Tag Archives: Arctic Monkeys

Angus & Julia Stone: Self-titled

5 Dec

?Down The Way (2010) slotted Angus & Julia Stone neatly into the “over-emotional romantic music” section of my mind. Angus & Julia Stone warrants reclassification.

Angus and Julia Stone have always been skilled songwriters, instrumentalists, and vocalists, but with their self-titled album, it’s as though the brother-sister pair started listening to Arctic Monkeys and bought themselves some black eyeliner, exuding contrast and sharp edges to bring their music out of its airy, sugary haze.

The beats are stronger, the instrumental parts bolder, and thanks to a liberal pinch of salt (and gall), their lyrics are weightier and more interesting.

Julia Stone’s distinctive vocals are less showy and more impressive: the vivid timbre of her voice reviving the tired talk-singing trick in “My Word For It”; understatedly bewitching in jazzy “Death Defying Acts”.

The pair have also diversified their sound. Whilst “From The Stalls” touches base with the slow-building, urgent, poignant crooning of their early work, “Little Whisky” is feel-good pop-rock; “All This Love” happy indie-pop; “A Heartbreak” moody hard rock.

Overall, I’m impressed with how Angus and Julia Stone have applied their considerable skills more broadly to produce music more complex and absorbing.



Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City

28 Dec

I usually have about a one or two-song tolerance with Vampire Weekend. I mean, I can listen to a song of theirs (“Cousins” is great) and quite enjoy it – really enjoy it, even – but after that I find that their particular brand of Upbeat Quirky quickly becomes Upbeat Boring when consumed in large quantities. Maybe it’s their mediocre use of dynamics; maybe it’s their lack of emotional complexity; maybe Ezra Koenig’s voice really is that irritatingly twangy… but listening to a whole album of Vampire Weekend at once has never been an enjoyable experience for me.

ModernVampiresOfTheCityAnd after a promising opening with “Obvious Bicycle” – a chilled, British-rock-style track with a lovely, souly chorus and uncommonly enjoyable vocals from Koenig: falsetto, layered harmonies and even a rough, John-Lennony texture lent to his voice – I sadly report that I found Modern Vampires of the City only a little less (although possibly more) unpleasant than the band’s previous work.

The childish zaniness of Contra is muted in this album and replaced with a vague boringness that, in its own way, is just as irksome as the former (or, as aforementioned, maybe more tiresome for being less interesting). Although “Unbelievers” is a fun, catchy song, its steady, pop-folky bass drum and obvious accessibility lend it an unfortunate liking to the laughable Mumford & Sons. Later tracks bear a woolly resemblance to early Arctic Monkeys, only with none of their sharp novelty, and seven years after they released “Mardy Bum” and have since moved on to even greater things.

“Young Lion”, though, is a wonderful song, all folky instrumental rawness and layering of vocals. Not even the eleven Vampire Weekend tracks preceding it could ruin this song for me, although it was disappointingly short.

Arctic Monkeys: AM

4 Dec

Doge is impressed alsoArctic Monkeys’ latest album is slicker than slick. Declared by numerous reviewers to be the English indie rock band’s most American-sounding album yet, AM is bolder and heavier than anything we’ve heard from Arctic Monkeys in the past. Loud, solid bass and drum tracks in combination with fuzzy lead guitar and layered vocals make this album a perfect assimilation of traditional American rock, yet somehow fresher; more complicated.

Flowing from the powerful, provocative bassline of lusty hit single Do I Wanna Know?, through the chaotic anxiety of cross-rhythms in R U Mine?; the sighing, swaying, beseeching No. 1 Party Anthem refrain and the wounded, resigned optimism of Mad Sounds, finally concluding with bitter misery in every slow beat of I Wanna be Yours, the album traces the turbulent journey of being perilously infatuated with someone; perhaps someone pulling you along on a delicate thread.

The title is appropriate too: in its acronym of the band name a reference to the irrational, post-midnight hours in which most of these songs are set; a witty adaption of the common act of lazy naming that is the self-titled album.

Coupled with the album are two of the most creative and fitting music videos I’ve come across in indie rock. Do I Wanna Know? is about the aptest representation of synaesthesia I have ever seen, and its disquieting, Freudian morphing of images impressively mirrors Gerald Scarfe’s work in Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Why’d you only call me when you’re high?, perhaps in a subtle hats-off to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, presents an astute hallucinogenic representation of drunken obsession.

Overall, I think AM  is a brilliant album in that every track, whilst fitting in well with the album, stands on its own as a unique song.The masterful interplay between dense, attentive instrumental layering and raw basics (particularly in tracks like Snap out of it  and Do I Wanna Know?) is a new height for Arctic Monkeys, however I feel this is somewhat tarnished by the abundance of weak endings in this album. It feels like pure laziness that after so craftily weaving together such tight, catchy instrumental, so many of these songs end very roughly and unimaginatively. Whilst there is something to be said for the surprising sudden-stop ending, it gets repetitive when you hear it five or six times in the space of 40 minutes.

Suck It And See.

17 Dec

Artic MonkeysSuck It And See is an easy-flowing album of catchy, neo-surf-rock numbers with the fresh, frank lyrics distinctive to the band.

Songs are littered with unpretentious, quirky similes and metaphors: stars are “belly-button piercings in the sky at night”, and to the Monkeys, “You’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock /and those other girls are just postmix lemonade”. 

The Monkeys’ lyrics are as awkwardly, amusingly, unavoidably true as the assertions of that cheeky five-year-old asking the obese woman ahead of him in the Pick-‘n-Pay queue how she managed to get into the Three Little Pigs’ brick house to swallow them all in one gulp. In the title track, “Suck It And See”, lead vocalist Alex Turner sings:
“I poured my aching heart into a pop song
I couldn’t get the hang of poetry
That’s not a skirt, girl, that’s a sawn-off shotgun
And I can only hope you’ve got it aimed at me”.

Whilst most of the album’s songs pragmatically derive comedy from tragic romance,  Suck It And See also has its blighted moments, like “Piledriver Waltz” and the relatable, numbing nostalgia of “Love is a Laserquest”.

As witty as the Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics are, however, in comprehension they remain as accessible to the listener as the sing-along-after-the-first-play melodies housing them. The album’s opening track, “She’s Thunderstorms”, is playing on repeat in my head as I write this, and threatens to do so for another few days.