Wednesday, 29 October 2014

''Hozier'' Hozier - A Review

The supersonic rise of Andrew Byrne, better known to you and me these days as Hozier, has been an extraordinarily rapid process over the past year. Coming off the summer of 2013, Trinity College dropout Byrne was a 23 year old everyman playing to small festival crowds around the nation; fast forward 12 months and he's not only an Irish phenomenon but a worldwide charting success, confirmed by his topping of the US Billboard charts in recent weeks. All of this is without doubt an astounding achievement for a young Bray native and the Irish music press have rightly backed Byrne all the way and celebrated his triumph with much emphasis, and now comes the time to examine Hozier in a more detailed light as his long awaited self titled debut drops toward the latter end of the year.

The tracklisting wisely kicks off with Hozier's breakthrough anthem, the sorrowful yet irrespectively fashionable ''Take Me To Church'', the Irish single of the year which seems to have one over even the most casual music fan with its dark chic and melodic undertones, and this blend of haunting rhythm is a theme which overrides the rest of the album and makes for the main ingredient in Hozier's outrageous mainstream success. ''Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene'' provides another single ready track that subtly introduces the bluesy style rock of the following tracks before we're fully immersed in the Hozier sound on ''Jackie And Wilson'', ''Someone New'' and ''To Be Alone''. These three rock'n'roll showcases are the purest examples of Hozier's fetish for a updated take on vintage, classic blues music and they expose Byrne's most significant influence in prominent style as the legendary figure of another Irishman, Van Morrison, looms heavily over each song in the most positive manner possible, particularly on playful love odes ''Jackie And Wilson'', an obvious nod to The Man himself, and ''Someone New'' in which Byrne's vocals delightfully imitate the trademark sound of the Northern Irish native.

Perhaps the most wonderful tribute to Van however, and indeed the greatest moment of the entire album, is ''From Eden'', a sprawling, magnificent pop classic of epic proportions that bursts with soul and wisdom far beyond the 23 years of its creator, and this 5 minute centerpiece only serves confirms the serious level of talent embedded in Byrne. As the album continues, further mainstream smash hits await in ''Sedated'' and the hugely promising ''Foreigner's God'', a penultimate track boasting an impossibly powerful piano hook and vocals to match that could yet further the status of Hozier's act if exposed to mainstream popularity, while quieter highlights come in the form of ''Like Real People Do'' and final track ''Cherry Wine'', both soft acoustic numbers that bring to mind the work Justin Vernon on For Emma, if on a slightly more accessible basis, and these calm beautys wash the album to a close in a finish worthy of this excellent debut work.

It's a refreshing and satisfying thing to be able to say that in this case, the hype has been entirely justified. Andrew Byrne proves on Hozier that he is a special musician and songwriter, capable of great things on the big stage and coming off the back of this mighty debut, the world is his for the taking. On Hozier we are introduced to an artist possessed with such natural ability and fearlessness that makes it impossible not to imagine even greater things for the future, but right now we've been blessed with the best Irish debut album in many years, and that's a truly great thing itself.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

''Ryan Adams'' Ryan Adams - A Review

Ryan Adams has always been an acquired taste for music lovers, dividing opinion throughout his considerable career with a wild range of records both good and bad, but one thing you must credit the alternative country songwriter for is his constant need to switch it up and insatiable hunger to explore new musical territories, even if it has sometimes resulted in theatrical mishaps. Once again Adams is found shifting shape on Ryan Adams, his fourteenth solo release, as he reverts back to the rock style that was so aggressively dismissed on Rock n Roll back in 2003, a bold move both considering the hostile reception he received back then and additionally when you acknowledge the fact that Adams last truly stellar piece of work was the quiet folk beauty of 29 all the way back in 2005.

It becomes clear quite rapidly from the outset however that Adams is in fine form on this self titled collection, delivering a variety of vintage rock tracks that shine throughout with melody and poise, making it one of the most enjoyable easy listening experiences of the year. Acts such as R.E.M, Bruce Springsteen and a host of 70's and 80's classic acts flow through the mind instantly on the definitive songs that make up the spine of the album, from opener and ready made single ''Gimme Something Good'' and ''Am I Safe'' all the way through to ''Stay With Me'' and ''I Just Might'' on the latter end of the tracklist. The straightforward titles of such reflect the simplicity of Adams approach throughout the record but rather than this coming off as lackluster, the direct attitude of the songwriting harkens back to simpler times, creating a nostalgic buzz that populates the record and provides it with a warm and familiar atmosphere.

It's not all rock'n'roll though as we catch glimpses of the kind of beauty that is instilled in his finest works, with the short and awfully sweet ''My Wrecking Ball'' gifting us possibly the best moment of the album in a country acoustic piece that could easily slip into magnum opus Gold, while closing number ''Let Go'' is another particularly soft and special three and a half minutes that fades us out with the kind of wonderful tenderness that reminds you just how talented the man still is after two decades in the business. Elsewhere there are deeper emotions at work buried underneath the guitars with ''Kim'' revisiting the emotive, sentimental rock of Love Is Hell and ''Shadows'' featuring an intense build that's contrasted and resolved by carefree break up anthem ''Feels Like Fire''.

Throughout 11 tracks and 42 short minutes there's not a second wasted by Adams who delivers one of his best albums yet as he approaches middle age and seemingly begins to mature into a more reliable performer, a significant detail considering that consistency has been one element missing over the past 15 years of his solo career even while the level of skill was unquestionable. Now that Adams has taken the opportunity to label this simple yet brilliant album and its nostalgia based, classic sound under his own name we begin to get a clearer picture of the songwriter after all these years and hopefully an indication of what we can look forward to going forward.

Asked about the nature of the music prior to the album release, Adams stated ''I’m too old to pretend like I give a shit about doing something that’s not what I am'', and based on the quality of Ryan Adams, it's obvious that the man is best when simply being himself rather than caricatures he's played in the past. If we're lucky, then Ryan Adams could very well act as an introduction to a more dependable, reassured and rewarding side to alternative country's favourite son.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

''El Pintor'' Interpol - A Review

Just four years ago, Interpol were a band shrouded in uncertainty and doubt following the departure of celebrated bassist Carlos Dengler and a deservedly cool reception to the band's uninspired self titled fourth release. A much needed hiatus ensued with band members pursuing solo projects and the Interpol went unheard for over 3 years before announcing El Pintor this summer, a ten track return with frontman Paul Banks filling in on bass. In some ways the fact that a fifth album exists at all is an achievement in itself, but questions surrounding Interpol's future were still relevant until proven wrong with a definitive return to form, and thankfully on El Pintor this is mostly what we get.

The band's knack for kicking off with a spectacular opener (even on Interpol, ''Success'' was the obvious standout from a dull bunch) reemerges on ''All The Rage Back Home''- the album's lead single briefly begins in the brooding, methodical style employed on past openers ''Next Exit'' and ''Pioneer To The Falls'' before rapidly transforming into an Antics-like up tempo rocker a la ''Slow Hands'' and it's an exciting way to kick things off, symbolizing the rejuvenated spirit and energy of the band and in turn inspiring hope for the rest of the tracklist all inside a seemingly abrupt four and a half minutes that would be worthy of any Interpol record.

Admittedly, ''All The Rage'' is as high as we get throughout the 40 minutes of El Pintor, but ans optimism should remain intact over the first half of the album as ''My Desire'', ''Anywhere'' and ''Same Town, New Story'' do a good job of very purposely recalling old tracks and prominent moments in the band's catalogue, a wise and calculated move considering the circumstances, as Interpol attempt to find their feet by carefully retracing their own steps and for the most part executing it smartly if a little cautiously. ''My Desire'' showcases a groovy bass arrangement by Banks that demonstrates the fact that the band can move on without the cult-like figure of Dengler, who probably taught Banks a thing or two about the four stringed instrument in their time together judging by new material. ''Anywhere'' goes for a ''Not Even Jail''/''Mammoth'' sound complete with thumping drums and siren like guitars before ''Same Town, New Story'' lowers the pace in a smooth, vintage slow burner.

Banks' hit and miss lyrics have long been a topic of discussion for fans, many of whom see it as little more than a humorous side note that rears its head on occasion, but the singer's sometimes strange words can tend to get a little distracting on the second side of the album with titles like ''Everything Is Wrong'' and Twice As Hard'' falling flat, even if the music behind them turns out better than the names would suggest. Similarly ''My Blue Supreme'' is a bit of an enigma in parts, treading a thin line due to Banks' ill advised venture in falsetto vocals from the beginning but eventually laying down an assured chorus and pulling off a strangely playful yet endearing track.

''Breaker 1'' and ''Ancient Ways'' carry us toward the latter stages of the album with a heavy wave of guitar and drums in more obvious yet decent callbacks to times past, before ''Tidal Wave'' exudes the kind of dark intensity that made the band famous with some excellent guitar work from Sam Fogarino in a late highlight. Looking past the simplistic wordplay of the aforementioned ''Twice As Hard'', this atmospheric closer does a respectable job of wrapping things up with touches of piano,  a slow build up and booming chorus to cross the finish line in solid form, even if it can't quite hold a candle to the likes of ''Leif Erikson'' and ''The Lighthouse''.

