Hymns has Bloc Party with new members, new influences and a new sound. Real question: is it any good?
Bowie recreates his sound and himself yet again on his latest and last album Blackstar which takes on a life of its own after his death.
New Years Resolution for this site: stop starting every article about new bands by creating context about how music in Scotland is thriving. We all know that by now and while it may have become a cliché, it’s not become any less true: King Tuts have a whole month just dedicated to up and coming bands so they can showcase their love of what they do (but more about that in my Echo Valley gig review later).
What may also come across as cliché at this stage is how much I enjoy Glasgow band Codist’s work. Whilst I may have stumbled across them in atypical fashion (my bus was late and I arrived just in time to see them support), their non apologetic approach to mixing their influences with their own zesty, catchy sound had me hooked from the get go.
And while I may find it difficult to go the rest of this review without making some science related joke, Nuclear Family provides a breath of fresh air into Scottish rock music while also paying ode to the very bands who made the genre what it is: like a musical Star Wars if you will.
Being hailed as a “Scottish Nirvana” by online publications doesn’t help when it comes to the pressure you’ll face when making an album but it’s clear that the band haven’t been titled this just for those moody expressions in the photo above. Take for instance Sudden Valley, the fourth track on this LP that packs all the gritty rifts and distortion you’d expect from the pioneers of Grunge.
This same dreary, almost angst ridden sound pops up before on Puddle, my own personal favourite off this release which manages to bring back memories of Blackened Sky era Biffy with some equally beautiful lyrics about “why you can feel your insides glow”. Whilst we’re talking about lyrics, it should be said that the vocal performances on Nuclear Family are particularly enjoyable with Tom Fraser and Phillip Ivers both lending their voices for the tracks on show.
It’s not all doom and gloom on this record however. Things get off to a particularly smooth start with Zamboni which, while also containing deformed sounding vocals like Sudden Valley, manages to use it in a more appealing manner. This rings especially true in the chorus that’s so impossible not to have stuck inside your head for the rest of the day, just like the band managed with tracks on their Loverscruff EP last year with some even making reappearances on this record. A track which just screams blue album era Weezer.
One of the most important moments in the world of new music is the much talked about debut album which brings with it a whole array of questions: Will it be as good as their EPs? Will they change their sound at all? Will they all get haircuts and start wearing leather jackets? Whilst the last questions remains to be seen, Codist have most definitely delivered a debut album that delivers on the promise of previous releases whilst also showing glimmers of further potential in bucket-loads. The quintessential debut album.
The Black Keys aren’t exactly new to the music scene. In their career that has spanned 13 years, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have released 7 albums that have gathered praise from critics and rock fans alike, most notably their 2010 release Brothers which brought the duo a lot of commercial success as they were now a grammy winning household name. Have the Ohio boys managed to continue their golden run with Turn Blue or has the success finally came to a halt?
One thing that you can rely the Black Keys delivering the goods on is production values and Turn Blue isn’t any different. Co-Producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton returns to lend a helping hand after assisting on El Camino and Brothers and his involvement really shows, managing to use the band’s blues rock canvas and fine stroking every detail that adds to the artistic brilliance of this album. This isn’t just a one man effort like it may have been back when the band started off as Auerbach and Carney are well regarded producers themselves with Dan assisting the likes of Lana Del Rey while Patrick has helped with lower profile bands like The Sheepdogs. You’d expect too many producers meddling with the sound to spoilt it but it does just the opposite.
After 8 albums, you’d expect Auerbach and Carney’s quality song-writing and talent to slip somewhat but you’d be wrong. The title track manages to highlight Auerbach’s falsetto voice’s finesse which prowls after Carney’s pitter patter drums which help to create a song that’s large in scale and one that needs to be listened through earphones, as advised by the duo, to really experience every fine detail that it captivates. Fever, the record’s first single, has an almost cyborg sounding background noise at the start and the rest of the track is just as interesting, showing the duo’s funkiness and an organ melody that once you’ve heard, you’ll fall in love with instantly. In Time features some ghostly vocals that are weirdly seductive sounding at the same time, as if Patrick Swayze somehow made his way onto the track. One of Turn Blue’s highlights has to be opening track Weight Of Love that has an intro so reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Speak To Me/ Breathe that you can see the 70’s influence escaping from your earphones. At 7 minutes long, it ‘s dangerously close to overstaying it’s welcome but its absence would definitely be one that would be missed.
Other critics, I’m looking at you NME, might complain that Turn Blue isn’t like the band’s previous outings but when an alteration of the formula sounds as funky, psychedelic and overall amazing as Black Key’s latest record is, is that really a bad thing? The duo’s golden run is still continuing and at this rate, it’ll be one to make Dorothy herself jealous.
Whether you like to call it the 2000’s or the noughties,there’s no doubt that the decade was a very exciting time for music as not only were applauded albums by former well praised bands released, Radiohead’s Kid A as an example, but the new wave of bands not only surprised critics but intrigued them as well with bands like Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys releasing some of the best albums to be released in the past 15 years.
One band that can proudly admit to being a part of this new wave are The Strokes, an American rock band that hail from New York, who came out of nowhere to not only release one of the most exciting pieces of music in the past couple of decades but also change the face of modern rock as we know it.
Throughout this album, there’s an ever present mood and atmosphere that are wonderfully brought to life by various aspects of the band, be it Casablancas’ hauntingly mesmerising voice which narrates the 11 tracks on this album, the dexterous and dazzling guitar performances by Valensi, Hammond Jnr and Fraiture or Moretti’s consistent flow that he provides on drums.
The songs on this album are of a very high standard and observe the life and times of living in a metropolis such as New York City. A song which represents this very well is the opening track Is This It? that tells of the manipulation that relationships can be a victim of with Casablanca’s voice hovering gracefully over the sound of quiet drums and a calming choir of guitars and this same theme continues over to Last Nite. This track gained the band a lot of initial hype and tells of the disappointment and aggravation that relationships can provide over time with a very upbeat tempo which will stick in your mind long after the album is finished.
New York City Cops is clearly a not so sly hit at the city’s police department with a tongue in cheek snort at the end that adds to the album’s unique charisma. Take It Or Leave It is the concluding track and what a send off it is with Casablancas shouting over a hyperactive clash of drums and guitars that provide a brilliant album for the band’s debut.
What else can be said about an album that hasn’t been said by the hundreds of thousands of people that have listened to it? The album not only provides an insight into life in New York City but also provides the kind of character and charm that most albums can only dream of having. The album is a milestone is music and it’s no surprise that the album is regarded as one of the best albums ever made and the thing that makes me appreciate the album is even though the themes on this album were initially to give an insight of a life in a metropolis, it’s oddly relatable and explains why the album is cherished by music lovers all around the world as well as showing why this album is the greatest record produced during the noughties.