Who would have thought we would be reviewing a Blur album! James, co-founderof the TWL remembers the time he saw the kings of “Britpop” storm the stage in 1997 at Thebarton Theatre in Adelaide town, on the long lasting rampage of Parklife and The Great Escape. With their return to Australian shores this winter, the album was reviewed by Jakob who was a wee lad at their peak but still impressed by this delivery. Miami Horror deliver a soft beat ladden dance album that had us feeling slightly mediocre, while Stornoway come up trumps with a mature sound, coming leaps and bounds from their debut. Shauna, reviews Speedy Oritz and makes the call on a contender for Top 10 album of the year while Jerome, nestled amongst his home town of landscape beauty spent the week listening to the delightful sounds of San Fermin. Worth a listen if you havent already. Over to you.
Album Title The Magic Whip
Label Parlophone Records
Genre Alternative/Art/Experimental Rock
Stand Out Ong Ong
The wait is finally over. The four London lads Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree, or as more commonly referred to as; BLUR have come back together for the release of their first album in twelve years with The Magic Whip. As well as coming back together to make The Magic Whip, we can not only expect to see Blur headlining Australia’s biggest festival Splendour in the Grass in a few months time, but you can also catch their side shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth alongside Jamie T whilst in the country. Only one phrase can sum up the feeling of all of this Blur goodness coming our way, that phrase being the band’s most famous lyric; WOOOO-HOOOOOOO!
The return of Blur is something I just cannot be any happier about, I remember being a little two year old and cranking Song 2 full boar on my parents’ CD player, to then jump on their bed for the entirety of the song ‘til I needed a nap. Go hard or go home basically is the motto amirite? But yeah, that is literally my first ever music memory, and first ever song I loved which wasn’t by the Wiggles or Hooley Dooleys, and it is so sick that seventeen years later they’ve come back and made an album that I’m lucky enough to review.
After a long hiatus from recording and singer Albarn focusing on other mega successful project The Gorillaz, The Magic Whip is Blur’s long-awaited 8th studio album. The Magic Whip sees the band find a very funky middle ground between songs that make you want to whip out the air guitar and thrash your head around ‘til you literally cannot even anymore, and a very chilled “sit by yourself and have a quiet think about stuff” vibe.
It kicks off with track 01, Lonesome Street, which starts off with a guitar riff similar to the one featured in Hunters & Collector’s classic The Holy Grail, which, to me, just sets off an automatic response that this is a feel good song, and that you can get comfortable with it very easily. This feeling pretty much carries on throughout the rest of the album, Blur want you to appreciate the work they’ve put into this, but at the same time totally don’t mind if you get tired and want to go make a coffee and watch some Game of Thrones, they completely understand and will be here waiting for when you’re ready 🙂
A few personal standouts from the album include track 02 – New World Towers, track 03 – the one you’re hearing a lot on triple j lately Go Out, track 05 – I Thought I Was a Spaceman which is really the one I was referring to when talking about the “sit by yourself and have a quiet think about stuff” vibe, a bit slow and depressing but that’s not at all saying it’s bad in any way.
Lastly, my absolute standout is track 11 – Ong Ong. A very feel-good vibe is attached to this song. It consists of primarily acoustic guitar used throughout verse, Albarn’s soothing voice, the main lyric being “I wanna be with you” and the hook being “lalalalalalala”, it establishes itself as catchy, intelligent and relatable all in one. “Lalalalala” is also almost as easy a hook to remember as “WOOO-HOOOO”.
Overall, this is a really, really nice album with a really strong sound. Not many criticisms I can think of to be honest, I give it 9 lambs.
Album Title All Possible Futures
Label Dine Alone, Haven Sounds
Genre Synth-Pop, Post-Disco, New Wave
Moments Of Cut Copy, Duke Dumont, Passion Pit
Stand Out Out Of Sight, Another Rise, Another Fall, Love Like Mine
All Possible Futures treads on familiar territory of fellow successful Australian electronic bands, reliving the strengths and weaknesses of New-Wave simplicity. If you’re looking for an unrelenting collection of summer anthems, you’ll be more than pleased. For the more discerning listener there’s merit to be found, covertly inserted between layers of sugary 80’s pop gloss. With that said, those looking for music that realises ambition beyond recreating good cheese for a quick buck may quickly tire of All Possible Futures’ often simplistic pleasures
It’s no secret that many Australians hold little more than disappointment and contempt for Australian cultural products. Local creatives adopt imported styles in the hope of breaking into foreign markets where they’re actually admired for their work rather than derided. Miami Horror aim for the big time via a traditional route: sacrificing innovation for success, using tried and tested formulae to manufacture marketable pop products. With All Possible Futures, Miami Horror show us exactly how they might argue their relocation to Los Angeles has paid off – whilst many tracks are saccharine assaults on the senses, the album often pulls off the retro aesthetic evocative of Californian style.
