Well it was fair for us to say last week that August was a tad slow in outstanding New Borns however judging by this deliveries, what a way to welcome in September. This week we welcome back some familiar names including Kent (UK) sister and brother duos The Magic Numbers who sung sweet Californian drenched harmonies with their debut some 10 years ago and return with a fair album that will make long lasting fans pretty happy. Royal Blood have made their mark as a band to watch for 2014 way before the release of their debut album, but does it live up to all its hype, after all, their are only two. Do we really need another formula of Black Keys? Another Londoner, Annie Eve bears her heart with her raw and emotional debut that will suit those of Laura Marling and Julia Stone varieties. Ty Segall delivers a pack full album and proves that at a moderately tender age of 27, you can do so much in such a small amount of time. J Mascis (Dinosaur Jnr) delivers a follow up debut with trademark grunge and gravelly vocals that only J can do.
Artist_ Royal Blood
Album Title_ Royal Blood
Label_ Warner Bros.
Genre_ Grunge/Indie Rock
Moments Of_ Deap Vally, Drenge, Jack White, Violent Soho
Stand Out_ Figure It Out, You Can Be So Cruel
Formed on the beaches of Brighton, England, Royal Blood are one of the growing names in the music industry. The duo combine a number of influences in their music, the end result being forceful, rich garage rock. The band released their first single Out of the Black in 2013, scoring a slot support for the Arctic Monkeys. Now, after raiding the stages of SXSW, Glastonbury, T in the Park, Download and Reading, the band have finally released their self-titled debut.
I’ve always been in awe of bands with only two members. I don’t know how they do it, but they can make it sound like there’s five of them – that is, until they step out on stage and it’s just two people armed with a guitar and a drumkit. DZ Deathrays have done it and blown everyone away; JEFF the Brotherhood and Aussie newcomers Hockey Dad share the same vibes. Now Royal Blood are setting the bar high with their self-titled debut.
The album opens with single ‘Out Of The Black’. The track is killer – dynamic and forceful, it really sets the mood that the whole listening experience of the LP is going to be hard rock. A really strong guitar riff combined with the excessive use of cymbals on the drum kit will leave you head banging in no time.
‘Figure It Out’ just oozes Jack White so much that you can actually picture Jack White playing it live (In The White Stripes, maybe). You can hear it in the vocal melody and the riffage of that guitar – particularly in the solo. If Jack White stole this song, I don’t think you’d even be able to tell that it was written by someone else. However, the track takes on this sped up, punk-influenced ending that makes it a standout on the album.
Following track ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ sounds like it’s ripped straight from a Queens of the Stone Age album, but man, it’s a really sweet tune. You can have a groove to it in your car, or just blast it at home on a hot summer’s day – it’ll work out tops either way. ‘Little Monster’ holds one of the catchiest choruses on the album; a rock-driven number tat once again oozes the characteristics of other bands – in this case, i and a bit like someone’s thrown Muse’s Matthew Bellamy in there.
‘Loose Change’ starts off at a relative pace, then quickens and sends you into a dancing frenzy. More than halfway into the album now, there’s no denying that this was made for the stage. I can picture just about every one of these songs perfect for a summer music festival. Closing track ‘Better Strangers’ is a little slow-paced in comparison to the other tracks, but they still haven’t held themselves back. It’s still laden with distorted guitar riffs and crash cymbals, and you can draw a lot of influences from it, but hey – it’s killer and a perfect way to wrap everything up.
Overall, Royal Blood’s debut serves as a hearty, full-bodied release. They haven’t necessarily brought anything new to the plate, but at the same time they have. This record has cemented them as a noisy, tough garage rock duo that will no doubtedly become a house name in the coming years.
Artist_ Annie Eve
Album Title_ Sunday ’91
Label_ Sound Wave Music 5 Limited
Genre_ Indie Folk
Moments Of_ Laura Marling, Julia Stone, Tiny Ruins, Bon Iver
Stand Out_ Animal, Bodyweight, Ropes
A fresh face and relatively new name on the music scene, 22 year old Annie Eve from Hertfordshire, North London has just released her debut album, Sunday ’91. An impressionable and moving vocalist whose voice has been vastly described as “enchanting and haunting”, pours her feelings and emotions into her music. Formed during University, Annie Eve is backed by four other band members, collectively producing indie folk music. A band who are sure to solidify a fan base with their debut album release.
