As our flock of contributors continues to grow so to do the handful of weekly new borns that we deliver and this week is another tasty selection. We should excuse the terrible puns and references to lamb as Morrissey would not be happy, especially since we offer 9 lambs to his brilliant return to form. in true form we mix genres up and deliver London’s Jungle and their debut. Gus Gus hail from Sweden and are no strangers to the musical world having released musoc since the 90s. Actually the band came to us so we were delighted to give their new album a whirl and its ptetty damn good stuff. Well, for the rest of them, you just got to read on!!
Album Title_World Peace is None of Your Business
Genre_ best we don’t upset anyone
Moments Of_ Morrissey
Stand Out_Earth Is The Loneliest Place, Kiss Me A Lot
World Peace is None of Your Business is Morrissey’s 11th solo album (well more if you include a few oddities of live albums inbetween) and having signed to Capitol records this year, the album sees a complete return to form for Mozza after a debatable few releases over the last few years. Here is an artist that love or loathe has the ability to grab musical attention purely on the fact that he once led the hugely influentially loved The Smiths. It wouldn’t matter if this album was yet another bomb, Mozza fans around the world would re-unite, however low and behold, this is an album full of melody, some of it quite upbeat, filled with all the Morrissey’isms of lyrical syncisim and sad truths about the world we live in. Welcome back Steven Patrick Morrissey.
When news spread about Morrissey’s hadn’t finished with reminding us of how shit our world was, delivered in the form of a new album, the news was met with some trepidation and an almost nonchalant reaction, many of us certain that this would be the album that finally breaks the man who is loved by so many. Morrissey cleverly released a collection of short spoken word videos on you tube to give us just a small little taste of what to expect, it was nice to see Morrissey embrace the digital and video age and it worked. Not only clever in delivery, it also showed a man who had aged (gracefully) embraced life in LA (a video short with his pal Pamela Anderson) and hadn’t lost his wit, cynicism and tongue pulling at our morally crumbling world that we live in.
So to top this all off, in true Morrissey style, we have an album title that only this man can get away with and pretty much piss all anti-Morrissey fans off in the process. With songs titles and lyrical titles that reference death and violence (Neal Cassady is Dead, The Bullfighter Dies, Smiler with Knife and Kick the Bride Down the Aisle and Staircase of the University, where a student throws herself down the University stairs), despite its musical melodic undertones, the world according to Morrissey, well we are shit creek and we may as well just give up now. Good stuff.
But, something is very VERY different on this album and despite all things mentioned above, World Peace is an album full of melodies, indie rock and even a bit of pop and unlike his last two albums Swords and Years of Refusal and many before them for that matter, this album is more musical, where Morrissey’s lyrics follow a melody as opposed to the other way around. Kind of a poetic melody for a better word. First single Istanbul is a testament to this, listen beyond the lyrics of political correction and world politics and hear a band that are taking lead and drive the song through catchy rock melodies, sweeping layered guitars, bongos and rolling drums. This track is worthy of a set of headphones to really appreciate the brilliant production that has taken place.
World Peace Is None Of Your Business Live 2014
Opening and title track is, erm, well Morrissey in full glory “World Peace is None of Your Business, You must not tamper with arrangements, Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes, Never asking what for.” Again its all about melodies and calls for a sing along (well in Morrissey sing a long fashion). This track is brash, balsy and full of immense confidence in its musical offering. The band are left to knock this one out and given a chance to remind us that Morrissey’s band are true musicians.
The exciting thing about World Peace Is None Of Your Business is the uptempo feel and the real sense of a band who have finally been allowed to get involved in making these songs more than just about a front man. Earth is The Loneliest Place carries an almost European flair to it, lets call it rock Flamenco and with Morrissey wailing over again and again that Earth is the loneliest planet of all, it is ironic, it is groovy, it is Morrissey going pop. Excellent.
