Monthly Archives: October 2012

Former Lives – Benjamin Gibbard

‘Former Lives’ is the first full-length solo-album by Death Cab for Cutie’s front-man Benjamin Gibbard. The past few years have seen Gibbard doing a number of solo-recordings and some collaborations with other artists (including his masterpiece work ‘The Postal Service’ with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello). ‘Former Lives’ is Gibbard’s chance to now express himself fully to his own design, which is an interesting move, considering how well he’s been able to express himself with Death Cab for Cutie’s studio albums.

The album has a quite a jolly atmosphere to it. Most of the songs are tinged with a sort of enjoyment and happiness, making for a highly enjoyable listening experience. It is a rather relaxing album, just oozing out feelings of happiness and such. It certainly makes a difference to some of Death Cab for Cutie’s albums, which tend to drift in-between jolly songs and darker songs, (though this effect was much less so on their last album ‘Codes & Keys’). It makes the whole album a highly enjoyable album to listen too.

What makes the album interesting is that due to Ben’s distinctive writing style, and singing style, that it makes the album almost sound like a lost Death Cab album. It sort of sounds like their much earlier work, from around ‘These Are The Facts And We’re Voting Yes’ or ‘The Photo Album’. It’s a welcome sound, as it was during their early era that Death Cab had my favourite songs. Thus I feel a sort of joy for this album, for sounding so much like their earlier work that was so highly enjoyable. There are many enjoyable songs on the album, all of which have gentle feelings to them. Each song compliments the next in terms of it’s pacing, sound and the emotions it gives off.

For his first full-solo effort, Benjamin Gibbard has done himself justice. No album is perfect, and this is certainly no exception, but it is a wonderful solo album. Perhaps it sounds a little too much like Death Cab for Cutie, but it is irrelevant, considering how much Gibbard makes up that band. The album is just Gibbard’s own effort, and it doesn’t require the effort of rest of Death Cab. It is a good solo effort, and it puts me in anticipation of anything to come from Ben Gibbard, both in terms of his solo work, and his work in Death Cab.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Dream Song
  • Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)
  • Duncan, Where Have You Gone?
  • I’m Building A Fire
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Categories: Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forward/Return – The Album Leaf

‘Forward/Return’ is the self-released EP by The Album Leaf. It is somewhat of a departure of their previous albums, leaving their roots of ambience and electronica and more into the area of ‘post-rock’ music. The layers of ambience that are so associated with The Album Leaf are still present, sure enough, it’s just amongst many layers now. It’s an interesting move for the band, and it is perhaps best suited for an EP release, rather than a full-length album, as it allows the band to gauge a reaction out of it’s fan-base before moving onto a full-length album in this area of music.

The album is still quintessentially The Album Leaf. The music can still feel familiar to a style we associate with them, but at the same time it seems to be different at the same time. There is elements of instrumental or ‘post-rock’ in the album, which give the album a sort of weighty feel to them. It is a welcome change, as it gives me the sense that the band doesn’t want to become stale with the music it produces. What makes the album most interesting is how The Album Leaf use post-rock elements to make music that is still relaxing and ambient in places.

The album is comprised of seven tracks, all of which are instrumental with the exception of ‘Under The Night’. There is a use of drum machines and loops which help to not drive, but push the music forward. Some songs feature ambient drones that are accompanied by drums, guitars or both. It all helps to make a very interesting EP. It can relax you, but it can also keep you alert at the same time. It is as though it is resting in between being relaxing and chaotic. At times it pumps up a bit more, but it still manages to retain it’s ambience. For this reason it is an interesting album, and it makes me wonder what The Album Leaf are going to do next.

Overall, ‘Forward/Return’ is a surprisingly nice EP. It is well written, and contains some of The Album Leaf’s best tracks in a long while. The music works very well as an EP, as it is at a perfect length, not being too long and daunting, but also not being too short and disappointing. It is just right in terms of it’s instrumentation, track-listing and length. It is one of the better EPs out there, and it holds itself up to the level of brilliance from The Album Leaf’s full length albums. It is well worth purchasing or even just hearing if you’re a fan of post-rock music, or ambient music. Or perhaps even both!

