Tag Archives: album

Lucy Rose – Like I Used To – Review

Surprisingly good debut album from former Bombay Bicycle Club backing singer.

It would be easy to dismiss this album. Just another female singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a nice voice, playing radio-friendly, late afternoon coffee shop music, ready to be forgotten by the end of the month. But what actually emerges deserves comparison with another, similarly situated singer, Lianne La Havas. Like La Havas, Rose has been well supported by radio plays, and widely known for a long time before her album was even announed. For La Havas this was thanks to a show-stealing performance on Jools Holland, while Rose has honed her trade working with Bombay Bicycle Club, first on Flaws and then throughout A Different Kind of Fix. But unlike La Havas’ album, which was overwrought and less impressive than her Jools performance, Like I Used To is well structured and entertaining enough to warrant immediate second playthroughs and definitely removes her from the shadow of BBC.

Whether or not you will like this album depends pretty much entirely on whether you like Lucy Rose’s voice. Somewhere between Laura Marling and BBC frontman Jack Steadman, it warbles delicately over the top of acoustic guitar lines, and while being bit, yes, twee, it is very effective and carries the songs well. She apparently sells tea at her live shows, which will for some be a sort of ‘I told you so’ revelation, and there is definitely something provincial in the album, which, combined with the fact the album was recorded at her home and village hall, gives the record an sort of homely feel to it. What saves it from being just that dreaded put down of the critic – ‘nice’ – is the songwriting. Take lead single ‘Lines’, what could be a simple, delicate ballad becomes a fascinating song, with syncopated guitar parts and an unexpected gear shift into the chorus and then a shift up again for a rousing bridge. To top it all off the verse is in 7/4 which to my drummers ears is confirmation of a talent beyond what could have been her pigeonhole, and singles her out among acoustic artists, just as BBC’s 10/4 ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ put them a foot above the standard indie plodder.

The flow of the album is something Rose has got perfectly right. There are just the right amount of songs so that the album never becomes boring, and each tender moment is countered by something more upbeat to prevent it being too samey. Songs like ‘Night Bus‘ and ‘Middle of the Road‘ show off Rose’s ability to write moving songs, while ‘Bikes’ and ‘Watch Over‘ provide the album with its happier, poppier moments, the latter containing little hints of Steadman’s Bombay stylings that will please fans crossing over between the two. Thankfully, this is the only moment reminding us of the connection. The overall theme of the album seems to be the past and adolescence. This is hinted at by the title, and album closer ‘Be Alright’ is be a brilliant moment where Rose effectively closes off this topic. Lyrically it reflects on love and relationships as you would probably expect, and it does it well, there’s never a grating lyric like many youthful acoustic bands suffer from.

As a debut this is highly promising. At its best it recalls the better folk/pop artists of the past in Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and even occasionally Cat Power. It isn’t without its Flaws (teehee its a reference), the variation is mostly contained as parts within each song, and it would be nicer to have one track where the sound is more experimental, although that was what became a major problem with the La Havas album. The album tracks have yet to really stand out from the singles and this could be a problem, but only time can tell as any one of them could be my favourite song by next week for all I know. What annoys me more is that like La Havas’ album it has a rubbish cover that does the music a disservice, but whatever.

Lucy Rose Like I Used To

While its critics might dismiss Like I Used To as the latest in a line of forgettable nu-folk, in reality it is a surprisingly strong record showing off a musical ability far beyond many of her peers, and deserving of repeated plays. The standout track by a country mile is track no. 4, ‘Shiver’. Anyone who fails to be moved by it has to be one cold-hearted bastard, one look at the long line of youtube cover versions will tell you of its instant appeal.

I am indebted to her performance for Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins on 6music at the ungodly hours of the morning for finally persuading me to get the album after a week or so of appreciating the singles. It’s well worth checking out here (there’s only 1 day left so hurry).

Lucy Rose can be found on facebook, twitter, youtube and the internet as well as in the background of Bombay Bicycle Club songs.

