2014 should take the cake for the quickest year in living memory, it is already June and the Lamb has been wandering for a good 6 months now. These little woolly legs are gaining a bit of stability and each week as we bring you more new music to listen and decide for yourself, this week we have brought into the herd two bands that you have probably heard about. Coldplay return with their modestly released Ghost Stories and continue their mastery of seeking out the best of the best music that is not played to the masses and call it their own. Clever boys!!! We celebrate 20 crazy years since the release of Oasis’s debut album and wonder whether it is the most important Brit album that paved the way for an important movement in modern music. The Capsules are a band that have been around for a bit but many of you may not have heard of, the question is, should you? Conor Oberst, the man behind the music and lyrical play of Bright Eyes releases his solo album to some well rounded acclaim and finally we take a peek at FKA Twigs who brings some deep dark samples from a far away electronic world.
Album Title_ Definitely Maybe
Genre_ Britpop, Indie Rock
Moments Of_ Pulp, Blur, Manic Street Preachers
Stand Out_ Rock and Roll Star, Cigarettes and Alcohol
The dynamic between rivalling siblings Liam and Noel Gallagher has been fodder for the UK tabloids and music rags for going on 20 years. Now, after their split in 2009, rumours of reformation and Glastonbury headlining have hit the news again. This also coincides with the 20 year anniversary of the release of the band’s debut album Definitely Maybe and the release of this re-mastered edition, featuring three LP’s worth of material; the re-mastered version of the original album and two additional albums’ worth of demos, live material and B-sides.
The year is 1994. England is in the midst of the widespread success of Britpop; Blur have already released their second album Modern Life is Rubbish, Suede are gracing the covers of music magazines all around the UK and a distinctly British sound of guitar music is gaining attention everywhere. This is in contrast to the rise of the Seattle grunge scene at the same time, with Britain finding its place in a widespread new phenomenon. Then in 1994 a couple of brothers and their mates from Manchester who’ve got nothing else to do and need a way to get out, push their way onto the scene and before long, they have almost become “bigger than the Beatles”. The popularised feud and chart war between Blur and Oasis is widely considered as the peak of the Britpop era, with Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher gracing the cover of NME in a showdown like pose on the 12th of August, 1995.
Now, with this re-release of the massively influential album and one so synonymous with the mid 90’s, the Gallagher brothers haven’t really changed that much. Liam in particular has had a huge presence on Twitter, hinting of reformations just months after he famously said that he wouldn’t reform Oasis for a million quid, but he would do it for 30 million. When asked what he thought of this re-mastered edition of their debut album, the fastest selling debut of all time (in 1994), he tweeted “HOW CAN YOU REMASTER SOMETHING THATS ALREADY BEING MASTERED.DONT BUY INTO IT.LET IT BE LG X.”
Really to be honest, I can’t help but agree with the man. Is this just a cash grab, with this release retailing for 100 pounds for the box set? Yes, re-master an album that was released fifty years ago when mastering techniques and technology where different, ie: Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ or the Beatles ‘Revolver’. That is understandable, as it is increasing the quality and appropriateness for today’s music playing technology. Those purists who prefer vinyl in all its glory will agree with me. You also need to consider the format on which you are playing and listening to an album. Of course an album will sound different on vinyl, on CD or in a digital format. This needs to be taken into consideration, as well as the quality of your music player and/or the headphones that you are listening to them on. As a controlled experiment using the same headphones (Sony MDR-10R), the same music player (iPhone 5) and format of music (digital via Spotify), the difference in sound between the original and the re-mastered edition of Definitely Maybe is almost unnoticeable.
Of course the classic songs still sound great, and we are also treated to a collection of live songs and unheard B-sides, as well as a personal favourite, their version of the Beatles classic “I Am the Walrus” recorded live. I still after all these years, believe that the riff from Cigarettes and Alcohol should be paying royalties to Mark Bolan’s legacy every time it gets played, but you know, that’s just me.
Undeniably this is one of the most classic and influential albums of the mid-nineties and has spawned a number of bands that have borrowed sounds or pay homage to the Gallagher brothers (most recently DMA’s, The Libertines, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys just to name a few). Sure, re-master and re-release this for the anniversary of its release, because the fans are going to soak up every second. Otherwise, borrow a battered copy on CD from your high school friend and listen to it the way it was intended, pretending its 1994 all over again.
