Album Reviews

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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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Round Our Way

Burning Condors

Snakehand Records

Opening in fine fashion with a buzz saw slide guitar that teeters on the edge during Marcus Thompson’s declaration, “That girl never gets what she wants” sounding equally frustrated for the protagonist’s lustful desires, London four-piece Burning Condors debut full-length album ‘Round Our Way’ continues in a similar vein as songs grapple with issues of boredom and despair associated with modern-day living. ‘Killing Time’ is the perfect execution of such frustrations as opportunities fall through the cracks and one is ‘left out in the cold’ greatly emphasised with a midpoint blues- injected guitar before turning in on itself for one final howl of desperation. Title track, ‘Round Our Way’ continues to pick away at the mundanities of modern living with some gritty guitar work before falling for the girl next door of ‘Polka Dot Girl’ and revealing the band’s penchant for punk rock. Elsewhere, ‘Love On The Rocks’ is absolutely drunk on lust while the raw blues of ‘Honey Trap’ offers a respite from the frantic indie guitar rock and instead allowing the harmonica to power this account of a complex and doomed relationship with the clue being in the opening line. It is left to ‘Twisted Kind Of Bliss’ to really emphasise the Burning Condors collectively impacted frustrations as the collapsing noise of guitars and trailing feedback during its conclusion suggest. There is no better time for Burning Condors to make their mark on an unsuspecting music world because it has been some time since bands of similar ilk have reared their heads and created the kind of wild indie rock blues of ‘Round Our Way’.


Released September 2nd

 

Polka Dot Girl (single)

Burning Condors

Snakehand Records

The opening confession of ‘She’s telling me its Primark’ is the perfect introduction and one that owes a debt of gratitude to the Jarvis Cocker school of lyrical songwriting as The Burning Condors kick-off their latest single ‘Polka Dot Girl’ in some style. Musically, there is more of a connection to the punk sounds of the Sex Pistols, complete with pogoing effect and out of tune backing vocals, as the central protagonist salivates over (possibly) his latest conquest straight from one of London’s more dead-end discos. ‘Polka Dot Girl’ is a dirty slice of primitive rock ‘n’ roll that bodes well for the band’s imminent debut album release this September.


Released Out now

 

In These Waters

Mads Langer

Sony

Danish Mads Langer opens up ‘In These Waters’ in broody fashion with hefty electronic beats steadily illuminating ‘Number One’ before lifting the mood with the lyrically playful desires of ‘No Gravity’. Once the indie-pop hooks cast out their lines further – ‘Elephant’, ‘Not Meant To Be Broken’ – the realisation dawns that Mr Langer knows a thing or two about crafting songs with considerable depth yet maintaining a commercial edge. Unfortunately, this is sometimes his undoing as ‘Glass House’ consists of too much gloss and is at odds, for example, with the folk loveliness of title track ‘In These Waters’. Such gripes are minor, however, especially when the penetrating loss of ‘Never Forget You’ with its striking vocal delivery leaves its mark only to be usurped by the closing rawness held in Langer’s throat of standout track ‘Dire Straits’ that renders one utterly speechless.


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Transparency

Ivy League (TX)

Fist In The Air

‘Transparency’ is the debut album from Boston three-piece Ivy League (TX) who deliver a punk rock sound that definitely resides on the perimeters of grunge as songs such as ‘Void’ and ‘Coalesce’ peel back the years to a nineties era. With initial hearings suggesting a band ploughing the same furrow on one too many tracks, persistence will be duly rewarded because this album is a definite grower. The lighter edges of opening song ‘Canopy’ wears its heart on its sleeve and is then duly shattered with the quite brilliant  ‘History Repeats’ stretching itself with, ‘I never want to feel this way again’ only for ‘Losing Sleep’ to reiterate such misgivings . Heartfelt and raw, ‘Transparency’ deserves your attention, just don’t expect immediate gratification.


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Consanguinity

Pariso

Tangled Talk Records

Seemingly falling from nowhere in terms of this second album release due to a non-existent promotional campaign, Pariso return after a year’s absence with ‘Consanguinity’. With Lewis Johns (Gnarwolves, Goodtime Boys, Hexis) on production duties, the songs lining the four walls of this sophomore album lightly purport to family relations and the ties that exist, which is perhaps wise considering use of the Norwegian phrasebook when drumming up a title for ‘Trolljegeren’. It is the manner in which ‘Consanguinity’ really grabs at the senses from the off with its raw intensity but also competing layers of guitar with ‘The Separation’ setting itself up as a perfect example before ‘Maniai’ muscles its way past with its shuffling yet dense rhythm. If there is to be a standout track here, however, then ‘Tower of Genus’ conjures up some magic midway through its brief duration with a surprising turn of events in the vocal department that suggests there is a lot more to come from Pariso.


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The Blessed Unrest

Sara Bareilles

Epic Records

(Very) American indie-pop is the order of the day when it comes to Sara Bareilles third outing ‘The Blessed Unrest’. There are terrific vocals throughout this album and some very intelligent compositions to be had with the hidden depths and leading piano of ‘Hercules’ and the delicate introspection of ‘Manhattan’ with the barest hint of brass instrumentation passing through at various intervals. ‘Satellite Call’ follows in similar fashion but weighs slightly more heavily on the brooding side of things before opening skyward on Bareilles signature vocal. While there may be some cynics deeming ‘The Blessed Unrest’ as mere TV fodder (i.e. the perfect accompaniment to the latest string of US dramas) such notions remain unwise, despite the obvious initial familiarities, because Sara Bareilles has produced a thought-provoking body of work with much to offer if given the time.



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