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Low Down
  • Skylines
  • Under The Night
  • Dark Becomes Light
Categories: EPs, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halcyon – Ellie Goulding

‘Halcyon’ is Ellie Goulding’s follow up album to her popular album ‘Lights’, released back in 2010. Frankly all Ellie Goulding can truly be remembered for is her Marmite-like cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. I say Marmite, as it was a single you either loved or hated. Regardless of what you thought of it, it couldn’t be denied that it was a very popular song, making it’s way into a John Lewis Christmas advert, which only further pushed it’s popularity.

‘Halcyon’ sees Ellie Goulding slipping straight into the style of music that is so popular these days. The whole album is dense with many layers of synths and electronic drum loops. It’s almost thick, with Goulding’s vocals slipping straight in amongst the layers, like the butter in a sandwich, (or perhaps a more fitting filling would be ‘Marmite’). It’s a typical album of these days, with many songs being typically comprised of basic drum beats that aren’t at all inspired or even interesting. The instrumentation on the album is highly typical as well, featuring squeaky synths that are quite dull. In some songs it goes into full dub-step mode, featuring huge driving dips in sound. I find it remarkable, as it’s nothing new. At very sparse moments does an actual instrument make its way into the song, but it doesn’t help to save the album, as soon it falls back into itself, using the synths to drive the song onwards. It’s disappointing, as I just wish that Goulding would just let her voice carry the music, and not the clichés of the current music industry.

It’s a hard album to like. I can barely find anything that I like on the album. It is full of clichés in a musical sense of the word, with nothing on the album being anything inspired or new. Hell, nothing on the album could even be described as different. At times it is frustratingly annoying to listen too, especially in the song ‘Only You’, which features an incredibly high-pitched backing vocal that sounds like the Chipmunks wormed their way into the recording studio. On top of that are synth effects hitting notes that ring in the ear uncomfortably. This has been done before, by Aphex Twin on his track ‘Ventolin’, which was designed to be an abrasive and next-to-impossible song to listen to. On this though, surely Ellie Goulding wants everyone to listen to her songs? It isn’t nice to listen too in the slightest, it just grates on the ear. I find it remarkable, as it makes me begin to start to prefer her recording of ‘Your Song’, as at least it isn’t as densely layered as the many tracks on this album. It might be just me, but I don’t see what there is to enjoy in this album.

Album Rating:

  • ★☆☆☆☆  1/5

Selected Songs:

  • I Know You Care
  • Dead In The Water
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Invincible – Lemar

‘Invincible’ is the fifth-studio album by singer Lemar. On this album we hear Lemar trying to reach new heights, singing songs about love and loss and what-else. The album consists of a small range of RnB and Pop, and at times a bit of Soul. ‘Invicible’ is at times, rather typical, the kind of album you’d expect from anyone working within this genre. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel that it’s a little formulaic. But then there’s moments that convince me otherwise…

With ‘Invincible’ there’s a clear flow to the album, with Lemar singing to the best of his abilities. Each song seems to have typical lyrics and themes about love, which is a highly common category for anyone to sing about. It is ever-so slightly disappointing to see that an artist as capable as Lemar can’t find anything else to sing about, but this is an easily forgiveable thing to do. The lyrics work with their presentation on the album, all accompanying various songs that are either bouncy or solemn.

There is a nice diversity on the album. For the most part, the album is quite up-beat, with songs having quite a happy atmosphere to them. It actually makes for a quite enjoyable album, that is nice to listen too. The album is divided up by some more dramatic songs, which are much darker in their tone and presentation, but it soon returns to the more calmer atmosphere. Certain songs like ‘Merry Go Round’ are just enjoyable, and I feel that you cannot help but smile at ‘Into The Night Sky’ (Feat. Shaugnessy), which has a light acoustic instrumental running through it that makes it quite a happy song.

Overall the album is a fairly good album. In terms of it’s subject matter and presentation, it is highly formulaic, and it won’t offer up anything that hasn’t been heard before in some form or another. But that being said there are still some good songs on the album, and it is quite enjoyable to listen too. It is also a bonus to actually hear someone sing about something that is nice for a change. It gives the album a feeling of celebration, and as though there’s a reason to be happy. It’s not perfect as an album, but it is enjoyable.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Invincible
  • Can’t Let Go
  • Into The Night Sky (Feat. Shaugnessy)
  • The One Who Saves You
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Dead In The Boot – Elbow

‘Dead In The Boot’ isn’t an official album by English-band Elbow. Instead, it is simply a compilation album, compiling many songs from various singles or EPs. It makes the album somewhat harder to review, as it isn’t meant to be seen as a complete album, as the songs haven’t been written with each other in mind (what with them all being written and recorded at different times). Some songs come from singles dating as far back as 2000, whilst others from 2011. There’s a wide selection of songs spanning across the many years Elbow have worked in. We can hear the band in it’s early roots, and in the years where they have clearly established themselves as a band.

