Single Reviews – Father John Misty – Ballad of the Dying Man, Two Widely Different Perspectives 

Joshua Tillman a.k.a Father John Misty will release his third studio album Pure Comedy on April 7th and has released two tracks this week to follow up on the release of the title track of the album the week before. Seemingly, he is taking the role of a by-standing narrator for the world around him, a world which he believes is becoming so far fetched that it’s at best hilarious and at worst terrifying. In what is to be a very political album, he lays his attack on everyone and that “we’re all complicit” for the state of the world today and suggested that we all have a lot of questions to ask ourselves. No one is really safe from Tillman’s narrative and that’s what makes it so fixating. 

‘The Ballad of the Dying Man’ is an example of such writing. That he writes each song in a distinctly American songbook style only heightens the irony on which his lyrics thrive. Amongst the flowing piano chords, stringed together with gentle acoustic strumming are his swipes at the ‘homophobes, hipsters and one percent’ and the idea that a dying man would check his news feed on his last breath. Bold and uncomfortable lyrics encased in this familiar and warm sound is what makes this song and his recent catalogue of music as a whole. With ‘Two Widely Different Perspectives’ he swipes at the common topic of war and division. He places his verses in two parts with each a comparison that brands both sides the same. With both tracks we can see how his vocals are even stronger than two years ago and is developing a style somewhere between Harry Nilsson and Paul Simon; a comparison in part for he is his own artist, but something he’s becoming worthy of. 

Owen Riddle 

American Football – LP2 Review 

The date is October 21st. The doorbell rings. I wake up in a cold sweat. Tears are quite literally pouring out of my eyes before I have even opened them. I might have actually wet myself. I peel my sticky carcass out of bed, tumbling to the front door, running towards the Amazon delivery driver like a wife running to a husband who has just returned from war. I open the door, sign for the delivery. I try to say “thanks” but all I can do is sort of scream and cry and whimper all at once before slamming the door in his moustachioed face. I’m sorry about that, Amazon delivery man. I truly am.

The reason for this outburst of emotion? The driving force behind me being so excited I was literally unable to function at a basic human level, possibly damaging the hearing of an innocent Amazon delivery driver beyond repair in the process? Today is the day. A day myself and every other emo music fan has waited 17 long, painful years for. Today is the day American Football finally release their sophomore album, American Football LP2. I’m not crying, I promise…

I listen to the record immediately, approximately eighteen times, before I can even begin to form a coherent thought about it. This is like all my Christmases and birthdays at once, except instead of being wrapped in shiny paper, my wishes come inside a cardboard sleeve, in the the form of a beautiful emo album with math rock-influenced guitars and gorgeous vocal melodies.

My personal highlights are singles ‘Give Me The Gun’, ‘I’ve Been So Lost For So Long’ and ‘Desire Gets In The Way’, along with album tracks ‘Home Is Where The Haunt Is’ and ‘My Instincts Are My Enemy’. Each track feels significant on its own, telling a story that doesn’t need to rest on the songs it’s embedded in-between to be important, but also fusing together superbly to create an incredibly emotive narrative. I am immediately spellbound. Nothing comes close to this feeling. This band have meant the world to me for four years, and after being privileged enough to experience one of their live shows in Leeds last year, I have been hoping and praying for another album every day. It certainly lives up to my expectations. In the beginning.

Admittedly, after those initial listens, something does feel amiss. Gone are the sparse lyrics detailing break-ups and the warm, nostalgic sound that the first album captured so well. In their place are more ambitious arrangements, focusing on themes of loss and feeling lost, times changing and growing older. The lyrics are no longer so thinly spread, but not necessarily sincerer as a result. While these changes could be considered developments- purely a result of the fact American Football aren’t teenagers anymore, and higher production values creating a more polished sound, the charm of American Football LP1 just isn’t there.

After debating for hours and hours what the real issue I have with this album is- an album I want to love with every fibre of my being, and for the most part do, I realize- the problem isn’t the album, it’s me. LP1 came to me at a time when frank, heart-shattering break-up songs were exactly what little, lost, teenage me needed to hear. LP2 feels distant, mature, scary- a reminder that nothing stays the same forever. I was a teenager, and now I’m not. I’m an actual grown up now. Or at least I’m getting there. American Football have grown up, becoming what they were always destined to be, without forgetting their roots, and while it feels strange and alienating at first, it’s a change I can now welcome with open arms. It’s time for me to grow up too. It’s fine to hang onto those albums you love from the past, but at some point you have to let go of the feelings you associate with them in order to grow. I suppose the moral of this all is: it’s OK to grow up and change, and even better if you manage to create a create a couple of brilliant emo rock albums on the way.

