Tag Archives: Album

Chrvches: Every Open Eye

6 Dec

By Travis Carlyle

Chvrches_-_Every_Open_EyeScottish Synth-poppers, Chvrches, have released their long-awaited follow-up to debut album, The Bones of What You Believe (2013). Hip teens across the globe now have a second album to cue guests into their house drink-ups and slumber parties with.

Joking aside, the band has garnered wide acclaim within a musical genre that is overloaded with similar-sounding “talent” and thematic concerns as deep as rain puddles on suburban walkways.

While I enjoyed their first release, I couldn’t help but feel that bands like Sleigh Bells have crisper, more adventurous electronics – while singers like Kiesza out-range and out-perform Chvrches’ vocalist, Lauren Mayberry.

But what of their latest release, Every Open Eye? For a start, Chvrches have done the standard second album “we must justify the praise” approach – they’ve gotten more serious and have a more resolute sound. The electronic hooks are definitely stronger, with the wishy-washy, dreamscape instrumentals of their first release nowhere near as prevalent here – they are now replaced with actual instrumental presence instead of an atmospheric background.

“Never Ending Circles”, the album’s starting point, could quite easily have come off of my favourite Sleigh Bells release, Treat. The drops are heavy – almost dubsteppy – with Mayberry’s hollow and haunting harmony hovering over it all. Even lyrically, Chvrches seem to have grown from the toddler booties of their first release and are now sporting brand new brogues.

Here’s to taking what you came for

And here’s to running off the pain

And here’s to just another no man

If you want another

Say you need another

Here’s to never ending circles

And building them on top of me

And here’s to another no man

If you want another

Say you need another

There’s a definite, serious (feminist at that) feel from the outset here, one that carries over strongly into “Leave A Trace”.

One of the hallmarks of Chvrches’ first release was a variety in song structure and pace – something too many pop-something bands of 2015 fail to grasp. “Empty Threat”, for example, almost rings true as a singalong stadium-anthem… that’s one of the last things I expected to hear on this release.

I mentioned earlier that Chvrches have grown up in this release – and I stand by that. The big downside to growing up, though, is that you often become more predictable… and Chvrches sadly do this too.

Entering the last four tracks of the album just feels like they’re playing it all safe, the dynamism that Sleigh Bells and M83 (two bands I would compare most strongly to Chvrches) is nowhere to be found. “Down Side of Me” honestly just sounds like a worse version of “Make Them Gold”, and that’s a real shame for the promise this album shows at its outset.

This remains a solid release with some stunning singles (“Never Ending Circles” and “Make Them Gold” my favourites), just not the special something that The Bones of What You Believe turned out to be.

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The Kooks: Junk of the Heart

26 Dec

In the context of their earlier work, The KooksJunk of the Heart is a bit of a letdown.

For much of this album, the raw vocal and instrumental sound that we came to know in “Seaside” has been obscured by vocal processing and electronic as opposed to raw instrumental pieces. Listening to title track “Junk of the Heart”, one questions the whereabouts of the band members’ mothers, who should perhaps have been squawking at them that because all their friends are jumping off a hypothetical bridge is not reason enough for them to do so as well.

Whilst many instrumental introductions and first verses in this collection of The Kooks’ work feature pleasing rhythmic offsets between percussion and instrumental, getting one ready to start raving about “this GREAT new song by The Kooks…”, the band has a habit of dampening this musically-pleased mood with insufferably corny choruses, like those of “Killing Me” and “How’d You Like That”.

Corny choruses and dreary electronic work aside, this album has a few good songs. “Runaway”, in its bizarre, interesting-to-listen-to harmonies, plays an uncommon dynamic between high and low pitch, and “Time above the Earth” is a beautiful string-instrumental-based piece made all the more reaching for its brevity.

Whilst some of its tracks are enjoyable in isolation from the rest of the album, Junk of the Heart is plagued by too many dreary melodies and ill-fitting electronic additions to be an enjoyable and interesting work in its entirety.

Nothing to Panic about

28 Oct

*This is an album review I wrote for one of my Journalism assignments! The platform we had to post it on is really poorly designed in terms of submission, though, so I decided to do it justice on MY music blog. Hurumph. 

~

Vices and Virtues, the third album of American Rock band, Panic! at the Disco, sounds unexpectedly amateur in comparison with the band’s earlier work.

Panic! at the Disco began in 2004 as a four-person band comprising of Brendon Urie on lead vocals and guitar, Ryan Ross on guitar, Jon Walker on bass and Spencer Smith on drums.