Artist_ Conor Oberst
Album Title_ Upside Down Mountain
Label_ Nonesuch Records
Genre_ Alt. Country, Americana, Downtempo, Country, Folk, Folk Rock, Indie Rock
Moments Of_ Bright Eyes
Stand Out_ Time Forgot, Hundreds of Ways
Conor Oberst – the man behind Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, one quarter of Monsters of Folk, just to name a few – is a genius of folk rock/alt. country, I think we can all agree. His new album Upside Down Mountain is a gem, and seems to be a mature breakthrough that Oberst has been working towards in his past albums. Or maybe not? Maybe his past albums were perfect in their naivety and unpolished emotion, and Upside Down Mountain is a conscious but not at all superior choice by Oberst for something different. You decide. But there is a fuller, more self-confident air to this album for us to enjoy, regardless of how you view it.
Souled Out!! was a good song, so was Eagle on a Pole, and One of My Kind. But none of them have the self-confidence or sense of calm that Time Forgot does. It’s a lovely start to the album, and I think, sets the mature tone what is to come. Upbeat, hopeful and beautifully choreographed, Oberst sings of finding a town to be alone and himself in. The interesting use of echo drums and chiming guitar melodies are a change for Oberst, but they work without sounding cheesy here.
Oberst has an amazing way with lyrics, regardless of what name he goes under – Bright Eyes was raw and truthful emotion, and this album is the same, but Oberst’s expressions of joy, pain, fear and desire are more muted than usual, by the tinkling melodies, soaring riffs and swelling harmonies. This cushions those painful nuggets of feeling – makes them more digestible for listeners, which may not be what you’re looking for if you listen to Bright Eyes, but it’s a nice change.
Hundreds of Ways is a definite stand out – almost cheery in Oberst standards – a country twang and a catchy chorus. I love how Oberst manages to infuse a song with multiple emotions, no song can just be a happy, sad or angry song; his gift of arranging music and lyrics together so well that we can feel a plethora of things each time we listen. This is a perfect example – a catchy melody and chorus at first lulls us into cheerful – but something in his lyrics suggest melancholy and darkness as well. There is something sinister in the lines “There are hundreds of ways to get through the day / so just find one”.
You Are Your Mothers Child is a sweet tune to a baby, full of worries of a new dad as well as nuggets of wisdom to follow in life. Don’t mind if I do follow a few of them myself, Mr Oberst. It’s the perfect example of the new subdued, wistful tone Oberst uses in this album, and it works for him; he’s lost nothing of that endearing, sometimes jarring, sentiment that has become his trademark.
Interestingly, he says his songwriting/composing process hasn’t ever changed – in an interview you can watch below – which makes me wonder what caused this change in sound? Age? Life Experience? Band? Or just a need to change and evolve? Regardless, it’s a beautiful, full album, and whether you’re a Mystic Valley Band fan or a Bright Eyes fan, it’s definitely worth a listen.
Artist_ The Capsules
Album Title_The Long Goodbye
Label_Saint Marie Records
Genre_Dream Pop, Shoegaze, Indie Pop, Electro Pop
Moments Of_ Memoryhouse, SeaPony, St Etienne, M83, Club 8
Stand Out_Singals, The Long Goodbye
The Capsules are no flash in the pan having grouped in in 2001 after two if its members reformed following the breakup of their previous band Shallow. Making music as a threesome, The Capsules play sweet melodic music with definite electronic undertones that really carry lead vocalist soft and timid vocals. This is their fifth album that continues their staple sound of dreamy pop music so if you like your beats electric and prefer to shuffle rather than dance while staring at your feet wishing you were somewhere else, check out this album.
Despite being in my more slightly more mature years, I still like the same old Dream Pop sound that I did back in the 90s and today I count The Radio Dept as one of my to 5 favourite bands. This is a genre of music that has many divided in terms of music that is so weak and wet these particular type of bands play with the sense that they would rather be somewhere else. Well I beg to differ but you cant love it all right? The Caspules, I really struggled with in an almost frustrating matter having so many great little musical moments.
