Track Review: King Krule – Czech One

By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

It has now been four years since Archy Marshall released an album under his most popular of his many monikers, King Krule, but he has signalled that the wait is almost over, with the release of this new track, Czech One.

Since his debut album however, Krule released an album under his birth name two years ago, and on A New Place 2 Drown, he departed from his signature guitar rythym and howling vocals to a more electronic and relaxed sound matched with more a laid back vocal delivery. In hindsight, whether his material as Archy Marshall was as impressive as his previous work, it was a smart choice to release it under a different name, as it wouldn’t be billed as The Sophomore Album, which many artists undoubtedly dread. This way Krule was able to delve into new sounds and ideas whilst still being able to go fresh into a second King Krule album.

After hearing the return of King Krule with this new track, it’s clear he has made the detour as Archy Marshall worthwhile. Czech One opens with a sparse piano backing track reminiscent of A New Place 2 Drown, accompanied with a similar soothing delivery, perhaps even more relaxed than before, verging on a spoken word style. Krule doesn’t hide the source of these influences, referencing that album almost by name numerous times in the first half of the track as he talks about finding “a place to hide”, “a place to moan” or “a place to write”. Perhaps this is Krule offering an explanation for his need to perform under his birth name, but either way this track announces his return as King Krule but acknowledges the importance of Archy Marshall.

Halfway through the track the piano melody dissipates into a burst of jazz-tinged sounds which incorporates Krule’s ability to slip in and out of genres so effortlessly that he demonstrated on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. There is a lot going on in this track, perhaps too much for it to be an album track and it may more likely be a bridge connecting both his previous albums to this one, where Archy Marshall and King Krule become one.

Whatever this track may mean or foreshadow, it is definitely a good sign for things to come from Krule and he shows no desire to rest on his laurels and continues to expand musically. With an album clearly on the horizon, King Krule has heightened anticipation with this track and hopefully will deliver on its potential.

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EP Review: Atlas Run – Depths

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

Burying their way into your skin without a moment’s hesitation with an infectious song is a feat many bands aspire to but very few manage to achieve. That’s not to say that acts who fail to do so are bad, more that the challenge of getting someone to put a song of yours on loop is increasingly more difficult in the digital age, especially when you’re a small act who have only recently just started having a stab at the whole “making music” thing.

So when first chucking Atlas Run‘s debut EP Depths on for a spin, you might find yourself happily surprised by how quickly you’ll find yourself listening to opening single Chasing The Storm on repeat – there’s that catchy pop appeal meshed with an indie rock sound not unlike something Foals would conduct on Total Life Forever, an album that bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Depths with its aquatic theme. The hook is simple and effective, allowing listeners both old and new to find themselves intrigued by twangy Scottish vocals followed up by some seductive, sonic guitars in the succeeding verses. It’s very much the track that any band would sell their soul to bash out at live shows and Atlas Run make a smart move by making this the first taste from the EP.

Starting off a record with your strongest track, whether it be an extended play or full length release, can be seen as shooting as yourself in the foot and while this may hold true even with Depths, it doesn’t mean that what comes after is sub-par by any stretch. Open Water faces the task of following up this catchy opening track and does a fairly solid job of it with synths packing this almost Hot Fuss-esque sound, making you wonder if the band had knicked a Nord Lead 2X from Brandon Flowers and co. The comparison between drinking and drowning isn’t inherently original but the way the sound submerges the listener gives it that extra layer, leading you to believe that the band are at the very least observant with their work.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Rose may initially fool you at first with what sounds like an acoustic ballad, a cliche too many acts are still falling into, but it eventually metamorphoses into this decent wee love song with some pounding backing instrumentals that help the band to regain the energy and force that make them nice to listen to. Then there’s In My Defence which is probably the closest the band comes to channelling an alt-rock sound with washed out guitars and an almost glitchy production providing a taste of something different though it never gets to spread its wings.

With all said and done, Atlas Run‘s challenge of standing out in a genre that is so popular, especially in the Scottish music scene, is certainly a gargantuan one. Even if it seems that they haven’t completed it perfectly, they sure as hell show the makings of a band who aren’t just following the footsteps of those before them – they’re just as ready to start their own path on the sand, no matter the difficulty.

6.5/10


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Do OK Computer’s Missing Pieces Fit?

