Manchester Orchestra – Cope

Four albums in and Manchester Orchestra have hit their stride but they’ve also put the band firmly into cruise control, choosing to maintain the success built mostly by previous albums Mean Everything to Nothing and Simple Math. With Cope, however, there is bags of potential and enough to enjoy – pleasing fans but probably not garnering the plaudits they deserve.

The minimalist approach they affected on Simple Math has been done away with and it’s back to the big riffs to accompany the dour lyrics of Andy Hull. This is no more prevalent than on title track ‘Cope’, closing out the album with prison-wall sized blasts of guitar which give way to reflective, mute strums and piano. “And I hope if there is one thing I’ve let go it is the way that we cope” is the slightly ambiguous line on which the feeling of the album rests. Is he telling us that their attitude has become more bullish or even less able to cope with the world?

The hooks shown on previous albums, and the introspection therein, are in full force on tracks like ‘Mansion’ and the towering opener ‘Top Notch’ where we’re told: “All that I know’s there’s no way to fix it”. Given that this band seems set partway between Brand New and Jimmy Eat World, it’s unsurprising that these are intelligent yet catchy tunes.

‘Choose You’ and ‘Every Stone’ play to for carefree attitude despite the luckless and sulky lyrics. They essentially carry the torch for the pop-punk generation of the previous decade, who will have now grown out of their long fringes and their emo stereotype, and want music which reflects the sound of the youth without the drama.

On the second half of the album comes a surprise in ‘Trees’, which shows off a harder side. They borrow somewhat from Middle Class Rut with this song about wanting to standing tall but finding it tough in current times. It’s not new in the grand scheme of music, but shows a more fearsome side to what this band can achieve.

If every band is allowed to get away with one slightly more phoned-in album then this is Manchester Orchestra’s. If they were to step back, take the positive things from each of their previous albums then they might have the powerful, conquering record the fans know is possible. Then again, being somewhat shy and retiring, they might not care for that limelight anyway.

Picture:Gibson Claire McGuire Regester

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We Are Scientists – TV en Francais

Given the fact that their single ‘After Hours’ from album Brain Trust Mastery did so well, getting them to number 15 in the charts, you’d think that their label might put a bit more behind We Are Scientists now. Whether it was a one-off or not is still a question up in the air, but their latest effort TV en Francais proves that they’re still happily doing what they do best.

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Hospitality – Trouble


It’s not often fledgling indie darlings get a chance to spread their creative wings but Hospitality have taken their second album, Trouble, and used it bravely as a platform to explore something beyond their niche.

This album sounds like wings spreading, with a variety of landscapes on offer. ‘Last Words’ comes nearer the end of the album but is one of the stand out tracks, using organic piano against swelling synth much like Bon Iver on his second album, while opener ‘Nightingale’ is both brazen and hushed in equal measure, verging on blues rock akin to The Black Keys just as they broke a few albums back.

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Warpaint – Warpaint

You couldn’t accuse Warpaint of short-changing fans. Their follow up to The Fool, an album which gained cult acclaim, is a self-titled effort which, while hardly surprising in its contents, is slow-going and not an immediate banker – but they never promised you the world.

This is a band which was formed in 2004 and are only now, 10 years in, releasing their second full LP. Despite that, they stick to their guns, forming songs from almost psychedelic jams. ‘Keep It Healthy’ displays those eerie, reverb-soaked vocals from Emily Kokal and has a skittering drum heart despite the wig-out going on around them. From here, though, it’s something of an assortment: half-jams, half-songs, half-high – everything is undercooked, which worked the first time around but leaves some songs on this album only half-formed.

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Broken Bells – After The Disco

The unlikely pairing of James Mercer and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) has yielded yet another understated album. Most partnerships of this ilk are very sink-or-swim, but this follow up to Mercer and Burton’s self-titled release, aptly named After The Disco, sees the pairing hit a nice, smooth breast-stroke.

With such prestigious previous work under their belts from their own projects, you could probably throw a lot of waffle around about how this doesn’t match up to the indie-cool of The Shins or that this is just another mainstream vessel for Burton. But that wouldn’t do justice to these guys as a band. With a second album release, there is obviously some intent from them to be seen as such, and so they must be judged as such.

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Swearin’ – Surfing Strange

Following up their solid self-titled debut, Swearin’ give us another swampy chunk of 90s alternative rock with their second album Surfing Strange. It’s all in the title, really; this is a collection of fuzzy jams for the 90s-loving, beach-hopping slacker.

If you take a listen to the infectious opener ‘Dust in the Gold Sack’ (hint: best song of the album) and think that it sounds quite similar in tone to Waxahatchee’s latest release then you’re on to something. Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, is sister of Allison Crutchfield, the singer here. She shares vocals duties on this album. If you could imagine Waxahatchee with a full band then it would probably sound like Surfing Strange, with lines like “Daylight and night on the turnpike/ like the crunch of the black ice and the buzz of the summer”.

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White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

With each passing album, White Denim sound more confident in what they’re doing, and while for some artists that would be a bad thing, for these Texans it helps them to hone their grooves and provide a strategic punch. If there is an album to showcase both their musical prowess as well as their penchant for a tune, then Corsicana Lemonade is it.

This band has gone from a garage, experimental rock sound to the kind of psychedelic rock you’ll hear on ‘At Night in Dreams’. Where Workout Holiday and Fits had them tumbling end over end, this album flies a lot sharper and to the point. It won’t seem straight-forward if you’re a top 40 devotee but ‘New Blue Feeling’ is a far more reserved, short song with comforting lines.

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Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

For a folk singer-songwriter from Wales, Cate Le Bon does a good job of avoiding being what you’d traditionally expect. Her third album, Mug Museum, a psychedelic pop record which blows between hazy wigouts and 60s Parisian pop, is an upwards move for her.

The last statement needs quantifying; take a listen to album opener ‘I Can’t Help You’ or it’s slinking follow up ‘Are You With Me Now?‘. You can just see her lounging outstretched in a hotel in Paris, taking a long drag on a cigarette. While her voice only seems to have one tone and level of volume, she can hold your attention just through the sheer originality of her accent. Tom Jones never actually sounds Welsh when he sings, so hearing Cate Le Bon feels much like she’s singing songs written by Serge Gainsbourg.

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Blitzen Trapper – VII

Blitzen Trapper have been a consistent band for many years now, the formula would have you believe that by their seventh album, aptly titled VII, they should be cashing in on that solidity. For now however they seem content to riff, shuffle and stomp their way onwards at an even pace.

That doesn’t mean that they haven’t evolved slightly though, with their previous two albums, American Goldwing and Destoryer Of The Void, had a slightly 70s FM friendly style of country rock, now they have taken a modern tact, using turntable scratches to that country blues. While it would be farfetched to say this album was rap or hip-hop it does borrow some of the ingenuity you might be more likely to find on an early Gorillaz album. Perhaps it is the jump from Sub Pop to Vagrant Records (Lojinx in Europe) which has brought them to this point.

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