Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Galaxie 500 - On Fire

This is the second album released by Dream Pop trio Galaxie 500 from Cambridge, Massachusetts.They specialize in dreary vocals and compact recordings, utilizing the electric guitar to the best of standards. Everything about this band is masked in great atmosphere and eventful bass riff's, they were one of the best studio bands released three extremely good albums, On Fire being scripted and displayed as the better of the three.

As we start listening to the album, you can hear detailed bass playing and slow, but steady drumming which eventually elevates as the song progresses, where the vocals take place in glory. It's catchy and pleasing to hear, with a well played guitar solo at the end which just closes the opening track in the wall of sound texture.

Tell Me is masked in the same guitar drones and vocals as Blue Thunder. With great lyrics and reference to The 13th Floor Elevators song, Slip Inside This House.The drumming is very content in this song, but as everything explodes it does become more visible. For a three member band, this material is extremely full, it sounds full, which is something i crave for in music. You can hear a great acoustic guitar being played at certain points in the song, i want to say chorus... but it's not a traditional chorus as such.

On Fire was released in 1989 which is to this day, 22 years ago. I'm only mentioning this because the songs haven't aged one bit. They sound just as fresh as they did during those last few years in the 80's. An example being the thirds track, Snowstorm. Which alike the previous two, has the same guitar effects and style, but the vocal is far more clear and is the focus for the song. This song is magnificent, the dynamics are exactly what you want to hear and the guitar work is outstanding from start to finish, it doesn't get repetitive, it builds up, the vocals become an instrument and the pace picks up, it's truly a remarkable track. You don't actually realize that the guitar solo and ending lasts approximately 2 and a half minutes.

Strange is a hard hitting track which reminds me of Christmas for some reason, the high pitched vocals work well with the faster pace which the band uses on this track. The guitar work is again perfect, with great use of reverb, it isn't filled with reverb, it just has the right amount to give it that edge. When Will You Come Home is also another fast paced song, you cant help but notice the use of two guitar chords for the electric guitar which form the base for these songs. The bass is really good and changes as the album changes, the drumming also reaches my expectations. This song has an ecliptic ending with another thunderous guitar solo.

The songs follow a basic pattern, but the production quality and overall skill by the band show through immensely well. The drumming could be improved in places, but that's the drumming for this kind of music. This is slowcore in a sense, but it isn't as slowcore as say Low, it has some hard hitting shoegaze aspects, but in general it's a sweet melodic Dream Pop album from the 80's. 

The back half of the album isn't as strong the first, the 'singles' are all located on the first half. The second half has a faster pace and has a bigger focus on the bass and drumming, with a huge emphasis on the songs, unlike the first tracks which have lean towards guitar and song structure. Plastic Bird is filled with sound and the vocals are a little hidden by the bass and drumming. 

Isn't It a Pity is the final song on the album, which is a George Harrison cover. It's extremely slow and melodic, with the guitar becoming extremely delirious towards the end. The guitar solos really do make this album something special. They feature all over the place, the song structure is fantastic and the dynamics are just utterly brilliant in places. For an album released in the 80's, it's something special. Even today i can listen and imagine it being released this year, it's fresh and it's original. If you have the Bonus Tracks, you are in for a treat. A cover of Joy Division's Ceremony features, which is gripping. Dream Pop is a special genre to me, Galaxie 500 find themselves in this genre and this album is one of, possibly even.. the best album of the 80's.


Skream - Outside The Box

This is Skream's second album and instantly you hear the atmospheric reversed eerie sound scapes, but these are mixed with straight up awful synths. These synths sounds like they have been taken straight from an Owl City single, it's terrible and has nothing going on. It has the bass, but this first track just basically introduces the album without anything to focus on, the atmosphere sounds great, but the synths ruin this opening track for me.

The second track unleashes some vocals which are very clear relating to the beat and bass very well. 8 bit sounds are featured towards the second half of the song, but it's nothing special or innovative. Much like the third track and fourth, which just feature bad synths, a basic drum beat and bad atmosphere, it sounds very bland at this point. Everything is quiet, the bass seems far too overpowering for the other musical aspects going on in this album. I dont like the use of synths, but more clear keys could have been used, especially on Where You Should Be, which is loaded with phony synth sounds which use arpeggio. 

The rest of the album follows this pattern, nothing special about the beats, they sound very empty but industrial in places. The reverb is what you would expect from a 14 year old using Fruity Loops, but the bass has been placed well in certain tracks such as Fields of Emotion. 

I do get the impression that this is just an amateur release made on Fruity Loops, because the synths are very similar to something i could create in 3 minutes of opening the program, it's not a great image if I'm honest. Sure some material sounds good, but for the most, this album is just poor.

I Love The Way is probably one of the standout tracks, if that's applicable to this album. It has a nice vocal and a much bettered instrumental, break down and build up going on. The ending to this track is also the most energetic and clear on the album. With some melodic synth strings being used with a slight form of distortion right towards the end.

I can't really say this is a good album, because it isn't, it's not even mediocre. It's hard to create a Dubstep album and keep the listener interested for the entire album, unless you're introducing some minimal and atmospheric aspects into the music such as Burial and Mount Kimbie. Skream just doesn't do that, the synths have been turned up and I'm aware that some of these tracks have been taken from previous releases for this album. I can see why some people like Skream, his debut album Skream!, was very likable and i enjoyed it, but this release isn't worthy of a follow up. It has no emotion, no creativity and no originality.


