Album Reviews

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Last Train Home (single)

Burning Condors

Snakehand Records

Possibly Britain’s hardest working band and definitely prolific when it comes to single releases, Burning Condors unveil ‘Last Train Home’ from their debut album ‘Round Our Way’. Normal service prevails as ‘Last Train Home’ reveals the band’s cross-pollination of influences whereby a gritty indie sound has a habit of meeting up with its distant neighbour over the pond consisting of a more rootsy American flavour and, in this instance, the end result is a catchy ditty reflecting on the moment love takes a firm hold. The flipside ‘Gambling Hearts’ – recorded at Sawmills Studios that has seen the likes of Oasis and Muse committing various wares to tape – opens in a wonderful distorted tremolo effect and supported with rolling drums that paves the way for a more restrained vocal that offers a dash of variety. If it’s variation you’re searching for, however, then head to the band’s Bandcamp page for a real treat with a version of Red Foley’s ‘Never Trust A Woman’ as it is something rather special indeed.


Released November 12

 

Departures/Moose Blood EP

Departures/Moose Blood

Fist In The Air & No Sleep Records

As far as EPs go, this joint effort from Departures and Moose Blood is definitely up there with the best of them. Kicking off proceedings with equal amounts melodic guitars combining with an impassioned vocal is Departures ‘A Song For The Sunset’ sounding at the end of its tether in its declaration “everything goes full circle”. Second offering ‘Closing Doors’ is equally claustrophobic in the lyrical department but is set to a less frantic rhythm yet retains a burly edge that heightens the raw emotions spilling forth. Moose Blood follow in similar fashion with heartfelt lyrics detailing the finer details of relationships but with a slightly lighter edge when it comes to their overall sound. With that said, however, the two new compositions – ‘Stay Here’ and ‘Girl’ – see Moose Blood evolving to greater heights as there is a real sense of a band honing their craft and coming up with the goods. Such progression is notable for the harder edges of ‘Girl’ as it accelerates towards its conclusion, but also for the manner in which the band rein in any loose strands by creating tighter song structures that leave longer lasting impressions. There is simply no separating these two bands as this EP is one heck of a triumph.


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Mechanical Bull

Kings Of Leon

Columbia

Something of a return to previous glories after the damp squib that was ‘Come Around Sundown’, ‘Mechanical Bull’ is the sound of a band rediscovering their form. ‘Supersoaker’ is the natural opener as it is full of vim and passion, setting things up nicely for the rest of its contents. Look no further than the aching qualities, in more ways than one, of ‘Burnt Out’ that slows the pace a little before applying the gas once again with the charged ‘Don’t Matter’. The Kings Of Leon’s ability to scribble a stirring ballad sees no subsiding with ‘Beautiful War’ and in the process reveals a band still smarting, considering their last album’s critical reception, and all the better for it once hearing the surging guitars of ‘Coming Back Again’ and – take your pick – ‘Comeback Story’ and ‘On The Chin’ to suggest that they still care.


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Weapon In Mind

Maria Mena

Sony

Interesting is definitely the word to use when describing Maria Mena’s latest album ‘Weapon In Mind’. Starting off in trademark fashion with vocals that suggest hope  when pretty much all else has failed, ‘Interesting’ literally takes its moniker to heart and decides to erupt during its chorus in flashes of electronica and a vocal that is abrasive as it hollers behind its sweeter sounding sibling. The honest confessions of ‘F*** You’ is reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ lyrically, in the sense that it leaves nothing to the imagination and this remains its undoing despite the beautiful, soaring qualities of the music. Such negativity stretches to the grating vocal delivery during the chorus of ‘All The Love’ before normal service resumes with the introspective and beautiful vocals of ‘I Always Like That’ and darker tones of ‘Madness’ with its moments of wonderful tumbling guitar sounds. ‘I Love You Too’ is skeletal in its arrangements with the faintest hint of piano and Maria softly singing, “It’s not been an easy ride, no count of the tears I’ve cried” that will have you reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex to help stem the tide due to this tearjerker. Things take a slight dip once more with the rather pedestrian ‘You Make Me Feel Good’, only for the head turning curiosity ‘You’re All Telling Stories’ and shadowy ‘Lover Let Me In’ that propels ‘Weapon In Mind’ to the heights of previous glories. As said previously, interesting is definitely the right choice of word because despite its flaws ‘Weapon In Mind’ finds its targets more than it misses.

