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, 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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Dream-Pop, Indie, Psychedelic

Gulf- “Polyphony” Review

Polyphony:

The style of simultaneously combining a number of parts, each forming an individual melody and harmonizing with each other.

 

So reads Google’s definition of the title of Liverpool band Gulf’s new E.P., as good a description of their tie-dye meshing of soul, psychedelia and languid pop as any. Represented visually by a procession of highly saturated, woah-man tessellations, Gulf are, to some extent, a throwback: a psychedelic ragbag of disparate musical styles brushed up nicely and sluiced in shimmering, reverberant production.

“Polyphony” opens with the textured pastel funk of “All Too Much”, which almost lives up to its name in the dense push and pull of guitar, bass and vocals, not helped by the spacey maximalism of the production. However, the band pull it off with a clean, Anderson .Paak-esque jazziness. The band’s choppy, trebley guitar lines are obviously influenced by Chic, most clearly on the clipped, funky “Fantasy”. However, there are disparate sounds pulling beneath the surface: the sleepy Kevin Parker inflections of Mark Jones’ deep-sea vocals, the glint of Johnny Marr’s bright, interlocking chords in sparkling highlight “Start With Her”, maybe hints of the soulful unpopular pop of Blood Orange or the colourful gossamer of Talk Talk.

Closer “All Too Much. Slow” sprawls out the E.P.’s opening track into a hypnotic mantra of punchy bass and swirling keyboards that sounds like the Bee Gees questing across the desert. However, it’s a rare moment of thoughtfulness and restraint on an E.P. that does occasionally tend to swamp the listener in a kaleidoscopic musical fug. The cover of “Polyphony” perhaps sums it up best: the overlapping technicolour swirl of red and blue above this review. If this image appeals to you in its density, then Gulf are for you. If not, then “Polyphony” is simply excessive. CO

B

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/gulf/sets/polyphony-ep/s-9Juyx

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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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Indie

Five o Five- “Where They Bring Sophie?” Review

Five o Five are an Italian four-piece who have swapped Mediterranean heat and syrupy ballads for gritty, mid-2000s indie rock, trading sun-dappled cobbles for grimy bus shelters. Having recorded their debut album in Milan, “Where They Bring Sophie?” is its first single and a visceral statement of intent. Kicking off with a spiky guitar riff that appears to have been recorded in an oil drum, it torrents into a heavier slog, complete with falsetto backing vocals and chugging power chords.

With all 4 members only being 18, their musical influences are clearly visible. The Arctic Monkeys loom large, both in the “When The Sun Goes Down” riffing and thrust of the Matt Helders-esque, hi-hat-heavy drums, as well as Five o Five’s name presumably being a reference to the Favourite Worst Nightmare song “505”. Piero Piccillo’s vocals are swathed in Julian Casablancas vocoder fuzz, and his louche nonchalance. However, the band’s obvious reverence for the past, exemplified even in the black and white of the “Where They Bring Sophie?” music video, should not inhibit them. There’s something in the interplay of the slinking bass groove, overdriven guitar and detuned Bakelite radio vocals that could be developed and expanded over successive singles. However, for now “Where They Bring Sophie?” will have to settle for only being a cohesive introduction to the band. CO

C+

Listen Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfD8KpzoVag

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Dream-Pop, Indie

Japanese Breakfast- “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” Review

Rising from the ashes of Philadelphia emo band Little Big League, Japanese Breakfast is the solo musical project of singer and guitarist Michelle Zauner, its sound drifting from Little Big League’s more straightforward, American Football-esque jangle into lush and pillowy soundscapes. The title of “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” is utterly appropriate, the album gently splicing together misty synths, splaying guitar lines and moments of Breeders-lite rock.

Born in Seoul, Zauner remarked that Japanese Breakfast’s name was an attempt to blend American culture and Asian exoticism, and this sense of escapism pervades the floaty eroticism of “Road Head”: “You gave road head on a turnpike exit…pump and run”. Sprawling highlight “Diving Woman” dimly evokes Swim Deep’s “Fueiho Boogie”, fittingly enough a song about the intersection of Western and Eastern culture, and the sweet ditty “Till Death” reminds of the Eels in its tinkling music-box instrumentation.

“Machinist” is probably the closest Japanese Breakfast gets to outright pop in its sugary, auto-tuned vocals and clucking funk guitar, even throwing in a saxophone solo. However, if this goes slightly overboard it is counterbalanced by the album’s tenderer moments. Opening with the “Be My Baby” beat, “Boyish” is a sweeping and romantic ballad that Japanese Breakfast pulls off surprisingly well, Zauner despairing that “All of my devotion turns violent”. It also reveals a surprising but likeable line in self-deprecating humour with the deadpan remark that “I can’t get you off my mind, I can’t get you off in general”.

However, the album more broadly struggles to distinguish itself. Zauner’s voice, while pleasant, isn’t particularly distinctive and often Japanese Breakfast sounds musically interchangeable with other dreamy, introspective bands like Beach House or Wild Nothing. Despite the talk about melding Western and Eastern sensibilities, nothing about “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” feels noticeably Asian, instead slumping into a tried-and-tested trench of American indie, from the unravelling “Undone…The Sweater Song” arpeggios of “The Body Is A Blade” to the maudlin prettiness of “This House”.

In spite of its lack of real idiosyncrasy, “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” is an attractive album, from the sleepy grandeur of “Jimmy Fallon Big!” to the gently spiralling title track. The other planet the album references in its title may not be somewhere you’d want to live, but it’s worth a visit. CO

B-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIqCBKT5h-Y

 

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