To constantly compare the reunited trio of Banks, Fogarino and Kessler to the Interpol of old is probably unfair and a little misleading at times, but it's also inevitable- there are certain expectations of a band when they deliver one of the greatest rock albums on their first attempt, but to expect the standard of Turn On The Bright Lights again would be foolish. Instead the most reasonable thing to hope for on El Pintor was a solid, consistent return to the studio and a resulting product with which there could be a foundation built upon for the future of Interpol. It was incredibly difficult to judge how likely a prospect this was when the album was first announced back in June owing to the schizophrenic nature of this once great band, but El Pintor has thankfully resurrected Interpol as a serious and respectable name in rock music, providing us with a satisfying if not stupefying set of tracks that can hopefully mark the beginning of a progressive new Interpol, or at least a content one.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

''What Is This Heart?'' How To Dress Well - A Review

Tom Krell may boast a pretty silly stage name as How To Dress Well but his music under this moniker has always been dead serious. Ever since emerging with his own brand of ambient/electronic R&B with Love Remains in 2010 followed by Total Loss (2012), Krell has found consistent critical acclaim for his poignant, emotional style and carefully executed delivery, all of which have never been more obvious than on ''What Is This Heart?'', the third and greatest release of How To Dress Well's short career.

It all starts with the unsettling cold sound of acoustic folk opener ''2 Years On (Shame Dream)'', an intriguing opening that'll prepare you for the emotional intensity of the following 11 tracks but the genres are mixed up straight after as the usual sound of synth, drums and a glockenspiel hook on ''What You Wanted'', an early highlight that leads into ''Face Again'', a self doubting anthem laden with warm, string like synths. The impressive start to proceedings continues with the all too brief but beautiful interlude ''See You Fall'', a dreamy piano led ballad that introduces electric guitar for the first time and kicks in with drums before its end.

The midsection of the album shows off Krell's range of musicianship in some style, beginning with Haim like funky indie rock track ''Repeat Pleasure'' before the album slips effortlessly back into an intimate R&B vibe with spectacula six minuter centerpiece ''Words I Don't Remember'', a majestic vocal led track backed by swirling synths that moves itself into an instrumental passage for its extended second half. Possibly the best track of the album is next on ''Pour Cyril'' which utilizes string like synth notes again for emotive effect before combining with Krell's outstanding voice for an ethereal, glorious sound that comes off somewhere between Sigur Ros and Bon Iver with its hypnotizing beauty.

Approaching the end of the album, the most single worthy tunes come in the form of ''Precious Love'', a chart ready track with a great hook reminiscent of some kind of electronic Boyz II Men mesh, that despite its obvious pop sensibilities never compromises the album's deep integrity, and then indie rock belter ''Childhood Faith In Love'' with its sped up tempo and the presence of guitar again. The shatteringly intense narure of Krell's artistry comes shining through again on ''A Power'', an uncomfortable piano piece with chilling vocal interludes before the only real misfire of the album rears its head on ''Very Best Friend''. Delivering on its cringeworthy title, this club suited beat is covered treads a thin line before descending completely into cheese territory. ''I know I can be extra sentimental/Yeah it's dumb but sometimes it's just right'' muses Krell throughout the chorus, and he's about half correct in that statement.

''Very Best Friend'' may be unfortunate but it's the only misstep on a tracklist that comes full circle on its delicate acoustic ending with ''House Inside'', a folk style ode that climaxes in a grandiose finish that is totally worthy of this magnificent record. By combining elements of pop, indie rock, hip-hop and electronica into one unique and accessible sound, How To Dress Well has crafted a special album in ''What Is This Heart?'', a near hour of R&B beauty that should leave a lasting impression among critics and elevate its artist to greater status among fans and contemporaries in modern music with its diverse sound, mature approach and immaculate execution.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

''LP1'' FKA Twigs - A Review

In what has so far been a relatively underwhelming year for the music industry, one particular kind of artist has shone through from beginning to the now approaching end. An abundance of solo female songwriters have led the way in 2014, spearheaded by the meteoric mainstream rise of Iggy Azealea and backed by quality releases from the likes of Lykke Li, Lana Del Ray and Mo. But as we enter the business end of the year we've been blessed with the debut album of Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, mid- twenties London based singer-songwriter, producer and now creator of possibly the finest album of the year in LP1, a 40 minute exercise in electronic R&B, trip hop and dub music that introduces a brave and unique young artist at exactly the right time.

It all kicks off with an intro in which Barnett demonstrates a brief sample of her enormous vocal and production talents on ''Preface'' before ''Lights On'', probably the most straightforward and relatively accessible number on the album which eases in the listener with an infectious refrain before the more experimental stuff begins so gloriously on the mezmerizing ''Two Weeks''. On the lead single taken from the album, twigs delivers a 4 minute electronic masterpiece complete with an explosive, endlessly replayable chorus that sets a template for the kind of sensual electronica on offer over the next 7 tracks. It would be near impossible to replicate the song of the year contender that is ''Two Weeks'' again on the tracklist but that's exactly what happens on ''Pendulum'', another synth based beauty led by that voice, which this time takes a more fragile disposition as it examines the other side of attraction and relationships. ''Pendulum'' builds itself slowly on on its vocal before climaxing in an intense trip hop finish that calls to mind the work of James Blake, Barnett's natural artistic male counterpart.

''Two Weeks'' and ''Pendulum'' may be unbeatable highlights but they're backed by stellar work throughout the rest of the album as the inventive production work of twigs shines through on songs like ice cool jealously stinger ''Video Girl'' and ''Closer'', an affirmative ode to a loving savior of twigs that matches its delicate verses by reflecting the vibe of a carol recorded at the church altar with its echoed, reverberated execution.

For all the firepower that twigs invested in for the production side of things, with Clams Casino showing up for ''Hours'' and Sampha on ''Numbers'', it's both reassuring and surprising to see Barnett's name dominating the credits. Too often in the modern music scene it feels as though young artists are leaving the shift work to nameless faces in studio but twigs is one of a special breed, and the fact that she's the person behind these regularly innovative and unusual beats as well as the face delivering those exceptional vocal performances only serves to confirm suspicions that this is the beginning of a spectacular career.

All told, this is an album that 2014 needed. A much required shot of adrenaline for the current music landscape, LP1 sets the bar insanely high for upcoming artists and should strike fear into the hearts of established ones. This is a unique piece of music that dazzles at every turn and invents its own rules, all the while retaining enough synth pop charm to appeal to the masses, but hiding behind the barely conventional, Weeknd like R&B is a deeper, darker and challenging artist who is certain to continue stunning audiences for a long time based on the evidence of this 40 minute debut. If LP1 is just the beginning of FKA twigs, there's really no telling what majesty we're in for by the end.


Monday, 1 September 2014

A Sunny Day In Glasgow ''Sea When Absent'' - A Review

Since their formation in 2006 A Sunny Day In Glasgow have undergone several line up changes with frontman Ben Daniels remaining the sole constant member of the group, but one consistent element of the band's existence has been their critical acclaim, stemming all the way back to early favorable reviews from their beginnings with The Sunniest Day Ever EP and debut album Scribble Mural Comic Journal. Sea When Absent marks the band's 4th full length release and it presents a band at the height of their powers, weaving together 11 majestic synth based pop tracks into a serious contender for the best album of 2014 so far.

The album blasts into life on ''Bye Bye Big Ocean'' with a bombastic intro the like of which Steve Albini would be proud of as a heavy chorus of guitars almost drown out the lead vocal, making for a shoegaze feel that permeates the remainder of the album but perhaps not quite so ferociously as this opening number. The aforementioned shoegaze style comes in much softer fashion over the rest of the tracks, delivering a series of dream pop tracks early on that make for undoubted highlights such as ''Crushin'', a delicate trip that showcases the beautiful vocal work of the band's female vocalists Annie Fredrickson and Jen Goma before the tracks erupts at its end with a killer guitar solo, and ''MTLOV'', a feverishly catchy pop ballad that will swallow you whole with its earnestness and heartfelt delivery.

It's difficult to categorize A Sunny Day as any one particular style of band in general, mainly because of the impressive number of genres they manage to meld into one over the course of the album. The relatively straightforward indie rock tracks like ''In Love With Useless'' and ''The Things They Do To Me'' suggest influences like Broken Social Scene, while the anthemic, festival friendly sound of ''Initiation Rites'', ''The Body, It Bends'' and closer ''Golden Waves'' carry hints of The Arcade Fire and in between all of this the lingering presence of My Bloody Valentine is spread throughout, but in truth to compare A Sunny Day to these acts is a fruitless exercise as the band have single handedly created their own truly unique style through all the flawless genre bending on display here.

And that's where the beauty of Sea When Absent lies after its conclusion- it feels like the band have tapped into such a wide range of genres in order to procure their niche style, but the wonderful skill and focus with which the group execute these combinations makes for an effortlessly accessible sound that any fan of indie rock, pop and electro music will want to hear on repeat. This is an album that will engage both casual and dedicated listeners of music and it deserves to be heard by everyone with the faintest interest in modern music. By the end of the year, it will most certainly be listened to by many more as it finds itself a fighting contender for one of 2014's best albums.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mellowhype ''INSA'' - A Review

''The idea of me is great/The result of me otherwise''

And so it often goes with Mellowhype and Odd Future in general, who since breaking onto the rap scene with their brand of shock hip-hop in the last half decade have delivered a wide range of content that has varied both in style and quality throughout their relatively short yet significant opening run. The likes of Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt have produced greatness while others such as Mellowhype, Domo Genesis and The Internet have hit inconsistent notes on their individual releases, often relying on the collective's developing reputation to support their own projects rather than any sign of outstanding talent.

