And so it begins…our musical voyage into the unknown and unheard. New tracks this week come courtesy of Laidback Luke, Bruno Mars and Jodie Marie with the full spectrum of good, bad and awful covered neatly. Albums from Swedish songstress Lykke Li and Chucky from the Rugrats, a.k.a Ed Sheeran, also get the LSRadio Music Team once over with varying results. There are some crackers to kick off our reviews for 2011/12 so read on you inquisitive souls.
Single of the Week!
Every week we’ll be picking the best track that we’ve reviewed over the past 7 days to be our Single of the Week. This weeks it’s the ever charming, Bruno Mars. Check and rep.
Bruno Mars // Marry You (Words by Emma Furlong)
With a pop chart full of songs about heartbreak and deceit, Bruno Mars’ Marry You is a refreshingly modern day twist on a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 60’s hit album. The fourth single from his hugely successful album, Doo Wops & Hooligans, it takes a delightfully upbeat change of direction from his previous single Grenade and one step further than Just The Way You Are. “Just say I do/I think I wanna marry you”…With an upbeat melody and church bells a-ringing, Mars has balanced the themes of a sickly sweet love song with insanely catchy lyrics and created one of the most addictive pop songs of the year.
Jodie Marie // On The Road (Words by Becky Martin)
On The Road is a nice song…but this is almost out of Jodie Marie’s favour, because it is difficult to say anything more about it. It just does not contain anything particularly striking, which reminds the listener of the type of music that would be played in the background in a restaurant, pleasant but not particularly noticeable to the ears. The chorus demonstrates the oomph this artist is capable of, but the verses are very slow and almost bland, which lets the song down…it would be good to listen to if you couldn’t get to sleep though.
Noble ft. Soloman // Nightlife (Words by Kat Koumourou)
The catchy, upbeat instrumental of the song is something I’m really into, making you really feel like you’re in London listening to this tune. But the drop into the song could have been better produced, it was quite poorly done. Noble does a good job with his verse, it goes well with the beat and I like the chorus too. But I’m in two minds about the Jamaican vocals that Soloman provides in the chorus, his voice is perhaps too slow for this fast-tempo, dance song. Reminded me a bit of Rafiki from the Lion King for some reason? I wonder if this will catch on as much as ‘Headz, Shoulders, Knees and Toez’ did…
Laidback Luke vs. Example // Natural Disaster (Words by Olly Wheeler)
Laidback Luke has produced another room filling house anthem with a brilliant piano hook and big synth sounds. Unfortunately this is mired by the addition of Example’s vocals over the top, whose affected london accent somehow fails to gel with the club tune. But it is his rapping and lyrics that really bring the song down. It’s a shame, because listening to the instrumental version, you can see the song it could have been. Out of the remixes my favourite by far was the Andy C remix, in which he twists the tune into a percussion driven drum and bass track, which I think I possibly prefer to the original. Overall a great track, unfortunately spoiled by poor vocals.
Fanfarlo // Deconstruction (Words by Louis Van Kleef)
Fanfarlo’s latest effort is a quietly enjoyable affair, it sounds lovely but sadly it lacks any real excitement. The twinkly guitar lines and muted, spoken vocals are all perfectly nice but it never really gets beyond that, making it seem quite middle of the road. Something you would happily listen to absent-mindedly in a bar maybe, but probably not destined to become a favourite on your ipod.
Album / EP Reviews
Ankit Love // Forever (Words by Akin Ogunsanya)
Ankit Love is probably one of the funniest artists I come across in a long time, maybe since Soulja Boy in 2007? The album is so terrible that I think he should stick to a career in modelling and not music. His subtle rapping on the first track People Are My Favourite Thing was the epitome of “wackness” and Unite + Funk was just useless. I don’t understand which record label had the time to give this ‘model’ a chance to pick up a mic to do music. One high point on his album are the instrumentals which showcase Ankit’s Rock/Alternative credentials but he does a completely different genre of music which still ends up being a disaster. Track 10, Forever, is another calamity on the album I must add. Beethoven Burst is the best song on this project although the song fails to live up to the name bestowed upon it. Other tracks aren’t the best either.
Echogram // Conspiracy (Words by Emma Sims)
Conspiracy is frankly dismal. I’m bitter because I got quite excited at the prospect of Irish accents, but alas, Echogram sound like every other American techno-pop-rock band ever. Their music is horrifically generic and predictable, not one of their songs progress, it’s just boring. Honestly, they’ve probably got more hope following in the steps of Burn (Acoustic), the third song on the EP, if you get over the fact that the singer is wailing at you in his bizarre Irish-American ways, some of the harmonies are almost bearable. Harsh but true. Sorry Echogram.
Lykke Li // Wounded Rhymes (Words by Joe Hallsworth)
Lykke Li’s sophomore album Wounded Rhymes expands on her excellent 2008 debut Youth Novels with a beautiful presentation of contrasts; the album goes in and out of powerful and expansive songs that are rich in melody to ones that elicit the Swedish singer’s vulnerabilities. The heart-wrenching epic I Know Places is a prime example of her susceptibility with her soulful voice straining to exhibit all of her emotion in a single track that absolutely captivates the listener.
In comparison to her debut effort, the album feels more direct and Li has obviously matured dramatically in the 3 year gap in between records. The album is laced with a Phil Spector, Wall of Sound esque production, with Sadness is a Blessing encompassing this through everything from the rhythm section, to Li’s vocal techniques and wouldn’t feel out of place it were slotted in to the middle of Back to Mono.
