A lot of artists are taking risks in their musical endeavors. As is often the case, some pay off while others leave us wanting. Despite the potential for disaster, musical stagnation would be a travesty. It’s how we break down barriers, create new genres and keep the fire burning. This week we reflect on the musical changes by some big and small names alike. We tip our hats to those fearlessly pushing forward no matter the outcome.
Artist: Springtime Carnivore
Album Title: Midnight Room
Label: Autumn Tone Records
Genre: folk-rock, psych-pop
Moments Of: Beach House, Alvvays
Stand Outs: Double Infinity, Face In The Moon, Under The Spell
This sophomore release from multi-instrumentalist Greta Morgan under her moniker Springtime Carnivore is flexible with its genres, but never loses sight of its goals. The result is one of the most charming and endearing releases of 2016 as songs force you to bop up and down and just as quickly make you sit still, fully focused.
Midnight room is a lot of things. The folk-rock tag is earned early with the title track as Morgan’s voice coerces, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, a regular partner in crime for the genre. But as we dive deeper into the album it becomes clear that Morgan’s happy to switch gears frequently without upsetting the applecart.
‘Under Your Spell’ for example, brings a slight taste of funk-rock to the mix with a deadly simple and catchy guitar riff. Accompanied by incessant keys and light synths it’s just the right amount of repetition to bring out the groove.
The emotional songs on this record have an unmistakable Beach House quality to their sound. Apt as Chris Coady, who has produced for Beach House previously, is also responsible for Midnight Room. What’s great is that when she does reach these moments, she never goes too far below the line. Never breaking the barometer, she keeps the mood just right for more psychedelic, sun-drenched pop which only adds to the charm.
Artist: Julia Jacklin
Album Title: Don’t Let The Kids Win
Label: Polyvinyl Records Co.
Genre: Indie-Rock, Folk
Moments Of: Sharon Van Etten, Whitney
Stand Outs: Coming of Age, Hay Plain, Don’t Let The Kids Win
Don’t Let The Kids Win, the debut release from Julia Jacklin is a combination of mundane thought and profound reflection. Perpetuated by the emotional trigger that is Jacklin’s voice, DLTKW contains lyricism at its most clever, that’s evocated through her slowly unpacked melodies.
Jacklin shines on this album as she displays her sonic aptitude with reverb-laden guitar or smooth-acoustics with her swooning vocals accompanying, it’s more than just a pleasant listen on songs like ‘Coming of Age’ and ‘Leadlight’. But her ability to capture the most intimate moments of personal thought and put it in a song is where she really hits the mark.
On ‘Hay Plain’ Jacklin sings about driving along the notoriously straight road on the way to Hay. “I’m driving into the Hay Plains; I won’t survive the night if you don’t stay in your lane”. Now, although Don’t Let The Kids Win is stacked with these slight amusements, they never lose their relevance to the narrative and emotional standpoint. The above lyrics a documentation of how the mind runs when given time, she continues to sing; “Wondering if my new man / misses me yet” bringing it back to a relationship with someone else.
One of the more excruciatingly sad thoughts given a sonic conception is at the start of ‘LA Dreams; “Why’d you go to the grocery store on the day you planned to leave? You left me here with all this food my body does not need”. But it shows her ability to present the triviality of thought and its role in something as noteworthy as heartbreak.
Jacklin prospers when finding unique insight in the banality of life and the undocumented thought process of the common person.
Artist: Kate Tempest
Album Title: Let Them Eat Chaos
Label: Big Dada
Genre: Spoken Word/Rap
Moments Of: Young Fathers
Stand Out: Ketamine For Breakfast
Kate Tempest is equal parts poet and rapper, burdened with various thoughts of social justice and global issues. Already a celebrated poet, Tempest returns with her sophomore effort Let Them Eat Chaos, which sees her wrap her distinctively English accent around some particularly challenging flows, all sound tracked by some very haunting instrumentation.
Characterized by Tempest’s aggressive tone, Let Them Eat Chaos is a commentary on the world’s current state of affairs. An emphasis on the dreariness of life gives this album a darker spin, as Tempest speaks from the perspective of Gemma, Esther and Bradley, various characters that inhabit the forlorn world in which Tempest has created. ‘Ketamine For Breakfast’ and ‘Europe is Lost’ follow this concept, vividly describing this dystopian world with lines like “feet sticking to the curb like javelins thrown”.
