As keen fans of music in general, it can be an exceptional moment when you sink into new music that instantly connects with you. The flipside, however, is the frustration incurred by music that, for one reason or another, does not resonate with you. This week, we all had our fair share of both experiences. If you want to find out who we loved and who we hated, read on!
Artist: Regina Spektor
Album Title: Remember Us To Life
Label: Sire Records
Genre: Pop / anti-folk
Moments Of: David Bowie / Bat For Lashes / Montaigne
Stand Out: The Light
Remember Us To Life is regal and composed, while reviving Regina Spektor’s uninhibited take on poetic pop. Spektor’s latest record runs rich with unconventional melodies and an enthralling mix of wide-eyed whimsy and anti-folk darkness. Staying true to her starting point, Spektor remains focussed on crafting elegant, multidimensional songs.
Spektor introduces us to loners, thinkers, twilight adolescents and broken-hearted poets in Remember Us To Life. The characters live on borrowed time like the rest of us, cast by classic piano, pop-infused strings and climbing melodies. Regina fans rejoice as she invokes as much heart wrenching purity as she did on the stunning tracks of 2002’s Songs and 2006’s Begin To Hope. Ten years on and with covers, albums and soundtracks in between, Spektor’s seventh studio album Remember Us To Life has the distinctive feel of being in the service of something bigger than ourselves. The record is an ode to fleeting time and years gone by. Musically it’s as fresh as ever, maintaining Spektor’s inimitable, eccentric sound. With moments of tenderness lifted by Spektor’s sweeping vocal range, lyrics emerge with salience: “each day I open up my eyes and start again” she sings on ‘The Light’.
These pearls of wisdom are nestled in rich, theatrical production and tangible landscapes. ‘The Trapper and The Furrier’ is sparse and dark like the forest covered world the song depicts, while ‘Sellers of Flowers’ reflects the inevitable changing of the seasons. Mortality and morality weave through the record, making it a striking and timeless offering.
Artist The Wytches
Album Title All Your Happy Life
Label Heavenly Recordings
Genre Psych-rock / alt-rock
Moments Of Pond / King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Stand Out A Feeling We Get
UK four piece The Wytches cast their psychy-surf rock spells from track to track on their newest offering All Your Happy Life. The band’s sophomore studio album picks up where 2014’s Annabel Dream Reader left off, this time straying into the light a little more. But fuzzy guitars and live-sounding vocals still abound.
‘All Your Happy Life’ is captured with all the energy and electricity of a live set. With their devoted fans and 60’s inspired sound, The Wytches are Britain’s answer to King Giizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Out on Heavenly Recordings, each song on the album is infused with rich guitar and distorted vocals. A sad, sunny melody emerges in the slacker pace of ‘A Feeling We Get’, before the boys crash back to moody garage rock on ‘Throned’. Front man Kristian Bell’s vocals on ‘Ghost House’ are borderline screamo, laid over the top of crashing drums and old school psych rock power chords.
‘Bone-Weary’ is lush and the closest the The Wytches get to a pop sound. The record sparkles with tambourine and organ, and wanders from heavy, fuzzy thrashers to more summery surf rock from track to track. All Your Happy Life is well crafted and bursting at the seams, though never trying too hard. There’s a sense of urgency that grabs you with both hands and manifests in each song, whether it be by the melodic verses of ‘A Dead Night Again’ or the crackle of a crunchy guitar on closing track ‘Home’.
Artist: Shining Bird
Album Title: Black Opal
Label: Spunk Records
Genre: Australiana Pop
Moments Of: Jinja Safari / The Walking Who
There’s something to be said for the power of a baritone. The role is traditionally associated with sorrow and regret (Matt Berninger and Johnny Cash immediately come to mind). The forward looking eucalyptic dream-pop of Shining Birds will therefore take you by surprise, its a welcome diversion from the norm.
