Back to the top
zooming-background

album

ALBUM RELEASE: Woman’s Hour – ‘Ephyra’

WORDS BY: CALLUM MITCHELL-SIMON

It’s been a long five years since we last heard from Woman’s Hour, when their stunning 2014 debut LP, Conversations, swiftly put them on the rise to becoming a household name, alongside the likes of contemporaries The xx & Daughter. They were a band with their own distinct identity and sound, and an incredible run of singles to support them, including Darkest Place, Her Ghost and In Stillness We Remain.

However, a lot can happen in five years. A relentless touring schedule, and the now fevered anticipation now placed on the band, added to their pressures. They began recording demo material for a second LP, but following a tense number of sessions, in 2016 the band decided to call it a day, citing “deteriorating mental health”. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when the remaining band members decided to reconvene in an attempt to finish the recording process that they started, which leads us to their present state, and their new, final album Ephyra. A band, not quite fully with us, but here in all their honesty to present their hard toiled over work. It’s a definitive take on the time old “difficult second album” story.

First track and lead single from the LP Don’t Speak sets the tone for the record from the start. It presents itself as more of a mood piece than a conventionally structured song. The title, plus a few more fragmented lyrics, are repeated over and over various shifting and modulated soundscapes, like an ever-changing state of mind, in flux of it’s own self.

This continues into second track From Eden To Exile. There’s a jittery, restless feel to the song, with several false starts and snippets from other songs and spoken word excerpts before the central melody kicks in. The effect is like a radio dial constantly being re-tuned, unable to settle on a frequency. This restless energy is found again on second single Luke, which builds itself up over a single synth line. “Am I shouting in a vacuum? Can you hear me?” lead singer Fiona Burgess calls out, before a simple chorus of a repeating piano note and the word “breath”, like a mantra to encourage a state of calm.

This sums up the album as a whole. It’s breathlessly inventive at times, a real artistic step up for the band. You can hear them really pushing to create something unique, not to settle on a sound that will define them. It’s impeccably produced – the songs don’t fit into set forms and structures, they’re much looser and free-form, compositions that seek to explore various emotional states. They reflect a fragmented, scattered state of mind – constantly shifting and changing in rhythm and tempo. The off kilter effects on I Can’t Take You Seriously, which starts off relatively straightforward, a clear guitar line guiding the way, then begins to build upon wave after wave of electronics, with various vocal modulations and pitch bends making it feel as if the foundations of the songs are slipping away from underneath you. There’s a pervading feeling of tension underlying the album, an edge, a sense of darkness, that all is not well. This informs and infuses it’s way into the sound and texture of the music.

The flip side of this, however, it that there’s not a great deal of consistency to be found.There’s no tracks on here that lift it to a level of greatness, and nothing to match some of the peerless work on Conversations. It can feel patchy at times, like a work in progress – which, in fairness, is what this record always was. It’s A Blast and Removal Of Hope in particular don’t feel fully finished, and wrap up before having made a distinct impression.

The band have been unflinchingly honest in saying that this is an album pieced together from the fragments of original demos, recorded in their hometown of Kendal. In their own words: “They contain the thoughts, memories, ambitions, fears and sleepless nights that have come to define the narrative of our lives over the last three years. These songs are letters to you, and once you’ve sent a letter you can never ask for it back”. It’s not a perfect album, but deliberately so. It’s an honest record, capturing a band in a state of uncertainty and complete emotional honesty.

Hopefully we haven’t heard the last from Woman’s Hour. They are one of the most deftly creative and emotionally resilient bands around at the moment. If not, then this album acts as a bittersweet finale for their story, a taste of what could have been.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

26

LIVE: Eliza @ YES

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

You may know ELIZA from her old pseudonym, Eliza Doolittle, which she dropped after her 2013 album, In Your Hands. Her flirtatious brand of pop has been swapped out for sultry R&B, allowing her to become even more of a temptress. She released an album back in December and has taken to the path of self-releasing, something which is becoming an evidently more popular trend, the most notable self-releasing artist being Chance The Rapper. Going out on a UK tour gave ELIZA a chance to show people the vision behind her new project in the flesh.