I love this album. Over twenty plays, start to finish, in five days. It took that long to figure out whether I didn’t mind the album, or whether I loved it, and then to finally pick out my stand out tracks. It’s an album that definitely grew on me in the end as opposed to being sick to death of it.
With any musical genre there are endless female singer/songwriters out there, slotting into the category of indie, or folk, or indie folk music. The hard part is breaking into the music scene and being noticed. Comparing Annie Eve to just two established, and well-recognised female singers, she is not as quirky as Regina Spektor, and not as “cutsey” as Julia Stone. Sounding a little more grounded, there is a slight husk and raspiness in her vocals, and even without belting out highs and low, she exhibits an impressive vocal range with much ease. It doesn’t sound to me as though she has a front; a stage or limelight persona as other singer/songwriters may exude. Although her vocals will not blow your bind, or give you goosebumps, there is sincerity and honestly in her voice and in her words.
Animals is the first track on the album and is definitely one of my favourites, apparently one of Annie’s too. The song eases you into the album, but doesn’t lose your attention. It starts off with gentle strumming of guitar strings, tender drums and soon introduces a penetrating high-pitched lead guitar, all of which swirl around the vocals, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics of the song.
Bodyweight comes next, and also another standout for me. A delicate and harmonious track, also appearing as the first track on their first self-titled EP released last year. Annie Eve speaks about this track, drawing similarities to a carousal. “Nothing really changes too much but the more you see (hear) it go round, the more detail you hear and the picture becomes more vivid”. Perfect way to sum up the track, and for me, this sums up the whole album.
Ropes is smack bang in the middle, and I have decided it is my favourite. Gradually, the song reaches a peak, and is a little more upbeat than the rest. She lets her vocals soar a little higher and longer. She claims the song poured out of her after coming off tour last summer, seeming obvious as the song flows so effortlessly from start to finish.
There is an element of emotional pain throughout the album and a sorrowful undertone. She evidently wears her heart on her sleeve, writing and singing about her feelings and emotions. Regardless, it is a beautiful album that will tickle your ears and have its place in your itunes. I have high hopes for Annie Eve and the bands future in the music scene, and I wait with anticipation to see what comes next. As an artist and songwriter, I am just quietly hoping things are not all sad and gloomy in her future. It would be nice if she picked up the pace a little and translated some triumphs and successes onto paper and into her music.
Artist_ Ty Segall
Album Title_ Manipulator
Label_ Drag City
Genre_ Glam Rock, Indie Rock, Psychedelic, Garage Rock
Moments Of_ Thee Oh Sees, T. Rex, Jay Reatard, White Fence, Hawkwind
Stand Out_ Manipulator, Feel, Susie’s Thumb
San Francisco’s Ty Segall is one busy man. By the mere age of 27, the garage rock revivalist has released an almost uncanny number of albums; through his solo career, collaborative albums and with the numerous bands he has played in, as well as producing and recording a number of albums all in the space of less than ten years. Being well known for his lo-fi, psych and glam inspired albums drenched in guitar fuzz and 60’s pop melodies, his most recent album Manipulator has branched in a number of directions. Whether new fans will appreciate a more polished and accessible album is a major factor in the reception of this, Ty’s solo album number eight.
Spanning 17 tracks, Manipulator as a double album with a running time of almost an hour, could seem like an intimidating prospect. However, Ty has spent more time than ever (a mere 14 months ) on writing, recording and perfecting this, his most experimental and polished album to date. As an evolution from the early years of his debut self titled solo effort, his work with bands like The Epsilons or The Traditional Fools, there is an obvious and logical progression in his work. From his raw beginnings of lo-fi garage fuzz-pop, Ty’s songwriting has improved and evolved along with his sound. Taking influences from his favourite bands of the 60’s and 70’s (Ty once stated in an interview that his favourite band of all time with Hawkwind) and mashing them with his style of west-coast garage has resulted in an album of mixed experiments – sometimes soaring and occasionally not quite getting off the ground.
