Monthly Archives: September 2014

Listen – The Kooks

Indie-pop-rockers The Kooks present their fourth studio album ‘Listen’, following on from the mediocre 2011 release of ‘Junk of the Heart’. ‘Listen’ sees The Kooks somewhat expanding upon their repertoire, incorporating a few more instruments here and there to present their own style in a slightly different way. Much of ‘Listen’ feels like a confusing album experience, where the various songs don’t meld together in any way, and feel instead like various genres thrown into one album package just for the sake of it. There’s one or two interesting songs on ‘Listen’, but much of the album feels like an absolute failure of an album.

In fairness to The Kooks, the band seem to be trying a few new ideas, mostly in the form of incorporating synth-pop elements to probably appeal to the current generation of popular-music fans. Even with these new techniques, The Kooks manage to present their new songs in the same familiar formats and styles as their old album experiences, giving their listeners a mixture of new techniques with a feeling of familiarity. There’s one or two interesting songs which at their best feel fun, which seems to be one of the things The Kooks do rather well as a band. Sadly, the whole album experience falls incredibly flat as it progresses along its muddled path.

It feels like for the most part that The Kooks aren’t really sure of who they’re trying to be anymore. Are they trying to recreate their music into something new, or are they trying to continue along the same lines as they’ve always done? The whole album effort feels incredibly muddled and frustrating. A lot of the songs simply aren’t any good, being worse than filler-material, and thus giving the album even more of a pointless element to it. ‘Listen’ is a tiresome album trying hard to be an appealing album of little pop-tunes, but sadly fails at this and feels like a dull attempt on the bands’ part to pander to their audiences by doing what they think is easy. The album is titled ‘Listen’ but what exactly do The Kooks want us to listen to?

There’s very little to enjoy from ‘Listen’, which isn’t just a bad Kooks album, but a bad album in general. There’s very few appealing elements here, with everything just being weak versions of this and that, and no attempts to actually create something that will be of interest to their listeners. Musically the album is incredibly weak, with the instrumentals just sounding dull and uninteresting, whilst the accompanying lyrics are of equal poorness. It’s odd to see The Kooks falling so low, considering how enjoyable the bands’ first two album efforts were. Perhaps The Kooks just don’t have anything else left to offer.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • It Was London
  • Bad Habit
  • Sweet Emotion

The Kooks’ latest album ‘Listen’ is out now.

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Post-War – Last Builders of Empire

Boston-based Post-Rock band Last Builders of Empire offer up their second full-length studio album titled ‘Post-War’. The new album sees Last Builders of Empire presenting an incredibly meticulous and well-planned album experience, showcasing themes of spirituality and the afterlife. Everything comes across as an incredibly mature effort, where Last Builders of Empire have set out to achieve their goals with a clear understanding of how they can do just that. The album is musically enjoyable, taking inspiration from a number of bands including Mogwai, Do Make Say Think and even Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Last Builders of Empire’s main appeal seem to be in their structuring of their music. The band seem to have a great understanding of the post-rock genre, and how instruments can be used to create a great range of emotion. It’s resulted in an album experience that moves along at varying paces, but all of which flows into each other comfortably and effortlessly. There’s an impressive range of post-rock styles being presented by the band, which goes from loud and energetic post-rock formats to more gentle and dark post-rock formats. At times, we can hear hints of other bands’ influence coming into play, most strongly the later recordings of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It doesn’t feel like attempts on the bands part to rip off these pre-existing post-rock bands, giving much more weight to the album itself.

There’s many strengths to ‘Post-War’, which is perhaps one of the strongest post-rock albums released this year. Whilst the album demonstrates many strengths, both musically and from the band themselves, it does sport a few weak moments. In particular, towards the end of the album’s middle half, the tracks feel a little weaker, and not as strong or even as poignant as their predecessor. Last Builders of Empire to manage to pick everything up towards the end of the album, though this somewhat weak middling section does add a slightly disappointing element to the whole overall album experience.

Last Builders of Empire appear to have done nearly everything right on ‘Post-War’, presenting not just a great post-rock album where the music sounds great, but also one where there’s weight and relevance to what’s being presented. There’s a story being presented by the band, showing that there’s some real thought going into the music itself. ‘Post-War’ offers up everything one would want and enjoy from a post-rock band, as well as just a little bit more. Last Builders of Empire come across as a great post-rock act, who are far above the average standard, and clearly have a lot to offer the genre.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Quiet Like A Knife
  • This Tired Wasteland
  • While I Lay
  • For Those Who Have Faith

Last Builders of Empire’s latest album ‘Post-War’ is out now.

