Single Review – The XX – On Hold

The London Dream Pop trio have almost taken a cult status amongst the hipster media that elevates them beyond scrutiny. There have earned this reputation in part by being so damn talented and producing a different and intriguing first album. Their second effort, Coexist did not reach that level, but was a strong album nonetheless. It doesn’t mean they’re infallible though and they’ll have to respond in a way with their third studio album I See You which is expected on January 13th. 

Their first single from this album is ‘On Hold’ and signals a fairly significant shift in the tone of their sound. Echoed and drawn out riffs with wispy synth chords remain, but these are met with a rolling bass, a pacey, yet understated percussion and bolder vocals from Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim. Jamie XX’s production has developed with his solo album last year and he now seeks to put a greater focus on melody and harmony. This song can definitely take its place in a brilliant album, but will The XX deliver it? 

Owen Riddle 

Beach House – Depression Cherry Review

Baltimore’s Dream Pop master duo in Beach House have just released their fifth studio album Depression Cherry and the name really encapsulates the rich yet fading sounds they produce and it seems a likelihood that they will do the same again here. The days when their music was pushing the boundaries was back in 2010 and since then they have maintained a steady course on the same path. Their sound is not one that should be faulted by any means, it is just the fact they’ve struggled to move on from it or have become tied down to it and so it will be intriguing to see which direction they move in now.

‘Sparks’ is a single that develops 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 and in general the more noticeable electronic injection the song has had is a little more welcome. They are masters of the Dream Pop genre and just demonstrate it here. ‘Beyond Love’ opens in a more minimised fashion with the simple, warped organs accentuated by the ringing lead guitar parts and as the whirring sounds build around it, a sort of tragic and sombre harmony develops from Victoria’s vocals. They remain wistful and optimistic in tone, but their echoed and faded filter replace it with a more hopeless and lonesome feel. The emotive feel that is generated from this simple alteration is very noticeable and clever on their part. Tracks such as ’10:37′ work in a similar fashion with the vocal instrumentation adding to the lucidity of the track amongst all of the faded elements.

‘Wildflower’ features those warped organs again as they’re joined by a drum sample and airy riff in what is almost a Dream Pop take on a late Marvin Gaye track. Those vocal sweeps are something that you never tire of even if the warping organs are. The album opener ‘Levitation’ is a little more typical with more chiming electronica working from a warped and whirring foundation, but despite this the subtle fruition of the songs sounds at it’s peak has an element of delicate awe and power to it. ‘Space Song’ is very similar to ‘Wildflower’ with it’s structure with a more prominent bass within it and a more isolated, pop-like vocal for this swooning ballad. This ballad style is taken to an almost church-like level with the closing track ‘Days of Candy’. The album remains a beautiful creation and sees Beach House as graceful and sonically fluid as ever, but this album is only half a step on from their previous work and it doesn’t have enough to be one of the great albums of the year when they really have the potential to make such an album. It is album for a specific mood. If you’re feeling reflective or heartbroken then this is the album for you, but there isn’t much engagement beyond that.

Beach House – Depression Cherry = 8/10

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.

Single Review – Vaults – Lifespan

Vaults are a quiet and reserved emerging group plying chiming and soaring electronica as their trade in the form of dream pop melodies and structures. ‘Lifespan’ is their most recent track and one that is wholly evocative of this. It opens with eerie whirrs that are given life by the basic beat sample and the sweeping and haunting vocals capture it all and then the music falls from it with each simple chime and piano chord. Between the vocals are waves of distorted electronica in it’s place. It results in a track with graceful progression and smooth transitions while being expansive and spacious. A distant song with an immediate vocal to reflect off it and bring everything closer to the listener due to how intertwined the instrumentals are to it. A great track and I hope to hear more from them in the future.


Single of the Week – Astral Pattern – Faraway

S.C.U.M are no more but from those ashes have risen Astral Pattern. Huw Webb, Melissa Rigby and Bradley Baker are the three from their former band that have formed Astral Pattern after seeing a Kraftwerk concert in Dusseldorf. The image created from their single ‘Faraway’ is of them standing in a line with their synths but with a little more feeling and emotion. The song is purely a synth affair with Melissa’s soft and echoed vocal running through the fingers of the instrumentals of which each synth has it’s own role and so it’s not very bare or boring at all and they easily create more space for all the elements to breathe. It also has a pretty nice hook to it which is not primarily the case with the sort of Dream-pop song. The single and EP are out now! Could be pretty exciting in the future.

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