Amid the ever-competitive race for innovation within a saturated music scene, ‘Multi-Love’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra is special. With the help of old synthesizers –which Ruban Nielson rebuilt himself – the new album borrows from many genres and sounds, but is something unique in its entirety. Funk, disco, soul, r’n’b and psychedelia inter-mesh to form a note-by-note aura of transcendental metamorphosis. Even Nielson’s voice has a different edge on each track. Sometimes his deeply melodic, from-within-a-tin-can vocals sound like they’re subdued by thick fog and sometimes sharpened by a stony rasp.
A trio from Wakefield, The Grand have very little in common with the city’s other recent musical export, The Cribs.
Whereas the brothers Jarman have made their anti-career through dissecting the minutiae of life taking place in a goldfish bowl, Messrs. Andy Jennings, Thomas Peel and Russ Smith write songs which they describe somewhat ambiguously as, “Transatlantic Pop”, in the process mining influences which have their roots well outside of the boundaries of West Yorkshire.
Any way you look at it, Blur are an awkward proposition.
Most of the time it feels like they just have too many right angles to ever sit anywhere comfortably; in culture, entertainment, or mass consciousness – an impression compounded by ‘The Magic Whip‘s elephantine gestation process.
Equally protracted, the well documented Coxon/Albarn make-up that made it possible was an affair which had all the softly-softly hallmarks of two mating porcupines, an event catalysed by that most rock and roll of totems, an Eccles cake.
What is undeniable is that the quartet have spent their careers extricating themselves from misunderstandings and errors of judgement. Trapped in the tab end of baggy, they were then walled in by the Britpop animal they unwittingly created, before ending up desolate on their last outing, 2003’s Coxon-less ‘Out Of Time‘. Luckily, their knack has been in finding salvation by beating the odds, embracing creative reincarnations and in doing so sticking it to event horizons which dragged every outfit around them into the cul-de-sacs of drugs, bankruptcy or queasily turning the nostalgia tour handle.
It was a whirlwind visit, but one which left no doubt that Blur are still a force to be reckoned with on stage. They still sound great, they still look great, and they still need each other as much as their fans need them too.
After the youthful exuberance and power of their debut, Palma Violets‘ return comes with the wry smile of ‘Danger In The Club‘; where ‘180‘ pulsated with vibrancy and an energetic nativity, this latest record bristles with wit and urgency.
Enjoyment is at its very core. From its tiny beginning with the short ditty ‘Sweet Violets‘, the record is imbued with humour and joy.
Barth (lead vocals/guitar), Del (lead vocals/guitar). Plus our gang of cronies when we play live: Danielle Wadey (keys/vocals), Hannah LeCheminant (keys/vocals/percussion), Ben Beetham (bass), Jack Wilson (guitar), George MacDonald (drums).
What is it about Eoin Loveless’ voice that so unsettles?
Many might attribute it to its deep baritone, others simply due to the vocals themselves. But in reality there have been many singers with such a downtrodden tone, like Stephin Merritt from The Magnetic Fields, who have sounded equally as fascinating, but never as menacing.
There have also been countless bands singing of troubling things, but they just never ring so true.
So, here returns Drenge with their phenomenal new album ‘Undertow‘. From its very opening moments this album wastes no time in setting out its stall. This record isn’t the fireworks and frenzied subversion of their self-titled debut, it’s not about shock and awe, it’s no simple blow to the face. When they appeared, they exploded out of the gate with a feverish intensity, and it lead to the simple question – how on earth could they maintain it?
Here is their very simple answer: they won’t even try.
Confession time: up until very recently at Live4ever we’d barely heard of millennials, writing the word off as a glib media term used to sheep-dip millions of people around the planet into buying certain makes of computers and clothes.
In many ways they’re merely the next composite brand of youth culture, identified by this trait or that belief system, but up until now we hadn’t really detected their voice on anything much to speak of. This was before Courtney Barnett‘s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit‘ arrived.
This isn’t any sort of denigration of millennials, their values, or the 24-year-old Australian who on this evidence has managed to distill their sense of paternalistic liberalism into the form of these 12 songs. What we do get is almost overwhelmed by happy, random feeling neuroses: within the album’s first few songs we’re presented with lyrics that talk about existentialism, inner monologues, soya mince and smoothies.
When Live4ever mentioned we were reviewing ‘Sparkle In The Rain‘ to a friend, their reaction was to wrinkle their nose and opine, “Ah yes – the bombast”.
Bombast is a word used so frequently in conjunction with Simple Minds that it sometimes feels like it ought to be the third word of their name: in his essential précis of post-punk and beyond, Rip It Up and Start Again, author Simon Reynolds describes the Glaswegian band’s work as ‘increasingly bombastic’ as they made their way towards Live Aid, The Breakfast Club and songs like the winsome ‘Belfast Child‘.
‘Sparkle In The Rain’ lies at the absolute mid-point of that journey, a record that finally dispensed with the art-punk and latterly dreamy ambiance of their previous iterations. In tone it feels like a preparatory step, an intake of breath before jumping into the void of pop stardom. It constituted a definite evolutionary step from its predecessor ‘New Gold Dream‘, on which Jim Kerr crooned ephemerally over songs from a niche which was part New Age, part New Romanticism. Along with contemporaries U2 and Big Country, at the time Simple Minds vied for the unofficial mantle of ‘Kings Of New Stadium Rock’, the spoils of which was ultimately unit shifting beyond the wildest dreams of their rain-coated Northern British critics.
2015 may still be in its infancy, but musically an apex may have reached. ‘Strange Trails‘ is a majestic and intoxicating album, equally as haunting and yearning as it is beautiful and warm.
This is impressive considering just how good their debut, ‘Lonesome Dreams‘, was. Yet, it knocks the achievements of that record out of the park. Lord Huron’s Ben Schneider delivers a set of songs that is intoxicating, it is a record full to the very brim with verve and intent.
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