That's not to say the lower key members of the group are totally lacking though; far from it, as Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, the duo that make up Mellowhype, have demonstrated on earlier releases like BlackenedWhite (similarly excellent output like Mike G's Ali make a case for backing up the OF troupe's bigger stars too), but too often the band has shown an inconsistent side that needs to be dropped for Mellowhype to progress further than the shadow of the Odd Future banner. So it's a good thing then that INSA (or I Need Some Answers) lives up to its title and provides us with a reinvented electronic rap sound that sounds like an exciting way forward for the young duo.

The first thing that should strike you immediately about INSA is that producer Left Brain has been listening to a lot of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath, as openers ''Gang'' and ''Bars'' unexpectedly sample Crystal Castles with much aplomb, particularly on the latter as the haunting acoustic sound of ''Tell Me What To Swallow'' is transformed into a dreamy soundscape beat for Hodgy to rhyme over in style. The rest of the album pleasantly follows suit, throwing up a mixture of laid back. synth laden backgrounds that confirm Left Brain's growth as a producer since the duo's beginnings and Hodgy's nasal delivery is as sharp and precise as ever cutting through the beats on the albums best moments like ''Belly'', ''I Am A'' and partucularly ''The Daze'', an intimate track that sounds as though it could have been taken from a Purity Ring playlist with a soothing female touch on the vocals in between verses. There's even room for an acoustic R&B style ballad on ''7'' just to showcase another side to the duo in the midsection in case you hadn't already noticed.

Where INSA briefly falls down is when it attempts to retread old paths on ''Fifafofum'', the album's undoubted lowlight. This messy and obnoxious track is guilty of reverting to old style OF humour that at this point is funny to no one but the band members themselves and it belongs more so on full group releases like The OF Tape, ironically where the entire gathering of these talented young musicians sound at their weakest most of the time. Another complaint may be directed towards Hodgy's lyrics at times, which tend to wander off track and onto mumbled bars about drugs and alcohol, all of which we've heard a thousand times before. On ''Dunita'' in particular Left Brain's music leaves Hodgy behind as the production outshines the rapper on a track that deserves better bars.

All in all though, this is the most inspired Mellowhype has sounded since their second album. It's an exciting release and potentially an important one for the duo beyond 2014 if they can lay down this intriguing new sound over a series of future releases and continue to climb up and stand on their own two feet outside of the insular world of Odd Future. While it's an unexpected turn for Mellowhype on this realtively low key mixtape, this style is one that Mellowhype should strive towards and attempt to explore further from now on- the kids of the rap game are going to be alright if they can keep producing results like INSA.


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Rate The Albums: The Arcade Fire

Fresh off an incredible headline performance in Marlay Park this summer alongside the Pixies, The Arcade Fire have long had a special affinity with the Irish nation due to our passion for the Canadian super group ever since they arrived on the scene a full decade ago. After the release of fourth record Reflektor last year followed by their most epic of tours to date, it seems there's no better time to take a look back on the discography of one of the world's best bands and determine which was their greatest moment.

4. Reflektor

Reflektor arrived at the end of last year largely to the same critical reception as the band's previous trio of releases, but for the first time since their beginnings there were also small voices of dissent and disappointment raised at this new work. The explanation for such was simple- having spent nearly a decade at the top of the mountain with their perfected brand of glorious alternative rock, it was time to let loose and experiment.

This change came in the form of LCD Soundsystem retiree James Murphy's inclusion as producer on the record, a move which paid off in dividends and resulted in a pulsating, irresistable heartbeat that flowed throughout Reflektor's lengthy tracklist on highlights like the opening title track and penultimate beauty ''Afterlife'', as well as anthems like ''Normal Person'', ''Joan Of Arc'' and centerpiece ''Here Comes The Night Time''.

Detractors who point to the albums length and exploratory sound are missing the point- for true fans of the band these accusations will prove unfounded, with length acting as a gift rather than a curse as each sprawling piece is executed carefully and precisely with a measured pace to the very last beat. These songs may take time to build, but it's well spent time, and perhaps the biggest compliment you could pay Reflektor is the extraordinary fact that despite its epic length it's never overstated, bloated, or unnecessarily filled; every single moment is totally justified and masterfully executed.

Best Tracks:
Reflektor/Here Comes The Night Time/Afterlife

3. Neon Bible

Neon Bible arrived amidst a wave of heavy expectation in March 2007 and rightly so considering the impact of debut album Funeral in 2004, but fans and critics needn't have worried; inside a Quebec church the band bought for the recording process, Win Butler and co. had crafted an album worthy of its predecessor in Neon Bible.

This time around the band explored worldly, political themes over personal issues and the result was cynical, dark and paranoid examination of religion and government set to a backdrop of contrasting beauty, the like of which only Arcade Fire could produce.

Band staples such as ''No Cars Go'' (previously recorded for a self titled debut EP but in even greater style here), ''Keep The Car Running'' and ''Intervention'' are all found on Neon Bible, but as with all of the band's work this is an album that rewards from start to finish, immersing you deep inside its dystopian world all the way from the mysterious opening sounds of ''Black Mirror'' to the drowning organ climax that is ''My Body Is A Cage'' in one of the defining albums of the 00's.

Best Tracks: Intervention/(Antichrist Television Blues)/No Cars Go

2. The Suburbs

There is an argument to be made that The Suburbs would have made a better double album than Reflektor- standing at over an hour long with 16 tracks, it perhaps could have been broken in two easier than the band's last effort, but on reflection that would have been a terrible mistake as the fluidity and dream-like atmosphere that carry the band's third effort from first to last is what makes it such an instant classic.

Win Butler said he set out to create ''neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – a letter from the suburbs" and in this quest he succeeded gloriously, crafting a picture so translucent and evoking feelings so personal yet universal that you'll feel as though you've been transported back to your own youth upon the first listen.

While The Suburbs isn't quite The Arcade Fire's greatest record, it's without a doubt Win Butler's finest achievement as a songwriter as the frontman developed on his band's third album into a deeper, more subtle lyrical talent while laying down a chronological map of childhood over the 64 minutes- he starts by declaring so wistfully ''Sometimes I Can't believe it/I'm moving past the feeling'' as he mentally battles his own transforming youth before eventually resisting the urge to ''Quit those pretentious things and just punch a clock'' on one of the band's greatest ever songs ''Sprawl II'', before quietly hypnotizing us to the close with a reprise of that incredible title track.

It's barely a minute long but that beautiful ode reverberates long past the finish of the album as Butler almost whispers to the listener ''If I could have it back I'd only waste it again/You know I'd love to waste it again and again and again''. It's a universal notion but one that cuts deep to anyone with fond memories of childhood and on conclusion, while perhaps The Suburbs is not a love letter to its namesake, it's almost definitely a love letter to ''the feeling''- the one mentioned right from the beginning and the one that stays within you through, that of eternal youth and the pains of eventually growing up and getting older.

United feeling and all inclusive emotion is what The Arcade Fire have always done best, and The Suburbs was so nearly the best they've ever done it, all except on their very first try.

Best Tracks: The Suburbs/Half Light/Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

1. Funeral

Funeral was born out of the loss of several family members for The Arcade Fire in a short space of time- Win and William Butler lost their grandfather, Regine Chassange's grandmother passed away while Richard Parry's aunt also died. But out of the darkness came the light as these combined tragedies paved the way for an album that has been rightfully proclaimed the best of the entire decade.

There will never be another Funeral, despite the countless number of acts who've tried to imitate it since, because the sheer passion, heart-on-sleeve emotion that is captured so vividly within these ten tracks cannot be recreated. Funeral's message is one of triumph in unity, and it couldn't be more fitting for the Canadian nine piece, each of whom combine with a startling range of instruments (violin, viola, double bass, cello, xylophone, glockenspiel, French horn, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, accordion and harp) to create this one of a kind, lightning in a bottle classic.

In spite of the devastating circumstances that gave birth to Funeral there's an underlying joyful, glorious tone that has defined the band ever since and seen them become international icons as they grew into other genres while always retaining the melodic alternative rock style that populated Funeral particularly on tracks like ''Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)'', ''Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)'' and ''Crown Of Love'', as well as (and perhaps more importantly) its empowering, ferociously uplifting spirit, best exemplified by the album and the band's very best moments on ''Rebellion (Lies)'', ''Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)'' and ''Wake Up''.

Most crucially, Funeral teaches the message of spreading beauty in a sometimes cruel and unfair world, a sentiment that has carried throughout Arcade Fire's career ever since and defined their unique reputation in modern music. For this reason, and for the simple fact that it's quite possibly the greatest collection of songs put to CD in the 21st century, Funeral is The Arcade Fire's crowning achievement, at least for the present.