The Horrors - Skying

This is the 3rd album by British rockers The Horrors, we see a drastic change in style from 2009's predecessor Primary Colours. Skying takes on a brighter look, as the album cover portrays. Faris has already released work this year under the name Cat's Eyes that i have reviewed, i really like the Cat's Eyes album so i was looking forward to listening to this, as i am recent fan of The Horrors.

The opening track is very heavy and uses synthesizers very well, which elevate the song in parallel to vocals given by Faris. It's one of the better songs on the album, it does however turn into a wall of noise which I'm not really a fan of. If something is going to explode into noise, then it really needs melody, when this song reaches climax, it just hurts. Everything is over the place and the vocals are heavily outnumbered by the amount of Synths and guitars.

You Said is just as heavy on the ear, Synths again lead the track and take it forward. It's a little bit pointless because the song just doesn't go anywhere. It ends in high pitched synths which are just straight up annoying. It's something that is a noticeable problem with this album.

Every song follows the same basic pattern, with the unimaginative drumming and high pitched synths, nothing really grabs my attention, such as I Can See Through You, which.. does have a nice sound in some places, but it's just not clear and clean. The whole album is plastered in noise, which makes it gritty but not in the good way. 

Endless Blue had a much more down to earth sound, with some melancholy guitar work turning into distortion as the song progresses. The bass is a real standout here, which is the driving force for the song, the drumming is basic much like the other tracks, but it's far more clearer. The Shoegaze like feel the song has is bearable unlike some of the other tracks. The kick is fantastic here and you can here the vocals very clearly. In my opinion this is the Best track on the album, it's a clear single for me.

Still Life is one of the better tracks, it's the lead single and has some sort of energy injected into it. It doesn't really sound separated from the other tracks, but it really has some sense of normality. The synths actually work really well here, much like the opening track.

This is a mediocre album, it's far worse than the previous two albums and the sound is just frustrating to hear. I listen to Shoegaze often, but this doesn't even come close. It's loud, it's full.. But it's not good. I could complain about this all night, but it's not worth my or your time. It's disappointing because i really enjoyed Cat's Eyes from early in the year.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Björk - Biophilia

Here we have the 8th album by Icelandic artist Björk. I cant really mention anything about her back catalogue leading up to this, as it's very well known who Björk is and what she does. For those living under a shell or have no listening history of Björk, she has released several albums ranging from highly charting pop singles to very Experimental Electronic compositions, she has followed the same direction as Radiohead over the years, abandoning Rock aspects and introducing Electronica into the music. She was previously part of the Icelandic Post-Punk band KUKL who released a very stylistic album called The Eye in 1984. 

My initial reaction to this album was varied.. I enjoyed the first track Moon which does grow over time, but it doesn't sound full, even when it picks up the track is lacking something. With the second track, Thunderbolt, i feel that I'm not going to like the album. Opinions change over time, but i stick with my opinion that this track is very weak and messy. Where Moon was carefully melodic, Thunderbolt throws all form of melancholy and structure out the window.

The single Crystaline was released as a single prior to the album, it is extremely Electronic, Björk's voice does not sound dated one bit. Her child like vocals are still in place and they haven't lost any form of power or style. This track is noted for it's use of Drum and Bass used towards the end of the song with the Amen Break sample.

The tracks are extremely dark, following on from her 2007 album Volta with this eerie, vulgar style. Dark Matter being a perfect example of this, which has a real emphasis on Björk's vocal and the Synth that runs through the track. Hollow is another example. It has a fantastic beat, with great imagery and atmosphere, but it doesn't really go anywhere, it does have a small build up, but it doesn't do anything for me, again sounding messy.

Instrumentation sounds great throughout the album, it's filled with both bass and orchestral brass. I love the Electronic aspects which she excels in. Her voice is sounding as sweet as ever, such as with Sacrifice, this track being in the same eerie, empty style as with the previous tracks, but has great instrumentation and the beat at the end is extremely heavy its surprising to hear this.

Sacrifice is one of the strong songs on the album, it has great instrumentation with the best ending finale for the song. It's very beat heavy which is a real focus on the majority of these tracks. Much alike Mutual Core which follows the same style with an even heavier ending, this track has a real significant focus on lyrics about Tectonic Plates, it's a very mellow song.

Without comparing this to her previous albums, we have an album full of great beats and exciting orchestral compositions with a great emphasis on innovative Electronic material. It's a shame that the songs don't sound full. A high percentage of this album is extremely dull and unoriginal. It's something i felt on my first and still, on my fifth listen. It has some great stand out tracks in Moon and Crystalline, however it's lacking character in so many areas.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls are a California, Indie Rock duo. Releasing their second studio album entitled.. the above. They released an EP in 2010 which was met with some acclaim and some confusion as to what direction the band were taking. This being a highly anticipated album as 2009's Album, was widely accepted as a very strong debut.

You can instantly hear something different here, the band have recorded this in the studio so it seems. The production is far better quality, everything sounds full and together. The vocals have been layered and the drumming is exactly the same, so great!

