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Depending on how up to date you are on African politics, this may or may not be the review you are looking for. Sharing their name with the current Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan are a five-piece from Brighton who have just released their debut album ‘This is Our Way Out’. The reason a genre hasn’t been mentioned yet is because they’re too hard to pin down, throughout the debut LP there’s enough musical influences to pick out you could form the world’s greatest supergroup.
Perhaps the reason for the change in style throughout the album is because it’s a collection of the band’s past three EPs, three different recordings from various periods of the band’s musical influences. But what could be deemed a disjointed mesh of music, is in fact a very interesting listen. Album opener ‘Bruises Disappear’ sets the mood with a progressive melody and a distorted news report before the sound balloons and expands until you’re sucked in to the catchy groove and brilliant vocals. Akin to the likes of CKY with elements of At the Drive-In, it’s a faultless way to open an debut record.
However, after the previous hints of proto-metal, ‘Stranded’ has disbanded the heavier side of music and opted for an electro-indie vibe. The blippy bloppy synth and softer voice lends itself toward the ilk of Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club, but it sounds like it’s all been done before (which to an extent it has). Except for the big sounding breakdown, there’s nothing too outlandish and original. The album continues in this way of peaks and troughs for the duration, but luckily with more peaks. As well as the quality at times fluctuating, the style is much more erratic. Whether it’s the Placebo-esque ‘Broken Heart’ or the ‘Bearer Of Bad News’ era Enter Shikari styled ‘Away From Here’ – it’s one band’s musical journey into finding their own sound – one which is as interesting as it is enjoyable.
The highlights from the Brighton noiseniks’ debut are the emotive ‘Lights Burn My Eyes’ and the big sounding stadium rock ‘Backs to the Wall’. Despite the overall genre being arguably different, the songs are bound together by the melodic guitars, rolling drums and powerful vocals – three staples which remain in tact when the feeling changes. Closer and title track ‘This is Our Way Out’ is a fantastic culmination of the majority of styles you’ve just heard. The deep sounding bass drum coupled with the haunting electro intro is similar to the Antlers, until the spoken word vocals take over. What started as another tip of the hat to electro-indie has transformed into a slower imagining of Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. It grows and swells into an almost Gorillaz style instrumental which suddenly stops.
Goodluck Jonathan have delivered a debut album which has been cherry picked from their own personal ‘best of’. Having three separate releases to choose from for the 11 track LP, the songs have been honed and crafted to the best of the band’s ability – and it shows. The hooks are catchy the lyrics are passionate and the music (although there is one or two dud tracks) shows promising signs of a much more famous band. Just give them time.
‘This is Our Way Out’ is available now from Something Nothing.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 21st July 2011 at 12:00 pm
It’s taken over a year but Skint and Demoralised has finally released their debut album. Er, a debut album, and then their second album. Which is actually more their debut, since it’s their first true long-playing release and this is what got them signed to Heist or Hit. But a full album’s worth of material was already ready, so now there are two albums running around. Confused? Let me set the stage…
In the latter part of 2008, Steve Lamacq named ‘The Thrill of Thirty Seconds’ by Skint and Demoralised (then singer and lyricist Matt Abbott and the producer MiNI dOG) one of the best songs of the year. You would think with that kind of endorsement that Mercury, the label that had initially signed the act, would have held on tight to them. Uhhh, no. There was even a point last year when Abbott completely changed tack with the dancey ‘I Love This City’ (video here), an ode to his beloved hometown of Wakefield. But album release-wise, they reached an impasse when Mercury unceremoniously dropped them. (This is starting to sound like the Little Comets saga, doesn’t it?)
‘This Sporting Life’, presumably named after the famous 1963 film starring Richard Harris (Abbott is an unabashed lover of “kitchen sink” dramas, just like that one Steven Patrick Morrissey…) caught the eye of Heist or Hit Records, who quickly snapped them up. Abbott and several close mates now make up the S&D live line-up, which should be great to see in the new future as they’ve got not one but two (‘Love, and Other Catastrophes’, the aforementioned debut album that really isn’t a debut album, thanks to Mercury).
