The Small National Reviews Catch Up

dscn0926I also write short reviews of some of the good, bad & ugly that gets released nationally. And  don’t tend to mince my words with these… Here is the catch up.

You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth

One of the few recent “pop-rock” bands to exhibit any longevity, YMAS are starting to look and sound like bona-fide arena fillers. This is a much more developed record than the last one, lyrically and musically. However, it strays into “over-developed” territory, leaving a sterile sense behind along with the big sing-alongs.

Dan Croll – Sweet Disarray

Dan Croll has been compared to the like of Vampire Weekend, Alt-J and Beck, and to be fair that steers you pretty well as there is plenty of influences from World Music through to 60’s Psychedelia within his alt-pop style. Infectious, enchanting and intelligent stuff this is a melodic yet soulful collection of tunes.

Itch – The Deep End

Formerly frontman of politico folk punkers The King Blues, Itch has now moved into a no less acerbic blend of hip-hop, punk, pop, electro and rock, stuffing the record full of anthemic choruses, Rage Against The Machine style ranting and a phonebooks worth of special guests. There are more flavours than you used to get in Woollies Pick ‘n’ Mix counter. Messy but credible stuff.

Ben Watt – Hendra

Former Everything But The Girl man Ben Watt ditches DJ’ing to return to the fray with a fantastic record of languid folk, distorted rock and fizzing electronics. Drafting in help from the likes of David Gilmour, Bernard Butler and Ewan Pearson has helped round things out, resulting in some beautiful and poetic songs.

Sheryl Crowe – Feels Like Home

I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Ms Crowe, and that is set to continue as this is a great return. More “country” than its predecessors it still has a bluesy swagger to it that keeps it rolling along and her signature smoky vocal drawl is always a pleasure. Never lyrically deep, there is still plenty of storytelling going on and enough interest to sustain repeat plays.

Augustines – Augustines

Top quality indie rock from this American 3-piece. Taking in comparisons to the blue collar rock of Springsteen, the punk rock of Chuck Regan and a host of US indie-rock influences from REM to Husker Du via Buffalo Tom this is a great sounding record. The song writing is deep and meaningful and really takes you on a journey with the band. Excellent work.

Reverend And The Makers – Thirty Two

Back after what seems like an age, this is unmistakeably a Rev’s album. But, it is very heavy on the ska, synths and dance beats; don’t be expecting another “Heavyweight Champion Of The World”. Likewise, don’t be expecting this to sell in the same numbers, as it doesn’t feel as relevant. But, if you liked that 90’s indie/ dance crossover thing you may well love this like I do.

Foster The People – Supermodel

Much like the Reverend and the Makers record this has cross-over appeal. But, unlike that record, it sounds bang up to date. The sound has a real funk groove underpinning a lot of it, with sunshiny reggae influences and a great summery pop feel. This doesn’t have the immediacy that songs like Pumped Up Kicks had, but nonetheless it is a top album that should maintain the band as festival favourites.

Of Mice And Men – Restoring Force

This release can only be described as “strapping” in the same sense as a big bloke. With massive and muscular riffage, gruff vocals and sturdy songs, Of Mice & Men are the musical equivalent of a brick shithouse. This is loaded with melodies too, a real cream egg of a record. Great work.

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

I indeed had high hopes for this. I love some of the Boss’s earlier material. This starts badly with the naff title track but improves a little as it goes, held together by the usual sterling vocal delivery of the main man. But, musically and as songs go this is nowhere near a return to his Nebraska high point.

I Break Horses – Chiaroscuro

Woah! More amazingness from the Bella Union label. This is delicious, beautiful and atmospheric music, bursting with synth-pop melancholy, hypnotic beats and vocal loops and a palpable fragility. The whole effect is one of mesmerising beauty and emotion with light and dark compressed together in a strangely comfortable relationship. Stunning.

Erasure – Snow Globe

Something of a sad record this as unfortunately electronica pioneers Erasure have not kept pace with the changes in the genre. This sounds dated, and badly so, as if it was produced on a lot of the same old synths from their 80’s heyday. Time to let it go guys.

Rebecca Ferguson – Freedom

More dance and less soul than her last album, as X-Factor contestant goes for club floor fillers. Her last effort marked her out as more interesting than the normal crass talent show  “personality” and it is a shame she is sliding back towards a naff disco based oblivion.

Katy Perry – Prism

My kids love her. But they are all under 12, which suggests something to me. More harmless and inoffensive to the ear than most of her peers this is still manufactured bubblegum music for girls, despite the darkening influence of her divorce from soon-to-be-running-the-country Mr Brand.

Lorde – Pure Heroine

Next-gen Lana Del Rey, with defter tunes and a more expressive voice. This is a top debut that suggests she has near Adele scale potential. If even seasoned chart-pop haters like me like it, she must be doing something right, surely?

Minor Alps – Get There

Minor indie royalty combine beautifully, with vocals perfectly matched. There are plenty of nods back to the music of their heyday with moments of raucous indie and grunge, but mostly this is an intimate sounding record, full of nuggets of honeyed country-pop

JLS – Goodbye, The Greatest hits

Thank god it is goodbye, this has very little to recommend it artistically, massive sales or not, and I for one will not be mourning their passing. In fact, pass me the party poppers.

Lady Gaga – Artpop

She is trying too hard now and has lost what edge she had. Still, it’s better chart fodder than most of the chuff out there but she is fast disappearing up her own bottom.

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP2

Still clinging on in to the coat tails of the giants of hip hop, Eminems vocal style is still stupid, but there is something compelling nevertheless about any release. However this is hardly a return to form.

Union J – Union J

Utter tosh. The sort of obvious tripe that will sell shed loads to impressionable teenage girls who don’t know better. If this “band” never uttered another sound the world would be a better place.



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