This Weeks Music Video with Childish Gambino, Sigrid, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine, Mitski and Blossoms

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

What we’ve come to expect from the Arctic Monkeys is to expect the unexpected. Five years ago saw the release of AM, which showcased a more suave, more mature side to the Sheffield quartet, dominated by thumping basslines and effortless funk; a bit of a diversion from the punkier, festival-ready hits of days gone by. Although, with everything that’s happened between then and now, five years ago may seem more like five-0 years ago, and in that time, Alex Turner was at the piano, cooped up in LA, writing Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino. And remember, kids, expect the unexpected.

The sixth album is both Turner’s most direct and also most metaphorical track list to date. Tranquillity Base is the name of the spot in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969. And this isn’t where the sci-fi theming terminates. Every song is mutedly futuristic, dystopian almost. None of the tracks meet the electricity of, say, Old Yellow Bricks and the like, which may bore some long-time fans, and many of the choruses are practically non-existent, let alone shoutable at festivals. It almost feels like a cold, crashing reality. Gone are the days of perhaps a more care-free, instrumentally-audacious Arctic Monkeys; we are now confronted with an offering that is quietly political, more aware and outwardly gloomy. Some of their older material is reflected in this album – such as the reverbing bass and lyrics that sometimes have seemingly been drunkenly strung together – but the way the band have translated these elements for their new music just adds to the underlying tragedy Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino puts forward. Turner and Co are now just waffling, intoxicated people stuck in a blue new setting.

The album is immensely immersive; not one to necessarily just have in the background. Star Treatment starts the album with a Bowie-like presence, slow and swaying, with the opening lyrics “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes” putting the pessimistic and straight-to-the-point feel of the album in motion. The Bowie-ness is also cyclical, with album closer The Ultracheese sounding like it could be an Alex Turner cover of a never-before-heard Bowie song. Arctic Monkeys are more themselves on Four Out Of Five, with a riff that could have been plucked from AM, and while all the newness of Tranquillity Base is exciting and pretty good, Four Out Of Five is an asset to the album, probably because it does feel like the most close-to-home and comfortable.

The uneasiness of the rest of the album is potentially what makes it so oddly fascinating. Batphone’s slightly-off riffs and the creepy organ-fx-snyths that underscore the titular track…it kind of make it feel like a movie score, and perhaps that’s why it sets the imagination ablaze. If you close your eyes listening this album, you could genuinely be at this new hotel, and I imagine it to be dark and mysterious, and everyone there is wearing a fedora. The subtlety of each track – especially considering the band’s past songs – just makes it all feel a bit odd, but not unattractive.

Golden Trunks shimmers with reverberation but is darkened by political fear. American Sports is one of the albums’ most instrumentally-strong pieces, perhaps on par with Science Fiction, which includes a simply gorgeous blend of textures. And if you’ve been thinking “no this album isn’t for me at all”, wait for the abrasive crescendo and cheeky (yet somewhat depressing) lyrics of She Looks Like Fun, you might just change your mind.

While this new direction is indeed wildly different, even for the kings of unpredictability, it is no less entertaining than their past work, especially after giving it a really good couple of listens. However, it does beat its predecessors in its intrinsic themes, lyrics and inventive ideas. Whether its “Artic Monkeys” enough is up to you.

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino: 8/10

Ellie Chivers

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

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In one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, Alex Turner and Miles Kane join forces for their second studio album Everything You’ve Come To Expect. The album is eight years beyond their debut in which time both men have reached new heights. It  is important to separate the fact from fiction here. Those eight years have seen Turner particularly gain a fanatic following not far removed from that of Bieber or Harry Styles. Unlike those two there’s more tangible talent on show, but the hype shouldn’t give them the special treatment that the NME might afford them. Bringing in the talented Owen Pallet for string arrangements is already a positive step that will undoubtedly go unnoticed whilst James Ford adds a sense of stability in production so let’s see what the duo have brought us in 2016.

