2017 Review – Best British Act

Our votes for Best British Act are as follows…

= 3. Stormzy (16.33%) & Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (16.33%)

2. Wiley (18.37%)

1. Everything Everything (20.41%)

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon? Review

Who Built The Moon? Is the album that Noel Gallagher had been a long time poised to produce since leaving Oasis. The album where he was free to be himself, experiment and show to everyone that the portrayal of a frustrated singer-songwriter held back musically by his frontman brother was an accurate one. His debut solo outing was a light change of tone and a completely solid album, his second a mere afterthought on the back of a promising collaboration with Damon Albarn. We now reach 2017 and it’s more than eight years on from you know when; with the brother still arguing via the press and every indie haunt and pub blasting out Oasis tunes… it’s time to hear something different.

With booming saxophones, plunging rhythm sections and stomping percussion, ‘Holy Mountain’ has all the energy and infectiousness of a Rock Pop track that has a sing-a-long quality via its bombastic sound and simple lyrics. It is certain that no track by Noel has ever been so catchy nor featured basic Pop elements and it works well in that sense; undoubtedly becoming a gig favourite. It is not evidence of the great innovation or shift hinted at initially, but a dose of Glam Rock is something unexpected and it works as what it is. The whirring and ringing guitars that open ‘Its A Beautiful World’ echo and reverberate outwards as do Noel’s vocals. The bass line and percussion offer a intricate rhythm and generally this track is a good example of the subtleties of production and arrangement Noel has decided to consider. It is a shimmering yet smooth track that combines elements of electronica and dream pop. This track does sometimes trips over its own transitions though, but it is refreshing to see an act as established as Noel experiment a little. ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is another heady and open track which is sees Noel use his new found Lacey rhythms and hooks to best effect with a buoyant arrangement facilitated by ringing guitars in an outwards echo and his vocals fading out in a similar fashion. Clicking percussion and electronica drive the song on as do the focus bridge sections which provide a fast-track to the hazy mock-shoegaze of the chorus. It is a well arranged and produced track that allows Noel to sound like he’s actually enjoying himself and it makes for a warm and uplifting track if not an groundbreaking one.

With ‘Fort Knox’ Noel begins to hint at the new styles and approaches he’s long promised to take in the album’s opener. The Kanye West influenced track opens with a lintany of psychedelic strings and sitars before ringing distortion and punchy percussion drives the song on along with joyous backing vocals. These combine in unison to deliver an ever more theatrical sound which bursts towards a fruition with the rapid tempo change of the string sections. Noel’s few words are repetitive and merely serve as a tool of the dominant rhythms of the track for what is a dynamic and imaginative piece of music. ‘Keep on Reaching’ shows Noel trying to add a bit of soul to his music and adopts a versatile vocal supplement with brass bursts and cool, easy backing vocals. The bluesy and steady stomping beat of ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is in effect Noel’s best attempt of ‘Come Together’ and is a fine one at that. It’s slick and and varied enough to keep thing interesting with the close vocals and distant backing vocals keeping the listener engaged. ‘Black and White Sunshine’ has enough guitar bursts and basic pitch shifts to be a perfect piece of psych-pop that reminiscent of many British bands of emerging in 2012/13 and is effortlessly delivered track nonetheless. ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ hits hard with this gathering waves of rhythm and the guitars strike to leave their mark as do Noel’s lyrics which are his most clever on the record. The unceasing rise of the strings add to the peculiar sense of theatre to the track which is one of the best on the record.

It has been an intriguing listen and though he sometimes fall wide of the mark, Who Built The Moon? is an enjoyable and easy listen. The soundtrack experience of producer David Holmes makes for brilliantly poised dramatic arrangements and in any case Noel seems to have a lease of life and energy not seen before and it runs throughout the track for all to see. Some tracks either see him try to hard to produce an elaborate track when a simple one would do and at other times he comes up with sounds already fully formed and explored. The delivery is immaculate however and when it works on this album, it sounds like Noel has made something truly superb. A thoroughly enjoyable album with flashes of something even better.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon? = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Its A Beautiful World