ELIZA comes on stage, adorned in a skin-tight dress and a red glove over her right hand, she’s ready to go and attempts to perform Game, but the microphone isn’t working. In fact none of the vocalists microphones are working and there’s a lot of confusion, before ELIZA has to go off stage. She tells the crowd to go for a drink as they sort out the technical issues. It was a factor that was out of ELIZA‘s hands and was an embarrassing blip for one of Manchester’s stand out venues. After about 15 minutes, the problem is solved, there’s still a hint of anxiety in ELIZA‘s performance, but by the end of the track she’s back to full confidence, providing the crowd with a shoulder shimmy or two.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

TEETH MAG

A post shared by ELIZA (@elizalovechild) on

All credit to ELIZA, she didn’t let the technical glitch hamper the rest of her performance, “let the show go on”, she says triumphantly. They play All Night, which changes the dynamic of the gig completely, the change from slight anxiety to full on vibing in the room happens faster than a click of the fingers. When performing Loveable, ELIZA sings some really soft, yet still incredibly effecting high notes, helped by her backing vocalists who harmonise in tandem in the background. The instrumentals are extremely minimal, a bass guitar and drum kit set the tone of the evening, creating a slow, smoke-screened backing track. The whole crowd is moving along to the groove, ELIZA tells the crowd that this is exactly what she envisaged her shows would be like, she wanted people to, “move all slinky” and slinky is definitely an accurate description.

There’s are a few choreographed dance sequences throughout the set, nothing too strenuous but each one is met with shouts and screams of affection. The track Livid is an ode to the intimacy and vulnerability involved with sex, it sees ELIZA describe making love with her partner as a form of escapism from the outside world. It comes across as a beautiful interpretation of what sex should be. The more the set goes on, the more she gets in to her stride. At times seemingly prowling and patrolling the stage, marking it as her own territory. There are shows of discontent from both ELIZA and the crowd, as it seems as though they’re going to cut the set short.

She refuses to cut it and goes back to performing with a beaming smile. Alone & Unafraid  receives a fantastic reception, there’s a symbiotic rapport between artist and audience, the bass line managing to create a fantastically nocturnal atmosphere. “You never met a girl like me”, ELIZA sings during the final song of the night, Wasn’t Looking. She plays the part of a seductress, there isn’t a man she can’t have and she wanders the stage with a confident air of swagger. It was such a shame that she had to endure technical problems at the beginning of the night, but all credit to ELIZA she did not let it knock her performance. It was a treat of an R&B show, wrapped in mystique and seduction and on International Women’s Day, ELIZA showed herself as a strong, inspiring female character.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

97

ALBUM RELEASE: YAK – ‘PURSUIT OF MOMENTARY HAPPINESS’

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness is Yak‘s sophomore album, coming almost three years after their debut record Alas Salvation. British indie music has had mixed fortunes of late, not many of the artists can really claim to be making music that’s very original or thought-provoking, a lot of them relying on re-hashing the sounds of old, to keep hold of a demographic fiercely loyal to anything with a guitar in it. This isn’t to say that all British indie bands are terrible, quite the opposite, you just have to wade through a swamp of mediocrity to get to the good stuff. I am here to tell you whether the new Yak album belongs in the swamp, or the green grass beyond it.

The first sound you’ll hear on this record, is that of a pan flute on Bellyache, used to signal the start of the industrious and mechanical repetition of, “you’re tired of greedy bodies”. The song’s lyrics point towards gluttony within society, the belief that money is power and once we get money we want more and more and more. Perhaps it could be perceived as a slight jab at capitalism. The track is erratic, there are ever so slight elements of psychedelia buried deep within the sound, under the brash riffs. Starting off slowly, Fried bursts into a more volatile and chaotic punk-rock track, boasting riffs that remind me of last years Shame record Songs Of Praise.

Words Fail Me sees singer Oliver Burslem being unable to open up and express his feelings in key moments. It features some really crisp and momentous orchestral sections, which pop up every so often throughout the run-time. They peak during the songs outro and it makes for a thrilling climax, but before we get to that point, the track is such a slow-burner that It’s doesn’t really justify the buildup to get to the momentary climax. In contrast, Blinded By The Lies is a non-stop adrenaline rush, the guitar riffs shred to the effect of an incoming stampede, as the lyrics point a middle-finger towards people of upper-class backgrounds who are drawn to big cities like bees to a hive. On one bridge, Oliver screams, “Kick em’ in the face!” over and over, while the drum-kit sounds as though its being butchered by a mace, it’s beautifully violent, one of the most satisfying kicks in the eardrum you will ever have.

