Imagine Dragons – Evolve Review

20170616190011!ImagineDragonsEvolveThis album was unfortunately not good, and this is coming from someone who more or less enjoyed Smoke + Mirrors, even if that album was no masterpiece.

Now what makes this album so much worse? I think it’s a combination of things, but at its core, it’s how basic it is. Smoke + Mirrors at least had something interesting going on in the songs, the quirks present there were a much needed extra layer.

Here, we have a platter of electronic arena rock anthems. The drums snap along, empty, almost like the clicking of fingers, which are also present here. Each song seems determined to have this booming beat that never lets up. Dan Reynolds’ hoarse vocals don’t seem to compliment the songs, but instead seem to be turned on like a switch when he notices the song is supposed to go harder. (Not that his vocals are bad, I like them).

The songs come in, fade out, and then the next one comes in. There’s no sense of progression, in the album, or the bands musical sensibility. Most of the songs feel like they’re here because they needed a space to fill, rather than feeling like their presence was demanded. Most of it is utterly forgettable.

I don’t think a single lyric grabbed my ears and demanded me to appreciate them. Listen to the chorus of Rise Up, and you’ll see the chant-style lyrics sound like something a seven year old came up with as he was trying to think of words that rhymed together.

Given Reynolds’ struggles with depression, you would hope he could come up with some more profound or meaningful lyrics. But he constantly dishes up the same clichés and tropes that can be found on any other of the self-empowering anthems on the radio.

The only song I’d probably listen to again is Thunder. There are clicks in the background, and repeated, glitchy, changing vocal pitches of the word /thunder/. It’s not exactly inspired (if I hear the clicking of fingers on one more song…), and most of what Reynolds says during the entire song is /Thunder, feel the thunder/Lightning and the thunder/, but I enjoyed it.

I may have been overly harsh. But this album was just really mediocre.

Favourites: Thunder

 

Grouper – Live Performance Review (16/7/17)  

I saw Grouper last friday at the NGV after viewing the Van Gogh exhibition they had. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the exhibition, but the performance by Grouper was very good.

We sat down on the floor. Grouper sat down on the stage. She had with her a guitar, a microphone and I assume some other things but I couldn’t really see them. Above her were three screens projecting images of people, landscapes, herself, and other scenery. As her playing became more harsh and erratic, the imagery started becoming more distorted, frequent and seizure-inducing (in a good way.)

My eyes weren’t on the projections the whole time though, a lot of the time I was just closing my eyes and letting the music surround me. I think I almost fell asleep a few times (in a good way). Would have been nice to have some bean bags or something though, my legs and neck were killing my by the end of the hour-long set.

As we walked out, we heard others remark that it was ‘transformative’, ‘mediative’ and the such. I didn’t think it was quite that good, but I did enjoy it. I think I enjoy her studio music a bit better, but my girlfriend who was accompanying me remarked that she found the way the music filled up the room to be a lot better. They’re two different experiences, ultimately.

You should definitely check out Grouper’s 2007 album AIA: Alien Observer, and the new singles she’s released this year, if you can’t catch her live.

Said the Whale – As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide Review

saidthewhale-1I first listened to Said the Whale in 2012, when my then-girlfriend bought me a CD to their album Little Mountain for Christmas, I’d never heard of them before, but they seemed like a decent indie romp after giving the album a spin. The album has nostalgic value for me, but I never ended really up liking it as much as I wanted to like it. There were a few decent songs, but the rest either felt too bland or grew tiresome quickly after their initial allure.

After they dropped off my radar for a while they however caught my attention again when I heard their new single Step into the Darkness, which seemed to swap the over-joyous indie sound for a more mellow, but no less catchy sound.

The albums first four songs capitalise on this sound in the exact way I hoped. However, it starts to falter a bit, at Realize Real Eyes (2pac reference?!) the song is slow, and a bit of a breather, but not exactly interesting. Confidence’s hook is a bit annoying, but has a nice breakdown at the end.

