Review: White Lies – Friends

This review was originally published to The Edge on October 6th 2016

There’s a lot to say about the influence of the 80s on modern culture. The decade’s sounds resonate in acts like Blossoms and Bastille, who appear to be balms for people who aren’t fans of the prevalence of electronica and R&B in modern Pop. This nostalgia is in the text, context, and metatext of so much media: Stranger Things drips with it, whether or not it’s a positive thing for you; Sing Street, set in that decade, emanates a deep love of the music and experience of youth; the number of modern teens who continue to love John Hughes’ films, usually because they tend to capture a sense of the extremes and angst of youth and relationships, speaks for itself. (Sidebar:Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a badly made and evil film.) Continue reading

Review: Goldroom – West Of The West

This review was originally published to The Edge on 18th September 2016

By the tenth time in Goldroom’s West Of The West that a song title wriggles its way into the lyrics immediately before the standard EDM drop, like an overeager BASE jumper pushing through a crowd and doing star jumps to wave goodbye as they throw themselves off a cliff, you’d be excused by anyone for laying blame for this at the feet of the critic’s favourite: darned, lazy formula! Yet a formula is not inherently bad.

Opening track ‘Silhouette’ manages to do the right thing with it – take a simple structure, a proven format, and build more unique and attention-catching melodies upon it. Full of finger clicks, hand claps, a consistent snare beat, and twangy guitars backed by a pleasantly throbbing bassline, it’s pretty standard fare; it’s also got the playful energy of an adolescent sat in front of GarageBand for the first time. Before they’ve figured out how to maximise the parts they already have, they’ve found new ones to throw into the mix. It sounds bad, but the song is fresher, more upbeat for this. It contrasts oddly with the very restrained, yearning lyrics: a constant refrain of “Without you” every two bars or so in the verse, the sentence finishing before the drop as “Without you I’m a silhouette!”

The whole album alternates between this overzealous, endearing production, and more restrained, consistently more vanilla arrangements. For the more modernHONNE-esque slap-guitar riffs and the clumsy, subdued seduction of ‘Freeway Lights,’ there’s the plain pleasantries of ‘Back To You.’ Its apathetic use of the EDM structures introduced over half a decade ago ensures it has no memorable moments of its own. Unlike ‘Silhouette,’ the production is too consistent to be particularly colourful, and lyrics like “Racing fast but the nights go slow / It’s heavy on my soul” are delivered with no commitment to their (possibly accidental) poignant reflection on unrequited love.

There’s only one song that feels entirely sincere in its use of these tropes on the whole record. Fourth track ‘Lying To You,’ one of several that leans on 80s synths, has a terrific guitar-led bridge. It builds up to a simple chorus – “I’d be lying if I said / You’re not always in my head / Yeah, I’d be lying to you” – and it feels like a hit in waiting with the cheesy, limp lines delivered with commitment by Goldroom (Josh Legg) himself. But when this earnest, yet tame and predictable track is the best you’ve got amidst a sea of duller moments, it’s hard to be anything close to excited.

West Of The West is released on September 25th by Downtown Records

Review: The Spitfires – A Thousand Times

This article was originally published to The Edge on  14th August 2016

Here’s how I imagine The Spitfires’ elevator pitch for A Thousand Times going down: “Imagine you’re standing in a lift listening to the tame, boisterous, and uninventive pop sounds of elevator music, timidly conducted through the air. Suddenly, the brakes screech, you judder to a halt, and the music continues; now it’s far louder. The sound of the brakes continues as you’re brought painfully slowly down the shaft in this metal torture box that refuses to give you the rapid and sweet release of death from an aural nightmare of the soul-crushingly boring, and the ear-splittingly horrific. We’re going to make an album out of that experience!” Continue reading

Music Video Review: Gojira – Low Lands

This article was originally published to The Edge on 26th July 2016

If you wanted to make a music video that did everything that you might expect of it, ‘Low Lands’ by Gojira, would be a very good place to start gathering inspiration. It’s a narrative-less, confusing array of horror-genre establishing images, intercut with images of a (pretty darn rad) metal band rocking around an enormous bonfire sans instruments to their own song. Continue reading

Album Review: Band Of Skulls – By Default

This article was originally published on The National Student on 25th May 2016

★★★★☆

The biggest departure for Band of Skulls on their fourth album By Default may in fact be the album artwork.