Then there’s a rather pointless interlude track, that is honestly on the album for no real reason other than to fill space, there’s nothing particularly interesting about it at all. But then we’re straight back to where Blinded By The Lies dropped us off, with the equally vicious White Male Carnivore. But aside from having some gloriously animalistic hooks, what impresses me most about this song is the lyricism, seemingly pointing towards the sense of toxic masculinity within society. “With a low pain threshold. Am I the glass house throwing stones?”, in my interpretation, theses lyrics refer to how, stereo-typically, men are supposed to be big and tough, almost unfeeling, which is complete rubbish, men have a right to feel comfortable talking about their feelings. The culture of ‘bottling it up’ is toxic and a killer.

The final cut on the album, This House Has No Living Room is a little bit of a mixed bag. Running for about 8 and a half minutes, the track has a lot of space to fill, the first part centering around this decrepit house, which is seemingly stuck in a soulless, empty land. The first part of the song does get a little bit repetitive though and doesn’t really have anything interesting to say. It suffers from similar problems to Words Fail Me, there’s a brief moment of intrigue as the song reaches a slight crescendo half way through, but this then dissipates in to a combination of bird noises and synth. While the bird noises are relaxing, it adds nothing to the meaning or context of the song, I feel like the last two minutes of the track should have been cut completely.

 

Overall, this record confidently makes it over to the green grass. There are some fantastic guitar hooks on this record, especially on Bellyache and Blinded By The Lies. I feel as though the lyrics give an accurate portrayal towards modern-day societal attitudes, especially concerning capitalism, greed and our everyday struggle towards finding what makes us happiest. A couple of the tracks get bogged down by being a little bit too ponderous in their buildup and the last song is a disappointing bookend, but overall Yak have made an album that encapsulates the best elements of modern-day guitar music.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

35

ALBUM RELEASE: Julia Jacklin – ‘Crushing’

WORDS BY MATTY PYWELL

From working in an essential oils factory to becoming a singer-songwriter. It took a bit of an epiphany for Julia Jacklin to start her musical career, after realising that life could pass her by, she decided to turn a hobby into a career. Her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win was released back in 2016 and three years on from that, the ending of a relationship and the experiences in-between have led to Jacklin writing introspectively on her new album Crushing.

The album’s first track, Body is one which Jacklin described as, “a very long and exaggerated sigh”. The lyrics tell us of a man who isn’t exactly the best influence/person for Julia to be around, she comes to realise this and ends up leaving in order to feel like herself again. The piano keys on this track ring out like a call to the distance, giving the song a feeling of thought, with a tinge of remorse. Head Above finds Jacklin frustrated at a partner who is a bit too hands-on with her, seemingly unable to show his love in a different way, she constantly reminds him that, “you can love somebody without using your hands”. The melodic guitar playing on this song, gives it a great rhythm, particularly in the latter part of the track when the tempo increases.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#JuliaJacklin’s brilliant new album #Crushing, with bonus flexi track “Why Won’t My Friends Read My Mind”

A post shared by Reuben m (@roopnator) on

Pressure To Party is one of the more upbeat numbers on the album and is instantly memorable for how anthemic it is. Lyrically, Jacklin speaks of the social pressures people are faced with when going through a breakup. The pressure to take time alone, to feel alright and then go out and party as if you’re completely fine. Jacklin rebels against this, puts her foot down and states her intent to do things at her own pace. The frenetic mood of the track, perhaps reflecting the way that your mind can frantically switch between moods, as a repercussion of heartbreak. The lyricism on this track is at the highest level, I honestly believe that Jacklin has written the perfect breakup song.

Crushing is quite an emotive album, a few tracks are written about the strain and fatigue that start to seep into relationships and others are about the ways in which Jacklin wants to be treated and the perception of her body. One of the most emotional peaks is on the track, Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You, where she finds herself in a situation, where that fatigue has set in and the relationship just isn’t the same anymore. There’s an overriding sense of confusion as Jacklin seems to be struggling to distinguish the positive from the negative, “Into the darkness or is this the light? Should I be waking up or finding a place to sleep tonight?” The electric guitars that start to chime in towards the end of the song, sound like the tearful cries of someone who is simply just tired.

