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.

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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.

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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.      

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Singles/Songs, Song of the Day

Song of the Day: 3 Minutes to Midnight – High Windows

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                                                        High Windows (Listen and Buy from their Bandcamp page here)!

If someone asked you to describe what makes a song/piece of music special what would you say?

For me it is that unmatchable joy or emotional connection that can only be experienced/made through music. High Windows is such a track. I was honoured to be in the presence of the band when they performed it live reminding me why I love music.

At its core it is a classic rock track built on Jonathan Parks’ vocals and crazy guitar wizardry that mixes funk with more traditional rock and blues, getting your foot taping, head nodding but has a dancy quality also. For the first 54 seconds that is all you hear Parks’ class 1970’s-esc guitar tone and his singing.

Sam Leigh’s bass and David Stutt on drums join the fray giving a hint of the epicness that is about to come. The musicians slowly construct the layers, quickening the pace leading you into the HUGE chorus. By the second time it comes around you will be singing along belting it out in your room, it’ll make your soon to be released shower singles for sure.

3 Minutes to Midnight have put out a single that is tremendous, in addition to the gradual expansiveness of High Windows raising it to a high, high place indeed.

Go listen, like, follow and all that… FacebookJonathan Parks Music Facebook, 23 : 57’s SoundCloud, Jonathan Parks Music Twitter.

 

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Vinyl

Vinyl Vindication: Jay Som – Turn Into

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                                                  Turn Into Full Album (Via Polyvinyl Records’ YouTube Channel)

Jay Som’s (Melina Duterte) unofficial first collection of tracks where released a year ago in July of 2016. It was pressed into two vinyls one as you can see in the picture is a gorgeous fuschia and the other was a limited tea green/white starburst of which only 300 were made.

If I had known of Jay Som back then I would have tried to acquire one of them but alas I did not. That still does not take away from the one I own; it is possibly my favourite looking vinyl. Not just from the vibrant pop of the record but the whole package is stunning the front cover is a picture of some purple flowers (not sure which ones I did try and find out what they are) that Duterte took herself on her mobile. It works so well with the pale blue backing and on the reverse is another photo of the sky (presumably above the city she resides in Oakland, Ca). The inner sleeve has the track listing in pronounced block texted again backed by the blue of the front cover, I really do love it.

Then there is the music. It is dream pop and at times shoegaze-esc  brilliance. From the uber catchy Peach Boy with the keyboard to the vocal melodies that are certain to get you humming them for the rest of the week. Then the promotional single Ghost is just as good, personally I love the guitar but there is loads more to love as well. Another one of my favourites is the somewhat morbid sounding (don’t let that put you off) track Drown the delivery of Duterte’s vocals are in a lower register but even then you still can’t help but sing along. Unlimited Touch and Why I Say No are light and airy with the later having some of the best lyrics on the whole thing. The quality is consitent throughout.

Turn Into is a completely beautiful package you literally could not ask for anything more or for it to be altered in any way sonically or visually.  

 

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Song of the Day

Song of the Day: Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser – All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun

                                                    All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun

Two angelic voices and an acoustic guitar or two are a gateway to a beautiful place. This time it is Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) who are a perfect musical match.

There isn’t much instrumentally to the song as stated above it is a couple of guitars but what they are doing is still quality. The main draw though is the singing and extension the lyrical content. It begins with a sweet giggle over the guitar and Fraser taking the first verse showing her talents before Buckley takes over for the chorus. Solo they are both gorgeous but when they sync up and harmonize then it really, really highlights that these musicians were meant to create this stunning song.

It is a brilliant duet which lets both artists stretch their musical muscles showing each others strengths. I only wish there was more from the two.

 

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Other

A Black Day Indeed. Thank You for the Soundtrack to my Formative Years and Beyond Chris Cornell.

                                               Soundgarden – Fell On Black Days

There I was at work doing the scanning and reading the mornings headlines on the BBC News website, when the Breaking News Banner popped up informing me that a legend had past.  That legend was Chris Cornell.

Frontman for Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog as well as his solo career. I distinctly remember the man first from hearing and seeing the video for Cochise. The weird rattle and the blast of drums slowly building into this epic rock track, then it all came together with that riff and of course Cornell’s unmistakable voice. It is safe to say I was hooked and they became a staple on my iPod throughout school and have never left. I picked up the solid copies of Audioslave’s eponymous (2002) and Out of Exile (2005) on the schools history trip to Berlin, Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau. In the coolest record shop named Cover their top music always reminds me of that great time and moving experience.

Son after hearing Cochise I ventured into his other bands and kept on loving the music he was involved in. Along with the music he helped create Audioslave were a doorway into getting into the famous Seattle scene of the 1990s, Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees specifically. He was a good friend of Alain Johannes,  Natasha Shneider and  Jack Irons the three people who formed Eleven. Whom are also linked to QotSA the list goes on, the man was very connected to a lot of bands that are of high importance to me. It shows how respected and awesome Cornell is. Oh and  he did arguably the best James Bond theme ever.

Chris Cornell is not only a phenomenal singer/musician but by all accounts a great human being. This heartbreaking news is true shock to myself, other fans and the music community. Now go and breakout some Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, or his solo stuff and play it loud!    

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