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

It goes without saying that Radiohead’s seminal OK Computer needs no introduction. The record’s place on countless “greatest album of all time” lists speaks for itself. However, rather than awards or reviews; one of the greatest tributes to the record has come from Radiohead themselves. The Oxford five-piece have been praised for constantly innovating over their 30-year career without ever standing still. However, when their landmark OK Computer turned 20 this year, it caused the groundbreaking Radiohead to look back for possibly the first time in their career, to release the OK Computer OKNOTOK reissue.

OKNOTOK’s tracklisting begins with remastered versions of the legendary 1997 album, but, in all honesty, the difference between the “remastered” album and the original is seemingly non-existent. However, the second half of OKNOTOK contains the reissue’s real treats – 11 b-sides from the OK Computer sessions – including 3 fan favourites from the band’s shows around 1997 which never saw the light of day as studio recordings – I Promise, Man Of War and Lift.

I PROMISE

This track was originally performed in 1996, along with other tracks which would make it onto OK Computer, when Radiohead supported Alanis Morisette on tour, and, until recently, was only known to fans via shaky phone-shot videos. With the studio version’s recent release, it’s easy to see why fans have been demanding it for 20 years. I Promise is perhaps one of the Oxford group’s simplest tracks from a songwriting perspective but revels in this simplicity. Guitar strums are complimented by beautiful strings as the track builds to a crescendo, capped off by Yorke’s stunning vocals at its very best, pledging alternate wedding vows to a partner in arguably his most romantic lyrics – “even when the ship is wrecked…tie me to the rotting deck, I promise”.

MAN OF WAR/BIG BOOTS

Man of War (previously Big Boots) dates as far back as 1995, around the time that OK Computer’s precursor, The Bends was released. However, this track differs from I Promise in that it received a semi-official release; a lo-fi version of the track could be heard in the Radiohead documentary Meeting People is Easy. The “proper” version though remained unheard until OKNOTOK. Despite the fact the band see it as a Bends track, it actually has more in common with the tracks which were selected for OK Computer. Man of War is almost overflowing with paranoia – a feeling which personified OK Computer – from the eerie, finger-picked guitar that opens the track to the cynical lyricism – “Search the whole world/ but drunken confessions and hijacked affairs/ will just make you more alone”. Not one to listen to with the lights off.

LIFT

Arguably Radiohead’s most popular forgotten track, Lift was also played on the Alanis Morisette tour, and was apparently the song which garnered the best audience reaction – surely that would guarantee its inclusion on the album? Where Radiohead are concerned, it doesn’t. Ed O’Brien recently confessed that they chose not to release it as it would have made the band too popular. To be fair, it’s easy to see why: the track’s intro seems to be the blueprint for Yellow by Coldplay (but that’s none of my business) and the chorus feels anthemic, a sound which Radiohead have always avoided. However, it also has mainstream appeal for a reason; it’s a fucking excellent track. Thom’s vocals in the verses have a soft lullaby quality to them, enhanced by more strings, and the chorus truly soars, underpinned by one of Ed O’Brien’s best renditions of his first name in the entire Radiohead discography.

With the release of OKNOTOK, Radiohead have offered even more insight into the legendary OK Computer sessions – and a glimpse into what the album could have been. Of the 3 unreleased tracks, Man Of War feels like it could have fit most snugly on the record, with its eeriness reminiscent of the nightmarish Climbing Up The Walls.

While it is a stunning track, I Promise feels a bit too simple and straightforward to have fit on OK Computer. It’s easy to see why people who aren’t fans of Radiohead would view Ed O’Brien’s comments on Lift as pretentious in the extreme, you have to agree it has “hit” written all over it, and the band wouldn’t have wanted a record as good as OK Computer overshadowed by a hit single, especially given Radiohead’s track record of relationships with their big singles (you know the one).

Regardless, Lift, Man Of War and I Promise are 3 unbelievably good tracks, written and recorded by a band in a purple patch on steroids – and deserve their own legacy, even if they differ from the almighty legacy that OK Computer has earned.


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So Far, So Good? New PVRIS tracks REVIEWED

By Gregor Farquharson (@Gregoratlantic)

Following a successful launch of their debut record in 2014, Alt rock outfit PVRIS have dropped two new tracks in the build up to their sophomore LP All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell. With the new album set to drop on August 4th, it’s time to put this fresh content under the microscope and see what they’re made of.