Honey Bunny is the opening tracks and it sounds rather refined, it's a good song but it doesn't have anything gripping, much like the second track, Alex. This song has some very nice drumming and Bass, but the guitar sounds so mediocre and so does the vocals. it's really lacking that raw passion which the debut album had. This song has no aim or direction, it does pick up with a wailing guitar coming in after a little drum breakdown, but it's nothing special.

Die sounds like the band have dropped all the New Wave, Pop influences and have began emulating Wolfmother, it's just so predictable and uneventful. The song does pick up, but it has nothing which makes me want to dance, tap my legs, move my body or sway or whatever you want, it just doesn't have anything which makes them stand out. 

This is just bland, it's so god damn bland it makes me want to cover my ears and throw my laptop out the window. The guitar work is predictable, the bass is so unimaginative and the drumming seems to have lost all characteristics which it had previously. The song Saying I Love You has to be one of the most boning songs I'll ever hear. I used that word, but it is.. it's bog standard shit.

They do have some good songs, many are very sad songs and extremely depressive. You cant help but feel some deep connection between the lead singer Christopher Owens vocals and the lyrics. My Ma is a much better track with a very eerie organ running through the middle. 

Vomit has a dark sound which draws me to compare them to The Microphones at this point. The song is extremely dark and quiet with Christopher Owens vocals being a real highlight, before the mega kick and the harmonic organ which  makes this track. The harmonic backing vocals go well with the Organ and the drumming sounds huge. This is a highlight on the album, it's a strong song which is separated from some of the weaker tracks on the album.

Just A Song is very Folk like at the beginning it seems very tropical and warm, but the incoming vocals and bass give it that dark feel again. I'm not sure what to make of the singing because it sounds very quiet and talkative rather than a full vocal effort. It's clear the material is much darker than previous, but the chord progressions are so predictable and just bland that it's hard to get into.

When I first played Magic, i instantly thought of Status Quo for some reason, it sounds remarkably like something they would release. The guitar work and lack of reverb is welcomed with open arms here. The drumming is steady and so is the song structure, its more of a brighter song and the music also reflects just that.

The remaining tracks have the same style as the rest of the album, they're not as strong, but they do manage to give something different musically. These are very minimal and have a bigger focus on the song writing than the previous tracks. Songs like Love Like A River sticks out, it's like a 50's Pop song in style something which surprises me, it's very poppy. The closer, Jamie Marie, has a nice sound to it. It has some good vocals and the music is very sparse and again.. Haunting. The sound is very melancholy and the structure is different to the material that I have heard so far on the album. It sums up Father, Son, Holy Ghost well.


Girls - Album

This is the debut album by Frisco Indie Rockers Girls released in 2009. The band fall under the umbrella of Indie, combining a production, lyrics and structure with Indie Pop, but keeping a more formal Indie sound which you associate with Indie Rock. I'd personally label these as an Indie Pop band.

When purchased/downloaded, you're greeted with 12 tracks on an energetic and concise album. You know this wont be musically challenging on the ear, it isn't Experimental and it doesn't break new ground. What you get is a modern take on Elvis Costello mixed with some Garage Rock like twinges.  

Lust For Life has a great opening raw guitar sound, this is the sound of the album in just 30 seconds. Production sounds very lo-fi in places, with white noise just taking control which does give them a raw sound, but it's just not refined enough. The bass really does stand out on this album, it's very distorted and loud. I enjoy the vocals, lead singer Christopher Owens does give a good delivery on a majority of the tracks, he just lacks that edge on a few numbers such as God Damned, where it just sounds extremely lackluster, it's not a very clear vocal, the whole song focuses on a tremble sound with just an acoustic guitar and some light percussion.

Big Bad Mean Motherfucker has a huge arena sound to it, the loud bass and heavy drumming draw the lo-fi out of the album. This is possibly the loudest track on the album, it also sounds very dull because nothing really happens, it's only 2 minutes long but it goes nowhere. Unlike Hellhole Ratface, which has a stylistic build up and the noise really does pick up. This album does have plenty of distortion and layers which gives the band something extra. The production isn't great, but it's full of guitars and great drumming.

Some of the later tracks are actually my favorites and the most left field. I really love the sound and vocal work on the New Wave like Lauren Marie. It starts of very good with a Depeche Mode like vocal. The hard hitting drumming comes in with that distinctive electric guitar sound which you hear on many of the tracks. it ends with a wall of noise, but i liked this track because it's different to the other material hat i have heard from this band.

Again, Morning Light loses itself in lo-fi. The vocals have been well produced and reverb has been used here. This track reminds me of a more expensive song by Canadian Post-Punk band Little Girls, the sound is remarkably similar just elevated. After Again comes Curls, its a peaceful instrumental with very nice guitar work and melody. 

We have some very strong tracks in Lust For Life, Hellhole Ratface and Track 8, Summertime. Which has a very distinctive bass and guitar riff which flow hand in hand. The drumming is again very good. The atmospherical guitar's in the background give it a Dream Pop feel. This song reminds me of a Suede track but for Garage Rock, i do enjoy this, but at around the 2 and a half minute mark, it explodes into this noise which has it' characteristics, i just don't think it shows anything or has any meaning. It's just loud noise and i cant help but feel a little bit uneasy when listening to this as it's a common sound this band have here. 