Miscarriage is a slow burner again, but this one is done much more effectively, building into an epic crescendo, then dying, and building up into an electro-fest. We then slide into the peaceful Beautiful Morning. However, Emily Rose, is yet another disappointment, a typical indie folk pop song that wouldn’t be misplaced on literally any of the albums by the big indie folk mainstream artists of today. Thankfully, it ends strong on the catchy Lilac and Willow, with its crunchy guitars.

Apparently more diehard fans aren’t totally into the new revitalised sound, but Said the Whale has recaptured my interest. The album isn’t quite as strong as I hoped it would be after hearing the singles, however, nonetheless, I look forward to seeing the potential of this new sound on whatever comes next by them.

Favourites: Step into the Darkness, More Than Ever, Beautiful Morning

Least: Confidence, Emily Rose

Score: 6.5/10

Lorde – Melodrama Review

135e9ae4d19e7816e0ffdd9a95922a0c.1000x1000x1Lorde returns after four years (hopefully she takes a smaller gap next time) with fun (somewhat alternative) pop songs. First listen, I was fairly underwhelmed by the album, but it did grow on me on subsequent listens. There are definitely weaker songs on here such as as Green Light, both the Sober songs, Homemade Dynamite, and Perfect places, but other stronger ones, such as The Louvre (even though the lyric /Broudcast the boom boom boom/ makes me cringe just a little bit, but the cheeky lyric /They’ll hang us in the Louvre/
Down the back, but who cares – still the Louvre/ makes up for it ) and Supercut. However, I’d much rather talk about the definite highlights on this album.

The piano ballad of Liability contains probably the best lyrics on the album. A song that suggests that she may have lost a past boyfriend because all of her rising fame, but she finds (some) peace in continuing to love herself. It’s sad, moving, and a great twist on the typical love song.

The overall  highlight of the album, though, would hands down have to be Hard Feelings/Loveless. It has an instrumental section between the two parts of the song that’s got discordant scratching, like pipes sliding against each other, and its the most adventurous and left-field part of the album, and I wish Lorde would have explored this sound a bit more. Also, Lorde’s cutesy refrain /Bet you want to rip my heart out/ Well guess what I like that/ is absolutely great.

At the end we hear Liability again but with more boopitys, boppitys and bippitys. An electronic version of the piano ballad version basically. (As a side note, I’ve never really understood reprises, why do I want to hear a usually slower, slightly different version of the a song I heard only several tracks earlier?)

The album closes on Perfect Places, a perfectly (heh) capable pop song to finish the album on. The opening vocals of this track /Everynight I live and die/ is definitely the highlight of the track.

It’s a confident sounding sophomore album, but not entirely a better one, the sparse production that defined Lorde’s first is (disappointingly) absent, replaced with a fuller, but sometimes more commercial (I don’t really wish to describe the music as commercial, but it feels like the most apt word) sound. If anything I’m curious what direction she’ll take next, hopefully an overall more adventurous one.

Favourites: Liability, Hard Feelings/Loveless

Least: Sober, Sober II (Melodrama), Liability (reprise) 

Score: 6.5/10 

Oliver Tank – OT Album & Live Review

oliver-tank-ot-0417I first heard Oliver Tank’s music a few years ago, and his songs became cemented into me when I decided to listen to his Slow Motion Music EP while sitting on rocks off the pier on a beach on a cold night, watching the stars and the lights of the city across the bay with a friend.

I can’t say I’ve done the same with this album yet, but I did listen to it while walking home at night, which is honestly the perfect environment for it; anywhere silent, and at night.

These songs are simple, with slow atmospheric beats and glitches, and Oliver Tanks quiet but beautiful vocals subtly flow in and out of the music. Fawn Myers features in two tracks, and her cooing of /Oliver, where have you been?/ on the song Lost, in which Oliver responds to each of her refrains feels touching and personal.

The album is chill, airy and relaxing. Every time Tank sings /in circles/ on the song Circles is bliss, and the repetitive vocals and blips on Silhouette are mesmerising, and much of the songs really make you just want to float away.