Heaven

The first of the new tracks, Heaven starts with an isolated piano and the strong vocals of lead singer Lynn Gunn. A slow but strong intro leads into a distorted synth feel, before launching into the powerful chorus, with sturdy and strong vocals coming from Gunn. It is obvious to see that the track is made to be anthematic and meaty – with the use of synths, vocals and light drumming, it does this successfully. After the second chorus, looped vocals are used which definitely add to this layered feel of the track. The lack of guitar is easy to hear throughout though it’s hard to say whether or not this is detrimental to the song. Overall, this is a decent comeback track, and a chance to show how the band have progressed since the last album.

7/10

What’s Wrong

What’s Wrong opens with a mellow, almost washed out guitar tone before a simple drum beat kicks in, leading into Gunn‘s vocals building the track bit by bit. There’s a much rockier feel as opposed to Heaven with this track feeling a lot more reminiscent of the material off the band’s debut. There’s an undeniable pop rock feel to the upbeat, sonic chorus which is really just an excuse to showcase Gunn‘s vocal capabilities, traversing over high and low tones. The bridge is excellent, with the repeated lyrics “No I’ll never sell my soul” before brilliantly blending seamlessly into the aforementioned chorus. Overall, What’s Wrong is the strongest track of the punch, leaving fans of the band and electro-pop more optimistic than concerned.

8/10


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Track Review: The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness by The National

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Following a series of tantalisingly cryptic clues dropped across social media The National have announced details of the long-awaited follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2013 album Trouble Will Find Me in addition to a substantial list of dates for their upcoming world tour. Signaling a change in direction from their previous efforts, Sleep Well Beast (due to be released September 8th) promises to explore an altogether darker side of the band and their latest single The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness offers a glimpse into this experimental new music.

Perhaps as foretold by the recurring house motif in their recent website redesign, the new record will deal extensively with marriage and personal relationships: issues closer to home. The focus of System, however, seems to be the idea of transition; certainly, the line “we’re in a different kind of thing now” could be interpreted several ways. While likely a reference to the turbulent political events of the past few years and our rapidly changing society, it could also be a statement of intent from the Cincinnati five-piece whose musical essence remains very much the same – elegant, atmospheric sound – but executed in its most vigorous and innovative manner to date.

Contrasting with dreamy piano melodies, Bryce Dessner’s sharp, angular guitar parts cut a path for Matt Berninger’s creaking vocals – a significant departure from previous records where all five band members deliver a symphonic wall of sound. Here, the song feels like it has been assembled piece by piece, instrument by instrument. Stellar percussion work from Bryan Devendorf propels the song forward towards its climax, featuring an unprecedented guitar solo; perhaps a nod to the Dessner twins’ recent collaboration Day of the Dead, a tribute to the groundbreaking rock group The Grateful Dead.

The National have set out to record an album free from constraints; one which channels the ecstatic energy of their studio jams. The final refrain of System, “I can’t explain it any other, any other way”, sees Berninger stretched to the limits of his vocal capacity, similar to his end-of-performance outbursts on stage. If any of this is a reliable indicator, Sleep Well Beast threatens to be their best recording yet.

9/10


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LOOKING BACK AT…BLUNDERBUSS by JACK WHITE

By Harry Sullivan (@radiohedge)

Jack White III (born John Anthony Gillis), Grammy awarded vocalist/guitarist in the White Stripes and The Raconteurs, drummer in The Dead Weather and king of the riff, released his debut solo album five years ago to this very day. Henceforth cometh the assessment of its musical impact on the industry in its half-decade life. This is instinctively a difficult release to review, as you can either judge it since it’s his first album as a solo artist or compare it to his twenty-five previous years as a musician. Anyhow, Jack’s songwriting ability we all know and love is evident throughout the LP, shown through his many influences in various genres from garage to gospel.

The opener, Missing Pieces, has a certain warmth to the vocals that doesn’t appear in his work with ex-wife Meg White and just has a cleaner production element than most of their work in general. That is not to say that the White Stripes weren’t influential, arguably popularising the riff-heavy power duo model that spawned successes such as The Black Keys and even Royal Bloodif anything it’s a compliment to White that he was able to do his own thing rather than trample on his band’s reputation.

The following track, Sixteen Saltines has Jack’s classic signature not-so-complex yet BELTING riffs filling your ears, and one of the biggest surprises of the album is the great Freedom At 21, which, along of one the best riffs to come out of some of Jack White’s work, has contained within it a drum beat so complex it is rumoured to be two separate drum tracks layered over one another. The title track Blunderbuss is a significant break in energy in the album – it’s almost a waltz – illustrating some variety to Jack’s sound that he didn’t find with Meg, especially instrumentally, with a healthy portion of strings running through the track.