Dreamy recollections of American vintage cool combine with slick productions to evoke electronic crowd-pleasing styles with current wide-spread popularity. Opener American Dream replicates the chilled-out, sentimental nostalgia of Australian contemporaries Van She, introducing the album with blissful synths and indie guitar strumming before launching into a housey-pop number, a la recent Cut Copy or Hot Chip. The reverb-drenched vocal hooks and infuriatingly catchy beats that follow are guaranteed to charm easy-going audiences or repulse non-forgiving critics. This sets the pace for the majority of the album, consistently delivering the kind of laidback electronica pop you might expect from the likes of Kygo or Duke Dumont.
It’s a mixed bag of painfully sugary attention-grabbers or something with well-executed grooves. Accessible vocal-oriented songs Wild Motion and All It Ever Was might induce glamorous mental images of the Hollywood and Venice Beach in the 80s for the Urban Outfitters market, but harder to please audiences will notice that these teeny tunes lack any kind of sex-appeal. It’s a shame that so much time is spent embracing the unflattering Triple-J idea of cool that the better tracks in this vein – Colours In The Sky and Stranger – seem to be slipping through the cracks instead of defining the album.
Die-hard Miami Horror fans, don’t despair: between the Do-Do’s and Woah-Oh’s are a smattering of referential gems. Getting you through the first half of the album is undoubtedly high point Love Like Mine, an upbeat funky tune recalling classics by Madonna and Michael Jackson. All Possible Futures rewards patience after turning point (Maybe I Need You), a post-disco interlude with a Breakbot vibe that sadly wasn’t developed into a full track. The subsequent track Out Of Sight is unquestionably the album’s standout – a tribute to Talking Heads’ classics such as Once In A Lifetime and I Zimbra, complete with rhythmically intricate, rolling grooves and undeniable funk appeal.
After soaring high points and dismal lows, I’m left questioning the band’s aim with this album. Was it to pay homage? It seems too dumbed down to be the case. To avoid hypocrisy and perpetuating Australia’s cultural cringe, I’ll end by saying their stronger tracks on the album deserve due credit – I hope the Miami Horrors of next decade aren’t victims of their home in the same way.
Album Title Bonxie
Label Control/Cooking Vinyl
Genre Pop, Indie, Folk
Moments Of Decemberists, Fanfarlo, Fleet Foxes
Stand Out Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea, When You’re Feeling Gentle
Stornoway first tickled my ears with their 2010 single Zorbing. It was gorgeous, but they have certainly grown since then. Five years later, Bonxie is an album that sees Stornoway’s penchant for soaring vocals and sweet, sweet melodies reigned in and measured out in folky spoonfuls. The effect is a mature, enduring and totally listenable set of songs.
At first I thought I’d hit the wrong button and was listening to the Decemberists – Stornoway lead Brian Briggs has always echoed the style of Colin Meloy, but now that they’ve toned down and folked up its almost uncanny. In a good way, its like part BBC seaside drama part ultimate ode to 60s folk pop. On further research, it turns out that Briggs was inspired by nature and the album features 20 different bird sounds. It
actually could be a sweet new drinking game to pick up on not only the bird sounds but also the bird metaphors and mentions throughout this album. Briggs likes birds.
There is still, however, the trademark soaring and intense joyfulness of Stornaway amongst all this new restraint. Opener Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea begins with boat horns and builds slowly from there into noisy perfection. From here on in the album is Romantic in the best Byronic sense, nature as a monumental and beautiful force of life, expressed with emotional ecstasy that borders on hymnal. Or, songs about birds sung with bloody good feels. However you want to read into it, songs like When You’re Feeling Gentle and The Road You Didn’t Take cement Stornoway as stayers, big music makers with intimate indie feels, up there with Band of Horses.
Album Title Jackrabbit
Label Downtown Records
Genre Baroque Pop
Moments Of_The National, Lambchop,
Stand Out_ Parasites, The Woods
While fashion may be considered simplistic and commercial focused, some immerging groups \ break this mold with musical uniqueness, songs which happens to be of great ambition and that remains true their musical promise. This is the case with San Fermin and their new album Jackrabbit. After the departure, in April 2014, of Rae Cassidy (who preferred privileged her solo career), the band lead by Ellis Ludwig-Leone hired her replacement Charlene Kaye as a lead singer for the sequel of their debut album San Fermin (2013) without lacking either guts or originality.
