Single Review – St. Vincent – New York

‘New York’ is the new single from Annie Clark’s St. Vincent. It looks set to tigger the steady stream of new material from Annie towards a fifth album off the back of an eponymous fourth album that was genre mixing and experimental. It was a bold and defining album for 2014 and one of the few fresh guitar featured albums. With her new single however, there are no traces of her guitar work for it is largely a dymanic piano ballad. It is a purely emotive affair, which is something that was beat out of us in the maze of Annie’s observations and racing thoughts red years ago. The piano chords are enthused by bracing strings and a oscillating drum machine beat. Once Annie’s half falsetto joins the fray, it makes for a track of graceful progressions. This earnest and vulnerable version of St. Vincent flies in the face of her bold, swaggering experiments of 2014. Though I doubt this sound will feature throughout a new album, this is a style St. Vincent delivers beautifully. 

Owen Riddle

Sunday Suggestion – St Vincent – Marrow

St Vincent (Annie Clark) has received huge critical acclaim with her most recent effort and rightly so as far as I’m concerned. Her self titled fourth album was sublime, showcasing a hugely talented artist at work. The progression from her debut album Marry Me from 2007 and to St. Vincent this year is clear and her style was really honed and refined with songs such as Marrow from her second album Actor from 2009. The eerie lyrical twists and turns of the track are surrounded by a very sparse set up with distantly wailing vocals along with a pulse-like drum beat and gently scratching guitars. This sets the song up perfectly for the shot of Clark’s heavily reverberating and fuzzy guitar as she urgently spells out for help. These swift switches of sound are carried off with such an effortlessness. She also controls her vocals as opposed to screaming over the noise and places them just ahead of the raging guitars. Not only does this maintain the songs surreal feel, but it also accentuates the fuzzy guitar bursts. A profound and well formed track and she’d go on to do even more.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – White Denim – Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)

 

The multi-genre and multi-layered Austin quartet that is White Denim are returning on March 25th with their seventh studio album Stiff. The band is known for their organic home recordings that add a sense of authenticity to their sound and a better correlation to their live performances. Their new single ‘Ha ha ha ha (Yeah)’ continues this method of recording as the band utilise a more Jazz and Funk induced sound which effectively has the guitars revving up through the chords. It is a track stuffed full of energy and natural groove whilst James Petralli offers up that slick vigour behind his vocals that simply add to the strong hooks flowing through the track. Another sound that White Denim have captured brilliantly.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

EP Review – Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia

The legends that are the Foo Fighters only go on to further their on-going perception as the nicest band around with their new free five track EP. St Cecilia is named after the hotel in Austin, Texas that they recorded these five tracks at and the Saint is the patron saint of musicians of course. The band also dedicated the EP to the victims of the Paris attacks, something which Dave Grohl’s friend Josh Homme was caught up in at the Bataclan theatre that night.

 

The EP in general is the band at their classic best with euphoric song progressions and heavyweight melodies and this is demonstrated best on the title track. The track swings from the rhythmic hooks of the chorus to the bulkier sections of the verses where the guitars are given a more free reign. Dave and Taylor Hawkins team up again for their trademark harmonies that run through the whole track to complete a optimistic piece of music. ‘Sean’ is a track echoing their earlier, rapid sound with an added kick behind it. ‘Savoir Breath’ is a keen play on words and is a track bordering on Heavy Metal which the band relishes in as we’ve seen in their documentary album Sonic Highways from last year. ‘Iron Rooster’ provides a change of pace in a more simple acoustic setting for a more considered and reflective track with Grohl’s vocals accompanied by a neatly places riffs and piano chords. ‘The Neverending Sigh’ is brilliant piece of unrestricted hard rock music with the riffs hitting peak after peak and the rhythm unrelenting in it’s pace.

 

For a free EP, Saint Cecilia is well worth getting your hands on as the Foo Fighters deliver some nuggets of their classic sound and indulge in a few variations too.

 

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim Review

Gary Clark Jnr is back, the singer and guitarist from Texas brings us his new album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, bringing his distinctive smooth vocals and distorted guitars back. This is Clark’s sophomore effort and there is certainly no perceptible slump, tackling subjects such as personal lust to the state of black America; Clark brings to the table a no holds barred look into his mind.