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Poliça – Give You The Ghost – Review

Futuristic genre-defying music from the American outfit

Give You The Ghost, the debut record from Minneapolis band Poliça, has grown on me in a way unlike any other album I’ve heard. It is a complete revelation, a record so unbelievably unique that it stands, much like album of the year contenders Alt-J, genre-less.

Poliça emerged from GAYNGS, a musical collective that featured Bon Iver members Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce. Singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olsen, both GAYNGS members, teamed up to exploit Leaneagh’s voice and experiment. This evolved into a fourpiece of vocals, bass and, one of the coolest things ever, TWO DRUMMERS. Sick.

The first thing that strikes about the music of Poliça, is how ethereal it sounds. Synths and bass murmur around, never settling, making the music constantly on edge. Leaneagh’s vocals soar above, only emerging through very heavy treating, with auto-tune and layers of delay and reverb. If the mention of auto-tune turns you off, then you wouldn’t be alone. If someone had told me that before I heard them, I’d have done the same. But Poliça need to get credit for making it the only use of auto-tune I have ever liked, it is very, very clear that it is an artistic move and not a compensation.

The sound that all these elements combine to produce the most futuristic album I have ever heard. It moves beyond any synth/electronic music but it’s far more than its acoustic elements. The two drummers merge beautifully at times rising to a cacophony in songs like opener ‘Amongster’ and at others, providing a studied, understated drive such as ‘Happy Be Fine’. The bass goes from punkish aggression, in ‘Violent Games’, to a cracking funk in ‘Dark Star’ and ‘Form’. Vocally, the album is spot on and the varied synths always complement the song and never override the pure soul of the songs.

While all of this is going on, they’ve managed to produce some of the best lyrics I’ve heard this year. You wouldn’t know on first listen, however, as all the effects combined with Leaneagh’s style make it near impossible to understand what she’s singing. luckily, buying the CD gets you a handy lyric book and the mastery can be revealed.

At its heart, Give You The Ghost is that classic tradition of music, the break-up album. But this break-up was a divorce, shadowed by the break-up of Leaneagh’s main band, Roma di Luna, and leaving a young child in the middle. The lyrics reflect on this from all angles, and in such a unique, and uniquely feminine, way. It ranges from calm and reflective ‘I need some time, to think about my life, without you’, passionate defence ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan? / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my own hand’, defiance ‘Ain’t a man in this world who can pull me down from my dark star / I will remain there it’s done me good so far’, repentence ‘It’s a brand new day and I’m sorry / I will never take her away… I wish you would kick me in my face / I’m the victim I did it’, and by closing track ‘Leading to Death’ Leaneagh merges righteous anger with the brutal honesty of the album: ‘In the days, In the nights, In the hours leading up to your death, I won’t weep… I dream of you oh my strangler, I dream of you.’

Give You The Ghost

With these lyrics, only ever half-heard among the phenomenal music its soars over, the album draws you in, its grip tightening on every next listen. When I bought this album, it was complete fluke, I went in to HMV looking for FOE’s ‘Bad Dream Hotline’, but settled for this album when I couldn’t find the FOE. After a few weeks I was stunned to see how much I’d listened to it, far more than I thought I had. On every listen the album holds something, it retains a mystery that prompts you to go back and listen again, see if the song affects you again. Whether it achieves this with its camouflaged lyrical genius, or with its futuristic musical experimenting or with both, I cannot say. All I can say is that this is an album that challenges and enthrals in equal measure, it’s the very definition of a grower, and the first true challenge to Alt-J’s position at the top of the album of 2012 charts.

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Tom Williams and the Boat – Teenage Blood – Review

Well, this was only ever gonna go one way, wasn’t it.Fear The Beard!

Tom Williams and the Boat return after making what was my album of 2011, with the ingeniously titled Teenage Blood. Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a complete fanatic when it comes to this band, but I’ll try and give my fair view of the album.

