Single Review – The xx – Say Something Loving 

The London Indie and Dream Pop group are to release their much anticipated third album I See You on January 13th. Their second album Coexist from 2012 was hardly the archetypal difficult second album, but it was certainly not of the standard set with their debut two years earlier. It’ll be interesting to see where their third album falls after four and a half years of solo projects and stylistic changes; to see if they are capable of reinvention and versatility (the mark of great talents) or if they’re ready to cash in on the comfortable surroundings of their fan base. ‘On Hold’ suggested they were willing to open up their music whilst holding on to subtle quality that was the engine of their earlier work. 

‘Say Something Loving’ carries on this trend further. It opens with the stutter of a remixed track which leads into a cunningly arranged track which sets up a sweeping, swooning sound for it to collapse into a space of minimalism with staggered riffs and the echo of a clunky percussion and Oliver’s and Romy’s vocals. The track goes on to join both parts with more clever transitions and a production that accommodates this with whirring, electronic soundscapes. When you throw in the balance of the vocal duet, the smart shifts in sound and the subtle production from Jamie xx that provides a big return, you have the makings of a modern Pop ballad. A track worthy of kicking off 2017. 

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – Bat For Lashes – I Do

The multi-talented Natasha Khan is back making music for her first album as Bat For Lashes since 2012. The follow-up to The Haunted Man is said to linked thematically to a feature film she has been working on, but this remains to be seen. With ‘I Do’ we’re simply told to save the date of July 1st. The simple and innocent track features electronically-tinged harp strings and understated orchestral string sections menacingly sweeping in behind them. The song obviously is depicting the heady optimism of a wedding day and Khan’s porcelain-like vocals gracefully pick up the harmonies in isolation, as if we ever doubter her vocal prowess. A nice little track, but she’s giving nothing away with this one.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Really Good Remixes – AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It (Bondax Remix)

This remix of London’s TripHop duo AlunaGeorge’s initial singles ‘You Know You Like It’ takes their smooth and effortless chilled dance track and effectively shuffles the deck. It speeds up Aluna Francis’ vocals before making them stutter and repeat as if they were sounds originating from a synth. It maintains the chilled essence of the song, but gives it an added charge of electricity which was much appreciated by the duo who often find themselves remixing other artists tracks.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Beach House – Sparks

The Baltimore Dream Pop duo that is Beach House return with a new single from their upcoming fifth studio album Depression Cherry which is expected on August 28th. ‘Sparks’ is that single and it is another development on 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. They are masters of the Dream Pop genre and just demonstrate it here.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Django Django – Waveforms

Edinburgh’s Django Django’s 2012 album of the same name was a real feat of modern art-rock and psychedelic electronic music. Apart from this their vocal harmonies and vocal repetitions and their utilisation of a simple beat and rhythm to maximum effect enhanced their music even more. All of this is encapsulated quite well with ‘Waveforms’. It was their first single release off their debut album. The whirring and melodic combination of synths and the subtle guitar and percussion elements show that less can be more and that utilising your vocals can pay off a lot better than you think. You’ll find this song on GTA V too, for those of you who play it. Not sure how the song sounds when brutally murdering someone in a gangwar but hey there you go!

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Really Good Remixes – Tame Impala – Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix)

Here Tame Impala’s modern neo-psychedelic classic is reimagined by famed American engineer for everyone from New York Dolls to Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren. His 1973 album Wizard, A True Star influenced the Lonerism album and Todd reimangines the track whilst retaining it’s strengths.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Melody’s Echo Chamber – I Follow You

