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Women

Halden Electric

Home On The Range Records / Rootsy

When it came to Halden Electric’s third album, any notion of the creativity department being bereft of ideas was simply non-existent. When most artists struggle to find the form which promised so much on first album outings, Halden Electric not only had enough material to reach fourth base, but also a finely tuned balance of songs consisting of acoustic and electric and therefore a double album was born. The end result is ‘Women’; a twenty track collection spanning a variety of emotions and best listened to during several shifts due to the sheer amount of detail between its covers. ‘Loving Coming To Life’ is the best possible introduction with its barebones beginning of mandolin and forlorn vocal that tries its best to convince the future holds much promise when in fact it’s quite the opposite. ‘Always You’ leans towards Americana as it brings a glow musically, despite holding much heartbreak at its centre with downright weepy utterings, “I don’t take roads that don’t lead to you”. Wonderful steel strings and various other musical accompaniments try their hardest to perk up the downtrodden sentiments of ‘Everything You Love’, which is proceeded by an even greater effort with an almost a cappella ‘Light Your Lantern’ adding further vindication that the decision for a double album was the right one considering the breadth of creativity. The brooding ‘I Don’t Think It’s Funny’ complete with the merest hint of vocal harmonising during its chorus carries the song to its conclusion, only having to sidestep a brief interlude straight out of The Beatles handbook circa White album before arriving at the self-confessed, “It’s gonna do me a lot of good to get away from myself”.

Side two really opens up the wounds further as there is no respite for the hapless victim(s) at the end of these tales of heartbreak as ‘No More Love’ fully indicates with its distorted bluesy guitars and thumping backbeat owing a considerable debt to the White Stripes. The sonic distortion prevails in superb fashion with scuzzy guitars dragging ‘These Wounds’ through the mire. ‘I Don’t Want To’ tones things down musically and reveals its fondness for Neil Young due to possessing an aching quality on several different levels. The tension felt during ‘How Much Attention’ is certainly exerted via scorched guitars and a distorted vocal that is close to boiling over with its persistent questioning. Red hot guitars persist throughout ‘Good To Be Alone’ before ‘Trust Your Love’ brings the curtain down on this immense album with a final realisation that the same trust is to be invested once more if the dream is to be realised. ‘Women’ is an album of two halves that is equally intense and honest when it comes to its confessionary tales revealing a severely tested heart, but thankfully one that is not willing to call time just yet.


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Sånger om oss

Lisa Nilsson

Sony

With elements of folk and jazz instrumentation, Lisa Nilsson returns to the spotlight with ‘Sånger om oss’. There is much quality here and rightly so considering Nilsson’s longstanding as a musician and remaining one of Sweden’s top artists. Beginning with brass instrumentation and then proceeded with an acoustic guitar before given the big band treatment that knows how to keep its distance, ‘Var är du min vän’ is reminiscent of the kind of song Paul McCartney was peddling during the latter stages of The Beatles circa ‘Let It Be’ but in this instance Nilsson’s vocal is more in tune with folk than anything pop. The balance is addressed during title track ‘Sånger om oss’ that receives a modern pop sheen and as a result reveals a delightfully uplifting chorus that has hit single written all over it. ‘Tillbaka’ receives similar treatment with occasional dashes of electronica but is more introspective in its outlook and never really threatens to breakout. ‘Kom hem’ continues the introspection further bringing to the fore its folk roots in brooding fashion whereas ‘Dåliga dagar’ overturns such darkened corners, despite its title alluding to such things, as Nilsson is almost on the verge of rockin’ out with one foot on the piano keys à la Jerry Lee Lewis…wishful thinking of course. As it stands, ‘Sånger om oss’ is a triumphant return.

                                                                  


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Stay True

Danny & The Champions of the World

Loose Music

With a UK tour underway, Danny & The Champions of the World have every reason to feel a sense of gratification regarding the critical appraisal currently bestowed upon them for latest effort ‘Stay True’. A measure of self-satisfaction is more than granted when listening to the warm, country-tinged ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’ as frontman Danny George Wilson recollects fragments of memories of family relations and a jukebox crammed with 50s nostalgia. ‘Cold Cold War’ is played out accordingly with its subdued country feel and downbeat soulful vocal striving to hold together a failing relationship. Similar ground can be found with ‘Stop Thief!’ that somehow manages to wade through the tears to deliver a vocal of the highest order with shades of early Springsteen. Radiating a warm musical ambience yet teetering on the edge lyrically, ‘Stay True’ is an honest and raw document of a band clearly at ease with itself and entering the form of its life.