What Clark has managed to do is move away from the ‘stereotypical’ sound of the south, that rock and blues sound that epitomizes the geographical area from Texas to the Mississippi. What we have here is an evolution in Clarks own production, merging blues/rock with hip hop/r’n’b Clark has bridged genres, something that will be of benefit to him in the future when it comes to collaborations and cross overs but more importantly his own musical journey. The first track Clark bestows upon us is Healing, a fuzzy, distorted blues number, that transports the listener to the overwhelming, fetid heat of the deep south, setting the path for the musical journey that is about to begin. Tracks such as the second on the album, ‘Grinder’, bring us electrify guitar solos on the back of Clarks smooth vocals. The album, through its cross collaboration of musical styles brings the listener more than just rock/blues from the deep south, tracks such as ‘Love’ and ‘Church’ slow the pace, keeping within the overall essence of the album, but allowing the listener to sit back without the ferocious guitar licks of early tracks. Throughout the whole album there is a sense of an organic natural progression from Clark, a more sophisticated approach, a melding pot of different musical genres coming together all with the signature sound that Clark brings. The gentle ebb and flow of the album allowing the listener to gain a better grasp of the musical ideology of Clark, allowing him to showcase his productions skills alongside his sublime vocal talent. Although the album doesn’t continue the rousingly fuzzy and distorted sounds at the beginning it does keep the pace of the album moving, Clark making use of different styles, bringing instruments such as the harmonica in to the fold, allowing the album to move forward without being held back by the sounds and style he has become well known for. That’s not to say their isn’t plenty of deep south inspired sounds, none more so than on ‘Stay’, but it does a allow the album to take on a more mature and sophisticated approach. Throughout the album the one of the standout areas being Clarks vocals, none more so than on the laid back ‘Cold Blooded’, backed by subtle brass sounds and deep rolling drums Clark showcases his excellent vocal talents.

As a whole the album is a very good listen, a very sophisticated approach by an artist that will only keep on improving. The sounds achieved more than just the distorted guitars that Clark has become renowned for. The ambience and soundscapes created could almost transport the listener to a hot, muggy night in the deep south. The way in which Clark has created an cohesive album, each song fitting together, yet each distinct enough to stand up on there own is something which should be applauded. Clark well and truly takes us on his own personal musical journey, one in which the listener can submerge themselves in, and truly appreciate Clarks musical ideology.

Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim = 8/10

Matthew Kay

Single Review – Gary Clark Jr. – Church

Gary Clark Jr is an American guitarist/singer who was born in Austin, Texas who began playing guitar at an early age playing small local gigs in his teens before meeting Clifford Antone, propertier of the Austin music club Antones. Clark’s musical trademarks are his distorted guitar sound and smooth vocals citing a variety of different genres such as blues, jazz, soul and country as his musical influences. With his debut album Blak And Blu he has just become the first artist ever recognized by the Recording Academy with Grammy Award nominations in both the rock and R&B categories for the same album in the same year, winning the latter: Best Traditional R&B Performance – “Please Come Home”(from the album Blak And Blu).

Both a fantastic singer and guitarist his latest offering to tantalise with his slick vocals and distorted guitar is the single Church, with an expected release date of early September. A clear homage to his musical influences, Church is an excellent example of Clark at his best, sizzling electric guitars pierce through laidback, rolling drums underpinning the very essence of the track. Clarks passion and energy for the music he produces clearly transpires onto his latest track, creating an emotive ambience that pushes the boundaries of the stereotypical solo guitarist come singer, opening up a sense of limitless creativity that plays such as vital role in Clarks musical ethos. The smooth vocals perfectly capture the intensity of Clarks voice; only adding to the emotiveness created by the music and adds a whole new dimension to the song. Clarks vocal ability is exceptional and his lyrical prowess a real addition to his work, with the ability to put so much passion into his music, his lyrics making him stand out from other writers and musicians, making his music more and more effortlessly stylish. Throughout the track it’s clear to see that Clark has a passion for his music with his ability to portray his emotions through his songs making him a more and more popular artist. The track itself is emblazoned with instruments that clearly relate to his own musical influences, harmonicas are brought in and out throughout, creating that link to country, yet as always keeping with Clark’s own style. His ability to effortlessly create his own niche in an often over saturated singer/songwriter genre a key and unique ability within his work.

Throughout this track Clark offers up a fantastic piece of music that not only plays well but allows the listener to getter a deeper incite into the workings of the artist. The track clearly has influence of genres such as country and blues, but through Clarks unique style allows the artist to stamp his own mark on it. It is this ability to transfer his energy and passion into his music that allows it to stand out in an often over commercialized genre, that can become unoriginal and stagnant. With Church, Clark once more has proven his credentials as an excellent and emphatic singer and musician.