The album is comprised of mostly more sombre, more low-key songs. Nearly every song on the album has it’s own relaxed nature to it, being quite gentle in terms of its sound and feelings. Some songs have a bit more weight to them than others, but they still fall under the banner of being relaxed. On the album is one or two songs with a lot of weight to them, which seem to somehow fit in with the flow of the album. Having never listened to any unreleased songs by Elbow, I can’t tell if this is sheer coincidence, that all the b-sides happen to be low-key, or whether Elbow have simply been very selective with their songs, choosing specifically the songs that compliment each other. After listening to the album I think it’s more likely that this compilation album has been carefully selected, that it isn’t just a rush-job to make a few bucks, but instead a thought-out decision to actually make something that the fans will like.

Overall ‘Dead In The Boot’ is actually quite a welcome surprise to Elbow fans. Whilst it doesn’t hold up to the calibre of their studio-albums, regardless it is still an enjoyable album. It is impressive that a compilation album like this is able to have such a good flow to it. Each song compliments the next, making for an enjoyable listening experience. What really makes this album great is how it throws up some wonderful songs by Elbow that would probably otherwise go unnoticed. For their first compilation album, Elbow have done themselves justice by producing a piece of work that they can be proud of.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Lucky With Disease
  • The Long War Shuffle
  • Every Bit The Little Girl
  • Gentle As
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‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

It’s been 10 years since Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor released an album. In their time, Godspeed You! Black Emperor released three full length studio albums and one EP (amongst other pieces of work). For me, they’ve always been one of my favourite bands with their music being highly consistent with each album and of a very high quality. Each album seemed to represent something new, each invoking different emotions and sounding just that little bit different each time. The wonderful diversity with each album kept me drawn to them as a band, and I’ve always been wanting to hear something new.

When the band went on an indefinite hiatus, I was under the impression that it’d be a very long time before there’d be any new Godspeed You! Black Emperor material. It came as a complete surprise to me then, to see that they’d released a new album rather discreetly and suddenly. Without hesitation, I instantly gave the album a listen.

The album is comprised of four songs, two being album-versions of tracks that have been played live, but until now, were previously unreleased. The album is mostly consists of these two songs (previously named ‘Gamelan’ and ‘Albanian’) with both last roughly 20 minutes in length. The two tracks are divided up by shorter tracks lasting roughly 6 minutes in length. The album is a very dark album, invoking many of the same feelings that their last album ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’ gave off. Much like it’s predecessor, it drones, with the use of drums being very important. It is interesting, as whilst it feels much the same as ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’, it is still very different at the same time, although why this is, I am not so sure. Off the top of my head, I think it is because the instrumentation is much more defined. I felt that with the last album, everything was very dense and blurred into each other, whilst on this new album, everything has it’s moments. At times, the guitars are at the foreground, and then moved to the background to give the drums room to perform. It gives the whole album a whole spectacle, as though the instruments themselves are performers in the music, each trying to tell their own messages.

I’ve always felt that with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music, there’s almost a film-like quality to them. It is as though they are the unused soundtracks to films that the band haven’t yet made. It makes the music exciting to listen to, as in your head, many vivid images come swarming to the mind, based on whatever song you’re listened too. In ”Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ the music is much more dark, giving a sort of post-apocalyptic feel to it. At times, it feels like there is celebration within the music, that although there is a dark world to live in, there is still times of joy and wonder. This is what makes Godspeed You! Black Emperor such a great band, in the way that their music seems to give off a wonderful array of different emotions, and that probably anyone who listens to them will feel or even experience different emotions.

Overall, ”Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ is my current favourite album of the year. Although the style of music isn’t for everyone, it is a highly consistent album. The flow to the music is perfect, with each song complimenting each other wonderfully. It is dark with some slight hints of hope, much like their last album. It is full of drones, accompanied by many different movements of guitars, bass, drums and violins which all help to create the picture that the music is painting. It is perfect instrumental rock music, that demonstrates perfectly what the band is capable of. What’s best is that nothing has changed in so many years, that the band is still perfectly able to perform brilliantly and to perfection. The only problem with this album is the fact that it took 10 years to release! I can only hope that they write more material and release it in a smaller time-frame. But perhaps I am being selfish there. Godspeed You! Black Emperor only need to continue to do what they always do. Continue to be themselves basically, and nothing more.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Mladic
  • We Drift Like Worried Fire
  • Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable
Categories: 5-Star Reviews, Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Of Age – The Vaccines

The Vaccine’s first album, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ was a brilliant piece of indie-rock when it came out in 2011. Easily one of the better albums that had come out that year, it created anticipation for The Vaccine’s follow-up album. Well The Vaccines have now released ‘Come of Age’, their second studio album featuring 11-new songs.