Their latest release Black Opal is dripping with Australiana, from the rich amber pads and desert sun arpeggios of ‘I Can Run’ to the sparse, clave punctuated landscapes of ‘Love Shadow’. It’s perfectly in tune with a picturesque, postcard version of the red dirt and rough green scrub that we call home. There’s something to be said for music that draws such powerful imagery with such ease. It’s so enjoyable you can easily miss some of the cleverness that’s going on behind the scenes. The subtle didgeridoo (provided by Gondwanaland’s Charlie McMahon) gives the music an enjoyable warmth, it speaks to the overall quality of production: everything has it’s own space, everything has room to breathe and it all works together for a greater good. This is an incredible release that builds on an already impressive repertoire and we’re looking forward to seeing it translate to a stage.
Artist: Nicolas Jarr
Album Title: Sirens
Label: Other People
Moments Of: Soul Keita
Stand Out: The Governer
We have to own up to the surprise we felt when we found out that the latest release from Nicolas Jaar was only his second album. The future-proofed staying power of his debut Space Is Only Noise, the work he’s produced through his label Other People and his Darkside side project with Dave Harrington; all of this has cemented his reputation as one of the most exciting, enduring electronic music composers of recent times. It’s kind of unnerving how fresh it all still sounds.
Jaar’s latest release Sirens is the latest testament to his skill. It’s an incredible microcosm of his career to date and has more than lived up to the legacy he’s built over the last 5 years. Opening with 11 minutes of psychedelic, space prog ambiance before falling into ‘The Governor’ with all of its fast paced twists and turns, Sirens further explores Jaar’s love of dichotomies: the pairing of ambiance and at times hectic, rushing music on the first half of the release, the interplay of Spanish and English (just to say the very least). The last minute of ‘History Lesson’ may be the best minute of music released this year with its soaring, gospel like guitars. His music is clever, it’s fun and thought-provoking, it’s highly artistic and yet still enjoyable on the base level of its existence. Nico Jaar has once again delivered.
Album Title: Yellowcard
Genre: Pop Rock
Moments Of: Taking Back Sunday / Simple Plan
Stand Out: N/A
The latest self-titled release from Yellow Card was meant to be the final farewell from the musical team that were responsible for a few hits of the mid 2000’s. While the line up has shifted many times since their inception on 1997, they have faded in and out of obscurity over the past two decades. Following their hiatus from 2010 – 2012, their musical endeavors haven’t really created the stir they may have been hoping for. After listening to Yellowcard, it’s no surprise as to why.
One word that would ultimately summarize this album is uninspired. Ryan Key’s voice is still just as nasally as those post pop punk bands of the early 2000’s, their song structures are just as predictable while Ryan Mendez is still playing the same old riffs in the same old places. Touring drummer, Tucker Rule, has failed to add any spice to a by-the-numbers production while each song practically bleeds into one another with little to no differentiation.
Taking the time to listen to the lyrics only makes it worse. Their so called ‘romantic’ tracks are more align to abusive, controlling relationships where their love interests are forced to take responsibility for the own emotional immaturity.
After twenty years involving line-up changes, success and failures, Yellowcard have shown us a complete inability to change and evolve with the world around them and, even more concerning, their own experiences. Yellowcard are those guys that stay way too long after the party has clearly ended.
Artist: Ultimate Painting
Album Title: Dusk
Label: Trouble In Mind
Genre: Indie Psych
Moments Of: Morgant Delt / Air / Oasis
Stand Out: Bills
Ultimate Painting are an extremely derivative English indie band that knows exactly what sound they want to replicate. Their third album, Dusk, is a cocktail of spych, a splash of indie, a dash of blues and just a drop 60’s soul. Like anything, too much of a good thing can get wearisome eventually and while Ultimate Painting perform adequately, they are nothing if not a one trick pony.
Tired and worn, Jack Cooper’s lyrics exudes a cool, laissez faire attitude while lamenting bills, lovers and bad life choices. They might not be the most original lyrics and there is certainly a lack of clever work with their prose but they get the job done. Sweeping and shimmery guitars rhythms play against the darker distortions on synth to create tension but Ultimate Painting regularly shy away from pushing the envelope.
At times, productions seems a little wobbly with seemingly mistimed bridges that, if intended to subvert genre structures, fail to stick the landings. Timings and key changes are relatively absent that only intensify the feeling of monotony that lend themselves towards making Dusk feel like a test of endurance at times.
Dusk, ultimately is another pleasant so-so release that is neither offensive nor interesting. A pleasant back ground album while you hang with friends or go about your day.