Darling closes the album and it's a very nice track, it's reminiscent of 60's Rock which i can appreciate in itself. The vocals are strong and it sounds like a Summer anthem wanting to be played at festivals around the world.  The band do have that indoor sound, where the face of Noise can only be received well in close intimate venue's. But then again, this could just be the production, but the drumming is very big, it stands out and i like it. The album is a facade of noise and delayed vocals, some may enjoy this, i like the Garage Rock influences and the similarities with 80's Elvis Costello. 


The xx - xx

This is The xx with the album xx released in 2009 to critical acclaim and worldwide recognition. The members include Jamie xx who is in charge of production and the beats. Meanwhile Oliver is the bassist and Remy takes care of the guitar work. It's a nice set up, it's very simplistic yet surprisingly full.

This is certainly one of the albums which grows, if it doesn't grow on you, then you don't like it, fair enough. That's you, this is me.. I like it, i like the production, i like the guitar work, i enjoy the beats but i hate the vocals. The vocals are lacking one thing, passion, i don't know what Jamie xx was thinking here. This album is basically Jamie's concept with a bassist and a guitarist who sing, I'm not sure they even want to sing, it's as if they didn't want to recruit a singer, so they've settled with the munch bunch. I do believe these are the right vocals for this kind of music, anything different wouldn't give the same buzz effect which these two have.

Intro is a song in itself, for a long while it was my favorite track on the album which is so bad. I loved the reverb and the sound, the beats worked well and the harmonies were in place. It does build and it could be a very good song if it wasn't labelled 'Intro' because musically it's the best track on the album.

VCR is just utter shit, call it minimal or whatever, how basic can you get. I make it known that if i can make something as good or better as something i listen to, then it's automatically shit, this is a shit song right here. It has nothing, the beats are at the most extremely faint. The bass is hardly recognizable and the singing is plain and simple. It does nothing for me, it's just incredibly bland which is a common trait for this album I'm afraid.

I really liked the track Fantasy, i despise the lyrics.. but the music sounds very nice. If you ignore the first 80 seconds, then this could be a very good track. The production and bass is really good, with the strong reverbed guitar which is common for the album, but none the less sounds great on this track. It's one of the few tracks i can go back and listen to.

I wouldn't recommend this band to anyone.. I really wouldn't, don't waste your time, please, I'm begging you. By the time you 'understand' it, you'll ask yourself why you spent so long listening to this band when you could be listening to Burial's Untrue, know what i mean?

It's so faint, call it minimal, but it's just basic. Basic being the key word on every track. But that's what the band are going for, they can give across emotion, but in a 'minimal' way. I do like some of the tracks and can come back to them, but as an album, it's just bad.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Music In General: Encore's

If there's one thing I dislike about live shows, it's an encore. The modern day encore consists of 4/5 songs, typically the artists older material and better material. This involves a small break and time to discuss what they're going to play. Some artists have it scripted what they're going to play, the set list is already written. Others decide during the break what they will play to end the show.

In the past, some artists used the encore for tuning instruments and a break to then play a second half if you'd like. Artists such as Bob Marley & The Wailers took advantage of this, leaving the stage half way into the show to do exactly what I stated above. I think this is great, they need a break and time to re tune, it's a good idea to split a show in half like this, having an interval so to speak. In a way, this ruins the atmosphere which i can understand.

Modern shows are different, it's written that an artist will have an encore, they nearly always will. The encore is written into the show. It's something artists need to look at because it really does make the show incredibly scripted and not spontaneous at all. I cant stand waiting around for 5 minutes whilst the band says goodbye when everybody in the venue knows full well they will return to an arousing applause, like they're doing us a favour... It hurts my eyes when I see the empty stage and the lights flickering, with people stomping on the ground.

Wouldn't it be far more intimate and enjoyable if a band just tunes on stage and then discusses what they will play next, or even ask the paying audience. This surely makes sense, how has nobody caught on to this shit!

I'm certainly not the only person that despises predictable encore's, I think it's a common trait for a number of avid music fans. Don't get me wrong, I do love a little unexpected encore. Just recently I saw Belle & Sebastian live, where they asked the audience what song to play to close the show. It's good as a paying listener to see an artist show a spontaneous attitude, it's even better if that artist then plays a rare unreleased track or a cover song.

I hope that one day it will get to the point where artists will stop playing encore's, unless it's actually deserved. They will play what they want and then just go, leaving the audience wanting more. But if the audience truly does deserve an encore, then the artist will get back on stage and play a request or something of the sort. But right now, at this moment in time, it's making me sick knowing the hits are coming last. People will and are starting to show up to shows late just because of this. When I went to Latitude this year, people were hopping around to see the last 10 minutes of each set because that's the period where artists will play their better material. Live shows should be an experience, it doesn't matter if it's a 30 minute festival slot or a 90 minute show, for the the actual experience, they really do need to bring in an enhanced look on live shows.

Live Show - Spiritualized

Where: Leamington Spa
Venue: The Assembly

Spiritualized only had a handful of shows planned for 2011, this being the second and warm up for tonight's (October 11th) show at The Royal Albert Hall in London, which i believe is a sell out. This show was not a sell out. It wasn't crowded, it was no way near filled up at the front and the venue didn't make use of the above standing.

