Wild Beasts – Boy King Review 


The very talented Cumbrian quartet that is Wild Beasts are back with their follow up to their brilliant fourth album Present Tense from 2014 with Boy King. It is an album that sees them mark a sea change in their sound as they look to drop the whirring, Art-Rock Psychedelica of two years ago for a Dark Pop, Electronic and Industrial sound. Despite being one of Britain’s most effective creative forces with several impressive efforts behind them; the band are being tipped to realise their true potential with Boy King. This is an odd expectation from a group that has proven their capabilities for years, but much of this success has occurred partially under the radar. Their greatest albums have often been overshadowed by The Horrors, PJ Harvey and FKA Twigs who generally stole British acclaim  from them in 2009, 2011 and 2014. Will a radical new sound see them get what they deserve? 

The opening single from the album is ‘Get My Bang’. It features heavily distorted bass elements and electronica that are met with crisp percussion and undulating anti-melodies that fall from Hayden Thorpe’s quivering vocals. The track is clear and bold with stocky sounds playing off slick pop melodies with Hayden’s often mysterious vocals spilling from it all. The track is rhythmic and purposeful whilst maintaining a distorted and rough core melody. This sound only sacrificed for a disorientating reprieve with a delicate and unerring falsetto to match it. ‘Big Cat’ is a song that continues the group on their dark electro-rock path this time with smooth progressions and crisp instrumentation on top of that; whirring, modulated synths act as the former and sharp riffs the latter. Hayden Thorpe’s tuneful utterances give the song an added fluidity and sense of effortlessness. A sense of suggestive unease remains with this track and beneath the slightly off clean presentation of the song are the thinly-veiled threats of the “Big Cat on top of the food chain”. ‘Tough Guy’ opens as a well poised piece of Electro-pop with minimalistic instrumentation and isolated vocals, yet a confidence about it demonstrates something more is to come. They duly deliver with bursts of blocky, distorted guitars that add a punchy to the song to match it’s confidence. The song is bold and uncomprosing with big, ambitous riffs and meandering synth chords. Despite this, the beat and style of the song remain unmoved. A song that goes big, but stays on point. 

There are spacious and dramatic expanses with ‘Celestial Creatures’ with cacophony of electronica in various packaged forms propelling the sound with an Industrial rough edge alongside spiralling, wiry sounds and rolling waves of sound. As these build and dominate the song, it almost heightens the senses as the song drags you up by the collar and into a different musical space altogether. ‘He The Colossus’ is a defiant and aggressive track that has echoes of Nine Inch Nails with it’s Industrial kick and edge, with driving riffs and heavily modulated beats and electronica. The tumbling percussion add a certain manic tendency to the progression of the song which is punchy and unrelenting it it’s driving power. ‘Eat Your Heart of Adonis’ is a song with a similar feel with heavily modulated synths forming the key part of the song and this time with distorted guitars trailing it. The bold, imposing guitars of the chorus echo that of Foals 2015 efforts, but with a greater deal of precision. Other tracks such as ‘Aplha Female’ are reminiscent of the electronic sounds of the late 1970’s, but with a sharper focus and with Indistrial guitars waiting in the wings. This sound encased within a funk methodology which defies logic on paper, but sounds so natural. Wild Beasts have definitely reached a new level with their sound on Boy King. It is full of bold sounds and with bags of confidence and self-belief, even a musical arrogance in their abilities. This confidence shines through here and this kind of album is the result of a talented group giving themselves the freedom to change and hone their sound by producing server all great albums already. They are the perfect example of why music should never stand still.

Wild Beasts – Boy King = 9/10 

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Wild Beasts – Big Cat


With their fifth album Boy King arriving next month, Cumbria’s Wild Beasts have released their second single from what is expected to be another strong showing from the quartet off the back of Present Tense in 2014. ‘Big Cat’ is a song that continues the group on their dark electro-rock path from the album’s first single ‘Get My Bang’ with its smooth progressions and crisp instrumentation on top of that. Whirring, modulated synths act as the former and sharp riffs the latter. Hayden Thorpe’s tuneful utterances give the song an added fluidity and sense of effortlessness. The new smooth and slick Wild Beasts are a iteration that could reap the rewards later in the year.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Wild Beasts – Get My Bang

The very talented Cumbrian quartet that is Wild Beasts are back with their follow up to their brilliant fourth album Present Tense from 2014 with Boy King which is expected on August 5th. The initial single from it is ‘Get My Bang’ which sees them drop the whirring, Art-Rock Psychedelica of two years ago for a more compact piece of Dark Pop. Heavily distorted bass elements and electronica are met with crisp percussion and undulating anti-melodies that fall from Hayden Thorpe’s quivering vocals. The track is clear and bold with stocky sounds playing off slick pop melodies with Hayden’s often mysterious vocals spilling from it all. It is another change of direction from the group that sees various genres and styles fitting together as if they were destined to. A definite contender for album of the year.

