Sunday, 27 August 2017

Album Reviews #5

Ten more albums and EPs reviewed by us!

American Anymen - Flag Burner (EP)

Made up of three politically charged songs starting with the titular song, this collection aimed squarely at Trump and everything he stands for, feels a bit like a collection of political tweets put to music. The opener mixes the theme with a catchy 'right, right, right, we say left' hook and though a five minute run time feels far too long has enough to be interesting. 'Late to the Party' is pretty much a political essay or angry Facebook post set to music that feels like an afterthought and is too much of an onslaught for the senses. Even when you think it's getting more song-like it descends back into a continuous stream of anger and point-scoring, though the subtle Russian influences, following use of 'comrade' in the first track, feels well put. Six minutes is too much. Final number 'President 2' is very much in the same vain: too many lyrics, muddy production and an onslaught of too much. Many will agree with the lyrics and what is being said but musically, not for me. (3/10)

The Black Watch - The Gospel According To John

A sprightly eight tracks pushes this album to over thirty-six minutes of darkly produced indie-rock songs that create a Smiths-like musical style that pushes a range of tempos from the slow to the faster of the cleverly titled 'The All-Right Side Of Just OK' which has my favourite guitar lick of the set and a nod towards Franz Ferdinand. Overal the album is a bit too gloomy and downbeat for my tastes and the production a little muddy, but it holds together as a good indie-rock package, but without any really big stand out song. (5.5/10)

A Blue Flame - When Your Whole World Turns To Dust

'When Your Whole World Turns To Dust' is made up of a dozen Divine Comedy-esque gentle mid-tempo ballads, set against a retro-sounding jazzy backing. Perhaps a little free-form and semi-improvisational for my tastes, it's still a really ear-pleasing listen, the gentle tones of the lead singer complimenting the music perfectly on songs like 'Back to the Stars' and 'We Feel Like We Feel', the crisp production and clear instrumentation a delight. At times it's so gentle it can disappear into the background, but that's no real slight on it as it's that sort of calming, pleasing music, though it does know when to kick up the beat a little, like on song '21st Century Blues' or the jaunty 'Everything's A Lie' and 'Empty Head', one of my favourites on the album, thanks to its funky bass and incredibly catchy chorus. In fact the album becomes much sprightly in its second half, numbers like 'See What Tomorrow Brings' bursting with energy, boasting a very poppy and memorable chorus. More of an album for Winter rather than August, this is a must hear. (7.5/10)

Danny & the Champions of the World - Brilliant Light

Spreading eighteen tracks that would fit onto one CD onto two seems like an artistic decision that doesn't really pay off in this collection of fun and upbeat, but ultimately, similar songs that, like many LPs that come spread over two discs could do with an editor. That said 'Brilliant Light' is a solid collection of traditional country-sounding tracks, many embracing mid-tempo, strong instrumentation and crisp production flowing through the tracks, from the harmonised 'Bring Me To My Knees' to the Caribbean swagger of 'It Hit Me'. 'Consider Me', with its chunkier delivery, is a highlight but many numbers flow too easily into one another. Overlong but entertaining enough with a solid outlook. (5.5/10)

Darto - Human Giving

With twelve tracks coming in at just over half-an-hour, this is an album that isn't a showcase for individual tracks (though 'Omniscient' and 'Fall Ill' stick their heads above the parapet) but the atmosphere created by a series of flowing, trippy instrumental-electronic pieces with vocals woven into a series of experimental soundscapes. The perfect background material for a chill-out season this flows well and builds a great electronic atmosphere, anchored by its dual vocals at times, that makes the 33-minutes pass quickly. (6.5/10)

