Skipping through mid year 2014 The Wandering Lamb flock had a moment to reflect on the year so far and made the grueling decision to select 5 albums that made our ears twitch. Unfortunately the New Borns this week didnt make the grade but still doesnt mean not worthy of a good listen. Taking a slightly more recognisable music turn this week we listened to Adelaide born SIA, reviewed by one of our contributors who is a big fan herself. The response, well youll have to read on! London duo Slow Club continue to transform their approach and deliver an album that had us very happy indeed, a cool 9 Lambs was honoured, so well worth your time. Finally, we risked all and strapped on the headphones for two debut albums, HoneyBlood from Glasgow go up against Melting Toys, and our thoughts? Well, they are a bit touch and go, but hey, they are growers. See you next week, happy listening.
Album Title_ 1000 Forms Of Fear
Label_ Monkey Puzzle, RCA
Genre_ Downtempo Electro Pop
Moments Of_ Rihanna, Regina Spektor
Stand Out_ Burn the Pages, Elastic Heart and Dressed In Black
1000 Forms Of Fear shows big changes for Australian singer songwriter Sia Furler’s sound. Her 2004 hit single Breathe Me, featured on the final episode of HBO’s Six Feet Under and was a tear jerkingly beautiful track that introduced her to a new fanbase. Though Sia has never been an artist to put her career or her music in the spotlight, her quirky style and addictive/unique vocals have kept her followers waiting for this 2014 release for quite some time, well, since her 2010 album We Are Born.
If you, like myself, are an old school Sia fan from way back, or at least know of her older works, you should notice straight away that 1000 Forms Of Fear, not only sounds different but has a deeply mysterious commercial pop sound to it, which is somewhat unusual for Sia. Her 2004 album Colour the Small One, featured one of her hit songs Breathe Me, which as I mentioned earlier, was on the final episode of Six Feet Under and had heartbreaking melodies and cinematic melodrama. I can definitely hear a compelling contrast between the general feel of her older tracks such as Breathe Me and Numb vs Elastic Heart and Chandelier. This brings me to analyzing 1000 Forms Of Fear as a whole, rather than harping on about Sias old albums.
Released July 4th, 1000 Forms Of Fear had a reasonable amount of buzz surrounding its release. This is largely due to the fact that leading single Chandelier, released March 17th, had a substantial commercial success, as well as mostly favorable reviews and charting within the top five in several countries, including Australia. It goes without saying, Chandelier is an art piece. Not only is the song written and sung beautifully, (you can’t deny it that), but it is also performed spectacularly. I can’t do this review without at least quickly mentioning the film clip, released May 6th. I’m sure 99% of you have already seen, or at least heard about it by now but the clip features eleven year old Maddie Ziegler leaping, falling and dancing this quirky choreographed dance, in an eerily deserted room whilst wearing a blonde Sia wig. This song and dance was performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where it gained a lot of media and fans attention.
Following on from opening track Chandelier, 1000 Forms Of Fear can be slightly repetitive and is without a doubt mysterious, and in true Sia form, does not give too much away. That being said, I find that the repetitive nature comes from the continuous mention of crumbling relationships, hard times, pain and torture. Though each track obviously has a slightly different story, listeners can gather the general gist of the heart ache and pain Sia has been through, even if the messages are covered by fun and joyful beats. The other repetitive aspect comes from the songs builds. many of Sias tracks seem to intensify as they progress, this is not to say it is a bad thing, but I admit it is often predictable and uninteresting. Saving her though, without a doubt is her vocals. Her voice range is incredibly flexible that she can go from sounding vulnerable on one track like Straight For The Knife and then showing strength in others like Burn The Pages.
With the likes of Rihanna, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears all having songs written by Sia, (many of which have been in peak positions on the chart), she has certainly made a name for herself in the industry with her music as well as songwriting.
It has been mentioned that more than one track on 1000 Forms Of Fear sound like they are perfectly taylored for Rihanna. I can definitely agree with this on tracks such as Fair Game and Fire Meet Gasoline, though I am ultimately glad that Sia is singing them because I cannot rave about her vocals enough.
First time listeners may be shocked to see Sia performing live with a bag over her head, or her performing to a wall, but this is not uncommon for her, she is intriguing and mysterious.
I highly recommend giving Sias older albums, especially 2010 We Are Born a listen to, possibly before listening to 1000 Forms Of Fear.
Artist_ Melted Toys
Album Title_ Melted Toys
Label_ Underwater Peoples
Genre_ Dream-pop, indie rock
Moments Of_ Best Coast, Real Estate, Mac DeMarco
Stand Out_ Horizons, Come On, Citrus Honeymoon
The self-titled debut album from West Coast quartet Melted Toys explores some musical territory that has been well-trodden in recent years. We have seen the lo-fi indie pop approach essentially “popularised” in recent years by bands like Best Coast and Real Estate (even if their followers wouldn’t like to admit it). However, the lads from the Melted Toys possibly take us to different lo-fi dimension with their collection of weird but strangely charming selection of tracks.