Melody’s Echo Chamber is the dream-pop and neo-psychedelic project of Melody Prochet of Paris. She released her debut self titled album back in 2012. The album featured Pablo Padovani of Moodoid on guitar and the familiar figure of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala behind the mixing desk as producer. These two figures were open minded and creatively inquisitive choices from Melody in combining the sprung and light cascading sound of Padovani’s guitar with Parker and his ability to create washed out waves of sound with acres of space and scope to grow and expand. This resulted in a delicate piece of psychedelia with the intricacy of Padovani’s riffs partnered with Melody’s higher pitched, yet calm whisper to guide the song slowly through the washes of lapping sound and space from Parker’s production. A song best encapsulating these concepts is ‘I Follow You’. It’s one of the more well known tracks off her debut and has the light hook and steady beat of the cascading riffs and simple snare beat. From this, the more distorted and drawn out guitars and synths allow the track to progress and fluctuate in different directions, but guided by the soft, reassuring vocal from Melody. A heavily distorted and grinding riff leads the song out while still interlocked with the song’s steady foundations. A method with produces a paradox of at times concentrating on the song’s light rhythm and whispered lyrics or just completely losing all thought in the expansive sounds it creates. A perfect track for those late summer nights.
Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Maximo Park – The National Health

From a song by one of the North East’s finest bands in Maximo Park, that seems very apt given the unbearable next five years which ‘our’ country decided to vote for. It’s title and lyrics were initially in protest to the state of the country as a whole in 2012, but it has since took on the double meaning of a song bemoaning the dismantling of the nation’s health service. Without any hesitation, I say that this song acts as the mouth-piece for what the vast majority of our region believes and with another five years of struggles ahead of us, we’ll do what we always do. We remain defiant and dignified in the face of targeted neglect and patronisation. A mentality that is perfectly encapsulated in this track from the band’s self titled fourth studio album.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Blur – The Magic Whip Review

Blur

Twelve years beyond their last album and a whole sixteen years after Graham Coxon’s last contribution to an album in 1999, Blur are back with the much publicised and promoted The Magic Whip. Their eighth studio album was very much unplanned and unexpected in Albarn’s eyes. He believed their performances in 2012 were the last of Blur, but when he was played back the rough recordings of the bands five days of recording in secrecy at Avon studios in Hong Kong; he and Coxon knew there was something promising. The recordings were worked on with old Blur producer Stephen Street and Albarn fleshed out and refined the recordings to have the album released this week. Though the production of another full studio album by one of Britain’s all time great bands is a momentous occasion, it would be optimistic to think that with this album would be their best or offer anything vastly different. It is still Blur though, so we should expect something of that standard at least.

‘Lonesome Street’ feeds off from a dulled synth into the rattling back and forth of the typical Blur instrumentals and the light popping electronica flashing from it. The song peaks and troughs easily as directed by Albarn’s more mature, but still typically familiar vocal style along with the Beatle-like backing vocals and the occasional, but prominent electronic chords that gives the song a great sense of familiarity and comfort. ‘Go Out’ is more reminiscent of 13 era Blur with  scratchy Coxon guitars, it’s great sonic charge and Albarn’s more slurred vocal.Unlike this version of Blur however, is the greater point of focus and direction running through the track that comes from the tightened bass-line from Alex James and the wiry guitars shredding their way though the distorted interior of the instrumentals. ‘My Terracotta Heart’ is made up a hand clap and distant rhythm guitar section that meanders it’s way in and out of focus. It’s a delicate and minimalistic track that focuses on more melodic and harmonious vocals from Albarn, yet it still has a keen sense of originality about it and a less than obvious engagement.

‘There are too many of us’ has marching-like percussion from which the typical instrumentals and string sections flow. Damon’s vocals are set though a megaphone-like echo. This adds to the instrumental flow to create a distant and gazing opening to the song. As the bass comes in and the percussion picks up a greater purpose, there is a more rotating feel to the song’s progression. It’s a track with a great balance of contemplation and a culmination of sound which sees the song come to some sort of fruition without abandoning it’s ideals at the start. ‘Ong Ong’ is very much a faithful tribute to Blur’s past dizzy heights. It’s droning backing vocals and light glazed distortion do nothing to separate Blur from themselves in 1995. With other track’s there is a familiarity, but still a fresh feeling of engagement from it. This isn’t existent here. ‘New World Towers’ and ‘Thought I was a Spaceman’ offer up the truly modern version of Blur though modulated minimalism and more expansive, contemplative production. It’s an album that does strike that balance of familiarity and novelty in a way that they haven’t promoted enough. Having said that, if you’re a multiple decades devotee or someone born long after ‘Parklife’ then you can find something to take from The Magic Whip.

Blur – The Magic Whip = 8/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995