This week we see a new iteration of Angus Stone, with his Dope Lemon Debut, Honey Bones. Can it hold up against the pigeon-hole creating, Julia & Angus Stone? Band of Horses once again give us mixed feelings with their latest release. Was their previous success a fluke or can they make lightning strike twice? While Peter Bjorn & John do what they do with enthusiasm and a light-hearted touch and Spring King see if they live up to their name.
Artist: Dope Lemon
Album Title: Honey Bones
Genre: Indie rock
Moments Of: Marinade, Honey bones, The Way You Do
Stand Out: Uptown folks
Angus Stone is back with his first project of a different name since his 2009 hit Lady Of The Sunshine. The relaxed grooves on Honey Bones are the perfect setting for Stone’s dreamy, and at times, funky lyrics. While Dope Lemon might not surpass the success of his well-loved duo with his sister Julia, for us, this is the most enjoyable and diverse album of Angus Stone’s Career.
Album opener and latest single ‘Marinade’, sets the mood to chill out, and that’s where the album stays throughout. The guitars sound tepid and playful, while the rhythm glides effortlessly alongside Stone’s echoey voice, which at times can be difficult to decipher. The trippy chorus “Do you want me? This is how I am” disappointingly falls short of any sought of crescendo or upbeat tempo. ‘Uptown folks,’ the first single released from Honey Bones, detail an escape from “delirium” and “Going back to the garden“. Part of the magic of Honey Bones is the undeniable chemistry you can sense between the musicians that are his friends, Eliott Hammond (Delta Riggs) and Rohin Borwn (the Walking Who). Hammond features heavily on the album and receives songwriting credit for the four songs he was on. The beauty of this record is that it sounds like a long loose jam session that has evolved into an album and a bonafide band.
There’s always been an honest simplicity in Stone’s songwriting, but whether you like his music or not, there’s no doubting his sincerity when it comes to lyrics. ‘Fuck Things Up’ speaks for itself as Stone details someone wrestling inner demons “It’s what’s been waking you in the middle of the night, it’s what’s been keeping you from the light.” ‘Stonecutters’ is indicative of how the album progresses with Stone widening his musical canvas focusing on the banjo as it interplays with hallucinating guitars giving it a dreamy worldly feel.
It’s hard to put a finger on what makes Honey Bones so diverse. Maybe, its the real Bob Dylan vibe to the songs, especially in the track ‘Honey Bones’. Stones Dylan-esque, talk-sing vocal style rings out amply “She’s got those honey bones” creating a psychedelic yet eerie chorus. As if to keep you from slumbering in your psychedelic trance you are awoken for ‘The Way You Do’ which is a comfortable departure from Angus stones acoustic folk as it emphasizes an electronic beat and a bluesy guitar riff. It’s a gem of a track that sounds like nothing we’ve come to know and love from an Angus Stone experience.
Honey Bones is at it’s best when you leave your expectations at the door. This inexplicable magic that is this simple yet layered songwriting shows us time and time again the scope Angus Stone’s musical ability. With a possible tour in the works, one can only hope Stone brings the gifted musicians that helped him create such a journey and enlighten the masses that will surely follow.
Artist: Peter Bjorn & John
Album Title: Breakin’ Point
Genre: alt pop
Moments Of: ABBA, Bowie, Arcade Fire
Stand Out: A Long Goodbye
Even if all of 2006 was a blur, chances are you remember Peter, Bjorn and John’s insanely catchy – albeit safe-sounding – song ‘Young Folks’ (and you’ll now have its whistley intro stuck in your head for the rest of your day). Ten years on and a good few albums later, P, B&J make somewhat of a comeback with their first album since 2011’s Gimme Some. The Swedish trio have matured far beyond ‘Young Folks’, opting for old-school inspired bangers designed for the dance floor on their meticulous, shiny, new record Breakin’ Point.
“We treated the album like 12 singles, rather than an album,” Peter Morén of Peter, Bjorn and John reflected in a recent interview. This approach has left little room for light and shade; PB&J barely come up for air in between songs about dancing and drinking – ‘Do-Si-Do’ to reflect on more complex ideas like expanding egos – ‘Pretty Dumb, Pretty Lame’. Or modern technology – ‘Nostalgic Intellect’ and faltering love – ‘A Long Goodbye’.
The three Swedes collaborated with big name producers the likes of Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin and Emile Haynie (Adele, Beck and Lana Del Ray respectively) to achieve a radio-ready record that glows with synth riffs and pop/rock-disco vibes. Released on their own collective INGRID, Breakin’ Point draws inspiration from Bowie, ABBA, and Arcade Fire with a never-faltering handclap pace and countless catchy choruses.
‘Dominoes’ is the riskiest and most original song on the album, and it’s also the bold opening track. Lyrically the song is pulpy but its snappy production makes it destined for the dance floor, original enough to fall far from the clutches of mindless Top 40. After this feel-good, pop start, ‘Love is What You Want’ feels very grown up. The driving beat doesn’t distract from poetic lyrics about the “cold comfort” of collective loneliness, all the while a Foster The People feel filters through on the high-pitched hook of the chorus.
Although it’s mostly top class, there are one or two songs on Breakin Point that sound like Eurovision entries that didn’t quite make the cut. ‘Do-Si-Do’ and ‘Between The Lines’ are guilty of this, but overall PB&J are forgiven. They do have the legacies of previous Swedish pop stars behind them after all.
Highlight track ‘A Long Goodbye’ proves the lush pop soundscapes on Breakin’ Point aren’t just pretty facades; there are deep and tender moments to be found flickering through the dancey wonderland. “It’s hard to be cruel to someone kind, and I still haven’t made up my mind about you.” holds more weight than one would expect from this light-hearted album. The cinematic title track pays inevitable homage to that indie ‘Young Folks’ whistle while a chorale of kids shout boisterous backing vocals. But the verses fall away to something sweeter and melancholy, unfolding more on each listen.