American Football – LP2 = 9/10

Katie Hayes

Single Review – Kings of Leon – Walls

Walls is the seventh studio album from Nashville’s Kings of Leon and it’s coming for October 14th. With this in mind, the now hardened rockers have unveiled the title track to follow up from the premiere single ‘Waste A Moment’. As opposed to their driving lead single, ‘Walls’ is a slow burning, acoustic number with piano chords hanging predictably from each guitar string pluck. On occasion the song is expanded with piercing lead guitars and reverberating sounds that echo into the song’s larger expanses. The intimacy remains however and between the crossroads of the two atmospheres is Caleb’s assured and dominant vocals, easily commanding the track and the lyrics. It is an eloquent and cosy track, yet this can’t be the standard of the album of course. So far, we can say they have another solid effort on their hands, but hopefully they’ll be a higher level of praise for Walls than that come October 14th.

Owen Riddle

Noname – Telefone Review 

It seems like the phrase “Chicago born rapper” is quickly becoming a mute term simply because of the sheer number of interesting artists coming out of the city. Noname now adds her name to the list alongside the likes of Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins (who she has collaborated with on their respective albums) and Saba. In these collaborations Noname didn’t quite standout as an obvious “next big thing” on the Chicago rap scene and this was probably down to her very understated, relaxed and down to earth delivery. Never in your face or trying outdo anyone, noname comes across in a very relatable fashion and now that she has room to breathe in her first solo effort we can really get a feel for who noname is.

 Her personality is unsurprisingly reflected even more so in her intimate lyrics and production style. These two elements contrast on certain tracks like “Casket Pretty”, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Shadow Man” where the super sweet production style is matched with deep emotional topics. In the former she raps about the racial violence in Chicago. Scared to even pick up the phone, she hopes her “casket pretty” friends will make it home alive. “Shadow Man” too touches on some of these aspects as noname, Saba and Smino take turns in describing their own funerals. “Bye Bye Baby” is the closest noname gets to a ballad as piano chords accompany her as she talks us through her feelings after having an abortion saying she can’t wait for a “play date up in heaven soon/ Soon I will see the King/ He reminds me/ Some give presents before they’re even ready”. 

 Noname doesn’t always take herself so seriously though and tracks like the aptly named “Sunny Duet” is both warm, sweet and catchy with its acapella-like riff and lyrics about a former crush of hers. Noname keeps it light hearted on the follow up track “Diddy Bop”, in which she takes us down her childhood memory lane when her “whole neighbourhood did the diddy bop”. Musically smooth, laid back and uplifting it encapsulates the album perfectly.

  However, comparisons between Noname and Chance will inevitably be drawn considering their stylistic similarities and in some ways she could improve by having a more engaging rapping style like Chance. Although her understated style is part of her charm, she could perhaps be a little more engaging without losing out on that element. The only other fault on “Telefone”, despite it’s extremely good production value is its small rare losses in sharpness although this can be excused on a debut mixtape. Yet, this is just nit-picking and it is hard to criticise the mixtape since it’s so full of her infectious happiness and personality.  

Noname – Telefone = 8.5/10

Callum Christie

Single Review – Beach House – Sparks

The Baltimore Dream Pop duo that is Beach House return with a new single from their upcoming fifth studio album Depression Cherry which is expected on August 28th. ‘Sparks’ is that single and it is another development on the sounds featured on their 2012 album Bloom. The washed out and faded vocals of Victoria Legrand are torn through by a shredding guitar riff before embarking on the awkwardly meandering rhythms of the warping organs. This rhythm is then met with the highly wistful and echoed vocals with the occasional shred of a riff leading the song on. They are masters of the Dream Pop genre and just demonstrate it here.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love Review

The New Zealand/American psych-rock trio return with their third studio album titled Multi-Love and we’ve said so many times before, the second album is about setting the foundations of credibility after the first but the third is about going beyond that and being creative and making your mark. The fuzzed out Lo-fi of II from 2013 was a good follow-up to their self titled debut, but there’s plenty of Lo-fi psych floating around at the moment and it’s something that Ruban Nielson’s group had to shake up with Multi-Love.

