Category Archives: Album Review

Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1)

Foals are veterans of the British indie rock scene at this stage. While many of their contemporaries from the late 2000s (such The Maccabees and Wild Beasts) have split up, they’ve stuck around, getting even bigger with every album they release. With 2015’s What Went Down, they pretty much cemented themselves as festival headliner material, with huge tracks like ‘Mountain At My Gates’ and ‘A Knife In The Ocean’.

So, where next? Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1), the first of two albums the band will be releasing this year, marks a slight shift away from that arena rock sound. And as a result, it’s the most playful and creative album they’ve dropped since their debut. While Foals’ last two releases yielded some of the band’s biggest – and best – songs, both seemed to be missing a sense of colour. On these albums, the band generally stuck to a single sound throughout, leading to some tracks that sounded a little samey and repetitive.

Everything Not Saved Will Best Lost (Part 1) rectifies this. Every song here has its own identity and is bursting with personality. ‘White Onions’ sees Foals’ delve back into their math rock roots, recalling tracks like ‘Hummer’ and ‘Balloons’ with its propulsive drumbeat and looping guitar riff. Elsewhere, ‘In Degrees’ feels like a spiritual successor to the band’s big hit ‘My Number’, further exploring the dance-rock sound that song hinted at. It’s gorgeous, glitzy and difficult not to dance to. ‘Café D’Athens’, another standout, has drawn a lot of Radiohead comparisons. The song is unlike anything else the band released up to this stage, building off marimba loops and synth stabs, growing denser and more layered as it moves along.

‘Sunday’ is the type of song that Foals have more-or-less perfected at this stage – the big, airy closer. It draws the album together perfectly, drawing on the same apocalyptic themes as the rest of the tracks. It’s only let down by the fact that it isn’t the final track. The closing piano ballad ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’ is far from bad, but it just feels slight and unnecessary. The same can be said for the opening track ‘Moonlight’, which, while pretty, feels too much like a typical opener. It’s a song that only really works in the context of the album.

Everything between these two tracks, however, is great. They’re gorgeous and playful, showing that Foals can still surprise this far into their career. If they continue to put out music like this, I don’t there’s any reason to worry about them falling to the wayside like some of their old contemporaries.

Best Tracks: ‘White Onions’, ‘In Degrees’, ‘Sunday’

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Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready

Fronted by singer-songwriter Clementine Creevy, Cherry Glazerr have proven themselves to be a dependably good garage rock outfit. Their sophomore release, 2017’s Apocalypstick, did a fantastic job of blending a grimy rock sound with empowering lyrics, leading to plenty of fantastic tunes, such as ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ and ‘Nurse Ratched’.

Two years later and here we are with their third album, Stuffed & Ready. On it, Cherry Glazerr mostly stick to their guns, and many of its songs could’ve fit onto their past releases pretty snuggly. The album opens with a great 1-2-3 of ‘Ohio’, ‘Daddi’ and ‘Wasted Nun’, each of them abrasive and fun in the way that the band’s best songs are. All of them stick to the classic ‘quiet verse, loud chorus’ that many rock songs go for. If they don’t push Cherry Glazerr’s sound in a new direction, they’re enjoyable at least.

After this, the album mellows with slower songs like ‘Self Explained’ and ‘Isolation’. Lyrically, both are a bit more inward and mature than what the band normally go for. ‘Self Explained’ in particular is a stand-out featuring a solid groove and a great refrain. Stuffed & Ready then picks up the pace again towards its end with ‘Juicy Socks’ and ‘Stupid Fish’ – the latter being another easy highlight. A reverb-soaked rocker, the track lumbers along before reaching an explosive finish. Creevy also delivers her best vocal performance of the album on the track, darting between soft and harsh.

It’s hard not to see this album as a slight disappointment though. Revisiting Apocalypstick made me remember just how strong that album is – making Stuffed & Ready almost feel like a step backwards. While Creevy has never been a hugely nuanced lyricist, the songs on Apocalypstick definitely had a unique edge and certain cleverness to them that seems to be missing here. (Just compare the lead singles from both albums: ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ and ‘Daddi’.) Instrumentally, the tracks on Stuffed & Ready feel less colourful as well, with the band rarely, if ever, moving beyond the confines of guitar, bass and drums.

Despite the negativity, this is a great album and if you’re a fan of Cherry Glazerr – or rock with a feminist edge – you’re unlikely to be disappointed. I just wish the band could’ve taken more risks and pushed themselves out of their comfort zone.

