|British Sea Power - Machineries of Joy|
Track one's have been the all important factor on British Sea Power albums. "All In It" was used to shoegaze simplicity on Do You Like Rock Music? "Who's In Control" evoked the raw hipsterisms of protest summed up by: "Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night," an ode to making protesting seem cool, though in reality that's far from the truth. It was almost an ironic opening track that instead of combating the issues, highlighted thug violence which mirrors the Green Street ethic: "Would you ever go down to fight, fight, point and stand, point and stand and fight?" Valhalla Dancehall was a barrel of joy for fans of British Sea Power, and this year's Machineries of Joy is no different with the self-titled opening track.
The sound of guitar shrieks, ambience and a cymbal build-up is significant in British Sea Power's musical creations. "Machineries of Joy" opens up in a Neu! fashion, with its krautrock melody. It quickly turns into one of the best written British Sea Power songs to date: "We’re primitive abolition, like a hobbyist of deranged proportion. Or the wait is yours and we’ve failed again, the fleshy existence you keep to yourself, insecure." We are indeed, magnificent machineries of joy, as Yan sings it out loud.
Taken from their BSP EP1-6 demo's from last year, British Sea Power went about recording in Brighton in November. These sessions created Machineries of Joy, one of their best albums to date. The sixth track "Monsters of Sunderland" is especially monumental with its trumpets. Likewise the brass heavy "Radio Goddard". It moves British Sea Power away from their soaring guitars, creating beauty with brass and an acoustic guitar as opposed to a distortion heavy electric. This toning down is seen on the final track "When A Warm Wind Blows Through The Glass" and "What You Need The Most". There's nothing wrong with these acoustic tracks per se, it's the anti-heavy or rock that takes British Sea Power out of their current 'British indie rock' status.
British Sea Power still have their bulging opening track to fall back on, but ultimately Machineries of Joy takes listeners on a voyage that probably won't see British Sea Power return to their former arena rock greatness. Tracks like "Waving Flags" and "Lights out For Darker Skies" only come around once. I like the brass instrumental segments and some of their new toned down material, what's not to like about Yan's literal lyrics over brass. It just doesn’t live up to the audience’s expectation.
|Snoop Lion - Reincarnated|
Being an avid fan of reggae music, I was pleasantly excited to find out Snoop Dogg was going to reinvent himself as a Rastafarian and release reggae album. Perhaps I was slightly deluded as Snoop Lion's Reincarnated is potentially the worst reggae album in the history of the genre. I'm not going to smoothen the blow, because I listen to reggae for pleasure, not for pain. Reincarnated is possibly the worst experience of music freedom I’ve ever witnessed.
Snoop Dogg's turn isn't exactly a turn for the ages. He says he's dropped the hip-hop for reggae, when in fact Reincarnated is just a hip-hop album with louder bass and a Rastafarian vocal approach. Snoop is covering the worst of Jamaica’s music past times, dancehall. Here's me thinking Snoop was going down a Nas & Damien Marley Distant Relatives root, boy was I wrong, or should I say... Mooonn was I wrong.
Nas actually had a Marley when he broke in to the reggae fusion genre; Snoop was only influenced by a Marley. There's a difference, and Snoop was handed a death sin when duo Diplo and Switch produced Reincarnated, under their Major Lazer moniker. Guest artists include Drake, Rita Ora, Akon and Miley Cyrus. Wait, what? Yes... Miley Cyrus sings on "Ashtrays and Heartbreaks". Listing these artists makes me shudder, especially as the combined group, including those beat murderers Major Lazer are killing a genre and its vibe. We've gone from Augustus Pablo's "Keep On Dubbing" to Snoop's "Fruit Juice". An astronomical downgrade. And if Snoop's false gentrification isn't enough to turn you away, perhaps Akon's "Tired of Running" is. I've dreamt of the day Akon stopped recording music, just so that god damn awful "CONVICT" sound fucks off.
Reincarnated isn't exactly fun or relaxing. I would definitely refrain from playing this album on a sunny day, that's left for reggae artists. It is however, interesting. Snoop manages to combine his love for the Rastafarian movement with the music of 'his' people, so to speak. He does it in shoddy, half arsed pop way, but he does it. Snoop met Bunny Wailer while in Jamaica, and I’m sure Wailer probably wouldn’t approve of the reggae turned electronic style of records these days. There's a point to reggae, not as a movement of genre, but as a personal connection between the listener and the artist. Snoop doesn't take that in to consideration, Miley Cyrus doesn't, Rita Ora doesn’t, Drake doesn’t and neither do the Majors of Lazers...
|Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart|
‘This is Tape Deck Heart, the brand spanking new album by Frank Turner, the most important album of the year,' said somebody paid to say it, when in fact it's as far from the truth as you'd imagine. Understanding Turner seems to be an increasingly difficult task. left-wing / right-wing followers cohesively attempt to take Turner as their own, but Turner has no political obligation other than the Chomsky libertarianism. The singer-songwriter who turned folk after a hardcore punk career has released four albums prior to Tape Deck Heart, and after listening to his back catalogue it's easy to see why people struggle to grasp Turner.