Noel has been doing a lot of talking since the release of his last single and lots of people have been talking about him, but he’s been releasing music y’know? The latest single from his November 24th release Who Built The Moon is ‘Its A Beautiful World’ and it continues the reimagined sound he’s so far pursued with this record. The whirring and ringing guitars that open the track echo and reverberate outwards as do Noel’s vocals. The bass line and percussion offer a intricate rhythm and generally this track is a good example of the subtleties of production and arrangement Noel has decided to consider. It is a shimmering yet smooth track that combines elements of electronica and dream pop. This track does sometimes trips over its own transitions though, but it is refreshing to see an act as established as Noel experiment a little.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Fort Knox

Much has been promised for Noel’s third solo outing and we got a bit of a twist with Glam Rock influenced ‘Holy Mountain’ which whilst being uncharted territory for the driving Pop that it was, it wasn’t what was teased a couple of before. With ‘Fort Knox’ Noel begins to hint at the new styles and approaches he’s long promised to take. The Kanye West influenced track opens with a lintany of psychedelic strings and sitars before ringing distortion and punchy percussion drives the song on along with joyous backing vocals. These combine in unison to deliver an ever more theatrical sound which bursts towards a fruition with the rapid tempo change of the string sections. Noel’s few words are repetitive and merely serve as a tool of the dominant rhythms of the track. It is certainly different as far as Noel is concerned and if the mentality shown on this track is replicated throughout the Who Built the Moon then it will be one worth your undivided attention from November 24th

Owen Riddle

Liam Gallagher – As You Were Review

liam-gallagher-as-you-were

Apparently, Liam Gallagher isn’t just someone who swears a lot on Twitter, has a cult following of ‘lads’ who call him an absolute legend for his ballsy retorts, or someone who is the “voice of reason” when it comes to Brexit. No, no, no. Liam Gallagher used to be in a small band called Oasis with his brother Noel until that all dissolved away in 2009. A couple of years and a fairly mediocre attempt at a band revival in the form of Beady Eye later, and Liam is back with his very first debut album As You Were.

With the aid of Greg Kurstin – who can be accredited with songs by the likes of Sia, Adele and Pink – the standard album boasts twelve tracks with gruff vocals and no-nonsense instrumentalism in equal measure. Opening with the glorious single Wall Of Glass, we are built up for an album of some intense ferocity; it’s filled to the brim with call backs to the Britpop heyday as guitars wail from all directions, almost masking Liam’s raspy vocals when the chorus hits. If you’re a fan of this one, Come Back To Me is very similar, heaving with strong guitars and riffs galore. Kurstin’s handy work with lyrics is prevalent from the get-go. Although, Liam penned songs like Greedy Soul, Bold and You Better Run himself – and the terse Greedy Soul especially is an album highlight.

While much of the track list is teeming with a brashness and noise, some songs take a step back. For What It’s Worth tows the line in between acceptance and apology, while overflowing with Beatles-esque balladry. Opening lyrics “In my defence, all my intentions were good”, and chorus lyrics “I’ll be the first to say I made my own mistakes” seem reflective and, well, just a bit sad. Paper Crown is, too, quiet and contemplative, with mournful vocals gliding over downbeat percussion. Album closer I’ve All I Need also sticks to the slow lane, but is quite hopeful in its lyricism, and develops throughout to make it a modern interpretation of old school Oasis moodiness when it comes to its closing chords. Whereas if you have the deluxe version, you’ll find that All My People/All Mankind is just moody. And that I Never Wanna Be Like You is just plain weird.

When I heard Liam Gallagher was releasing a solo album, I didn’t really know what to think. I liked Oasis, I’ve dipped my toe into Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds albums, but after the blunt flop of Beady Eye I didn’t know how As You Were would fair. Turns out, it’s actually pretty good. Whether that’s because it recalls a lot of late Oasis tracks, or it’s kind of impossible not to be compelled by Liam Gallagher and his cultural presence right now it’s hard to say, but yeah, I like it.

