Paramore are back with new single ‘Hard Times’ and it’s hard to believe it’s been over three years since the trio released their last pop-infused self-titled album. But with a dramatic change of lineup (saying goodbye to hipster-facial-hair bassist Jeremy Davis and reuniting with former drummer Zac Farro, who it always felt only left the band he loved under the influence of a certain ex-paramore guitarist) meant the band experienced some difficulty in the build up to their latest release. Which could be one reason ‘Hard Times’ continues Paramore’s brightly coloured re-imagining of late eighties bittersweet pop in the bitter-sweetest of ways. A little more The Cure meets Cyndi Lauper the track is just as sugar coated as ‘Ain’t it fun’ using Taylor York’s spiked guitar lines and Farro’s rippled drum loops to counter the songs lyrical themes. Focused on returning from a depressive experience, reaching back from a dark hole into neon lights and loud shirts ‘Hard Times’ is another excellent example of Paramore intertwining emotional bruises with glitter and confetti. All this is reflected perfectly in the tracks accompanying video, which sits somewhere between ‘Take On Me’ and the memory of an animation featurette on Sesame Street and would you really expect anything less.
Previously, Mac Demarco has merely dipped his toe into any exploration of serene synth music, but in his latest single, previewing May’s This Old Dog, his echoic vocals are fully submerged in it. And likening the track to some kind of undulant body of water sums it up nicely. It’s subtle and brooding, with the constant flux of throbbing synths backing a piercing hook and the ethereal voice of Demarco, giving On The Level it’s relaxed rippled air. Demarco himself has described it as Chamber of Reflection’s “sister song”, reflecting his only justifiably synth-centred track’s ghostly moodiness. Yet, On The Level has strong mature undertones that not only haven’t been explored to this extent throughout his back catalogue, but also wouldn’t be expected from an artist so familiar with scandal. It mulls over the inevitability of growing older and taking on the responsibilities his father took on. The track reaches its contemplative close with a repetition of the title; a fitting conclusion, with which I can imagine Demarco dwelling on the future these new responsibilities hold. It’s pensive, considered and cleverly composed.
Little Dragon’s new album ‘Season High’, their fifth and follow-up to 2014’s Grammy nominated ‘Nabuma Rubberband’, is the first time the band have sort production skills from outside sources, in the shape of producers Patrik Berger (Charli XCX, Lana Del Rey) and James Ford (Foals, Arctic Monkeys). Creating an album that at times almost seems a little more passé than sensually psychedelic for Little Dragon. Each track reflects not only Berger and Ford’s previous work but appears heavily intertwined with that popular ‘The Weeknd’, ‘Anna Meredith’, 80’s high-fashion evocative atmosphere.
Opener ‘Celebrate’ pulls right back to a dark corner of a badly lit 80’s New York club, with one line even including ‘one hundred red balloon’s, which may or may not be a slight Nena reference. Though Nena isn’t the 80’s icon clearly embraced among Little Dragons new tracks. Echoes of Prince are woven through each second of ‘Season High’, as though a reminder of everything that experimental pop has lost over such a short amount of time. ‘High’, ‘The Pop Life’, ‘Butterflies’ and sugar coated eight bit sound-effect ‘Sweet’ continue the use of expertly precise moody synths, as though the Swedish band are brooding over alt-pops loss with some intensely retro demo settings.
Over all ‘Season High’ displays Little Dragons expertise in the current 80’s revival sound. Where tracks like ‘Should I’ and ‘Push’ are at a first headache inducing synth buzzes that strive to be moody dance tracks, filled with clanking percussive layers and some Charlie XCX conspicuous lyrics, gems like ‘Don’t Cry’, ‘Strobe Light’ and ‘Gravity’ enhance lead singer, and songwriter, Yukimi Nagano’s vocal creating gentle atmospheric wanderings that encapsulate the overall feel of the album – a little uncomfortable at first but with the intention of escapism to some surreal corner of the universe – each working to remind you why this band is in such demand as collaborators.
Little Dragon – Season High = 6/10
If you were as obsessed with Royal Blood’s previous releases as many radio stations back in 2014 then new single ‘Lights Out’ is sure to get your pulse racing. After the whirlpool ferocity of the last few years, Brighton duo Guitarist Mike Kerr and Drummer Ben Thatcher are back with the same punch of thunderous hooks that skyrocketed their debut self-titled album to the top of the UK chart three years ago. ‘Lights Out’ is the first single taken from upcoming album ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’, which is set for release on June 16th via Warner Brother records and is just as addictively earth-shaking as the bands 2014’s ‘Little Monster’. With Biffy Clyro style oddities, including the tracks accompany video of spooky gravity, and physics, defying swimmers as well as plenty of dripping face paint. ‘Lights Out’ is sure to fit perfectly into the band’s live set, showing Royal Blood have once again created a sound that defies their limited band number.
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