An overused analogy to describe Coldplay is that they are akin to marmite: you either love or you hate them. I think this analogy has merit, but doesn’t go far enough. People either adore Chris Martin’s showmanship and Coldplay’s music, or are utterly revolted by his wannabe-Bonoisms and the music that Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion produce. So if you’re one of those people who at the uttering of the word ‘Yellow’ come out into feverish sweats and are overcome with that uncontrollable Hulk smash-kind of rage, now is the time to click the little x in the top right corner of the page. [Editor’s note: and that kind of person would be me, which is why I kindly asked John to take this album.]
Nearly a fortnight ago, Coldplay released their ‘Coldplay Live 2012’ album, which was recorded live at Paris’s Stade de France, Montreal’s Bell Centre and the band’s triumphant Pyramid Stage headline performance at Glastonbury last year. Now, I’ve had the pleasure of watching this band perform in the live arena just once before. At Glasto 2011, where Chris Martin et al. did what they do best and blew U2 out of the water on the Saturday night. Ok, so Beyoncé stole the headlines, but any fan of guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll and stadium rock knew there was only one victor in the battle of the headliners.
From the opening bars of the unpronounceable set opener ‘Mylo Xyloto’, it’s apparent that what the audience and listener on this album are in for is something of spectacle focusing on the true grandeur of the band. Such was the brilliance of their newest record that playing 50% of the set from the record was not a problem. Songs like ‘Paradise’ and ‘Hurts Like Heaven’ are played with the musical panache of a track that the band could have been running-out for the past decade. It’s almost apparent that this album has been more of a success to the band than ‘Viva La Vida’ was.
The quality of every air-grabbing number is as high as one after the other is fired at you. Even the intervention of the thoroughly warbly Rihanna [who seems to be on a bit of a decline at the moment) can’t ruin an almost flawless set. Chris Martin marshals the crowd with his over-set nervous persona, while the three other members prove their multi-instrumental skills throughout.
This isn’t Martin’s roadshow and co., it’s a slick, well-oiled unit. This is a band at the peaks of their career and who are already on their way to writing their way into musical folklore. The set goes on with singalong hit followed by another singalong.
But you have to wait until the 14th song for the pinnacle moment. The song which never fails to send a shiver up my spine. ‘Fix You’ sends the audience, and me included into a singalong rapture. (And remember, I’m listening in my small flatshare in Lincoln). Coldplay have triumphed again and while the haters, will of course continue to hate Martin and co. I for one am just happy that their live music can once again accompany my journeys to work in my car.
A triumphant live album, from a terrific live outfit.
Coldplay’s new live album with DVD, the all too obviously titled ‘Coldplay Live 2012′, is out now on EMI. Experience a taster in the form of ‘Paradise’, performed in Paris and featured on the CD, in this previous Live Gig Video post.
By this point in his career, Benjamin Gibbard can effectively be called indie-royalty. Having led Death Cab for Cutie out of obscurity on the West Coast of America with a series of fairly alright records, Gibbard really got his break during the hugely acclaimed ‘Transatlanticism’ era. Not only did it see Gibbard and co appear on The OC, but it saw them make a huge step-up in audience. From there, it’s been an enjoyable and successful career in music. Even his side project the Postal Service has seen its Sub-Pop release break the platinum mark. So it’s rather surprising to see him make a solo record.
This then, is the Ben Gibbard side story. The one not reflected in the moods of his other endeavours and one that we’re asked that, even given his recent lack of colour, that ‘Former Lives’ will fill in the gaps with vibrancy and understanding. This promise starts well as the scene is set in a raining west-London as Gibbard, accompanied by himself a capella sings the romanticisms of a lonely evening before the album sets its scene in ‘Dream Song’. Written in third person, you wonder what the point really is, but it’s entertaining enough with the simplistic chords and rhymes as you would expect of a slightly folksier attempt at a solo record. It breaks into ‘Teardrop Windows’, a similar track only instead of being entirely about its writer, becomes an ode to The Smith in Seattle. It makes for another listenable track.
Yet three songs in, you’re already starting to get bored. It’s his own fault as well. In writing this record, Gibbard is hardly departing from his own outfit like Kele did with Bloc Party, he’s not in between acts like Conor Oberst and he’s certainly not branching out like Jack White. In making ‘Former Lives’, Gibbard is simply pointing us in the directions he almost went and didn’t. Whilst ‘Bigger than Love’ has the pulsating drums and guitars of an Arcade Fire hit, the story lacks in your ability to empathise with him. And even the centrepiece of the record, ‘Something’s Rattling’ lacks in anything hugely bold aside from a brief spell of mariachi.
The further into this record you delve, the more of a formality it becomes. ‘Duncan, Where Have You Gone’ has supposedly been a work in progress for a long time; but released today it sounds lost somewhere very close to Blur’s ‘Under the Westway’. (It’s even set in London.) I’d argue that if ‘Hard One to Know’ was placed second in the record, you’d be far more intrigued and who knows? The rest may sound more interesting but again, it’s a mere formality to a man you’d expect far better than a plainly listenable record from. Maybe that’s the problem, we’ll never know.