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Hypnodrone Ensemble – Aidan Baker/thisquietarmy

Experimental artist Aidan Baker combines his creative talents with thisquietarmy’s Eric Quach, for the release of their collaborative album experience ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’. The new album comprises one 40-minute track, showcasing an unrelenting and unique album experience. For the collaborative project, Baker and Quach enlist the help of three drummers, Felipe Salazar, Jérémie Mortier and Dave Dunnett, whose performances in the track push forward the music to phenomenal levels. There’s not much else like this, which would appeal to those who enjoy post-rock music, psychedelic music or even stoner-rock.

 ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ comes across as a very challenging listening experience, offering its listeners an incredible and almost unforgiving instrumental rock experience. Much of the album is dominated by incredibly drawn out guitar lines, echoing elements of psychedelic rock aesthetics, whilst feeling packaged in an arguably post-rock format. At the forefront of the music though is the incredible drum performances from the three drummers, who offer a rare instance of drums being instruments in music. It’s an incredible experience where a wholly experimental concept comes together brilliantly, to present something exciting and bold.

Baker and Quach have achieved something incredibly interesting on ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’, which is certainly a very memorable listen. Although enjoyable, it is still an incredibly challenging listen, which barely offers any relief. ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ seems to go straight for fifth gear from the moment go, and never once seems to stray away from the incredible energy it presents. In terms of an instrumental rock experience, it can come across as a little overbearing and a bit much to be dealing with, but those who enjoy a challenging experience will find ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ to be incredibly rewarding in its own right.

Baker and Quach’s creative partnership on ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ has resulted in a wonderful and unique sounding musical experience. Despite being a difficult listen, there’s an incredible amount of creativity and thought gone into this recording, as well as some of the best musical performances one could hear. The whole album experience is both incredible and impressive for a great number of reasons, and showcases some phenomenal ideas from both Baker and Quach. ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ is an incredible and breath-taking musical experience, but one not to be taken lightly.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Hypnodrone Ensemble

Aidan Baker/thisquietarmy’s new album ‘Hypnodrone Ensemble’ is out now.

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Anjou – Anjou

13 years after the departure of Labradford, following on from the release of the gorgeous post-rock effort ‘Fixed::Context’, and following on from a string of independent releases under many different names and monikers, members Mark Nelson & Robert Donne team up once again to form their latest project Anjou. Combining their forces with Pan•American’s Steven Hess (A group started by Mark Nelson), the trio have created an incredible listening experience, combining together the analogue, the digital and the live. Those expecting something remotely like Labradford might be disappointed with this effort, but those open to a wholly new and creative project from some of Post-rocks most inventive musicians will find ‘Anjou’ a very special musical experience.

‘Anjou’ certainly departs from the post-rock elements established by Labradford, and even the ambient-post-rock elements pushed forward by Pan•American. Instead, we’re offered an incredible barrage of static and noise that forms the music taking place. At first, it’s a little intimidating and scary, though one can easily surrender to the noise and find themselves at peace. There’s structure and music taking place in each of the tracks, which form incredible soundscapes unlike anything we’ve heard from these incredibly creative musicians. At first, analogue and digital elements take a very firm hold of the album, dominating the experience before giving way to guitars, bass and drums, somewhat hidden behind the layers being created by the band. It results in an incredible listening experience that conjures up a great number of images.

Anjou certainly establish what could be described as inaccessible music from the moment the album begins. There’s an odd element to whats being presented by the band, and it can take a while to get ones head around this new project. Many of the strengths of the album seem somewhat hidden, and a little bit hard to get a hold of when one listens to the album itself. The beauty of the music might not appear so easily, though once it does, it’s easy to get into the music, and understand what Anjou are hoping to create and present with their debut album effort. This isn’t scary and unsettling music, but rather beautiful music for those accepting of the challenging.

There’s a highly challenging element to Anjou’s debut album effort, though it is one that is highly rewarding to those willing to allow the music to simply take a-hold. Nelson, Donne & Hess all put their creative forces together in a wonderfully collaborative way, resulting in something that draws upon their already existing years of collaborative efforts, and pushes forward something new and exciting. It is perhaps a musical experience that is somewhat hard to classify in any specific genre, but this is perhaps one of the points the album is making. It’s not Labradford, and it’s not Pan•American, but it’s equally as creative and equally as exciting, just simply within a different context.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Lamptest
  • Sighting
  • Readings
  • Backsight

Anjou’s debut album ‘Anjou’ is out now.