There’s an influence of country music to the track, Turn Me Down, the guitar notes feel like a walk down a long dusty road. Throughout the album, Jacklin’s vocals are consistently to a very high standard, she is a distinct vocalist. On this song she reaches some of her most impressive octaves, the way some of her vocal highs hang in the air is breathtaking, they can cut right through you. For a song that wasn’t originally going to make the final cut, Comfort is a perfect bookend to the album. It’s a bit of a reverse to Pressure To Party, except this time Jacklin is thinking of the man she left and is hopeful for his sake, as well as hers that he’s going to be okay after she left him. It offers a slightly different perspective than the other tracks on the album and it helps to summarise some of the records main themes.

Crushing is an example of how to write about love, breakups, and self-worth. Jacklin doesn’t care about societal perceptions of how she’s expected to deal with these issues, instead, she does it her own way. It’s an album that sees her confused, upset, awkward and reflective. As well as her outstanding lyricism, her brand of folk, country and pop music isn’t overly-reliant on distinguishable hooks, instead, it successfully immerses the listener in evocative palettes of emotion.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

89

ALBUM RELEASE: FLING – ‘FLING OR DIE’

WORDS BY JOEL MALLEN

Bradford psych rockers FLING play “wonky pop”, according to them, and much more besides. They’ve had incredibly successful debut and sophomore years, rising out of a white-hot arts scene in West Yorkshire, standing out with a committed following to a unique live show and old-school glam rock aesthetic, with all the lipstick, stripy jumpers, dungarees and bright colours that come with it. Working with Lee Smith at Leeds’ Greenmount Studios, FLING record FLING OR DIE, a fruity cocktail combination of reworked singles and new releases, put out into the world on the 22nd February.

In short, the record holds up really well, especially as a profile and introduction to what this band is all about. Kicking off with Welcome To The City, a glam song about a refugee alien running away from his own planet, an opener you really lose yourself in, yet also hear their influences brazenly. Ziggy-era David Bowie and T.Rex spring to mind, with the singers sliding ’70s half rock voice heavily recalling to Marc Bolan (there’s even a bonus “radio-oh-oh” reference a la Starman chucked in there for good measure). This and the entire album set a great tone; jangling acoustic guitars, organs, under a picked indie bass and combined with surreal lyrics and nasal, catchy melodies.

FLING OR DIES’s strength is in the individualism of each track; not enough that it becomes non-cohesive, instead additional sounds and instruments add to the character. Some are absolutely out of left field, like steel drums, recorders, sequenced synthesisers, kalimbas, upright piano, ultra-compressed vocals, and the droning sitar which dominates Revolution. It’s this kind of disrespect for the pop rulebook that gives the album such a life to it, whilst the songwriting absolutely and 100% sticks the landing in setting the mood. Whether it be softly spoken like Je T’aime, cheeky like Just A Dog or Banjo Billy, or tub-thumping like Revolution and Black and White Fibbers.

But it’s more than that: every one of the 11 songs feels intensely involving, with all the energy of a hitchhikers-by-the-fire novella, stored in the crevices of the brain. An album that champions the slightly psychedelic and the bizarre, a cavalcade of expressive joy that leaves you with no choice but to go along for the ride of every song. If you can get your hands and ears on this album, for it is certainly worth the upside down ride.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

140

ALBUM RELEASE: DRS – ‘From the Deep’

WORDS BY DALE BURGESS

Anyone who is worth their musical salt and knows of DRS will vouch for him as nothing short of an iconic veteran of the Manchester urban music scene – an MC and vocalist who stood the test of time through the evolution of drum and bass, whilst keeping a warm seat reserved in his heart for all things hip-hop.

From his features on LTJ Bukem’s ‘Progression Sessions’ in the late ’90s to his seemingly endless wave of collaborations with liquid D&B heavyweight Calibre; DRS has been and continues to be at the forefront of cutting-edge drum and bass since the genre’s birth.

Like many great urban wordsmiths of his era, hip-hop is where it all began for DRS, sparking the creation of rap group Broke ‘n’ £nglish in the mid ’00s alongside local figureheads Konny Kon and Strategy. The turn of the decade witnessed his first solo album Grown Man Biznizz – a 12-track extension of the gritty yet playful hip-hop-esque sound that Broke ‘n’ £nglish championed.

