Alternative, Indie

The National- “Sleep Well Beast” Review

Towards the start of the newly digitised barroom balladry of “Carin at the Liquor Store” on the National’s seventh album “Sleep Well Beast”, the band’s singer Matt Berninger mumbles the name of one John Cheever. Cheever is an interesting point of reference. His Lynchian obsessions with the murky undercurrents of respectable middle-class life defined his work—as his contemporary John Updike once remarked of his suburban fascination, “Only Cheever was able to make an archetypal place out of it.”

In some ways, this mirrors the development of the National from a particular kind of nocturnal New York ennui into a more expansive, heady Americanism. As steeped in the band’s old themes of regret and lost love as “Sleep Well Beast” is, it’s also a product of the current volatility of American politics, albeit as obscurely as is to be expected of the National. The clearest admission of this is the dry evocation of “just another man, in shitty suits… this must be the genius we’ve been waiting years for” on “Turtleneck”, which unsurprisingly debuted on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.

The band’s thematic growth on “Sleep Well Beast” is paralleled by at least cosmetic musical evolution; although flurries of electronic bleeping at the start of tracks often give way to songs that still wind up sounding like the National, there are flashes of transgression. “Dark Side of the Gym” blooms from plodding mundanity into a gorgeously lush final verse, and wistful highlight “I’ll Still Destroy You” equally spins into an exhilarating, wind-in-the-hair climax.

Part of the album’s idiosyncrasy stems from the oaken, earthy grain of Matt Berninger’s voice, which is the National’s most distinctive instrument. Mumbling and murmuring his way through the album, there’s perhaps a little of Michael Stipe in the finely detailed opacity of his lyrics: “Here the sky’s been falling white flowers, and there’s ice in the trees” he croons on the juddering “Empire Line”, and references “another teacup with gin in your secret postcard life” on the richly textured title track.

Although easy to put out to pasture as latte-sipping, inevitably Democratic Brooklynite hipsters, “Sleep Well Beast” makes a persuasive argument for the canonisation of the National as a serious™ American band. Whether reeling from the tumult of relationships or national political discourse, “Sleep Well Beast” is an unambiguous microcosm for Middle America; about as unambiguous as the wooden edifice of a suburban house containing only the band that adorns the album’s cover. As John Cheever wrote in “The Country Husband”, “The village hangs morally and economically, from a thread. But it hangs by its thread in the evening light.” CO

A

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71xmrULJ-ms

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Alternative, Funk, Indie

Luna Blue Delighted Fans With EP Launch Competiton, And It Was One Not To Miss.

Brighton based band ‘Luna Blue’ have just released brand new EP ‘Nightjar‘, and they were celebrating.

The Indie-Rock funk fusion scene now has a new addition in ‘Luna Blue’, and to start their engines, they have just released a 6 track EP. Accompanying the release of their EP, they had a Launch night in Brighton’s very own venue ‘Hope and Ruin’.

The competition however is the real gem of an idea from the boys from Brighton. The competition was a genius idea, and the prizes were even more of a treat. For the lucky one’s, the band were giving away 5 copies of the new EP, 5 limited edition Luna Blue t-shirts, as well as free entry for all winners to the EP launch that was held on August 25th.

The band have recently been active promoting the EP, and have been playing live to do so. Here is a list of upcoming gigs they have pencilled in:

September 29th: Glasgow, The Buff Club
September 30th: Leicester, Pi Bar
October 4th: London, New Cross Inn
October 28th: Reading, Pavlov’s Dog

As well as this you can also find them on all of their social media sites, so check it out!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weareLunaBlue/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LunaBlue_Music
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lunablueofficial/
Luna Blue Website: https://www.lunablueofficial.com/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lunablueofficial
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/71jXlesSMotAtJXLCWpvzo
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVkV54sLs9_A9tc93CzIx9A

 

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Alternative, Singer-songwriter

Eels- “Electro-Shock Blues” Review

In a 1999 CNN interview Mark Oliver Everett, the creative motor and sole permanent member of Eels, described “Electro-Shock Blues”, with dry gallows humour, as “the party album of the year”. This was perhaps gently over-stating things by a light-year or two. Following the critical and commercial success of Eels’ 1996 debut “Beautiful Freak”, the band’s nascent fame was promptly derailed by a string of personal tragedies for Everett that are far too deeply saddening to delve into thoroughly here, basically comprising of the deaths of his remaining immediate family.

It was this deep well of sorrow that Everett was to plumb on “Electro-Shock Blues”, its title a reference to his sister’s electroconvulsive therapy. The album catalogues virtually every facet of human suffering, from the giddy paranoia of “Going to Your Funeral Part I” to the hideously pretty and almost unbearably desolate title track. On a musical level, the use of plinking xylophones and tinny music boxes—for instance, on the Beach Boys-esque “Baby Genius”—signifies a regression into a numbed, distorted childhood, which jars incongruously with the natural weariness and grain of Everett’s voice.