Best Tracks: Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)/Wake Up/Rebellion (Lies)

Bloc Party

Sunday, 20 July 2014

''Ultraviolence'' Lana Del Ray - A Review

Following a polarizing reaction to Lizzy Grant's calculated transformation into retro indie queen Lana Del Ray on sophomore record Born To Die in 2012, the songwriter returns with Ultraviolence, a name that will resonate quickly with cinema fans worldwide for its association with Stanley Kubrick's endlessly controversial, artistic masterpiece A Clockwork Orange. It's a title that suits Del Ray perfectly from the get go, representing her theatrical style, artistic vision and undeniable ambition while also signifying a growing understanding of her own niche and kind of fan base, meaning that hopefully those who enjoyed the majestic sadness of Born To Die will be in for a more focused, progressive look into the world of Lana Del Ray upon entering her third album.

Opening numbers ''Cruel World'' and ''Shades Of Cool'' kick off proceedings in typical fashion with a series of laid back, slow burning guitar laden tracks that are dominated by Del Ray's all consuming lyrics and delivery as she breathes hooks like ''Shared my body and my mind with you/That's all over now'' on top of throwaway references to sixties pop classics and icons in between. That's particularly evident on title track ''Ultraviolence'', which introduces strings backed by slow drums and repeatedly refers back to The Crystals 1962 track ''He Hit Me (And It Left Like A Kiss)'' in an early standout moment.

Lead single ''West Coast'' was released back in April and although not particularly chart viable, it's thematically representative of the album and Lana as a whole. A better single choice would have been ''Brooklyn Baby'' which washes over the listener with a wonderfully atmospheric guitar and vocal duo. A striking thing about Ultraviolence before its release was the intriguing set of titles found in the tracklist with Del Ray playing up to the perception of her as some kind of stereotype on tracks like ''Sad Girl'' and ''Pretty When You Cry'', but while these could come off as self parody if not executed correctly, they both standout due to the continually impressive duo of Lana's vocal and the electric guitar which has replaced the piano ballad sound of Born To Die in favour of a sleek sixties jazz band vibe that when at its most evocative can penetrate the minds eye with visions of a smokey downtown club in LA.

Another set of curiously titled tunes come next with ''Money Power Glory'' unfortunately marking the only real disappointment of the album as it fails to deliver anything more than a hollow anthem which does no favours to Del Ray's public perception if it was presumably intended as an ironic gesture to doubting critics. ''Fucked My Way To The Top'' is an immediate improvement however, delivering venomous lyrics and an ice cold chorus aimed at an unspecified artist with whom Del Ray is currently feuding, but the best moment of the album is the most delicate- ''Old Money'' is the long awaited ballad of the album in the vein of ''Video Games''. It's a beautifully dark piano led trance with complimentary strings and sorrowful vocals you could drown in as Del Ray begs for the return of a former lover. It's the oldest song on the record according to her having been in the works for five years, and upon listening you'll surely agree that it was time worth waiting. Following this climatic moment of beauty we are ushered out by a refreshingly bluesy, perfectly fitting Nina Simone cover in ''The Other Woman'', a vintage outro that suits the album no end and brings the tracklist to a close on the exact right note.

All considered, the most immediately striking thing about Ultraviolence is its consistency as it continually engages from start to finish, unlike Born To Die at times which had the tendency to venture into ill advised electro lite territory. Ultraviolence is Del Ray honing her sound to perfection as she drowns us in her ultra stylistic brand of sadness while embracing her movie star persona all the while. Detractors who complain of a lack of legitimacy would be wise to view Lana from a new perspective now and consider the likes of Ziggy Stardust before analyzing her again. Like Bowie so many times in the past, Lizzy Grant is playing a part, and on Ultraviolence she's playing it to perfection, giving her character a new level of depth with a set of beautifully twisted melodies.

There are some who would judge this to be more of the same as Born To Die and while that wouldn't be totally wrong, it's never a bad thing- the most important feature of Ultraviolence is how carefully yet purposely Del Ray is striding forward, as she progresses into a complete version of herself on this undoubtedly stronger effort. Ultraviolence proves itself part of a greater evolution for Del Ray, ensuring there will be a great deal more to come in future from this most divisive of artists.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Kanye West & Pharrell Williams at Marlay Park (2/7/14) - A Review

There were a number of reasons to expect big things from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams in Marlay Park on Wednesday- the Yeezus tour was West's first solo concert series in 5 years and its epic scale has been acclaimed by critics in the US since late last year, with many going as far as to proclaim it one of the finest concert going experiences they'd ever witnessed, while Pharrell is currently experiencing a career renaissance that has seen the eternally youthful producer/songwriter reach even greater heights than with his original hip-hop project N.E.R.D and endlessly creative production duo The Neptunes.

The crowd that gathered in Marlay Park seemed perhaps only at mid capacity and was just as hyped for Williams as West, with a predominately teenage girl following present for Pharrell in particular, and he played up to this contingent straight away and throughout his set, claiming love for the Irish girls in attendance and predictably sending them wild. Unfortunately though it seemed Pharrell addressing the crowd in between songs was the most he used his voice throughout as he appeared to mime the majority of his vocals for the entire performance, often barely making the effort to conceal this fact on tracks like opener ''Lose Yourself To Dance'' and ''Marilyn Monroe''.

The set, while remarkably short, was chosen well considering the crowd involved- Pharrell hand picked a number of songs from his most famous collaborations including Snoop Dogg's ''Drop It Like It's Hot'' and Gwen Stefani's ''Hollaback Girl'' which excited the crowd, although the best moments came from a midsection which featured a trio of N.E.R.D tunes in ''Rock Star'', ''Lapdance'' and ''She Wants To Move''. The finish however left a lot to be desired, as Pharrell combined several his most recent mega hits into one combination, in the process cutting short three tracks that the entire audience were waiting to hear. The result was an obvious disappointment and an anticlimactic ending to an average show as ''Blurred Lines'', ''Get Lucky'' and ''Happy'', all of which should have been highlights that improved the performance, were instead grouped into a rushed ending that defined the set as a whole.


The anticipation burning through the audience was plain to see in the short wait before Kanye took to stage, and upon his appearance around the 9 o clock mark we get down to business pretty quickly with an electric start as ''Black Skinhead'' and ''On Sight'' open the show with plenty of energy and a good response from the crowd, but things go straight downhill from there. The next batch of tracks are taken from a variety of guest features and compilations that featured West rather than his own material, and it's plain to see this isn't what those in attendance were waiting to hear as ''I Don't Like'' (Chief Keef) and ''Clique'' (Big Sean) get a deservedly underwhelming reaction.

Aside from a poor song selection early on it's obvious that Kanye himself is distracted and unhappy, particularly with his tour band, whom he regularly instructs to restart certain tracks when they aren't going his way, resulting in a disjointed feel to the set that continues throughout. Even when we're eventually back on track with a setlist that sounds more like the artist we paid to see (''Can't Tell Me Nothing'', ''New Slaves'', ''POWER'' and ''Hold My Liquor'' restore some order), the disruption continues as West storms off stage several times mid song due to his displeasure with the sound (most notably during half a ''Niggas In Paris'' performance), showcasing that well documented ego and antagonistic persona in the worst possible light in front of a bewildered Irish crowd.

It would certainly have eased the atmosphere if the tracks were up to scratch but even songs that should have been highlights are disappointing, the worst example being 9 minute Dark Fantasy epic ''Runaway'' which is reduced to a boring and unemotional climax that alienates the audience and stands in stark contrast to the studio version, one of West's greatest ever moments. After the lowest point of the set so far, the performances and energy thankfully begin to pick up, and for the remainder of the gig we are finally granted the concert experience that had been expected from the very beginning with highlights such as ''Heartless'', ''All Falls Down'', ''All Of The Lights'' and ''Good Life'' bringing us home with style and triggering an explosion of noise from the grateful thousands in Marlay Park.

After a series of well executed tunes that have finally inspired the crowd, the ending is spectacular to match with Yeezus' finest excerpts ''Bound 2'' and ''Blood On The Leaves'' sending fans into a frenzy, the latter marking the moment of the night as West displays the kind of passion that's been trapped behind the rapper's diamond mask for the majority of the night.  On conclusion, your opinion of the concert may be blinded somewhat by a far stronger second half and glorious finish to match, but the reality must be that this was a hugely disappointing night by the standards you should expect from an incredible artist such as Kanye West.

The fact seems to be that throughout a performance muddled with unprofessional temper tantrums and a complete lack of relationship between artist and audience, Kanye West simply doesn't respect Ireland enough to deliver the kind of performance that has seen the Yeezus tour become so widely acclaimed around the world over the past year. The statistics are self explanatory- America and Australia got 35 songs that spanned the length of West's career and celebrated his magnificent contribution to music over the last decade with a cinematic stage set up, while this Irish gathering of devoted Kanye fanatics were handed down a second rate, festival standard collection of 20 tracks that rarely hit top form. By the end of it all, West's declaration that ''I hope you remember this night for the rest of your life'' comes off less like a statement of genuine pride than another example of delusional self admiration. It's the final nail in the coffin and the final insult on a bitterly disappointing night that proves Kanye's ego is always working hard, even when he most certainly is not.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Arcade Fire & Pixies at Marlay Park (29/6/14) - A Review

Marlay Park has been host to a series of excellent summer line ups in the past but this year has surpassed all before with the likes of Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys, Macklemore and Kings Of Leon all paying a visit before Longitude kicks off at the end of July bringing us Massive Attack, Disclosure, Chvrches, Haim and many more. But as if that wasn't enough, there surely is no better way to kick off a summer full of live music than with kings of the genre both past and present. Pixies spent the late 80's and early 90's defining alternative rock and laying the groundwork for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead before Arcade Fire took over the alternative music scene in 2004 and began their path to world domination, one which has culminated in the glorious Reflektor tour in 2014.

