of Sleep is No Moon beginning with Space Race era sounding spoken recordings that are placed at various points on the album (see in the first part of Copper Wasp, the relentless Vice Wave with that top choppy bass playing, hats off to Herrera for the umpteenth time). It ends on a similar ambient backing as it began, but adds vocals akin to those found in an idyllic dream sequences born from the mind of Darren Aronofsky and would be fitting of being played over a scene from Requiem for a Dream (2000) or The Fountain (2006).

Frantic No. 0‘s introduction was one of the snippets released as a tantalising taste for what was to come, it is so compact with lighting quick playing that it demands focus from the listener, if you heard this in pacing it would draw you in, overcome by intrigue in its ferocity. Bolboa then slows everything down again with its digital percussion/ electronic synths (spacey and ethereal whenever used) leading the way, highlighting that the balance of these moments along with pacing of the record is just right, mid-to-late sections swaps from harder tracks with the more reserved ones, mirroring sleeping patterns, some nights you have the soundest of rests others not so much. Furthermore those dreams/nightmares that are the most varied are in turn the most memorable, applying that to this record was risky as it could have come out as a disjointed experience, but with these three behind the controls it is confident and succinct. Never running too long or dwelling on one extravagant part, as this would be both threaten to become tiresome and self indulgent a flaw some instrumental bands run into.

A personal change for me would be to swap the final songs around, and of course give the ending of Infinity Beach to Phoenix IV: Levitation as it carries the habit of having the beginning of the first track on the prior album/extended play becoming the ending of the following release, Out of the Sky’s From the Shadows Where I’m Low’s opening drum beats end Lift Your Existence’s Phoenix 1: Rising II: Falling, Introducing: Rot Under the Sun’s wailing guitar finishes Phoenix III: Into the Vanishing Light (off the album of the same name). I love the fact they do that what a nice little detail. But that is the slightest of gripes for me.

One of the many strong aspects to Night Verses is how all members of the band are heard (credit to producer Will Putney for his part in this album, stellar work), they all get equal footing, they always have, making a complete sound, a representation of the band and not one leading member. All great instrumental music shares this quality including this one.

A universal sign for happiness is someone’s natural smile, one that cannot be helped, avoided or resisted. Anything that can bring one of those smiles is in my opinion special; From the Gallery of Sleep does indeed bring one of those smiles. It is an ever moving harmonic beauty.


Album Reviews

Invisible Inc. – Fine Print (2018)

Image result


The reunion most people are talking back is The Smashing Pumpkins or Tool finally recording their next album (granted that is something to be excited about), but one you may have missed is Invisible Inc‘s made up of Watsky, Adam Vida, Daniel Riera and Max Daniel it is the bands third album since 2001.

The Opposition is a rallying song that centers around the shout of ‘The Opposition’ as you can probably figure out this is politically charged and the state media/news is a central theme. There is a references to the infamous ‘locker room talk’ line from the President that’s well worked without sounding cliche, indirect references like this are a way in which rappers/hip-hop/R&B artists intelligently write their lyrics and if done well allow them to link the lines together, this is done all throughout Fine Print it is a large reason for it being so enjoyably rewarding.

Wow! You Will Love It! and Shady (Interlude) are under a minute and not really needed as the first of those two is just Watsky rapping fast/oddly and an electronic modulator that follows him rising and fall, quickening and slowing when he does, but these are a couple minuscule gripes.

Where the music really pops is a bit on the odd side but highly enjoyable because of it is Safe Spaceshipadmittedly the intro wasn’t my favourite but as the song went on I really started to enjoy the joyous intergalactic voyage that this Safe Spaceship is going on. This is a nice lighter, eccentric, point on the album as a large percentage is politically aimed or points out flaws and troubles of modern life; it just shows that the band can make a very upbeat, free going music.

Backing this up is Battle this, the effectiveness of synth modified vocals plus what some mixing can do. The robotic voice to ‘take this outside’ is real hooky. Plus the fact that Pokemon makes an appearance Battle gets extra points for me.

Those Were the Days is a satirical, stab in the chest to anyone who thinks that modern society is awful by cleverly harping back to,

‘When we had parades
For Thanksgiving, not for gays
Guys like us we had it made (had it made)
Those were the days’


‘Had separate but equal rights, we even had our own toilets,
For colored people and whites ’til Civil Rights came and spoiled it’.