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Similarities – Biffy Clyro

Following on from the 2013 release of ‘Opposites’, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro present a compilation album titled ‘Similarities’, collecting together all the b’sides from their single releases in support of ‘Opposites’. Biffy Clyro’s compilation presents more of their pumped up and unrelenting rock style, whilst also showing us more elements and ideas that were established during the recording of ‘Opposites’. There’s some enjoyable tracks featured on ‘Similarities’, though the whole effort is quite a struggle to get through at times, thus coming across as an effort that would only appeal to the more hardcore fans of Biffy Clyro.

‘Similarities’ is for the most part an enjoyable album, showing us a little bit more to the world of ‘Opposites’. Most of the tracks being featured on the compilation often showcase, for the most part, the brilliant unreserved rock style of Biffy Clyro. At times, it’s loud, noisy and a little bit indulgent, though there’s a lot to enjoy from it all. As a compilation album, there’s an interesting and enjoyable flow to the album experience itself, as Biffy Clyro go from rock tune to rock tune and so forth. This is certainly an album experience that will please those who enjoyed the brilliant album of ‘Opposites’, as the whole compilation is essentially a continuation of its themes and ideas.

Whilst there’s a lot to enjoy from ‘Similarities’, the whole compilation is a little lackluster at times. It’s understandable, as these are the tracks that were essentially cut from ‘Opposites’, but it still remains a disappointing album experience. Whilst there’s some great rock element to some of the tracks, much of the album feels as though it’s trying to find its own feet, and thus meanders about the rock genre without knowing where it’s trying to go or what its trying to be. A large portion of the album simply feels dull and boring, showing Biffy Clyro at arguably their weakest. Those expecting the same grandness and strengths of ‘Opposites’ will be sorely disappointed with ‘Similarities’.

‘Similarities’ might only be a compilation of b’sides rather than a proper official album, though it still comes across as rather weak. Among the few strong and enjoyable tracks is a great number of very average tracks, giving much of the album a dull quality as it meanders along its very long track-list. There’s some enjoyable tracks, showing the brilliant rock style of the band in all its strengths as per usual, but there’s simply too many average songs to sift through to make the album worth it. It perhaps raises the question of why an album of this caliber is being released. Is this an effort to give more access to the bands’ music, or is it simply an effort to try and make even more money?

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Thundermonster
  • Milky
  • No I’m Not Down
  • Children’s Limbs

Biffy Clyro’s compilation album ‘Similarities’ is out now.

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Franco and the Dreadnought – Franco and the Dreadnought

Musician John Blaylock, working under the moniker of Franco and the Dreadnought presents his debut eponymous album. Stringing together acoustic melodies and quick punchy vocal lines, Blaylock presents an interesting style, showing some promise as an upcoming musician. Blaylock’s debut album pushes forward everything the singer has, showcasing every little piece of talent he has. There’s a fair amount to enjoy on ‘Franco and the Dreadnought’, which might appeal to those who are fans of people such as Ed Sheeran, especially the more quicker and energetic songs.

There’s some interesting elements to Blaylock’s style, which is quite unrelenting at times, simply going for it with absolute energy and at times, power. We can easily see the appeal of Franco and the Dreadnought, which combines simple song-writing elements with incredibly complex elements as well. The main appeal of Blaylock’s music seems to be in his strong ability to present his own music and his own lyrics, which at times feel quite thoughtful and interesting. There’s an honesty to the themes being presented in Blaylock’s lyrics, giving some strengths to the music featured on the album.

Whilst there’s a good number of strong elements on ‘Franco and the Dreadnought’, there is regrettably a very average element to most of the album. There’s some very enjoyable elements to a fair few tracks on the album, but the whole album experience simply feels like a different version of current trends, without there being much of an effort to make anything new or interesting out of it all. Blaylock seems to rely on his own unique perspective and ideas to make his music stand out, but sadly it doesn’t seem to have worked at all, with the music simply being average to an extent.

Blaylock might have some appealing elements in his music, and whilst the new upcoming singer has managed to present some good ideas and some good songs, it feels as though his whole album experience is very lacking, and simply hasn’t done enough to truly stand out within the genre it occupies. Blaylock simply hasn’t done enough to make his own music truly interesting and/or different, and thus it feels lost in the sea of similar sounding music. When the album works, there is some suggestion of promise from this singer, but at the moment it doesn’t seem likely that it’s going to be going anywhere.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Moving Mountains
  • Platt Fields
  • American Dream
  • Musketeers

Franco and the Dreadnought’s debut album ‘Franco and the Dreadnought’ is out now.