Liam Gallagher – As You Were: 8/10

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/2V3WS9tlPYmscBNWHHYu9X

Ellie Chivers

Single Review – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Holy Mountain

On November 24th Noel Gallagher will release his third studio album with his ‘High Flying Birds’ with Who Built the Moon? The teaser trailer of two weeks ago suggests that we’re finally getting the Noel Gallagher album everyone wanted and expected after his Oasis exit. That repuatation he garnered as the frustrated tunesmith and songwriter; the driving force of one of Britain’s greatest bands is yet to be matched with his subsequent ‘solo’ ventures. His self titled debut was a strong start, but was not daring enough to leave the dusty rock environment he created for the album albeit for fleeting moments. Chasing Yesterday was a step back to a comfort zone that whilst being a decent record, it felt like a throwaway effort that even Noel wasn’t too fussed about. Whilst we were teased Neo-psychedelia and Electronica today we are given Glam Rock?

With booming saxophones, plunging rhythm sections and stomping percussion, ‘Holy Mountain’ has all the energy and infectiousness of a Rock Pop track that has a sing-a-long quality via its bombastic sound and simple lyrics. It is certain that no track by Noel has ever been so catchy nor featured basic Pop elements and it works well in that sense; undoubtedly becoming a gig favourite. It is not the great innovation or shift hinted at a few weeks ago however, which leaves us at a crossroads prior to the release of his next single. As great as a fun-loving Noel Gallagher is, the intruiging version advertised would prove a more attractive proposition for his third studio album.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Liam Gallagher – Chinatown

The latest single from Liam Gallagher’s debut solo album, ‘As You Were’ October the 6th, which is to feature tracks produced by Greg Kurstin (Adele, Beck, The Shins, Kendrick Lamar) and Dan Grech-Marguerat (Radiohead, Cira Waves, Mumford and Sons) might just reveal a softer side to the much loved, and abhorred, Mancunian. ‘Chinatown’ see’s Liam’s, casually iconic, grating vocal wind, almost delicately… almost, around simply plucked acoustic guitar, steady heavy footed rhythm and of course a familiar helping of John Lennon references, present in both the tracks lyrics and a spacious helping of reverb. Compared to first single ‘Wall Of Glass’ things are a little more muted here, not only within the acoustic, rather than shredded, guitar lines but also Liam’s sneering barbs. Though a humorously sharp tongue is still in play within Liam’s second offering: ‘Well the cops are taking over while everyone’s in yoga cause happiness is still a warm gun’ overall ‘Chinatown’ is a more tender track with a gentle melody that plainly states why this particular Gallagher’s ability shouldn’t be underestimated.  

Hayley Miller 

Single Review – Liam Gallagher – Wall of Glass

It is safe to say that in the immediate aftermath of Oasis, Noel had the most immediate success and gave the impression that it was Liam who needed Oasis and needed Noel. The second and subsequently last Beady Eye album from 2013 was by no means a bad effort however and Noel hardly set the world alight with his second solo effort Chasing Yesterday. For his first solo effort, Liam has enlisted the expertise of Greg Kurstin who has worked with everyone from The Shins, Beck, Tegan & Sara, Kendrick Lamar to Adele. Though primarily a producer, Liam has also had Greg in as a co-writer for his new single ‘Wall of Glass’. To my surprise, this track sees Liam shake off the relative obscurity of the last few years and find his quality again. Greg has set Liam in a familiar setting of shredding and ringing guitars, but adds sharpness, bluesy highlights, professional backing vocalists and a driving beat that feeds a keen sense of rhythm in the song. It is punchy and is tailored to Liam’s swagger. Unlike with Beady Eye, these vocals aren’t left in isolation and so sound as rich as they’ve ever done. The lyrics aren’t anything spectacular, but again they are tailored to Liam’s vocal strengths and his attitude on show. There is even a subtle sense of depth with this track with parts falling away and building to a bold fruition. It isn’t going to be track of the year, but it’s a damn good song which for Liam, was removing the shackles of Oasis and doing what most artists do; bringing in proven success. 

Owen Riddle

Gorillaz – Humans Review 


In true Gorillaz style, while facing huge political scandal and contentiousness, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and the cartoon clan reappear with their new album Humanz: as if to say ‘yes, the world may be going down the drain, but at least you’ll have the perfect playlist to listen to as we all go down with it.’ In an LP exploring both the beauty and the hideousness of human life, this bitter-sweet composition is powerful in its messages, yet falters in its execution.