‘Former Lives’, the debut album from Death Cab for Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard, is out now on City Slang. The singer/songwriter will play at London Union Chapel on the 3rd of December.
I wrote a little piece about this band Shields from Newcastle a while back, backing them for big things in the future. Saying for sure that they were a band to watch over the next few months/years. Now here I am just a few months later reviewing their debut EP ‘Kaleidoscope’, a sampling of the band at their best, producing some quality work. But while my introduction to the band focussed on the fact that they were the best thing to come out of Newcastle, since everyone’s favourite goalsnatcher and TV pundit Alan Shearer. This time around it’s all about the music, as that is really what does the talking on this record. The opening track ‘Mezzanine’, well, what can I say…
It has all has all the elements of a synthpop hit. The bass is full of vigour and bounce and has the feel of a late 80s disco combined with the infectious enthusiasm of The Go Team! It’s a fantastic way to start the record and is a clear indicator of what this band is about. Sexy, fun pop music that draws a smile on your face whether you are in the mood or not, now that’s an enticing, eh? Things are slowed down a tiny bit and the percussion takes over on ‘Miserly’, with a couple of ooooooooohs and ahhhhhhhhs thrown in there for good measure. The highlights of this song though are the jingling guitars and synths that soar over the engine room of the band.
Then right away on ‘Turning Corners’, the EP ‘Kaleidoscope’ gets a bit folky and finds some segment of classic song structure. The piano’s underwriting the melody are easily my favourite piece of this song. With the subtle bass rolling in the background as the song grows into the pulsing synthpop hit it’s destined to be. Proceedings are stripped down ever so slightly for the beginning of ‘Silhouette’ before the entire band chime in with a banging bit of percussion and some seriously math-rockesque riffs that even Foals would be proud of. Their cover of SBTRKT’s ‘Pharaoh’ (video here is definitely worth a listen, even if it is just for the fact that they’ve gone in a great new direction of the track which will have SBTRKT fans scratching their heads for sure. It’s a bold effort though.
The band are clearly quite happy with the niche that they’ve found and each song on the EP stands out well as ever, it’s just whether in the age of consistent synth pop releases bludgeoning the airwaves, will Shields get noticed by the mainstream populous, or forgotten before they even have a chance. I for one hope not, as ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a right laugh to listen too and should be a staple of any indie DJ.
You heard me, Propaganda.
Listen to and download ‘Mezzanine’ below; the ‘Kaleidoscope’ EP by Shields in its entirety was released yesterday and can be downloaded for free from the band’s official Web site.
By Mary Chang on Monday, 19th November 2012 at 12:00 pm
Words by guest reviewer Carrie Clancy
I’m not into dance / club / electro / techno / hip hop / dubstep music. When my Twitter feed started buzzing about Example‘s new album, I stifled a yawn and scrolled down the page. But when I spied a Tweet from someone whose musical opinions I respect, about the album’s first single, ‘Say Nothing’ I narrowed my eyes and clicked the accompanying link. And…the single wasn’t bad. On subsequent listens, I quite liked it. I was disappointed that ‘Say Nothing’ wasn’t available for purchase in America, so I decided to seek out more information on the album proper. Thus began my virgin foray into the world of dance / club / electro / techno / hip-hop / dubstep / whatevs… via ‘The Evolution of Man’, out today on Ministry of Sound.
Except this album isn’t dance / club / electro / techno / hip-hop / dubstep. It’s a pop/rock album with a very definite electro-dance slant. In fact, the album leans more heavily toward guitar rock than I expected, with Blur’s Graham Coxon contributing guitar work to four tracks. With massive production by several well-known electronic music specialists (Feed Me, Dirty South, Tommy Trash, Skream, Benga), the dance element is still strongly present. The resulting album has a fresh, edgy sound sure to grab the attention of critics and fans alike.
I caught myself dancing along to the heavy beats, at first reluctantly but more willingly as the album went on. Example’s singing voice is pleasantly clear and melodic, with a very sexy timbre in the low register. The choruses are sharp and clever, even on the occasions when eloquence is sacrificed for the rhyme scheme. Thematically, these are mature, self-reflective songs with provocatively witty lyrics. Example and his team of musicians show admirable restraint in not obliterating the songs’ emotional effects with a battering ram of sound.
The first three singles are definite highlights on the album. Anyone familiar with Johnny McDaid’s work (Snow Patrol, Paul Van Dyk, Vega 4), will recognize his stamp on the lovelorn lyrics of ‘Say Nothing’. ‘Close Enemies’ (video below), the album’s second single, is possibly my favorite track, with its infectiously singable and danceable chorus, “keep your best friends close by / but keep your enemies closer”. Third single ‘Perfect Replacement’ is the most heavily dance-oriented track on the album.
The track sequencing is seamlessly effective from beginning to end. ‘Come Taste the Rainbow’ has a sultry, sexy chorus and uses the eponymous lyric without becoming childish or vulgar (or both). Penultimate track ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ is the most in-your-face, aggressive rock song on the album, and is probably deliberately situated next to the familiar dance sound of ‘We’ll Be Coming Back’ (by Calvin Harris and Example).
