Single Review – Florence and the Machine – Sky Full of Song

Cast your mind back to 2015, and the familiar vocal of Florence Welch was roaring the lyrics to the thunderous What Kind of Man; the lead single to her band’s third album. Now, three years later, and we find ourselves in a similar position, gifted with another release from Florence and the Machine…although this one is much, much different. Their latest release – Sky Full of Song – is a soft, acoustic number, punctuated by bass and with little other instrumental addition. Welch’s voice glides over the track, discussing painstaking lyrics of doubt and the stress of her industry. The atmospheric single isn’t perhaps as exciting as some of their arena-filling past material, but it is interesting to hear Florence’s ghostly voice pushed in a different direction, perhaps signposting a new style for the British band’s fourth LP.

Ellie Chivers

Single Review – Alice Merton – Lash Out

After the huge success of 2017’s No Roots, Alice Merton returns with the equally ferocious and addictive Lash Out. A funky opening riff paves way for fiery lyrics of rebellion, with Merton stating the song detailed the struggles of the industry: “Being an artist and a human in this world always means confronting people who make you feel like you have to act according to their rules. Like most people, I wanted and still want to live by my own rules. The idea, or, if you like, the need, to write and record ‘Lash Out’ was born of a feeling within me.” The track has an undying energy, peaking at the effervescent choruses. It’s the vocals of Florence and the Machine meeting the bold vitality of nostalgic 2000s indie pop classics.

Ellie Chivers

Single Review – Johnny Marr – The Tracers

After announcing his third album as a solo artist last year, Johnny Marr has dropped the first single from the record to be released later in 2018. The Tracers begins with the chant of “hoo hoo” to the growl of guitars, making way for the entrance of moody vocals. The track has a mysterious ghostliness to it thanks to the distortions, but it still remains a fairly no-nonsense rock, easy to just have on in the background. The track and album may come in the wake of ex-band-mate Morrissey’s recent releases, but The Tracers puts Marr in good stead for producing a track list much more rich and enjoyable.

Ellie Chivers

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food Review

New Zealand born and Oregon based project of Reuben Neilson returns with their fourth full length album off the back of Multi-Love from 2015. With Sex and Food they have looked to ply gloomy Disco with brazen Psych Rock and combine that with deeper lyrical observations of the world around them. They have sought to balance their finessed approach with the more scattered mentality of their other tracks. It’ll be to balance this and ensure each approach compliments each other track by track for a complete album

‘American Guilt’ ramps up the typical mild lo-if sound to fuzzy, distorted whirring with Reuben’s creaking vocals cutting through to the centre of the sound. It evokes all of that Desert Rock imagery and though immaculate in its delivery; it is a well worn sound and you imagine one that can only serve them a finite amount. Though it does show that they can tangle with a bulkier, heavier sound, it this is not an album defining song, but is one that’s hard to ignore amongst the track listing. The mere concept of the title ‘American Guilt’ signals the sharp tongued lyrical intent for the album. ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ falls into the finesse category. Familiar chiming organs and keys give way to a crisp beat with shuffling support from which similarly smooth chamber instrumentation bops on to a quickened tempo. Reuben’s hushed falsetto sails easily over it all as his vocals are cleverly backed up by the bass line only; thus freeing other elements to accentuate and expand the boundaries of the song. A cleverly arranged and produced track which despite its infectious hooks features including ‘we’re growing in a viscous garden, we don’t complain for nothing’ as they reflect the feelings of the current generation. A poignant message packed into a piece of funky electronica.