Bad Habbits’ was that eagerly awaited track. The song certainly has a urgency about it, dictated by the tentative and rapid bass line and this along with the jangling acoustic riffs feed into urgent anti-harmonies of the string sections. It’s almost some pseudo- Indie Western soundtrack. Musically, there isn’t much variation from 2008 in this instance apart from the reshuffling of roles between cinematic instrumentals of relentless bass-line, string sections and well placed guitar parts. Having said that, it is delivered in a more imaginative way here. What is less imaginative is the lyrical content or lack of it. There is little flow to them and the only consistency is their repetitive nature which is a shock for both artists. There are also sections of the track with huge clutter and then others with half or even quarter lines which is peculiar. This track is a little bemusing given the calibre of those involved and Pallett’s involvement provides the only consistency and creativity to the track. ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ is relatively simple with 60s organs and sweeping strings. They feature several varying vocal styles from light falsettos, distorted and deeper tones. There is nothing much more to the track apart from typically verging on predictable masculine lyrics, but at least it functions properly in ways ‘Bad Habits’ didn’t. All in all this is solid whilst being underwhelming  with fleeting moments of enjoyment. Aviation’ is the third single and it is indeed an improvement on the first two singles as it pursues its 1960’s imagery and sound with resonant, rotating riffs and smooth string sections. This song hasn’t moved in a direction of any significance for the duo, but the song builds to tangible progressions and is well delivered and arranged. It is the first track from the album that actually justifies the grand arrangements that have been employed.

‘Miracle Aligner’ maintains the 60’s club ballad formula the duo have employed so often in the album so far. The prominent bass lines, sweeping strings and loose are a well worn formula in general, not least on this album. Having said that, the music works in harmony with Alex Turner’s vocals and they really do the sound justice. The question is though, does it need justifying anymore? Tracks like ‘Pattern’ employ the same methodology with a smoother edge via fluidity from the added piano chords and another piece of sublime strings. Miles Kane demonstrates a degree of vocal versatility here too. ‘Used to be my Girl’ is similar in this way only with a more prominent riff ringing through the track instead of the dramatic string sections. ‘Dracula Teeth’ employs both variations of the style into one song and again it works well along with their vocal harmonies. The negative with this is that these songs occupy the vast majority of the album in various iterations though it does flow decently. More often than not however, they give off an air of confidence and entitlement with their music that is unjustified by the end result. Not often are some of the tracks simply poor in standard, but the rest are wholly predictable and suggests that they have nothing to show for the last eight years which is not the case. In many ways this album is indeed everything you’ve come to expect which might be their point.

The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect = 6/10

Owen Riddle

 

Single Review – The Last Shadow Puppets- Everything You’ve Come To Expect

After the perplexing first single from their upcoming sophomore album of the same name, ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ is the new single and title track. This track is relatively simple with 60s organs and sweeping strings. They feature several varying vocal styles from light falsettos, distorted and deeper tones. There is nothing much more to the track apart from typically verging on predictable masculine lyrics, but at least it functions properly in ways ‘Bad Habits’ didn’t. All in all this is solid whilst being underwhelming and confirms only tonal shifts from their debut album.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

MUSIC NEWS – Grammys, Kanye West embarrasing himself, Noel Gallagher ranting and Paul McCartney collaborating

Album of the Year

The 2015 Grammy’s saw Sam Smith clean up as expected with four awards including Record and Song of the year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album for an artist with undoubted vocal talent and ability with the final two categories being very much deserved. Album of the year for which Sam Smith and Beyoncé were nominated, was won by Beck for his excellent Morning Phase (Not only did we give the album full marks but we put the album 2nd on a list of the year’s best albums) who also picked up Best Rock Album. The album also received Best Engineered, Non Classical Album and is a credit to Beck who played a monumental amount of the instruments on the album. Pharrell Williams picked up three Grammys for Best Video, Urban album and Pop performance whilst Aphex Twin won Best Electronic/Dance album which no one can complain about along with Jack White’s award for Best Rock Performance for Lazaretto. Best Altervative album went to St. Vincent’s self-titled masterpiece (we gave it full marks and put it top of out best albums of 2014 list) which was probably the most deserving of the lot.

Another cringe worthy moment occurred for Kanye West as the already bemused Beck picked up the Album of the Year award. West leapt on to the stage, went to say something and then sat back down for what he later explained was annoyance of Beyoncé not receiving the award and attacking Beck for diminishing artistry. Apparently writing, recording and composing all you own music and playing a vast amount of the instruments on your own including conducting orchestral pieces diminishes artistry as opposed to not writing, composing, recording or playing any instrument independently like Beyoncé for the wonderful vocalist that she is. Indeed her self titled album has undoubtedly her best work yet and Beck himself thought she was going to win, but perhaps for once they went for substance over status. Something clearly hard to swallow for Kanye who can only dream of the capability Beck used to bring Morning Phase into fruition again for as talented as Kanye himself is. But if you read Kanye West quotes then he gives you the exact reason why Beck won.