They started off with a number of new songs, 75% of the show was the band showcasing new material. I did like the first few tracks, they reminded me of early Spiritualized, very droney and long pieces of Noise. The majority of the show all 6 members were on stage, with 2 gospel singers appearing for several of the new tracks and Amazing Grace period songs.

A few songs grabbed my attention, such as the song entitled Mary. This had a very clear vocal which, for this show, was unusual as Jason wasn't his best in terms of delivery. Wont Get To Heaven, from Let It Come Down, was thunderous and lasted far beyond the studio 10 minutes. The vocal work was fantastic and the harmonies from the singers were used to great effect. Nothing felt special as the attendance was no more than 500 (At least it felt this way). For the size of band and the capacity of The Assembly, this was very poor.

Everything lacked character, Jason had his chair in the corner with his mini torch so he could read his own lyrics. Whilst the other members were spread out in usual fashion. The new album will most likely be very similar to Songs In A&E, with a bigger emphasis on sound. The guitar work was extraordinary, using the slide guitar on many occasions.

The whole 'Encore' annoyed the shit out of me, some random drunk prick was shouting something which i couldn't even understand, the respectful 28 year old audience were ready to leave, peoples wives were in a state of shock and the band showed little care about the whole situation. This aside, the final 5 or so tracks were very good and very loud. Noting the Spacemen 3 song Take Me To The Other Side as the best and most rewarding song from the show. This song lasted just about 8 minutes and was just glory. Being a big fan of Spacemen 3 i enjoyed the inclusion of this song. The lack of Ladies & Gentlemen We're Floating Into Space was rather frustrating, but they're still a studio band so i don't blame them for wanting to play newer music.

Oh Happy Day ended the show, with the recurring theme of God, Jesus and Soul all stuck in my mind. I don't mind, i respect the band, i enjoy the music. It ended rather well, as they use this song to end many shows so i expected no Come Together closer. The new material was well received and liked by the audience and myself.

The venue couldn't be in a nicer location, i think Leamington Spa is a beautiful place and the venue looks absolutely amazing from the inside, I'm not surprised it won the 2010 Live Music Venue of the Year award. The staff were very friendly and the drinks were priced fairly. I will be returning in the near future, most possibly for Adam Ant and for Bellowhead.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh bells are a New York duo formed by Guitarist Derek E. Miller and singer Alexis Krauss. What we have is an album just over the half hour mark filled with volume and Pop songs. They get labelled Noise Pop, but when you think of Noise Pop you look at artists like The Jesus & Mary Chain, or Yo La Tengo, but let's get this out of the way. Sleigh Bells are nothing of the sort.

What you get is short, 3 minute, distortion. That more a less sums up Sleigh Bells. The loudness is certainly good, if you're into that kind of thing. I personally enjoy some loud albums, but they can't be too loud because it just wears off. Thankfully at the half hour mark Sleigh Bells don't over do it. Some of the tracks are enjoyable and listenable without cringing, such as Rill Rill, which has a fantastic sample of the Funkadelic song Can You Get to That. 

Everything is surrounded in clapping and distortion, even the vocals on tracks such as Infinity Guitar are distorted, for the good, because this is a well produced song but the vocals will split your opinion. That is because, does it really need vocals? It would make a great instrumental, with a killing bass driven final minute.

It's just a little tacky.. Everything isn't as special as you first think. The first listen will be the best because this album certainly isn't unique, it doesn't grow on you. Everything you hear is the work of Studio recordings. I certainly wouldn't go to see this band live, it's filled with beats that could be used for Hip-Hop, but instead used for this Noise thing they have going on. Crown On The Ground is possibly the most distorted and has the best vocals in my opinion. It's extremely loud and messy.

It has some positives, Rill Rill being a very good track. If you're into loud music and Noise, then you should enjoy this album more than say, a Folk fan. They have recorded Sleigh Bells second album and i cant exactly see it being fantastic, it should be an improvement on this.


For a Minor Reflection - Höldum í átt að óreiðu

This is the second album by Icelandic post-rock quartet For a Minor Reflection. They are essentially an instrumental rock band with great similarities with 90s period Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky. They supported fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros on tour in 2007/8, and rushed to record an album so they could sell it at these European gigs with Sigur Ros to gain attention. That album was very unique, it had many of the post-rock textures but had that overall rawness which some albums in the field don't have. Some of the tracks were left without editing due to the time restraints, leaving huge room for improvement on this follow up titled Höldum í átt að óreiðu.

The opener, "Kastljós" is a tremendous start to the album, it's very explosive in terms of style. The hard hitting drums and reversed reverb play a huge part in For a Minor Reflection's sound, it's something to look out for. It's not long until you loose yourself in a wall of sound created with many effects which lead guitarist Kjartan Holm uses respectively. 

The following track is a soft, piano piece. With some string work and light ambient driven reverb noises played loud on the amp. This track is short, but creates the atmosphere for the rest of the album and the next track "Flóð". This track has more focus on guitar and the piano is again featured as a highlight. This is something that was absent in For a Minor Reflection's debut album. This song builds up, much alike many songs on the album. It has nice little sections with low frequency bass and high notes on the piano. Then ends with recorded vocals of kids playing outside the studio where the band recorded the album, which is also the studio which Sigur Ros have used since ( ).

