Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile Review

Four years off the back of one of their most accomplished works in over a decade in Futurology, The Manics are back with their thirteenth studio album, the typically to-the-point titled Resistance Is Futile. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have already hinted at the album’s sound being influenced by bigger, stadium rock styles in what is evocative of Springsteen and War On Drugs. It suggests the album may not be as musically versatile and imaginative as their last album, perhaps more orientated around lyrical content and pure arrangement.

Within seconds of the ‘International Blue’ opening, Bradfield’s scratching guitar parts and scraping vocals instantly plunge you into familiar territory of early 90’s Manics. It’s typical of a Manics style largely omitted from their last album of the higher pitched strings or electronica acting as the uplifting trail against the heavier sounds around it. With lyrics in tribute to artist Yves Klein, the band lend several elements of their sound and methods over the years to this track with the hint of the heartland rock of Springsteen. In that sense it is not a song evocative of the variation and bold sound of Futurology, but for Manics fans it’s exactly what you’d want. ‘Distant Colours’. is another foray into their standard, earlier sound with this track not sounding out of place on Gold Against The Soul from 1993. With brushing percussion and light riffs against James Dean Bradfield’s subtle vocals, the track then opens into lighter shades with broad guitars and more powerful vocal for the chorus. This track does not surmount to anything special or surprising like Futurology, but remains faithful track unto themselves if nothing else. ‘Dylan and Caitin’ tells of the turbulent relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin with the song split between them. James Dean Bradfield sings Dylan’s hypothetical words whilst Welsh singer songwriter Anchoress sings Caitlin’s. This song is perhaps a more pedestrian version of ‘Your Love Alone’ with its 60’s Motown arrangement around Bradfield’s typical tearing guitar.

‘Hold Me Like A Heaven’ sees the Manics at the most euphoric and sees them utilise vocal harmonies and choruses which they have seldom used before. It certainly reapplied James Dean Bradfield’s 1995 mantra of ‘taking a breath and singing a line’ to a more modern arrangement. It’s a poignant sound to relay and wistful set of lyrics. One of the highlights of the album. ‘People Give In’ shows their willingness to sharpen up their trademark string arrangements for a greater contrast for when they turn the wick up. Despite this, they keep the song rooted to its fundamental sound as opposed to a steep incline of fruition. ‘Liverpool Revisited’ is a heart-felt ode to a the spirit of the city, but in this instance the lyrics are ill-fitted to the track which veers off in non-sensical directions a little too often. The long drawn out recitals of the song’s title in ‘Broken Algorithms’ become unnecessary and though a notably heavier track, it still lacks any common direction. That seems to be where the Manics are lacking with Resistance is Futile. Whilst stylistically achieving their broader, stadium rock sound certain some songs get lost in these aims where they become difficult to follow and unsettlingly unpredictable. Their messages are as strong as ever through and when they get the music right as they do often on this album, they’re able to show flashes of brilliance and vigour which is commendable for a thirteenth album and a third decade of work.

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile = 6.5/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – Dylan and Caitlin

As the Manics approach the April 13th release of their thirteenth studio album Resistance Is Futile they have released their third single from the album with ‘Dylan and Caitlin’. It tells of the turbulent relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin with the song split between them. James Dean Bradfield sings Dylan’s hypothetical words whilst Welsh singer songwriter Anchoress sings Caitlin’s. This song is perhaps a more pedestrian version of ‘Your Love Alone’ with its 60’s Motown arrangement around Bradfield’s typical tearing guitar. Whilst it’s still a capable song, you do wonder where the Manics are trying to go with this album from its disparate singles. You wonder if Futurology might have been their last hurrah in terms of acclaim and that they’re now settling back into their comfort zone. We’ll see come April.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – Distant Colours

As we approach the April 13th release date of the Manics’ thirteenth studio album Resistance Is Futile, the ever-present Welsh rockers have released a second single in ‘Distant Colours’. It is another foray into their standard, earlier sound with this track not sounding out of place on Gold Against The Soul from 1993. With brushing percussion and light riffs against James Dean Bradfield’s subtle vocals, the track then opens into lighter shades with broad guitars and more powerful vocal for the chorus. This track does not surmount to anything special or surprising like Futurology, but remains faithful track unto themselves if nothing else.