Those Were the Days is a major highlight it is very funny but poignant pointing out that contemporary times are good compared to the times called back to in the lyrics. Adam Vida and Watsky’s chemistry is easy to hear as they are up to and beyond this point on the album, bouncing off one another with ease, the features from Gift of Gab on They Warned Us and Gavlyn features on Don Quixote, both adding their own distinctive flows.

Ragdoll brings to the forefront that this is a band project with it predominantly featuring guitar (The Opposition is the other song with a lead guitar), great drumming which the song is elevated by. It is sort of unfair to single out Ragdoll as the music throughout be it bass, guitar and drums, piano, synths and electronic gizmos is a valuable element to the freshness of Fine Point.

Penultimate song Never Let It Out of My Mind has a very catchy chorus line (plus constant piano melody backs this up) and plan melody that runs under the track for its majority. The words recalls a former friend/someone close who took their life even though they were loved, these feelings are still there with those who knew the person and it will never leave their mind heartfelt lyrics standing out here.

Fine Print is an inventive and engaging album that blends a number of musical styles with some really well written lyrics, some of the bars are venomous jibes at the state of the U.S. and society as a whole, others are dry sarcastic and damn hilarious. This album is a great find certainly worth your time, and has taken a good amount of mine.

Album Reviews

Overdue Review: Aldous Harding – Party (2017)

                                       The Amazing and Intense NPR Tiny Desk Performance

Catching Harding’s single Horizon on the ‘What’s in My Bag? episode with Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield, who picked this album) & Allison Crutchfield. As Amoeba do play either an audio clip or some of the video, the latter in this case, Harding is in an all black robe with a part that covers her neck, staring down the lens calling my mouse to go find this video. Once I did the sounds matched the enticing snippet. The piano that is allowed to bellow out and breath under the powerful vocal delivery from Harding. Leading to the especially hard hitting moment when you hear the lyric ‘Every now and then I think about the day you’ll die babe’, digs into your chest leaving its mark.

Blend is the most filled out song sonically with the padded percussion being very prominent, giving it the fastest pace on the album making it the catchiest track. Remember though catchy does not mean that it is the more memorable than the others. Also timed perfectly are the deft touches of additional vocals, a couple vibrating electronic notes and the double exhaled breaths to wrap it up give this short opener a lot of elements to like. Blend sets up the album with a strong beginning to the Party you are about to be at for the next 38 minutes and 50 seconds.

Title track Party (Live) is the only number I am not a fan of the vocals are at fault which is the last thing I would have thought I’d dislike. There is the very elongated Y in Party. Plus when she goes high in those moments it turns into a nasally, overlong note. It really does kill the song unfortunately. But it does again show another different voice she is able to produce to the already lengthy list.

The breadth in sound that is on display from one song to another, those punchier ones on Blend or the deep beautiful Imagining my Man, a song that explains the ebbs and flows of love, reality and what you imagine it to be like and their differences. A soft baritone sax really adds an extra level of nuance to this tremendous musing. I’m So Sorry croons along with the spirit of the classic Chett Baker for example. Perfume Genius also contributes vocals on Swell does the Skull another musician I found out about in 2017, he is also a very distinctive singer so his inclusion is gladly welcomed.

Party is an arresting album from one arresting artist, Aldous Harding is full of expression and her range and diverse vocals are undeniably gripping. This is a second album that is intimate and maximises simplicity, beauty and emotion. With every song pointing to a new ability or way this musician can morph her voice into is why Party is one of the most captivating records to come out of 2017.


Album Reviews

Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination (2017)


                                                          Nadine Shah’s BandCamp Page

I have been rather unmotivated recently not really being spurred on to write much other than Brand New and Everything Everything’s albums (the later review is on the way but has taken longer than it should) then I found this stupendous creation (I found it this past weekend and have bought it twice).

The production of this record is the best I have heard all year. It sounds like it was created in a post-apocalyptic studio where all the instruments are radiating, vibrating and sort of off ear twitching frequencies. It could not be any more perfect. It really enhances the music and sad real themes which very much incorporate what a sorry state the world is at the moment (just as Brand New’s Science Fiction and Everything Everything’s A Fever Dream do in their own ways).