"Dansi Dans" is a brighter track with a recurring piano riff which improves and raises as the track progresses, with interesting strings and a soaring Bass line. It ends well with some very unique drumming and increased noise drones. This is one of few tracks heard through YouTube, prior to this albums release.

The album doesn't have any weak tracks, some are styled in certain ways for emotion such as with "Tómarúm", another piano based track with a real focus on strings. Then "Átta", which is very raw and heavy. It's by far the most energetic song on the album, with visible bass and high notes being playing on the electric guitar. It's split up with an intro, then a general progression pattern which plays out the rest of the track with a nice little build up and thunderous ecliptic ending which is borderline shoegaze.

"A Moll", is by far the most beautiful track on Höldum í átt að óreiðu. Again it has a real focus on piano, it's one huge build up which eventually leads into a hard hitting track much like "Átta", just with a real emphasis on piano, which does sound remarkably good for a low budget recording. It creates a lovely atmosphere, giving the listener visions of Icelandic landscapes and grey skies.

One of the highlights for me is the 14 minute "Sjáumst Í Virginíu". This track uses the delay and reverb on the guitar, which sounds as basic as can be. it's nice on the ear, with light percussion and a hint of delicate soundscapes. The song builds up as expected, much differently to the other tracks due to the slow nature of the song and eventual breakdown. At this point everything has changed musically except the general pattern. It has a few changes as the track progresses, with some nice drumming and even better guitar playing than previously heard. 

So this is an improvement on the 2007 debut album due to song structures and impressive, improved musicianship. When listening to this, it's not hard to forget that the band is unsigned, you can hear some massive flaws in the production. The recording took far longer than the bands debut, but it still doesn't have a clear production sound. They can only improve with time and this band will certainly be mentioned alongside Sigur Ros in the future.
~Eddie Gibson


Trembling Bells - The Constant Pageant

This is Trembling Bells second studio album, the first was a very vague, light hearted traditional folk album which has been clearly influenced by the 60's Psych Folk era. This album carries the Psych Folk style, but it brings in modern influences and Folk by the likes of Bellowhead. You can still hear the traditional aspects, the drumming follows a similar patter to a high number of modern Indie-Folk artists, whilst the guitar work is very distorted and has layers of drone in some areas.

The album starts with a very melodic track called Just As The Rainbow, we're introduced to singer Lavinia Blackwall, who uses her voice very well to keep with the Folk and traditional aspects. It's very Shirley & Dolly Collins like. Something which i admire myself is the Psych Folk movement in the UK during the 60's, so this band are familiar with me.

It has been produced well, it's a very loud album. The second track, All My Favourite Mistakes, is a very melodic song where both Lavinia and the other band members give a vocal. It's one of the strongest songs on the album, but it's loud and simplistic which doesn't really give them any positives when comparing them to the original Electric Folk bands of the 60's.

It's clear that they have been influenced by The Incredible String Band, you can hear this throughout the album. Trembling Bells just are not as careful and raw as the original 60's artists. But they're not aiming for this, they want a modern day sound whilst keeping the melody and dynamics which Psych Folk had. I think they do this very well, even if the music doesn't sound as neat and tidy.

The bass work isn't very distinctive, the Rhythm guitar can be noted on some tracks such as with To See You Again, but the Rhythm is surrounded in the mask of sound which is thrown at you. I'm not a fan of this Wall of Sound within Folk music. It doesn't need to be as bright as they've produced it. The inclusion of piano is respectful and distinctive, but the electric guitar in some places sounds horrible. It's needed to give that edge but the distortion is sometimes a little too fuzzy for this style of music. It ruins the atmosphere for me.

Strings are used in the final track, New Year's Eve's The Loneliest Night Of The Year. It's a solid final track focusing around the winter months, the period where Folk really does shine. This album however is more of a Spring album. I fins that you cant listen too loud because the production just isn't that great on some tracks. The recording of strings and brass just isn't up to standard, the brass on the final track sounds rushed and it's not really needed. 


Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Coldplay have had much success with both the British and American audience. This started with the release of A Rush of Blood To The Head, which had some very strong singles, many of which were welcomed by the British population and the American. This album is the Fourth by Coldplay, the follow up to 2005's X&Y, which was met with great appraisal by the British press. It had it's flaws, but overall it was a solid Coldplay album.

It has some nice production, taken care by Brian Eno. Lost! has a very simplistic but catchy Organ riff, something which they've kept from X&Y. Chris Martin's vocals are a little shady in places, but in general everything does sound well produced. 

Jon Hopkins donated part of his piece Light Through The Veins, for both the opening and closing tracks on this album. Coldplay have been helped through this. Eno's Ambient nature can be seen in certain songs, again in Lost! you can hear some great atmosphere behind the guitar solos and un eventful singing.

Lovers In Japan is a song which i really enjoy. It has a very nice recurring loop and a progressive Bass riff. It set's well with the topical lyrics and very good vocals by Chris Martin. This is by far the best track on the album, it has an atmosphere which just isn't matched on this album. The reverbed, Dream Pop guitar in the background makes this song great for me, yes great. 

Songs like 42 and Yes are a little predictable and they just don't go anywhere, this is common with some of Coldplay's post Parachutes material. It's not exactly filler, but the songs lack character. Violet Hill is a track I've had two different opinion on. One side of me thinks it's a nice little tune with a good break down and chorus, the other just makes me want to vomit at the cheesy lyrics and forced guitars from every direction.

