Baltimore’s Dream Pop master duo in Beach House have just released their fifth studio album Depression Cherry and the name really encapsulates the rich yet fading sounds they produce and it seems a likelihood that they will do the same again here. The days when their music was pushing the boundaries was back in 2010 and since then they have maintained a steady course on the same path. Their sound is not one that should be faulted by any means, it is just the fact they’ve struggled to move on from it or have become tied down to it and so it will be intriguing to see which direction they move in now.
‘Sparks’ is a single that develops the sounds featured on their 2012 album Bloom. The washed out and faded vocals of Victoria Legrand are torn through by a shredding guitar riff before embarking on the awkwardly meandering rhythms of the warping organs. This rhythm is then met with the highly wistful and echoed vocals with the occasional shred of a riff leading the song on and in general the more noticeable electronic injection the song has had is a little more welcome. They are masters of the Dream Pop genre and just demonstrate it here. ‘Beyond Love’ opens in a more minimised fashion with the simple, warped organs accentuated by the ringing lead guitar parts and as the whirring sounds build around it, a sort of tragic and sombre harmony develops from Victoria’s vocals. They remain wistful and optimistic in tone, but their echoed and faded filter replace it with a more hopeless and lonesome feel. The emotive feel that is generated from this simple alteration is very noticeable and clever on their part. Tracks such as ’10:37′ work in a similar fashion with the vocal instrumentation adding to the lucidity of the track amongst all of the faded elements.
‘Wildflower’ features those warped organs again as they’re joined by a drum sample and airy riff in what is almost a Dream Pop take on a late Marvin Gaye track. Those vocal sweeps are something that you never tire of even if the warping organs are. The album opener ‘Levitation’ is a little more typical with more chiming electronica working from a warped and whirring foundation, but despite this the subtle fruition of the songs sounds at it’s peak has an element of delicate awe and power to it. ‘Space Song’ is very similar to ‘Wildflower’ with it’s structure with a more prominent bass within it and a more isolated, pop-like vocal for this swooning ballad. This ballad style is taken to an almost church-like level with the closing track ‘Days of Candy’. The album remains a beautiful creation and sees Beach House as graceful and sonically fluid as ever, but this album is only half a step on from their previous work and it doesn’t have enough to be one of the great albums of the year when they really have the potential to make such an album. It is album for a specific mood. If you’re feeling reflective or heartbroken then this is the album for you, but there isn’t much engagement beyond that.
Beach House – Depression Cherry = 8/10
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
The Kills are Alison Mosshart from Florida and Jamie Hince from Buckinghamshire and the duo released their debut album eleven years ago with Keep On Your Mean Side. Back in 2008 they released their third and most acclaimed album with Midnight Boom. It’s a album with a lot of heavy, fuzzy and scathing guitars that the song is formed around but these riffs are fluid and traversing. Not blocky and monotonous like may of todays pliers of such a trade. A fine example of this is the single ‘Sour Cherry’. Everything about this track has a constant buzz and tremble to it and this reflects on the fabric of the song. The distorted percussion is broken by fuzz enthused strikes of the guitar while Alison’s vocal; effortless in it’s delivery and close in it’s recording, rolls each line off with ease as she’s backed up by Hince’s equally laid back boasts. If the bold beat doesn’t hit you the brief blasts of the guitar will. The instrumental see’s Hince wrestle a sonically charged roar from his guitar before settling back into the thumping percussion section as it ends all too abruptly. An unconventional yet simple song in it’s drive and rhythm but a highly creative one at that. They make Royal Blood, Drenge or Darlia look like amateurs and all long before these groups set about their drab, droning sound. About six years in fact.
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
Gary Clark Jr is an American guitarist/singer who was born in Austin, Texas who began playing guitar at an early age playing small local gigs in his teens before meeting Clifford Antone, propertier of the Austin music club Antones. Clark’s musical trademarks are his distorted guitar sound and smooth vocals citing a variety of different genres such as blues, jazz, soul and country as his musical influences. With his debut album Blak And Blu he has just become the first artist ever recognized by the Recording Academy with Grammy Award nominations in both the rock and R&B categories for the same album in the same year, winning the latter: Best Traditional R&B Performance – “Please Come Home”(from the album Blak And Blu).