Meanwhile Noel Gallagher has been speaking out (like he has been for the last twenty one years) about his view of the music industry. Alex Turner has been back in his sights and anything making those in the NME office squirm is always welcome. He said he’d rather drink petrol than listen to him talk in what was a wider rant about record labels removing artists independence which was a point reiterated by his negative comments about Ed Sheeran. His isolated points are pretty much a reflection of what we were all thinking anyway.

Paul McCartney has been busy in the studio with another project. This time it’s with Lady Gaga and follows up from what seems to be a sizeable influence on Kayne West’s new material and collaborations with video game Destiny.  He’s not known for standing still but he’s making himself known to yet another generation.

NEWS: Noel Gallagher attacks Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Bastille. Is there a problem with the music of our generation?

This man has had a lot to say today; he usually does, but today he attacked those who you wouldn’t think he’d go after. He claimed that bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian “are not inspiring more working class bands” and went on to say “can you name me the last great band that came out of this country? There’s not really been any great bands in the last 10 years.” He also goes on to explain the lack of pure musical talent and innovation in the charts including the success of the X Factor generation that we are, through the lack of inspiration produced by bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian and “Middle Class” music produced by them and artists such as Bastille. He also went on to say that “all those bands used to be in the Top Ten, like us, Manic, Pulp, The Verve, Suede and Blur” at the end of the 90’s have been “marginalised and side-lined”.

This certainly begs the question, Is there an obligation for these bands to inspire anyone or lead a generation. While this is always down to artistic choice, if you look at past British bands and artists you find the likes of The Clash, The Smiths, The Kinks, The Jam, Sex Pistols and of course the Britpop generation singing about life in Britain at that time and was to a lesser extent true for some of The Beatles catalogue albeit with a more globalised disenchantment replicated on the streets of the U.K at the time in calling for Peace and an end to the Vietnam war. British music has always thrived out of hardship and injustice, yet in a time of just that in the U.K no one seems to care. No one seems to be singing about it. Does this explain the lack of pure, refined and innovative music in the charts? Perhaps partly. It doesn’t automatically explain the lack of creativity and individuality in the mainstream of British music though. My problem is that the current situation these islands and the world finds itself in hasn’t produced any innovative or meaningful music in the U.K mainstream, whether they’re about these events or not, nor is past or current guitar music the answer nor even have to be the answer. For certain its James Dean Bradfield’s comments about “gap year musicians” that explains the situation better for me. The only certainty about Noel’s comments is that it will test the loyalties and biases of those in the NME office, but at least a high profile figure is asking questions; whether his reasons are correct or not, it’s about time a lot of mainstream British bands took a long hard look at themselves.

This Weeks Music Video with Lana Del Rey, Arctic Monkeys, Wild Beasts and OK Go

Lana Del Rey – Shades of Cool

Arctic Monkeys – Snap Out of It

Wild Beasts – Mecca

Ok Go – The Writing’s On The Wall

This Weeks Music Video

This Weeks Music Video. From Haim with If I Could Change Your Mind, Damon Albarn with Lonely Press Play, Kings of Leon with Temple and Arctic Monkeys with Arabella

Single Review – Royal Blood – Little Monster

Royal Blood were formed in Brighton last year by Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher. There has already been plenty of fuss and hype over them from the like of Zane Lowe and with them being on the shortlist for the BBC’s sound of 2013 poll and also with the confirmation they’ll be supporting Arctic Monkeys at Finsbury Park later this year. This is the second track they’ve released as a single and they have not ruled out an album this year either. With the attention and following they’ve accumulated in a rather short period of time, then it could prove to be a shrewd move from them. Their most recent single is ‘Little Monster’ which opens with raging, scuzzy guitars that are recorded in a close up and immediate fashion. The vocals are slightly distorted in a muted fashion on the verses and in a more sharper manner on the chorus as he ups the anti. The percussion is as you’d expect with the crashing and rapid fills. There is your token guitar solo in there too for good measure. It is a song full of energy and pent up fury but it is just yet another variation of Desert Rock. Like most new bands there is absolutely nothing you can put your finger on that is new or unique. All you can do is file them next to QOTSA, Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, The Family Rain, Drenge, Deap Vally, FIDLAR etc. etc. etc. I’m in no doubt that they are not the best out of this sludge of scuzzy guitars but if you want another to add to your collection then here they are.

http://youtu.be/BvAdgDcM9X4

Image from www.theguardian.com 

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Now that I have listed my top ten tracks and now that it is 2014, I’ve decided to roll off my top ten albums from last year. Again, if your favourite artists art present they either didn’t make the cut or weren’t reviewed by me last year; for this is a list compiled from albums that have appeared on the blog in 2013. However, the listing is this time based on the rating I gave each album and not on my current opinion. Anyway…

 

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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The band had certainly tried a few different methods with the pitch shifting which was also used on the drums and the guitar was recorded straight onto the recording programme while various different recording techniques were used to ‘soften’ the album and make it listenable. They have certainly done that and while being very careful with the production. It also has a slight edge to it as well and therefore results in their best album yet. They have grown older and their music has grown with it to create a very unique at times and mature sound.

