Thursday, 23 November 2017

Album Reviews #8

Some more albums and EPs we recommend listening to!

Amanda Mair - To The Moon

This five-track EP is an absolutely delight, mixing in cool and calm production tracks and a deliciously sweet and listenable voice in the form of Amanda Mair. 'Stay You And I' begins with a Chrvches-like flash of vocoder before soaring into a powerful chorus that tugs at the heart strings. 'Rush' and 'Wednesday', which we've previously reviewed, continue the theme and are powerful yet emotive, the chorus of 'Rush' full of hooks and 'Wednesday' ethereal and majestic. 'Hopes' has tinges of Linkin Park in its production and is the only real skippable number on the EP, whilst the more energetic closer 'Empty Blockings' boasts a great chorus and overall feel that permeates throughout the entire EP. Excellent. (8/10)

Bansidhe - Roo (EP)

'Roo' is an unusual and ethereal EP with the music and vocals a little freer and jazzier than my tastes would usually go to. It's built around the EP's central and best track called 'Katie' with its memorable titular hook and faster breakdown moments. Elsewhere it's all piano sequences, vocal scales and off-piste sections which make for a loose experience that's enjoyable but not all to my personal tastes. (4.5/10)

The Ghibertins - The Less I Know the Better (LP)

Having already heard and enjoyed several of the singles taken from this album, hearing the full LP was definitely something I've been looking forward to. Coming in at thirteen tracks plus a remix (sadly track eleven 'There's No Doubt About It' was unavailable for me to listen to) it's a strong mix of indie-rock songs centered around the distinctive sound of the lead singer's vocals. Opener 'Madness' is an, at times, hard-hitting song, with the hints at the politics that flow through the album's lyrics. Boasting a well produced guitar solo this is a neat, albeit low-key, introduction to the album.

'Carnival' is a gentle number that continues in a similar vein to the opener whilst 'Breathe For Me', one of the first songs heard by the band, is an emotionally written and performed song that will grab you, the strings, fast drum beat and delivery giving the song an emotional heart. 'Let 'Em Dance' is a weaker track on the album, lacking a focused direction, but 'I'm War', with its distinctive riff and determined delivery give it that power you expect from the band and proves to be one of the best on the album. The title track, with its didgeridoo opening and elements of the Scissor Sisters' take on 'Comfortably Numb' in parts, is the highlight of the LP, its bridge and dark chorus incredible, creating a politically charge somber track but one you'll definitely enjoy.

'In My Hands (A Pop Song)' is actually a bit jazzier than the title would suggest, its lilt owing more to funk than pop but it does have a more positive sound and style compared to the tracks proceeding to it, offering a rare moment of light in a relatively dark album. This feeling continues with the faster 'Facing A Loaded Gun' which is at a perkier pace than the title would suggest.

'Where Are We Now' takes a shift back in darker territories, delivering arguably the most politically-charged track on the album with some rather hard-hitting visual imagery, forming a track that makes you think whilst remaining listenable thanks to its strong production and instrumentation, even if it's a difficult listen.

'No Way' shifts the tone once more, its stripped back acapella-opening with a clap rhythm then a brass-hefty marching pace, this is the most distinctive track on the album, offering something different in production.

The LP wraps up with two live versions - of 'Madness' and 'I'm War' - recovered in a cave (!) which showcase the quality of the band, sounding very reminiscent of the studio versions, before truly ending with the Spada Remix of the title track which adds a bit of extra rhythm to it but doesn't really do anything radical to the track as a hole, basically adding one layer to the already strong song.

One of my favourite new discoveries this year, The Ghibertins' debut is an album you should pick up with plenty to enjoy, even with its dark stylings. (7.5/10)

Reverse Family 365 (Sampler)

Consisting of four tracks this is a rather lo-fi and free-form, almost punky without the punch. 'Sunshade City' with its memorable hook is the best of the four and has the most conventional approach though its riff does keep sounding like it's going to interpolate Gary Numan's 'Cars'. 'We Got It Supreme Positivity' boasts a quirky and noteworthy chorus, its echo effects working well to create an ethereal feel, but its lack of a distinct structure might make some people shy away from it.