Although its intimately personal idiosyncrasy is inherently resistant to placement in a wider musical context, “Electro-Shock Blues” is truly the “difficult second album” amplified to almost farcical proportions. Everett, who surprisingly and laudably retained his self-deprecating sense of humour, is prone to droll, blackly funny quips about this. On “3 Speed” he remarks, dry as the Sahara, “Life is funny, but not ha-ha funny/Peculiar, I guess”. This deepens into the hard-won, utilitarian optimism of “Last Stop: This Town” which opens, with wonderfully deadpan flatness, “You’re dead, but the world keeps spinning”. The song is the album’s triumph, spinning pure, joyous pop of abject dejection. Especially in contrast to the songs that precede it, “Last Stop: This Town” attains a glorious transcendence, both physically and emotionally: “Why don’t we take a ride away up high through the neighbourhood? Up over the billboards and the factories and smoke?”

“Electro-Shock Blues” is an album inseparable from grief, but one that is ultimately about progression. As Everett enthused with startling candour in the aforementioned interview, “I started to get excited about it creatively, because I felt I could tie my own experience together and make it meaningful to everyone.” Whether you’re just on safari or know the sleepless nights and vodka bottles first-hand, the album is an uplifting assertion of the essential durability of character. From the maniacal samba of “Hospital Food” to the wistful lushness of “Going to Your Funeral Part II”, “Electro-Shock Blues” is a lost masterpiece of unflinching introspection. Drink it in. If he can stand it, you can. Perhaps it really is a party album. CO

A+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TfqbuTBqX8

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Alternative, Indie, Rock, Rock and Roll, Singer-songwriter

Whiskey-fuelled rockers Albino give us new single ‘Belinda’

Old school rock and roll may be a dying art in these modern times but the London based band Albino are looking to cast this misconception aside, whiskey in hand.

The alcoholic beverage has a big part to play in the band’s journey to date as they aim to entertain with their raucous, often humorous ‘drinking’ music.  It’s the kind of musical recipe that would make Johnny Cash proud, but would equally strike a note with fans of Tom Waits, The Animals, The Doors and children of the ’60’s ‘flower-power’ generation.

 

 

Their latest track ‘Belinda’ exudes this throwback, vintage feel that sounds like it could have come straight out of the 60’s.

The band made up of Ben Tucker (guitar/vocals), Merv ‘Fuzzy’ Salole (Bass), Gareth ‘gwEM’ Morris (guitar) and Don Gibson (percussion). As the main songwriter in the outfit, Ben is the driving inspirational force, tapping into a deep well of life experiences that draw on topics as diverse as love, deviancy, distrust of priests, historical events and of course, drinking.

Since they began in 2005, Albino has undergone a musical metamorphosis, travelling a long way from their humble beginnings, but now, the off-the-wall band has cemented their style and truly found their own sound. Whilst Albino’s eclectic and multi-talented musical line up has changed over the years, this latest track proves their musical direction, commitment and energy has always remained constant. AP

Check out more of Albino’s stuff here:

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/Albinomusic/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYeh0Lung8nhaCa1Zb5W8cw

http://www.albinomusic.com/index.php

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Alternative, Indie, Rock

Radiohead- “OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017” Review

The release of this commemorative, ceremonially expanded edition of “OK Computer” for its 20th anniversary gives me an excuse to revisit one of the most uneasily prescient albums in living memory. “OK Computer” is a record (in both senses of the word) of, as Thom Yorke sings on “Let Down”, “Transport, motorways and tramlines”, stage-managed cities and anesthetised suburbs with aliens circling bemusedly overhead: the detritus and whiplash of a rapidly globalising world, both forever anchored in 1997 and more unsettlingly applicable to our current age than ever.

Released at the hysterical peaks of the twin crazes of Britpop and New Labour, and with the nation to bask in the glorifying self-pity of Diana’s death shortly after its release, the album was a promontory of detached sobriety, most clearly expressed in the oft-quoted “Don’t get sentimental, it always ends in drivel” of “Let Down”. But it’s this disdain for mawkishness that jars fascinatingly with the inherently emotional medium of music, providing “OK Computer” with its central intrigue. As Yorke remarked in an interview at the time, there are “certain things you’d never say to your partner because it’s corny. Because it’s been stolen to sell products.” For Radiohead, the intersection of desensitising emotional overload, be it through music, political sloganeering or simply the jostling attention-grabbing of the modern cityscape, and consumer capitalism is undeniable.