Prime examples of surely mosh-inducing classic Ty songs are spread liberally through the 17 tracks. Fans will definitely appreciate the nod to his previous work, whilst now upgrading to a more accomplished, confident edition of his sound. Songs like It’s Over, Feel, Connection Man and Susie’s Thumb are certainly drenched in signature fuzz (Ty even has an effects pedal inspired by him named Sunshine Reverberation, a limited edition run of 100 made by Death By Audio) and rollicking pop singalongs. Feel is a highlight, a total road trip song, with your hands out the window, gliding up and down through the air. You can tell that this is going to go off live – a wicked solo and a chance for Ty and his band to let loose. During recording, Ty played all the instruments himself but is now joined by high school friend and long time collaborator Mikal Cronin on bass, and established solo artist in his own right, as well as Charles Mootheart on second guitar and Emily-Rose Epstein on drums to make up his current touring band. If their performance on Conan O’Brien’s show is anything to go buy, we can only count the days until we get to see them here in Melbourne (or Meredith).
Whilst undoubtedly those favourites will go down a treat, it will be interesting to see how the new, more diverse sounding songs will stand up. It is well know that Ty is a big fan of glam, psych and pop from the experimental years of greats such as the earlier mentioned Hawkwind, as well as T.Rex, David Bowie and The Beatles. Manipulator has been the perfect vehicle for Ty to take these influences, chew them up and spit them out after mixing them around with his tried and tested styles of singing, songwriting and guitar playing. One example is Tall Man, Skinny Lady, which feature a bizarre bouncing guitar riff, funk drum beats with acoustic guitar layered over Ty’s trademark fuzz guitar, with a blazing solo, of course. It is also worth noting the greater use of acoustic guitars as compared to a ‘standard’ Ty album. With the exception of ‘mellow’ albums Sleeper and Goodbye Bread, it’s interesting to hear the greater use of acoustics compared to the lo fi garage albums of his previous work. And then there is epic ballads like The Singer, complete with full instrumentation, even a string section! A string section! On a garage rock album! Then again The Faker is a slice of pure glam-stomp. Along with Who’s Producing You, Ty’s falsetto and clever melodies are a sure hark back to Bolan at his best.
Yet with all of this going on, Ty reminds us on album closer Stick Around why we all are in this, that if we have faith in Ty’s music, if we go out and see his shows, he will stick around. While it’s easy to get wound up on the highs and lows of an album of such variation, it’s important to appreciate the complexities and also, the straight up simplicity of some songs. Where it might seem overwhelming for a new listener to approach Ty’s music, given the enormous back catalogue for such a young artist, Manipulator is a reference of note. As a whole, it’s a true representation of Ty as an artist who has worked tirelessly and faithfully to his craft.
Artist_ J Mascis
Album Title_ Tied to a Star
Label_ Sub Pop
Genre_ Alt rock, alt folk
Moments Of_ Nick Drake, Dinosaur Jr (obviously)
Stand Out_ Me Again, Wide Awake, Drifter
Despite his quiet and camera-shy offstage demeanor, J Mascis is already a legend within the alt rock genre. Wielding his signature Jazzmaster guitar and sporting his trademark look (think Dave Grohl with gray hair and thick-framed glasses), he found fame with recently-reformed act Dinosaur Jr. Despite some scepticism surrounding Mascis’s first solo release Several Shades of Why, it was generally heralded as a success. Tied to a Star, J Mascis’s second solo effort, once again allows for his trademark grave vocal and dexterous guitar stylings to prominently feature.
First things first – it’s quite clear that any discerning listener can pick a Dinosaur Jr track – the distinctive sound they have cultivated over the past couple of decades makes it difficult not to. Conversely, for those who have not followed J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr on their ascent to the pinnacle of grunge-rock stardom, they may not know the man behind the music. J has never been one for the spotlight – delivering one liners (see in one of the more beautifully awkward interviews below) and generally being subdued and evasive. This however doesn’t translate really to his music – Tied to a Star is a quite intimate, raw manifestation of the J Mascis psyche. Well, close enough to it at least.
On the back of the unique sound Dinosaur Jr have produced over the years, further brownie points have to be given to J Mascis – he has again carved out through his solo work an easily identifiable songwriting niche that’s quite soothing and charming in this stripped back setting. Whether you actually like the music he produces or not is another question altogether, but it’s difficult to deny that the infamous Dinosaur Jr front man has made the genre his own. Opening track from Tied to a Star – “Me Again” – is a good example of this. Mascis’s well-known overdubbed guitar solos and gravelly vocal stylings amalgamates elegantly with ambient and loose acoustic melodies.
