Single Review – Courtney Barnett – City Looks Pretty

Melbourne singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett made a name for herself with her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit from 2015. It received deserved acclaim for injecting new life into more traditional guitar music and a lot of that was to do with her dazed, down to earth delivery as opposed to being something it couldn’t. Her new album Tell Me How You Really Feel is due on May 18th and will most likely see Courtney reinforce her approach for now. Her latest single ‘City Looks Pretty’ certainly indicates such an approach with jangling riffs met with distorted lead elements. The lyrics still invoke a detailed personal narrative, but along with the arrangement, they seem smoother in their progressions and transitions making for an all round slicker song. This is shown well when the song fades into and out of a subtle organ based interlude towards its conclusion. It seems hard to see her making a more impactful album than her debut, but if anything Courtney will show that she already sounds like a well established artist.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays

If you’re looking for charged Psych Rock and gloomy Disco, then New Zealand’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra are the band for you in 2018. Following on from the last full studio release Multi-Love in 2015, Ruban Neilson’s group have went on to throw distorted weight behind some tracks and a refined finesse to others. Their new album Sex and Food is due for a April 6th release and their latest single from their fourth studio 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. Ruban’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.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Beach House – Dive

Baltimore’s leading Dream Pop artists have released their first new material since 2015’s Thank Your Lucky Stars; arguably the most well received album Beach House have released coming just two months after their previous album Depression Cherry. Their seventh studio album is helpfully called 7 and is due for a May 11th release. As their sound has progressed they’ve often delved deeper into the washed out, hazy sounds with haunting vocals and lingering instrumentation. Their new single ‘Dive’ doesn’t stray far from this approach with quivering organs combining with spaced out, solitary strikes of the guitar. Victoria Legrand’s vocals add to the darker atmosphere which is eventually with Lacey percussion, pitch shifted riffs and shimmering electronica albeit under the prism of the whirring, hazy production. It is another example of their skill with musical arrangements and minimalist work, but here we are only given fleeting glimpses of something new.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Tame Impala – List of People (To try and Forget About)

Over two years since the release of the acclaimed Currents Tame Impala are still releasing material from those recording sessions, such is the appeal of the sound they forged a few hazy Australian summers ago. The pick of these new releases is ‘List of People (To try and Forget About) which offers up a meandering style of track that would have fitted hand in glove into the album with the whirring, resonant electronica, crisp, rhythmic percussion and Kevin Parkers dream pop vocals. It is a song that is differs to the rest of the album in how it doesn’t seek the infectious hook, but wallows in the murky soundscapes it created for itself. With the buzz from this album still being felt over rated on, what direction will Kevin Parker get lost in next time? With the band taking a break for this year, it may some time before we find out; we’ve got a fantastic album to keep replaying in the meantime though.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Beck – Up All Night

Beck Hansen is someone we all know as a respected songwriter and accomplished composer and musician; this demonstrated with his first album in six years Morning Phase from 2014. It was a contemplative and graceful record with quaking melodies and beautiful arrangements charging ballads and Neo-Pyschedelic soundscapes. His upcoming tenth studio album Colors couldn’t be more different. He has been releasing singles for this album for almost two years from the first single ‘Dreams’ in 2015 to the latest release ‘Up All Night’; this album has had a marked shift in tone and everything we’ve heard so far has had a lavish Pop treatment and for Beck this signals a venture into unknown territory, but territory he seems at ease in.

‘Up All Night’ will already be embedded firmly into many people’s heads as it featured in the FIFA 17 video game, released a year ago, though this release has been updated slightly. The track features choppy acoustic and piano rhythm sections and jingling lead elements. These are supplemented by big production pieces from pumping beats and staccato strings. The song allows Beck to demonstrate his ability to effortlessly deliver Pop harmonies and fill the limited space of the song with backing vocals to boot. Despite the lavish and rich arrangment and production, Beck retains a confident command of the song and each element that adds to the large sound. Colors is due for a October 13th release and might not be his absolute best, but it will be the most vibrant album he’s ever produced.

Owen Riddle

BAIO – Man Of The World Review


Chris Baio has done a fine job of establishing himself as a solo artist after being the bassist of Vampire Weekend. His album debut The Names received a positive response for its imaginative structures, eccentric lyrics and varied sound. With it, he proved that he is a true purveyor of fine music. His new album was written and co-produced by Chris in Brixton amidst the chaos of 2016; from the death of David Bowie to the great political upheavals that developed throughout the year. This all occurred whilst he was “a nomad” as an American in London and this new album is very much his view of such events. 