'Keep Being the Good Guy' has its moments but it becomes a little bit drawly at times outside of its early White Stripes-esque chorus. 'Dark Pop' is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of sound, with highlights and then moments I'm not a big fan of. This sampler is definitely a mixed bag though there are some interesting moments scattered amongst them. (5/10)

Sarah Walk - Little Black Book

'Little Black Book' is a rather personal, often very much so, downbeat ode to lost love and trying to get it back, and while that could sound relentlessly downbeat it's done in such a way that there is a buzz to the heartbreak-filled songs that start with the attitude and rock of the opening, titular, track. Here Walk is on determined, almost manic, form which continues into the guitar stabs of 'Bored to Death' which asks the question 'I Don't Know What Will Become Us?' and struggles emotionally for an answer.

'Maybe Someday' is more heartfelt and searches for a resolution over a stripped-back piano ballad. 'I'm not ready to let you go / I'm not ready to say goodbye', are two lines of the chorus in what becomes quite a heartfelt ode and hoping for the passage of time to dent feelings.The more sombre style of songs continue with the emotional 'Wake Me Up' though the chorus beefs up up the anger and determined calls for being reunited, the layered production of vocals working really well.

'Still Frames' and 'Time' is gentler and really focuses in on the lyrics, its orchestral breakdown a smooth and heart-wrenching moment as it reaches its soaring heights. 'Can't Slow Down' takes the themes and ups the tempo, with Pink-style shouts of attitude. 'The Remains' is neat, whilst 'Let Me Try' soars to new heights. 'Prettiest Song' is a pleasant listen before 'June' suggests a potential resolution but the heartfelt, personal lyrics keep coming. Closer 'Keep on Dreaming' is arguably the best album on the track, laying hopes of seeing a lover in your dreams over strings, with a strong chorus.

'Little Black Book' is a difficult listen due to its immensely personal lyrics and anguish of Walk's vocals, and it will resonate heavily on those coming out of a relationship, but this personal angle and all the emotions is captured well over the dozen tracks. (8/10)

Strange Hellos - Chromatic

Coming in at ten tracks including an atmospheric instrumental opening number that shares its title with the album 'Chromatic' is a downbeat and sombre piece but one that has several highlights, no less on later track 'Albert' which is the absolute stand out of the record, the Irish-country tinged number the most solidly produced and sung number on the piece, and it drips with heart and longing. 'The Prime' showcases the LP's fuzzy production style that gives it a certain warmth and though the album never seems to showcase much in the way of energy outside of the fuzzy chorus of this track with it's 'I'm Just No Good For You' section, there's something strangely appealing about it.

'Is It Me?' has a Fleetwood Mac and Blondie feeling to it whilst 'Broken Teenage Heart', one of my favourites, has some strong lyrics about romantic break-up. 'Gold for the Golden' has a certain Cranberries feeling to its style and 'We Are Trouble' kicks up the tempo in a very welcome way. Closer 'The Way Home' stretches for six minutes and its darker pace suits the album closer. It's an LP that will take a few listens to bed in but there's plenty to enjoy in this dark, but listenable, collection of songs. (6.5/10)

Tusks - Dissolve

Coming in at ten tracks and just over 36 minutes, Tusks' album 'Dissolve' is a dark, almost sombre, low-key affair that's quite stripped back in its production and downbeat in its delivery, but as a atmospheric, consistent piece it works. From the smooth falsetto and piano-led 'For You' that opens the album, arguably the most distinctive and touching track on the piece, the soundscape built really sticks with you. 'False' builds up to a crescendo not necessarily present elsewhere on the album giving this piece a fair bit of energy, which does drip into track three 'Last' whose raw drum sound punctuates the delightful and ethereal lead vocals. 