If you don’t get 3 A’s, her sweet daddy said, Youre no child of mine, And as far as I’m concerned your dead” reminds us that Morrissey also disapproves of education and the pressure of society and you know he is right. Sung against a few trumpets, a jovial bass line and a head popping drum beat, it seems wrong to smile about this, but melodically it is another reminder of this albums change of direction. There is a real feel of early Morrissey here and what a welcome return it is. Stand out track of the album, a proud bow goes to Staircase of the University, as tragic as the story goes.
The exciting thing about the album is its instant memorable melodies that drive the choruses, and the simple fact that Morrissey has embraced Chorus and Verse is obvious, we hear this on The Bullfighter Dies and Kiss Me A lot.
Closing track, Oboe Concerto (of course with Oboes)delivers us safely back to ground, free of anger, death, cynicism and unjust with its mellow rhythmic pitter patter and a wailing oboe that wraps around Morrissey’s attempt at harmonious vocal delivery. Celebrating 20 years of Vauxhall and I this album takes us back to those wonderful mellow and slightly more content days of Morrissey at his best. It is a great way to end an album by a man who may not be relevant to many out there anymore, but to me, reminds me of what I have to be thankful for, because without The Smiths or Morrissey I don’t think I will be sitting here managing and writing a blog.
Cheers to you Morrissey.
Album Title_ Self – titled
Label_ XL Recordings
Genre_ Psychedelic, Soul, Electronica
Moments Of _ Curtis Mayfield, Pete Heller, Ben Khan
Stand Out_ Busy Earnin’
Despite an inception somewhat shrouded in secrecy, for Jungle, their reason was simple. Childhood chums Josh Lloyd Watson and Tom McFarland, acquainted from the age of 10, wanted to nurture a sound that was removed from the hoopla of their own lives personalities – the music had to speak for itself. Their brand of neo soul replete with all the necessary vintage sounds and trimmings is a fresh take on old school grooves, and this week I took her for a spin.
I quite like it when an album catches me off guard, which they are quite often inclined to do when I write these reviews. My ritual is to have the material casually playing in the background intermittently over the week and then a good hearty dose of digestion as I write my review. This week in reviewing Jungle’s self titled album, I was inadmissibly childhood bound. Given my mother’s unhealthy predilection toward disco and Motown when I was an infant, I suppose a part of me was always destined to be a hipster. And when I hear outfits such as Jungle, I can feel myself slip back into 1988 with surprising ease, sporting that grotesque side pony and some equally hideously florescent garb whilst my mother is entertaining with Stevie Wonder in the back on blast. And that is one of the most inherently superb superpowers of music, its capacity to just be downright transformative.
I had had the opportunity to scope the digs of Jungle when their first single Platoon was getting some fairly voracious viral action toward the end of last year. In addition, a spot on the long list for BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll only saw their notoriety rocket. Since which time they have gone somewhat big band, enlisting several other musicians to round out their live performances. I wondered if the initial mystery was not too dissimilar from the vein of genre juggernauts Daft Punk, wherein that quirky move toward misdirection, or perhaps just a trite attempt to keep their identities hidden from the public, actually just serve to make everyone more intrigued and preoccupied with whoever is fiddling behind the mixers (or helmets).
There was some incredibly catchy stuff on this album. Sometimes, I had wondered if it were actually produced in West London as opposed to some basement in Brooklyn or the bourgeoisie indifference of Greenwich Village.
It’s potentially a synthy, psychedelic sheen over the likes of Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes and if you love these two soul demi – gods, then please, by all means. The sonic palette does feel rather repetitive after a few spins though. First track up is The Heat is classic funk creamery that alludes to all manner of the titles incarnations – sex, temperature and the fuzz. It’s a snappy opener that bodes well as a prelude to the coming gumptions. I also quite favored Lucky I Got What I Want, which toiled with an almost primal, gothic nuance that fascinated me and was perhaps one of the bigger stand outs in a sea of psychedelic chaos. Top stand out for me may very well have been the likes of Busy Earnin’ as well as Time which are slightly bookended each side which is unfortunate, because they aren’t given a good opportunity to shine, give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Individually, there is more room to move with the tracks on this album but as an album, it feels a bit repetitive and almost like a running – on of late night hipster radio.