‘Philosophy’ is the first single from his new album and is a rhythmic track laden with horn based hooks and loose riffs. The sound he’s created has a greater sense of ease to it and Chris’ measured vocals mirror this to form a slick piece of music. This track has a keen sense of melody and again Chris demonstrates his ability to form hooks from unusual sources. The track marries its lower and higher tones perfectly; the horns play off the jangling riffs and the vocal rounds mirror the high notes against the low. Ringing electronica and crisp percussion bridge the gap between the two and make the progress of the song seamless. ‘DANGEROUE ANAMAL’ is the polar opposite to the light faux funk of ‘Philosophy’ with drooping piano chords, echoed percussiona and an intricate set of electronica meandering in the background. This track is about wing lost and being unable to effect any change on several issues and it being ultimately “too late to change”. It is a dark and thought provoking song that shrouds itself with its music to only heighten the message of the song. ‘Out of Tune’ is a pepped up single with opaque synth chords and cheesy trumpets mirroring the vocals. The song struggles to settle and get into some sort of rhythm though once the song sticks with the chorus, the song begins to make more sense and ends with a flash of coherence.

‘Sensitive Guy’ is more akin to tracks from The Names with its sparse, echoed percussion and spiky piano chords. What sets it apart from that are the sharp riffs overlayed onto the track as well as occasional rumbling bass interludes and backing vocals that are brought to the fore of the track. A track that is familiar, but different enough from his last body of work. The title track is a swagging piece of electronica that has echoes of late Eighties Dance music with blocky, bouncing beats. These are tied with Latin acoustic riffs and heavily churning effects that distort and twist the music at its building conclusion. His spoken lyrics pull the songs focus in and keep the listener on their toes. It is a track that exemplifies his development as a solo musician. The album opens with the sea of distorted chords of ‘Vin Mariani’ which has brass and vocals layered over it. It is a creative foundation from which the rest of the song can do whatever it wants. The remaining tracks including the final two of the album are tracks that feature heavily distorted features that feature some experimentation in fusing them with Pop melodies and hooks. They work in parts and overwhelm the senses in others. These are the only pitfalls of the album; experimentation will naturally produce tracks that don’t work so well and that is the case here with a handful of tracks, but the album as a whole is varied in tone and features a lot of trial and error that had paid off. Baio clearly has an ear for alternative hooks and melodies and he puts them to good use here for what is a natural and substantial evolution to this sound. 

BAIO – Man of the World = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Father John Misty – Real Love Baby


Off the back of the success of I Love You, Honeybear, one of the best written of albums of last year and for some time; Father John Misty’s enigmatic creator Joshua Tillman has finally released a one off track that had been on his Soundcloud page for some time in ‘Real Love Baby’. Clearly, there is nothing radically different about the track from last years efforts. The track is breezy, smooth with a daydreaming content. One notable difference is in the recording and production techniques with Josh’s vocals recorded as if he was in an echo chamber. His vocals work beautifully to this effect and it gives an otherwise basic song more weight. Even his spare tracks have something to offer. 

Owen Riddle

Richard Ashcroft – These People Review

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British singer/songwriter Richard Ashcroft just released his fifth solo album ‘These People’. Known for his alt-rock roots with The Verve, Ashcroft does not disappoint his fans with this new folk rock album.

The first track ‘Out Of My Body’ is a powerful song about the struggles of love. The lyrics work wonderfully with the strong beat. It is a pleasing opener to the album and feels like a promising beginning. ‘This Is How It Feels’ is next. It is a romantic rock song coupling well delivered vocals with the folksy strums of a guitar. It is a slow song but comes across as intimate and heartfelt. The next track is ‘They Don’t Own Me’. This is a strikingly beautiful song with soft groans of the guitar and slow drawn out vocals. It echoes Ashcroft’s time as a band member, resembling one or two hits from The Verve. ‘Hold On’ is the next track. It is a rock track at its core but with small hints of funk, giving it a 90’s feel to it. A personal favourite of mine from this album. Next is ‘These People’. It begins with a beautiful guitar and string arrangement, and builds, adding layers until Ashcroft’s vocals come pouring through, making this a wonderfully polished song. It is clear why the album takes its name from this track.

‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Hurt’ comes next. It is quite a unique song, with mellow vocals and a funk style beat. A little less upbeat than the rest of the album but still a good track. ‘Picture Of You’ is a romantic style rock love song with slow guitar strums and soulful vocals. Overall, this is a beautiful song with lots of emotion behind it. Up next is ‘Black Lines’, another slow and sorrowful song. It further shows that Ashcroft intends this album to be a message of love. ‘Ain’t The Future So Bright’ is the next track. This opens with a steady beat and electronic sounds complemented with Ashcroft’s signature laid back guitar chords. The final track of the album is ‘Songs Of Experience’. This is another electronic style song with Ashcroft crooning in his usual style. It is a solid end to the album, which builds up to be a pleasing rock track towards the end.