Nonetheless, there isn’t much doubt that the guys from Melted Toys draw influence from bands such as Flying Nun and contemporary versions thereof, who essentially established the jangle-drone sound. Generally speaking, Melted Toys subscribes to the multiple textures, haze and distortion that are often associated with the dream-pop genre. However, it’s also apparent on the opening tracks “Bummed Out” and “Horizons” that the band’s lead vocalist Steven Harkins doesn’t necessarily need to be decipherable amongst the driving rhythms and expressive guitar interplay. As opposed to the other musical textures being domineering and drowning out the vocals (although this is an issue occasionally), it is more about a kind of warped melancholy and vagueness that permeates the album. Melted Toys take us to another dimension beyond the over-played dream-pop genre into an almost meditative state through their collection of strangely soothing and pretty songs. Tracks such as “Water Arches” and “Bummed Out” encapsulate the gentle and spacey element that the band has developed into a key part of their sound.
However, the band’s process of taking the listener through the almost dream-like selection of tracks, characterised by heavily guised lyrics and indiscernible musical textures, presents what are the notable flaws on the album. The blurred vocals can be frustrating at times, particularly on the scarcer and spaced out tracks such as “A Postcard”. Again, it’s no fault of the textures beyond the lead vocals. If anything, “A Postcard” is a charming and beguiling funk groove that is a nice contrast to other tracks on the album such as “Horizons” and “Always”. This particular blemish aside, the ethereal and relaxed sound that the lads from Melted Toys have cultivated makes their debut album a promising development musically. It portrays itself as an almost meditative listen for a discerning indie pop listener, avoiding any significant surprises bar the occasional energetic guitar riff.
Although the Melted Toys album does is a comforting and relaxing listen, certain tracks suggest to the listener that the band isn’t completely satisfied with the sound they have developed. Melted Toys rarely do diverge from their hazy lo-fi tunes, but there is the occasional anomaly on the album. “Citrus Honeymoon” is an example of a brighter, clearer indie pop element that reflects the band’s versatility musically and adds another dimension to their sound. It’s a nice contrast from the dream-pop stylings that are almost omnipresent otherwise on the album.
Although Melted Toys self-titled debut falls well and truly within the sleep-pop genre – reminiscent of the prominent acts like Best Coast and Real Estate – there is a notable niche to their sound that makes the album an intriguing listen. The band is a few tweaks away musically from releasing an album that will have reviewers eating from the palm of their hands. However, there is a need to move away from the overzealous mystique and willfully warped nature of their sound. If they make this divergence, chances are I’ll be throwing a whole lot more Lambs their way.
Artist_ Slow Club
Album Title_ Complete Surrender
Genre_ Indie Folk
Moments Of _ Grizzly Bear, Emmy The Great, Kate Bush
Stand Out_ Tears Of Joy, The Queen’s Noise
British pop babes Slow Club have released their latest album entitled Complete Surrender, a candy coated foray of revised prog – pop wrapped in a sufficiently delightful, soul and R & B wrapper. Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor have turned out a convincingly thoughtful, well-crafted interpretation of pop and this week, I had the chance for a little taster.
There seems to be a fairly fervent resurgence of R & B permeating pop at the moment. I hear it creeping in everywhere, from a sneaky bloated bass line to a weighty, chest thumping 808, and I suppose it’s not that I am really complaining. It’s just an observation, and I wonder if it’s a commentary of the influence that R & B has had, just in general, over the last 30 – 40 odd years or if its just testament to the fact that musicians of our time are uncomfortably familiar with the repertoire of Destiny’s Child (Queen Bey’s mother ship). But regardless of the reason, there has been a noticeable shift toward more nuanced materials, more minimalist in trajectory, less sensory driven and a genuinely more textured approach to pop music and regardless of who started the trend, its certainly proved very popular. For the most part, acts such as Slow Club have embraced these sounds and imposed them upon their newer efforts to create smooth, ethereal soundscapes that pulse with restless joy and melancholy abandon.
Watson and Taylor formed Slow Club back in 2006, and had formerly embraced a sound that was folksy and rustic, exuding a formidable yet unassuming charm that hid, essentially, two very talented, very rounded multi – instrumentalists. However, this album is quite simply, something very different. The evolution of their sound is thoughtfully textured, and for all the right reasons. What I like about these two is that there is something inherently familiar in the way that they sing when they sing together; it’s a type of connection that can’t be contrived. Mix that in with some very quaintly acerbic lyrics and you have the makings of some rather interesting fare.