A confectionary of neo – soul goodness, Jungle’s Jungle may well have been slightly more flora and fauna and less primal chaos than I had hoped for, in light of the surrounding hype. Still highly listenable with plenty of redeeming goodness in amongst it, you may not contract jungle fever, but you’ll be glad you came for the scenery.
Artist_ The Proper Ornaments
Album Title_ Wooden Heads
Label_ Slumberland / Fortuna Pop!
Genre_ Shoegaze, Indie Folk, Lo-Fi, Dream Pop
Moments Of_ Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Velvet Underground, The Zombies, The Byrds
Stand Out_ Gone, You Shouldn’t Have Gone
London based The Proper Ornaments have produced something really special here; Wooden Head is considered their proper LP after 2013’s compilation of Eps in Waiting for Summer, and summer is definitely here. Rich, warm and reminiscent of the best bits from bands from the 60s to the 90s you loved, this album is a slow and subtle winner.
Wooden Head sounds like a Polaroid; slightly out of focus, warm, nostalgic. Bean bags and grass (both kinds your thinking of), well-worn denim, totally comfortable. As soon as Max Clapps’ rich reassuring vocals strike up in Gone I feel like I’ve slipped into a warm bath.
The band name itself even suggests the homage their sound pays to bands of the past; the song Proper Ornaments from Free Design’s 1967 album Kites Are Fun is a Baroque Pop masterpiece, soaked in sunbeams and harmonies. Compare that to the sweetness of Summer’s Gone and you can just imagine Clapp and Hoare swapping favourite 60s pop bands like two teenagers and building from there.
Yet it’s not at all a 60s pop rip-off album. Sun sounds like Nirvana dipped in sunshine, a weird but not unwelcome sound, a nice twist, Hoare and Clapp have eked out a niche that is their own sound – taking bits and bites from here and there in history. There is enough shoegaze, a teensy bit of grunge and a teaspoon of post-punk in here to make it interesting, I even think I catch a bit of Oasis there in You Shouldn’t Have Gone. Although sometimes it does feel like the influences take over the original sound – Ruby felt somehow like I’d heard it too often already, haven’t the Rolling Stones already done that to death on High Tide and Green Grass? – but as far as drawbacks go for an album I’d rate that pretty low, I like listening to the Stones anyway.
To me, there are no immediate hits; this is an album to be listened to in full – in headphones on your floor, Almost Famous-style, though maybe I’m getting too ahead of the album, it’s no Simon and Garfunkel. But it is something genuine and heartfelt from The Proper Ornaments, and for that it should be listened to as such. Snap on some headphones and listen closely, you’ll probably hear your childhood in there somewhere.
Moments Of_John Grant, ZHU,Hercules & Love Affair, Faithless
Stand Out_Obnoxiously Sexual,This is not the first time
GusGus are an eclectic, electronic/house group from Iceland that have been experimenting with various electronic sounds since 1995. After producing their first album with a sizeable 12 band members, they have progressively downsized, morphing into a solid quartet, including vocalists Urður Hákonardóttir (Earth)and Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson, and of course Stephan Stephensen (President Bongo) and Birgir Þórarinsson (Biggi Veira) being the common thread since day one and recognised face of GusGus. Mexico is their 9th full-length album release that explores electronic textures and vocal distortion and layering, with meaningful lyrics and alluring vocals.
I had a lot of fun with this one. GusGus being a band I hadn’t come across before, I attempted to delve into their 17 years of back catalogue. I have to admit that I connected a lot more with the album after viewing the bands 20minute live performance on KEXP. I took an immediate likening to their electronic sound, and was intrigued by the two vocalists and their presence. I re-listened to the album and was even more drawn in after getting to know them a little better.
The album has a strong focus on lyrics, as the vocals extend above and beyond the instrumental surface. The electronics and rhythmic beats create an atmosphere for the vocals, allowing the lyrics to soar through their surroundings. I tend to treat vocals as an instrument rather than a main focus, therefore I never take note of lyrics. The male vocalist in particular gave me no choice with this album, as his alluring vocals demanded my attention. However, because his vocals are a focal point, it often sounded like he was talking me through the track, instead of allowing each word to flow effortlessly onto the next.