The stage was beautifully set for music lovers as the sun beat down on the 32,000 capacity venue in Rathfarnham , Co. Dublin and the atmosphere among concert goers was electric, the kind of unique togetherness which seems to follow The Arcade Fire every time they land in Ireland, perhaps due to their self professed warm relationship with the country. Before the Canadian ensemble took to the stage however, we were treated to an exceptional set from one of rock's greatest ever four pieces.

Those who may have been wary of a setlist promoting the Pixies most recent and most uninspired release Indie Cindy should have had no fear as the band thrashed out a series of their finest tunes, the majority of them taken from defining releases Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. After kicking off early with classics such as ''Crackity Jones'', ''Mr. Grieves'', ''Hey'' and ''Gouge Away'', it was clear that Frank Black and co. had lost nothing of their live expertise as they flawlessly executed a near perfect set with pitch perfect vocals and immaculate timing from the entire band. Even the absence of Kim Deal was barely noted as replacement bassist Paz Lenchantin replicated her trademark falsetto backup on tracks like ''Wave Of Mutilation'', ''Caribou'' and ''Where Is My Mind?'', with the latter receiving pop of the night for obvious reasons.

Even tracks taken from Cindy seemed to take on a new life when performed, with ''Greens And Blues'' offering the most convincing example of a dull album track being transformed through the band's live energy, but the highlights were always obvious with ''Here Comes Your Man'' and ''Vamos'' among them, but it would be impossible not to mention Dave Lovering's charming performance on ''La La Love You'' as moment of the night, with the drummer executing his sole vocal feature in the band's catalogue with the kind of wit and personality that Frank Black failed to show throughout the evening.

It was Black's notoriously difficult personality that brought the set to an unceremonious end as the band struck up ''Debaser'' only for the frontman to cut it off, claiming his guitar had died and he was ''taking it as a sign''. It was about the most that Black had spoken all night, and his manner on stage in between songs seemed to suggest he was perhaps unimpressed by the Irish crowd, many of whom admittedly didn't seem to realize the quality of what they were witnessing. It seems strangely ironic to think that those who showed up only for Arcade Fire are unaware of the fact that their favourite band wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Pixies in the first place, but Black's sudden departure remains an unprofessional move, and seems pretty ungrateful to the Irish fans who actually showed up to see the band.

All in all though, this was a wonderful return for a band who are still better than most at rocking out on a live stage 23 years after they originally called it quits, it's just a shame it had to end in such a strange manner.


Right on time at half past eight, Win, Regine and the rest of The Arcade Fire took to stage with their now customary bobblehead costumes in the image of U2 as ''Streets Have No Name'' played through the speakers. It was a sweet way to start as the band warmed themselves to the Irish crowd before getting down to business with ''Normal Person'' and ''Joan Of Arc'' taken from Reflektor being mixed with vintage tunes by the band such as ''Rebellion (Lies)'', ''The Suburbs'' and ''Tunnels'', the latter of which even came with a ''Where Is My Mind?'' outro that pleased the crowd, and Win was quick to pay tribute to his heroes, stating: ''Everything that is odd has happened to you when you're playing after the Pixies''.

The band's figurehead has transformed from the reserved figure that slouched around stage during early tours into an assured rock frontman over the past decade and it shows like never before tonight as he professes his love to the Dublin crowd with genuine emotion, a gesture that's highly appreciated by the tens of thousand in attendance, who make their voices heard when the talking stops and the music continues with the likes of ''No Cars Go'', ''Intervention'' (accompanied by an ''Antichrist Television Blues'' snippet) and ''Reflektor'' getting the loudest reception before the gorgeous synth pop of ''Sprawl II'' brings the set to a temporary close.

Chants for more are answered swiftly as Butler emerges from backstage in the form of Pope Francis to the soundtrack of Sinead O Connors ''Nothing Compares 2 U'' in a hilarious segment that sees a picture of Miley Cyrus being ripped on screen to the delight of the crowd. It's yet another moment of synchronicity between the band and their Irish fan base, a relationship which truly does seem engaging and special on several occasions throughout the night.

The band rip through set favourite ''Power Out'' and a couple more Reflektor standouts (''Afterlife'' and ''Here Comes The Nighttime'') before the evening is brought to an epic close with ''Wake Up'' as everyone in Marlay Park echoes the band's glorious chant back to them while confetti rains down on the deafening crowd in a scene of epic proportions and stunning beauty, bringing a perfect evening to a worthy end.

As the band take their bows and exit stage, Win has to tell the crowd one more time: ''We fucking love you!'', and I'll be damned if every single person in Marlay Park wasn't thinking the same thing.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Rate The Albums: Kanye West

Continuing my recently revived Rate The Albums feature, I'll be taking a look at another act that's set to hit Dublin soon, the endlessly creative and controversial Kanye West. Anyone who has followed my writing over the past few years will know my opinion on the man- beginning with The College Dropout in 2004 all the way up to Yeezus last year (which I named album of 2013 in December), West has been nothing short of consistently groundbreaking, an artist operating on his own level for the past decade and innovating the genre of hip-hop quite like no one before or since. If you follow that line of thought then you'll agree that the 7 albums below are to be counted among the finest releases of the 21st century, but how exactly do they rank from worst to best? Here's the countdown:

7. 808's & Heartbreak (2008)

808's is perhaps the most misunderstood of West's output over the last 10 years. An experimental project steeped in auto tune and lacking in rap verses, 808's & Heartbreak was the result of a tragic year in the life of its creator, who had lost his mother and gone through a major relationship break up before the recording process began. When it dropped in 2008, reception was polarized with several critics complementing the innovative style and others dismissing it for the same reason. 808's has gone on to shape the careers of major artists such as Drake, The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, and public opinion has eased up on the record in the last few years due to it's increasingly pronounced legacy and influence. In site of this factor though, it must be said that Kanye's 4th album is certainly his least prolific.

Best Tracks: Say You Will/Welcome To Heartbreak/Heartless

6. Watch The Throne (2011)

When Kanye and Jay Z finally teamed up for a full length project in 2011 it was obviously going to be epic, and the resulting album delivered a hyperactive celebration of both rappers lifestyles as they indulged in their respective talents with a series of perfectly executed tales of wealth, prestige and glory. There's an argument to be made that West outshined his mentor over the course of the record when Kanye's production is considered on top of his impassioned verses but whether you're more of a Ye or Jay fan is irrelevant in the end- Watch The Throne is straight up entertainment for all fans of hip-hop, and a celebration of the culture and success of the rap movement by two of it's greatest ever.

Best Tracks: No Church In The Wild/Niggas In Paris/Murder To Excellence

5. Graduation (2007)

Graduation was a watershed moment for hip-hop in many ways; as the subject of a much publicized sales battle with 50 Cent due to the a coinciding release date with his third effort Curtis, Kanye's completion of his college trilogy is now recognized as an altering moment for the rap landscape as fans set record breaking album sale statistics upon its release, confirming that gangsta rap was dying and conscious rap was growing like never before. This is reflected today in the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Drake and an endless sea of like minded artists, many of whom were hugely influenced by the sound, style and themes of Kanye's original trio of albums and for this reason alone, Graduation stands as one of the rapper's most significant achievements to date.

Best Tracks: Stronger/Good Life/Can't Tell Me Nothing

4. The College Dropout (2004)

Kanye started work on his debut album all the way back in 1999, and before its eventual release in 2004 had received a sort of recognition for production on The Blueprint by Jay Z in 2001. When it finally dropped it was clear to the rap world that this was the arrival of a significant talent, although the true scale of greatness that West was to achieve was yet to unfold. These 21 tracks showcased a rapper who was hungry for fame and success yet desperate also to convey a message of social inequality and paint a picture of struggle and morality that he perhaps hasn't captured as vividly since Late Registration just a year later. Kicking off a trio of albums that would steal the world's attention with their thoughtful yet abrasive nature, The College Dropout remains one of the finest rap albums of the past decade without doubt,and is rightfully still counted among Kanye's greatest releases.

Best Tracks: All Falls Down/Slow Jamz/School Spirit

3. Yeezus (2013)

Last summer, Yeezus blasted by in 40 minutes of mercilessly gripping noise that melted the brain and shocked the senses without apology as it pinned you back against the hardcore wall of noise that served as the backdrop to Kanye’s maddening raps, which took his ferocious ego to the next level.

