Eight New Borns to end our time February 2016? Are you serious? Yes, we agree this may well be over indulgent, but we have good reason to smother you with so many personal words of carefully constructed sentences. TWL have reared a handful of new writers across Sydney and Melbourne and as part of their initiation, we ask these young writers to show us what they can do with a trial review. We sent them each a New Born and they wrote about it. We liked them so much we thought, why not just post them for you to read. Simple really. Like we always say, we dont claim to be the best journos out there but what we DO know, is that we bundle up some of the best music from around the world and deliver it in one tidy post. A big welcome to our new writers and a big thank you to you the readers for sticking with us. Read on Read on!!
Album Title Cardinal
Label Run for Cover Records
Moments Of Gillian Welch, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens
Stand Out Cadmium, Waveform, Size of the Moon
This four-piece assembly of punk/rock musicians playing somewhat country tunes are back at it with Cardinal, their brand spanking new release. These young lads may be from the far East Coast of the USA but their sound is lived-in and reflects on the open skylines of middle America. With wiggly guitar, philosophical lyricism and occasional shouting, note to self: listen to Pinegrove’s new album Cardinal ASAP.
Evan, Sam, Nick and Zack (the latter two being brothers) make up Pinegrove, the dynamic rock/country group from Montclair, New Jersey. Recently signing to their first recording company back in October 2015, Run for Cover, these boys have released their second full length album, this time with a little help from their friends. Cardinal is an eight track record, clocking in at just over half an hour, quick but certainly not insufficient.
With a grass-roots sound mixed with pop-punk influences, this is a perfect example of the ‘emo revival’. Evan Hall, the vocalist with a drawl that belongs in the deep south, is bringing vulnerability back with the passion for beautiful lyrics and the skill set to back it up. With Old Friends, the opening song and the companion to New Friends at the end of the record, the soulful songwriting abilities shine through. Whilst recording Cardinal, Pinegrove were listening to Gillian Welch and Green Day, a fascinating combination but both influences are clearly heard throughout, balancing between country and punk.
Waveform is the standout by far, with an intimacy you can’t replicate but also a gigantic ending that would shatter hearts in stadiums. For a large portion of the album, Cardinal feels like the soundtrack to an indie film about teenagers falling in love. Comfortably undone, with haphazard playing and a tighter performance than ever before. Size of the Moon is the other clear winner, with the entire album building up to this one moment and having everything crash down around you. Powerful and exposed lyrics trickling through your blood and into your soul, an absolute stunner.
Even the filler songs on the album were poignant, Aphasia and Visiting both had that laid-back feeling, slow burners with incredible lyrics, there is serious promise for Pinegrove’s future in music. All the songs on this record are charming, some simple and some party jams, with “solipsistic moods” and low-fi indie intensity, they tender our hearts and minds.
Their Bandcamp sums them up perfectly, “hard at work in the promotion of introspective partying! A band living in a reflective lattice of flavour and strength”. A band who knows the importance of making friendships and relationships matter, of being in a grim place but hopeful for the escape, a foot on either side of the fence; saluting the old and welcoming the new.
Album Hills End
Label I Oh You
Genre Brit-pop, Indie-pop, Grunge
Moments of Oasis, The Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys
Let me get one thing straight. I hate a ‘revival’. To me it feels a little like a cop-out. Jet, Wolfmother and now Sydney’s own, DMA’S. Clearly owing a lot to 90’s Madchester for, not only their music, but for their wardrobe. I understand that every band has influences, hell, I’m sure we’ve all borrowed more than a little from our idols but c’mon…Bucket hats? 🙂
That aside, I’m here to give you a completely unbiased, open-minded account of debut record, ‘Hills End’, and to be perfectly honest, it’s actually quite good. The first thing that grabs you about the record is the quality in mix and production. Having producer extraordinaire, Dave ‘Spike’ Stent (Coldplay, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beady Eye), on mixing duties provides a giant step up from previous work. While still a bit much at times, for the most part, its big, warm and incredibly balanced.