Owen Riddle

This Week Music Video with The Killers, Manic Street Preachers, First Aid Kit, Jack White, Franz Ferdinand and Suuns

Single Review – Manic Street Preachers – International Blue

Three years off the back of one of their most accomplished works in in over a decade in Futurology, The Manics are back with their new single ‘International Single’ from their typically to-the-point album titled Resistance Is Futile which is due in April. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have already hinted at the album’s sound being influenced by bigger, stadium rock styles in what is evocative of Springsteen and War On Drugs. Within seconds of the songs opening however, Bradfield’s scratching guitar parts and scraping vocals instantly plunge you into familiar territory of early 90’s Manics. It’s typical of a Manics style largely omitted from their last album of the higher pitched strings or electronica acting as the uplifting trail against the heavier sounds around it. With lyrics in tribute to artist Yves Klein, the band lend several elements of their sound and methods over the years to this track with the hint of the heartland rock of Springsteen. In that sense it is not a song evocative of the variation and bold sound of Futurology, but for Manics fans it’s exactly what you’d want. It remains to be seen whether their thirteenth studio album will succeed in it’s creative aims, but at the very least we can enjoy the Manics just doing what they could do with their eyes closed.

Owen Riddle

Top Ten Albums of 2014!!!

This year has been an excellent yeah full of skilled musicians and many masterful albums. Unlike in 2013 the mediocre has been pushed aside by the sheer mass of talent on display. Everyone from the emerging artists, legendary names and artists fully coming out of their shell to maximise their full potential have all made 2014 a year to remember; so much so that albums from artists such as Black Keys, Broken Bells, Temples, Mac DeMarco, The War on Drugs, Kasabian and more have all failed to crack the top ten when any of their albums would have done so in 2013.

10. Julian Casablancas & The VoidzTyranny

Julian Casablancas is a man who has already sought claim and success with The Strokes over a decade ago and also received recognition for his debut solo album back in 2010 which ultimately culminated with the accomplished ‘Instant Crush’ single in collaboration with Daft Punk. For 2014 he teamed up with the self made Voidz and intended to break down all barriers to experimentation as he combined a multitude of sounds and methods with the only piece of continuity being the fuzzy and murky recordings. Despite some aspects not gelling together; most of the album worked in a refreshing and eye opening fashion. With a little refinement and the odd tweak we could have been talking of Tyranny as number one on this list.

9. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peeks some moments of real beauty, but considered beauty that doesn’t require a big ‘Michael Bay’ style conclusion. It requires a considered and thoughtful person to listen to an album from a considered and thoughtful man (oh and one hell of a musician too) For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

8. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat as the trepidation never ceases. At times too, it really has a keen sense of rhythm and stylistic individuality. This isn’t an album for the ‘TV Dinner’ type of listener looking for a loud and crashing quick fix, but a perfect example of production discipline and manipulation around a strange yet keen sense of rhythm.

6. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you; not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further, whether it’s the pulsating art rock, the sweeping electronica or the wistful ballads of Present Tense.

5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Too Bright was bold and remorseless with every track on what was a varied album of fluctuating tones and emotions. Some of the tracks soar high and deliver shivers, crisp and gleaming delivery and dramatics of the soft edged ballads. All of this was done in a consistently slick and stylish fashion whilst not sacrificing any ounce of musical feel or quality which is an ever present throughout the album.

4. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

3. FKA Twigs – LP1

She has been a revelation and a saviour to pop music this year in much that Daft Punk were pop saviours in 2013. FKA Twigs went about it in a very different way though. She’s blended together parts of hip hop, R&B, electronica and pop melody with an understated, yet confident projection through her delicate, at times whispering vocal, but with complete melody throughout. She’s given the growing sophisticated pop genre a direction and a purpose with this innovative and refreshing album with both modern, relevant music and lyrics to go with it. Now the only problem she has is following this up for it will be a great task.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the quaking, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballad, down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

Do Music and Politics Still Mix in the U.K?

You hear quite often that music and politics don’t mix and that is the reason why musical innovation has slowed, as we all look back and borrow from times when they did mix. For the most part that is true, but it is not universal by any means. It might not even be intentional if the listener makes that connection to a political happening, then it is a political song for them and may sway them to whatever debate they are interested in. It might not be as direct as ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday by Lennon and John Lydon might not be snarling ‘God Save The Queen’ to us all, but you’d be surprised what you find and don’t assume that musicians are automatically out and out liberals still either.