The sense of chaos that Yeezus instils in the listener is representative of West’s restless artistic vision, something which, truly for the first time, he refused to hone or filter, allowing a total explosion of noise that symbolized a brief glimpse into the mind of a self-confessed mad man. The fact that this is currently the standing point of Kanye's discography after 10 years shows exactly how progressive and unique West has been since day one, and if Yeezus is anything to go by, then there's at least another decade to come from its artist, and we may just be at the beginning of a period of further exploration and innovation in the music industry.

Best Tracks: New Slaves/Blood On The Leaves/Bound 2

2. Late Registration (2005)

The magnum opus of Kanye's college trilogy was perhaps the first moment when it became clear that the industry was not dealing with an ordinary rapper or musician, but one who could potentially shape a landscape for the future of the business. With its flawless production and addressing of social matters in an even deeper and more engaged manner than before, Late Registration came at a time when rap music was in a kind of limbo and it paved the way for the sounds we're hearing from a range of incredible artists today in 2014.

On top of the depth already described was the fact that this was an album stacked from head to toe in sensational pop music and late Registration spawned without doubt the finest selection of singles taken from a Kanye album bar none- ''Heard 'Em Say'', ''Touch The Sky'', ''Gold Digger'' and ''Diamonds From Sierra Leone'' sent mainstream audiences crazy worldwide while further inside the industry critics universally proclaimed genius for tracks like the astoundingly beautiful ''Hey Mama'' and triumphant finale ''Gone''. Late Registration marked the true arrival of Kanye West with a then definitive, almost unbeatable record.

Best Tracks: Touch The Sky/Hey Mama/Gone

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Just six years ago Kanye West’s next move was near impossible to predict following the problematic release of 808’s & Heartbreak, as detailed above. The polarized reception of that record meant that for some, West’s moment at the top was coming to an undignified end, and how easy it would have been for him to slip into a downward spiral of releases, and settle into a legacy that would already have been classed as legendary for his original trio of classic albums.

Instead he returned with his magnum opus and possibly the greatest album of the 21st century with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an exquisite blend of pop, rock and hip-hop music that can stand alongside any great popular musical achievement since the 1950’s. With Dark Fantasy, Kanye came as close as possible to perfection on an album that stuns and amazes from first second to last, as West explores an excessive range of genres and subjects over the course of 68 minutes that makes essential listening for every modern music fan.

Dark Fantasy is Kanye at his most ambitious and extravagant (and considering the outrageous ego of the man that's quite a statement indeed), making the result an work of such grand scale and maximilism that it's noticeably difficult to capture the triumphant nature of it through written word. Instead you'd be better off pressing play and letting an album of such magnificence take you on a musical journey for the ages. Put simply, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a moment of utter perfection not only for Kanye West but hip-hop and all music itself. It's the reason we listen to and love artists who create challenging, inspiring and affecting music, and nobody in the world right now is doing it better than Kanye West.

Best Tracks: POWER/All Of The Lights/Runaway

Next: The Arcade Fire

Friday, 20 June 2014

''The Moon Rang Like A Bell'' Hundred Waters - A Review

Hundred Waters self titled 2012 debut was an impressive fusion of acoustic and electronic music that resulted in critics coining the terms 'folktronica' and 'digital folk' due to the band's unique balance of the two genres. The Moon Rang Like A Bell sees the four piece return with the warranted expectation that their sophomore effort should see them develop their engaging sound further, although throughout it seems as though Hundred Waters are leaning specifically toward one side of their original favourited styles.

The album begins with short opening piece ''Show Me Love'', a vocal exercise for frontman Nicole Minglis before ''Murmurs'' gently soothes the listener into the album with an almost R&B vibe and the incredible voice of Minglis, a constant factor in proceedings just as it was on the bands debut. The synths are then revealed for ''Cavity'', ''Out Alee'' and ''Innocent'' which all retain a shimmering, blissed out electro vibe before the midsection is slowed down in mournful tones by ''Broken Blue'', a low tempo, wallowing piano track that alongside ''Chambers'' creates a haunted, darkened middle. On ''Chambers'', as well as ''Down From The Rafters'', Hundred Waters start to show off some of their influences with a strong Sigur Ros comparison emanating from the band as Minglis shows off a Jonsi like vocal that's backed by droning organ atmospherics.

The band are back to enjoying themselves on ''[Animal]'', a bouncing, playful synth track that leads into the closing stages of the album where the band utilize piano/keyboards to great effect on ''Seven White Horses'' and ''Xtalk'' before ''No Sound'' finishes the 48 minute tracklist with a gentle soundscae that washes along to the close.

Following Hundred Waters in 2012, the most obvious comparison to make was Akron/Family, an experimental acoustic act that have spent the best part of the 21 century trying to rearrange traditional folk music into something more strange, and while in many ways Hundred Waters picked up where Ak left off, they seem to be content to drop their acoustics here in favour of electro textures rather than balancing the two. This is disappointing in some respects given the truly unique sound of the band's admittedly more intriguing debut, but on a positive note The Moon Rang Like A Bell sounds like Hundred Waters becoming more comfortable with who they are and the music they are trying to create, and if they can produce a more familiar sounding version of electronica of this quality on a regular basis from here on out then really, there's little room for complaint.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

''A U R O R A'' Ben Frost - A Review

Australian composer and avant-garde musician Ben Frost has found underground success on Icelandic label Bedroom Community over the past decade while releasing film soundtracks on the side, but on A U R O R A Frost is leaving his strings and orchestral arrangements aside for a trippy electronic experiment that is never straightforward.

Things kick off with ''Flex'', an unsettling, rising beat that leads into the dangerously intense soundscape of ''Nolan'', a track of hypnotic ferocity that threatens to melt your brain before it thankfully cools into a somewhat smoother outro. From there comes the contrasting ''Teeth'', a hissed, near silent track that feels necessary after the burnout your mind will still be experience from the previous 7 minute storm of the second track, but Frost doesn't stay quiet for long as ''Secant'' reveals itself to be another acid inspired freak out which somehow blurs the line between bliss and terror in a manner that needs to be heard to be believed.

On the album's most relatively conventional note and best moment, ''Venter'' starts slowly before building on it's light percussion by carefully lacing church bells together with the kind of feedback sound that seems to permeate the entire record, before the track descends into what could only be described as music you would imagine a species from another planet may dance to. Taken as a whole, ''Venter'' demonstrates the greatest balance of all Frost's surreal instrumentation with standard conventions and showcases how effective the artist can be when meshing his style with traditional music rather than trying to make our eardrums bleed (see ''Nolan'' and ''Secant'', tracks so heavy that they share a greater relationship with thrash metal than any kind of dance form).

Further on the track list, ''No Sorrowing'' is another example of less is more with a single synth dominating the track, and while ''Sola Fide'' is similarly all consuming to earlier instances of heavy electronica, it's a more pleasant, somewhat lighter experience than the others. Continuing the mild outro, at least by Frost's standards, is closer ''A Single Point Of Blinding Light'' which comes off sounding like a laser show but in a warm, almost playful ending.

On your completion of A U R O R A you should be suitably exhausted by the mind altering nature of these 9 highly intense tracks, but whether the mind numbing quality of these 40 minutes is a positive or negative element depends entirely on your own interpretation. If you want an experience akin to a horror film or hallucinogenic drug then strap in and lose yourself to Ben Frost, but for the music fan more concerned with melody and emotion rather than effect, Frost's extremities can seem provocative rather than purposeful.


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Snoop Dogg at The Academy (11/6/14) - A Review

Following a thankfully brief time where Calvin Broadus decided he wanted to create reggae music and began referring to himself as Snoop Lion, he's back to his old self as the gin and juice sippin' pimp we all came to know and love over the past two decades, and it was in his original persona that Snoop visited The Academy last night for what would best be described as a greatest hits tour.

After a lengthy warm up by the touring band and DJ who blared classics like ''California Love'' and ''Still D.R.E'', we're finally graced with the rapper's presence for a reggae opener taken from his most recent project before ''Tha Shiznit'' gets the house jumping to really set things off as Snoop delivered his sensationally laid back flow over a 90's Dre beat (in spite of it suffering from slightly poor sound quality, an issue throughout). There's a mix of tracks over the course of Snoop's introduction, showcasing a range of sides to the legendary figure, from the funky R&B of ''Up's & Down's'', 213 track ''I'm Fly'', a 50 Cent cover of ''P.I.M.P'' that goes that down predicatbly well with the crowd and new chart favourite collaboration with Jason Derulo ''Wiggle''. Snoop was made by his extraordinary flow and gangsta rap persona though, and it's these tracks that genuine fans will have come to see- ''Lodi Dodi'' is an excellent out take from 1991 debut (and best record by a mile) Doggystyle while ''Gin And Juice'' is an obvious highlight of the night, but it becomes increasingly clear over the course of the set that many of the fans in attendance aren't exactly hip hop connoisseurs, with a waning response to rap classics that deserve the biggest pop.

At several times throughout the night there are telling signs of the kind of songs that these fans want to hear, and Snoop obliges them with his features on the likes of Katy Perry's ''California Girls'' and David Guetta's ''Wet'' before even subjecting us to a ludicrous cover of Britney Spears' ''I Love Rock'n'Roll''. These chart hits go down a treat with the audience but they're certainly alienating to the hardcore rap fan who has actually followed Snoop's discography rather than a number of features that were by and large a cash in for Broadus. It's a credit to Snoop's persona though that he keeps both sides interested with his call and response techniques that bring the crowd into each tune, and there are plenty of compromises to be had song wise too, with ''The Next Episode'' bringing the house down in the moment of the night before the set is ended with a feel good element by ''Young, Wild & Free'' and Bob Marley's ''Jammin''.

