Single Review – Alvvays – Lollipop (Ode To Jim)

A celebration of all things sugary sweet but with a wonderfully noisy layered instrumentation Alvvay’s new single ‘Lollipop (Ode To Jim), taken from the band’s new album ‘Antisocialities’, has the kind of swaying, shimmering, melody that seems glittered covered straight from the early nineties. Written after sharing the stage with ‘Jesus & The Mary Chain’, where vocalist Molly Rankin sang the anthemic ‘Just Like Honey’, ‘Lollipop (Ode To Jim) is undeniably a love note to the band, I mean Jim Reid is mentioned in the opening line: ‘Saw Jim Reid in the Corridor and wondered if he could ever see me that way, he was on my list at the grocery store when you grabbed my wrist and said you liked my keychain.’ With lines like these the single’s true charm comes from Alvvay’s ability to keep things feeling realistic inspite of an obvious daydreaming storyline. 

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Alice Glass – Without Love

As Alice Glass goes onwards with life after Crystal Castles, the Ontarian electronic artist has now released her second single in ‘Without Love’; this one a sure precursor to a debut solo album. This single pursues a more underground style of electronica with the churning synths clashing with manipulated sounds and rapidly firing beats. This is set around dropping chords and eerie faux piano parts. This makes for a dark and shadowy atmosphere with the array of effects forging greats depths to the track. The only thing that counters this is Alice’s vocals, which are high, soft and wiry and without the screams of her Crystal Castle years as they remain refrained and are cleverly used as vocal instrumentation. The lyrical content is equally introvert and points towards dealing with self doubt and the battles within. It is certainly the first step towards carving her own space out in the electronic sphere. 

Owen Riddle

Arcade Fire – Everything Now Review 

‘Everything Now’ is the fifth studio album by Canadian group Arcade Fire. The album is rather more experimental than their last outing, however that does not necessarily mean that they all land. A friend recently described this to me as a “marmite” album, you either like it or you don’t. Maybe I’m odd, but that wasn’t my experience with Arcade Fire’s most recent album, with it coming across to me as an awkwardly average outing by the band, with only a few songs on the album actually being of any interest.​Firstly, let’s talk positives. Both ‘Infinite Content’ and the follow-up ‘Infinite_Content’ are both good outings, with them contrasting each other well, whilst being about the exact same thing. ‘Infinite Content’ is one of the heavier songs on the album, providing thrashing guitars and genuine “head-banging” tunes. It provides a good addition to the dance album that the band appeared to be going for, having a very different sound to songs like of ‘Everything Now’. Contrastingly ‘Infinite_Content’ is a much slower tune, and whilst not being one that you can dance to, it works really well in context. The song lyrics “All your money is already spent on infinite content” fits perfectly with the tune, which to me sounds like the sort of music you would hear inside a shopping mall; calm and upbeat. Out of the singles, both ‘Electric Blue’ and ‘Creature Comfort’ are both fine musical additions. ‘Electric Blue’ is a well produced, quite funky track with an appropriate level of synths that certainly add to the melodic beat. The vocals too are particularly noteworthy, with a falsetto being deployed masterfully in this song. ‘Creature Comfort’ similarly deploys synths brilliantly, creating an 80s-style dance track that is surely enjoyable.

​However, the positives in this album are slightly overshadowed by the negatives. Whilst there are good songs on the album, this album also contains possibly one of the worst songs I have heard this year. ‘Chemistry’ is a basic and lazy addition to the album, it is only memorable by the fact that it is quite dire. The song has a basic marching beat in the background over lyrics sang with little experimentation. The bland nature of the song may work well if the song were a short melody in the album, but at 3:38, it is almost inexcusable. Whilst the album as a whole is experimental, with both hits and misses, it feels like ‘Chemistry’ was produced with next to no effort, which is a shame as we know that Arcade Fire can do so much better than this. ‘Good God Damn’ is alright, but has very little to grip you for an extra listen. Which brings me onto another issue with the album, when it comes at the end, the latter songs on the album are completely forgettable after listening. Both ‘We Don’t Deserve Love’ and ‘Put Your Money On Me’ are instantly forgettable, both have very low-key beats that do not remain with the listener afterwards. And we have seen much better perfomances when it comes to vocals.