The title track is wonderfully subtle and effortlessly smooth in it’s progression and melody. It is a lesson in swift and slick instrumental progressions from the minimalistic introduction with the organs in isolation with Ruban’s vocal; slightly wistful and fading, yet still with power and confidence behind it. The song then picks up the percussion and muted bass-line as the vocals rise in a controlled fashion, within the framework of the instrumentation. The song easily falls away into those sparse moments with the soft, warping guitars and the subtle tones from the vocals. It’s a song that defines versatility and control in how the shifts in the song remained relevant and made sense in relation to the rest of the track and was quite simply beautifully delivered and presented. ‘Ur Life One Night’ is deliberately less crisp in it’s production and the whole song is delivered through a divulging warp that highlights the songs depths, accentuating the heavy bass as the rest of the instrumentation clicks and snaps in it’s rhythm to make for a catchy and hook-laden track despite the blurring of the sound. Through this production filtration, the vocals rise through it to deliver the melodic latchings. It’s a track of dual quality and dual ability in delivering a rhythmic yet atmospherically challenging sound.

‘Can’t Keep Checking my Phone’ comes in with the groove laden hooks and the shimmering percussion and airy riffs whilst going on to bring forth electronica to enthuse the track and enhance the song’s hooks. At times it moves on from it’s mellow rhythm and has shades of a stylish dance track reminiscent of Hot Chip to form another dynamic track. ‘The World is Crowded’ continues this in a similar fashion, but with more clearer and spacious production. ‘Stage or Screen’ is a little more reflective of their previous body of work, but it still maintains the versatile production of the rest of the album as it moves in and out of focus and clarity to give a seemingly simple track more character and contemplative quality. ‘Puzzles provides a heavier variation on the album with the distortion stuffed riffs and grinding rhythm sections set around an otherwise spacious and minimalistic instrumentation. Tracks such as ‘Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty’ offer up a more breezy intersect amongst the heady and meandering styles and as an album Multi-Love has to be their best yet and shows Unknown Mortal Orchestra to be a band that has the potential for great versatility and dynamism amongst their sounds and the confidence to try out these variations within their tracks, nevermind their album. When this is coupled with the intelligent and wonderfully slick production, then there is very little critique you can throw their way.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love = 8.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Foo Fighters – Something From Nothing

Foo Fighters
Rock heavyweights, the Foo Fighters have released the first single to arrive from their upcoming eighth studio album Sonic Highways and they as they pay homage to the cornerstones of American music identity, they start off with Chicago in ‘Something From Nothing’. The tracks opens with a lapping and slightly distorted riff and Grohl’s slightly muted and broken up vocal. It then sets about a step by step build up in sound with the clear and crisp vocals, the whining lead riffs, percussion and bolder, scathing rhythms. At the same time, the song’s rhythms starts to accelerate before being ushered in by Dave’s trademark furious scream into a pit of raging and flashing rhythms, bass lines and lead parts along with a now pounding percussion. It’s a great tribute to the scale of the Foo Fighters, brought to bear in one track. Not a huge divergence, but the story to the track and whole album is indelible and it’s the Foo Fighters at their best; setting you up slowly and hitting you with a musical sucker punch. Their HBO series that’s running alongside the album is underway in the states and will start on BBC Four on October 26th

Single Review – The Franklys – Puppet

The Franklys are an all girl quartet hailing from the UK, US and Sweden and are based in London. Their debut single ‘Puppet’ is out on April 7th and it is a fantastic piece of garage nostalgia enthused with small pop hints that adds a further dimension to the track which features a gritty punk riff along with a razor sharp lead riff. The vocal is evocative of Siouixsie Sioux in many ways with the hint of aggression wrapped around a cool and easiness of a bold 60’s garage vocalist. The song is full of hooks, handclaps and snarling gestures all rolled into one. It completes some key but pretty basic function in that you can sing a long with it easily, it has a simple structure and rhythm that you can dance along to and it also encourages you to go wild and I imagine this track being a real crowd pleaser at their shows or in a club. Speaking of which, they played the aptly named The Garage in London yesterday and go on to play at New Cross Inn on March 22nd and launch their single on April 2nd at The Barfly before heading to the well known Good Mixer in London on the 26th of April. If you are nearby then please attend as if this song is anything to go by; it will be well worth it.

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