Friday, 20 October 2017

Album Reviews #7

Here are our thoughts on ten more albums!

Astrobal - Memories of Stars (EP)

This five track EP is an unusual affair, including two one-minute-or-so long tracks, moments of spoken word and some rather unusual production, but its eccentricity, uniqueness and ethereal style is what makes it, and though it's not something you're ever going to hear on the radio it's wacky charm will keep you entertained for its perky sixteen minute run time. (6/10)

Bootsy Collins - World Wide Funk

The distinctive voice from classic Fatboy Slim song 'Weapon of Choice' and cover of 'The Joker' gets a fresh album of his own and it's an almost-hour of funky throwback songs that begins with the rather eccentric opening of the title track that bursts from a story opening to an unashamedly retro-sounding funk number that sets the mood for the party album. Rattling through a variety of styles from the more pedestrian but still funky 'Bass-Rigged-System' with its cheeky 'all-funked up' riff to the female-vocal led 'Pusherman' that sounds more like TLC next to its 'monkey off your back' hook. With the record skips of that track giving way to more straight up funk on 'Thera-P' we get the Chic-esque 'Hot Saucer' and the R Kelly-light ballad 'Heaven Yes'. 'Ladies Nite' is not *that* song but a cool funky number and 'Earth, Wind and Fire' are the order of the day on 'Candy Coated Lover'. 'Snowbunny' and 'Hi-Heels', with its ode to the Avalanches in part, continues the too-cool-for-school feel, whilst 'Salute to Bernie' sees Collins in a more introspective mood. 'Boomerang' with its Victoria's Secret take and catchy country-tinged chorus, and closer 'Worth My While' with its slower vibe tie up an album that's equal parts fun and funky. Cool. (7/10)

The Dayoffs - The Dayoffs

If you like your music punky and raw then you'll enjoy much of this debut from The Dayoffs. Their self-titled breakthrough boasts an opening four powerful punky numbers that screech along nicely, though they do have a habit of merging together. Thankfully the Oasis-like track five 'Nobody Knows Her' cuts back the punkiness to make for a far more listenable piece to me, and it feels like an entirely different band or album. 'Two Actors in A Cage' continues the more enjoyable stripped-back indie feel. Continuing in the vibe of Weezer through songs like 'A Million Days' and 'Next To Nothing' things start to get a little samey until the harmonica-introduced and perkier 'State of Madness' lifts things up much more with its quirky and poppier aesthetic and feels more like a single. 'Eleven', all 39 seconds of it, closes an album of one-third two-thirds that incongruously splits, and is far better, if not a bit too similar between tracks, from track five onwards. (6/10)

Eamon - Golden Rail Motel

Having enjoyed his recent single we definitely wanted to give his first album a spin and this is a cool, funky collection of ten strong soulful numbers. Famous a decade ago for his expletive hefty 'Fuck You (I Don't Want You Back)' this is quite a change but a great direction, his Si Cranstoun sound really suiting him.

Opener 'Before I Die' might have a title and chorus bordering on darkness but it's actually quite a positive sounding swagger of a track that name checks the album title and mixes in sounds of a bustling New York. 'Be My Girl' continues the funky vibe that will get your feet tapping whilst 'Lock Me Down' is a ballsy, attitude-filled catchy number, its stuttering hook really driving the vibe home, and is the best on the piece, with lead single 'I Got Soul' that follows a slower number but no less good, its honest and contemporary lyrics and soulful vibe smooth and very enjoyable.

'Burn It Up', with its funky brass, layered vocals and mid-tempo swagger, plays to the theme well, while the more heart-felt 'Mama Don't Cry' is a nicely stripped back and more somberly played piece. 'You and Only You' lifts the pace up and continues the relaxing soulful sound, with the funk and bass of 'Hands Make You Dance' palpable. Penultimate song 'Run' is one of the best songs on the album and feels like a future single, it's catchy radio-friendly vibe and plentiful hooks really amazing. Final number 'Requiem' with its classical vibe and dramatic turn of style makes for a grand enjoyable closer to a really top class and well put together album. (7.5/10)

Fiona Kennedy - Time To Fly

Having already been won over by Kennedy's delightful double a-side, of which both tracks feature here, listening to this album was a must and it doesn't disappoint. Including 'Down the Line', the bouncy country number, as the first song, the album starts in a high-octane, foot tapping way that really sets the mood. The exceptionally touching take on the Willie Nelson classic 'Always on my Mind' comes in at number four and its gentle stripped-back sound and dual vocals still pull at the heart strings all these weeks later. In between we get the swaying 'Who Would Have Thought' with some great Irish themes and harmonies, and 'Tomorrow's Child', a slower more touching number grounded by Kennedy's delightful delivery of the heart-felt lyrics.

The album continues with the more jaunty traditional-sounding 'Weaver of Dreams', and the upbeat country flavours of 'Trail of the Survivor'. 'I Am Whole', at the front of the second half, is a more touching, slower offering whilst 'Not My Baby Anymore', with its harking back to a lost relationship, will resonate with a lot of listeners and bring a manly tear to many an eye.

