Thursday, 30 August 2012

Deerhoof - Breakup Song (8.4/10)

'Breakup Song' has this very strange honour of not only being Deerhoofs strangest and most bizarre album to date but also the most approachable, yes it's time for some quirky pop music, & honestly I couldn't think of a better band for the job then 'Deerhoof'. 'Vs Evil' to me felt like an underwhelming change to the Deerhoof formula, it seemed to lack all the energy and fun found in earlier releases, well I guess the nap really paid off as 'Breakup Song' is anything but lacking in energy & it certainly has a lot of fun thrown in. The pop music is a strange blend of their old stabbing guitars and jazz like percussion over an orchestra of sampled sounds, electronic beats, synths, strings, horns & pretty much anything else you can think of. You would be forgiven for thinking this album would sound incredibly cluttered and way too busy from that description but the songs are structured as such as to give each individual element of their new style to interact and breath with each other and the results are often, if not always, brilliant. 'Mothball To The Fleet' for example has a very traditional Deerhoof chorus but in between it gets filled with processed guitars and synth keys but it doesn't feel at all disjointed. Personal highlight 'The Trouble With Candyhands' has quite the sixties vibe about it but also the air of the Caribbean with a very gentle vocal hook & it'll remain one of my highlights of the year & that's for sure. 'Flower' also a fantastic demonstration in the merging of sounds is a fairly disjointed and uneasy sounding song up until a chorus which frankly reminds me of Jackson 5 and it's insanely catchy. This album is just the right length & whilst I think it could maybe stretch out for another 10minutes or so the are some signs  within this album that anymore and it may have started to collapse under it's own weight & ambition, but as it is this is a very enjoyable album which sounds incredibly fresh and has breathed some new life into Deerhoof & this little taster leaves me very excited for more. 

Recommended Tracks:

Monday, 27 August 2012

Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun (5.5/10)

Before this review & listening to this record I honestly couldn't tell you who Stealing Sheep were but from listening to this album I hear a band with lots of influences stuck in  psychedelic  rock from the 60s but what I also got was very dreamy and hypnotic beats which certainly add a bit of character to a genre of music which can often come across as very cliché and contrived. This album is the 2nd from the Liverpudian trio offer plenty in the way of harmonies, melodies and grooves which can really plant you into a nice little atmosphere & world if you enable to lose yourself into it. The opening 5 tracks made me an immediate fan of this band with 'The Garden' has it's somewhat sinister and hypnotic guitar and synth being interwoven amongst some very soft vocals and some very dreamy and chimey guitar sounds, it creates a very nice contrast within the song and offers some very strong dynamics. Other highlight 'Genevieve' just is the great pop song with all the 60s aesthetics that the album had hinted, but it still sound remarkably modern and not at all dated, & 'Shut Eye' sounds like a very folky build on the formula with a very strong hook and sound which draws the listener in. The thing the album does so very well at the start is it throws a lot of ideas and sounds into a base formula which creates very interesting, diverse but surprisingly cohesive start to the album. However the 2nd half of the album really fails to hold my attention as it just starts to sound all a bit monotonous, the ideas feel like they have dried up and the songs no longer grab or hold my attention as much as those that proceed it in the first half of the album. The thing I found after every listen is that I come out remembering the songs on the first half but I remember next to nothing about the closing half & after 4 listens that becomes a bit telling. In my opinion this album falls a bit short of the potential shown at the start but for the most part it's still an enjoyable listen, you have a great EP here but a fairly luke warm album, that being said I do look forward to hearing more from the band.

Recommended Tracks

The Heavy - The Glorious Dead (7.0/10)

'The Glorious Dead' is at it's very core a rock album this has been heavily influenced in sound by soul and blues, think  of bands such as The Black Keys & 22-20s, but whilst many of these bands would typically focus on the slower more broody side these genres this album is quite often the sort that throws in the more jubilant and upbeat vibes from both genres by offering a strong arrangement of loud, bombastic and fast songs that are designed to get you to dance as much as they are meant to sound moody. Personally the stand outs on this album are the ones that embrace this ethic to the umpteenth degree with tracks such as 'Big Bad Wolf' ,with it's very present and stupendously catchy horn section cutting in between a fantastic vocal hook, 'Can't Play Me Dead', which adds a very hypnotic groove complete with soul filled vocals blasting behind the main gruff vocals & 'What Makes A Good Man?', with it's very large upbeat sound complete with what sounds like backing choir  found in your typical African-American church. It's the songs with the inclusions of the more eccentric side of Bluesy Soul rock that stand out the most but to say this album is without it's filler would be a bit of a lie, & whilst not much of it, songs such as 'Same Ol' & 'The Lonesome Road' seem kind of lazy and uninspired in comparison to the rest of the album.  But besides those few faults this album is full of very strong songs & whilst lacking a truly defining sound this album is full of tracks that embrace the more eccentric & upbeat side of Soul filled Blues Rock, & I recommend it to fans of the genre.