‘Not In Love We’re Just High’ begins as an slow, oscillating track which drops pools of electronica with the space and free for Neilson’s vocals to wander in and out of soulful caricatures. Beats eventually befall the track as it gradually grows to a larger sound with backing vocals, distorted hi-hats and the inevitable plunge into depths of Neo-Psych guitar. It is generally a mature, well developed track. ‘Major League Chemicals’ fully embraces this tag with the warped guitars, rumbling bass lines and manipulated vocals; even organs are thrown in for good measure to emulate a retro piece of Psychedelia. ‘Hunnybee’ is most reminiscent of the pie last album with falsetto vocals atop Pop strings and arrangements. The album is undoubtedly a solid effort and does nothing to diminish the talent of Neilson’s project as they go on to push their lyrical content further into view and continue to push their sound to its boundaries. One thing missing is a musical direction track by track. The album often seems lost and it isn’t variety where it stumbles, but consistency in-track. Some get lost in a lack of production discipline as they try to chase fruitless transitions and progressions. With a little more consideration and imagination this album would have been amazing, but instead confirms what we already know about UMO.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Jack White – Boarding House Reach Review

Jack White. The Jack White: One half of the White Stripes, Part of the Raconteurs, Part of the Dead Weathers, founder of Third Man Records, multi-instrumentalist maestro, producer and singer-songwriter. Even before Jack White went solo in the late 2000s his legacy was already cemented as one of the best musicians, never mind Rockstar’s of recent times. Yet, his most recent solo records have flattered to deceive. The hallmark of his two previous solo LPs, Blunderbuss and Lazaretto, rather than his trademark eccentricities has been safety and timidity. Whilst there have been moments of the weird and wonderful, by and large, it’s been solid after standard rock and blues tracks which, although consistently decent have been short of the energy and creativity which White has shown to possesses on previous projects like the White Stripes. On Boarding House Reach, however, White delivers in abundance and with such aggression that you really can’t look away. With few exceptions, Jack White delivers on an experimental and genre-wrestling album which forces the worlds of rock, electronic, blues and funk into one impressively unique and cohesive whole.

Whilst the opener, Connected by Love, nails its colours to the mast with it’s hypnotic beat and intricate melding of the guitar and organ for an impressive solo, structurally and lyrically it sounds more like Jack White from Blunderbuss than the Jack White who appears throughout the album. Thankfully, the follow-up track more seamlessly combines Whites blues background with the powerful electronic influence into an interesting ballad. It also features one of the best, of the many, guitar solos on the album as the guitar struggles against the electronics, cutting out intermittently and distorted before bursting through.

White is just so eccentric on this album. Even on the more upbeat tracks like Corporation, which for the majority of its run time features random shouting and a killer instrumental with some incredible bongo-style drumming. It’s companion piece, Respect Commander, has another banging instrumental with eccentric guitar riffs and escalating distorted electronics but slows down before segwaying into a wild guitar solo while Jack sings about his complete devotion to woman who has his complete respect and power over him. Structurally, the lead single, Over and Over, is peak Jack White and from the roaring of the opening riff you know you’re in safe hands with White’s energy and ferocity echoing Icky Thump era White Stripes.

Things get stranger when we move away from some of the more obviously Rock influenced tracks. For instance, on Ice Station Zebra White goes meta and spells out the whole idea of the album; both sonically and lyrically. The odd instrumental in the first half with this spikey guitar in the background and the lick of piano keys transitions into the much funkier second half all perfectly fits in with White’s point that music can’t simply be put into neat boxes, nor can artists think they are creating something in a vacuum: “Everyone creating is a member of the family, Passing down genes and ideas in harmony, The players and the cunics will be thinking it’s hard, But if you rewind the tape we’re all copying the same God”.

Even the instrumentals on this thing are so odd and cinematic. On Everything You’ve Ever Learned, Jack turns fiery preacher whilst on Esmerelda Steals the Show turns back to his more singer-songwriter style. The only time the experiment may go too far is on the track, Hypermisophoniac, which although innkeeping with the concept of the album has some ear grating electronic sounds which get stale and staler fast.

Overall, Boarding House Reach is a brave, experimental and eccentrically odd album that only Jack White could deliver; not only in the sense that White’s personality shines through on virtually every single track but also in its technical mastery and just how layered the songs are. If Boarding House Reach succeeds in anything (and it succeeds in a lot) it is to rejig (or remind us of) our idea of what a ‘Jack White Album’ is. No longer is it a stale, copy and paste, coffee house rock and blues, instead, it’s something all its own.

Jack White – Boarding House Reach = 9/10

Callum Christie

It looks like the WordPress site URL is incorrectly configured. Please check it in your widget settings.