One thing I would like to note: there’s been some complaint as of late that some British artists are ditching their regional accents for a more Americanised sound. Abbott sings with a classic Wakefield accent, which I think makes it feel more authentic and less manufactured. There’s certainly a polish to all of these songs, especially those bringing you into the world of Franco and Maria, Abbott’s fictional lovers (‘Maria, Full of Grace’, ’43 Degrees’), but there are some like ‘Hogmanay Heroes’ and the single ‘The Lonely Hearts of England’ (tipped by Lammo again…no surprise there!) that are more songs you’d sing with your mates at the pub.
Of all the songs on ‘This Sporting Life’, I favour ‘All the Rest is Propaganda’ the best; it’s got the word “precinct”, which reminded me of one of my favourite songs of all time, Stephen Duffy’s ‘A Man Without a Star’ and the first time I fell in love. At the time, I had to look up what “precinct” meant, because it meant something to do with the police to me (in America). But beyond that, it’s a sweet love song, distilling just how great it feels to be in love, as if life (including that little thing that we all need, love) has become ridiculously simple. Sometimes I wish it was exactly that way.
To knock you back into the real world, ‘Maybe You Are After All?’ introduces yet another theme we are all familiar with: unrequited love. It is catchy, as is ‘Voluntary Confinement’. The only parts of this album that I don’t get are the shouty, angry and jarring ‘Lowlife’ and the slower ‘Did It All Go to Plan?’. Regarding the latter, Abbott is not really a crooner. He’s too young to be one. (He’s only 22.) But I’m confident he’ll ease into that role, provided the record-buying public give the rest of this album – and ‘Love, and Other Catastrophes’ for that matter – a real listen.
Both ‘This Sporting Life’ and ‘Love, and Other Catastrophes’ are available now in digital format from Heist or Hit. The physical albums will be released in the UK on the 2nd of August.
The best, and to be honest, only decent moment of this record, ‘Skying’ from the Horrors, happens about 2 minutes before the end, when the band actually wake up and start playing with emotion. The drums really start whacking, there’s shards of dissonant synth all over the place, and the vocal… well actually the vocalist just keeps singing the same note he’s been singing since the beginning. But they actually sound alive, unlike the preceding hour or so, when it sounds like they’re all dosed up in a Valium smog, dismally plucking away.
Mid-tempo, mid-pitch, middle-of-nowhere, there’s no highs or lows here. Drowned in that thin, reverb-heavy production that is unmercifully fashionable at present, it takes the patience of a saint to work out who’s actually playing what – in the end, you give up caring, the songs washing out like a grey sea at slack water, neither one thing nor the other.
Three tracks in, some light relief comes in ‘I Can See Through You’, with its forcible bass and tambourine to brighten things up a bit. Faris Badwan, he of the microphone, comes mighty close to discovering a second octave, and certainly the band add a couple more chords to their repertoire; these are small but welcome mercies. ‘Endless Blue’ starts with a pointless jam, before a dissonant, squalling guitar riff (the song’s one point of interest), before repeating itself endlessly. This will probably go down well with those that didn’t like shoegaze, not because it was a boring genre, but because their attention spans were too short. So here we have it: the perfect song for dull, jumpy people.
‘Still Life’ is a 5-minute, three-chord, cod-stadium filler with synth all over the place and literally nowhere to go, repeating the same linear song structure as can be heard throughout the album. To prove it, skip through the track at thirty-second intervals, and it all sounds the same – except with the volume turned up a bit at the end. ‘Wild Eyed’ is a bit better, still something of a noodling jam, just with a bit of brass at the end, but at least it has a groove. ‘Moving Further Away’ is a big departure here, because we’re now down to two chords! Not to worry, the noodling – synths, guitars, seagulls – only lasts for 8 minutes. Tonally, we’re stuck in teenage poetry mode: blurred, repetitive invocations of moody skies, desolate landscapes and the effects of depressant drugs…supposedly grand and imposing, but just as easily coming across as lazy and predictable.