Viva La Vida is a very calming string based song with heavy percussion with a catchy loop. it's been accused of all sorts but that doesn't matter in this case. The song is solid, the lyrics focus on historical aspects. Chris Martin does deliver a very good vocal with his band mates giving a backing towards the end. 

Strawberry Swing is a nice little track, with some delicate reversed reverb going on. It progresses rather well. This is the sort of Coldplay song i want to hear, with Lovers In Japan it's among the strong tracks from the album. As the song picks up, so does the volume and the drumming. The song as a whole is pretty good.

Death and All His Friends has a focus on piano and lyrics. The lyrics are very clear and personal, this is another one of the better songs on the album. it reminds me of Parachutes era Coldplay, with a bigger attention to detail. The song is split in half through a general build up with both piano and guitar. Slowly the song escalates into a full blown jam. The recurring lyrics at the end stick out in my heard.. 'No I don't wanna battle from beginning to end, I don't wanna cycle, recycle revenge, I don't wanna follow death and all of his friends'.  I just think these lyrics are a nice end to the album. 

The Escapist doesn't really give me anything other than a final Viva La Vida era goodbye from the band. That;s something i respect about Coldplay, they go through little eras for each album they release and the following tour. 

Brian Eno's production was much welcomed by myself, Hopkins gave one of his best tunes for Coldplay to sing and play over which is fine by me as he has credit and recognition for it. This album doesn't reach new heights, it has it's flaws both in the strength of songs and the way they play. But i do like some of the tracks, i like the concept and i like how they've created this album.


Cocteau Twins - Treasure

This is the third album by Scottish Ethereal Dream Poppers Cocteau Twins. This is the album which capitalized them within a wider audience, with more radio friendly songs and assessable instrumentation they managed to find success with the fixed line up. 

So What we have is an album filled with dark, eerie songs, with a huge emphasis on vocal work and a reverbed drum machine. The Acoustic guitar work that flows through the album is so minimal it only helps push the songs forward. Everything is carefully mixed, the production, double tracking and effects have been taken care of perfectly. 

Ivo is the song that starts the album, it's named after the 4AD owner, Ivo Watts. The song is very dark, it has a great focus on high pitched vocals and an acoustic guitar which works well with the driving distorted bass and synths.

The following track, Lorelei, is just as powerful. It has a great looped riff played with the background drum machine that works well with Cocteau Twins Dream Pop style. reverb hasn't been over used on any instrument. The use of delay is clear in most places. 

As the album progresses, the songs follow a similar pattern. Hard hitting drum beats with energetic bass and soft, Ambient like soundscapes. It's magnificent to hear, it's certainly a dark album and has it's moments of pure glory, such as on Persephone. Here we see some completely crazy lyrics and emotive vocals by singer Elizabeth Frazer. The effect driven guitar loop fits well in this song, which you can hear in several segments as the song progresses. Although it's very dark, the song, much alike the whole album manages to feel complete and filled.

Amelia is one of the strongest tracks. it has the Frazer vocal work which sounds beautiful although you have no idea what she's saying. She's using her voice as an instrument here, this i like. I like listening to this kind of material because it gives the band something which puts them ahead of others. 

The final track, Domino, is my personal pick for the album. It's fresh and very Gothic. The low driven synthesizer works with the vocals and sampled vocals used to grip the listener. Ambient like noises then enter with Frazer delivering a very clear vocal which is by far her best for this album. The kick in is magnificent, the synth and the bass leas the track with the Phil Spector esque Electronic drums. Some lovely reversed reverb is used on this track which is refreshing as this album doesn't have a huge Electric guitar presence at times.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts

This is The Go! Team's third studio album. The first was met with great acclaim for being innovative and bright. The follow up was also met with similar acclaim, this album hasn't reached a wider audience unlike the previous two albums, but it has still been received well by both fans and critics. It Carry's on the style which The Go! Team create so well, with scratches and Soul samples, exciting guitar work and unique vocals.

The album does really sound similar to the bands debut, rather than the sophomore. I did prefer the debut because the songs were just so good, they could raise what ever mood i was in and make me jolly as can be. This album is just that, a jolly album made to cheer everybody up. It's something The Go! Team should praise themselves in. The first three tracks are pass over the ear without remembering what happened before. it's an album where you need o pay close attention to detail because so much is going on in the background. A synth loop or  string sample and a Hip-Hop jab just about creates the atmosphere for these three tracks. 

Ready To Go Steady is much clearer and what sounds very Soulful. Again, the song doesn't really catch my ear, it has a nice little chorus. But the atmosphere doesn't really change. That's something which i think they need to improve on for future albums, they really do need to sit down and think how they can change the dynamics amongst all the samples and instrumentation. Without this change they just wont be able to reach heights or gain as much recognition. 

Buy Nothing Day is by far the best song on the album, it's sang by Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino. it has melody and some great drumming. The song sounds so full that it needs to be heard at a high volume just so you can hear the faint guitar work in the background.  It's the song i like the most, it has a nice little split section for the guitar solo and surrounding drumming to prepare for the initial smash and finale.

The songs are very similar, nothing surprises or catches my ear to a major extent. However, they do manage to create some very enjoyable instrumentals. They can only get better with time, they just need to keep what they're doing and perfect the Alternative-Dance sound they have going on. It's a nice little album when played full blast, you must not listen to it as background music though, it just doesn't fit.


