Monday, July 25, 2011

Album Review: Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

After a couple of years off, the Arctic Monkeys are back. Suck It And See is the band's fourth studio album, reuniting them with producer James Ford, the man responsible for their mega selling first two records.

It's taken me a while to grow to love the Arctic Monkeys, despite buying everything they have released along the way. Clearly everyone loves a bit of I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor and Brianstorm, but it's only in the last year or two that I have really started appreciating their less instantly accessible music.

Suck It And See contains plenty of that. There's precious little effervescent guitar pop of the likes of When The Sun Goes Down or Fluorescent Adolescent here; indeed it's mostly slow paced indie rock. Whilst many have criticised this direction - Kitty Empire in the Guardian called Suck It And See 'lovelorn, crafted, elegantly played, but somehow unelectrifying', I actually really like it. Their songwriting has improved and while the more mature, well-rounded songs take a bit more time to sink in than their early work, they're no worse for it.

Saying that you like the Arctic Monkeys is hardly a contentious or controversial position to take. However, Suck It And See is yet another excellent record from one of the best British bands of their generation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Album Review: The Feeling - Together We Were Made

The Feeling - Together We Were Made

Since I heard Sewn on the radio for the very first time, I have been a huge fan of The Feeling. I bought tickets to their show at the Bodega Social in Nottingham on the back of one listen to that single, and I've subsequently seen them live on several occasions including an excellent Pyramid Stage slot at Glastonbury.

I'll be honest: a new Feeling album is one of my most anticipated musical releases. There are few bands that I enjoy listening to more as I find their brand of 70s influenced power pop utterly captivating. It's therefore with a heavy heart that I have to report that I was really, really disappointed with Together We Are Made.

Much of this, their third album, sounds unmistakeably like The Feeling. And, there's no doubt that vocalist Dan Gillespie-Sells has the knack of writing a great pop song. The problem with Together We Were Made, though, is that it is dreadfully one-paced. Gone are the glorious uptempo anthems like Fill My Little World, Join With Us, I Thought It Was Over, Never Be Lonely and the majestic Love It When You Call and, in their place, we get a series of plodding mid-paced pop songs.

Don't get me wrong - they're not terrible - but as my wife commented when listening: "it's all a bit vanilla, isn't it?" There are some decent songs here - singles Set My World On Fire and Leave Me Out Of It are catchy enough, but the whole record is just a huge letdown. I'd be satisfied with a few of these songs amongst that brilliant, energetic pop that The Feeling do better than anyone, but in the absence of that the album is a disappointing, dreary collection of songs with no real impact.

I hate it when a band you love makes an album you don't really like. It's sounding better with every listen, but Together You Were Made is, at least this far, a real disappointment. Come on boys - you can do miles better than this.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Album Review: Adele - 21

Adele - 21

OK, so I'm a bit late to this record. Having already shifted 1.6 gazillion copies of 21 including a record breaking run at number One in the UK album chart, Adele is arguably the hottest property in British music right now.

Now, other than the excellent Chasing Pavements, I can't say I was a particular fan of her debut release, 19. I wasn't therefore expecting to be blown away by 21, despite its gargantuan sales figures. However, after several listens, I would suggest that the reason that 21 has been so successful may be that it is actually quite good.

The singles are a great place to start and are, by some distance, the highlight of this album. Million selling number one Someone Like You is, if you strip out the 'annoyance from hearing it on the radio a million times' a beautiful and heartbreaking pop ballad, whilst the excellent Rolling In The Deep gets 21 off to a riproaring start. My favourite though is the powerful Set Fire To The Rain; a simmering, climactic piece of superb songwriting.

The rest of the album never quite reaches these heights, but in the Dusty Springfield inspired Rumour Has It and the lovely Turning Tables there is plenty to like here. 21 does drift a bit as it goes along - some of the songs end up merging into one piece of listenable background noise - and I'm not sure about the cover of the Cure's Lovesong, but all in all it's a polished piece of work and there's no doubting Adele's considerable vocal talents.

It's by no means the best album I have ever heard, but it's easy to see why Adele has become so popular.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Album Review: Alice Gold - Seven Rainbows

Alice Gold - Seven Rainbows

Seven Rainbows is the debut album from British singer songwriter Alice Gold. Supposedly influenced by Janis Joplin, Seven Rainbows is less folksy and more accomplished than that comparison would have you believe; and a very catchy and likeable record it is too.

I saw a very brief performance by Gold supporting the Pierces recently (Swisslet's written notes of 'leather shorts' is about all I recall) but when I'd finished listening to the album ended earlier I immediately felt the need to play it again.

Single Runaway Love has enjoyed plenty of radio airplay recently and is a highlight, as is the excellent single Cry Cry Cry and the final track, The End of the World. Parts of Seven Rainbows are floaty and a little ethereal, but it's not as psychedelic a record as you might expect from the cover and the Janis Joplin influence.

Seven Rainbows is a good record, and well worth a listen. A very promising debut.