Silversun Pickups are a four-piece alternative rock band from Los Angeles that formed in 2002. The band released their first full EP, Pikul, in July 2005 followed by their debut album, Carnaves, in July 2006. Following on from the success of their first debut album the band released their second album, Swoon, in April 2009 and their third, Neck of the Woods, in May 2012. Their latest and fourth full-length album, Better Nature, was released on September 25th 2015. The bands sound often encompasses multiple overdubs of distorted guitars alongside electronic elements and have often been compared to bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins.
Its been almost a decade since the first album release and Silversun Pickups are still doing their thing, bassist Nikki Monninger continues to chime in just enough to make us realize she’s being woefully underutilized and Brian Aubert’s androgynous voice still conjures up comparisons to Billy Corgan. The album is a hybrid of traditional indie sounds fused with electronic and synth based sounds, smooth vocals and overdubbed, distorted guitars. Tracks such as the opener ‘Cradle (Better Nature)’ and the second ‘Connection’ begin the album with a bang, a relentless energy that gives no time for the listener to settle in. Atmospheric sounds mix with fast, clinically sounding drum beats giving an incite into the expectations of the album. As a whole the album works, creating distinctive melodies and hooks that will stick in the listener’s memory, Aubert’s interplay with Monniger lending a certain dynamic energy, particularly in tracks such as ‘Circadian Rhythms (Last Dance)’ and ‘Tape Deck’. Tracks such as ‘Friendly Fires’ slow the pace, if only for a short while, whilst incorporating deep atmospherics accompanied by Aubert’s outstanding vocals. The deep soundscapes provide a fitting platform for the slower pace that the song garners, allowing Aubert to show off his own vocal talents. Songs such as ‘Nightlight’ offer a more traditional indie sound, pushing back the synths and bringing the deep distorted guitars and big drums to the front. The standout tracks from the album are definitely ‘Circadian Rhythms (Last Dance)’ allowing Monniger to show off her exceptional vocal prowess, something which is criminally underused and ‘Tape Deck’ with its deep atmospheric synths and tight bouncing drums.
Overall the album is a good mix of traditional indie characteristics and more experimental electronic sounds that offer up great atmospheric soundscapes. The only downside is that Monniger’s vocals aren’t used more, like a tsunami they hit the listener with force bringing a new dimension to the whole album, unfortunately they are used sparsely. This aside, the album offers a nice mix of rock and electronic sounds that make it well worth a listen.
Silversun Pickups – Better Nature = 8/10
So Disclosure have released a new album and I’m excited about it. It goes by the name of “Caracal” and features everyone from Miguel to the Weeknd – the album sees Lorde seduce a married man in the video for ‘Magnets’ and also introduces us to the new James Bond track vocalist with “Omen” featuring no other than Sam Smith. The Lawrence brother’s are deservedly celebrating their second UK number 1 album, a massive achievement considering they’ve only been active since 2010, and what a huge progression since their early days in the industry.
Holding on is a track that features Grammy winning Jazz singer Gregory Porter, whose voice has been anywhere and everywhere this past year, even on this particular song “Holding on” which has been a massive hit prior to the album’s release. The background synth and almost clap-along beat is a standard with Disclosure tracks and it fits beautifully with Porter’s gliding vocals.
Up next we have an 808 that leads us into a snare, and a snare that leads us into some extra terrestrial sounding special effects, that eventually lead us into the magnificent roar of Lion Babe. “Hourglass” is Jillian Hervey’s first feature track, and she couldn’t have picked a better duo to collaborate with. In “Hourglass” she stays true to her soulful husk, and this combined with the magic of Disclosure’s production makes for a pretty easy listen.
“Willing and Able” by Kwabs is my favourite from the album, it’s introduced by trademark Disclosure percussion and is completely chilled and relaxed. I’m a huge fan of the very slight reverb on the vocals, and the synth progression on the build up to the chorus is what holds everything together.
Regardless of who Lorde collaborates with she always manages to keep in tact her signature style and doesn’t lose any of her substance through the wants of other artists. Her feature track is called “Magnets”, and both Lorde and Disclosure performed last year at the Brit awards, doing a combined version of “Royals” and “White noise”. They obviously clicked and realised they worked well together because “Magnets” has an absolutely incredible sound that takes the qualities from both parties and merges them into one.