The Heavy Blinkers - The Night and I Are Still So Young

Coming in at just over forty minutes long, this is a Beatles and Beach Boy mixed gentle exploration of hypnotic pop that starts with the gentle and floaty 'Filtered Light' that is like a warming day at the beach in musical form, delivered with delightful warm harmonies and musically intriguing backings. 'In The Morning' continues the chill-out vibe with crisp, interesting production and the throw-back sounds continue with songs the Carpenters and Motown-tinged 'Try Telling That To My Baby'. The title track employs a similar gentle sway to its style and the harmonies continue through songs like 'He Heard His Song' which employs a few hints towards a modern take on ELO. Overall the album is a well produced, cool and hippy piece with strong harmonies, interesting instrumentation and a strong relaxing vibe that flows all the way through. (6.5/10)

Lena Laki - Take Me With (EP)

Made up of five tracks, 'Take Me With' is a gentle, if not a little samey, collection of gentle Winehouse-light ballads, stripped back in terms of production with the sweet, artistic voice of Lena Laki woven in and out. Each song is a pleasing listen but all tend to merge into each other, except for second track 'Craving' which matches the EP's prevalent strings with more passion, emotion and soaring vocals, and the closest the mini-album gets to a memorable chorus, its musical jewelry box feel worth hearing. The 'Take Me With' EP is a sweet, smooth listen that whispers relaxation in its gentle flows, but it doesn't have any huge distinctive moments. (6/10)

Pattern Language - Total Squaresville

Coming in at six tracks, this 25-minute long instrumental electronic EP has enough interesting riffs and takes on the formula and genre to keep you listening, the synthesized music chunky and tangible and though the lack of lyrics and distinguishable riffs make it difficult to really hook onto a particular track, as a whole composition it works well even if at times it feels like it's perhaps running a bit out of steam. 'Deeply Recessed Windows' scores both as a great title and a noteable track though. (6/10)

Steve Earle & the Dukes - So You Wannabe an Outlaw

If you like your country music traditional and gruffly sung then you'll enjoy this collection of a dozen songs that begins with the title track headed up by a determined beat, harmonies, classic sound, catchy hook and country guitar and continues in a fun vein through to the slower and more introspective 'Goodbye Michelangelo'. Along the way we also get the perky 'Lookin' for a Woman', the speedy Cash-esque 'The Firebreak Line' and the slowed down story song with strings of 'News From Colorado'. Keeping the tempo and energy up through most of the tracks there's even chance for a cameo from Miranda Lambert, channeling Dolly Parton, on the best song on the album called 'This is How It Ends'. The brush drum on 'You Broke My Heart' lifts up an otherwise slightly maudlin track, whilst 'Sunset Highway' returns the album to its roots. At its best when it's upbeat, this is a strong collection of traditional sounding country tunes that, although lacking and big stand out singles, works as a flowing album of interesting mixes of harmonies, instruments and production vibes. (6.5/10)

Summer Heart - 101

With hints of electronic samples amongst its sweeping soundscapes, this album is a sweet and smooth collection of songs with hints of ethereal undertones, including in the opening titular song. 'Milano' has hints at the Pet Shop Boys if Neal Tennant's vocals got hidden a bit more in the production, the electronic sweeps merging together into a surging sea of audio. Single 'Follow' is the star of the show, with a crisper vocal line above the production, which excels as on other tracks. 'Follow' merges more heartfelt lyrics with a catchy chorus and some neat tricks on the layers. 'Hotel Beds', with its Moby-influence is another joy of a track, capturing the spirit of the overall summery happiness of the LP. Fifth track 'Love Affairs' is a more sultry offering with some strong electronic vibes and a clearer sound, tying in the memorability of 'Follow' over the earlier tracks.

Though we don't know the name of the final five tracks due to a fault on the streaming service, they continue in a similar uptempo poppy vibe. Track six is another chunky electro-pop number with some jerky breakdowns and vocal samples that work really well when mixed together. Track seven boasts another hooky memorable chorus and great electronic sound. Track eight is nice but not as eventful whereas the vocoder-hefty follow-up is a refreshing shift in style whilst keeping the same overall vibe. '101' wraps up with an even heftier distorted vocal track that goes much more Daft Punk, and though not a personal highlight wraps up a great sounding and entertaining album. (7/10)

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