Opening with the impressive ‘Timeless’. Driving jangly guitars, reminiscent of early ‘Bad Seeds’, and some killer lead sounds ensue. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell confess’, “this is how I want it to be”, and you get the feeling, that’s exactly how they’ve gotten to where they are. By doing things their way and not giving a toss of what others think.
First official single, ‘Lay Down’ follows. It’s here where some of their other influences come to the forefront. Heavy grunge-like guitars lay the foundation in the chorus as they throw just about everything into the track. It takes until third track and previous single, ‘Delete’, complete with new instrumentation, before the record gives any sort of reprieve.
Album standout, ‘The Stone Roses’-esque ‘In The Moment’, sends the record on an unexpected trajectory of lush, introspective, mid-tempo arrangements. It’s here where the quality of songwriting really stands out. Most evident on the beautiful ‘Step Up The Morphine’, funnily enough, the dreamiest thing they’ve done to date.
One thing that is evident on this record is DMA’S ability to write memorable, somewhat familiar, hooks. Another perfect example being, the emotive ‘Melbourne’. Tommy sings “I wont feel no pain”, the brazen cockiness subsides, and you almost begin to question the bands vulnerability underneath their baggy tracksuit bottoms and Fred Perry polo’s.
Unfortunately it’s not all great news. ‘Straight Dimensions’ sounds tired and overused, save for a few standout melodies, and album closer “Play It Out” is messy, lacks direction and feels a little like an afterthought.
While nothing sounds overtly original, there’s no denying that DMA’S know how to write a song. Pleasantly surprised but not completely won over just yet, I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing just what the future may bring, once the ‘revival’ wears down.
Now, I know what your thinking and yes, it’s true. I’ve gotten through this whole review without even mentioned Oasis…….damn it!
Album Life Of Pause
Label Captured Tracks
Genre Indie Pop, Dream Pop
Moments Of Craft Spells, Beach Fossils, The Radio Dept.
Stand Out Adore, Whenever I
On February 9th, ten days before Life Of Pause was released, Wild Nothing announced their highly anticipated world tour, so for us fans, well this was double happiness. Lead singer/songwriter Jack Tatum formed the band in late 2009, releasing their debut Gemini earning it a listing on Pitchfork’s best albums for that year. They backed up that success in 2012 with LP Nocturne and album that made me fall in love with them. Now four years later, are Tatum and crew still nailing the indie pop scene?
It’s funny, I actually forgot how subtly Brit Pop Wild Nothing sound and you can expect to hear hints of this with Life Of Pause, an album that Tatum describes as his most honest and mature album to date. Unfortunately at first I was distracted; what frustrated me about this album was, and you may well notice too, throughout there seem to be some misplaced tracks. There appears to be a feeling of inconsistency from first to last track, this is not an album that plays out like well-told story but more, a puzzle with oddly placed pieces. The album is great, no doubt about it and treats us to some great pop tracks like opener Reichpop with the layered circling xylophones pit pattering before gliding into an uplifting, almost tropical feel. Musical reminders of Bombay Bicycle Club spring to mind. In contrast, we have Japanese Alice, that takes us on a more commercial, almost gritty pop ride, it is as diverse as you would expect from Wild Nothing and very pop-tastic but doesn’t really gel with the album in its entirety.
Songs like A Womans Wisdom with drowning guitars and layered keys; it’s wistful meets sultry. Another example of this would be in one of my stand out tracks Whenever I, which certainly jumps on the recent craze of Saxophone solos but totally nails it (and doesn’t over do it).
Title track misses the mark for me and although provides for an excellent album name that gives a nod to Wild Nothing’s overall vibe it doesn’t provide enough memorable songwriting to be a title track. (Not that title tracks need to be stand outs!) Maybe I missed something here. For me, I would have made Alien the title track and single release, this song is a great example of that honesty and maturity that Tatum describes and carries some clear influences of bands like Cocteau Twins.