King of the slow jam Miguel has his spotlight with “Good Intentions”. Just by listening it’s really quite hard to tell it’s his vocals, and this song I feel is slightly over processed. I wouldn’t say Miguel’s sound is distinct, but it’s definitely recognisable in his own music. I really feel like it’s been lost under all these deep house Disclosure layers and I can’t help but imagine how amazing it would sound if his voice was a little more raw and stripped back.
Ever since hearing her own track “Zillionaire” I’ve been obsessed with Nao. It was a song I had heard and forgot to Shazam, thus spending days of my life trying to piece together the lyrics I could remember in the hopes that a google search would reunite me. “Superego” definitely does not disappoint, it’s what liquid gold would sound like if it had the ability to sing. Again it incorporates a ridiculous amount of synth and layers but thankfully they don’t take away from the quality of her vocals, she makes it work and that’s just her style.
The album draws to a close with Echoes, which isn’t anything that different to what we’ve already heard from Disclosure. It features Synth, obviously. Why do the Howard brothers love synth so much? The last track on the album goes by the name of “Masterpiece” featuring Jordan Rakei, it’s a slow start with a slight build up, but it’s not what I would call a masterpiece.
All in all I would probably give “Caracle” a 7 out of 10 rating, it had the potential to be a 10 but I feel like the boys have played it too safe and repeated a lot of the same sound that could have been really innovative and new. It wasn’t an album that featured tracks I was surprised by, instead I was kind of thinking “oh, more synth.” I understand that Disclosure have a particular sound but sometimes it’s good to step out of the box and make something that really surprises listeners which they’re more than capable of doing. Hat’s off to them though, because they’ve produced some really solid material and I know there’s more greatness to come.
Disclosure – Caracal = 7/10
Anna Of The North is an alternative pop artist from Oslo, Norway and her new track ‘The Dreamer’ is out today with only a handful of tracks behind her. Washed out synths open the track and remain in the background as the beat arrives and more warped electronica grows from it. Her vocals are easy on the ear and fit in perfectly with the hazy pop she is producing here. As the song progresses the beat is layered with tumbling drum samples and sharp, snappy percussion upon which this track ends. It transcends the divide between pop and alternative themes and she’s kept tem broad in this case to combine them so well. One to look out for in the future.
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Julia Holter has recently released her fourth full length studio album after previously releasing three very strong efforts based around her light wistful vocals and sparse instrumentation. Have You In My Wilderness sees her try to continue on from her previous successes and at ten tracks this album limited space for album fillers and throwaway efforts so if she delivers in a similar versatile fashion again then another very strong album will be in the offing.
‘Feel You’ is a track that mixes thinly layered string sections with a delicate bass line and a pattering, tumbling percussion to deliver music of warmth and comfortable familiarity. This is only enhanced when Julia’s soft, swooning vocal sits atop of the instrumentation and entrances with each delicately performed line. Such a delivery highlights the growing monologue narrative which she goes on to deliver towards the end of the track. The key to this track is it’s subtle form, generating a little from a lot in terms of atmospheric quality and enticing the listener in. ‘Sea Calls Me Home’ opens with those buoyant organs that are reminiscent of ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys, but goes on to develop into a more intricate and contemplative track rarely wishing to stray into big vocal harmonies, instead venturing into sections of jolting saxophone and whistled harmonies. Another accomplished piece of delicate music.
‘Silhouette’ features a solid rhythmic quality via a nudging organ and a gently rolling bassline, but one that remains modest and understated as a foundation for the more sweeping sounds and elements of the track to fire from including those rising strings and Julia’s vocals themselves. She even utilises her vocals as a piece of instrumentation later in the track. The rising strings build the song up to a theatrical fruition in conjunction with Julia’s vocals which rise in sympathy before an abrupt ending to conclude an eloquent and sophisticated track. ‘Lucette On The Island is a more haunting and meandering track in terms of it’s delivery and structure. ‘How Long’ is similar in it’s haunting ways, but these come from more droning instrumentals and a lower toned vocal. The album generally has a similar feel and tone to it with the string sections being the key with perhaps ‘Everytime Boots’ being the only concession. It may sound a little stale as you get through the album, but this album delivers a deliberate and consistent theme delivered with a wonderful poetic narrative that is actually quite beautiful and sophisticated whilst furthering the less is more approach. Another very solid album from Julia.
Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness = 8.5/10
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
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