The album opens with The Woods and directly, the tone of the songs is given. Dominated by staccato rhythmic structures, the instrumental melodic construction works little by little. A mix of instrument, which incorporates elements of classical music, rock or pop instrumental and which gives a result of more successful. A constant risk taking and an ambition that exceeds, in my opinion, that of the previous album.
As his usual, the band leader Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the Brooklyn-based composer and songwriter, has his album composed entirely on his computer, before meeting a group of 22 musicians for the recording, Among which several menber of his current line up, hired for their lives a year ago (John Rebekah Durham Brandon, Stephen Chen and much more).
In complement of these music, San Fermin has surrounded with two voices during the album, female (Charlene Kaye) and male (Allen Tate), THE perfect mix to establish a kind of double perspective all along the album.
The pieces are connected and we find here a very wide range of instruments: violin, brass, guitar, piano etc ,,,, anything goes , in this musical”mess” controlled from start to end ( parasites for example). Typically the kind of album that we do not really know how to take but one senses the potential and musical achievement. Ellis Ludwig-Leone wanted to make an album that looks like him, messy, melodic, twisted and beautiful at the same time … in one word: crazy. But a beautiful crazyness which turns out difficult not to love !
San Fermin is trying to find a style and a unique sound, dark and aggressive sometime, more pop and danceable sometime else. A row followed and controlled throughout the album that gives the group its own identity: simply superb!
Album Title_ Foil Deer
Label_ Carpark Records
Genre_ Indie Rock, College Rock
Moments Of_ Sleater Kinney, Pavement, The Breeders
Stand Out_ Raising The Skate, The Graduates
Foil Deer marks album number three from Northampton, Massachusetts based indie rock band Speedy Ortiz. The brain-child of guitarist/singer/songwriter Sadie Dupuis, Foil Deer continues in the fashion of Dupuis’ quirky lyrics, unconventional guitar melodies and 90’s-esc vibes – but with a new focus on production values, tighter arrangements and a renewed sense of together-ness within the group as a band. Given previous unrest and departure of former guitarist (and ex-boyfriend of Dupuis) Matt Robidoux last year, Foil Deer represents a new chapter and outlook for the band.
Sadie Dupius is 26, a huge Pavement fan, and even at some point played two shows with an all female cover band called Babement. Speedy Ortiz recently toured with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (Pavement’s singer songwriter’s new project), which was certainly a major step in their career as a band. This is just one milestone they’ve made recently – the release of Foil Deer has seen them gaining international attention, showcasing at SXSW, extensive touring and exceptional media response. It seems to go along with the current interest in songwriters with real stories and lyrics that reflect that, as well as the rising popularity of 90’s sounding guitar tones. Maybe it’s those kids who were teenagers in the 90’s that are now making the decisions in major music promotion, or that these are the people buying the records. Without a doubt it’s the younger kids too, who’s older friends and siblings exposed them to their first real tastes of guitar music through the likes of the aforementioned Pavement, Dinosaur Jnr. and the Pixies.
Dupuis’ lyrics are real. More than the typical heartfelt longing, romantic upset or dude-you-pissed-me-off sentiments, Dupuis is singing about the realities. Post split with former guitarist Robidoux, she didn’t want to write a break up album, or even give him the mention. This album was not about shitty old boyfriends. Instead, according to Dupuis, the songs instead reflect the realities of being a girl in a band (Raising The Skate), the cultural fantasy of the victimised woman (My Dead Girl) and being direct, tough and proud (Mister Difficult). Accompanying the popularity of 90’s trends, Speedy Ortiz are riding the wave of the riot grrrl revival (hopefully it never really went away) and women leading the way in bands and the rock scene. Her guitar playing is not basic – which is often an expected stereotype of female guitarists. Along with rising and established stars of the scene such as St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett, Screaming Females and Waxahatchee, it’s so fantastic to hear that girls will always be making great music and being unrestricted in doing so. In a world where media is filled with questionable, sexualised role models for girls, rock music provides the saviour for self expression and real people.
Given that Foil Deer possesses a more refined collection of songs, many of these songs are equipped with radio-friendly hooks and ear-worm potential. But in saying that, there is more than enough uniqueness in songwriting, arrangement and structure to let the album stand out on it’s own. Swell Content is topped with singing guitar lines, Homonovus brings the pace back but shoots above with a punctuating chorus, while Puffer feels more at home on a GTA-style video game soundtrack. All the more reason why Foil Deer yearns for repeat listenings – and the fact that Dupuis’ encyclopedia and lyrics will never be absorbed on a single listen. Do yourself a favour and take the time to absorb the album as whole – you might be discovering something very special.