On recent interviews with Tatum and the anticipation for the release of Life Of Pause, he told the press that “I’m terrified by the idea of being any one thing, or being of any one genre. And whether or not I accomplish that, I know that my only hope of getting there is to constantly reinvent. That reinvention doesn’t need to be drastic, but every new record has to have its own identity, and it has to have a separate set of goals from what came before.” Well, if this was Tatum’s ambition, he deserves top marks as this third album takes Wild Nothing, out of the bedroom studio, on to a more grand mature stage, and delivers an album that is developed & progressive and stays true to the values of who Wild Nothing really aim to be.
Album Lost Property
Label Cooking Viny
Genre Country, Alt-Folk, Acoustic
Moments of Boy & Bear, Ray La Montage
Stand Out The Quiet Ones, Martini, Keep Me Around
Turin Brakes first released The Door EP in 1999, so with 16 years of catalogue this friendly duo from South London, deliver their 7th studio album. With much of this back catalogue exploring different genres and styles, Lost Property has the band going back to their melodic folk-infused roots. This is album that may not covert lovers of such music as they are are probably getting their devoted fix from Boy and Bear and Vance Joy but dont forget that it is these guys who have been making this type of music for many years longer, so deserve a bit of respect.
To be honest, if you’re a real fan of all types of melodic folk well then Lost Property is you’re kind of album. Particularly if you’re the kind of person that likes their heart to be compared to a car that needs ‘a jump start.’ Turin Brakes new album is a ‘safe’, call it ‘easy listening’ music with little variety but just nicely crafted songs that would never offend even the most harshest critic. Here we have an album that does little to grab your immediate attention, one of those albums that we can all call on to easily serenade on peaceful drive home after a day’s work and we all need albums that do not command too much of our attention.
Whilst there is little change within the overall sound on each of the tracks on Lost Property, their are some notable standout songs like Keep Me Around and Martini that goes someway to help save this album from being all sounding a little to repetitive Drawing a comparison to Vance Joy’s Rip Tide with its light-hearted acoustic guitar riffs, Keep Me Around is completely uplifting and upbeat while Martini is an honest and raw, a beautifully written song.
Lost Property delivers in consistency,with each song transitioning nicely, complementing one other that allows the flow rather effortlessly. The latter is certainly a plus, as let’s be honest, I don’t know many people who would willingly listen to an album that consists of five different genres with no structure. Turin Brakes have stayed true to themselves on this album and conjure no surprises choosing to stay close to their love for perfectly sung harmonies between Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian.
So the verdict is obvious on yet another perfectly listenable 7th album by the Balham, London chaps who know how to pen a descent song that is not remarkably different from their debut in genre and feel, and while nothing truly jumps out at you, and only few tracks entice with core-cutting lyrics, Lost Property is the perfect album to have on in the background whilst having a few coopers with a mate on a nice afternoon.
Album Painting With
Label Domino Records USA
Genre Pop, Electro
Moments Of Kraftwerk, Radiohead
Stand Out Vertical, Burglars, Bagels In Kiev, Summing The Wretch, Recyling
Fifteen years can undoubtedly seem a long time in the life of any pop artist, let alone when you’ve been able to prove as prolific as the 10-album journey of American trio Animal Collective. Under the seemingly blended partial-pseudo-monikers of D’Avey PorTare (vocals, guitar, keys), Noah ‘Panda’ Benjamin (vocals, drums, guitar, keys) and Brian ‘Geologist’ Weitz (keys, vocals), this core bunch of guys on latest LP Painting With make, er, either mind-bending melting-pot recipes of sonic delirium or mind-numbing mis-calculated slabs of tedium.
This just seemed such a difficult album to dissect in a way that came up with the overall verdict of “yes, it’s really good”. It’s hard to engage deeply with this stuff, well, to these ears at least.