Two drum and bass albums later – with countless singles and EPs in-between – DRS returns to his roots with fourth studio album ‘From the Deep’ – accompanied by his brand new label ‘Space Cadet’ to unleash it on. The whimsical nature therein Grown Man Biznizz remains evident in this new project, with references to getting loose on the weekend amongst other things – but a lot has happened in nine years and DRS will be the first to tell you that.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Just saw LSB & DRS in a room full of 50 people. Vancouver you just welcomed me back with arms wide open 😍

A post shared by Sepoys (@sepoysdnb) on

From the Deep is exactly what it says on the tin – delving down into real word themes and occurrences from the past few years of the MC’s life – particularly revolving around society, bereavement, love, and everything in-between. Consistent in all his outputs, his soul is laid bare for all to see, with the track-list resembling a contents page to his heart and mind. Manifested throughout is a brutally majestic delivery of emotion and lyricism, presenting an opportunity to hear his passionate depictions delivered at a different BPM to what much of the new age drum and bass community will be used to.

None can argue that sublime craftsmanship in beat-making is the buttery biscuit base beneath all great hip-hop albums. DRS didn’t have to look much further than his own doorstep to find the right man for the job. All hail Pitch 92 – potentially the hottest hip-hop producer in the UK right now, never mind Manchester. His natural ability to fuse boom bap with jazz, funk, and soul proves that age is just a number, with the origins of his sound existing long before he did. Performing and producing with The Mouse Outfit since the turn of the decade, followed by two solid High Focus releases in less than as many years – Pitch plays a blinder in yielding the soundtrack to DRS’ masterstroke.

Each track within From the Deep holds its own identity and will connect with each listener in a different way on a different day – picking favourites is out of the question. Instead, here’s the three that grabbed me the most today in track-list order:

‘Northern galactic outlaw, mixed race pirate the Caribbean southpaw’ – round of applause for the sickest opening line to a track I’ve heard in a long time. Serial Escapist explicitly depicts over-indulgence and dependency on liquor and substances – with the video capturing a night in the life of a blurry bender, complete with face tattoos. Pitch’s trap beat fits the mood of floating in the twilight zone at 5am, as the final thirty seconds transition into slow motion, symbolising the inevitable wall that is hit when it’s all over. The words ‘Is this hip-hop? This is hip-hop’ flash up – a likely reference to the state of today’s hip-hop culture.

The production goes back to basics on Irreplaceable, using a simple drum beat under lo-fi piano keys – making room for an honest confession about the struggle to deal with the loss of loved ones. With direct references to DRS’ bereaved companion, the track feels like as much of a glowing tribute to the individual as it is about DRS’ path to coping with it. A sombre but elegant track that many will relate to.

A fine example of the emotional spectrum within this project. How Sweet It Is pays homage to the simple things in our ‘every day’ that keep us ticking over – the appreciation of the journey of life rather than the destination. Pitch’s production is sprinkled with the old-school, creating a chilled out beat that wouldn’t sound out of place in your bedroom as you draw the curtains on a brand-new day. A stunning piece of work from Manchester’s very own DRS and Pitch 92 – eyes peeled in the coming weeks for yet more new music from these two grafters. From the Deep is available to stream and download now on all major platforms.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

235

ALBUM RELEASE: Sharon Van Etten – ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’

WORDS BY MARIA PASSINGHAM

Sharon Van Etten’s new album ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ makes me wish I were going through a breakup. The soul-baring, straightforward lyrics paired with the brooding bass drone that forms the first 90 seconds of album opener ‘I Told You Everything’ give you the perfect excuse to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over your head; block out the world and dwell on heartache.

The following sparse bendy guitars and the unpredictable trio of notes (what is that, is it a guitar? a piano? an electronic, engineered noise?) scattered throughout provide those moments of wonky beauty that most of us first learned with ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ (off 2014’s ‘Are We There’). With this latest album Van Etten will take your happy memories and twist them up with sadness, and you’ll gladly let her.

Like a perfect prose poem, Van Etten makes sure every sound is absolutely necessary, leaving plenty of ethereal space, so that when the propelling drums and screeching guitars of single ‘Comeback Kid’ launch you feel the full weight of their impact. The intro to that track by the way, still reminding me of the opening to ‘Something About You’ by Lucius, anyone else?