The tone of the guitars throughout the record is twisted, fuzzy and spiky often backed by buzzing synths/other electronic sounding keys in 2016, Ordinary or Relief to point out a few instances. Relief also is blessed with amazing saxophone/horns another is The Way Out where they are steady then the way they are used for both endings are inventive. Due to the saxophones application The Way Out has a dystopian jazz feel that climaxes in the most satisfying of ways. A track about the movement of refugees around the globe ‘Where would you have them go, A generation searching for a home’. Reinforcing that Shah is commenting on/critiquing major political and social issues of 2016/17.

Further evidence of this is Yes Men is aimed at the ‘Fascist in the Whitehouse’ (a lyric from 2016) which is an over exaggeration but still there are people who think that the current President is a bit too far leaning to the right on the spectrum. Title track Holiday Destination says that the, ‘Bad guys are winning’ it is all rather pessimistic but not to the point that it is soul sapping of all enjoyment the album really works around the themes chosen.    

Shah’s voice is extraordinary based in the lower to mid ranges it echoes across the album bringing yet more power to the lyrics, enhancing the music also. The use of her voice on Relief with the line that follows the muted guitars is one of many ways in which it is deployed to great effect.

Holiday Destination is a poignant album from all angles there is thought in every one of Shah’s words, the artwork is of a building with massive holes in it and a child peering out of one, the music mirroring this also. Nadine Shah has released not only a truly special sonic experience but more importantly a record that highlights the struggles around the globe with a blunt and mature approach.

Album Reviews

Brand New – Science Fiction (2017)

                                                                              Official Site

It has been a long, sometimes frustrating wait for Brand New to release their fifth studio record (8 years). There were plans/roomers to have it be released last year but as it was the 10th anniversary of arguably one of the best albums of the 2000s The God and the Devil Are Raging Inside Me (2006) they celebrated its importance to their career with a tour playing it in its entirety. There were tours as well as a few early demo collections alongside two singles Mene (2015) and I Am a Nightmare (2016) to tide people over.

Straight from the off there is an aura that something extraordinary lies ahead. Eerie is an apt description for a couple of reasons one, it opens up with a recording of a woman recalling a dream to a psychiatrist (similar snippets and oddities appear again and again across Science Fiction). Then the delivery of Lit Me Up is somewhat isolated Lacey’s vocal and sole guitar is all you hear for a good chunk of the run time, even when the rhythm section join in it is very subtle but none the less great. It is one hell of an introduction or welcome (full) return.

Can’t Get it Out has a little more bite and one hell of a catchy whistle (plus the muted chucks are always a hit with me) here lyrically focusing on depression one of the multiple topics that are delved into linked to the complexities of humanity and fear of ourselves/our own minds. Could Never be Heaven is a sweet sentiment but again it has a darker Brand New twist.

137 is a philosophical account of the end of man due to the dropping of nuclear bombs, questions of why we would do such a thing, why can’t we just love one another. Here possibly being influenced by current tensions around the globe and the grim realisation that there is a chance that we,

‘all go play Nagasaki,
We can all get vaporised,
Hold my hand, let’s turn to ash,
I’ll see you on the other side’

Furthermore 137 is musically layered with acoustic guitars some wah-wah effected guitar, killer lead lines leading to one hell of an ending. Mixing these lyrics with this music genuinely creates one of the most hard hitting, chilling songs in recent memory what a masterful 5 minutes and 1 second.                   

Suitably titled Desert is simplistic instrumentally whilst Lacey embodies a man of strict faith who is disgusted at seeing two men kissing in the street, his unwillingness to give up his gun and other thoughts about how this character views society. 451 is damn groovy taking from the electric Chicago blues of the early 20th Century blended with more modern rock elements to create another memorable moment.

Album number 5 tips its hat respectfully to each LP that came before it which is fitting as it will probably be the last one. Science Fiction is everything that Brand New represent for many people, the flaws of being human, difficulties of relations either romantic or not and the struggles of life. It also draws attention to the massive hole left in Vincent Accardi, Jesse Lacey, Brian Lane and Garrett Tierney’s absence a connection to genuine emotion. If this is indeed the end for Brand New then it is a stupendous creation to close their career.