All you can really say about ‘These People’ is that Richard Ashcroft is well and truly back, and using all of his previous experience, he is really showing us what he can do. He gives occasional nods to his former days as a band member, but still manages to keep it fresh and up to date. For fans of Ashcroft this is a real treat, and any praise is well deserved.

Richard Ashcroft – These People = 8/10

Dionne Thompson

 

OH PEP! Q&A – The Australian duo talk about SXSW and Aussie music

 

-Who makes up Oh Pep! and what are you about?

Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs make up Oh Pep! We write and arrange the music together and play live with various musicians on bass and drums depending on our location. We are all about a no boundaries attitude and bringing out the unexpected to each unsuspecting pop song.

-Who influences you musical or otherwise?

It’s hard to pinpoint what our biggest musical influences are in terms of particular artists…the list could go on for days. But having met at classical music school with a shared love of pop, folk and country, then studying jazz and oldtime is probably a better place to start. And then there are always those good things like a swim in the ocean, riding your bike and having a chuckle!

-What has the reaction been like to your EP LIving?

We launched it in North America through Canadian label Star House Collective alongside our first international tour in mid 2015 and it has been received super well. It led to a lot of key media for us including ranking the CBC charts for several weeks, NPR play and a Tiny desk Concert and live performances for KEXP and KCRW.

-Where was it recorded and how did you find it?

Two of the songs were taken from our previous two EP’s (one from each) and remixed by Daniel Ledwell in Echo Lake, Nova Scotia. Dan produced the other two songs and this is also where we recorded them in Feb 2015. It was a great experience and really took hold of our pop elements. It was fun to spend a few days in a proper winter environment too…never seen so much snow in our lives!

-Has recording an album even crossed your mind yet? If so, where would you like to go with it?

It has indeed occurred to us, in fact it is already recorded and gone to press! It is being released in June. Stay tuned!

-You’ve been playing at SXSW. Is this the first time you’ve played in the US and what’s your experience of it been so far?

This is our third trip to the US within a year and the second we have made especially for this kind of festival. It’s always a bunch of fun playing lots of sets everyday, seeing and meeting other new bands. SXSW is by far the biggest festival we have performed at, but luckily we played in Austin last year so we were familiar with the city and how to get around. We even made sure to get back to our favourite swimming hole Barton Springs when we had a few hours off. Plus took advantage of some fantastic Mexican food and Southern BBQ.

-Are you looking forward to playing ‘The Great Escape’ festival in Brighton later this year? Is it your first time performing in the UK?

It will be part of our first European tour including our first time to the UK. It’s also going to be my first time to the UK, so I’m looking forward to checking it out! We have heard a lot about The Great Escape through other Australian acts so we can’t wait to be there ourselves.

-Australian music is gaining particular attention at the moment with Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett to name two. What do you think of their success and do you think there is anything particular about Australian music?

There does seem to be a great buzz around Australian music at the moment and rightfully so. Those guys are a stellar example of what Aussie music is about and there is such a healthy scene here that I’m sure many more acts are going to be picked up. We have a really strong original music push in Oz.

-What is the Melbourne music scene like and what is the environment like for new musicians?

Melbourne is my favourite music scene in the world and I feel lucky to be based here. It’s where we have honed and continue to hone our craft. It feels like almost everyone is in a band in Melbourne, which is an amazing and healthy thing. Making new music and seeing gigs is part of the culture as we know it here. It’s incredibly inspiring- the perfect environment for new musicians.

-Sum up what 2016 is going to be like for Oh Pep!

Exciting. Busy. Fun. We are touring Europe, North America and Australia (some of these more than once!), launching our debut album and playing a bunch of festivals and showcases. It will be a lot of new things for us. 100% can’t wait.

 

Many thanks to Olivia and Pepita for some insightful answers and keep an ear out for they new music they’ll be providing us soon!

Questions by Owen Riddle

Single Review – Frightened Rabbit – Get Out

Selkirk Indie quartet Frightened Rabbit are to release their fifth studio album on Painting of a Panic Attack on April 8th and have released a new single with ‘Get Out’. It is a track that lends from and fuses understated electronica and bracing Indie Rock peaks together to form a song with a clear progression as the song builds in its verses for the sudden jolt of the chorus and the sweeping soundscapes they provide. It has indeed been done before, but nevertheless it has been achieved here with some success and a clear definition.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995