‘Come of Age’ seems to follow much in the same vein as the first album. There are many infectious bass-lines in each of the songs, followed by powerful vocals that belt out during the choruses. So with this being the case, why do I find myself warming to this new album much less than their first? I get the impression that The Vaccine’s just aren’t achieving what they managed from their first album, making what is in my eyes a slightly lacklustre album.

There are good songs on the album, don’t get me wrong. What my problem is that they don’t seem to be as big any of the songs on the first album. It’s as though everything is underplayed at times. This isn’t with every song though, there are some great moments on the album where it hints at what they’re capable of. However, it isn’t as frequent as the first album, which makes it feel disappointing.

Most of the songs are big loud songs, which sort of strays away from what helped make the first album so good. Whilst The Vaccines are great at writing great loud songs, I personally felt that some of the best songs from the first album were their more subtle and quieter songs. There is only a few of these on the new album, and perhaps the album could be improved by swapping some of the more typically formulaic songs with some more subtler ones.

The strong parts of the album come with the album’s second half. It feels that the first half of the album simply trudges through a lot of the same formula, and you must wait until the second half to hear anything different. ‘Ghost Town’ is one of the few songs that whilst following their formula, manages to hit the right notes and work together as a song. It’s loud in places, and quite dramatic, almost with a level of showmanship that really draws the listener in. Another favourite is ‘I Wish I Was A Girl’ which features a great guitar hook and another driving bass-line, making it another very strong song not just on the album, but out of their whole repertoire.

Overall, ‘Come of Age’ is a good album, just not as good as their first. Perhaps I’m missing a trick here and not realising that the album is aptly titled ‘Come of Age’, implying that The Vaccines are growing up, ready to become more mature as a band. I don’t know if this is the case though, cause if it is, then I don’t think they have pulled it off yet. It’s important to remember though that this album isn’t a failing on The Vaccine’s part. Simply they have tried to do something, and at times it works, but it just isn’t consistent. The album is still a good album, don’t get me wrong. It’s just imperfect at times.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Ghost Town
  • Bad Mood
  • I Wish I Was A Girl
  • Lonely World
Categories: Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Carpenter – The Avett Brothers

‘The Carpenter’ is The Avett Brothers seventh studio album, following their previous album ‘I and Love and You’, released back in 2009. ‘The Carpenter’ features The Avett Brothers writing songs they known best, primarily folk songs with a splash of rock thrown in for good measure. There’s a wonderful balance of gentle songs that lull the listener in, and more rock songs that are loud and exciting. The album improves on much of what made up their previous album, and as an album works much more as a whole.

What makes this album a good album is in the performance. The vocals are subtle at times, just flowing in and out of gentle instrumentals and giving the music a warm feeling. At other times, the tempo is turned up and everything is kicked up a few notches. During these moments the music becomes impossible to ignore, and is exciting. The shift from slow songs to fast songs and back again greatly helps the album. It gives the album a balanced diversity, stopping the listener from getting bored of one particular style.

The album’s highlights come from when the songs are more slow, but that isn’t to say that the faster songs aren’t good either. One highlight from the album is ‘Paul Newman Vs. The Demons’ which is one of the louder and more rock songs on the album. There is a slight heaviness to the song, but it draws the listener in so easily, making it one of the better songs on the album. The album’s opening song ‘The Once and Future Carpenter’ serves as a great album opener, being quintessentially folk styled. There is a slight quirkiness to the song, but it is also warm and mellow. Amongst these warm songs includes ‘February Seven’ which is also typically folk styled. There is something quite charming about the song, giving it that warm feeling that makes The Avett Brothers such great song writers.