 

9. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

Rewind The Film is not too generic and its by no means so experimental and conceptualized that it isn’t relatable or translatable. The lyrics are and music share equal footing and in general it just shows that the Manics are still capable of being truly creative. probably their most complete album since Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in terms of the lyrical challenges posed and the moods and emotions created via their light and airy production.

 

8. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

It’s not too far away from what The Knife did earlier on in 2013, but perhaps it has a more subtle edge to it. For now, it’s main strengths will be it’s ability to fill dance floors as well as sound dark, scathing and haunting. All in all it’s a great effort and was probably worth the long wait we had to endure for a full studio album.

 

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Even though tracks like ‘Get Lucky’ have been played to death in 2013; it’s a proper song in how it’s been crafted by musicians, written by musicians, produced by musicians and played by musicians and talented ones at that, with bags of experience. The fact this sort of music is topping the charts whether it’s your thing or not should be celebrated. Thomas Bangalter pointed towards the likes of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd and Sgt Pepper from The Beatles as “the ones that take you on a journey for miles and miles.” They all served as some of the several models for creating an album that provides that journey which they have managed to achieve in the sense that you can become engrossed and lost within it. Perhaps it is their best work in how they are more have proved successful with this different approach.

 

6. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

All in all this album is just beyond me. Even if you don’t quite get some of the songs at first you should listen again and try to deconstruct the wall of different and varying sounds. Some of which fill the song but others leave the songs with lots of space to generate a real atmosphere while at times terrifying me. With this they have challenged the norm’s of modern music to the points where a lot of people won’t appreciate it because they don’t understand it. I think had I reviewed this a month ago, then it would have a much higher rating.

 

5. Connan Mockasin – Caramel

 Though the sound and tone of Caramel isn’t moved and shifted around so much; it would be wrong for that to happen as it would break down the larger flow and feel of the album. It is nearly impossible and it almost feels wrong to plant a mark on it. A surreal and coolly insane and outrageous event from someone being himself, taking risks and being bold.

 

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

AM falls down on very few occasions and when it does, it’s only to re-envisage some great Desert Rock, Swooning Ballads etc. The rest of it has been new takes on worn out sounds, showing that you can be innovative in what you don’t bring to a song and with at times fluctuating styles within songs. Josh Homme’s presence has for once not been an overbearing one but something that has furthered their vision and aim. It showed everyone what still can be done with guitar music in 2013. I know it can be easy, but don’t let all the crazed fangirls and boys put you off it because it’s an album that maintains a very high standard throughout. I perhaps think that there are some better albums with a lower ranking in this list, but nevertheless it deserves it’s place in the top ten.

 

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

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The musical discipline and obvious talent of all the members is clear to see and they don’t seem to have any hidden agenda or motivation either. They lay everything out in their music alone. Not even in their image. This for me is refreshing and they have left themselves with the difficult task of the second album. But that dreaded phase I doubt will effect them at all. They seem so cool and at ease with their music; behind the urgency and rapid nature of it all and Silence Yourself is the result. Just be sure to take in the depth and meaning of the album too, so don’t judge it on first impressions.

 

2. Pinknoizu – The Drop

All in all this album is highly varied and you should never get bored listening to it. That’s what makes a great album like Sgt Pepper for example. Not only that but the composition and production is also reflective of that variedness that exists across the album. A varied tone that is driven by the mutations and combinations of sounds the Danish group have been able to put together in order to forge new and interesting soundscapes. On top of that; it gets easily manipulated and heightened by the production and recording prowess the group attained. It’s a real treat.

 

1. Jagwar Ma – Howlin

They have justified all the fuss about them for sure to create a very ‘trippy’ album but an album that is almost perfect on a technical level. Jono Ma’s understanding and meticulous attention to detail on getting the right amount of each element in their songs is a great skill to have. The album does go beyond the combination of their past influences to create an album that sounds familiar yet also new and exciting. All this and it’s only their debut album of which many others have very safe and rather dull debuts with perhaps too much focus on the singles. This is not the case with Howlin. Beyond that they have the basic aspects of variation and at times rhythmic affairs intercepted by more sparse musical artistry.