He so eagerly denounces being a protest singer, though his fore founder of folk punk Billy Bragg disagrees entirely. It's heard on tracks like "I Still Believe" and "Reasons Not to Be an Idiot" that Turner is in fact a protester against social norms and 21st century evolution. One listen to "If Ever I Stray" deciphers his life philosophy; he's a good guy singing personal songs. Turner attended Eton College alongside political leaders and royal family members. Born with a silver spoon, Turner can never sing Richard Ashcroft's "This Is Music" with honesty. He can uphold his opinions, his music, but he can't change his past nor should he. Turner doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his family’s fortunes, or his pension fund that won’t be requested to be paid back. He sings from, as the album suggests, the heart. Tape Deck Heart being his reflection of a broken down relationship. it's now clear Turner has gone through his personal sweep of thoughts to full-on female-obsessive-Bragg. "Recovery" being the highlight and the first track.
"Four Simple Words" isn’t as interesting as the build-up suggests and "Losing Days" takes an even sharper turn away from his folk punk. On paper, Tape Deck Heart should be Turner's most imaginative album, he's an intelligent guy after all and using a break-up for musical output should favour the big personality. For some reason Turner struggles for lyricism on this album, it sounds like an aggressive Mumford & Sons album with that sense of post-hardcore. The structures are rather simple and Turner never sings with clarity like he used to with Love Ire & Song. People are pushing Turner to a left-wing ideology, however Turner doesn't want that, or to be pushed to his general consensus of conservatism. This album serves as a good 'fuck you' to commercial gain, the happy ever after outlook in film and a let loose, broken heart listen. The track "Tell Tale Signs" is a highlight, where Turner sings: "You will always be a part of my patched-up patchwork taped-up tape-deck heart." Turner's strange placement of tracks has always bugged me. For instance I would put "Recovery" somewhere in the middle, "Tell Tale Signs" at the end and "Four Simple Words" as the opener. It happens on every Turner album, like with "I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous", which is the first track when it should be the last track. These little things get to me, and the audience can feel the difference of a full-album experience to a collection of songs.
|Wavves - Afraid of Heights|
Wavves' sound varies from post-punk to surf rock with that all important garage rock. King of the Beach streamlined Nathan Williams' musical output from that of a lo-fi artist scratching the surface to a full blown male opposite to Best Coast with more skill. Wavves' fourth album Afraid of Heights opens with a bang, "Sail to the Sun". After the light percussion intro, reminiscent of a primary school music lesson, Williams then continues to align Wavves' direction in a post-punk fashion. Instead of the glossy psychedelia that mirrored third album King of the Beach, Williams and co go full on Deerhunter.
"Demon To Lean On" is the standout track on Afraid of Heights; it's also the pre-release single. Simplistic guitar chords and a dreamy rhythm guitar that goes a long way with Williams' swooping vocal. Afraid of Heights follows this pattern. "Mystic" being a hazy track with distorted vocals, "Dog" having the child-like effect Wavves have ever so often and self-titled track "Afraid of Heights" being a splendid track of grunge and typical American indie rock.
It's not all exciting and invigorating on Wavves' fourth album, at times it feels bloated. "Cop" adds that nostalgic feel, but falls short on the instrumental. "Paranoid" is similar in style and that distorted guitar structure, like heard in early Wavves albums, becomes increasingly repetitive. But Afraid of Heights does have the extremely cute "Gimme A Knife". It also bears one of Wavves best instrumental structures with "I Can't Dream", the longest track on the album that finds itself at the back.
There's always a sense of imagination when listening to Wavves, it's the sheer nostalgia Williams possesses. Afraid of Heights has its strong and weak points, like every album, this one in particular falls down with the distorted vocals and aimless instrumentals that take the listener nowhere on the back side of the album. I like hearing the clarity in Williams' voice, such as the standout "Demon To Lean On", arguably their best track to date and most commercial, easily topping "Post-Acid".