 


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Flightless Birds (single)

Svalbard

Tangled Talk Records

Svalbard being a cluster of islands situated in the Arctic Ocean and constituting the northernmost part of Norway, is a far distant cry from its musical namesake situated in the city of Bristol. It seems fitting, however, that such desolate islands receives recognition when hearing the isolated and frustrated emotions running through this four-piece band. Immediately launching in to a vocal and sonic assault that is equally raw and melodic, ‘Flightless Birds’ is a song on the verge of losing all hope and terrified at the prospect of remaining grounded as indicated by the lead vocal that is hanging by the merest of threads. The flipside, ‘For What It’s Worth’ offers no respite from the crushing disappointment felt within, compellingly played out with moments of Fugazi-esque vocals rubbing shoulders with the more frequent and harsher sounds. It looks like Tangled Talk Records has an emerging talent on their hands.


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Mire

Stallone

Tangled Talk & Enjoyment Records

Being hailed as one of the most impressive debut albums in recent memory, Stallone release ‘Mire’ via Tangled Talk and Enjoyment Records. A seven-track playlist that doesn’t hang around for too long due to its frenetic pace, the working progression was in fact a much longer period and clearly evident with the attention to detail throughout. Look no further than the red hot ‘As A Serpent’ spitting bile and climaxing in heap of blaring guitars. The equally impressive ‘Without A Home’ maintains the intensity yet is slightly more spacious than its predecessor with moments of reflection before giving way to pummelling guitars. The jaw-droppingly good ‘A Chalice’ highlights a range of influences that the band appear to incorporate with ease yet churn out with painstaking attention to detail as evidenced here. Technically astute and screaming from the heart, Stallone is heading for a very bright future indeed.


Released Out now

 

Rewind The Film

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

The Manic Street Preachers return after a three-year hiatus with new album ‘Rewind The Film’. As with previous album ‘Postcards From A Young Man’, ‘Rewind The Film’ calls on various collaborators to add their own unique touches. Such is the desire for outside input from the Manics these days that album opener ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’ ushers in Warwickshire singer-songwriter Lucy Rose from the start, but not before James Dean Bradfield’s faint and almost nursery rhyme announcement, “I don’t want my children to grow up like me”. Next up is more modern era sounding Manic Street Preachers with the polished brass and soul influence of ‘Show Me The Wonder’, revealing the band’s penchant for the occasional ‘hit’ single in mind. With Richard Hawley stealing the show in trademark baritone vocal during title track ‘Rewind The Film’, the mood of this whole album is one that is both reflective on the past and the present; the latter of which is relayed with the overfamiliarity of one’s surroundings ‘Running Out Of Fantasy’. A more minimalist affair than previous recordings, ‘Rewind The Film’ may well be the Manic’s swansong or the first step toward a new direction judging by the uncharacteristic and warped sounds of nearly instrumental ‘Manorbier’. Only time will tell.


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MGMT

MGMT

Columbia

Stripping back the paintwork and splashes of colour, MGMT – aka Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser – return with their third studio album under the same name. While it is difficult to comprehend comments of ‘ground breaking’ and ‘pushing the boundaries’ at various times – Bowie was living a futuristic lifestyle long before ‘Alien Days’ – MGMT is still offering a tad more in the experimentation department when it comes to their contemporaries. What is particularly pleasing about this self-titled collection, however, is the usage of fewer colours and in its place a colder and greyer climate found with the tribal electronic rhythm of ‘Cool Song No. 2’ that will definitely not win any awards for being instantaneous and ditto the cold chamber delivery of ‘Mystery Disease’ sounding far removed from events taking place on planet Earth. ‘Your Life Is A Lie’ seems to inherit the same oddball pop territory of They Might Be Giants but with a more serious demeanour, only to be buried by the following multi-layered electronica of ‘A Good Sadness’ offering a fitting summary overall.

