This Weeks Music Video with Father John Misty, Janelle Monae, Chvrches and Prince

Single Review – Janelle Monae – I Like That

Punctuated by percussion and punchy bass, Janelle Monae’s new single, I Like That, is laid back pop excellence. The self-assuring lyrics take centre stage, layered on top of minimalistic instrumentalism to let the message of confidence shine through. Shimmering harmonies add a little extra something to the chorus and intro, and the chorus lyrics will be stuck in your head all day. This is the perfect chilled mood-boosting track, and features on Monae’s new album, Dirty Computer.

Ellie Chivers

Single Review – Father John Misty – Disappointing Diamonds are the Rarest of Them All

Joshua Tillman was had a pretty quick turnaround from releasing Pure Comedy early in 2017, touring the world with the album and having a release date of June 1st for his fourth studio album God’s Favourite Customer. He’s sprung the album on us to some extent and it seems indicative of a flurry of creativity for Tillman’s pseudonym Father John Misty. One of the first tracks released from the album is ‘Disappointing Diamonds are the Rarest of Them All’ and musically it largely follows the American Songbook Ballad style of his recent works, but more so his 2015 release I love you, Honeybear. The nudging piano chords are met with wiry riffs and occasional distorted effects. Lyrically, at least in this track he sings about his view of love as opposed to a politically charged message again reminiscent of his first couple of albums. It will certainly be difficult to top Pure Comedy, though we can expect Father John Misty to be as engaging as ever with his latest effort.

Owen Riddle

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile Review

Four years off the back of one of their most accomplished works in over a decade in Futurology, The Manics are back with their thirteenth studio album, the typically to-the-point titled Resistance Is Futile. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have already hinted at the album’s sound being influenced by bigger, stadium rock styles in what is evocative of Springsteen and War On Drugs. It suggests the album may not be as musically versatile and imaginative as their last album, perhaps more orientated around lyrical content and pure arrangement.

Within seconds of the ‘International Blue’ opening, Bradfield’s scratching guitar parts and scraping vocals instantly plunge you into familiar territory of early 90’s Manics. It’s typical of a Manics style largely omitted from their last album of the higher pitched strings or electronica acting as the uplifting trail against the heavier sounds around it. With lyrics in tribute to artist Yves Klein, the band lend several elements of their sound and methods over the years to this track with the hint of the heartland rock of Springsteen. In that sense it is not a song evocative of the variation and bold sound of Futurology, but for Manics fans it’s exactly what you’d want. ‘Distant Colours’. is another foray into their standard, earlier sound with this track not sounding out of place on Gold Against The Soul from 1993. With brushing percussion and light riffs against James Dean Bradfield’s subtle vocals, the track then opens into lighter shades with broad guitars and more powerful vocal for the chorus. This track does not surmount to anything special or surprising like Futurology, but remains faithful track unto themselves if nothing else. ‘Dylan and Caitin’ tells of the turbulent relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin with the song split between them. James Dean Bradfield sings Dylan’s hypothetical words whilst Welsh singer songwriter Anchoress sings Caitlin’s. This song is perhaps a more pedestrian version of ‘Your Love Alone’ with its 60’s Motown arrangement around Bradfield’s typical tearing guitar.

‘Hold Me Like A Heaven’ sees the Manics at the most euphoric and sees them utilise vocal harmonies and choruses which they have seldom used before. It certainly reapplied James Dean Bradfield’s 1995 mantra of ‘taking a breath and singing a line’ to a more modern arrangement. It’s a poignant sound to relay and wistful set of lyrics. One of the highlights of the album. ‘People Give In’ shows their willingness to sharpen up their trademark string arrangements for a greater contrast for when they turn the wick up. Despite this, they keep the song rooted to its fundamental sound as opposed to a steep incline of fruition. ‘Liverpool Revisited’ is a heart-felt ode to a the spirit of the city, but in this instance the lyrics are ill-fitted to the track which veers off in non-sensical directions a little too often. The long drawn out recitals of the song’s title in ‘Broken Algorithms’ become unnecessary and though a notably heavier track, it still lacks any common direction. That seems to be where the Manics are lacking with Resistance is Futile. Whilst stylistically achieving their broader, stadium rock sound certain some songs get lost in these aims where they become difficult to follow and unsettlingly unpredictable. Their messages are as strong as ever through and when they get the music right as they do often on this album, they’re able to show flashes of brilliance and vigour which is commendable for a thirteenth album and a third decade of work.

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile = 6.5/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Chvrches – Miracle

The fourth and final peep into Chvrches forthcoming album comes in the form of Miracle; the Glaswegian trio’s most pop-centric offering to date. The new pop switch-up of sound for their third LP definitely pays off here, with quiet and atmospheric verses preceding mammoth choruses, filled with with epic bass and percussion. Lauren Mayberry’s soft vocal provides great contrast to the thrash of synth, yet matches perfectly to create a beautiful storm of a track. The band’s most radio-ready song might also be there most accomplished yet, and will no doubt bring in a wealth of new and well-deserved Chvrches fans.

Ellie Chivers

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