Album Reviews

Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination (2017)

cover.jpg

                                                          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.

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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.      

Standard
Album Reviews

WHITE- One Night Stand Forever (Album)

WHITE.jpg

                                                                                       WHITE One Night Stand Forever

Reinvigorating music again.

WHITE’s (Lewis Andrew, Leo Condie, Hamish Fingland, Kirstin Lynn and Chris Potter) first album is a much welcomed revival of arty, slightly twisted merging of electro with groovy dirty rock and a bit of the dramatic.

Fittingly the opener is Living Fiction (the bands first ever single) is a great opener and introduction to the band as it is upbeat and hip with many elements one will certainly grab hold of you and make you move.

This Is Not A Love Song? is not a song to get you jigging but it still fits in with all the other tracks, having a darker tone thanks to the ‘Duh-du-duuuu’s (it’s better on the record), a slower tempo pushed forward by an acoustic guitar whilst a noticeable electronic (of some kind) plays in the left speaker/head/earphone that really is a nice addition to the track. Directly following this is the super energetic Be The Unknown which has poppy ‘oooo’s to bop to plus a heavily distorted guitar solo to boot reinforcing the bands talents plus their willingness to merge genres to great effect.

The string of songs from One Night Stand Forever to Sweat (a thumping monstrous full on electro track that I didn’t see coming) and How Can You Get Love So Wrong? (a modern 1980s-esc ballad) together can tell a story of a quick one night fling gone in a direction that is a bit more than a one night stand. But that would be oversimplifying the meanings behind them. Especially How Can You Get Love So Wrong? as it was written back in 2014,

‘I wrote this in 2014 when Scotland was under a constant barrage of ‘lovebombs’ from the British government, in that peculiarly sado-masochistic manner so beloved, apparently, of the Conservatives. Tough love, I guess. I was fascinated by their ineptness so this is, in part, for them. With all my love.’

Leo Conti explained in a track by track interview with The List’s Kirstyn Smith.

Sound wise these three tracks could be the perfect ones to show the diversity that rings trough this record. It is more diverse than most other bands have in three or four outings. Though I do feel a little wrong in singling out these songs as they are all outstanding, everyone is distinct, stylish, hitting you right in the dance initiation drive that may have been dormant for a while or last night. Quick bit about Hit,Hit, Hit is so good I appreciate the aggression in this one.

One Night Stan Forever is the most creative album to come around in a long, long time. If you don’t at least check it out then believe me that is a hell of a mistake. Don’t let this pass you by a band like this don’t come around to often.

Standard
Album Reviews

Battle Tapes: Polygon Album Review

Battle Tapes’ first album Polygon is one that needs to be added to your music collection.

The electro rockers (Josh Boardman (vocals/guitar/synth), Riley Mackin (keyboardist/vocals), Stephen Bannister (bass guitar) and Beak Wing (drums/percussion) from the City of Angels are best known for the song Feel the Same, which appeared on a radio station in GTA V. The song made it onto the album which is obviously what you do when it is the most popular song that you have put out. But you should go and check out their EPs Sleepwalker (2011) and Sweatshop Boys EP (2012). They show just how talented these men are.

One of my personal picks off the album is the song Solid Gold which features Party Nails. It is an infectious number that really gets you bobbing along to it. A simple guitar lick repeats through the majority of the 4:13 run time. Party Nails lead and Boardman’s backing vocals hook you in with the upbeat phrasing and music. It is the electro rock song of the year, the new blueprint to how to make an outstanding song. Where the rock elements really come through are in the tune named Graveyard Shift. Lead by the driving drums and a guitar that for some reason reminds me of the Wild West (there’s even a guitar solo). Another one of the shining moments of Polygon is a contrasting song that leads directly after Graveyard Shift the instrumental,Dreamboat.

Dreamboat embraces the electronic side to beautiful affect. It is one of those songs that you can loose yourself in, close your eyes and sail away. With a simple drum part layered with electronic synths that build upon one another and a keyboard line that just works perfectly. Just go listen to it and you will see what I’m getting at.

Battle Tapes are a breath of fresh air that mixes to fantastic genres together to create their own sound.Polygon is one of the albums of 2015. Go listen, buy their music and support this up and coming band.

Standard