Much has been made of the multifarious ’80s influences contained here, giving chin-stroking musos something of a “Name That Band” parlour game to play. The list is too exhaustive to repeat; suffice to add an extra couple of notable ’80s influences: Chas and Dave’s ‘Rabbit’, on the basis of its repetitive content, and the Tweets’ ‘Birdie Song’ (editor’s note: aka Matt Thomas of the Joy Formidable’s “favourite” song), for similar use of high-pitched synth.
The greatest crime here is that this is ugly, carbuncular music. The vocals wobble precariously several times, the drums plod predictably: this is essentially sound of a band stumbling across a handful of half-baked melodies and playing them to death, more interested in their fashionable stylings and influences than doing anything genuinely moving. With so many talented musicians out there making truly beautiful music, there really is little time for this sort of dirge.
‘Skying’, the new album from the Horrors, is out now on XL.
To most people, Fink is just a unknown entity. But to a great many artists around the world he is an inspiration and provokes heartfelt reactions amongst the community he works in. So it’s to nobody’s surprise that Fink’s new release ‘Perfect Darkness’ has slinked in under the radar. This is the Bristol-born producer/artist’s 4th album and after 3 records which had critics and artists gushing alike, saw him writing for Amy Whitehouse, John Legend and Professor Green.
This album carries on in the same suit as his past efforts and is full of the same kind of lyrically potent heart melters that he has become known for. Opener ‘Perfect Darkness’ slides beautifully into your ears and has that kind of intense beauty of romantic finger-picking that epitomizes the charm of this album. Next you have ‘Fear is like Fire’, a slow burning tune with charm unlike most other singer songwriters plaguing the genre. That is the beauty of Fink; he can go from immense beauty in tracks like these, to chaotic bursts like album closer ‘Berlin Sunrise.’
Comfortably though, I can say that this album won’t be regarded as a classic. With talent like this comes the fact that there are no stand-out crowd grabbers. Nothing that will make the Radio1 A Playlist, and in that lies what I feel is the only flaw with this record; it is a record which while being beautifully lyrically and musically on first listen, it just doesn’t stay with you. Catchy tracks are what the public want, but usually it’s a choice between that and the critical acclaim.
Here is an album that rightly went down the road for critical acclaim. Unsurprisingly, he will receive it, as this album has everything you could really ask for: stunningly haunting acoustic guitar work and fantastic lyrics. Little else can be said about this, except for that well you will find it a bit of a Marmite album, best approached with caution.
Fink’s ‘Perfect Darkness’ is available now from Ninja Tune.
Dananananaykroyd, once you figure out how to spell their name, (tip: listen to ‘Watch This!’) are, as strange as it sounds, a really quite accessible band. If you manage to catch them at one of their live dates or famous festival shows, which are notorious for their ‘wall of cuddles’, then you’ll instantly be wrapped up in their substream. Based on the incredible amount of fun to be had just listening to their first effort ‘Hey Everyone!’ back in 2009, it’s no surprise they’ve incurred such a dedicated set of fans. But that’s what coming out of a scene that has BSM, Alcopop!, DIY and Wichita all in its circle does to you.
Having taken plenty of time to fix their sound for this new record, Danana have kept in almost all the factors that made ‘Hey Everyone!’ Such an enjoyable record to listen to. Having introduced themselves in the most proper way with ‘Watch This!’, ‘Reboot’ is a powerful reminder of exactly where the Glaswegians stand. Just beyond the line of pop and just before the line of being a rock band, Danana’s new sound is more refined. In honesty, there’s not nearly much different here, so it’s entirely down to the quality of the tracks to define whether it’s worth your time. The way I see it is that if you managed to avoid boredom listening to the last album, you’ll probably get the same rush as before as this new material isn’t really a step away from anything they’ve already made, nor is it really a progression.