Matthew Kay

Single Review – Neon Indian – Slumlord

The Texas based electronic outfit return with the announcement of their third studio album VEGA INTL. Night School set for a October 16th release. The new track from the album is the funky ‘Slumlord’ with features a more groove orientated disco and space rock sound with a electronic tinge that guides the opening of the track as the rhythm is forged from the warping and distorted chords. From there it is taken over by a rolling bass line, poppy synths and the soft, easy listening vocals of Alan Palomo who looks to have moved Neon Indian to a more retro themed sound, away from the modern chillwave of their last album.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Encountering St. Vincent – Gateshead Sage

On the 27th August I experienced first hand the marvel and enigma that is Annie Clark a.k.a St. Vincent. One of the most spectacular events that you could experience in combining her truly innovative and ground breaking music with striking theatrics, effects and coolly executed dramatics. These were evident from the off as the synth bounces of ‘Rattlesnake’ hit the applause and St. Vincent strolled on to carry out a series of poses and stances before a urgent and crisp delivery of the track whilst moving on to ‘Digital Witnesses’ with all it’s live intricacies and detail of each strike of her guitar and slick presentation that is occasionally intercepted by Wiry and metallic guitar solos, which are delivered with ease. She went on to engage the audience by guessing the nickname for the people of “Newcastle slash Gateshead” was “Peaches” and that their favourite word was “osteology” which we might use in reference to “sex, food and music” and with the audience sort of nervously hanging on every word; she went on to make the subtle point that we’re all the same as we all hope. Words as simple as anything but made more potent and thought provoking like St. Vincent does with her music. Classic tracks like ‘Cruel’ and ‘Marrow’ were delivered with the biggest and boldest transitions between the song’s subdued distance and towards the heavily distorted, yet direct riffs as she shuffled her feet in a manic fashion in unison with the strobe lights to make it seem she was almost hovering. All of this while she was still wresting with her guitar at the same time. A sight to behold.
 
She went on to talk about accidently stealing from Tesco or Sainsbury’s and setting fire to a neighbourhood with a magnifying glass with a real sinister yet comic tinge, before concluding “Shit man, that’s life”. Her marvellous song range then swept through ‘Laughing with a Mouth of Blood’, ‘Surgeon’ and ‘Actor Out Of Work’ before delivering ‘Cheerleader’ with a huge kick and a punch as the track pounded it’s way towards the chorus as she smoothly slipped into the mysterious and almost tragic nostalgia of ‘Prince Johnny’, which she delivered from atop her podium, standing bold and high above the stage and audience. Of course this ended with her haunting slither down her podium, encased with flashing lights and wailing synths. This uneasy and temporary inertia was soon broken by the synchronised moves of Clark and the rest of her band to the warped distortion of ‘Birth In Reverse’ and ‘Regret’. The latter extended the pause to about ten seconds and it was nearly a lifetime (or it felt as such) before she broke her freeze and continued with the song’s conclusion. ‘Huey Newton’ was still able to stand out amongst an entire set list of quite simply huge tracks. The meandering first half of the track was obliterated by the grinding, distorted drive of the second half, that featured quaking guitars that completely rattled you in the most thrilling way imaginable. Time to catch your breath is fleeting as the rapid tinged insanity of ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ fired and shot it’s way at your senses. As if in a wonderful paradox or perfect manipulation, the show or event was concluded by the lone St. Vincent playing out ‘Strange Mercy’ on her podium. Then with a bow she was off. That was it. It felt a little too fast as it would when you become completely immersed in something. Immersed in music for the first time without the comfort of my headphones or speakers in my room, but with the natural sounds enveloping me. No artist I have seen has ever done that and I think it’s the ultimate compliment to St. Vincent I can give. I was sat down throughout, but you had to be. It craved your undivided attention as she had given her undivided effort and imagination to it. It may sound so boringly cliché but it had a profound effect on me. I’m still having flashbacks…

Single Review – Spoon – Do You

The long running band from Austin, Texas; Spoon are back with another single off their upcoming eighth studio album with They Want My Soul which is out on August 5th. ‘Do You’ is a laid back and simple track with light hearted vocal ‘doo’s’, light and muted rotating rhythms to make up the song’s basic structure to feed back into the vocal instrumentals and for lead guitar parts to fill over it predictably. The vocal sits above it well and carries a lot of the song’s life. It isn’t a great song by any means and ‘Rent I Pay’ has a little more about it. It is a pleasant one nonetheless.