The problem I have are the vocals, I don’t believe that you need a strong vocal to make an album but Julie Shields, kind of reminds me of a Kim Deal (The Breeders, The Pixies) that is quite nasal and a little bit cutting. Her delivery is sweet, don’t get me wrong but just sounds like a troubled nervous child, where as drawing comparisons to Kim Deal, okay, it was nasal but had some depth to it.
As musicians there is a really nice unique sound that combines 80 synths sounds and classic drum machine beats that are completely inoffensive such as Super Symmetry, The Lonely End and Don’t Look Back that sound a bit like a mash up between St Etienne a French pop maestro M83. These songs have substance but lyrically they just don’t cut it and weaken the track. It is like the music is ready to go but the vocal just can’t match it. Frustrating. I try to remove the vocals and just listen to the music and it just sounds better.
The strongest songs on The Long Goodbye are those that don’t force Julie’s vocal ability, opening track The Beginning opens wth a nice dark swirl of washed guitars that take me back to my shoegaze days of the 90s and with a rising synth circling and trudging drum beat, it makes way for a nice introduction to the album. But then…..the vocals….ARGH!!!! Ok, after a few more listens it gets better, just takes me a while.
Title track The Long Goodbye is an ode to the sounds of M83, with its large cathedral vocals and banging drums, it rides gently high with a strolling Cure bassline behind it. Similarly, Death of a Comet, is the quietest most reflective track on the album and a favourite, this is a sound that works well for me them as it doesn’t try to be much other than a gentle soothing track that gently reveals itself.
The Last Goodbye comes to an uneasy end with a cover of I Will Survive. Hmmmmmm, the classic track by Gloria Gaynor, I mean is this a good idea. The lyrics are fitting for a melancholy rendition but you cant go messing with such a classic song. Courage or just oddness, I am not sure what they were thinking.
Having not heard much of The Capsules before, I was surprised to learn they have been releasing albums for well over 10 years but this album really doesn’t show strength or development, although not a completely bad album it just didn’t do much for me, sorry Capsules, I have a head full of Dream Pop and no room for much more.
I stumbled across Twigs (minus the FKA at that point) whilst reading a Haim expose last September. Middle Haim (that’s Danielle by the way) had enthused that this kid was the real deal and in accordance with her creative genius, I tend not to doubt a thing that she says. So upon a little digging I discovered that Tahlia Barnett grew up in rural Gloucester, which immediately piqued my interest. I’m kind of fascinated by the relationship between artist and environment, that mysterious correlation that lends itself to intense introspection. Oh yep, she’s an interesting one, for sure. But to refer to Twigs work as ‘interesting’ is major disservice.
I was first intrigued with the humbled simplicity in her moniker, its genesis stemming from the noises her joints made when she danced. It almost serves as a prelude to the simple yet jarring quality of her craft. Although there are only four songs on EP2, in no way did it detract from impact of each of these gems, each one individually vibrant, irreverent and thought provokingly stirring. Initially I found myself in a state of ponder with the hype surrounding Twigs (the FKA added to appease a disgruntled fellow artist (these people are so blimmin’ touchy at times) or perhaps she was just another misguided ingénue of the genre, with high hopes and tawdry lack of substance. I was rebuffed (thankfully) in my suspicions upon some further scrutiny. EP2 occupies that grey area of sensory experience where the creative output almost buckles under the weight of its potential possibility. Her sophomore effort which flows on from 2012’s EP, finds real form and appropriation this second time round, all the markers present of an artist settling into their own skin. The soundscape is sparse, minimalist and haunting, punctuated by decadent cadences and melancholy soprano inflections. When I heard Arca was assisting on production, my interest was vexed in curiosity. EP2 makes light work of luring one further and further down the trip – hop rabbit hole. But even to make mention of trip – hop is confining, heady as its presence is, coupled with experimental pop and R & B nuance, all in permissive measure.