Best Tracks: ‘Wasted Nun’, ‘Self Explained’, ‘Stupid Fish’

Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet?

Deerhunter have never been a cheery band; I don’t think they have a single song that would be appropriate for a family barbeque playlist. They’re a band that specialises in topics such as loneliness and death – think ‘Agoraphobia’ or ‘Helicopter’ – exploring them to crushingly sad extents. Yet, despite the darkness of these topics, Deerhunter always seem to find a strange, twisted beauty in them that makes their music so fantastic.

Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet? doubles down on the bleakness of the band’s past projects. Death hangs over every song like a black cloud. Opener ‘Death in Midsummer’ sets the tone of the album, with Bradford Cox singing to the listener about the death of their friends and their own eventual demise: ‘And in time, you will see your own life fade away’. Yet, there’s a certain gleeful to the way he delivers these lines – as if he’s smiling as he says them. It adds another layer of meaning to them. Cox is simply telling it as it is: we’re all going to die and nothing really matters, so stop worrying about it.

The album’s best songs revel in this bleakness in a similar way. ‘Your cage is what you make of it’, Cox sings in the opening of ‘Futurism’, showing the same sense of contentedness. The theme of accepting death, however, is most present on the track ‘Détournement’. Bradford Cox’s pitch-shifted vocals float around the song, sounding almost disembodied, like they’re coming from a god. He greets several different countries (‘Good morning to Japan’) before comforting them about their eventual deaths: ‘Your struggles won’t be long, and there will be no sorrows on the other side’. It’s bizarre, but it works.

Instrumentally, the album has a skeletal feel to it. The presence of instruments like harpsichords and xylophones give off an antiquated, gothic tone that fits the album and its message well. The structures of the songs also feel stripped back – many clocking in at only two or three minutes. While I understand why Deerhunter chose this minimalist approach, it does hold some of the songs back. Many of them sound like demos, rather than finished tracks – still waiting to be fleshed out. Closer ‘Nocturne’ is the only moment where the band truly allow themselves to indulge a bit – wrapping the album up with a gorgeous dreamy jam.

Ultimately, Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet? is another solid release from Deerhunter. While I don’t think it has the same staying power as their best albums, it has some powerful moments, feeling like a logical progression from where the band have been so far.

Best Tracks: ‘Death in Midsummer’, ‘Détournement’, ‘Nocturne’.

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 are a band I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have never been too interested in checking out. There’s always been a certain trying-too-hard, eye-roll-inducing quality about them (their second album’s title encapsulates this perfectly) that’s put me off really diving into their stuff.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships ended up being hard to ignore though – due to all the buzz it’s been receiving online – so I decided to give it a go. And it’s a strange one, to say the least. The album is flawed, but it’s often admirably ambitious at the same time. You can tell that the band chucked a lot of ideas into it, and when they work, they often work spectacularly.

‘Love If We Made It’ exemplifies this best. The song is full of tension, featuring abrasive vocals and an ominous, repetitive instrumental on the verses. They act as a recap of the low-lights of the past couple of years (from the Syrian refugee crisis to ‘Thank you Kanye, very cool!’) before the glitzy 80s-infused chorus comes in. And it’s gorgeous – especially when paired the chant of ‘And I’d love it if we made it’. The song just perfectly encapsulates modern times and is the perfect anthem for them.

It’s the main highlight of the first half of the album, which is mostly filled with underwhelming moments. Matty Healy sounds too much like he’s trying to ape Bon Iver’s 22, A Million on intro track ‘The 1975’ and the two singles that follow it – ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ – are just kind of okay. Neither are bad songs, but it’s difficult to get excited about them.

On the other hand, songs like ‘Be My Mistake’, which features the album’s cringiest line (‘You make me hard, but she makes me weak’) and ‘The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme’ are straight-up bad. They don’t really do much other than drag down the album’s batting average.

Outside of a couple of highlights, such as ‘Love It We Made It’ and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships doesn’t really hit its stride until right near the end… Which is unfortunate. ‘Inside Your Mind’ is a fantastically twisted love ballad, managing to be haunting and romantic at the same time. On it, Matty sings about cracking his girlfriend’s head open to find out what she’s thinking. On ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, the band once again wears their love of 80s pop on their sleeves and it pays off tremendously, featuring a cheesy chorus that they just about pull off.

Album closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ ends things on a definite high note. Swapping the 80s pop influence for 90s Britpop, it’s a great overblown alternative rock number – think Oasis’ ‘Champagne Supernova’. It’s grand and climactic like a good closer should be. It’s just a shame that so much of what comes before it doesn’t work half as well.