Most of these are in direct or indirect relation to Scottish Independence, E.U membership or general distaste with Mr Cameron and his Bullingdon Chumps, but alas I shall try to remain neutral (I apologise in advance if I’m not!) but in the interest of sparing any complex questions, I identify as British-pro-European-NHS-anti-nationalist-pro-equality-environment-and-diversity-left-wing-between-Labour-and-GreenParty…. I hope that clears thing up for you…

Several high profile musicians such as McCartney, Jagger, Bowie, Bobby Gillespie, Bryan Ferry, Rod Jones and Sting have all thrown their hat into the no campaign for Scottish Independence in what seems to be a split between old liberals and young nationalists. The once forward looking ideals of a globalised world have surprisingly been openly rejected by Scotland’s young musicians whether it’s Kyle Falconer from The View or Django Django. It’s almost became a squabble between liberal against whatever sort of liberal the SNP are which isn’t very liberal of either side. It might explain why many supporting a YES vote try to detach themselves from the party as it would be a little confusing to support a party that says Liberal and does Centre Right? Then everyone would be voting Tory which would be a disaster from every angle. With regards to Europe we still have the trusty Manics to rely on with their unwavering left wing ideals but again a surprising lack of young people lend a voice in support of the EU which worryingly offers up the assumption that as a generation we are becoming far less interested in politics or if we are it is right leaning or right intending politics. A little sobering. We even have to still rely on Johnny Marr to do the Tory bashing, but is there still a creative outlet in young musicians and in turn, young people to combine music and politics together and more vitally left wing politics?

Chvrches

Though Lauren Mayberry has declared herself as neutral in the independence debate; Britain’s and Glasgow’s newest and brightest synth pop group can’t keep themselves out of the debate. Their hit single ‘The Mother We Share’ is often used as a pro independence song and it’s easy to see why with lyrics such as “We’ve come as far as we’re ever gonna get
Until you realize, that you should go” or “I’m in misery where you can seem as old as your omens
And the mother we share will never keep your proud head from falling”. These seem like clear statements of a nostalgic yet certain break up of the Union set around warm electronic instrumentals with the slow dropping synths and sweeping sounds.

If you ask supporters of a no vote however, they will point you to the song ‘Lies’. It’s lyrics do seem relate to how everyone has bought into Alex Salmond’s vision without questioning him or his propaganda. When “I can sell you lies. You can’t get enough. Make a true believer of anyone” is sung, you do see the link and anyone questioning whether Salmond is as Liberal as he presents himself as, are sure to look at this song for solidarity.

Franz Ferdinand

The well established Indie ‘troopers’ are playing a pro Independence gig on September 14th so that should give you a little idea of where their allegiances lie. Not only that, but you detect subtle hints and satirical snipes at the politicians involved, but mainly aimed at those of the NO campaign or we can safely assume that at least. ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ speaks for itself when those points are considered. “Almost everything could be forgotten” and “this time same as before, I’ll love you forever”. evoke the satire they direct to those wishing to keep the Union.

Maximo Park

Maximo Park are another well established act dealing in electronically charged Indie rock. They are very proud to come from the North East of England and Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside in particular. There is a real fear in this region, which I am from myself; that we have been forgotten about in this whole debate as we will be hit hardest by the fallout on either side of the border should Scotland vote yes, but we don’t have any say. Salmond’s ‘Friends of Scotland’ speech to us all in Gateshead, back in 2012 was very quickly soured as he also trying to lure business to away from the area to Scotland at the time. He has never been back since funnily enough, but he occasionally uses the region as a pawn for his goals as he did recently in effectively claiming the NHS in Gateshead was inept and that operations were being axed. If the people in this region didn’t feel alienated and patronised enough, now we all just see Salmond in a similar light to Cameron. ‘Leave This Island’ is a song that is very frank and reflective of these feeling with an abundance of lyrics.

“So we watched the water swell, from a Scottish hotel. Have you ever fell?”

“Are you gonna tell me why there’s a backpack by the bedroom window? It’s a pack of lies. Everything has to reach a peak sometime. Tell me why? There’s a map lain flat on the bedside table. It’s a pack of lies. It’s not a peak, it’s a plateau. Let me know. When you wanna leave this island. Let me know. When you wanna hear my point of view”

They have always been prevalent with their political messages in their music and tracks from their last album such as ‘The National Health’ are testament to that. As are the past actions that spawned the messages of ‘Leave This Island’,which have only been reinforced by recent comments.  

Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts from Cumbria also seem to be reflective of the frustration at the thought of a their region becoming a potential borderland should Scotland vote for separation from the rest of the U.K. The first half of their song ‘Wanderlust’ shows the hopeful optimism many people had as a union with Scotland and with everyone on these islands sharing common means and unbroken connections as the lyrics “Wanderlust. With us, the world feels voluptuous. I just feel more with us. It’s a feeling that I’ve come to trust.” show that naïve sense of safety that nothing will happen. As the song becomes more aggressive and darker with it’s heavy distorted synths and sharper percussion, the lyrics read “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck. Funny how that little pound buys a lot of luck. Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck. In your mother tongue, what’s the verb “to suck?” These lyrics swiftly signal the change of the debate into a snarling and bitter argument and how the optimism of the earlier lyrics have been buried under debates about currency, oil and other things to the point where it feels like that trust and optimism has long gone to the point where they ‘don’t give a fuck’ anymore. As if too much damage has been done anyway.

White Lies

The Ealing group don’t appear to have much of a political opinion, however you detect some subtle hints in their most recent that could be applied and have been applied to political thinking on a person by person level. The lyrics in ‘Getting Even’ are believe to be a passionate plea to keep these island unified or to remain unified with Europe. I’m yet to be so convinced but it isn’t impossible and it is easy to link a song that appears to be about sour break ups and the petty arguments that ensue to either debate.

“So if you go. And leave recklessly. We can only be me. We can only be me. That’s something I. Through the tons of my life. Never wanted to be. Never wanted to be.”

“But if you stay. Just a bolt in the ball. Then you’ll never know. Then you’ll never know. How you could miss. Like the day light the way. You’re missing us now. You’re missing us now.”

“So listen to some reason. There’s nothing in your dreams. But if you’re getting even. You’re getting even. Trying to get even. Better start believing. I can forgive. And we can forget…”

Rose Elinor Dougall

If you’ve ever read the posts on this site, then you won’t find it hard to find one on this woman. Not only is her music varied and so effortlessly delivered but she, like many young people in the U.K; have positive and forward thinking views on women’s equality, NHS and more. Last year she released ‘Future Vanishes’. It’s a track that perfectly encases her forlorn and cynical lyrics around perfectly poised hooks and melancholy. Lyrics that read “Time casts no shadow on the old sundial” reference a time or thing long confined to the past. “Escape as future vanishes” gives a sense that the very past she spoke of is returning and the future is vanishing. Perhaps an ode to the reversal of these islands back to it’s divisive past. “Stay on the outside. In a nowhere place, neither young nor wise.” could easily be construed as a reference to yes voters or to supporters of UKIP too, who wish to leave Europe. She points out how old fashioned and unwise such nationalistic attitudes might be and the lyrics “Don’t know where I’ve been and I can’t tell you where I’m going to” is a clear reflection of many as these islands teeter on the edge of the unknown and we start to wonder what identity we will hold.

Kasabian

The band from Leicester have grown to be one of the biggest in the country and the world, with headlining Glastonbury acting as evidence of their standing. This year’s fifth studio album from them in 48:13 has plenty of politically tinged statements, but none more so than ‘Glass’. The track eerily meanders with muted, flashing electronica and simple, yet purposeful bass lines and percussion.  This song bemoans how we’ve stopped trying to change things and how both at home and around the world, we are willing to let ourselves fall back into things and times we have thought against in the past. “We are going nowhere fast. Are we made of glass? No one knows, no one knows” reflect this and “Save me. Oh, come on and save me. From this world. Tell me. Cause I need to know. I’m not alone.” are almost an acknowledgment that such activism is dead and that we need saving from the world as it falls apart and hit the rewind button of progression. The closing rap from Suli Breaks depressing closes the song with the lines “When did we stop believing? When did we stop marching? When did we stop chanting?” in a exasperated sense of frustration of how it went wrong. How we’ve all moved towards nationalism and the right without a question or challenge.

Manic Street Preachers

We can always rely on the Manics to stand up for something they believe in as they have done for their entire careers. The two most recent albums have seen no change in that respect, but again you detect a hint of disillusionment and being lost in the narrow minded and increasingly nationalistic and right leaning tendencies. In recent interviews they’ve talked of how they’ve lost faith in Labour and the centre left and that they feel no one represents them. Almost a depressing notion of defeat about them as with the song ’30 Year War’ in which they sing about “And 30 years of war. To darken all our class. Black propaganda, lies and mistrust. See it in our eyes, the fire dimming away. The old-boy network won the war again.” and this idea of defeat continues with “The endless parade of old Etonian scum. Line the front benches so what is to be done? All part of the same establishment. I ask you again what is to be done?” as they lament the shrinking of the left and growth of the right.