Generally speaking, it must be said that certain tracks on Tied to a Star really do work well and are easily to engage with. Taking “Wide Awake” as an example, Mascis’s grizzled and distinctive vocals provides an intriguing counterpoint to the delicate and intricate guitar riffs that he has become renowned for with Dinosaur Jr. “Drifter” and “Trailing Off” – the former being an instrumental track admittedly – are archetypical. Archetypical in the sense that J Mascis achieves a balance between the trademark Dinosaur Jr haze and distortion and his relatively newfound unplugged, acoustic-heavy orientation.
Tied to a Star jumps from these more gentle, acoustic-oriented tracks to heavily orchestrated ones that are certainly Dinosaur Jr-esque. This is where the album tends to go astray. Several Shades of Why was a different approach for J that presented the listener with a different perspective on his songwriting ingenuity, a freshness and creative spark. Several Shades of Why was a significant change in direct for J Mascis – Tied to a Star lacks the sense of discovery and groundbreaking musically.
Since the reformation of Dinosaur Jr, it’s hard to say whether or not J Mascis has entered another stage of his songwriting career altogether. Based on Tied to a Star, musically it feels that J has taken a step back from Several Shades of Why.
The potential is certainly there, it might just take an album or two to get it right.
Artist_ The Magic Numbers
Album Title_ Alias
Label_ Caroline/ Universal
Genre_ Pop Rock, Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Moments Of_ The Thrills, the Zutons, Athlete, Mumford and Sons
Stand Out_ The End, Shot in the Dark, Roy Orbison
The quintessentially Texan-sounding band who happen to be from Kent in the UK, The Magic Numbers, have decided to bring us their fourth installment to the music world ‘Alias.’ The band have been pretty quiet for the past few years with each of the member’s busy working on personal projects. With a reputation for being indie pop children of the flowers and Mother Earth (you get the jist), the Magic Numbers have certainly grown up a lot just generally as a band and this is evident in their musicality. Don’t worry, though, they haven’t lost their fun, cuddly edge (yes that is an edge in itself, in case you were wondering).
Alias is unfortunately, very much a hit and miss album: each track brings the listener on a journey that culminates into a bigger story. The only problem is that some parts of the story are slightly more captivating than others. Despite this, the band’s musicality is never bereft of complex and sophisticated melodies or hooks. The band have progressed from a slightly more innocent vision to one that a lot of bands tend to achieve with age and yes, that’s’ right, it’s maturity. In fact, Alias is the album in The Magic Numbers back catalogue that most feels like a blues album – almost a cross between the Thrills, and Mumford and Sons. They’ve brought something new, much more soulful and darker that belies genuine underlying suffrage – well as much suffrage as a happy-go-lucky band from Kent can experience anyway. On this level, the album is far more relatable to a more grown up audience, which may, in fact, be intentional as the Magic Numbers have a history of being very good to their most devoted and loyal fanbase who are probably now growing up alongside them.
The most stand out track on the album is by far ‘Shot in the Dark’ with its wispy, soulful characteristics and the gritty, very raw lyrics. ‘Shot in the Dark’ takes us to corner pub in Austin, Texas with its folky alternative rock bass line and folk like delivery of the lyrics. We hear “I suppose I’m just a shot in the dark/ you say love it never dies/ it just falls apart.” Displaying for us again the mature musical journey the band goes through. The combination of Romeo and Michelle Stodarts vocal in perfect harmony though really makes the track. They are beautifully complimented by a few roaring riffs on the bass from Michelle.
Similarly, another track on the album with this slightly darker feel to it is yet another of their standouts ‘E.N.D.’ Although, the track is probably one of the closest to The Magic Numbers pop rock roots, it is still characterized by much darker content than they would usually draw from. We hear “show me what it takes to turn/ I know that you’ve been faking for so long/ I never want it to end.” Over the top, there is a careful melody predominantly distinctively carried out by Orchestra-like accompaniment on the violin giving the whole track a boppy Beatlish feel.
Unfortunately, the album can’t help but fall apart in certain places whether that’s because certain tracks like ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Out on the Street’ sound like almost extended version of each other. While, such as a characteristic denotes the ability to put together a congruous sound, it detracts from the Magic Numbers musically chameleon nature or their ability to appropriate genres in a delightful way. Despite this, the band are unlikely to alienate their previous fans, as ‘Alias’ really has something for everyone and they’re definitely marking their definitely still marking their spot in the game all these years on.