Let Them Eat Chaos struggles to fall into a light-hearted groove, with the live in the moment track ‘Whoops’, getting as close as it comes to a more upbeat stride. Listening to the album makes you wonder if there’s any need for the instrumentation. Tempest’s vocal performance is captivating, it flows with ease, effortlessly fast at points without swallowing any words. Let Them Eat Chaos is just another notch on Tempest’s belt, adding to the 30 yr. old’s already decorated career.
Artist: Xylouris White
Album Title: Black Peak
Label: Bella Union
Stand Out: Erotokritos – Opening & Forging
Xylouris White, the collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White, brings with it a folk charged intensity akin to that of alt-rock. Don’t be fooled by the word folk, even with its light and shade, Black Peak gives a sense of danger to the traditional understanding of Cretan music.
Earthy and tense, the sounds of Black Peak are almost chilling, ‘Erotokritos – Opening’ broods and swells like the soundtrack to an adventure film, while title track ‘Black Peak’ burns with a skittish fervour. Of course language boundaries pose a slight challenge for non-Greek speakers, but the instrumentation and melody speak for themselves, breathing a raw energy matched only by the sheer fluidity of the improvised works.
It’s easy to get lost in the immersive feel of this album, White’s seamless percussion, washes over and is perfectly intertwined with Xylouris’ often manic playing style. ‘Forging’ demonstrates a more rigid approach to the song writing process for the duo, playing off a groove-driven riff, before falling into a frenzied solo. Despite the language barrier, it’s hard not to appreciate the skill displayed on Black Peak. Even those unfamiliar with the more traditional sounds explored on the record will be able to find some sort of comfort from the unsettling sounds.
Artist: Kaiser Chiefs
Album Title: Stay Together
Label: Ploydor Records
Genre: Rock / Electro Pop
Moments Of: Coldplay
Stand Out: Parachutes / Why Do You Do This To Me
The prolific Kaiser Chiefs return with their 6th full-length album Stay Together. The Leeds five piece enlist the help of production team Xenomania (Cher, Kylie, Girls Aloud) as they force their way into an electro-pop transformation.
“If it’s going now we’ll wave it goodbye” Kaiser Chiefs sing at the start of the disco-tinged ‘Stay Together,’ bidding farewell to the tired world of post-Britpop indie rock and into the anthemic pop numbers you’d expect from a band trying to stay relevant. ‘Parachute,’ the album’s first single, shoots for the stars but lands at a routine pop number that is somewhat addictive and very energetic. ‘Why Do You Do It To Me’ sees frontman Ryan Wilson tackle his vocals manfully with an enthusiastic, life- affirming chorus that displays his impressive vocal range. ‘Press Rewind’ completes the band’s transformation into a rock group that might have their song played in a night club. The dance beat infused with catchy hooks, spoken word samples and funky electro pop rhythms detail uncharted territory for a band with a 15-year legacy.
This album is for those who appreciate fearless exploration of new ideas from a band that is hungry for change and re invigoration. The Kaisers’ brave step into the future is a fun diversion from their usual rollicking and energetic rock show but will no doubt divide fans
Artist: Balance and Composure
Album Title: Light We Made
Moments Of: Touche Amore
Stand Out: Midnight Zone
Pensylvania post-hardcore darlings Balance And Composure return with their third full-length album Light We Made. Since forming in 2007, Balance And Composure have been constantly evolving its sound. Light We Made continues this ode, replacing explosive ballads and loud screams with a slick and catchy melodic, well-rounded record.
Balance And Composure’s new direction is shaped with album opener ‘Midnight Zone’. It begins with a synth loop and morphs into a subdued groove. Spoken word clipped vocals swirl in the background while Electronic glitches serve as percussion. The singer is not yelling, setting the tone for the album. Follow-up track ‘Spinning’ serves as a perfect example of B&C’s creation of a post-hardcore sound mixed with indie rock Jams and choruses. Latest single ‘Afterparty’ follows suit with raw indie rock guitars mixed with an emo-tinged chorus, creating a stripped down atmospheric we haven’t heard before. Tracks like ‘Fame’ and ‘Is It Much To Adore’ return to the intense post- hardcore arrangement’s with its conventional production techniques of squeaky clean guitars and roomy drums keeping the band in the safe stylistic realms that have given them previous success.
Changing your sound as much as Balance And Composure have done with this record takes guts and will undoubtedly receive kudos. The amply used synth in many of the tracks flourishes, complimenting the strong vocals and instrumentation creating an impressive sonic progression for the band.