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 

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

Alt J – Relaxer Review

Alt J’s album opens with the excellent 3WW, a song that I hoped would have set the tone for the rest of the album, however these expectations are never quite met.

The lyrics on this song are especiall a high point of the album, and echos discussions my girlfriend and I have had about the word ‘love.’

Oh, these three worn words//Oh, that we whisper//Like the rubbing hands//Of tourists in Verona//I just want to love you in my own language

House Of The Rising Sun, despite possibly insulting fans of the classic, sounds quite different, something I’m always grateful for in a cover, with its warm string arrangement reminiscent of something by Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The song however doesn’t really go anywhere, and unfortunately fizzles out by the end.

This is a problem for many of the songs on here, and in the last three songs this is especially apparent. Most meander and plod, only for a beautiful arrangement to come out somewhere in the middle, and for the song to disappear again, leaving a lot to be desired. The way the songs do this reminds me of Mark Hollis’ solo album, but whereas the sparsity felt deliberate and intentional there, Alt-J gives the feeling that they almost don’t know what to do with the space they’ve allocated for the song. This is especially evident on the song Last Year, where it feels like the first half of the song could have been, and should have been cut out.

It’s a very cold and minimal album a lot of the time, with the only lively songs being In Cold Blood and Hit Me Like That Snare – what feels like a Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground knock-off. However, the latter does feel incredibly out-of-place here – and so did Left Hand Free on the last album, but this one even more so.

At 39 minutes, the album feels somehow both drawn out and short at the same time. This may be due to the strong instrumental nature to the songs. They take a long time to build up, and because of this the album can feel like barely anything happened at all. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing for those who want a soft, mellow album. However, with only eight songs, it feels like the album would have benefitted majorly from a few extra songs, or at least some interludes to put some cohesion in between the songs that are juxtaposed harshly, or maybe even to draw a narrative, to further make sense of the collection. A narrative that Alt-J seemed to be hinting at in the lead up to the release – especially with the albums interesting artwork – but never really came to be.

Score: 6/10