Breakin’ Point is a wonderful album, but it feels like Peter, Bjorn & John wanted to make a radio hit out of every track instead of letting a cohesive trajectory form throughout the record. Nevertheless, the record is ambitious, smart and carries an endearing sense of celebration.
Artist: Band of Horses
Album Title: Why Are You Ok
Label: Interscope Records
Moments Of: ELO, Okkervil River, Holy Holy
Stand Out: Casual Party, Dull Times/The Moon (only the The Moon part)
Band of Horses hinted at a new album at the end of last year – to the excitement of many fans – desperate to determine if they would be fans much longer considering the broad range of musical styles the band has delivered in their last 4 albums. Why Are You Ok continues the band’s journey into accessible indie-rock realms, thanks to the unlikely efforts of Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle. Ben Bridwell’s unmistakable southern drawl is a welcome return yet we’re afraid we are still left wanting.
Band of Horses 2006 debut album, Everything All The Time, stands as a vital debut, it reminded us that Seattle was still spawning the gritty and raw sound it was synonymous for. ‘Funeral’ sounds as influential as it did since its release 10 years ago. The debut tweaked a few underground indie ears and bred an underground cult following. However, it was at the end of 2007 when their sophomore album Cease to Begin that had the band mark their territory as one of the best indie rock bands around, blowing away audiences at some of the key world festivals and supporting bands like Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon, two bands that always cast shadows over the band’s success.
Fast forward, to 2010, when their commercially swayed Infinite Arms delivered them stadium audiences, many of us would say that this is when the band peaked, while 2012/201s’s Mirage Rock was delivered with little celebration. It was the release of Acoustic at the Ryman that the band earned their broad fan base. An album that may well have lost devoted fans after the underground felt they had lost their gritty edge for a “mellow” sound.
Which brings us to mid-June 2016 and their release of Why Are You OK, an album that had their new record label, Interscope Records, investing heavily in marketing, the PR and Advertising surrounding the lead up to the album was all over social media, along with highly publicized World Tour.
Opening Track ‘Dull Times/The Moon’ pretty much sums where Band of Horses are right now in their turbulent musical career with moments of mediocrity – dull as the song suggests – and moments of sheer excellence. Listening to Why Are you OK is like listening to an adolescent making one of the most important life paths, will they go astray or will they blossom. First single Casual Party stands out as their wild card on the album, a stand-out hugely accessible track that shows the band at their most celebratory and joyful, it will be bring a roar from the crowd with their upcoming world tour with it’s archetypal Band of Horses sing-a-long chorus.
‘In A Drawer’ introduces guest chorus vocals from Dinosaur Jnr’s, J. Mascis. A worthy addition to the song and a clear influence to the bands early career. Another great song from the album, nestled in between tracks that really do little but give breathing space between the hit songs.
For what it is, Why Are You Ok is not a bad album, the more gently led songs ‘Hag’, ‘Barrel House’, ‘Whatever, Whenever’ and ‘Lying Under Oak’ are touching, mature and show the band embracing fatherhood and different life outlook, but the problem is that they just lack much substance in composition when compared to what the band are capable of delivering. ‘Country Teen’ and ‘Throw My Mess’ stand out all too uncomfortably, almost cliché in their country-folk sound to those of us who were drawn to the band with an air of indie-snobbery, at this point all interest would be lost and the album draws to an end we are left wondering, did we just like what we heard?
Artist: Spring King
Album Title: Tell Me If You Like To
Label: Island Records
Moments Of: Public Access TV, Superfood
Stand Out: City and Who Are You?
Fresh from impressing the world, indie-pop four piece Spring King have delivered their debut album Tell Me If You Like To. The Manchester band is what you could describe as the epitome of a buzz band, with standout shows at SXSW and endorsement from Apple Music’s tastemaker Zane Lowe. They’re not wrong either, Spring King’s fuzzy guitar pop is all kinds of feel good and fun.
Tell Me If You Like To is a sprawling mass of reverb and over driven guitars, almost overpowering at times, but always enticing to the ears. Much like their 2015 EP ‘They’re Coming After You’, this offering from the band is riddled with impossibly catchy melodies and limitless bounce. Expanding slightly though, the band explore a slower and more considered approach to song writing on tracks like ‘Take Me Away’, where lush reverb stands in for the frenetic guitars of more upbeat songs.
The album begins with ‘City’, the track that launched the band into the climbing frenzy of hype. Played as the first song on influential tastemaker Zane Lowe’s first ever Beats 1 radio show, the track is a thunderous post-punk anthem, with one of the most memorable hooks of the last few years. There’s no doubt that ‘City’ is the standout of the album, towering above the rest of the album. In a similar fashion, ‘Who Are You?’ and ‘Rectifier’ burst at the seams with maxed out reverb and fuzzy guitar riffs.
While these three promising indie-pop anthems provide a sense of excitement throughout the album, it seems as though everything else just falls short. Towards the mid-point of the album it becomes apparent that the release just ever so slightly lacks direction, falling into the deadly trap of repetitiveness. Tracks like ‘It’s So Dark’ and ‘Take Me Away’ are examples of this, creating a short plateau in the middle of the album.
While this all sounds very negative, it’s important not to overlook the band’s talent. It’s not often a band pops up out of nowhere in such a short time and embraces the world in excitement. After all, Tell Me If You Like To is only the band’s first full-length release. Besides, who doesn’t love a feel-good indie-pop anthem?