Similar to, yet more instrumentally diverse and physically attractive than Fall Out Boy, the band, in 2005,  released their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out: a then-fresh combination of witty, bitter,  vaudeville-burlesque-themed lyrics, retro-disco synth-work, Spanish-inspired guitar and trumpet riffs, tight and dextrous drum-beats and vibrant acoustic piano additions, all overlayed with the not-entirely-unique yet far-more-velvety-than-Patrick-Stump vocals of 20-year-old Brendon Urie. The album was met with a roaring success and passionate support from a predominantly “emo” teen audience.

In 2008, the release of Panic! at the Disco’s second album, Pretty. Odd., sparked much controversy amongst Panic! fans. This second album differed wildly from the first: the band had made an abrupt transition from imitating Fall Out Boy to emanating the less electronic and more instrumentally-loaded sound of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s album.

Pretty. Odd. featured brass and string orchestral music recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and tended towards a far more slowed-down, psychedelic and instrumentally-layered sound than that of their first album. Ross’ lyrics were decidedly more bizarre and less vitriolic than those of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.

Many Panic! at the Disco fans felt the band had “sold out” with this new addition, however many others, fans of Panic!’s obvious “old-school” musical role-models, adored both this new addition to the band’s discography and the classic that had become A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.

In July 2009, to much trepidation, devastation and tentative excitement from its fans, Panic! at the Disco, after alluding for over a year to an imminent album following Pretty. Odd., announced a musical breakup. Lead vocalist Urie and drummer Smith were to continue as Panic! at the Disco, and guitarist and lyricist Ross, along with bassist Walker, embarked upon a “musical excursion of their own”. The band stated that the breakup was merely due to an impending polarity of desired musical direction: Urie and Smith wanted to pursue “polished pop”, whereas Ross and Walker dreamed of retro rock.

Ross and Walker went on to form a new band, The Young Veins, who promptly released Take A Vacation! in June 2010. The album is a winding excursion into the nostalgic musical alleyways of 60s/70s beach-rock, yet Ross’ unique conceptual and lyrical style are strongly present, along with his flair for unpredictable yet catchy melodies.

The newly-Rossless Panic! at the Disco, after a long waiting period for its fans, finally released Vices and Virtues in March 2011, only to reveal exactly how much Urie’s compositional contributions had ridden on Ross.

Within the first few seconds of the album’s first track, “The Ballad of Mona Lisa“, Smith’s tight drumming and penchant for tasteful off-beats backed with a solid bass-lines can be discerned. However, within another few seconds it becomes apparent that Urie and Smith have abandoned all but traces of the once-full-bodied, authentic instrumental sound of Panic! at the Disco for amateur and unoriginal electronica – in later tracks, even Urie’s distinctive velvet voice is made to sound as though he is singing through a funnel constructed from bathroom tiles.

In addition, the album, like a down-and-out magician’s seen-before string of  shabby silk scarves, presents a poorly-patched-together montage of borrowed and predictable melody lines. The chorus of “Memories” shockingly (and horrifyingly) assimilates that of Kelly Clarkson’s “Behind these Hazel Eyes”, and nobody quite knows where they’ve heard the leading melody to “Ready to Go” before, but certainly wasn’t in this song.

Furthermore, where once resided the imaginative imagery and depth-by-epigram brought to the table by Ross, Urie and Smith’s new songs contain gaping lyrical holes – both literally and in terms of conceptual originality. For example, the chorus of “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” – I kid you not – contains the line “…let the sun rain down on me” -which I would accept as an ironic rip-off of amateur poetry’s senseless, melodramatic oxymorons, were the rest of the album not punctuated with “whoa-oh uh-oh ohs”.

In terms of musical production, the album sounds as though it has been both over-rehearsed and under-finished.  The crispness of the recordings have been cut and polished to the point of sounding robotic, as well as subtracting from any depth of instrumental pitch, hampering what could have been good instrumental layering. Panic! at the Disco’s once-excellent dynamics have also been over-contrasted, making loud and quiet segments of songs sound very clumsily-thrown together.

Despite these many failures, however, the album contains one or two glorious musical moments. “Always” is a sudden and refreshing break into a poignant acoustic guitar melody with a subtle bass-drum-led percussive and electronic build-up; Urie’s vocals are kept raw in this track, and even the lyrics are conceptually unique.

Sarah Smiles”, although the chorus is disappointing, begins with a delicious French-inspired romp led with piano accordion and accentuated by acoustic guitar and glockenspiel.

Although Vices and Virtues, in my eyes, is an utter failure, the Urie-Smith combination is potentially a diamond in the rough. Perhaps the two simply need to turn off MTV for a while and find themselves a balkanology party or two.