Their first three albums all fit the same visual themes, with kaleidoscopic, multi-coloured Rorschach tests belying the reliable, riff-laden songs beneath, which only built in scale with each album. Here, we’re instead presented with a near-empty concert hall, except for a lone guitarist and the band’s kit. Not as eye-catching an image, but there’s a palpable sense of empty space in the frame, full of opportunities just waiting to be further explored. It’s a perfect metaphor for an album which strips back the band’s instruments, relying entirely on lead guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, yet never feels detached from previous work. It’s a fresh start from where more is possible, especially when the band plays around with empty spaces in their sound.

Continue reading

Lessons from Listening to 100 albums in 3 months

In December 2015 I caved. I finally signed up to Spotify. My music world shifted on its damn axis. I was catching up on a few albums from 2015, so that I could submit an informed Top 10 of the year to The Edge, which meant multiple new albums each day.

Before the end of March,  this had become the new normal. Since the start of 2016, I’ve been going to the “New Releases” page of Spotify every Friday and saving as many albums as caught my eye. I didn’t start this with a goal in mind, but. 100 albums* in three whole months felt like a milestone. In that time I’ve actually learnt some things about music.

Continue reading

Review: Eliza And The Bear – Eliza And The Bear

This article was originally published to The Edge on 10th April 2016

Eliza and The Bear’s eponymous debut album is what happens when you put fans of Mumford and Sons in a room with fans of Imagine Dragons, shake the room vigorously to cause violent arguments and steamy sex as bodies fall into each other, and then have them exit, dazed, to tell a record executive exactly what they learned from each other – except none of the interesting sexual or philosophical lessons, but just what musical sounds they now enjoy. Continue reading

Review: Foxes – All I Need

This article was originally published to The Edge on 10th February 2016

The conversations that surround debut albums are about artists standing out from the crowd. We ask what it is about them that is weird, accessible, or interesting. We hope the interesting find success without becoming so popular as to lose what made them stand out. So, when the conversations turn to sophomore albums, we turn and ask “what’s new?” Because if someone doesn’t sound significantly, never mind subtly, different to their previous work (and more importantly to everyone else), is there even any point? Here’s the rub. For evaluative purposes these conversations are useful. Are they the most interesting? Not really. Continue reading

Review: Hinds – Leave Me Alone

This article was originally published to The Edge on 12th January 2015

It’s practically impossible to dislike a single thing about Hinds’ debut album Leave Me Alone. The whirlwind pace of the band’s rise from their first released songs in 2014 under the name Deers, to this, hasn’t changed how fresh they sound. The opening track ‘Garden’ makes the perfect first impression: hard-strummed chords ramping into a more secure rhythm for the first 30 seconds, before minimal drums and the raspy, accented, and ever so slightly off key vocals of Carlotta Cosials and Ana García Perrote, arrive. The central sliding guitar riff is summery, but more importantly it’s utterly youthful, full of the singular exuberance of playing around in a band with your mates. This feeling never leaves the album. If you were to take anything away from it, it should be that. Continue reading

Review: The Vamps – Rest Your Love

This article was originally published to The Edge on 28th November 2015

It’s rare to find a song that you can almost perfectly respond to critically with Taylor Swift lyrics or paraphrasing. ‘Rest Your Love’ for instance, leaves you lying on the cold hard ground, screaming “ugh” into the floor. Shame on you for thinking it could be good, you knew exactly what you’d be getting in for with The Vamps. Perfectly humdrum boy band pop, doing their best to imitate EDM structure with One Direction’s style, and a second class level of their charm. Continue reading