They also recently declared themselves as Internationalists which was a refreshing consolation amongst the mass of nationalists in the news via Farage and the U.K Independence Party and Salmond with the Scottish Nationalist Party. A song to hit back at calls to leave Europe from bumbling ‘Man of the people’ Nigel Farage who managed to gain a foothold in every part of mainland Britain during the Elections to the European Parliament in May with only London making it difficult for them to do so. The song ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ from this year’s Futurology album; see’s the Manics show a much needed sign of affinity and solidarity with the rest of Europe with which the song translates to ‘Europe Goes Through Me’. The entire album Futurology is a rejection of digging up past situations and is about looking forward and being open minded as the Manics are.

Johnny Marr

Another reliable figure in speaking the truth when it needs to be spoken; Marr recently carried this on with his latest single ‘Easy Money’ in which he takes a stab at everyone who is driven by money alone and is also a protest to the current Tory government with the line “That’s no way to serve… nobody” and in the video he is seen goading a blurred out picture of David Cameron, who he has already brilliantly shown his distain for on a number of occasions. With this in mind, it is no doubt a dig at that age old tradition of the Conservative Party. Money over society.

So all in all, you can still find politically motivated music in the U.K, but with younger generations it has changed substantially. The classic left wing motivators and social commentators have gone. People either don’t care or if they do, they are on the nationalist or right leaning side which is why figures like Salmond and Farage dominate the agenda at the moment. Now politically motivated music is just bemoaning that fact on the whole or leaves them harking back with innovative music flourished along with liberalist and left wing thought. In that sense; where did it all go wrong?

Half Term Report – Top 10 albums of the year so far

For me 2014 has already eclipsed the previous year for musical diversity, creativity and innovation about all aspects of the craft; whether it’s through the production or lyrics, it has been a far better year already. The most obvious evidence is the lack of full marks in 2013 and the two full marks we’ve had already this year. On top of this, the average rating of 2013’s top 10 albums was 8.85 while the first half of 2014 has already produced a score of 9.05 and I’m sure that will rise by the time we get to December. So here are some of the contenders so far.

10. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

Photo:

Despite having a slight knack of becoming a little too bogged down in similar subdued moments, it bats those moments back with some wonderful atmospheric bursts and rhythms that encapsulate so many unexpected hooks. Another change of direction and one of their best yet.

9. Kasabian 48:13

Another marvellous piece of re-imagination after the false start of their last album; 48:13 delivers their vision almost perfectly. It’s bold, in your face and you can’t ignore it. At other times it’s unsettling and thought provoking. Whether it’s driven through eerie electronica or EDM-enthused hard rock, it works. This is even more true live.

8. Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peek some moments of real beauty. For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat. A perfect example of production discipline and manipulation.

6. Bastard Mountain – Farewell Bastard Mountain

Admittedly this album by the British folk collective was something I wasn’t expecting to blow me away and in reality it didn’t. It did, however immerse me into the raw and natural soundscapes that were produced by more traditional means. An album that is inherently beautiful and a credit to their capable musicianship. As simple as that.

5. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

4. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

File:Wild Beasts - Present Tense.jpg

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you. Not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further.

3. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

File:Beck Morning Phase.jpg

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the bold, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballads and down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

 

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology Review

The Manics have always generated a real sense of interest and expectation each time they announce a new album and this, their twelfth is no different in spite of many of their counterparts fading into some sort of middle aged obscurity by this stage of their careers; largely from typecasts they can no longer live up to or from simply a lack of any creation. With Postcards of a Young Man from 2010 you started to get the feeling that this was the destination that these legends of British music were heading. The trio of The Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell me Yours were starting to become distant and closed memories. Though their 21st century form was a pleasant one, it wasn’t a daring or innovative one. There was even a suggestion that the Manics may end all together, but they announced early last year that they had two albums ready to go which was a bit of a shock. 2013’s Rewind The Film was a bit of a surprise too. It had a lyrical, musical and sobering feel not present in The Manics since 1998. It was one of the greatest achievements of last year’s music though it was only a hint or a clue that they still had what it took to lead the way and the lack of any leading and powerful albums that year had flattered it even more, as good as the album was. Futurology is perhaps the biggest test they have faced since the painful time of 1995 and 1996. Their last album has set them up to deliver like they used to again. Pushing boundaries and being dynamic, but now they will have their age being thrown back into their faces if they don’t. There are no excuses when you have achieved so much. This album has European blood running through its veins and Hansa studios in Berlin was used to record the album and given the political state these islands are in at the moment, it’s refreshing to have something representing unity instead of bitter division.

‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ is a track that opens with a wonderful jolting riff with an indelible canorous tinge, opening the track with slick tenacity and purpose. Alongside it runs with James Dean Bradfield’s close and slightly warm sounding vocal before it the bursts with the light of electronically charged pop chords set against the heavy beat, bass line and shimmering guitars along with the now razor sharp vocal from James. It’s by no means the greatest song they’ve ever produced but it has an infections rhythm and that added lyrical dimension that you can usually expect from a Manics track.The title track is full of the light and optimism of their music over the last decade, but this feels a lot less lost in itself and it has the direct kick to it that they deliver so well along with the gathering sound of the crashing percussion and rising riffs and vocals which fade slightly at the edges in an ominous fashion. It doesn’t predictably rise to a needless peak but still drives on with lyrics that hold interest and an extra contrast to themselves. “We’ll come back one day. We never really went away” and is sort of a confessional track lyrically. ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ was the second track to be unveiled from Futurology and is almost the epitome of the albums European construction and influence. Translated to Europe Goes Through Me;  it kicks off with a bouncing and deep lying riff that is accentuated by alarm type flashing and stocky percussion. The vocals deliver lyrics in a chant like fashion as they squeeze into the song’s thumping structure. This solid structure then goes on to dissipate and evaporate with glistening and far off riffs along with the delivering of the German lyrics from Nina Hoss in a gentle and delicate fashion before the thumping structure sets in again along with her more aggressive and purposeful vocal as the chant like song resumes. It is a little hard to connect with at first but once the unconventional rhythms and melodies are identified then it becomes a bold song with an even bolder message.

‘Dreaming a City (Hugeskova)’ is one of the most engaging instrumental tracks I have heard in a long, long while. James Dean Bradfield is again the star, but this time it’s solely with his guitar. The track opens with Wire’s rooted and heavy bass line which Bradfield’s tearing guitar fires high above of. On top of this, it’s boosted by the synth charged melodies that sound out and expand around the razor-like riff. It’s the sort of electronically powered rock that they were aiming for and it works. ‘Misguided Missile’ has a centred riff that is full of bounce and spring that has the other elements fall upon it. The isolated percussion and background scratches. It’s a song that constantly alters it’s make up with the darker undertones and lyrics of the verses that expand into optimism in the chorus before falling into the verse again, bit with the added lightweight feel of the delicate strings along with it. The song concludes with the gradual instrumental construction as the sounds build up to a conclusion from the lone vocal. A wonderful song both lyrically and musically. ‘The Next Jet To Leave Moscow’ has the similar light and shades to it, yet it is set around a more constant and engineered rotation. The album also has moments of paused consideration and reflection with tracks such as ‘Divine Youth’ which features the swooning and simply beautiful vocal of Georgia Ruth which set around the sweeping harp strings and simple bass lines. As she goes on, the music begins to flower and grow along with the vocal contributions of JDB. It’s a song that continues to bloom as It goes and is the most graceful moment of the album. ‘Sex, Power, Love and Money’ appears to be a more classic Manics sound with the screeching guitars along with the screaming vocals and this is true for the chorus, however for the verses it has a rhythmic rock pop dynamic about it that tee’s it up for the aggressive chorus. The album concludes with ‘Mayakovsky’. A track with looping and flashing sounds and rhythms that are slightly muted by the heavily distorted guitar that plays a tuneful and restrained riff until the piano gives it the signal to let itself go in a wild piece of guitar work. It then fades out into the distant and echoed messages of European unity. Perhaps ominous of the lack of unity and inclusiveness these islands have took on. It has lived up to the hype and expectation to my welcoming surprise. It delivers their long awaited ambitions of a Eurocentric sound and it sounds glorious. It’s fluctuating and dynamic with the moments of electronica and rock fusions, elements of beauty, rage and loss. on top of this it’s lyrical content is as relevant and meaningful as ever. The Manics have turned the tide of middle age obscurity and what a way to do it.

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology = 9.5/10

Images from www.entertainment-focus.com / fanart.tv

 

 

This Weeks Music Video with Lana Del Rey, Manic Street Preachers, Wild Smiles and Metronomy

Lana Del Rey – West Coast

Manic Street Preachers – Walk Me To The Bridge

Wild Smiles – Fool For You

Metronomy – Reservoir

 http://youtu.be/Azf0BVBrJ0c