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Feels Like Home

Sheryl Crow

Warner Music Norway

Surprisingly, ‘Feels Like Home’ is Sheryl Crow’s first country album as there are shades of country aligned with her more rock roots dating back to first album ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’. That said, ‘Feels Like Home’ is definitely a straight country-rock record that is more at home at the commercial end of the market than the scuffed edges of the Americana scene. ‘Shotgun’ is one such example, full of swagger and immediate hooks coupled with some lovely mandolin rising above the country-rock strings. ‘Easy’ has Sheryl Crow written all the way through its centre with its catchy chorus, and this time relying a bit more on her pop influences, but it remains a song that could have graced much of her previous works. There is a lovely sweeping quality about ‘Give It To Me’, due to various orchestral strings residing in the background, which is in stark contrast to the quirky edges of ‘We Oughta Be Drinkin’, “But some nights are made for staying at home, roll a big fat one and watch Nashville alone” which is apt considering the majority of ‘Feels Like Home’ could soundtrack said TV show. But with the cynicism of ‘Crazy Ain’t Original These Days’, deeply melancholic ‘Homesick’ that really tugs at the heartstrings and proceeded with more quality ‘Homecoming Queen’ and jagged barbs of the fully aware ‘Best Of Times’, ‘Feels Like Home’ contains a few more hidden depths than its immediate polish suggests.


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The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement

Warner Music Norway

With the Temperance Movement’s only other release to date being the five-track EP ‘Pride’ (2012), the band’s first long player is a highly accomplished affair that draws, in part, on a 70s rock sound with elements of blues and folk-tinged roots. Despite early warnings suggesting the Black Crowes had been on heavy rotation leading up to the making of the band’s debut album (‘Only Friend’), it was reassuring to hear less ballsy rockers such as the tender ‘Pride’ and simply gorgeous ‘Chinese Lanterns’ constructed on aspects of folk and country. What separates The Temperance Movement, however, is the understated quality in their songwriting and actual delivery that keeps feet planted firmly on ground without a necessity to sound overblown during their more raucous moments as ‘Morning Riders’ and blues rock of ‘Know For Sure’. The simple fact remains, however, when the amps are turned down low The Temperance Movement shine to greater heights as clearly heard with the exquisite beauty of ‘Lovers and Fighters’.


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The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae

Warner Music Norway

Let’s get one thing straight as this is not what FLW was expecting when it came to Janelle Monae’s latest album ‘The Electric Lady’. Considering the cover art giving the impression of a Motown era Diana Ross & The Supremes, our ears were in fact treated to a glorious mix of weird and wonderful funk, pop and soul influenced songs. Early indications that this body of work was not going to be a straightforward Motown collection can be gleaned from ‘Suite IV Electric Overture’ that would grace any opening to a Bond movie, via a brief pit stop with Tarantino, with its western flavoured guitar followed by sweeping orchestral strings assuming full control. ‘Givin Em What They Love’ with its strident vocal delivery and echo beats is appropriately followed by the equally forceful ‘Q.U.E.E.N’ bringing to the fore Janelle’s desire for this latest release to reflect the strong matriarchal figures in her life and need for recognition of such women.  With various collaborations ranging from Erykah Badu to Solange lending a hand with the more direct pop/funk of ‘Electric Lady’, as well as the intriguing and often humorous interludes with DJ Crash – Crash, there is clearly much to digest due to the breadth of creativity on offer (i.e. compare ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ with ‘Look Into My Eyes’) but also lengthy running time. That said, ‘The Electric Lady’ is an audacious album that more often than not delivers in style.


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Love In The Future

John Legend

Columbia

Weighing in with a colossal 20 tracks, ‘Love In The Future’ sees the return of John Legend on prolific form. Having won at the Grammys an incredible nine times, Legend can afford himself the luxury of letting out the creative juices and coming up with such soulful gems as ‘Who Do We Think We Are’, featuring Rick Ross on dual vocal duties. The striking honesty and piano balladry of ‘All Of Me’ is exquisite and remains giddy on love with the proceeding ‘Hold On Longer’ expertly portrayed by means of its looser texture. The freeform of ‘Tomorrow’ contains elements of jazz combined with soul that really opens up when Legend confesses, “It’s our time, it’s our evening, don’t let it slip away, tomorrow’s too late” suggesting an artist clearly living in the moment and willing to take chances. ‘Love In The Future’ is an album rich in creativity and one that is not afraid to wear its heart proudly on its sleeve.