Humanz is an apt title for an album in which such an eclectic range of individuals congregate to share their talent and experiences. From the punchy, dominant rap of Pusha T to the feathery whispers of D.R.A.M, Humanz truly is a celebration of what individuals have to offer. We are given glimpses of multiple perspectives, such as from black people in America (Ascension); the unnerving juxtapositions of these stories paired with the upbeat robotic backing tracks are statements in themselves towards the political doom the tracklist illustrates.

Gorillaz comeback single – Hallelujah Money, featuring Benjamin Clementine – was a soft riot of a track upon its release on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. It’s slow, wispy and poetic; a passive-aggressive declaration. This suitably precedes the standard tracklist’s closing number, We Got The Power – the album’s most hopeful tune. It’s bold both in its prevailing claps and formidable synths, but also in it vocals, as Jehnny Beth jubilantly roars the lyrics, alongside a cameo appearance from Noel Gallagher, putting aside the Brit-pop enmity for this much-needed spirit-booster. After all the stories of despondency, feelings of inferiority and worry about the Internet’s power, We Got The Power ties the album up with a unifying and revitalising bow.

With diverse styles comes a range of musical influences. Heated reggae teems in Saturnz Barz through Popcaan’s distinctive vocals. Pure mechanical hip hop takes hold on Momentz. Carnival, featuring Anthony Hamilton, is slick and soulful. Busted and Blue takes a whole different approach in it’s quiet melancholy. Although the disjointed feel given by the mismatch of genres well represents the idea of the insecurity and unpredictability that delivers the foundations for this album, it sounds just that – disjointed. And not in a good way. Having said that, songs like Busted and Blue and, my personal favourite, Andromeda, have a chilled edge to them that offer an opportune break between much more party-appropriate tracks. Each individual song is good – cleverly written and instrumentally sound – but the sheer amount of them makes for a busy and overflowing tracklist.

Overall, Gorillaz’s new release is quite what I expected – unique, computerised, political. But whether it’s been pulled off in the right way is debateable.

Gorillaz – Humanz: 7/10

Ellie Chivers

Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams Review

Coldplay have long been a staple of the British pop/rock scene, having formed in 1996 by lead vocalist Chris Martin. After undergoing various name changes in their early years, from Pectoralz to Starfish, the band finally settled on Coldplay in 1998, before recording and releasing three EP’s before recording and releasing three EPs: ‘Safety’ in 1998, ‘Brothers & Sisters’ as a single in 1999 and ‘The Blue Room’ in the same year. ‘The Blue Room’ was their first release on a major label, after signing to Parlophone. The band have since gone on to become world superstars, touring the globe, winning numerous awards and releasing several chart topping albums to critical acclaim. Now on their seventh album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ the band are back with a bang, amid reports that this could be their final album.

The whole album is in stark contrast to the bands previous album ‘Ghost Stories’ released in 2014, which was a sombre affair dealing without the fallout from Chris Martins conscious uncoupling. The songs that feature throughout have a more upbeat feel, take for example the first single if the album, ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ an upbeat pop number, taking in elements of dance music alongside the well known sounds that the band have become synonymous with. The album plays host to diverse range of featured artists such as Beyoncé, Noel Gallagher and Norwegian pop producers Stargate showing that Coldplay are one of a few bands that could put these artists together on an album, let alone do it with positive outcomes. The whole feel of the album is a more upbeat Coldplay to the one we heard on 2104’s ‘Ghost Stories’ the cumulative effect of the upbeat, positivity heard throughout the album is not dissimilar to that of a sugar coated pill to wash away the bitter taste of the bands last album. The album represents some of the most satisfying songs the band have wrote for years, showing a different side, albeit with the signature Coldplay sound, the band has to offer.

For all the differences the album has to the bands previous offering you could say that the reinvention doesn’t quite go far enough, songs such as ‘Everglow’ never quite materialize on the promised pop takeover of Stargate. It only takes two minutes and 20 seconds into the opening track, ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ before you find the first anthemic “oh-woah”, something of a Coldplay trademark. Overall the album offers a different sound to that of the bands last album, and does go someway to show a different side to the pop outfit, it doesn’t however push the boundaries far enough for the album to be seen as a total reinvention, at times still drawing upon the classic Coldplay sound, which arguably means another good album but not one that pushes the bands sound entirely in a new direction.

Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams = 6/10

 

 

Matthew Kay