Though the album does have an issue of flow. Too many songs end abruptly, only to be followed by like five seconds of silence, and then for the next song to start up, when this is precisely the type of album that needs flow in between each of the songs to give it that dream-like feel that it’s trying to convey.

Unfortunately, I thought both of the preceding EPs to this album were better than this one. Maybe it’ll grow on me when I finally get the chance to listen to it while sitting on the beach-side pier at night.

Favourites: Circles, Lost, Swerve, Silhouette

Score: 5/10

Live:

I saw Oliver Tank at the Howler for his album tour, and unfortunately, it was only alright.

I think what Oliver Tank desperately needs is a full band accompanying him. He stands in front of us with just his guitar, some electronic drum-pad-machine thing and DJ controller set up. (I’m not a musician I don’t know what it’s called.)

He takes his already simple songs and further simplifies them for a live performance, which doesn’t really translate well, and just makes the whole experience a little too bare. His smiles while playing the songs were absolutely adorable though, especially during the finale where he remixed Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, it was like a sad version of the song, and I almost wish he played more songs like this, even if they weren’t his own, cause it was actually probably the best part of the set.

Phoenix – Ti Amo Review

dc4578f74e4a783a2617e730d7a0e75a.1000x1000x1.jpgIt seems that Phoenix are really trying to embrace their French roots. Perhaps this is spawned from the recent-ish events in France, but there’s way more French (and other languages) on this album than there ever has been on their previous albums. As the album title suggests, they’re really trying to spread that French love. And it is a lovely album.

It’s bubbly, very fruity, and I just want to chew it and have it explode in my mouth. There are funky disco grooves, synths, the mozzarella song (Fior di Latte translates to mozzarella) has breezy boopy drums. And the album actually reminds me The Strokes’ most recent album Comedown Machine at a lot of times, which isn’t a bad thing for me, because I enjoyed that album a fair bit.

Unfortunately, the album does start to mellow out towards the end, but that doesn’t make it any less pleasurable on the ears. And I do think the single J-Boy is probably the strongest song on the album, even if the whole thing is thoroughly enjoyable. I do wish they included a 6-minute instrumental track that paraded their last two albums, I actually enjoyed those.

I think, just like Bankrupt!, this isn’t an album that’s wowed me, but one that I will probably find myself playing a lot simply because of how pleasant it is to listen to, (without it eventually becoming grating, like so many happy and catchy albums can become.)

Favourites: J-Boy, Tuttifrutti, Fior Di Latte 

Score: 6.5/10

Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom Review

knew I was in for a great record when I read these editors’ notes from inside the album. I knew this was going to be one that would sit alongside the greats. I knew it was going to be a ground-breaking, revolutionary record when I heard Halsey read out a passage from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet during the intro song The Prologue. I knew this was going to be a deep record that tackled complex dark themes and social topics. I knew this wasn’t going to be just another pop record.

Perhaps I’m unable to give the album a proper review, because I will admit, I kind of went into it expecting to hate it, because I thought the singles off BADLANDS were also extremely bland, and hating on the album has turned into a (tiny bit of a) meme. But yeah….

Yeah, um. The album is alright. It’s not great, it’s not terrible. 100 Letters was pretty catchy. The two interludes I liked a lot; Good Mourning, and Walls Could Talk. They actually sounded dark and brooding, like something inspired by a twisted Alice in Wonderland. If only more songs were like this I might have even loved the album. Funnily, I kept thinking I was going to really like a song when it started, but then when it progressed into the crux of the song, they would diverge into a standard, not particularly memorable pop hook.

I just don’t think I can really get around Halsey’s vocals, or the hooks. I don’t want to completely rip them apart, because they’re not bad at all, they’re simply doable. Much like the beats and the instrumentals as well; they just sound like the typical trap stuff thats been going around lately, with lots of reverb; the standard BURR BURR BURR on each note.

So yeah, it’s basically what I expected it to be, just a really meh pop alternative record.

Favourites: 100 Letters, Good Mourning, Lie, Walls Could Talk, Don’t Play, Strangers, Hopeless

Worst: all the other songs