The Boat have grown up. With Tom’s voice dropping a few tones, the band have got darker and angrier. And of course, they’ve got better. but rather than get old and cynical, this album goes straight for the adolescent. It’s a journey through the pains and the joys of being a teenager – but before you cringe – the genius of the album is to pull this off without being mawkish or melodramatic. Credit has to go to Tom’s lyrics here, they were the standout feature of first album ‘Too Slow’, and here they are the reason that this album theme works at all.

They are a folk band, it has to be said, but they are light years away from the namby-pamby banjo-and-haystack blandness of Mumford and Sons, sounding more like a cross between Neil Young and Arcade Fire, with songs being grounded with acoustic guitar, but the depth coming from electric guitar riffs and a mournful violin over the top.

The album roars opens with the title track hitting after four beat shout from Tom himself. Needless to say it’s the most instantly brilliant track on the album, with fantastic lyrics and a quality hook ‘I have (a) teenage blood and a teenage heart / I’d tell you what I can but I don’t know where to start / I’ve started falling apart’. Unfortunately they haven’t released the impending video yet but they do have a pretty good live acoustic version (put it on 720p for the best sound) that is worth checking out.

Elsewhere on the album more weight is given to Ant, the guitarist and it really pays off. His riffs drive the album on and can singlehandedly power whole tracks – particularly in ‘Too Young’ and ‘Trouble With The Truth’, both of which are phenomenal tunes that are a great step up for the band as a whole, musically and lyrically, the former could be a long-lost Strokes B-side, and the latter is a beautifully crafted ballad. Together with ‘Little Bit In Me’ – a trademark super-exaggerated violent track, the type of thing you would see in a serial killer’s diary, that in true Boat style then twists to actually be quite deep – and first single ‘My Bones’, these tracks make up the fist half, and this is defintely an album with two distinct halves.

The first is fairly experimental for the band, and it has the more obvious single type songs (why ‘Too Young’ isn’t the single I have no idea – except that My Bones and Teenage Blood are so good). However, the second half sees a change. The band finally settle into one consistent ‘Tom Williams and the Boat’ sound, and what at first listen might seem a little bit samey, the result is incredible.

All the songs have a consistent sound and the flow together perfectly. We get the return of the Tom-and-his-guitar style song that was a highlight of the first album, in ‘There’s A Stranger’. But the absolute pinnacle of the album is the penultimate song, ‘Summer Drive’. A tight drum beat propels a moving epic of a song, that rises and falls as the song flows. The album then rises to a close with what could be called the only happy song on the album (aside from the joyous ‘Too Young’ where the music is so uplifting yet the lyrics quite sad), ‘Emily’, the story of an angsty youth having a dance with his childhood sweetheart. Ideally I could show you one of those songs, but they are growers, so it wouldn’t do much good. Instead, here’s the original single and video, ‘My Bones’:

Overall the album is a little too brief, and it would’ve been great to have a few more songs, particularly ones of just Tom and a guitar as the two-minute ‘There’s A Stranger’ doesn’t quite satisfy the need for dylanesque acoustic songs. However, the double team of the instant hits of side one, and then the rewarding growers on side two (that have left me restarting from track 6 every time the album ends) works perfectly and show a many-layered band. Specifically, side two shows a band that have finally found a sound they can call their own, and it is awesome.

OK, a confession, even I have to admit, I may be selling this band for more than they actually should be. Part of the joy of music is discovery – it’s why people like different songs – they’re the ones they heard when a certain band ‘clicked’, and my discovery of this band may be colouring myu opinion a bit. So maybe they aren’t the greatest band since The Cure. But they are still bloody good, and all I can do is implore you, if you don’t believe me, if the songs don’t convince you these guys are brilliant, then keep listening, give it time. Because if you do, I can assure you, you will see how incredible these guys can be, and why they will undoubtedly be one of the bands that in a year’s time, everyone will be asking where the came from and how they got so good.

Please, just get the record.

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