 


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Everything I Am Not (single)

Down The Machine

Ambicon Records

Recalling the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden but closer to Richard Patrick of Filter when it comes to the vocals, Down The Machine gear up for a new album release in 2014 with a brand new single to whet the appetite. ‘Everything I Am Not’ is a very impressive indication of what is to come with a steadily building tempo of industrial electronica via Depeche Mode’s ‘Violator’ that really jolts to life when the realisation sinks in that one’s existence is not quite up to scratch, “You are everything I am not”. If Down The Machine can reproduce this sort of form, then next year’s full-length player promises to be an exciting prospect.


Released Out now

 

What’s Left Is Forever

Thomas Dybdahl

Petroleum Records / Sony Music

Back in 2002, ‘…that Great October Sound’ was the first introduction to a man and his music that suggested a hermitic existence deep in the pine forests of Norway with a fragile and unconventional vocal being his only defence. Fast forward to the present, and the darker shades of green have been exchanged for the golden beaches of LA in an attempt to break, or at least get a foothold in the increasingly difficult American music market. ‘What’s Left Is Forever’ is Thomas Dybdahl’s latest album, and it has definitely been worth the wait. Relinquishing control over production duties and introducing legendary producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell fame) was a masterstroke as ‘What’s Left Is Forever’ is the sound of an artist being able to concentrate on the songs, which in turn has allowed for a considerable looseness and variation to the album as a whole. ‘Running On Fumes’ is one such example with its initial sparse beats that eventually gather increasing splashes of sound before concluding in brief applause. ‘Shine’ gives the impression of classic Dybdahl with delicate vocals accompanied by the barest of instrumentation until an electric guitar forces its entrance in a bullish manner shaking the song to life and bringing fresh vigour to his voice. The ethereal qualities of ‘Easy Tiger’ reflects the desires to explore other avenues, even if that requires a measure of patience, whereas the sweeping pop of ‘Man On A Wire’ reveals Dybdahl not only at his best but also suggests there is much creativity left to come.


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Later…When The TV Turns To Static

Glasvegas

BMG

After the mixed critical reaction that was ‘Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, Glasvegas return with third album ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’. There is a real sense of getting back to basics here, as Glasvegas swap the LA landscape of their previous recording for a return to their home roots of Glasgow. With frontman James Allan taking the helm on production duties as well, the outside world is definitely locked out for the moment. Opening song, and title track, ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’ appears to reflect the aforementioned difference of opinion regarding Glasvegas’  second effort, as James Allan sounds like a man with his tail between his legs reflecting on what might have been, only to reopen such sores during the fragile ‘Choices’. ‘All I Want Is My Baby’ is in part a stinging response to the financial greed of certain industries (take your pick) and a further realisation that the grass isn’t always greener. It remains, however, the unconventional manner in which James Allan transmits these narratives in his almost slurred Glaswegian burr that sometimes lends itself to spoken word passages – the affecting ‘I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Be With You)’ – that captures the imagination before noting the difficult job the rest of Glasvegas have to contend with in terms of shaping their melodies to fit such awkward yarns. There was never an issue of a comeback album as ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’ is merely a continuation of the creative success of their two previous bodies of work. Welcome back Glasvegas.


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Everything I Let Go And The Things I Refuse To

Old Gray

Dog Knights Productions

Hot on the heels of their deserved critical success for debut album ‘An Autobiography’, Old Gray decide to revisit a former release that sold-out on its first pressing due to heavy demand. ‘Everything I Let Go And The Things I Refuse To’ will see light of day once more through Dog Knights Productions. All four tracks making up this EP provides clear indications of the work that proceeded with the band’s full-length album as there are nods to Explosions In The Sky with delicate guitars ‘359 Pine’ and ‘Resonance’; the latter of which builds to a crescendo and aided by impassioned vocals as Old Gray let out their hearts the only way they know how to. Honest and worthy of your attention.



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