Track Review: Adam & Elvis – Wasting Away

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

The act of combining depressing lyrics with a glitzy, gorgeous sound is something that bands nowadays seem to love. While it’s nothing groundbreaking, bands like The Smiths pretty much made their career from this, there seems to be a notable rise in it this decade with one of the biggest songs of the 2010’s being about the psyche of a school shooter – if you guessed Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People, a winner is you!

Put it down to us being closer to the apocalypse than any time in modern history or just good old angst but we love to put on the facade of being positive when, really, what we’re feeling inside is the complete opposite. Bring Adam & Elvis to the stage (no, not that Elvis), a London art-pop outfit who are great believers in this format if their latest track Wasting Away is anything to go by.

Before nose-diving into what can only be described as an existential fuelled breakdown, the track beings with a joyous poppy intro: it follows that up with a staple indie-rockesque mix that would feel as relevant during the age of The Cure as it does in a decade that has saw the fusion and Renaissance of both genres.

Influences are felt both through the band’s sound and their lyrics with Patrick Malone’s poetic muses offering some stark realism in a track that feels like a lovely summer tune. Anti religious sentiment and the classic carpe-diem mantra, though thankfully not deliver by anyone shouting YOLO, Wasting Away is a smartly written track in many ways, making the wait for Adam & Elvis’ debut album next month all the more painful.

 

8/10

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Album Review: Lorde- Melodrama

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

When Lorde first released Pure Heroine at 17, she instantly gained notoriety for her cutting art pop. Rightfully so, her debut was exceptional, and after a long four year wait we finally have a follow up LP. Coming in the form of “Melodrama” the new album is big, bold and devastating. More realised and confident, it is a fitting follow on to everything Lorde embodies.

Her debut was a meticulous subtle attack on celebrity lifestyles and youthful obsession. Now on Melodrama the focus has shifted. No longer an outsider looking in, Lorde has had to find a new angle to approach the topics from. What we’re presented here is far closer to an album of coping mechanisms: from the partying extravagance of opener Green Light to the fixated love within The Louvre, this feels very much like a handwritten guide of how to survive high society New York.

It’s an interesting idea, and one that is reflected in the production. Everything is pushed slightly too loud, hiding some of the more complex melodies that would have been championed previously. Potentially this could be a statement from the singer regarding originality in the pop world, where regurgitation rules over innovation. The desperation to avoid this heavily inspiring the songs within Melodrama.  Take for example, Homemade Dynamite, a slow burner that gradually adds layers of noise and detail through it’s run time to create a sense of infatuation. It’s loud, over the top but still has a sense of restrain applied to it and upon deeper inspection is remarkably introspective. What we’re seeing here is a refusal to dilute the message while appealing to a massive market. A risk that could have gone very wrong.

When the first single, Green Light, was released many worried that her trademark intensity and honesty would diminish in favour of going bombastic. This definitely isn’t the case, though, given that her influences include Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, crushing lows accompanying the extreme highs, most notably on Sober and Writer in the Dark, both of which are sombre moments of clarity in the hedonistic landscape of Melodrama. Sober, coming straight after the pounding Green Light, is a slow paced hangover to the opener’s exuberance. Whilst the latter is one of the best stand out tracks present, it begins as what feels like a callback to Pure Heroine, before taking a completely unexpected but welcome shift. It’s here we see who has possibly had the largest impact on Lorde during the writing process, Kate Bush, with the vocals on the chorus sounding heavily inspired by Bush’s early works such as Wuthering Heights.

Upon repeated listens to the album her overall influence becomes more evident. The slightly left field production, full of distorted sound effects and overwhelming volume are all very Hounds of Love, shown most clearly on Loveless, which is squeezed into the second half of Hard Feelings. However here, the influence is less vocally based and far more sonically. Crashing drums open the track before being drowned out by a series of cold electronic noises, to unsettle and intrigue. This style fits Lorde’s output spectacularly, and creates a contrasting world of vibrant cynicism.

This atmosphere is remarkably important to the album. If the world built in the runtime was anything less than totally absorbing Melodrama could very easily have fallen apart. Instead it’s a glorious invitation into this decadent alternate universe. Lorde is as helpless to its charms of it as we are, and through the space of the eleven songs we experience every success and misstep in time with her. It’s not so much a storyline per se, more of a selection of notable nights told in brutal honesty.

Overall, Melodrama is nigh on perfect. It’s joyous and celebratory of the singer’s successes but maintains everything she became known for. It’s nice to see that writing songs for the Hunger Games series hasn’t swayed Lorde towards more commercial ventures. Especially when trips down a more avant-garde route produce such high quality output.

9/10


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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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TRACK REVIEW: SHAKE IT BY THE VEGAN LEATHER

By Dominic V. Cassidy  (@lyre_of_apollo)

Paisley disco-ish outfit The Vegan Leather are back, with their new single Shake It, which was dropped on March 17th on Spotify. The song perfectly exemplifies and moves forward from the high-intensity lyrics and disco dance tunes heard on their EP from 2015 – This House.

The song kicks off to a smooth synth piano, and gets immediately into the meat of the lyrics, singing of a failing relationship. Vocalists Gianluca and Marie’s voices come together perfectly, hitting out with personal lyrics that do not take away from the perfect disco beat, with lyrics like “I do not want this anymore, paper peeling off the walls, I can’t shake this, I can’t shake,”. The band perfectly communicate their live presence in this single, loud and constant, ready to make one want to get up and dance to the infectious noise.

https://soundcloud.com/theveganleather/shake-it

The song writing in Shake It seems much more direct than other tracks previously released by the band, very much exploring a more professional vibe to the track, however the dichotomy between the somewhat sad lyrics and the super upbeat music works fantastically for the song in a stylistic sense. Upon first listen it is likely the lyrics would be missed, but it is upon the inevitable repeated listens that you start to see real depth to the music; creating an interesting song that demands to be heard.

It is clear that The Vegan Leather are on their way up, with good press coverage in publications like The Skinny, The Daily Record, and The Scotsman, and regular gigs in Glasgow, including playing Celtic Connections and a sold out club night at Broadcast. And with a new EP in the works, it is likely more energetic, high-intensity disco tunes are just around the bend.

The single is fantastic pop record that definitely shows the great things to come, the song is hopefully a trailer if you will of the upcoming, as of yet untitled Vegan Leather EP.

9/10

If you fancy giving the band some support you can find them on facebook as well as twitter. The Vegan Leather play the Wide Days Showcase at Liquid Room on 21 Apr.


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