The album's titular track is a slower, more somber affair, with the rattle of cymbals accompanying a soaring and heartfelt chorus. '1807' is another atmospheric piece with literal drips of sound whilst 'Paris' has moments of industrial effects amongst its soaring stripes, the production multilayered and enigmatic. 'Ivy' continues the darker vibes whilst 'Toronto' sweeps from drama to more subdued introspection. 'My Love' and the five-minute-plus 'London Thunder' tie things up nicely, the final track offering a clearer sound of the vocals, wrapping up an album that flows from one track to another as one body, creating a sonic atmosphere that pulls you in. (6.5/10)

The Veldt - Thanks to the Moth and Areanna Rose

Standing at six tracks including a remix, this unusually titled album is a sonically dark and gruffly produced piece built around the EP's best track 'Fit to be Tied' with its sad movies choral hook. 'The Colour of Love is Blue' has a Radiohead style to its opening, its falsetto-esque vocals masked a little by the music and its sombre approach not the best way to open proceedings. The faster 'Black and Blue' has more energy but again struggles with the contrast of layers. As mentioned the poppier 'Fit to be Tied' is the best track on the album but a stronger production would make it more radio friendly if the lo-fi style is tweaked. 

'Camus' is a shift in direction with a vocal change that offers something fresh and more urgent thanks to its delivery. 'Dakini' is again more experimental and moves along in a dream-like way, whilst the mix of 'I Like the Way You Talk' see the Veldt on a more introspective style at the start, before getting a little cloudier.

The EP is a strong enough listen though its muddy production is not to my taste and masks the more enjoyable moments of the recording. (5/10)

Watch Clark - First Week of Winter

Stuffed to the rafters with electronica, synth, vocoder and autotune, this is actually a stronger album than that intro would suggest. With music that's more Depeche Mode than Daft Punk there are plenty of stand out songs on the 10 track album particularly the eighties sounding 'Seduction on the Dancefloor' whose chunky beats and catchy chorus will get you moving; the slower but no less hefty 'Missed Opportunities' with its 'overthinking everything sexual' riff that proves to be really catchy; and the slower tempo 'Hole in my Heart' that wraps up a heartfelt ode to being back with an ex that pulls on the heartstrings even disguised in its vocoderised vocals, feeling like the sister song to DP's 'Something About Us'.

Elsewhere we get the pumping opening double act of 'The Warmest Place' and 'New Revision', and the bouncy closer 'Sit Here For A While' which finishes the album off on a high note.

I wasn't too sure when I started on the album but this is a really strong and interesting album with a focused production style and a retro throwback vibe. (7.5/10)

Winter Mountain - I Swear I Flew

This ten track album which gets a major release a year after its initial release is a country-tinged collection of songs with a gentle and toe-tapping style from the opener 'Platinum and Gold' with its catchy mid-tempo chorus. 'Sunlight, Good Roads' is bouncier and portrays the style of travel well. 'The Lucky Ones', with its anthemic chorus, is one of my highlights of the album with its optimistic, singable chorus. The album continues with its smile-inducing uptempo Christmas songs with Irish-hints including 'Banbas Crown' and the rockier 'Things That I've Done Wrong' which bookmarks the slower, more introspective, beautifully sung 'Dragonfly' which pulls at the old heartstrings.

As the album reaches its second half 'The Morning Bell' combines winter imagery and a storytelling style with a smooth vibe; whilst 'Before The Flood' lifts the pace up whilst keeping the traditional vibe alive. As the LP reaches its conclusion 'Open Heart' keeps the energy in a danceable, atmospheric number with a catchy chorus, whilst a snatch of the mouth organ introduces the seasonal slower number 'Fireworks Night' which ties up the ends of a delightfully stripped-back, story-led, country-tinged collection of hits. (7/10)

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