My personal favourite is the glorious ‘Seventeen’. First, it’s not often these days you hear a fade-in on a record. It’s the equivalent of a long zoom in from a far-out establishing shot at the start of a film: it takes you right to the center of the action without you realising how you got there. The action in this case? The driving drums that relentlessly underpin this anthem.

Second, those drums. Particularly paired with the echoing, wailing guitars, my mind immediately leaped to the best of The War on Drugs, which isn’t really surprising given Van Etten’s friendship and past work with Adam Granduciel. Providing a perfect base for layers to build and fall over the course of the song, the constantly-moving-forward drums provide the perfect contrast to the backward-facing nostalgia of the lyrics.

Third, I feel as though we haven’t often heard Van Etten break. Her signature vocal style is low-key – a beautiful elastic drawl – but here she allows herself a moment of unrestrained punk, full throttle, too-much-sincerity-for-karaoke singing, taking us all by surprise and amping up the earnest impact of the song. Other highlights include the drone-filled, ghostly, Suuns-esque ‘Memorial Day’, and ‘You Shadow’, which harks back to the simple and beautiful tracks from ‘Are We There’.

I’ll be honest with you, the first two times I listened to ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ I wasn’t enthralled. It was a background to working, cooking, cleaning music. But the third time I took an old-fashioned leaf out of Van Etten’s book. I sat down, headphones on, no distractions, and listened. This is an album to listen to, pay attention to the careful layering of sounds, lose yourself in her nostalgic narratives, and, if you need to have a good cry over your ex, it wouldn’t be bad for that either.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

91

ALBUM RELEASE: James Blake – ‘Assume Form’

WORDS BY TOM BRANFOOT

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer James Blake’s 4th LP seems to provide a numbing acceptance to the plaguing and instinctual longing located within his unique brand of somber and reflective music. ‘Assume Form’ is a contented softening of the answerless intensity of his previous works and, as a result of being less emotionally devastating, allows both us to appreciate in a different manner and for Blake to explore foreign subjects and styles.

Although Blake has never shied away from rap music, (he even co-inhabited a mansion in L.A with Chance The Rapper in 2016) this album leaves a definitive sneaker-clad footprint in the aural realm, with features from Travis Scott, Metro Boomin and the legendary André 3000. The eponymous title track is a display of Blake’s poetic sensibilities, drifting atop piano motif’s and bit-crushed percussion. A classic James Blake blueprint song, with lyrics seemingly about re-materialising after a dark period of mental health and connecting with humans again. ‘Mile High’ sees Metro Boomin sharing production duties whilst Travis Scott soars above the liquid smooth beat with his melodically confident flow, albeit subdued in accordance with Blake’s signature vocal accompaniment.

A self-assured, late-night R&B track which feels as fresh as the rest of the album, even though it’s in keeping with a popular formula. ‘Tell Them’ features upcoming American soul singer Moses Sumney as well as co-producer Metro Boomin. With cues to earlier feature tracks such as ‘Life Round Here’ (featuring Chance The Rapper) however without the hard-hitting songwriting, including trademark synths and heavy beats with airy and glossy instrumentation, a vaguely forgettable track.

‘Into The Red’ feels like the McCartney/Lennon technique of incorporating two songs in one, however, if McCartney sounded like Bon Iver and Lennon sounded like Future. As Blake states on iTunes, this number is about a woman in his life “who put me before themselves and spent the last of their money on something for me. It was just a really beautiful sentiment”, the swelling crescendo in this song reflecting such a sentiment. Spanish, saintly-namesaked singer ROSALÍA adds a bilingual breeziness to this upbeat pop song, their vocals work wonderfully together over the mellifluously rolling beat.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Manchester, Bristol, London. Tickets for April shows are on sale now at www.jamesblakemusic.com

A post shared by James Blake (@jamesblake) on

Opening with some sample splicing akin to Kanye, ‘Can’t Believe the Way We Flow’ surges into a gospel-style movement, cut off to allow room for Blake’s silver-smooth vocals to lay themselves down over, Blake taking hints from hip-hop production all throughout this number. ‘Are You in Love’ adapts the traditional James Blake formula, moving through jazz chords on a Prophet 8 synthesiser, billowing into a vocal layered, screaming soundscape, however quite lyrically simple – questioning the elephant in the room of a blossoming dalliance.