Opener and first single FloriDada builds a sonic palette consisting of snappy beats, stodgy keyboards (on purpose, probably) and slightly high-pitched vocals that echo The Beach Boys harmonic intent. And it’s one that’s rarely deviated from for the next 40 minutes.
The rarer-than-you’d-expect good bits? Vertical heads in the direction of Kraftwerk’s 1980s classic Computer World, all art-experiment-writ-large. The Burglars also has a solid marriage between the electro layering and bright pop vocal lines. Bagels In Kiev washes over you in a neat, understated way and was well-timed as the record’s midway signpost. Summing The Wretch has a lovable low-humming bassline and stop-start drum machine over the top with some genuine percussive elements and melodic keyboard feeding in.
However, the straining-for-some-effect moments come too often for a band that’s been around this long. On Delay leaves you expecting more. Spilling Guts is relentless and restless, but not in a subtle, Radiohead way. Arguably the nadir is Golden Gal. Hard to decipher, like half the rest of the goings-on here.
Think also The Prodigy’s Day Is My Enemy from a year or so back…There’s talent that, if applied differently, would yield even greater plaudits. Indeed, the sounds are almost more interesting in themselves. An instrumental release instead, lads?
Animal Collective is an acquired taste, I’m sure. But not because they are directly offensive at all. In fact, I’m sure someone out there will consider this record utterly brilliant. Painting With unfortunately just seems happy enough to merely exist. Once. Without requiring you to attend your brain beyond a certain depth. Those looking for the soundtrack to a future indie road movie may enjoy it immensely. Others could switch off before the half-way point. Curious-becomes-obvious and yet unfinished, really.
Album Title Everybody’s Dying To Meet You
Label Kanine Records (US), Fortuna Pop! (EU)
Genre Indie Pop/Rock, Noise Pop
Moments Of Cocteau Twins, Dum Dum Girls, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
Stand Out Intrusive Thoughts, My Only Friend
London trio Flowers was born from a wanted ad. Sam Ayres searches for a singer to make music to the like of “early Madonna played through a broken tape machine”. In walks Rachel Kennedy, bringing with her a distinctive set of pipes and the sound Ayres has been looking for. After wrestling with their debut album, Flowers have delivered their sophomore effort Everybody’s Dying To Meet You, a matured album reflective of a growing self-confidence from the young Londoners.
Listening to Flowers it quickly becomes apparent that the play value of the album will most definitely be off the back of Rachel Kennedy’s wistful, ethereal voice. Although unlike their previous album Do What You Want, It’s What You Should Do (2014) there seems to be a more holistic approach to their music this time around. Guitarist Sam Ayres brings a certain grit and determination to songs that was absent on Do What You Want. Whilst drummer Jordan Hockley keeps the narrative moving with his temporal beats, allowing Kennedy and Ayres to explore in these blissful pop melodies. Unlike their debut effort, Kennedy’s voice isn’t exposed to the elements here, but supported by a comfortable wall of sound.
The concise listen begins with the shortest, but probably most ‘radio-likely’ tune Pull My Arm. One of the more lively songs from the album it’s executed with intent and excitement. On this song and in fact the whole album they’ve done extremely well in producing catchy melodies that aren’t diminished by the presence of Ayres new, more abrasive approach to the guitar. This could be attributed to the aid of producer Brian O’Shaughnessy (Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Clientele) helping the band find the right balance.
Kennedy’s voice is the best feature of Flowers sound and is best on display in songs like Intrusive Thoughts. It serves as a nice breather as Ayres and Hockley move aside proportionally to allow the vocals to stand out and hit home. These stripped back flashes serve as a precursor to those heavier moments, resulting in a nice harmony between the three.
It does take a few play-throughs to really distinguish between songs, with a few occupying the same space and failing to launch. The second half of the album is much stronger than the first which can be disheartening for the non-persistent. The back end is where they bloom, delivering a substantial pay-off for those who’ll listen on songs like Russian Doll and My Only Friend.