Obnoxiously Sexual is the first track on the album, opening with catchy rattling drum beats and jumpy keyboard notes. The audio temporarily fades out, introducing the provoking lyrics, “When you woke up, I guess you didn’t know I would steal you from your girlfriend”, grabbing the listener by the balls and setting the tone for what remains.
Crossfade is the first single release from the album, and appears to pull the majority of popularity votes. For me, the echoing of manipulated and distorted vocals are a little drawn out. I prefer the simplicity and rawness of stripped back electronic music, over twisted synths and hazy overlays. It seems I have taken a likening to tracks that many others criticise, and have overlooked tracks that seem to be favouritised. Maybe I’m getting something different out of their music, or maybe I’m just missing something!
This is not the first time immediately became my stand out track due to the instrumental electronic backing. I love the clean drum beat and that consistent interjection of rattling and clapping throughout the track. At this point I was thinking their music may have the ability to stand alone without vocals. The following track Mexico demonstrated this perfectly, being the sole instrumental track on the album.
The album is a dark awakening into European artsy/electronic dance music, which I predict will reward the repeat listener. The more you listen, the more you get out of it, and I believe this one is a solo journey, whether that be in the bedroom, or in your own space on the dance floor. If you happen to be on the dance floor, embrace their sound and lose your inhibitions; move your feet, and intertwine your arms in the air from your shoulders to fingertips.
Album Title_ No Coast
Label_ Topshelf Records
Genre_ Indie Rock, Emo, Post Hardcore
Moments Of_ Thursday, Motion City Soundtrack, Mineral
Stand Out_ East End Hollows, Damages!, This Is Not A Revolution
No Coast is the first album in 16 years from Champaign, IL. band Braid, pioneers of the late nineties/noughties ’emo’ genre. That’s a long time between efforts; given the scepticism encompassing most bands post hiatus and reformation who release new material, it would be only natural to expect a half cooked effort (which unfortunately was the opinion that shrouded their rushed 2011 EP Closer To Closed). Fortunately Braid have instead produced an album that despite having the inevitably more ‘mature’ sound, remains relevant, pushes the boundaries of their pigeon-holed genres and drives innovation.
The year is 1998. No one has heard of the 9/11 or the GFC, let alone other important global issues like how to rid the world of 1D. We’re talking the year of Air’s Moon Safari, Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty and Hole’s Celebrity Skin. Frame and Canvas, Braid’s third studio album, was release in April of that year and subsequently cemented the band’s place as influential contributors in American post hardcore and birth of ’emo’. Fast forward to 2014, and ’emo’ is now really a dirty word. Braid however are, and have always been, free of ironed locks and screamo breakdowns.
So what are you to expect in this current musical environment? First of all, Braids follow their familiar formula of driving and powerful guitar driven songs with the superimposed mid tones of vocalist Bob Nanna. We are all aware of the 90’s sound of guitar based, hardcore vibes with sprinklings of pop melodies and prog intricacies and of course the definitive emotive lyrics that the genre was developed from. Braid were doing this way before anyone had even heard Dashboard Confessional’s worldwide hit Vindicated which burst onto commercial radio in 2004 and was believed by many as the birth of emo as a genre. Braid had way more attitude, heavier guitars and were less radio-friendly, but had far more skills with engaging songwriting. No Coast provides no shortage of illustrations of such skill, with the only differentiation being the more polished, professional and modernised versions of those hits such as Killing a Camera and The New Nathan Detroits from the aforementioned Frame and Canvas album.
Prime examples of Braid’s highly developed sound include the smooth guitar work and calm vocals of the verse mashed against the driving chorus of Damages! , fit with a forceful snarl to lyrics such as ‘Someone please, call the police,….I’m gaining nothing, I’m going nowhere!’. In comparison, album closer This Is Not A Revolution is melodic wind down that takes a stab at the consumeristic nature of the world we live in today. This could easily double as a stadium ballad with huge sounds and singalong chorus line that would surely prove to be a valuable song in their live arsenal. Given that the band celebrated playing their 600th show together in 2011, there is undoubtedly a reason why people love this band so much as keep coming back to see their live show over and over again.