Ultimately it was a strange kind of night in the Academy, and perhaps a telling one for the rap star who seems to be settling down into middle age and enjoying his fame with chart success and major exposure coming over the more substance filled rap of his 90's career. While it may have been a night more suited to the casual fan, there was enough rap highlights taken from Snoop's lengthy career to pull it through, and this showcase of the path of Calvin Broadus can be summarized best the same way his music career can; perhaps a little inconsistent, without a doubt entertaining, and always incredibly fun.


Thursday, 5 June 2014

Rate The Albums: Arctic Monkeys

I'm bringing back an old feature of mine for summer 2014 as I take a look at some of my favourite artists and rank their discography from best to worst. My previous lists are still available to view on the site- they include Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Death Cab For Cutie and Bloc Party.

I'm kicking off things with one of the biggest bands in the world right now, who are set to hit Dublin in just over a weeks time, Sheffield's finest export Arctic Monkeys. Since arriving in style with the fastest selling debut album in British history back in 2006, the band have continually evolved throughout the course of their 5 studio releases with varying results. Last year's AM was celebrated as perhaps the peak of the group's powers as they topped various Best Of 2013 lists and walked away with numerous awards both at home and abroad for their work, but is it in fact the band's greatest moment? Here's my own countdown:

5. Suck It And See (2011)

The band's fourth album is perhaps their most overlooked- from the nearly blank cover and lack of major promotion to it's straightforward vintage rock style, Suck It And See seemed to be released with more of a whimper than a bang. Perhaps these reasons have led to the record earning dubious honour of being the Monkeys most underrated too, and unfairly so- standing at just 40 minutes short, Suck It is indeed a minimized, simpler rock release than the rest of the band's catalogue but it's also a wonderfully smooth, assured collection of classic rock'n'roll songs that hinted towards the style Alex Turner and the lads would embrace on AM last year with greater conviction and purpose.

Best Tracks: She's Thunderstorms/Black Treacle/The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala

4. Humbug (2009)

In contrast to Suck It, the release of Humbug in 2009 was met with strong interest for it's controversial departure from the signature sound that the Sheffield band utilized so effectively on their initial album duo. In truth though, this was the sound of a band maturing with a confident and fearless attitude, and while Humbug is far from the Arctics best work, it deserves huge praise for shifting the band's tone with skill, allowing them to progress on the records that followed and in their future output, making it a majorly significant moment in the band's discography.

Best Tracks: My Propeller/Crying Lightning/Cornerstone

3. Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)

Following one of the greatest British debuts of the 21st century is no easy feat, but the band assured doubters that they were the real deal with Favourite Worst Nightmare just a year after their groundbreaking first album. Nightmare showed a greater awareness for melody and developing themes of emotion that were key to its success, as Alex Turner in particular proved he was far more than just a one trick songwriter with tender moments such as ''Only Ones Who Know'' and ''505'' complimenting the usual banger's such as ''Do Me A Favour'' and ''Teddy Picker''. Most impressively, the band's sophomore release avoided any kind of negative comparison with their earlier work while retaining an unmistakably Arctic Monkeys niche that satisfied old fans and won plenty of new followers.

Best Track: Fluorescent Adolescent/Only Ones Who Know/505

2. AM (2013)

Released to the public in September of last year, AM immediately took it's rightful place atop many critics and music fans lists for one of the best albums of the year, and it's no wonder why- it seemed that for all the searching the band had done over the course of Humbug and Suck It they had found a perfected, definitive sound that blended old and new Arctic Monkeys with silky smoothness and undeniable flair. It's a stellar work of music that can be built on, and crucially, feels like it surely will. Perhaps the best thing you could say about AM is that inspires belief that Arctic Monkeys will improve from here, and considering the previous albums mentioned that's quite a statement to make, and a truly exciting prospect.

When asked about the title pre-release, Alex Turner replied with a knowing smile, claiming he'd ripped it from the Velvet Underground's 1985 complilation VU: ''Did we cop out? Yeah, but something about it feels like this record is exactly where we should be right now. So it felt right just to initial it.'' It's an insightful comment, and while he might be laughing at the complacency of those initials himself, in reality, it couldn't have been named anything else.

That old rock'n'roll, eh?

Best Tracks: Do I Wanna Know?/R U Mine?/I Wanna Be Yours

1. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)

For all the highs and hijinks that have come since, it really would be a major achievement for Arctic Monkeys to ever top their debut album. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was hyped like no other album pre-release this decade and it delivered with style and then some on its arrival, landing with a splash that woke the rest of the country and sparked a rock revival similar to The Strokes in America.

The unconventional nature of the band's popularity through online sources such as MySpace was celebrated as a watershed moment in modern music and the significance of that statement is only truly setting in now as we see just how modern audiences have shifted in droves to the internet for their aural intake. But don't let that overshadow the raw brilliance of the music itself- Whatever was packed with the kind of intensity that can only be found in a hungry teenage band like the Monkeys were at the time, and their unsculpted passion resulted in a sound comparable to the Grunge and Britpop movements for its incomparable energy and force.

Buried within the guitars were the words of Alex Turner, bursting with wit, intelligence and an underlying apathy as he examined youth culture and society in Britain through the loose concept of a Saturday night and Sunday morning in Sheffield. The definitive track of the album, and the greatest moment of the band's career comes in ''A Certain Romance'', a tender reminiscence on the teenage years that Turner spent in the English suburbs long before he transformed into the greaser rock star we known him as today.

''There's only music so that there's new ringtones'' he laments about half way through the final track, and it's a painfully accurate description of the British rock music landscape at the time of his writing, before the likes of Arctic Monkeys came along and injected a sorely needed amount of soul into the industry with their brand of post-punk, garage rock on their stunning, and as yet unbeatable debut album.

Best Tracks: A View From The Afternoon/When The Sun Goes Down/A Certain Romance

Next Up: Kanye West

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

''In Conflict'' Owen Pallett - A Review

Owen Pallett is a name that tends to be overlooked when we talk about The Arcade Fire, but the quiet Montreal native's impressive solo output as well as his Oscar nomination alongside Win Butler for Best Score this year would suggest that Pallett is far more than a background character, and in fact a major player within one of greatest band's of this generation. The melodic, expressive string pieces that make up Pallett's first three albums seem to be derived from his criminally unrated orchestral work for the band, and so it follows that Pallett's solo work has so far been a quiet but undeniably quality affair, and one which has drawn critical approval if not commercial success.

Having dropped the Final Fantasy moniker for Heartland in 2010, Pallett is back under his own name for In Conflict, his fourth record and one which interestingly employs the talents of Brian Eno on synth and guitar, suggesting a possible stylistic change for the Canadian, who usually can;t be found without a violin by his side. ''I Am Not Afraid'' opens like standard Pallett but sure enough breaks off for a dreamy synth interlude before linking back up with the rest of the song in a strong intro, while the title track confirms Pallett will be substituting his strings for synths in major parts of the album as warm electronic textures wrap themselves around ''In Conflict'', creating a weird dancey vibe as the track develops with great results. Early highlights such as this are aplenty, with ''Song For Five & Six'' showcasing laser like synths that bury Pallett's vocal underneath a set of sci-fi sounds recalling a male Grimes more than just a little bit.

There are still plenty of string arrangements to go around on tracks like ''On A Path'' which are backed solely by a drum machine and Pallett's violin, while ''The Passions'' is a somber affair that slows the midsection down in quite a lovely manner, stuck between ''The Secret Seven'' and ''The Sky Behind The Flag'', two pieces which make a point of building themselves with purpose before resolving without the expected climax, although their respective journeys are satisfying enough anyway. Brief string intersection ''→, Part 1'' introduces us to the closing chapters of In Conflict which kick off with ''The Riverbed'', a drum heavy, louder side to the album that almost sounds like the answer to the aforementioned climax that ''Seven'' and ''Sky'' were searching for, before major highlight ''Infernal Fantasy'' interupts the tracklist with a glorious, chaotic electronic mess that threatens to implode on itself in an unexpected turn of events which has Eno written all over it. Following ''Fantasy'' we're brought to a gentle close by ''Soldier's Rock'' before ''→, Part 2'' ends In Conflict fittingly with another string arrangement shrouded in synth.

And so In Conflict showcases its songwriter modestly progressing in an intriguing new direction with precision and confidence. In typical style this is a humble offering from Pallett but throughout In Conflict are glimses that hint at a more ambitious artist, one who is capable of expanding on an already solid catalogue. It would be fair to say that In Conflict marks the best solo work of Owen Pallett's career (perhaps challenged by debut Has A Good Home under the FF moniker), but you get the feeling that the always reliable and eternally reserved Pallett potentially has his best work ahead of him yet, a suspicion confirmed by this collection of electro tinged tracks which showcase a skillful development in sound.