The album begins with fast paced numbers such as the opener Youth Knows No Pain and eventually settling down gradually through the course of the album to fully exhibit Li’s eloquent lyrics about lost love and youthful frustrations – her general dissatisfaction with certain values of life. The recent single, Rich Kid Blues, is probably the weakest song on the album, which if anything is a testimony to the strength of songs as it isn’t necessarily a poor effort. It feels Li now fully understands her strengths in this album, amplifying the sentiments she tries to convey with her powerful voice and it’ll be interesting to see if she will expand on this further with her next effort.
Ed Sheeran // + (Words by Saadiya Yusuf)
Ed Sheeran seems to have walked out of nowhere and into the charts within the last few months. However, this 20 year old from Suffolk has been working vigorously behind the scenes ever since leaving school and his debut studio album + shows this clearly. The great thing about the album is that his songs are real, describing experiences that reflect the issues that matter to people; the issues that his expected listeners will be experiencing themselves. U.N.I, for example, describes perfectly a break-up that occurs before the departure for university, whilst This City explains the feeling of moving to a new city for the first time. His album is a mix of light hearted love songs, from Grade 8 and Wake Me Up, to sensitive issues such as prostitution in The A Team and experiencing a miscarriage in Small Bump. Something I find that keeps the album interesting.
Whilst the album starts strong, half way through the songs seem to fade slowly into the background. However, I guess you could argue that this makes for easy listening.
Awolnation // Megalithic Symphony (Words by Louis Van Kleef)
Awolnation seem to have set out to make something grand with this album. The title suggests as much and the intro track, a minute long interlude followed with some pretty gritty synth lines suggest we’re in for a treat. However it all kind of dies away from there into an odd mix of so many genres, Soul Wars sounds like 80’s metal rehashed with some electronic undercurrent, Jump On My Shoulders, Guilty Filthy Soul, All I Need and Wake Up are unrepentant pop songs, but there’s an attempt to combine this with piano and choirs which really stops any of them from being enjoyable. It’s only when we get to lead single Sail and Not Your Fault where we regain that gritty and heavy synth sound that made the album sound pretty promising, Sail definitely being the stand out track. Ultimately an attempt to do too much without ever pinning down a definitive sound they could run with, ruining what could have been a great album.
Cage the Elephant //Thank You Happy Birthday (Words by Tom Churchill)
After their successful debut album was released in 2008 in the UK, Cage the Elephant return with their second effort titled Thank You Happy Birthday. Their more blues/garage driven debut consisted of popular songs such as In One Ear and Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked; the follow-up album allowing the band to experiment more with their sound, focusing a lot a more on vocal delivery which shows homage to a certain Mr Cobain and guitar sounds in the background that resemble a similarity to early 90’s American bands such as Pavement. The intriguing title of the new album suggests an element of satire that brings about an image of a matured band; gone are the band that wrote songs for the 14 year old teenage audience, that enjoyed the energetic live shows and not much more. On first listen to the sophomore effort, it is clear the influences of the band have taken a dramatic shift with new sound leaning more on the shoulders of alternative American artists such as the Pixies and Nirvana.
Opening the album with Always Something instantly states the band’s new direction in terms of sound and reminds us exactly why frontman Matt Schultz’s onstage energy is something that should be highly credited. The frantic vocal performances continue through the Pixies-esque Aberdeen; once again bleeding through perfectly onto the intertwining and rapturous guitars that would make Frank Black weak at the knees. Lead single Shake Me Down is a song that dominated this summer’s music festivals and listening to the song on record makes clear exactly why Schultz’s pained vocals are a joy to let ring through your little ears; as he yelps ‘I’ll keep my eyes fixed on the sun’.This adds a rare element of emotion to the song, which many bands nowadays try to pull off; it appears now that only few can do it well. The heavily ironic and paranoia induced Indy Kidz perhaps firmly places the knife between the shoulder blades of the audience that fell for their debut; Schultz snarls ‘I don’t watch TV cause it’s just a box of lies/It makes me want to stick a toothpick in my eyes’. The mocking vocals perhaps instigating how easily a certain audience can be manipulated by what is given to them by the media. Track 10 on the album is the one that firmly points towards Nirvana however and the grunge sound that this album kicks back into life; the pause around 1:50 adds an extra lick to the intensity before the fire is rekindled as Schultz hurls another shriek of ‘He’s a sabertooth tiger’. Finally, Schultz lowers the tone of vocals in songs like album closer Flow which appears more as an eye to eye song with the audience, something that allows the emotional connection to fizzle out graciously after 45 minutes of frenzy.
Unfortunately, like the vast majority of albums, it is not completely flawless; the weaker songs appearing more like fillers on the album, 2024 suggesting shaky vocals and Japanese Buffalo which fails to live up to earlier tracks on the record. The sad fact is, these weaker songs on the album appear just as good live as the better songs. It’s a sad cliche about Cage the Elephant but it is hard to understand the band until you have witnessed their live performances. The sophomore effort suggests a matured band that aren’t afraid to experiment with vocals or with guitar sounds and the stronger songs on Thank You Happy Birthday firmly place them as a changed band; gone are the indie pretences that the NME love to rave about. It is evident that Cage the Elephant have the potential to be one of the greatest bands of this new decade; it is just frustrating at times to listen to them on record as it appears that they are holding something back from the audience. Something that adds as that elusive connection.
So ends our first week of tasty music morsels. Next week we’ll be back with reviews of You Me At Six, The Bullits, Skrllex, Maverick Sabre and many more!