Overall ‘The Carpenter’ is a great album. It sticks to folk roots with ease and comfort whilst also offering some diversity in the style at times, making it an easy album to listen too. It is an improvement on their previous album ‘I and Love and You’ which was already a good album in the first place. The gentle warmness from many of the songs just makes it a great album to listen too, giving the listener just a general happy feeling. It is quintessentially folk, just with a little more to offer than most.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Once and Future Carpenter
  • February Seven
  • Through My Prayers
  • Paul Newman Vs. The Demons
Categories: Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Transit of Venus – Three Days Grace

‘Transit of Venus’ introduces us back to Three Days Grace. A band filled with a lot of angst all lovingly expressed in their many songs. My first introduction to the band was with their second album ‘One-X’, which after hearing their first and third albums, could easily be described as their strongest album. With this album, Three Days Grace delve straight into the heart of a harder style of music. As an album, ‘Transit of Venus’ could be described as actually a pretty good album. It is certainly an improvement on their previous album ‘Life Starts Now’, which for me personally just fell flat as an album.

On ‘Transit of Venus’, we see Three Days Grace returning with what could be described as some very good songs. There’s some great moments on the album, a sort of return to the angst that ‘Life Stars Now’ didn’t so easily capture. It makes for an enjoyable album, and it can’t be denied that Three Days Grace as a band have certainly tried to write a good album. There isn’t laziness here like you get with some other artists. (And I don’t mean that they didn’t put effort into their last album). What I mean is that their effort and workmanship has paid off this time.

Highlights on the album include the opening ‘Sign of the Times’, which begins in a more ambient way, before opening up to a barrage of guitar, bass and drums. It is a strong opening for the album, and certainly introduces the album better than any other song on the album could. ‘The High Road’ as a song is interesting, as it isn’t the heaviest song they’ve written, but it certainly sticks as a song to remember. It’s like it’s holding back a bit more, to allow the lyrics to hit more instead of the music. ‘Broken Glass’ has moments that could be as memorable as some of their songs from ‘One-X’, and is certainly one of the better tracks on the record.

In conclusion, ‘Transit of Venus’ is a good album. It isn’t a great album, but it is good nonetheless. There are some moments when the music starts to become a bit dull and monotonous. On certain songs, you can’t help but think could the song end already? But then more often than not it is followed by a very strong song, which sort of negates the effect of the negative songs. I think Three Days Grace have done very well with this album and that their effort has certainly paid off.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Sign Of The Times
  • Chalk Outline
  • The High Road
  • Broken Glass
Categories: Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Centipede Hz – Animal Collective

I’m not really sure where to begin here. ‘Centipede Hz’ is Animal Collective’s ninth studio album following ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ released in 2009. ‘Centipede Hz’ is an album that is just as experimental and just as zany and wacky as anything they’ve previously done. I think in the light of their previous album, it is perhaps that little bit more wacky.

As an album, it is hard to review it cause at times I can’t decide if the album is just the chaotic ramblings of a band making as much noise as possible, or whether it is the organised chaotic ramblings of a band making as much nose as possible. In amongst the many dense layers of craziness, there seems to be structure and order. It’s planned out, and designed, but it is still completely crazy and mental. The structure in every song seems to give the album an order which in some crazy Animal Collective Way, just works. Throughout the album there is a wonderful array of noises coming from every direction, adding to the dense layers that make up each of the songs. There are little to no moments of calm, but in it’s weird way, it just works for the album. What attributes to this craziness isn’t just the musical style, but the vocals. It could be described as the vocals being their own layer of instruments, blending in with each crazy layer of noise and acting just as mad and just as crazy. The whole album sounds at times like it could be a Beatles track in their ‘I Am The Walrus’ years, if someone were to take the song and play it in reverse and sing over the resulting mess.

Despite sounding noisy, crazy and even cluttered at times, there are still many enjoyable songs on the album. ‘Today’s Supernatural’, the second track on the album, demonstrates the craziness perfectly  but at the same time is a highly enjoyable song. This song leads to ‘Rosie Oh’ which starts off as what might sound like a more relaxed song, but suddenly before it’s begun in descends a madness of different instruments and noises coming from each direction. It is wonderfully chaotic, with a sense of what-the-heck is going on?

Overall, ‘Centipede Hz’ is a surprisingly strong album. If you can handle chaotic nonsense and not having a bloody clue what is happening then it’s certainly the record of the year for you. It’s impressive to find order within a framework of madness, and it is one that Animal Collective certainly manages to achieve.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Today’s Supernatural
  • Rosie Oh
  • Wide Eyed
  • Amanita
Categories: Albums, Old Album Reviews (2012) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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