This experience of gargantuan touring schedules, four accomplished albums, multiple EP and split releases and more than 20 years of playing together (despite some earlier line up changes), Braid were heralded as innovators of their sound in the 90’s and continue to be today. Without making ‘maturity’ too much of a focus, Braid display maybe more of a refined vibe with a well produced album. While there are skilled hooks and intriguing guitar work throughout the album, the greatest criticism comes from the second half of the album that struggles to hold the attention of a wandering ear. Maybe the world has outgrown Braid? Whatever happens, these guys won’t let you forget them, proving that skill, consistency and a degree of reinvention will hold them up in today’s modern musical landscape.
Artist_ Matt Kivel
Album Title_ Days of Being Wild
Genre_ Indie Rock
Moments Of_ Elliot Smith, Real Estate, Nick Drake
Stand Out_ The First Time, Blonde Boy, Days of Being Wild, Only With the Wine
Following on from his debut EP Double Exposure, Matt Kivel’s Days of Being Wild – released less than a year later – is a mellow and intimate collection of tracks that is reminiscent of the typically idyllic Californian summer in which it was recorded. Kivel’s pretty and restrained songwriting is a romantic narrative that explores transcendent ideals of love, loss and the affirmation of life.
2013’s Double Exposure is a deeply solitary record, both on a literal and figurative level. Kivel recorded the majority of the album alone, away from his side projects Princetonand Gap Dream. Moreover, the lyrics explored themes that evoked isolation, such as death, pale horses and stillness. Days of Being Wild transcends the themes of mortality and loneliness.
It is clear from the outset – perhaps with the exception of the opening track “The First Time”- that Kivel has taken a different approach with his most recent release. There isn’t any doubt that Days of Being Wild is still melancholy by nature, but perhaps less desolate and morbid than Double Exposure. “Underwater”is a good example of this transition, with Kivel’s falsetto overtones accompanied by lazy guitar riffs with zealous amounts of reverb that reminds me of fellow indie rockers Real Estate. Personally, Kivel’s vocal talents are a highlight on Days of Being Wild. His voice has a feeble and intimate character but more or less remains strong enough to not get lost amongst the other musical textures.
There is a juxtaposition that exists between certain tracks, a shift between a more intimate musical environment of just Kivel and a guitar, and a more sophisticated instrumentation like a full band. Occasionally, there is a tendency for Kivel’s lyrics to become almost unintelligible on certain tracks – “Open Road”and “Underwater”, to name a couple – which can be frustrating. It’s clear when you listen to him perform within a more intimate setting – such as on “Only with The Wine”- that this is where his strengths lie. To be compared like he has by certain critics to Nick Drake, who I believe is one of the most influential and outstanding singer-songwriters ever, is a massive compliment. On tracks like “The First Time”, I definitely draw correlations in my mind to Drake’s Pink Moon (no, not the Drake you’re thinking of). Essentially, it’s a shame that Kivel’s thoughtful and pretty lyrics can sometimes get lost in a full band setting on Days of Being Wild.
Nonetheless, small blemishes aside, Kivel has been successful in this more ambitious songwriting endeavour. “Blonde Boy”is an example of how Kivel’s vocal and songwriting talents can effectively shine through and avoid being drowned out (in this case, by barely articulated power chords reminiscent of a Cars track). Moreover, there is definitely an opportunity for Kivel to find the balance between performing with and without a full band. “Days of Being Wild”arguably provides the best example of how Kivel’s gentle voice can blend with other musical textures. For me, “Only With the Wine”is the highlight track on the album, encapsulating how Kivel’s songwriting abilities and versatility vocally works best with limited accompaniment.
“Waving Goodbye”- the final song on the album – is an appropriate end to an album that by and large doesn’t offer any significant surprises musically. It ties up a romantic narrative that Kivel explores through his lyrics, of love and loss. Days of Being Wild is a very easy listen that is certainly a more ambitious record for Kivel than Double Exposure, that can be chalked up as a successful endeavour with promise of more exciting times ahead musically.