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Ghost Republic

Willard Grant Conspiracy

Loose Music

This is beautiful, beautiful music. Recorded in Massachusetts and no doubt in the wee small hours, David Michael Curry and Robert Fisher alias Willard Grant Conspiracy have crafted an album consisting of thirteen songs with the merest of instruments – viola and acoustic guitar – and sounding as if taken in one whole sitting as one can almost hear the furniture creaking. With the majority of the songs expressed in fragile hushed tones and aided by the atmospheric and deft musicianship bringing the songs to life – ‘Rattle and Hiss’ is one such example – ‘Ghost Republic’ sounds as desolate as the imagery of barren landscapes its songs reflect. There is considerable darkness penetrating throughout and evidenced by ‘The Early Hour’ as it steadily awakes from its slumber, strings tweaking and groaning, before walking out into the early morning light portrayed to great effect by a tetchy electric guitar. ‘Incident At Mono Lake’ appears to pick up the pieces where its predecessor left off, as a sprawling howl of feedback illuminates the climaxing tension. There is definite genius at work here, only in this instance it is the work of geniuses as ‘Ghost Republic’ is a dark atmospheric masterpiece.


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Way Down Low

Kat Edmonson

Sony

Hailing from Texas, Kat Edmonson’s ‘Way Down Low’ is largely a jazz-inspired album that emanates an old-time quality overall. Look no further than the reworking of Brian Wilson’s ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ that is definitely at home in its supper club environment somewhere in New York City as Edmondson’s vocal fills the void to a delicate jazz arrangement. There are traces of folk as well with the gorgeous ‘I Don’t Know’ and fingerpicking intro ‘What Else Can I Do’ that eventually paves way for more jazz references. The duet with Lyle Lovett, ‘Long Way Home’ is a real delight as it’s delivered with the bare minimum of instrumentation allowing for the merest hint of western swing without breaking into full flow. The closing ‘S Wonderful’ really transports the listener back to a more primitive time and suggests that Kat Edmonson was also made for an altogether different period in history. ‘Way Down Low’ is a truly exceptional experience.


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Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10

Bob Dylan

Columbia

Spread out over a two-disc set, ‘Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 ‘ is the newest release from Bob Dylan. With a considerably hefty 35 tracks to wade through of rarities and previously unreleased recordings, Bob Dylan reworks traditional and contemporary folk songs without forgetting compositions of his own; ‘Went To See The Gypsy’ is one such example straight off the bat that evokes abstract memories of the latter 60s period whereas ‘Minstrel Boy’ really projects the ambiance of the basement approach to this recording.  It has been cited that ‘Another Self Portrait (1969 – 1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10’ was considered Dylan’s most controversial periods – the transition from the 60s – 70s playing its part – yet at the same time induced a prolific bout of creativity. Considering the aforementioned number of songs covered here and the breadth of narratives – the fantastic ‘Railroad Bill’ for one – it is not difficult to comprehend why this release has been provided with such a description. More than just filler, ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait’ is an essential addition to all serious collectors but also not a bad place to start for those of the uninitiated to Bob Dylan and his music.


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Made Up Mind

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Sony

Sporting the sight of a buffalo on a collision course with a steam train during the latter’s early inception to the wild west perhaps best describes the music on offer with Tedeschi Trucks Band’s second album ‘Made Up Mind’ as there is a real collision of styles whether blues, soul, folk or rock. Despite this melting pot of varying styles, Tedeschi Trucks Band manage to make things work largely due to such deft musicianship but also wondrous vocals supplied by Susan Tedeschi. Where this combination of styles works best is the gutsy blues-rocker ‘Whiskey Legs’, Tedeschi’s vocal emphasising the abrasiveness to great effect; guitar-driven zip of ‘Made Up Mind’ and two ballad-esque numbers ‘It’s So Heavy’ and more stripped-down ‘Calling Out To You’. Despite all of this greatness, ‘Do I look Worried’ steals the plaudits with its powerful, soulful delivery that is resolutely defiant in its beliefs and ably supported with some lovely brass instrumentation and raucous bluesy guitar work.


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På Rett Kjøl (single)

Bjørn Eidsvåg

Sony

Taken from forthcoming long player ‘Far Faller’, ‘På Rett Kjøl’ witnesses Norway’s Bjørn Eidsvåg team up with fellow Norwegian Kurt Nilsen to deliver a cleverly-crafted song about trying to keep a lid on those inner demons, which is never easy at the best of times. The thin veil of disguise with the almost ghostly quality of the musical accompaniment gives an indication of the thoughts alluded to as ‘På Rett Kjøl’ is a cunning ditty that possesses equal amounts of uplifting qualities. A more restrained Kurt Nielsen proves to be a masterstroke as well, as the dual vocals complement one another without overstating their undoubted qualities. A very intriguing precursor to a much-anticipated album.



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