Tag Archives: review

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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John Frusciante – Outsides

If you thought John Frusciante had ceased to make music then you are very much in the wrong. While what he does won’t register on most people’s radars he seems more dedicated to the craft than ever. Outsides is his third record in just over a year. Granted this is one of two EP treats, but given the gap between 2009’s excellent The Empyrean and 2012’s Letur-Lefur this is something of a splurge.

With each new piece of music he creates Frusciante details his process and mind-set for it. What he is acting out now he isn’t part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are his own personal thought-experiments. The time spent with his chum Omar Rodriquez Lopez has clearly left an impression as he is still pushing forward with the synth and electronica mayhem heard on PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. This time his aim is to focus more on each note and each beat which would explain the over-bearing electronic drums.

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Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t know the meaning of taking things slow; the man never stops. With around 30 solo releases alone, the Mars Volta man has put his main band to bed – for now – in favour of Bosnian Rainbows, much to the disappointment of Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

This self-titled debut, then, is to be judged on the band as a whole. Of course, there are shades of Mars Volta but singer Teri Gender Bender is the star of the show, with her proggy, Kate Bush vocals smoothly twisting inside your ear canals. ‘The Eye Fell in Love’ is the catchiest track vocally, while measured guitars swim alongside foreboding synths.

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She & Him – Volume 3

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Zooey Deschanel was the newcomer, wowing film audiences. Her musical side-project, She & Him, with alt-folk master M. Ward, has never been taken that seriously. Now she is a powerhouse and you ought to be paying attention to Volume 3 as well. Of course, leading something of a pixie-girl revolution means there are a lot of twee moments on this album, and you can imagine some bright-eyed swaying going on. Waiting by the phone, crying into pillows and collecting four-leaf clovers is going to make most people’s stomachs turn.

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The Physics House Band – Horizon/Rapture

Sounding like a punch up in a video game arcade, The Physics House Band have no need for words or lyrics. With Horizon/Rapture, they burst onto the instrumental scene covering all kinds of ground with breakneck speed and precision.

Opener ‘ObeliskMonolith’ sounds like it will muddle through as a jam, with a rapping of the snare and warbling feedback. What it actually matures into is powerful head-banger. The mixture of synth with intricate guitar and explorative drumming is akin to that of The Mars Volta on their debut. ‘Abraxical Solapse’ eerily continues that trend, showing off just how tightly this band can play. The interplay between them suggests skills beyond their years.

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Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy – Album Review

Released 23 January 2012

It must be difficult standing by your principles, getting dropped by your label, fighting back and marching on only to be sorely underrated. Such is the fate of Nada Surf. Sure you’ve heard of them, even if you think you haven’t, ‘Popular’ was their “one-hit-wonder” moment. Or perhaps you were drawn to their cover of ‘If You Leave’ by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark which featured on the hit American TV series The OC.

Now, more than 10 years later and still going strong, they release their seventh studio album The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. The riffs are still just as tight and melodious as the choruses, especially when it comes to tracks like ‘Teenage Dreams’ (where Matthew Caws claims “Sometimes I ask the wrong questions but I get the right answers”) and the more mellow ‘Let the Fight Do the Fighting’ which asks for things to take their natural course in life. Both are hooky and original and if you aren’t singing along to these gems you might as well give up on this band right now.

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White Denim ‘Last Day Of Summer’ Review

Television advertisers must explode in their underwear every time White Denim release a new album. They produce fun, accessible music while remaining an obscure band (the perfect combination) and have already had several songs used for promoting cars and washing up detergents.

 Having only just released their third full album, D, this year another one might already seem odd. This, however, is a collection of odds and ends which was released in 2010 originally as a download only. Lucky for us then that it is now available in physical format.

Although these songs are meant to be scraps they stand up well as an album. The band once again pile together itchy, restless drumming with hooky melodies and jazzy jams. How these guys aren’t bigger is a mystery…and also something of a blessing. ‘Tony Fatti’ is the perfect example of what these guys do so well in terms of rock, and yet it doesn’t cover all of their bases. Continue reading

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Review: Smith & Burrows – Funny Looking Angels (Christmas Special)

Smith & Burrows. It sounds like a shoddy solicitors firm but in fact they’re muscians making a festive record – and you might know them better than you think. Tom Smith, lead singer for The Editors, and Andy Burrows, former Razorlight drummer, have teamed up to create Funny Looking Angels; a Christmas album for the modern day.

It’s half covers and half originals – but even the choice of covers is original. Instead of the usual covers you might find on a certain Mr Beiber’s Christmas album, Smith & Burrows select 80s pop tracks such as Black’s ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Only You’ by Yazoo. Neither of them are Christmas songs but get a wintery revival. Where synths once reigned, there is now harmonised backing vocals and open hall piano. Continue reading

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Review: Craig Finn (The Hold Steady) – Honolulu Blues

Released: Friday 2 December 2011

The name Craig Finn might not mean too much on its own, but say The Hold Steady and you’ll get a reaction. Finn is, after all, the driving force behind the bombastic American rock bar-band stories in The Hold Steady. Well, now he’s gone solo with an album due in January called Clear Heart Full Eyes. Is it the end of the band? Who knows, but if the single ‘Honolulu Blues’ is anything to go by the story-telling will continue. By himself, he makes less noise of course; the crashing pianos/organs are gone and the usually frenetic pace at which he delivers his lyrics is slowed somewhat.

Buzzy guitars still back up his smart and concise observations and those observations still contain plenty of references to drugs, getting high and religion: “For all the natural beauty there were still so many kids asking me for something that could help them to get high.” In short, there has been a straight swap in sound. The power and stadium strength has given way to a more relaxed swagger, even the solo has more swing and bend to it. What might disappoint fans of The Hold Steady, however, is the lack of a catchy chorus to pound out. This seems more like a clearing out of stories which didn’t quite fit for the band.

B-side ‘Rented Room’ has a similar relaxed style but it’s more sombre and regretful, again lacking a defining chorus. However, when the memories are so firm and clear there can be no doubts about Finn’s place as a modern story-teller.

(Picture Credit: musicisentropy)

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Review: Owen – Ghost Town

Polyvinyl Records

Released: Monday 21 November 2011

Comparisons with Iron & Wine are false. It’s clear where the idea may have come from but Mike Kinsella – formerly of American Football – has a much more straight-forward, conversational style. That’s not to say he talks or raps. He does sing, but he is very matter of fact. On this, Owens sixth solo album, he is clearly comfortable with what he is doing. Melody stirs differently with confidence in each of his sentences.

Ghost Town is an exploration of inadequacies and a sorting out of thoughts. Opener ‘Too Many Moons’ explains that he is “but one man”, while ‘No Place Like Home’ calmly explores conflict: “Soon there will be a fight, and we’ll all have to take sides, like kids on a playground.”

 The understated guitars are where you’ll find invented links to other artists, critics gagging for a match. But in fact, although there is no real standout use of instruments, there is a uniqueness to the format of the songs. Each song has a different accompanying instrument. Whether it’s the violins, piano, or a tumbling xylophone, everyone has a different sounding friend to dance with.

This is a sleepy album, but as the title might suggest, that’s alright by Mike. ‘Everyone’s Asleep in the House But Me’ is very simple song, but poetic in it’s description of the dreams and sleep of others. One problem Ghost Town has is its lack of pace. It is very niche and sticks closely to the open thoughts of Mike Kinsella, rolling out as slow as the strum of the chords.

Need a comforting night-time album, but don’t want to be depressed? This is it. Want to get pumped up for a night out? Look elsewhere.

(Photo by frailamerica)

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