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Weatherhouse – Philip Selway

Radiohead drummer Philip Selway follows up from his debut solo-album ‘Familial’, released back in 2010 with his latest solo endeavor ‘Weatherhouse’. The new album departs from the gentle acoustic setting the debut effort presented, opting for a much more darker and harrowing album experience. ‘Weatherhouse’ comes across as a somewhat odd little album experience, where we see much of the slightly reserved talents of Philip Selway being pushed forward to new lengths. Much of the album feels rather unsettling, making it come across as a very interesting and within its own right, an enjoyable album experience.

‘Weatherhouse’ presents a different style from Selway, showing the musician incorporating much more than what was presented on his debut solo effort. ‘Weatherhouse’ builds up much more textures, not being dominated by the acoustic guitar elements that were so prevalent in the first album. It’s an interesting effort that at times, echoes some of the creative ideas one would expect from an Radiohead album. On top of the lush instrumentals is Selway’s wonderfully relaxing and gentle vocals, which are given a bit more of an edge based on the backing instrumentals. It’s a bit of a new side to Selway, who showcases a lot of his own creative talents in his own personal way.

Selway has managed to branch out his own style in an interesting way, showcasing some great new ideas that are certainly a step-up from his first solo-effort. Whilst there’s a lot that work well on ‘Weatherhouse’, it feels as though the album itself is perhaps lacking in a few parts. The main problem with the album seems to be that songs end just as soon as they’ve begun, resulting in this somewhat odd experience where we don’t ever get to experience the true majesty of Selway’s creative ideas. For all the effort Selway has pushed into his latest solo album, it’s a shame that not everything has come across as strongly as it should have done.

There’s a lot to enjoy on ‘Weatherhouse’, which is a wholly different album experience compared to its predecessor. It seems though that for everything the album has managed to do right, it has almost equally done a lot of things wrong, or poorly. There’s a great flow to the album, and some great songs that showcase some great talent from Selway, but the whole experience is lacking in a few parts. It’s a shame, considering the brilliant strengths of the first album, which was a very down-played and reserved album. ‘Weatherhouse’ might have stepped forward in a few aspects, but it seems to have also stepped back in other places.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Coming Up For Air
  • Around Again
  • Don’t Go Now
  • Waiting For A Sign

Philip Selway’s second solo album ‘Weatherhouse’ is set for release on 7th October 2014.

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Syro – Aphex Twin

After the appearance of previously unreleased Richard D. James’ albums earlier this year, buzz regarding the electronic musician was created, rekindling the flame of wanting more music. Richard D. James seems to have obliged his fans, releasing this first full-length studio album in over 13 years under the Aphex Twin moniker, titled ‘Syro’. The new album reveals another chapter in the electronic music created by James, sounding somewhat similar to previous releases, whilst also offering something new and interesting. It’s an incredible album experience, offering us something a little unexpected, but ultimately satisfying.

At times, ‘Syro’ feels a little bit like an echo of early Richard D. James’ material, perhaps calling back to the early days of ‘Analogue Bubblebath’ or the single release of ‘Windowlicker’. Whilst these echoes are scattered amongst the album, it feels as though the whole crux of the album is something new from the musician. In a world where electronic dub-step dominates the current music scene, Richard D. James shows us what electronic music is really all about, offering us an incredible electric mix of processed beats and synthetic elements, all coming together in an incredibly cohesive and remarkably understandable way. Everything feels fresh and new, showing us even more of what James is capable of as an electronic musician.

Even amongst the hype of a release that’s 13 years following its predecessor, ‘Syro’ feels like an incredible album experience. The album is littered with surprised and unexpected twists and turns, giving it an entertaining and satisfying feel. Even at roughly an hour in length, the whole effort works wonderfully, with there being no weak tracks featured on the album. It’s arguable that the album is perhaps a step above its  2001 predecessor ‘drukqs’. ‘Syro’ feels much fresher and somehow a more enjoyable album experience, that’s perhaps not as inaccessible as some of the music we’ve heard from Richard D. James in the past.

‘Syro’ is a welcome return for Richard D. James, who seems to have settled back into his role of being an electronic music with remarkable comfort and ease. There’s a lot of unexpected elements to ‘Syro’, which keeps its listeners on its toes, and then blows them away with the inclusion of some very unusual tracks (in terms of what one would expect from Richard D. James of course). It’s hard not to enjoy ‘Syro’, which perhaps might not be the album fans were expecting, but still comes across as one that is incredible, enjoyable and very rewarding in its own right. ‘Syro’ is certainly a stand-out album under the Aphex Twin moniker, and we can only hope this is the beginning of new things for Richard D. James.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix)
  • XMAS_EVET10 (Thanaton3 Mix)
  • CIRCLONT6A (Syrobonkus Mix)
  • Aisatsana

Aphex Twin’s sixth studio album ‘Syro’ is set for release on 19th September 2014.