In summary, I was completely awestruck by this album; it blew away any preconceived notions I might have had. As a self-confessed music snob, I feel a bit guilty about enjoying it, but I also have the feeling that was Example’s intention. ‘The Evolution of Man’ is the most apt title I’ve ever encountered, for here, Example has undertaken the kind of artistic change-in-direction that may alienate old fans but will certainly reap new ones.
‘The Evolution of Man’, the new album from Example, is now available on Ministry of Sound. He will head out on a massive arena tour of the UK in February and March 2013; all the details are here.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 14th November 2012 at 12:00 pm
Like The Beatles, Alan R. Davison gets by with a little help from his friends. His debut album, ‘The White Eagle Lounge’, features 36 players, according to Davison’s Web site. Some of the guest musicians are well-known names, including Rick McMurray from Ash and Nathan Connolly and Tom Simpson from Snow Patrol, but most of them are independent musicians from the Edinburgh area where Davison is based.
In comparison to more familiar Scottish acts, ‘The White Eagle Lounge’ is more Belle and Sebastian than Frightened Rabbit. Despite references to dark, cold Scottish winters, the music itself is generally bright and warm. Davison’s light singing voice and his casual, conversational singing style make an appealing combination. The instrumentation is interesting throughout the album, with gently ringing percussion, lilting string and brass arrangements, and unobtrusive backing vocals strategically used to enhance the songs without overwhelming them.
The choruses and driving rhythms in the songs are catchy, and the melodies are charming singalongs. Davison is adventurous with his vocal and instrumental arrangements, but somewhat less adventurous with his lyrics. His themes include love, regret and reflections on childhood. The lyrics are a bit trite, but they are saved from banality by a few fortunate and unique turns-of-phrase, particularly in ‘Phone Calls and Favourite Things’ and ‘I Bought a Car’.
Davison experiments with a touch of electronic sound on two tracks, ‘You Were Right’ and ‘There’s Something on the Surface’. In the case of ‘There’s Something on the Surface’, the album’s final track, Davison shows a struggling songwriter’s plea for understanding, with lyrics such as, “all I ever asked for/was the chance to sing/to play my heart out to you all/despite everything.” While the electronic rhythmic effects maintain the forward momentum of the song, the lyrics lack the conviction to get beyond their own surface.
In contrast, ‘You Were Right’ employs the subtle electro effects to greater emotional effect. Davison’s sweet, heartfelt vocals match up perfectly with the depth of the guitars and keyboards, and the shimmering electronic sounds add poignancy to the simple but highly melodic chorus: “you were right / about everything you told me / last night/ it seems so simple here and now / in the daylight.”
Indeed, the real beauty in ‘The White Eagle Lounge’ lies in the middle of the album, with a surprisingly diverse and enchanting series of songs, starting with ‘You Were Right’. ‘John the Burglar’ begins as a storytelling ballad, but has an almost stream-of-consciousness feel. Its gently rocking triple meter and virtuosic piano part are definite highlights. Among the purely pretty moments on the album are ‘We Tied The Knot’, a sunny, waltz-tempo allusion to traditional wedding song, and the more melancholy ‘When We Were Small’.
My lasting impression of ‘The White Eagle Lounge’ is its sense of sonic exploration through collaboration. Davison’s willingness to experiment with instrumentation and vocal arranging, to include employing a slew of guest musicians, doesn’t override his keen musicianship or the solo nature of his work.
Alan R. Davison’s debut album ‘The Eagle White Lounge’ is available now from EmuBands.
Foals are back, Foals are back! Indie hipster alert: FOALS ARE BACK!
If you’ve had your head in the ground for the past few days you’ll have missed two key events. The first is that Barack Obama is still president of the United States of America. The second is that math rockers Foals have released their new single ‘Inhaler’.
Yannis Philippakis’ band of denim-clad, bobble hat-wearing, titans of indie pop are well and truly back. Their sound has been refined and yes, they’ve grown up significantly it seems. The bass riffs are unashamedly filthy, just as Philippakis roars about how he needs a little space. Jimmy Smith’s guitar tickles in the metronome-like fashion that you expect after the whimsical charms of ‘Balloons’ and ‘Cassius’.
The song just screams about the new inner maturity Foals seem to have found. Debut ‘Antidotes’ has gone from a stand-out part of Foals career to the foreword to a greater tale. ‘Total Life Forever’ was a sign of their growth as a band, with ‘Spanish Sahara’ singled out as one of the most beautiful tracks of the past few years. While ‘Miami’ reiterated that while they are trying to be a bit more grown-up, they can still write a belter of a tune with a unnervingly, unforgettable chorus. (And a bloody weird video.)
With ‘Inhaler’, these boys have come full circle to become a quintessential cornerstone of British alternative music.
‘Inhaler’, Foals’ new single, is available now. ‘Holy Fire’, their third album, will be out on the 11th of February 2013 on Transgressive Records. The promo video for the song, with some questionable but definitely mature content, is below.