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.

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.

 

Wild Beasts – Present Tense Review

 

Wild Beasts from Kendal are on to their fourth album now and with each of the previous three, they have set a high bar for themselves. To continue with their success, adaptation and imagination is key to keep on reinventing themselves and this will need to be done with Present Tense. They have talked of pushing further with the electronic angle from 2011’s Smother and putting a more complex and aggressive slant upon it. After previously saying they were suffering from burnout with their third album and subsequent world tour; they have now had a decent amount of time to get Present Tense down and perfected so expect an album of high standards and refinement.

‘Wanderlust’ was the first track to be released off the album and came out in the last week of February. It opens with the steady bursts of classic synthesizers that remain an ever-present throughout in conjunction with the spring-echo of the percussion as the vocals samples and modes float alongside. The vocals are not recorded at full volume and the slight echo makes them feel cool and at ease as they slowly take the song along and string the parts together. The instrumentals see the synths grab the songs hook and pulls back towards the songs finale with the repeated vocals. The soft production of the primary vocal and melody is offset brilliantly by the more dense and isolated sounds of the driving synths in the background. ‘Sweet Spot’ begins with the subtle labouring riff that transforms into a more solid riff that offers a greater hook. The airy and ghostly backing vocals that open out and expand the songs space and integrate  with the main vocal that sits in the middle ground and adds balance to the instrumentals. The build up and let down of sounds and elements enhances the ease of the atmospheric tones the reverberate throughout the whole track. This is done with the heavy beams of the synth and is brought to it’s depth with the refrain of the guitars and the minimal arrangement of the vocal and percussion. The tone change is smoothly changed with the soft phasing of the synths to pull the song neatly back into the chorus and back to the source of the melody and rhythmic hooks. Such methods always work, but they have been tweaked to the finest aspects. Intuitive and creative takes on typical methods.

That rich and lingering atmosphere opens up ‘Mecca’ before winding the song up and sending it into a driving and pulsating synths track which is heavy on the percussion and has a dense and deep rooted bass line to rotate the rhythm and the groove. This allows the synths to shoot out from it. The conclusion starts with the spikey guitars that feed the song towards a culmination of vocals and synths before slowly peeling away the elements and ending in the same subdued and considered fashion it started. ‘New Life’ begins with two whirring synths at high and low pitches. The deep vocal matches it and delivers the lyrics in a more tragic and uneasy fashion. From this position it is set up for a perfect manipulation of sounds as the tearing guitar riff rips across and then as the modulated keys ever so slowly gather up pace to allow the percussion in and to allow the vocals to build. Each element slowly taking it’s place as the guitars come back in and the sounds begin to draw away from their source and expand so wonderfully in a patient and gradual fashion before slowly fading away again. ‘Nature Boy’ has a low depth and gritty sound about it’s electronica and from the lead vocal. The feather like backing vocals floating from it, but being unable to uproot the song from it’s deep standing. ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ is a well placed piece of retro leaning electro-pop. The soft lapping and shimmering of the conflicting synths. The crisp riffs and bass lines enhancing it along with the pop like melodies, lyrics and delivery. You get dramatic and darker tracks such as ‘Daughters’ and the pure melodic events of ‘Past Perfect’. There is a wide spectrum of genres being reinterpreted and re-explored while some new events being forged through painstaking structuring and production and probably recording as well. The album together is a magnificent string of tracks with peaks and troughs all perfectly placed with a whole range of production methods from the beautiful building up of sound to the crisp and hook filled affairs. One of the albums of the year.

Wild Beasts – Present Tense = 9/10

File:Wild Beasts - Present Tense.jpg

Images from http://en.wikipedia.org / www.theguardian.com