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Album Reviews

Posted 22 Jun 2016 @ 8:48am

★★

 

The Temper Trap’s third album offers some surprises.

 

The musical interlude in ‘Alive’ reveals sour bass bouncing through metronomic hand claps; a cascading, glitchy drone ends ‘Fall Together’; and the minute-long instrumental outro to ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ pushes a synth choir around an electronic beat. Barring these nifty little trinkets, Thick As Thieves...

Posted 22 Jun 2016 @ 8:45am

★★★★

 

Tom Odell certainly had his critics after the release of his 2013 debut Long Way Down.

 

Thanks to an overly long record filled with full-hearted, twinkly piano-thumpers that wouldn’t have been out of place at an early Elton John, Coldplay or Keane gig, it would have been easy to dismiss the then-22-year-old British singer-songwriter. Almost as if to prove...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 12:55pm

★★★★

 

A pensive mirror selfie of Emma Russack graces the cover of her third album, In A New State.

 

The album’s lyrics are largely centred on Russack becoming more self-reliant, and in the process you gain a deep understanding of her personal life – from the highs and lows of her romances to her feelings towards her New South Wales hometown and adopted home of...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 12:50pm

★★★★

 

It takes a whole 55 seconds for The Dream Is Over to really kick into high gear – and while this may seem like an odd thing to say about most bands, it’s basically a lifetime for Canadian four-piece Pup.

 

But as soon as frontman Stefan Babcock spits, “If this tour doesn’t kill you / Buddy, I’m on it”, we are off to the races.

 

Pup’s second...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 12:43pm

★★★☆

 

There’s definitely something in the Nordic water, because that region of the world keeps on producing ethereal, viscerally charged music.

 

The artists behind all these ambient gems seem to be consistently creating stellar sounds that don’t just refer to clubs, large booties or the inability to control one’s hands. 

 

Denmark’s Søren Juul is one...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 12:09pm

★★★☆

 

You could argue that these are increasingly mature times for artists, where delicate prowess and tight production take priority over the frantic kineticism of a decade past.

 

Ash & Ice perfectly reflects this atmosphere. It’s a different beast to earlier Kills albums like Midnight Boom; the same fuzzy guitar licks and punchy attitude are still there, but...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 12:02pm

★★★★

 

The way in which Cleopold writes and executes his vocals is a vital centrepiece around which he builds his music.

 

Altitude & Oxygen simply defies belief that this is his first-ever solo effort. The five-track EP has the depth and emotion of music from a seasoned artist, communicated through his clean production style and an ability to convey real...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 11:59am

★★★☆

 

There’s no room to stuff around when it comes to Margaret Glaspy, the soulful singer-songwriter releasing her debut solo album.

 

The title – and indeed everything else tied up within Emotions And Math – is short, razor-sharp and cuts straight to the point: this is an artist looking closely at her romantic relationships and weighing up the personal with the...

Posted 15 Jun 2016 @ 11:55am

★★★★

 

Some months ago, Mumford & Sons embarked upon a sold-out tour of South Africa.

 

During their time there, they immersed themselves in the culture, bonded with musicians, and learned a thing or two about how South Africans make music. Their subsequent EP Johannesburg is their most inspired and unconventional effort yet.

 

Teaming up with...

Posted 8 Jun 2016 @ 10:16am

★★★★

 

With two albums under his belt, 22-year-old Jake Bugg is already a veteran of the music business.

 

His third record, On My One, comes three years after the release of Shangri La. And for an artist who seemed to catapult fully and precociously formed from nowhere back in 2012, it’s a delight to see him once again flexing his songwriting muscles. Sure, his...

Posted 8 Jun 2016 @ 9:00am

★★★★☆

 

“It’s about getting you to actually hear something in a new way. It’s about making music that sounds old and new at the same time; music with a sense of mystery.”

 

If any other artist had said this, you would be forgiven for thinking it was just wishful boasting. But when Paul Simon says it of his new album Stranger To Stranger, you sit up and take note....

Posted 7 Jun 2016 @ 5:34pm

★★★★

 

The title of Ngaiire’s second album, Blastoma, refers to the singer’s struggle with illness as a child, and exudes resilience.

 

As if in defiance of all that she’s been through, this album raises the bar for Ngaiire.

 

The best thing about this release is that it never loses its spark. Though it is on the short side with only nine tracks, each...

Posted 7 Jun 2016 @ 5:29pm

★★★

 

Whenever reviewing a new release from Peter Bjorn And John, there must be a disclaimer: no, there is no ‘whistling song’ on this album.

 

So everyone who was only interested in that can skip the remainder of this article. As for the rest of you, Breakin’ Point is the band’s seventh album and the follow-up to 2011’s Gimme Some. Unfortunately, opener ‘Dominos’...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 12:04pm

★★★★

 

A unique mix of pleasure and pain, Babaganouj’s Pillar Of Light is the auditory equivalent of an ice-cream headache, a shot of sugar-loaded delight that comes with its own distinct measure of aching.

 

It’s sad, and it struggles, but by its conclusion one is left resolutely uplifted.

 

Unusually for an EP recorded by an up-and-coming band, it’s...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:56am

★★★

 

All it takes is the first few seconds of screeching guitar lines that drop into the incessant chug of post-hardcore riffage and it feels like 2009 all over again.

 

Yet as soon as the vocals kick in on ‘The Silver String’, the opening track from Saosin’s first offering in seven years, you realise there is just one major difference.