Best Tracks: ‘Love It If We Made It’, ‘Inside Your Mind’, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’

Anderson Paak – Oxnard

Anderson Paak’s rise has been slow and steady. After years as an underground artist, he broke through in 2015 with an appearance on Dr. Dre’s Compton, following that with his stellar second album Malibu the next year. His latest album though, Oxnard, feels like his most explicit push for big mainstream success – packed full of potential hits and Paak’s palpable charisma.

While not as thematically and stylistically ambitious as MalibuOxnard is a lot easier to digest. It’s a smooth 13-track ride, filled with great moments, some carefully selected guests and just enough variety to keep things interesting. After opening with a couple of so-so tracks – the aimless ‘The Chase’ and ‘Headlow’, which is marred by a cringy blowjob skit – ‘Tints’ really gets the ball rolling. The track is pure pop perfection, featuring a funky bassline and Paak’s bombastic sense of personality. It also has a top-notch Kendrick Lamar feature, who fits into the singer’s world effortlessly.

And things don’t really let up from there. ‘Who R U’ matches some swaggering bars from Paak with a top-notch beat, while ‘Smile/Petty’ acts as a great one-two, approaching relationship troubles from two different angles. ‘Six Summers’ stands among the artist’s best songs; while the political theme is a little unfocused, the track features a gorgeous shift in tone halfway through – moving from pompous to melancholy in an instant.

Oxnard‘s greatest asset is its production – it’s stunning throughout. Every song features its own gorgeous instrumental touches, from the layers of percussion on ‘Tints’ to the saxophone solo on ‘Cheers’. While it generally hovers around funk and rap, the album dips its toe in a lot of different genres – sometimes multiple ones on the same song. And it never feels forced. The production is even strong enough to hold together some of the album’s weakest songs, such as the bonus tracks, ‘Sweet Chick’ and ‘Left To Right’.

The album mellows out in its second half; the pace slows down and the songs take on a woozy, almost psychedelic vibe in some places. It’s also more feature-heavy than the first half, though luckily no one feels out of place. Snoop Dogg and Pusha T in particular steal the show on their respective songs, with the production on their tracks complimenting their usual styles well. While ‘Cheers’ isn’t a particularly exciting closer, it wraps up the album well.

Oxnard comes together as a strong whole, making for a dizzying display of Anderson Paak’s talents. While it might not be quite as satisfying as 2016’s Malibu, it makes for a superb, accessible introduction to the artist’s world.

Best Tracks: ‘Tints’, ‘Six Summers’, Brother’s Keeper’

Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

Kurt Vile has a knack for making music you can get lost in. It’s a quality that’s been there since his first album back in 2008, Constant Hitmaker, but he’s just got better at it over time. Now eight albums deep into his career, he’s pretty much perfected it. Bottle It In is the sort of album you can just fall into – like a hazy, reverb-y bath.

Nowhere is this more clear than the song ‘Bassackwards’, perhaps the lushest, most atmospheric track he’s put out. For a ten minute song, it doesn’t progress a whole lot, circling around the chords and swirling electronics for most of its runtime, but it doesn’t need to. It paints a distinct mood – like being half-caught in a daydream – that Vile’s lyrics only emphasis: ‘I was on the beach, but I was thinking about the bay’. Like many of his best songs (think ‘Wakin’ On A Pretty Day’) it just feels effortless, like it was improvised on the spot, despite the amount of work that obviously went into it.

The song encapsulates Bottle It In as a whole pretty well. Vile takes his time to get where he’s going on the album (and most of the time it doesn’t sound like he knows where he’s going), taking just about every detour he can along the way. For any other artist, this would be a criticism. Bottle It In is a hefty album, clocking in at just under 80 minutes, but it just about works. It’s his most ambitious release, dipping into more styles and moods than any of his past albums. There are short-and-punchy rockers, drone-y ten-minute epics and just about everything in between on here. In many ways, it feels like a cumulation of the seven albums that came before it.

There’s plenty of classic Vile on here such as opener ‘Loading Zones’, which – of all things – is about trying to get free parking. It’s the catchiest track he’s dropped since ‘Pretty Pimpin’ and I particularly love the ‘I park for free’ chants that close out the track. ‘One Trick Ponies’ is a sweet and goofy self-referential song (‘Some are one trick ponies but so am I’) that features some of the album’s strongest lyrics. It’s schmaltzy, but Vile’s vocals sell it. Also great are ‘Yeah Bones’, which features a propulsive rhythm and a great hook, and ‘Check Baby’, a fantastically drawn-out rocker. The song fades out around the eight-minute mark, but there’s the sense it could roll along on its riff forever.