Lyrically, however, the album is weak at points, with very little depth (literally stating the obvious on Hypocritical KissI know every single thing that I said was true) and it seems Jack is too dependent on the riffs themselves to carry the album forward. The cleaner production and more varied instrumentation do little to hide the fact that there has been very little growth in Jack’s musical repertoire since his final release with the White Stripes five years previously.

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Compared to his next album Lazaretto (released 2014), Jack’s work on this album is a mere building block towards it, with an album more coherent, and, not that it matters but, a better-looking album cover – it takes you to your third listen of Blunderbuss to realise that there’s a vulture with its wing over his shoulder, and the background is so blurry and monotone that it almost makes you not want to listen to the LP. TL;DR: his second solo attempt is more distinct in cover art and in sound. With this LP Jack White bares a lot of emotion that we haven’t seen before, but the album’s namesake, a large bored 17th century shotgun, is unfortunately not matched by the surprisingly small impact of this album – it was written to be played live, and does not do very much as a recording.

6.5/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: HEARTWORMS by THE SHINS

By Nicola Roy (@circaslaves)

If I had to pick an album to soundtrack my early teens, it would be Port of Morrow by The Shins– without a doubt. I’m pretty sure it was exclusively my go-to album for the best part of a year, and now still whenever I hear the thumping opening to Simple Song or the melancholy strumming of 40 Mark Strasse I’m flooded with deep warmth and nostalgia.

Now, five years later, frontman James Mercer is back with an album that he produced and wrote entirely himself- something he hasn’t done since their debut, Oh, Inverted World, in 2001. Although life can be difficult for fans of The Shins seeing as they seem to often take five-year breaks between albums, this new release is a creation that is more than worth the wait.

What the soft-spoken frontman has done here is created nothing short of a collection of stories, memories, and reflections from his past, many of which centre around his personal life and his own experiences of growing up. The first single released and opener, Name For You, is a cheery, melodic ode to his three daughters and sending them out into the world. Other standout tracks include Cherry Hearts, a song which boasts a classic Shins-esque rhythm only with hints of a more mature, stripped-back sound and bittersweet lyrics- ‘You kissed me once when we were drunk / and now I’m nervous when we meet, I got nothing under my feet.’

Mildenhall is a bittersweet nostalgia trip based on Mercer’s childhood experiences of having to pack up and leave his home to move to Suffolk for his father’s job responsibilities in the RAF. Accompanied by soft acoustic guitars and a gentle, barely-there beat, he sings about how he was passed a tape in class and from that moment, his exposure to British indie and alternative bands (namely The Jesus and Mary Chain) became the force driving his future success: ‘And that’s how we get to where we are now.’

Heartworms is not a huge creative change from The Shins‘ previous material, but when someone such as Mercer possesses such a touching songwriting talent, why should they stray from their roots? Although it may be another 5 years till we hear from them again, this album is just enough to keep us satisfied during the wait.

 

7/10

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Catfish And The Bottlemen – Soundcheck TRACK REVIEW

Every so often, there’ll be a band that manage to come along and achieve a substantially large following out of thin air which brings along with it social media being flooded by their fans saying how much they love a certain band member and their music. This happened with Arctic Monkeys, more infamously it happened with The 1975 and most recently it has been Welsh rock band Catfish And The Bottlemen.

Coming off the back of major success with their debut album The Balcony, CATB showcased some new music this week that has been teased at their frequent live shows over the past year which can only be described as being very standard. Nothing about Soundcheck will do anything to convince anyone who isn’t already a fan of the band to start ranting and raving about them, in fact it’s more likely to do the opposite.

For a band who often try and get this image across of them being anti charts or even anti pop, you couldn’t find a more safe and dated approach than what CATB provide on here and their previous work. I’m not going out of my way to slate the band at all but it frustrates me to hear a band who have been touring extensively for the past two years to do little to no evolving which, as a result, makes Soundcheck a very bland song, even more so than the bands they try and ridicule.

Maybe this is just fan service and we’ll see a bit of experimenting when it comes to their next LP but at the time of writing this, I’d rather see them try something new and fall flat on their face than to endure another song that would have been passable back in the mid 2000’s.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

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