Both a fantastic singer and guitarist his latest offering to tantalise with his slick vocals and distorted guitar is the single Church, with an expected release date of early September. A clear homage to his musical influences, Church is an excellent example of Clark at his best, sizzling electric guitars pierce through laidback, rolling drums underpinning the very essence of the track. Clarks passion and energy for the music he produces clearly transpires onto his latest track, creating an emotive ambience that pushes the boundaries of the stereotypical solo guitarist come singer, opening up a sense of limitless creativity that plays such as vital role in Clarks musical ethos. The smooth vocals perfectly capture the intensity of Clarks voice; only adding to the emotiveness created by the music and adds a whole new dimension to the song. Clarks vocal ability is exceptional and his lyrical prowess a real addition to his work, with the ability to put so much passion into his music, his lyrics making him stand out from other writers and musicians, making his music more and more effortlessly stylish. Throughout the track it’s clear to see that Clark has a passion for his music with his ability to portray his emotions through his songs making him a more and more popular artist. The track itself is emblazoned with instruments that clearly relate to his own musical influences, harmonicas are brought in and out throughout, creating that link to country, yet as always keeping with Clark’s own style. His ability to effortlessly create his own niche in an often over saturated singer/songwriter genre a key and unique ability within his work.
Throughout this track Clark offers up a fantastic piece of music that not only plays well but allows the listener to getter a deeper incite into the workings of the artist. The track clearly has influence of genres such as country and blues, but through Clarks unique style allows the artist to stamp his own mark on it. It is this ability to transfer his energy and passion into his music that allows it to stand out in an often over commercialized genre, that can become unoriginal and stagnant. With Church, Clark once more has proven his credentials as an excellent and emphatic singer and musician.
Parisian electro-pop group Housse de Racket are to release their new album The Tourist next week and have released the title track as a single this week. It’s a track that features blocky synths and beats arranged in rotating rhythm which makes it easier to throw in other elements such as a beat and bass line and these fall into place nicely. This simple arrangement makes for a track with an infectious rhythm. The monotone vocal worked for the opening moments of the track, but it does grow a little monotonous for them to remain the same as the track expands and grows and it takes a bit of life out of those moments. A more prominent backing vocal alone would have done the trick here.
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
In a certain light Foals are quite similar to fellow British group Everything Everything in that both have produced a string of good quality or decent albums without really setting the world alight or producing material that pushes any personal or general musical boundaries. For Everything Everything it was just a case of channelling their different influences into a slicker and smoother delivery. For Foals it has been about creating something more engaging and dynamic to showcase their qualities as a group. The hiring of James Ford as producer was something of a gamble. The Arctic Monkeys and Mumford producer could give them something more direct or could produce something with little identity or character as has been the case with Mumford in particular. He can only work with what’s he has been given though so it is up to Foals to rise to that task.
The heavy-weight instrumentation of the title track confirms a more direct route with roaring distortion and unrelenting rhythms carried by a heavy bass-line and a primed back beat. Yannis’ vocals adapt to the shift well and still maintain their melodic quality with the added aggression involved. Generally it is a dynamic and interesting take on the heaver sound that everyone has been trying out in recent times. This track builds up to those peak moments of volume in the chorus and in maintaining complimentary harmonies and melodies they give the song a more intelligent feel as oppose to the mindless thrashing of Royal Blood. ‘Mountain at my gates’ is a little less intense then the title track with a flashing rhythm section and a smooth, low lying bass line from which lead guitar elements and Yannis’ vocals can extend from. The jangling rhythm section riffs give the song it’s melodic direction in a steady fashion before the song ends in a peak of sound with hammering bass drums and spiralling lead guitar elements into a mass of noise and rapidity to conclude with. A song that isn’t as sure as itself as the title track, but one that just about keeps your attention.
‘A Knife in The Ocean’ is a much longer effort at over six minutes long and is a more considered and drawn out song with lingering bass lines, echoed percussion and washed out guitars from which Yannis’ vocals soar above. This expansive production is reeled in and out to reveal an isolated vocal and bass section before it hit it’s peak of atmospheric power with the escalating instrumentation increasing in volume and leading the vocals to a more powerful end too. This track may be a slow burner, but it’s build up and washed out power is very prominent despite not being direct. A very solid track indeed. ‘London Thunder’ similarly captures that atmospheric quality with the nudging organs whirring beyond Yannis’ isolated vocal and a crisp, loud riff to heighten the senses as the track’s background noise begins to dictate the track with a bass line and beat being produced in response. The percussion that dictates the drive of ‘Albatross’ is the bass for a track that brilliantly maintains itself on edge as the track builds volume and pace. Tracks like ‘Night Swimmers’ and ‘Lonely Hunter’ do feel a little too familiar and almost seem like discarded tracks folded into the album and with ‘Snake Oil’ they left behind the musical sensibility of the title track and basically turned into Royal Blood. In many places this album has great atmospheric quality and plays off the spaces created beautifully and they were also able to harness a great deal of power into something solid and dynamic. At other times they forgot how to do just that and the album fillers only stood out like a sore thumb next to those more developed tracks and that ultimately sees them stopping short of a great album.
FOALS – What Went Down = 8/10
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995
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