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Version 1.0.1. EP – Men In The Sky

Electronic synth band Men In The Sky present their latest EP titled ‘Version 1.0.1’. The new EP comprises four compositions from the band, offering up a rather bland mix of electronica music. There’s perhaps some enjoyable element to Men In The Sky, who showcase at the very least an understand of what the genre of music entails, and how that is presented. Whilst they manage to at least do that, Men In The Sky’s latest EP has resulted in an incredibly dull and boring EP experience where nothing feels original and everything just feels annoying and frustrating.

Men In The Sky’s style of music seems to be all about presenting electronic beats and percussion, backed up by synths and the occasional appearance of other instruments. Men In The Sky might be trying to do something interesting with the genre, but their efforts is lost amongst the incredibly arbitrary layers of synth and percussion. Everything results in what feels like a completely unoriginal experience, making the entire EP completely redundant. Men In The Sky don’t seem to offer up anything even remotely interesting, and the music will only appeal to the club scene as part of the background music for their drunken parades, and thus not even stand out as music in their own drunken minds. It’s incredibly forgettable and unengaging music that comes across as completely pointless.

If this is all Men In The Sky have to offer, then what is the point? Nothing about ‘Version 1.0.1.’ feels original or even creative. Yes, the band has managed to build up layer upon layer of synth and beats to create electronic music, but that’s all they seem to have done. Men In The Sky have done the bare minimum in presenting their own branch of electronic music, resulting in this pointless and tiresome exercise. Yes, there is music out there that is much, much worse than this, but it still remains a fact that ‘Version 1.0.1.’ is still pretty terrible.

Album Rating:

  • ★☆☆☆☆  1/5

Selected Songs:

  • None

Men In The Sky’s latest EP ‘Version 1.0.1’ is out now.

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Songs Of Innocence – U2

Five years after the release of ‘No Line On The Horizon’, Irish rockers U2 return with their latest full-length album ‘Songs Of Innocence’. Released for free via the Itunes platform, and produced for the most part by Danger Mouse, ‘Songs of Innocence’ already sets itself up as an interesting album release. The album sees the band rocking it out as per usual, presenting their many strengths with incredible ease and comfort. There’s a great amount to enjoy from ‘Songs Of Innocence’, which feels like a proper full-length album from the band. Perhaps the nature of the albums release is somewhat questionable and does raise some concern, though for fans this is a very welcome surprise.

‘Songs Of Innocence’ doesn’t just pick up where ‘No Line On The Horizon’ left off, but instead pushes itself out a little bit more. There’s a wonderful edge to the music being presented by U2, which feels like genuine alternative rock music, a genre we perhaps aren’t been given enough of. There’s a nice variety of tracks being presented by the band, from unbridled rock to gentle ballads that we know so well from the band. Everything seems to just sound great as well, with U2 sounding as strong as they ever have done. It’s a fairly impressive album, and the caliber of the album feels like a surprise considering the albums release strategy.

There’s a lot to enjoy from ‘Songs Of Innocence’, which should no doubt please fans of the band. Arguably a few of the tracks are perhaps a little bit too typical of U2, simply sounding a little bit like what we’d expect from the band, rather than an interesting surprise. Some tracks seem to just meander about, not really offering up anything that interesting and simply coming across as filler material on the album. The whole nature of the release raises a few interesting notes, especially due to the fact that many people who received the album never chose to receive the album. It’s a little funny, considering we’ve seen this method of release done properly before by bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, who allow people to come to them to receive the album, rather than having it pushed right in front of them.

Regardless of how the album was released, it seems the main matter at hand should be the music itself. There is a fair amount to enjoy on ‘Songs Of Innocence’, which is certainly another interesting chapter in U2’s music. Arguably the album doesn’t really hold itself up to the standards of U2’s strongest and best albums, which is perhaps a surprise considering they had such a strong producer attached to it. There’s some very enjoyable tracks on the album though, some of which might go on to become fan favourites of the band. Perhaps this will hopefully be the beginning stage of greater things to come from U2. We know they’re capable of it.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  • Every Breaking Wave
  • Song For Someone
  • This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now

U2’s latest album ‘Songs Of Innocence’ is out now, and if you have Itunes then you probably already have it, regardless of if you want it…

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