Everybody’s Dying To Meet You is both pensive and bright. A huge step forward for the trio as they narrow in on a compelling formula. Not necessarily an innovation, but certainly a vision of a growing confidence and self-assurance in their chosen sound.
Album Big Black Coat
Label City Slang
Moments Of Caribou, Sébastien Tellier, Pet Shop Boys
Standout Over It, M&P, No One’s Business”
Big Black Coat is the fifth album from veteran Canadian duo, Junior Boys. It’s the sound of an act completely comfortable in their own skin who, for the most part, never descend into autopilot territory. Something you could forgive any artist after almost 17 years and now, 5 records deep. With this, their first offering from new label, City Slang, you can hear them pushing their musical limits while still keeping it unashamedly “Junior Boys”. Fun, sexy, energetic and most importantly, memorable.
After first listen, I must admit, I wasn’t sold. But that’s the thing about this record; it doesn’t command your attention and scream at you from its first introduction. It seeps into your skin and stays with you. Deep house beats, evolving synths and a soft voice singing of love, lust and loss.
First single and one of this albums highlight’s, Over It, is pure pop genius. Simple driving drums, lush synths and a bass line that would feel completely at home on the soundtrack to “Knightrider”. Heartbreaking, hopeless lyrics set the tone as Greenspan pleads, “the nights are gone, but you’re afraid to go home.”
With this much flair in sound design and production, the real key, for me, is for artists to be tasteful in execution. Something the duo nail, every single time. You can tell they have a firm grip on what is needed for each track, when to go hard and when to pull back. Everything has its own space and it’s beautiful to listen to. Being most evident on third track, C’mon Baby.
They even delve deep into techno territory while covering the Bobby Caldwell track, “What You Won’t Do For Love” (or for those of us born after 1978, its the hook on Tupac’s, ‘Do For Love’). The house drop is brilliant but unfortunately for me, the washed out, lazy vocal doesn’t fully deliver.
The album doesn’t stay exclusively on the dance floor. Some of the most memorable moments are actually when everything slows down. Like on the Caribou infused, No One’s Business and the melancholic Baby Don’t Hurt Me. Filtered out drums, stark, melancholic lyrics and completely warm synths.
While not without its flaws, Big Black Coat is an incredibly smart, introverted, dance floor ready record, delivered by a duo, that clearly know what they are doing. If you don’t start grooving along after the first listen, give it another shot and thank me later.
Album Need Your Light
Label Barsuk Records
Genre Pop, Electro
Moments of Vampire Weekend, Born Ruffians and Passion Pit
Stand Outs Absolutely, Water, Suckers
Ra Ra Riot have been around for a while, forming in 2006 the band celebrates their ten year anniversary. And after ten years they have established a concrete name for themselves within the indie music platform. Their first album The Rhumb Line released in 2008, created the benchmark to classic Ra Ra Rio and their definitive sound. This is the fourth studio album.
Need Your Light has the band steering into a completely new direction, traversing away from their “classic” sound into an electronic world with quite a lot of synth. Ra Ra Riot have experimented with their sound here, almost re-creating themselves in comparison to their 2013 release Betta Love, were the emphasis was on electro-pop, Need Your Light has toned down the pop factor.
When a band takes the leap of rediscovery it generally is always a big risk (unless you are Radiohead), but Ra Ra Riot have really outdone themselves here. They have managed to instrumentally layer elements of synth and electronic beats whilst integrating orchestral segments with vocal harmonization to create something completely different, and on top of this, they have incorporated violinist Rebecca Zeller within many of the songs, the cheerful techno beats and the violin work well together. This is evidently heard in their song Absolutely, Bad Times and Suckers.
In its entirety, Need Your Light is a great album, every song is catchy and somewhat euphoric, an album that has a feeling of warmth about it. With a heavy influence from working with producer Dennis Herring (who also works with Modest Mouse) at the early stages of the album to help build on their ideas, the band make a comfortable but rewarding fourth album that is arty and completely catchy.