Album Reviews

Declan McKenna – What Do You Think About the Car? (2017)

                                            Declan McKenna’s Official Website

McKenna will soon be turning 19 the young man has been building to this release since he was 17 at least when he won the coveted Glastonbury Emerging Talent award at the 2015 festival. So it has been awaited by his fanbase and critics since then how does it sound?

Brazil is the single that seemed to begin his rise and McKenna being branded the ‘voice of a generation’ which is a weighty label to have put on you at such a young age. The reason that music critics stated that was because of the subject matter in a number of his songs including Brazil, a dig at Sepp Blatter and FIFA’s corruption/dealings with the 2014 World Cup. Aside from the lyrical content the musicianship is very good, poppy (the acoustic bridge especially), refreshingly indie and very modern sounding. Picking up on the reversed psychedelic guitar line reminiscent of the criminally under ratted Johnny Squire (The Stone Roses/Seahorses).   

Make Me Your Queen is a contender for the best song of the album certainly out of the tracks that are not singles (6 by the time of the release) here McKenna shows his artsy side as the chorus’ vocals are dowsed in reverb giving a grand dreamy quality. One that is echoed in his videos which are glittery and have him all face painted up (Brazil 2nd Video for example) Bowie-esc channelling the legend in both sound and visuals on a number of occasions.

Isombard again a large single that only drew more deserved attention to McKenna a fantastic performance of Isombard (can be found via the link provided) on the legendary Later With Jools Holland where he again added to that ‘he is the voice of a generation’ label by wearing a give 17 year olds the vote. A song that is very 1980’s with a great keyboard line, falsetto highs with oooohs following the sung title word. It is addictively and catchy it’ll spend a lot of time in your ears for sure.

Some have criticised the interjections between a couple of tracks from some of the children’s choir that sing on The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home when one child has questions about why the kids not wanting to go home, McKenna failing to explain it and giving up. There are a few parts in Brazil also bit I think that they are not irritating but I can see why some people would find them so.        

This debut is beautifully British Declan McKenna has come out with a really great album that is both sophisticated yet accessible it isn’t too arty or opinionated the balance is perfect.

But as he said in an interview with FaceCulture this is not going to be his best album. If that is true then going off the strength of What Do You Think About the Car? What comes next is beyond exciting.

Album Reviews

Anderson .Paak – Malibu

                                                                              Parking Lot

Later with Jools Holland brought me to Anderson .Paak (& the Free Nationals, his accompanying live band) who I saw play on the show and they were tremendous, the mix of R n’ B, funk, neo-soul with a splash of hip hop caught my ear and more so as they are genres I have not listed to too much it exited me. My interest was piqued I naturally went and checked out his music on the interwebs.

Malibu was the album he was touring and the 4th of his career.  Checking it out was certainly the correct thing to do as it would have been a real shame if it had passed me by. Curiosity in this case didn’t kill the cat.

The album is smooth throughout from the opening The Bird which is more in the jazzy soul camp to the more R n’ B one like Carry Me the flow on the split song The Season/Carry Me is really interesting with .Paak showing one of the many aspects to his voice. The Season has one of the most memorable lyrics fro me in it ‘And fuck fame, that killed all my favourite entertainers’.  

Parking Lot is addictive the chorus is so darn catchy helped by the clapping that hooks you, oh and the pronounced bass on it is great also (rivalled a number of times admittedly by The Waters featuring BJ the Chicago Kid and Come Down man what a funky tune that is). I have linked it below the picture for a reason after all.

It gets all seductive on Room in Here which features The Game and Sonyae Elise (two of many great features from artists and musicians on Malibu) with  a simple backing beat and piano there isn’t much going on but it is still class and the playfulness side .Paak shows is more than enough to push the track forward. Playfulness also rears its head on track six Am I Wrong  a lyric to show this is ‘A I wrong to assume, If she can’t dance, then she can’t oow’ plus those horns.  

Make sure that you don’t let this quality collection of tracks go by without you listening to it, I promise that there is something for everyone. Be it if you are into soul, R n’ B and hip hop or not. It is does have its flaws though as some songs could have been cut to make the overall package more concentrated and tighter.

The cover of Malibu really does say a lot about this album in the fact that there is a lot of things going on, however at the focus is Anderson .Paak. Who is beyond brilliant merging all that busyness into a cohesive and explorative sound.