 

No, it’s not...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:55am

★★★★

 

Mossy’s self-titled EP is a threat whispered with longing – a curse disguised as a platitude.

 

Beneath its shimmering surface, something dreaded patiently waits, and though the five tracks never outwardly project evil, they vaguely reek of it, like a corpse just starting to sour.

 

It’s this interplay between the uttered and the unspoken that...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:41am

★★☆

 

Life sure has mellowed Michael Franti.

 

The Spearhead frontman started his musical career in the late ’80s pushing punk rap. Jumping forward a couple of decades and the punk is gone – as is much of the rap, for that matter – and in their stead is a mash-up of reggae, dance, funk, rock, hip hop and folk. 

 

With a correspondingly more mainstream...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:34am

★★★★

 

Smooth, sensual and brimming with attitude: these are just the first three thoughts that spring to mind about this record.

 

With a voice that skates between Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu, Harleighblu’s combination of hip hop and electronic soul breathes a welcome breath of authenticity into the pop world.

 

But her voice is just a...

Posted 1 Jun 2016 @ 11:28am

★★★★☆

 

A few years ago I was living in Coventry, England. Though I had a room in a share house, I barely used it.

 

I preferred to live and sleep in the freezing cold shed out the back. I’d sit out there chain-smoking, trying and failing to decide what I was going to do with my life.

 

Then, one day, a fox appeared in the garden. He spent a few days...

Posted 31 May 2016 @ 5:40pm

★★☆

 

There is something quite childlike-innocent about Ciggie Witch’s second album Classic Connection. Picking up where 2014’s Rock And Roll Juice left off, it is loaded with languid guitar pop melodies, not-quite-in-tune vocals, and some altogether literal lyrics. Similarly, the record covers the same ideas; not fitting in (whether in the city or their hometown of Wagga Wagga...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 11:05am

★★★★

 

It’s tempting to see Shepparton Airplane as the successor to Jefferson Airplane’s hirsute and hallucinogenic message of peace, love and happiness.

 

The rhetorical shine of West Coast idealism has worn off, replaced by the disenfranchised reality of regional Australia, wrapped up and spat out in abrasive punk rock form. This is where the world was always...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:58am

★★★★

 

Spookyland released their Rock And Roll Weakling EP back in 2014, but really made waves with the video for ‘The Silly Fucking Thing’ the following year.

 

The emotive song showcased just what it is that appeals about this band: soaring instrumentals, contrasting vocals and raw emotion.

 

Now comes Spookyland’s debut album, Beauty Already...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:54am

★★★★

 

On Camp Echo, Norwegian band Highasakite leave behind the spacious folk tones of Silent Treatment in favour of heavier electronic stylings and dark atmospherics.

 

This corresponds with frontwoman Ingrid Håvik’s interest in war – the album title is a reference to a detention centre on Guantanamo Bay, and Håvik’s distinctive voice relates many politicised...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:50am

★★★★

 

We’re well past the flirting stage as far as the relationship between the Quin siblings and the humble synthesizer is concerned.

 

Their last outing, 2013’s Heartthrob, lit the flame. Now? Love, pure and simple. 

 

Almost ten years removed from The Con, Tegan And Sara are in an entirely new place. It should be stressed, however, that this is...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:43am

★★★★☆

 

There’s nothing like a bumper reissue to get the cynicism senses tingling, right?

 

After all, few things smack more of ‘cash grab’ than the decision to re-release an album that’s barely turned 30. Death’s Scream Bloody Gore isn’t even at mid-life crisis age yet – does it really deserve a two-disc deluxe edition?

 

The answer, surprisingly, is...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:38am

★★★★

 

Two years might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things – hell, no-one calls a two-year-old baby ‘old’ – but that certainly doesn’t mean a lot can’t happen in that time period.

 

Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald – otherwise known as the singing, guitar-playing and songwriting half of Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball – have had their respective...

Posted 26 May 2016 @ 10:34am

★★★★★

 

Effortlessly retro and undeniably lush, British soul musician Michael Kiwanuka’s second album sees him strike gold.

 

Indeed, Love & Hate is a record so heavily drenched in soul that it could easily have been made 40 years ago – which is somewhat of a contradiction given that there is also great experimentation, confidence and vulnerability on display...

Posted 18 May 2016 @ 9:00am

★★★★★

 

Will Toledo is the voice of a generation that doesn’t want a voice.

 

He’s the spokesperson for an aimless cause, an over-caffeinated Bob Dylan who has spent three hours on Wikipedia reading about the environmental destruction he knows he can’t halt. His music is angry, but its focus is not the inhumanity of war. Rather, it rails against the millions of...

Posted 17 May 2016 @ 4:25pm

★★★★

 

Blues-based hard rock has been around since dinosaurs walked the earth, and it’s virtually impossible to break any new ground in this subgenre.

 

The bands attaining reasonable notoriety in this scene are the ones that inject a little boogie or soul into their sound, and that’s what you get from Melbourne four-piece Massive.

 

The soulfulness of...

Posted 17 May 2016 @ 4:21pm

★★★★

 

There’s no better insight into Animal Collective’s most elusive member than a solo album.

 

Several years in the making, Deakin has created a vivid pastiche of all that he has done with the band, distilled into a brief but highly satisfying LP. 

 

Many Animal Collective hallmarks can be found here. Field recordings become ambient suites, and the...

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