Kasabian - Velociraptor!

This is Kasabian's fourth studio album, it doesn't seem that long ago since we last heard a Kasabian single with Fire, back in 2009. Two years is the average turn around for an album these days, so Kasabian have no reason for this album being bad right??

So the content, it's a little varied, the synth hooks are an improvement from West Ryder, this album actually has new songs unlike West Ryder's filler and make up tracks. So that's already an improvement. This album just has that varied sort of feel, everything is mixed and all over the place. Unlike Empire or the self titled, this album has several songs that don't really go well together, the lyrical themes don't match up and the music is just as basic as early day Kasabian.

I cant help but cringing when listening to the opener, it's clear to me that the production must have cost a lot of money for the label RCA. Everything is polished and in a way over produced. It has very minimal Electronic aspects which attracted me to Kasabian in the first place. Nothing is raw anymore, that's something i don't like. The change isn't for good musically, but commercially. The use of strings and little dabs of Brass just isn't Kasabian at all. 

Days Are Forgotten is just what i said, polished and produced to the point it's hard to listen to by an old fan. The song is painful to hear, the lyrics just don't go anywhere, the chorus is poor and without the production, it would be laughed at.

Amongst the poor lyrics, some good instrumentation is heard. Swithblade Blades finally brings the band back to the early days. It's a much better track both lyrically and musically. I like this track, it has a certain image which just makes me want to listen to again. This is the best song on the album, it's also the most raw and Live performance worthy. 

It's not hard to criticize Kasabian, because they have many flaws which don't need to be covered anymore. They're sorted as the 'New Oasis', they'll always be a high flying band with chart success and sell out tours. It's  just not the full picture. I know they could write better songs if they dedicate the time and money to it. Forget being number 1 in the charts, they need to aim at improving their skills musically.

I would say that this album has some good tracks, but lack in character and depth. I'd like to here more Electronic material and less polished studio material. It's certainly an improvement on West Ryder as an album. But where that has some very strong tracks in Underdog and Vlad The Impaler, this just doesn't have anything that stands out other than Switchblade Blades. It's your bog standard Indie Rock album from 2011.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Beach House - Teen Dream

Maryland's Beach House has progressed since the early days of the bands existence. Starting with the self-titled album in 2006, this was met to acclaim due to the modern day expenditure on artists such as Galaxie 500 and Slowdive. The Dream Pop sound is clearly evident and Beach House uses it to their advantage. Devotion was also met with acclaim due to the improved musicianship. Teen Dream follows on with the light Indie Pop and Dream Pop from the previous albums.

It's so simplistic, the synthesized organs, echoed vocals and lack of bass really give Beach House an iconic sound. This along with the fulfilled sound creates a new and different sound from the early eerie albums. The drum machine doesn't get in the way of listening; it just keeps the album in motion. It's simple and vintage giving that full sound.

The album opens with ‘Zebra’ starts with a guitar riff that kicks the whole album into position. It's a refined sound with great hooks and beautiful lyrics. Victoria's vocals portray many emotions, the dream like effect that the music produces, reacts incredibly well with Victoria's effortless vocals. The variations on this track are evident. The 'new' sound may divide your opinion at first, but with the defined sound and upbeat instrumentation, this album is a great improvement, in terms of direction and becoming separated from the comparisons. 

The soundscapes sound great... As with the previous album, the eerie, minimal, sparse sound shows great characterises within Beach Houses sound. ‘Silver Soul’ is much alike Zebra with a bigger and better structure. It's becoming clear that Beach House are expanding, the production work with Chris Coady seems to have really helped in magnifying the sound and refining the instruments.

Silver Soul leads into ‘Norway’ with some actual drumming and melancholy vocal work and layered guitar work which is enough to send you to sleep. The sound is so dark here; everything is working correctly together as it should be. The use of the tremolo is a great inclusion during the verse to give a more diverse sound throughout the song. It isn't as gripping as the song just isn't as strong as the previous few.

I'd say that Beach House have reached a new level of independence in their sound. ‘Walk In The Park’ and ‘Lover of Mine’ are great examples of the recurring organ which gives Beach House the Indie Pop sound which some listeners crave for. Even with ‘10 Mile Stereo’, we hear something different and new from the band, this is great seeing as it's the bands third album and they really did need to release an album with an improved sound, 10 Mile Stereo is a good example of this. It's an upbeat track and reaches new heights for Beach House in my view. The song reaches a climax towards the end; this is something we rarely hear for this band. 

‘Real Love’ just capitalizes on Victoria's emotive voice. The light drumming and lifting piano are a great backing for her to shine on this song. The Atmospheric ending is a standout for Real Love; it's nothing special, just a nice way to finish the track. In terms of content, the first half is by far the better of the two, songs on the second half are still good and individualistic, and they’re just not as strong as the earlier tracks.

As with Devotion, the listener receives a great deal of imagery. Touching on tracks like ‘Better Times’, where everything escalates into a full sound, with a tiring sound and multi tracked vocals. Beach House has exceeded my expectations with this album. The change to Sub Pop brought forward more funds in order to improve the band’s sound; this worked tremendously as we hear something worthy for end of year lists.