​’Everything Now’ does have some stand-out examples of why the experimentalism here was not a waste. There are some songs on the album that are definitely worth adding to your playlist. However, a lot of the album is disappointing. When the band has gone out to create someting a bit more experimental and dance-worthy, it is almost unforgivable just how dull some of the music is. Hardly any of it will be played in your local bar or nightclub, I even doubt there will be many people tapping their foot in the comfort of their own home. What doesn’t help is that a lot of the album is “just alright.” But there is gold to be found here, just not a lot of it.

Arcade Fire – Everything Now – 5/10

Matthew Johnston

Single Review – Alvvays – Dream Tonite

Second single from Canada’s Alvvay’s soon to be released second album, ‘Antisocialites’ – due Sept 8th- ‘Dream Tonite’ is a drifting antisocial daydream set on an average city bus route. Turning loneliness into a modern fairy tale, with the air of a more hopeful Lana Del Ray, lead singer Molly Rankin creates an atmosphere it’s difficult to avoid swooning at. Written alone in an abandoned Toronto Island school room Rankin has keeps things lyrically quiet lulled as the track unwinds fragments of an imagined romance turned cold, while still managing to maintain a youthful indie poetic optimism in adversity, and also including the band’s future album title; ‘In fluorescent light, antisocialites watch a wilting flower’. There is a feeling of school girl heartbreak, a copy of Wuthering Heights tucked into a backpack, about ‘Dream Tonite’ that the track’s bridge encapsulates perfectly, a mournful bitter edge to the Rankin’s gentle words; ‘your face was supposed to be hanging over me like a rosary, so morose for me; seeing ghosts of me; writing oaths to me’. Though ‘Dream Tonite’ is a rather gloomy fantasy of lost love the songs starry eyed feel and simple repeated phrases are enough to keep this dream enchanting.

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Arcade Fire – Signs of Life 

Whether Arcade Fire find themselves rooted in rousing rock or pushing into newer, more mechanical material, they never seem to reduce the theatricality. New single Signs of Life dabbles in this, but in comparison to what we’re used to, tones down the drama. The track is built upon a funky bass, surrounded by various horns, siren effects, clapping, etc, etc, which adds up to make a colourful number recalling quintessential 80sness. Win Butler’s talkative tone paired with the mellow funk catches a likeness to Pet Shop Boys numbers. Despite its fun, Signs of Life lacks conviction, with diverse instrumentalism being chucked in here and there, nothing ever making a truly coherent breakthrough. For me, its completeness as a track is questionable. But there is no doubting the entertaining undertones the electronics have delivered. And hey, it’s Arcade Fire – they’re Canadian national treasures and should be protected at all costs.
Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort

‘Creature Comfort’ is the second single from their upcoming ‘Everything Now’ album. Heavy on production, the song has a heavy synth background that has definite 80s vibes. The song is produced well with the simple tuning of the synthesizer blending with the voice of Win Butler. The style of the song is interesting, with obvious continuation from their previous album, ‘Reflektor,’ but whilst maintaining an image of something new. ‘Creature Comfort’ is a good piece f music that would definitely work well in both a nightclub setting or an independent film. ‘Creature Comfort’ definitely ups the excitement for their next album.

Matthew Johnston

Single Review – Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Everything now is Arcade Fires’ new single that precedes the Canadian band’s new album with the same name, which will be released july 28th. At the beginning you will be surprised by a melody which reminded me of ABBA, which is amazing. I wasn’t sure what I was hearing to be honest, but it’s so happy and uplifting and it brings the band back to the bands style in their 2013 album ‘Reflektor’. There’s only a hint of melancholy there. Adding the flute to this song with a weird techno intro that turns into that cacophony and then into this whole other beat and feel.