I also make mention of the intrinsic sexual overtures, which have always been a fervent trope in R & B, the most lucid display in the form of Papi Pacify, a gothic love parable complete with abject S & M visual and some uncomfortably vigorous cavorting. It’s an unnervingly honest commentary on power play, but it is that very honesty that makes for such interesting consumption. Whether it’s offered purely as currency or simply some kind of abject, artistic manifestation I bought into its milieu greedily. Hows That is track one on EP2, one of those tracks where the silence between noises speaks with the loudest fervor. Water Me is an impertinently brazen call to action; its sexuality vulgar albeit delicate whilst Papi Pacify is an all out venture into the dichotomy of S & M. Having trained in dance from the age of 17, the blighting contortion displayed in the video a symptomatic showcase of indulgent, corporeal pleasure or perhaps just the absence of fear and consequence.
I had a good time with this one, great in fact. Top tracks? I would say all but Papi Pacify stands out as a personal favorite. FKA twigs burns brightly on this one, so much so I’m still reveling the glare.
Album Title_ Ghost Stories
Genre_ Alternative Rock, Brit Pop
Moments Of_ Keane, Radiohead
Stand Out_ Magic, Oceans
So most of us know them for their hits Paradise, Yellow and Viva la Vida, of course I am talking about the one and only Coldplay. May 19th brought the release of their sixth studio album Ghost Stories, co-produced by the band and Paul Epworth, along with returning Mylo Xyloto producers Rik Simpson and Daniel Green. This is Coldplay’s second conceptual album in a row, follow their 2011 release of Mylo Xyloto. Ghost Stories explores and experiments with the idea of dwelling on both past and future love.
“Call it magic, Call it true, Call it magic, When I’m with you” sounds the opening lyrics to their leading hit single Magic. I heard this one on the radio for the first time about a month or so ago, and was partially shocked seeing the shazaming results show Coldplay. ThoughChris Martins leading vocals are quite distinct and easy to spot, the unexpected surprise of seeing Coldplay pop up, after not seeing their name too much over the past year, was a pleasant surprise. I was also surprised seeing their name, due to the fact that this song/album is definitely their most electronic album in their discography. That being said, Magic was released on the 3rd of May as the leading single to promote Ghost Stories, where it has since reached a peak position of 5 in the Australian ARIA charts.
Always In My Head opens Ghost Stories with an ambient and ghostly sound that eases into the concept of past and future love. This song also eases and introduces experimental electro sounds and moody synth washes, that are featured throughout the album. “I think of you, I haven’t slept, I think I do, But I don’t forget” Martins vocals are in strong focus with his angelic tone singing these lyrics. A subtle opening track for the album, it did not blow me away, but certainly did not lose my interest just yet.
Track three is, Ink. I know this song has had some bad reviews, saying that it is one of Coldplay’s worst songs to date, surprisingly however, I don’t actually mind it. I say surprisingly because this album still has the classic mid tempo sound of some older Coldplay tracks, whilst also sneaking in touches of electronic and atmospheric sounds, which is the case for Ink. (These electronic sounds are not so sneaky as the album progresses, but I will touch on that in a moment).
Starting with the good news, I found Ink to have a good combination of that ‘radio friendly sound’ while still remaining somewhat true to their older sounds.
WARNING: bad news ahead. A Sky Full Of Stars is track eight. Wow. I mean, really, wow. This track is produced by… are you ready for it? non other than Avicii. I’ll let that sink in for a second or two. I don’t even know what to say to be honest. I wonder if it was Chris Martins’ breaking relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow (at the time of the album’s recording), that had anything to do with this strange(to say the least) work with Avicii?
Legit, three seconds into the song…this is not the sound of Coldplay. The real kicker, is 1.17 into the track, where the ‘beat drops’ in classic Avicii style. Give me one second, I’m just picking my jaw up off the ground and lowering my fist from pumping in the air. This is -not so- arguably Coldplay’s worst song to date. Even in the electronic context of the album, A Sky Full Of Stars still doesn’t belong, I feel that this track just takes it tooooo far.
A wave of good news for you fans of Coldplay’s older works like Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. Song seven, Oceans washesover Ghost Stories with the sound of a beautiful acoustic guitar and Martins perfect vocals, giving off a Radiohead (big call)vibe. Though this song is no huge stadium track, it is a perfect little gem, -that does not fit so much on this album- but I love.
All in all, this may be one of Colplay’s (or at least Chris Martins), most personal albums and is definitely their stand outs in terms of genre change. Though I hope to see Ghost Stories have as much success as their previous albums, I don’t think it will happen for the boys on this one, at least not on such a large scale.