There’s a palpable shift in mood on the album at the halfway point with the 11-minute title track. Along with the equally long closer (‘Skinny Mini’), it’s likely to go down as one Bottle It In’s most divisive tracks. The instrumentation has an almost skeletal feel to it and the lyrics are some of the moodiest, most introspective ones Vile has penned: ‘Don’t tell them that you love them, for your own sake’. The tracks the follow on from it carry its mood. While Vile’s quirks still shine through on the second half of the album, it does have a more melancholy atmosphere overall.

On ‘Mutinies’, he mumbles over a particularly downbeat guitar loop, coming out with some of his most personal lyrics: ‘The mutinies in my head keep staying, I take pills and pills to make them go away’. ‘Come Again’ and ‘Cold Was The Wild’ carry a similarly melancholy feel; the latter in particular is an album standout, featuring some new instrumental twists. The song sounds like it was designed to soundtrack an old-school horror movie, featuring cawing sound effects, background static and some ominous bass guitar slides. It borders on uncomfortable at times.

Out of all the albums Kurt Vile has released, Bottle It In is the most difficult to untangle. Yet, it also feels like his best. It’s a versatile release, featuring tracks that explore sounds that Vile has more-or-less mastered at this stage (‘Bassackwards’) and others that push him into new territory (‘Cold Was The Wind’). It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.

Best Tracks: ‘Bassackwards’, ‘One Trick Ponies’, ‘Skinny Mini’

Roosevelt – Young Romance

You can discover some fantastic bands by turning up for the support acts at gigs. While I’m guilty of skipping them more often than not these days, I’ve found plenty of favourites through showing up early, such as Vacations, Money and – as you can probably guess from this review’s title – Roosevelt. The project of Marius Lauber, Roosevelt constructions slick, danceable synth-pop. After catching him as the support for Glass Animals a couple years back, I quickly jumped on his debut Roosevelt, which was just as good as the live show promised. The album doesn’t do much that hasn’t been done before, but what it sets out to do it does incredibly well. The songs are fun with big hooks and feature just enough variation between them for things to stay interesting.

Two years later and we now have Young Romance. The album covers a lot of the same ground as Roosevelt, continuing to blend disco and house with an old school tinge. The mood of the album is somewhat different though. Roosevelt felt like one long night out with friends at the club, whereas Young Romance is more tinged nostalgia and a longing for the past. The brief opener ‘Take Me Back’ comes across as the album’s mission statement; the title can be read in two ways, both as the protagonist’s desire to return to an old relationship (a common lyrical theme throughout the album) and Roosevelt’s interest in the sounds of the past.

‘Take Me Back’ quickly leads on to ‘Under The Sun’, one of the album’s strongest cuts. Though its chorus doesn’t make much sense (‘Tonight I’ll show you everything under the sun’), it doesn’t really have to; the song is catchy, fun and summery, and honestly, that’s all it needs to be. Lyrics have never been Roosevelt’s strong suit, and the ones on Young Romance aim to be broad and relatable. They’re angsty, teenager-ish and a little overblown, as you’d expect given the album’s title. ‘Shadows’ is about being unable to forget a past lover (‘The shadows of our love’), ‘Yr Love’ rekindling an old romance (‘Bring your love back to be’) and ‘Getaway’ trying to run away from the world with a partner (‘We can get away tonight’). Like I said, big and broad. But they mostly work.

The album isn’t as routinely consistent as Roosevelt, nor does it flow as well, but there are some strong tracks on here. Songs like ‘Shadows’ and ‘Losing Touch’ can stand toe-to-toe with Roosevelt’s best songs, featuring killer basslines, thumping drums and the aforementioned catchy hooks. Young Romance doesn’t quite do enough to justify its 50-minute runtime though and there are a few clunkers around the middle (such as ‘Better Days’) that drag things out a bit. The album would have benefitted from having a couple of tracks cut from it, making things just that little bit leaner.

Young Romance is ultimately a fun but middling release. It’s not the sort of album that survives being picked apart too much and works best when you just chuck it on in the background. If you like your indie pop with a thick retro coating, then it’s worth checking out.

Best Tracks: ‘Under The Sun’, ‘Losing Touch’, ‘Shadows’.