Not that this is a bad thing however: changing their sound could have pushed them too far in a direction that could easily just make them sound like every other band trying to break the scene. The Scots have stayed loyal to themselves and tracks such as ‘Time Capsule’ could very easily be on the debut without anyone questioning it. Lead single ‘Muscle Memory’ is a definitely on the poppier, more radio-friendly side of the album, but there’s not many tracks like this. The highlights of the album come in the math-esque ‘Think and Feel’, which should easily become a highlight of their live shows, and the aptly named ‘E Numbers’ (listen and download it for free below).
The disappointment in this album comes in that aside from the first few tracks, you can’t help but think that the band are running out of ideas fast. There’s plenty of playing around with their layering and lyrical ideas; however, the extent to which this works is a bit questionable. Like so many anticipated albums this year, it could have been a great EP, but when made into an LP, you’re left wondering what the group have spent 2 years furthering themselves as a band has been left. That said, ‘Hey Everyone!’ was such a good album that to follow it with something quite as enjoyable would have been a remarkable feat. So close boys.
Dananananaykroyd’s latest album ‘There is a Way’ is available now from the band’s own Pizza College label.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 28th June 2011 at 12:00 pm
Achtung! Digitalism’s second album is named ‘I Love You, Dude’. I’ll admit, the title made me giggle: it made me think about this recent American farce and the perpetually wigged out comedy team of Cheech and Chong. However, there is nothing funny about this record. The German duo of Jens Moelle and Ismail “Isi” Tuefekci have managed to put together a sonically stellar set of 10 songs that will capture your dance-loving heart. I hope it’ll manage to do better than its predecessor, 2007′s ‘Idealism’, which hit a peak position of #6 on the US electronic album chart.
‘I Love You, Dude’ begins in with half-chilled, half dance floor anticipatory ‘Stratosphere’. When pressed, Moelle describes as follows: “It’s very summery and feels like jumping around, but in slow motion, like when the air turns into honey”. Make of that what you will. The synthtastic ‘2 Hearts’ follows, beginning minimally xx style before the vocals begin. This single has been likened to Hot Chip, Simian Mobile Disco, and even Phoenix, which strikes me as odd, because fifth track ‘Forrest Gump’ (with its chorus of “and you’re running!” of course) sounds far more like the Paris indie rock/dance band, complete with Thomas Mars-like vocals, generally flat with occasional sultry accented notes and yelps. Julian Casablancas contributed ideas for melody for this song, but can you really tell? Because I can’t. Still, this is good, just not great.
Great? How about the high-tech vibrations that characterise ‘Circles’, the definite highlight of the album: it sounds like the ideal song to put on when you’re on the treadmill for a brisk run. Of course, I imagine it’s more likely to make people sweat in the clubs, grooving to the infectious beats. Two-thirds of the way through, the vocal rises up innocently, vulnerable, before the beats lay into you again. Arms way up in the air everyone! ‘Reeperbahn’, named after the notorious red-light district of Hamburg, sports a bass line that Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane would dig (a little ‘On Board’, innit?), but with a Darth Vader-like ominous vocal and (surprise!) infused with background thudding ala Pendulum. Only dance bands can break my general “no vocals = no good” rule, and in ‘Blitz’ and ‘Antibiotics’, I realise this is what I wanted last year’s Chemical Brothers album to sound like. Oh wait. This is electro house, isn’t it? Maybe that’s what my brain is reacting to.
After all these tracks that should make you get up and dance, you get the curveball that is ‘Just Gazin”, purportedly inspired by 1973 English cult film The Wicker Man. Huh? I’m confused. A+ for trying but D for the nonlinearity. However, the album is saved from premature despair with the final tracks, ‘Miami Showdown’ and the appropriately titled ‘Encore’, both sprinkled liberally with sci-fi sensibility and sounding like homages to one of the duo’s biggest influences, Daft Punk. Overall? A good effort, but the album is kind of like an aural Jammie Dodger: there are crunchy bits and there are sweet bits, both with the potential to wow. The question is, are you a biscuit kind of person, or do you prefer jam? Or both? Für mich? Ich mag beides. Err…have a listen to this and decide for yourself.
Digitalism’s ‘I Love You, Dude’ is available now from V2.