Three Stacks’ cameo on ‘Where’s The Catch?’ caught the eye of many hip-hop heads, a fitting beat, and dark piano motif, makes up the introduction with Blake, once again, talking about his new lover “we delayed the show we kissed so long”. The titular vocal riff sits over a searing guitar lick as André 3000 introduces his ‘heady verse’ which tackles paranoia and anxiety, (as does previous single ‘Don’t Miss It’) Three Stacks’ verse showcases his legendary flow with impressive an array of assonance and consonance. The track rolls out with the comforting notion that “everything is rosy”, a noticeable departure from the emotional dirge’s on his previous records.

Personal highlight ‘I’ll Come Too’ is a touching straight forward song, musing on wanting to follow your lover everywhere they go “I don’t want to go home/should we drive from zone to zone”, tackling the obsessive power of love through the language of men opposed to the poeticisms of ‘Assume Form’. ‘Don’t Miss It’ surfaced a few months ago but, here, Blake gives a rundown through what this egomaniacal and anxiety-ridden track is about: “moments I (sic) didn’t enjoy when I should have/Love’s I wasn’t a part of/Heroes I met that I can’t remember the feeling of meeting/Because I was so wrapped up in myself” using his trademark pitched up and spliced vocals. Album finishing ‘Lullaby for My Insomniac’ brings an oceanic blanketing to the record with a choir of vocals and falling pads.

‘Assume Form’ is a grounded and assured body of work, considerably less left-field and refines the ‘James Blake’ formula with a stronger magnetic leaning to rap music. However, these songs lack the emotional intensity of Blake’s previous records, and songs such as ‘Radio Silence’ or ‘Retrograde’, ditching the spaciously monstrous instrumentation for more subdued R&B beats. With some forgettable songs, such as ‘Power On’, ‘Tell Them’ and ‘Are You In Love?’, this album feels lackluster at times, however, it serves as an important record in the progression of James Blake’s music.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

193

ALBUM RELEASE: Red Rum Club – ‘Matador’

WORDS BY MAURINA ANGIONI

Red Rum Club‘s first album ‘Matador’ is exactly what we were expecting to hear from the Liverpool sextet. The first thought when listening to it is that the name ‘Matador’ summarise perfectly the whole experience and we don’t even need to listen to the eponymous track to understand it. The trumpet comes out as compelling and assertive straight in the first seconds of the opening track ‘Angeline’, immediately defining the unique sound of the band together with a precise rhythmic session and powerful guitar chords.

‘Angeline’ sets the bar high for all the other tunes in the album, which are generally catchy and uptight, like some renegades fleeing the desert while dancing. The song is imbued with love words and a sense of loneliness cried out loud with power and emotional energy. But Red Rum Club are not only this.

If you watched one of their videos or live performances you should know that they are capable of fitting in different dresses. When a song like ‘Hung Up’ or ‘TV Said So’ plays we can understand how much different they can be, with the second track just a stone away from a certain late 80s/early 90s vibe.

The new single ‘Would You Rather Be Lonely?’, of which the sweet video was filmed in the iconic Matthew Street in Liverpool, gives a sense of peace and love and has a strong indie influence, definitely making difficult to write this review while sitting when I would gladly dance the track.  After the little detour into indie, closing with the well-known ‘Honey’, we go back to the main sound of the album: listening to ‘Nobody Gets Out Alive’ with its dramatic lyrics, you can see profiling on the horizon a young lovestruck Clint Eastwood.

‘Calexico’, also an old acquaintance, brings us again to a Latin country, with the passionate vibrato of the trumpet, the rich sound of the bass and the warm voice of singer Fran Doran bejewelling the composition and turning it into a sexy dance. When we hear the last songs, ‘Remedy’, and ‘Matador’, we feel that we have reached the end of a journey somewhere far away and want to do it all over again. The general sound is a well self-defined spaghetti western feeling with just a bit of Zorro, and I say this in the most positive way.

The lyrics of the whole album try to explore the ranges of solitude and loneliness with emotional, perfect for the sound and the cinematic images that it creates. It feels like a knight is coming to my rescue with sweet and witty words but wearing a suit like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. I didn’t know that was possible.