The appetizer is proffered in the form of Tears Of Joy, a dusty, 1960’s delight that betrays the duo’s distinct infatuation with soul. It’s a dreamy, deconstructed look at Grizzly Bear, The Dap Kings, The Carpenters, and Donnie Osmond jamming round at the bro’s on a lazy Saturday night. It’s so sugary that it has the ability to be borderline tacky, muted percussion nestled amongst mellifluous vocals and deliberate strings. Everything Is New has a sound that may be akin to something that would come out of a church in Georgia, midway though the track marks the entrance of a choir that gives the track a weighted, homely feel. Suffering You Suffering Me starts as a forlorn, longing lament then crashes into a bouncy, Motown driven affair replete with blaring horns and thin, crispy percussion. Think something along the lines of a climactic scene in the latest Bridget Jones movie whilst The Pieces is upbeat melodically with an interesting UFO inspired riff throughout the whole thing. Admittedly I did feel slightly brainwashed afterward. The Queen’s Noise is a beautifully heartfelt, soulful affair that displays Taylor’s utterly relentless vocal, a range that deserves every possible superlative that one can muster.
Quite simply, a delight. Despite the stylistically charged sound of the 60s and 70s, there was something very modern about this album. And again, it could be modern equipment or its polished, quirky exterior but I loved what Watson and Taylor did on here. It felt very organic and very natural in terms of progression for them. So if you do decide to indulge Slow Hand and surrender to their fairly obvious charms, I can assure you, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Album Title_ Honeyblood
Label_ FatCat Records
Genre_ Indie Rock
Moments Of_ The Breeders, Sonic Youth, Bleached, Super Wild Horses
Stand Out_ Killer Bangs, Choker, All Dragged Up
Glaswegian duo Honeyblood, the moniker behind the musical explorations of Stina Tweeddale (guitar/vocals) and Shona McVicar (drums), have released their debut self-titled album following up from Thrift Shop EP of 2012. They’ve been gaining much interest with their lo-fi indie tunes after supporting the likes of Sleigh Bells and just recently our own home town darling Courtney Barnett. Produced by Peter Katis (whose resumé boasts work with Interpol and The National) and signed to Fat Cat Records, which is also home to fellow buzz bands Traams, The Growlers and PAWS, it seems there are big expectations for this album. So does it live up to the challenge?
Describing their own sound as ‘crunch-pop’, Honeyblood flip the limitations of being only guitar and drums on their back to produce a polished mix of indie, grunge, shoegaze, riot grrl and pop hooks. It’s important to remember that simplicity is sometimes favourable over complex instrumentation and composition, and it totally works in the favour for these girls. Slick production adds bass lines and extra percussion to many of the songs, so therefore it would be very interesting to see whether or not they would be able to hold up their sound in a live setting. Given that the owner of FatCat records turned up to one of their very first shows, bought all of their home made merchandise and helped them to establish themselves as an accomplished live act (and them onto a record deal), I’d take that as a yes.
As a comparison to contemporaries playing lo-fi pop music such as Best Coast and Bleached, a major difference would have to be a basis of the songwriting and lyrics. While Bethany Constatino is singing about being Crazy For You and the Clavin sisters are Searching Through The Past for a love they once had, Tweeddale instead writes about the problems with love, about stupid boys and abusive relationships. Most obvious is the example of slow burner Super Rat, ‘you are the smartest rat in the sewer…and I will hate you forever, you really do disgust me!’ With other song titles like (I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here, Choker and No Spare Key, you have a pretty good idea of the headspace that Tweeddale was in when she wrote these songs. The overall feel of the album, the attitude and the vibe displays this, providing a great soundtrack for anyone who might be having the same feelings. Sometimes the best songs are written not in love, but in anger.
Taking strong influence from American indie bands of the 90’s, this has definitely had a very strong influence on their overall sound. So much so is that even Tweeddale’s singing voice is undistinguishable from any of her idols, which is odd given their Scottish heritage. Many other Scottish bands (just think Franz Ferdinand, Glasvegas or The View) proudly sing with their true accents, which tends to be an interesting and commendable quality. As mentioned earlier and having just finished a tour with, Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett is a great example of someone who’s accent is true and proud, adding to the sincerity and likeability of her singing voice.
Despite this, Tweeddale knows how to write intriguing songs. Featuring all the usual pop hooks like tempo changes, fade outs, emphasising triplets, plenty of reverb and engaging chord progressions, you certainly can’t say that the album doesn’t possess memorable tunes. Melded with smooth vocals, accomplished drums and classic guitar tones, Honeyblood is perfect for long drives and late nights. Sure, they fit the mould often sought out by record labels and by trendy music mags, whilst putting out an album of likeable and radio-friendly tunes. Meeting expectations? Sure, but in order to exceed them, they’d need to give these songs the recognition they deserve in the live setting. Bring on an Australian tour!