Everything now gives you the feeling of a band that is in control of their sound and it displays incredibly imaginative and wonderful songwriting. They found their balance, and if they manage not to lose it we can expect an amazing new album.
Lea Fabbrini 

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog Review 

In his latest studio album, Mac Demarco brings a more relaxed approach than 2014s ‘Salad Days,’ something which I didn’t even think was possible. The album follows the trend of laid-back music, with deep, meaningful lyricism. However, where in the past Demarco went all out on production, this one is very simple with production, giving more power to the lyrics themselves. The album maintains similar traits to his previous work, but employs them differently, allowing for an entirely different experience overall.

​The opening song, ‘My Old Man,’ is a brilliant example of this lyricism. The song itself is one that is very simple musically, including nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a gentle drum beat in the background. The vocals on this particular track contain a degree of passion and reflection to them, making my genuinely think about the meaning behind them. The repeated line “looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me” leaves genuine pause for thought, and Demarco utilises his voice perfectly here. Similarly, ‘This Old Dog’ is another simplistic, yet powerful track. The lyrics in this sense provide a commentary on human emotion, and is yet more proof that Demarco’s “less is more” approach is effective and meaningful.

​’Still Beating’ provides more in terms of production, and if you have listened to ‘Salad Days,’ will definitely feel more familiar. However, whilst maintaining the high production, it feels somewhat different due to the more cynical application in Demarco’s vocals. ‘On The Level’ also utilises high production and has a tune that stays with you even after the song s finished. There is a distinct uniqueness to the song itself, with it being a clear stand out on the album. The production is matched with simplistic lyrics and vocals that come together to make a good solid piece of music.

​’This Old Dog’ is a good, strong outing by Mac Demarco. Whilst sill keeping familiarities with his previous works, Demarco has made something that seems unique due to its effectiveness. Whilst creative, the album does sometimes lack in variety when it comes to the music itself. However, if you were to sit back, relax and take a listen to the powerful lyrics on each track, you would certainly have a thoughtful and meaningful experience.  

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog = 8/10

Matthew T. Johnston

Single Review – Mac DeMarco – On The Level

Previously, Mac Demarco has merely dipped his toe into any exploration of serene synth music, but in his latest single, previewing May’s This Old Dog, his echoic vocals are fully submerged in it. And likening the track to some kind of undulant body of water sums it up nicely. It’s subtle and brooding, with the constant flux of throbbing synths backing a piercing hook and the ethereal voice of Demarco, giving On The Level it’s relaxed rippled air. Demarco himself has described it as Chamber of Reflection’s “sister song”, reflecting his only justifiably synth-centred track’s ghostly moodiness. Yet, On The Level has strong mature undertones that not only haven’t been explored to this extent throughout his back catalogue, but also wouldn’t be expected from an artist so familiar with scandal. It mulls over the inevitability of growing older and taking on the responsibilities his father took on. The track reaches its contemplative close with a repetition of the title; a fitting conclusion, with which I can imagine Demarco dwelling on the future these new responsibilities hold. It’s pensive, considered and cleverly composed.

Eleanor Chivers 

Single Reviews – Mac DeMarco – My Old Man, This Old Dog

The Canadian born singer songwriter Mac DeMarco with his almost trademark jangle pop sound has been a easy listen for many, especially with his first two albums and latest EP. He suggested different methods with ‘Chamber of Reflection’ for example, but not a change is tone for he endeavoured to maintain his lax and chilled out sound. With his third studio album as Mac DeMarco, he is looking to go for a similar shift. With This Old Dog out on May 5th, Mac talked of using a purer acoustic sound but with synth and drum machine additions. This is certainly a shift that could prove interesting and yield results, but many factors could trip up even the most established of acts. 

Of the two singles he released this week, the title track is true to the purest sense of an acoustic style and though not identical to his jangling style, there isn’t a huge divergence between the two sounds. It still recounts his strengths of loose delivery and intimate vocals, but other than a light warping guitar in the background, there isn’t a huge amount to delve into here. ‘My Old Man’ is more representative of what he was suggesting with soft electronic beats woven throughout the song with an oscillating acoustic riff. It is all a subtle shift and this is perhaps dictated by his unchanged tone which perhaps stifles any major difference. Having said that he has enhanced the peculiar nature of these tracks and this includes the lyrics that operate between the eccentric and personally familiar. It’ll take a full album to place his changes accurately as there’s no definitive answer here.

Owen Riddle