'Cold Brew' and 'Boy Blue' keep the flow going and 'Christ Child Lullaby' offers something a little more traditional and slow. 'The Crossing Over' continues the flavour, the swaying gentleness wrapping up a beautiful sung, performed and produced album. A must listen. (7.5/10)

HAIM - Something to Tell You

The latest album from HAIM kicks off with the bombastic pop track 'I Want You Back' with the perky chorus you expect from the trio, as catchy as you'd hope, with their harmonies, like on many other tracks, really working. 'Nothing's Wrong' is faster and jauntier and though lacking the big chorus of the opener is a brighter and punchier number. Continuing the fun poppy harmony, 'Little of Your Love' is possibly my favourite on the album, its bombastic music suiting its more emotional lyrics well. 

'Ready For You' with its 'Treat You Right' hook continues the fun pop vibe with the harmonies coming into their own. 'Something To Tell You' with its quickfire backing vocals may sound a bit too familiar but keeps the album's rhythm going. 'You Never Know' is the closest the album gets to a ballad, though it's a meatier number to work with its more heartfelt lyrics. The clap-along finger-clicking synthy 'Keep Me Crying' boosts the harmonies whilst 'Found It In Silence' and 'Walking Away' make for a strong double act which big choruses. 'Right Now' and 'Night So Long' tie up a strong, rhythmic album that combines good harmonies with well written lyrics. (6.5/10)

Jamie Porter - Sonic Smile

Featuring one of our favourite songs of the year - 'Sound of the Summer' - nine tracks make up Jamie Porter's cracking album that starts with the gritty rock of the hooky 'Can't Stop Loving You' and doesn't give up from there. The REM and Aerosmith-esque 'I'm Not Running Away' is slower but no less enjoyable, whilst 'A Girl Like You' wins even if its a little bit more subdued. Other highlights on the album include the chugging 'Remember Yesterday' with its throwback sound and lyrics and, of course, the uplifting summer anthem mentioned at the top of the review. 'Everything You Do', putting Porter's Phil Collins-like vocals up in the centre, comes across as anthemic whilst the rockier 'Lay It On Me' with its gruff guitars closes the LP with energy. A great retro-sounding rock listen that fits in with the original sounds of ACDC, Bon Jovi and the like. (7.5/10)

Labyrinth Lounge - Porgy

With six tracks coming in at just shy of 30 minutes, 'Porgy' is a stripped back, warming, retro-sounding soulful piece cemented together by the flowing delightful vocals of the lead, the Nina Simone of the record against the cool soul of the slickly produced music. Opener 'Trouble Won't Last' sees her asking for understanding about her state of mind, the emotion crisp in her voice, with the guest male vocals adding a refreshing Pharrell Williams-like vibe to the track and gives it a shot in the arm. Lead single 'It's Just Water' has much more urgency to its sound, its quirky beat and music keeping the song alert in your mind though it does perhaps outstay its welcome a little too much with the outro going on maybe 90 seconds too long.

The more free-form 'I Loves You Porgy' is a little too much improvised jazz for my tastes, lacking the more conventional structure of the first two tracks, though I admire their desire to do something different and it feels like it works, even if it's not to my preference.

'We Be Rockin' is an eighty second interlude that leads with the male vocals and is the most normal of the tracks and crams plenty of moments into its short time, whilst 'Storytime' is a spoken word piece over a minimal backing and is the only really skippable track on the album. Closer 'Displacement', coming in at over six minutes, returns to the freeform jazz tying things up in a looser way.

I prefer the earlier moments on the album but if you like your music jazzy and unconventional you'll find much to enjoy here. (6/10)

Miles & Erica - We Came Here To Work

Built around the strongest track on the album, the anthemic, memorable and politically charged title track, the ten songs that make up this album are stripped back folk-indie numbers that, though at times are perhaps a little downbeat for my overall tastes, showcase great musicianship and are well composed, from perky opener 'When the Currency Was' that multilayers instruments in a crisp production that resonates throughout the whole LP. 'A Matter of Circumstance' is the closest the album gets to upbeat energy with its Kooks-like vibe, chirpy backing vocals and fiddle. 'Waste Some Time With Me' has an easily adoptable title whilst 'Witnesses' slows down the pace considerably, the lyrics slowly building the political undertones of the piece. Later on in the album 'The Absentee' stands out as a strong track but really there's no duff notes in the well composed and strongly worded album. (6.5/10)

Paul K - Omertà

Coming in at eighteen mostly-instrumental tracks, this is an album to savour as one long exploratory journey as the smooth tracks weave in and out of each other creating a beautiful orchestral flow of songs that really set an atmospheric mood. It's difficult to signpost any tracks really as it's an album-album rather than a collection of songs so if you like your music to flow and create a soundscape this is definitely one to hear. (7/10)

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