Thus, Yorke’s famous claim that the album was about the “fridge buzz” referenced in “Karma Police”—the constant, grinding background noise of modern life—is itself a political statement. As coded as this agenda often is, it is referenced with oblique humour on the soaring “Lucky”, Yorke sighing that “the head of state has called for me by name, but I don’t have time for him”. This lack of time is more than just a vague anti-authoritarian barb, it ties into the greater sense of a world spinning ever faster and ever more unstoppably out of control, with gorgeous closer “The Tourist” (a telling title) despairing “Hey man, slow down”. The lapse into sophomoric hippy terminology reveals the band casting off their over-analytical distain for cliché that Yorke discussed in the interview in a satisfying conclusion of the album’s narrative, even if there is a sense that Radiohead are shouting into the void. No matter how much you want to get off, the ride is not going to stop.

The album’s bonus tracks reveal a few lost gems. Swelling ballad “Lift” was probably left off the album because it served much the same function as “Lucky”, but it’s a strong song that ties into the album’s technophobia theme, and the blustering, piano-led “Man of War” resembles much later track “The Daily Mail”. However, “OK Computer” is a landmark with or without them, and one whose resonance has only deepened with age. An eerie dystopia-lite of endless noise and distraction where “I keep forgetting the smell of the warm summer air”. Sound familiar? CO

A+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUea0h4DZTs

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Alternative, Indie

Public Service Broadcasting- “Every Valley” Review

In their thoughtful deconstruction of the very notion of “a band”, Public Service Broadcasting are an intriguing proposition. A three piece who go by pseudonyms (including the splendid “Wrigglesworth”), they play instrumental music and use snippets of old archival footage and—you guessed it—public service broadcasting to speak for them, creating a fascinating dichotomy between personal anonymity and the bold, cut-glass enunciations of the newsreaders and commentators who represent them, often collaged into a deeply political narrative.

This is especially true of “Every Valley”, the band’s third proper album, and effectively a concept record about the decline of the Welsh coal mining industry. Recorded in a hall formerly used by a workers’ institute in the defunct mining town of Ebbw Vale, the album feels steamed in smog and grime, particularly on atmospheric tracks like “All Out” and the ominous “The Pit”. Nonetheless, “Every Valley” is permeated with a deep sense of melancholy and loss, notably in the title track’s misty evocations of “the weekday pubs and Sunday chapels” that are now lost to time. On “Progress”, one of the album’s highlights, the gorgeous, wistful middle-eight is punctuated by the stony declaration that “These men look the same as they have always looked. They talk the same as they have always talked. But before your eyes, they are changing”.

Indeed, political themes and the spectre of Thatcher float a millimetre beneath the surface of “Every Valley”. The brassy “They Gave Me A Lamp” obliquely comments on the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike through the prism of a single female miner: “I’ve been in front, I have never given in… I’ll be proud to look back on it”. “All Out” simmers with resentment and betrayal in its assertion that “I thought they’d respect us… I don’t respect them now”. The remarks from the band’s primary songwriter J Willgoose, Esq. that the album serves as a microcosm for “abandoned and neglected communities across the western world” and the “malignant, cynical and calculating brand of politics” their decline has birthed will guarantee “Every Valley” divisiveness, but it can be nevertheless be appreciated as a vivid and heady time capsule, albeit one with a clear agenda of persuasion.

Moreover, it is easy to enjoy the album simply on a musical level. The jittery “People Will Always Need Coal” is warmed by a swooning string section and James Dean Bradfield roars furiously through “Turn No More”, his fame as a member of a left-leaning Welsh band in the Manic Street Preachers unlikely to be coincidental. However, a sense of powerlessness and futility pervades the album, crystallised in the massed choral voices of closing track “Take Me Home”. The choir provides a final note of noble, if doomed, solidarity but it is impossible to escape the truth that, for these men, the home they sing of no longer exists. CO

A

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1ZbdGBAqZQ

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Alternative, Electronic, Hip Hop

Album of the week: ‘Rain’ by M3staken

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This week we’ve got something a little out there for you: If you like your hip-hop then it’s one for you, but if you like something that gives a challenging listen, then wrap your ears round this one too!

Hailing from South Carolina, young producer, M3staken (M3) creates a unique blend of hip-hop with jarring electronic beats, making for a complex, yet intriguing listening experience.

‘Rain’ is his latest, and arguably the best of his ‘trilogy’, which also began with ‘Apex’ and continued on with ‘Water Colors’.

There’s a real dark feel to M3’s work, but also a compositional quality that poses the question: are artist like M3 the Mozarts of the modern day? Of course, his music is a million miles away from Mozart’s, but he has been know to dabble with blending classical piano with his beats.

Listen to ‘Rain’ here on bandcamp:

https://m3ssi.bandcamp.com/releases

 

Check out more on M3staken here:

Links:

https://soundcloud.com/m3staken

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeJtRw31YnOdiDgsNhyhKyQ

https://m3ssi.bandcamp.com/releases

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