The Red Rum Club kept the promise of a strong burning debuting album and we can assume without doubt that they’ll do the same with their lives when the tour kicks in. They are definitely a band to follow in 2019. I made them one of my resolutions for the new year and so should you.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

243

ALBUM RELEASE: Deerhunter – ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?’

WORDS BY KANE MARTIN      PHOTO BY LIA SUED

Polymorphic self-proclaimed “ambient-punks” Deerhunter return with their eighth studio album ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, their first release since 2015’s ‘Fading Frontier’. Although not a drastic departure from their previous efforts, sonically there’s a melancholic sincerity which haunts the album. Upon listening, it feels as though you’re hearing a band quietly appalled with its national identity and the baggage that comes along with the task of writing about American topics. Despite its concerns, they don’t weigh the album down too much as the fizzing pop sensibilities Deerhunter are renowned for carrying the weight of their mournful lyrical content.  

 

View this post on Instagram

 

4AD presents Revue🎠🌟🙌🏻 #greatshow #4ad #deerhunter #deerhunterband #ganggangdance #exre #osaka #japan

A post shared by Chia 🍋 ❁♩𓃰♬♪ (@lemoncandy22) on

That being said this album is more than just Bradford Cox having a big bloody cry and holding a sign in the desert saying “I’m a sad boy – Trump is a muppet and I don’t like him that much” whilst a reverb-drenched drum-machine sound-tracks this terrible scene. It was recorded in the desert – Marfa, Texas to be exact – and co-produced by the ever-brilliant Cate Le Bon. The combination of these two aspects really lends themselves to the album’s attempt at defining a space. As no place lends itself as much to the mythology of America as the desert. Also, having Cate involved as an artist who is very aware of her cultural heritage and transferring that sonically without it being too “on the nose” is a transference Deerhunter attempt with this release and the results are spectacular.

With its album artwork which resembles the front cover of an out of print Frank Waters novel it opens with the harpsichord ridden lament ‘Death in Midsummer’, presumably a nod to the Yukio Mishima short story of the same name in which a decision to go on a family holiday results in the death of two children (cheery stuff). The twanging of harpsichords is achingly reminiscent of something that could be found in John Cale’s 1973 masterpiece ‘1919’. This borrowing from instrumentation similar to other classic ‘baroque rock’ concept albums from the ’60s and ’70s is prevalent on the album. For example, ‘No One’s Sleeping’ which deals with the sensitive subject matter of the murder of MP Jo Cox, yet conversely to its subject sounds like it could be off The Kinks’ ‘The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society’. The track even makes reference to this lyrically “the village green is now nocturnal”.

This borrowing from imagined pasts compliments certain instrumentation on the album which is influenced by borrowing from the other direction; the future. With the synthesizer sounds on ‘Greenpoint Gothic’ sounding like it’s from a Vangelis soundtrack to an abandoned existential late 80’s Sci-Fi movie. Whilst Cox’ and Lockett Pundt’s spaced out guitar-interplay dances a drunken, cosmic tango through all the albums tracks – a great sense of other-worldliness is created. The guitars themselves sound subliminally inspired by the great German Kosmiche bands of the ’70s, in particular, the work of guitarist Manuel Göttsching which creates great depth and a slight cosmological horror: like looking into a great unknown void.

What is achieved by mixing the sounds from fictionalised futures and pasts – blending imagined outer-space with a non-existent nostalgic rural-ism – is Deerhunter create a new way of discussing the present through song. This cutting and pasting of cultures could be described as détournement a phrase coined by the French Situationists of the 1950s. The phrase is also the title of the 6th track on the album making their cultural hijacking of using both fictional futures and pasts, central to the albums’ themes. This hijacking, as it were, allows a discussion of the present in which there’s an implication of what we’re currently experiencing is fiction which somewhat terrifyingly rings true if we linger on the thought of our post-truth digital age a little too long, which the album forces us to do.

‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, offers more questions then it does answers to where we are at the moment which is where I feel the album’s strength lies. It invites ruminations on some unsettling themes which quietly invite themselves in the form of brilliantly written pop songs. Like much of Deerhunter’s previous output it doesn’t expect you to say it’s a masterpiece on first listen. Rather, to fully “get it” one must live with it for a while until it reveals itself to you. I won’t tell you it’s an immediate masterpiece either, although I would highly recommend you get lost in the album for a while.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

110