Recommended Tracks

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Jessie Ware - Devotion (9.0/10)

The is something I really love about melodic and understated pop music & provided it's well produced then the concept of it alone is probably enough to carry it to a seal of approval. Devotion is such an album & after hearing 'Wildest Moments' & 'Running', which sounded like instant classics to these ears, I was already expecting this album to meet my expectations. So the question I have to ask is does it exceed my expectations & once again the answer to this question would be a resounding yes. As said earlier in the review 'Wildest Moments' & 'Running' are both the sort of instant classics that most musicians could only dream of having with their strong hooks, strong performance & incredible production the really isn't a single thing you cannot like about those songs. But it's also the sheer amount of other songs on this album that also reach the dizzying heights of 'Wildest Moment' & 'Running' which really took me aback, for example '110%' is a more upbeat song with lush chorus but all achieved without really ever hitting the volume dial; the energy and melody carries song so as a result it never really needs to, and 'Something Inside' is an incredibly beautiful song with some fantastic melodies and harmonies in the chorus.... hell even the bonus track 'Strangest Feeling' is the sort of track that would normally stand head and shoulders above the rest of it's contemporaries. The vocals on this album are really top notch and accompany the understated melodies and use of instrumentation incredibly well, the vocals are definitely at the forefront & are generally significantly louder then the music the accompanies it, but such is the strength of the instrumentation you will remember and pay equal attention to both. 'Devotion' does bog down a little bit in the middle, the highs are not quite as high and the themes become slightly repetitive but this is something I found become less of an issue on repeat listen & I eventually found it serves as a reliable bridge between the start and the end of the album. Some people may say think this album is a bit 'Radio 2' or 'MOR' for them but for me I think this is an incredibly well crafted album with some of the most memorable songs you're likely to hear this year; it's clever, it's catchy, it's memorable & as far as I'm concerned it has all the makings of an instant classic.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Why - Sod The Seed [EP] (7.5/10)

I often find that even my favourite bands are often fully capable of releasing an album that does absolutely nothing for me, usually right when I feel the band is capable of doing no wrong, it was in 2009 that Why? became the latest addition to this ever growing list of bands. 'Eskimo Snow' was an album I found to be rather bland, it kept all the melodic scope of Why? but it seemed to lose the quirkyness along the way & I found it made for a collection of rather dull forgettable songs. As a result this latest EP from Why? felt like a bit of a re-evaluation, are they going a direction not meant for me, or was 'Eskimo Snow' just a one off? Thankfully 'Sod The Seed' passes this test with flying colours as it seems to be calling back to the sort of sound found on 'Elephant Eyelash' with it's focus on melody still firmly intact but with the added bonus of their quirky sound and hooks, something I felt was missing almost entirely from 'Eskimo Snow' and as a result the personality that drew me to Why? seems to be back in full force. The album opens off with title track and 'Sod In The Seed' which in particular reminded me of the 'Elephant Eyelash' days with it's soft chorus and rapped vocals over bass line and organ. This is followed by personal favourite 'For Someone' which does more of the same and then the very church organ inspired 'The Plan' comes in full force with a very catchy melody which could come off a bit hokey but the uplifting feel of the organ tone really suits this song. The closer 'Shag Carpet' follows a couple of incredibly short but very much enjoyable tracks which almost trade off as interludes between the start of the album and the closer which carries the slightly darker  feel found on 'Alopecia'. On the whole Sod The Seed has the very much unmistakable sound of 'Why?' about it and whilst 'Elephant Eyelash' had this sparingly this album breams with 'Why?'s' very distinct character and that's what I like about them more then anything, it's the concept & sound of the band that first drew me to them & whilst the lyrical prowess remained  threw out Eskimo Snow the sound I fell in love with was no there but with Sod The Seed it appears to be back.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Bloc Party - Four (8.0/10)

To put it politely I have had no time for Bloc Party at all for quite some time, Silent Alarm was excellent and A Weekend For The City was a flawed but still by all accounts strong sophomore effort by the band, however everything since then has been a confusing mess of experimentation of the house variety which quite frankly simply didn't suit the  band. Kele seemed down right intent to silence his incredibly talented friends by making them take a back seat to his new love of electronic music & making some truly trash tracks in the process of doing so. So it's to my surprise that 'Four' isn't only not embarrassing but it's actually rather good with some of the bands strongest output since 'Silent Alarm' won all our hearts way back in 2005. The band have embraced the raw sound once again with the traditional bass, guitar & drum formula they'd become famous for, but whilst this may sound like they've just retreated back to old territory, that would be an inaccurate assumption to make. 'Four' is far heavier then anything they've put out before with a lot of Grunge influences to be found on this album, 'Kettling' for example sounds like something Smashing Pumpkins would've put out in their peak, and the first 2 tracks 'So He Begins To Lie' & '3x3' slap you in the face with distorted guitar and creepy vocals. The are a lot of incredibly melodic moments to be found here as well 'Real Talk' sounds like a very strong Red Hot Chilli Peppers song and 'Day Four' grabs the listener with it's subtle build and captivating atmosphere. This album is by no means perfect and I don't think it reaches the highs set by 'Silent Alarm' but it's a very consistent collection of good songs which will make Bloc Party fans everywhere sigh with relief; the band hasn't sounded so together and cohesive for a long time.