''I Never Learn'' Lykke Li - A Review

Since she debuted on the music scene in 2008, Lykke Li has won a fair amount of praise for her electro tinged indie tunes, most notably for standout single ''I Follow Rivers'' which charted highly around Europe throughout 2011 and 2012. Her most successful release to date was a club friendly offering for sure, but mid way through 2014 Li has left behind the synths and drum machines in favour of her acoustic guitar for I Never Learn, her third record and one which she describes as dealing with "the biggest breakup of her life". Furthermore, Li claims that I Never Learn is the album which she feels will define her artistry and truly establish her place in the industry, a claim which proves to be prophetic throughout these 9 sorrowful ballads.

It's clear from the very beginning that this is very much the product of a badly broken heart as Li opens proceedings with the glooming, atmospheric title track, introducing us to the dark, brooding nature of the album before a wave of strings bring the opener to a skillful finish and ''No Rest For The Wicked'' showcases some single material with its anthemic chorus, albeit it for its same bleak nature which is exposed in cold piano twitches and the powerful vocal of Li, who almost sighs her painfully honest lyrics through the speaker with admissions like ''I let my true love die'' burning the listener's ear. Similiarly, ''Gunshot'' sounds chart friendly through its pounding, relatively up tempo style but it still manages to carry the all consuming, inescapable despair of the album with ease. ''Just Like A Dream'' makes for another first half highlight, reflecting its title with a distant, echoed vocal that reverberates deep within and lends a deep resonance to Li's lyrics due to her tired singing throughout.

Speaking of Li's vocal, it would be impossible not to mention ''Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone'', an intriguing solo ballad that marks the songwriter's best performance of the album without doubt as she supports herself with stunning lyrical accompaniment to a single, tuneless acoustic guitar. Following the album's darkest moment comes its closest brush with a traditional pop song, although ''Never Gonna Love Again'' proves to be an ugly version of a 90's style ballad with its typically black lyrics standing in stark contrast to the uplifting chords it utilizes, coming off like some kind of twisted relative to Savage Garden's ''Truly, Madly, Deeply'' and making it one of the most memorable pieces of the album by creating a weirdly beautiful contradiction through its misleading sound.

Once again, penultimate track ''Heart Of Steel'' would have been another contender for chart success if it weren't for the self depreciating tongue Li uses on herself in an almost celebratory, sinister manner. There's nothing sinister about the final moments of I Never Learn with ''Sleeping Alone'' however, a stunningly insight into Li's struggle to live by herself following her lost lover. ''Alone'' is a perfect end, painfully tugging at heartstrings with its painfully stabbed piano chords and emotional honesty, defining the message that Li communicates so wonderfully throughout the entirety of her 3rd release.

On conclusion, I Never Learn is a beautiful ode to the lonely, fractured, weak personality that can overtake anyone in a post relationship state. With its immersive, mesmerizing mood and acoustic tenderness, I Never Learn invites comparison to another break up masterpiece in Beck's Sea Change, coming off like a younger sister to one of Hansen's magnum opus', high praise indeed for an artist who has yet to reach their thirties. If Lykke Li was looking to establish herself in the industry with I Never Learn, she can consider this album an unbridled success- within a whirlwind 32 mins, Li presents herself as a developing songwriter with maturity beyond her years, creating music with depth, integrity, raw power and emotional impact.


Monday, 26 May 2014

''Indie Cindy'' Pixies - A Review

In many ways, this was doomed from the start. Pixies released some of the greatest alternative rock known to man throughout the late 80's and early 90's, and the magic captured inside those 4 LP's has seen the band rise to God-like status in the music industry, credited by countless bands (among them such small names as Nirvana, Radiohead and Pavement) as their reason for existence. Outside their massive impact upon the music scene itself, the Pixies fan base has steadily grown since their parting of ways in 1993, and so too has the unanimous acclaim that the band now commands upon their very mention in critics circles.

And so the question really has to be why- specifically why now, 23 years after the band bowed out with Trompe Le Monde, did Pixies feel the need to give us Indie Cindy? A gap of two decades between albums for any band is going to be problematic, but Pixies seem to have only raised more questions and eyebrows in the process of releasing their fifth effort than actually settling any stomachs about the impending arrival of new material, much less get us excited about it all. First and foremost there's the fact that this is not unheard work- the tracks that make up Cindy consist largely of 3 EP's that were released over the past year to mainly lukewarm reception, making the full album format seem almost totally unnecessary. On top of that there's the absence of co-founder Kim Deal and a frankly dodgy title thrown into the already lame mix, adding to the suspicion that this will not be a classic Pixies comeback, or even a very good album at all.

Cindy kicks off pretty well though with ''What Goes Boom'', an opener that briefly inspires hope
by bringing the heavy/soft dynamics of ''Gouge Away'' and more classics back into play, but this optimistic outlook doesn't last long. In fact, it comes crashing down with ''Greens And Blues'', an indie pop style ballad that has no rightful place in the band's catalogue. Alongside the title track, this kind of indistinct mush comes off more like a parody or cover band more than the original thing. ''Bagboy'', the first track released post reunion, isn't terribly bad but average at best, and really should have acted as an initial warning to Frank Black not to follow up on this ill advised venture.

When the band stop pussy footing around and go back to heavier roots as with ''What Goes Boom'' things improve, like with ''Magdalena 318'', another rocker the like of which the band would have done well to fill Cindy out with, rather than the slower, plod along tunes that make up the majority of the track list (I'm looking at you, ''Silver Snail'' and ''Andro Queen''). The softer side of Cindy isn't completely unbearable in small doses- ''Ring The Bell'' is a gentle surf rock tune that's pleasant on the ears, but it's impossible to escape the thought throughout this 3 minute pleaser that it could have benefited hugely from Deal's presence. But surrounding ''Bell'' on the tracklist is evidence that rocking out doesn't always work for Black and co. here either- ''Another Toe In The Ocean'' and ''Blue Eyed Hexe'' again sound like the attempt of a band to cover their former, more inspired selves with diminishing results.

As we thankfully approach the end of the album, Pixies gift us with their worst track yet in ''Snakes'', a simply amateur attempt at pop/rock that's about as forgettable as Sum 41 filler, which is a fitting description considering that it sounds the kind of material which should have ended up stuck in the middle of a lowly pop-punk album in the early 2000's. ''Jaime Bravo'' closes shop with an inoffensive wave of guitars that neither adds to nor takes away from the numbness any Pixies faithful should be feeling right about the moment Indie Cindy concludes and the band, exhausted from trying to catch up with their younger selves, gratefully bow out and exit stage.

What more is there to say about Indie Cindy? Not a whole lot that can't be heard by pressing play and exposing yourself to the shadows of Frank Black, Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering on this tired, draining return for the legendary group. Certainly there were many signs that Cindy would be a let down, and unfortunately they've proven to be so very sad but true, as the band cap their wonderful career with an unmistakable black mark. Perhaps the most depressing thing about it all is that it just didn't have to be this way- in 23 years the Pixies had done nothing but age gracefully and win generation after generation of new fans with a near flawless output. But in 2014, for reasons that will remain a mystery, Pixies have scarred themselves with an album that's many things (weak, confused, careless, miscalculated) but most of, totally and utterly pointless.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

''Definitely Maybe: Remastered'' Oasis - A Review

''Never be afraid of the obvious, it's all been done before.''

That Noel Gallagher quote right there is what Oasis built themselves around since day one. The unashamedly working class, in your face rock music that they emerged with 20 years ago to this day has been paraded around the world on stadium tours to the masses ever since, and two decades after Definitely Maybe hit record stores we're left in a temporarily Oasis-less world, making this a better time than ever to capitalize on the success of the feuding brothers in the first place.

The story of Liam and Noel's confrontational relationship only added to the traditional rock'n'roll band persona that they pushed since the start, and whenever critics felt like taking a pop they only had to point to the brothers Beatlemania obsession and its domineering impact on their discography to accuse them of plagiarizing their way to their iconic status, but that was always nonsense. The truth is that someone has to be that big band, and for the last twenty years Oasis have played the part with aplomb. They were aware of it from the start too (the first song on the album is called ''Rock'N'Roll Star'', come on), and when you revise it on this remastered version, from the sound of Definitely Maybe, they were ready to become legends from the very beginning.

We're introduced to Oasis with a defiant statement on their desire for success, delivered by the snarled drawl that would become so synonymous with Liam backed by Noel's simple yet strong lyrics and a heavy mix of guitar and drums. ''Rock'N'Roll Star'' and ''Shakermaker'' are effective intro's and both made for great singles, but listening to the opening sounds of ''Live Forever'' on track three will transport you back inside the world of the band so quickly that you'll remember in an instant why they're so celebrated if you were ever in doubt. The standout single, which reached as far as No 2 on the US Billboard even back in 1995, is still without doubt among the band's finest, and alongside ''Supersonic'', one of the greatest songs of the 1990's. Noel stated at the time that he wrote it as a counter act to the Grunge explosion and it's downer attitude taking place within rock music at the time, and both tracks were vital in delivering the UK and eventually the rest of the world with a new scene, and something to believe in following Kurt Cobain's passing and the eventual death of the Seattle born genre soon afterward.

Speaking of Grunge though, it's somewhat ironic that the band fought against and eventually succeeded their American counterparts when you consider tracks like ''Up In The Sky'' and ''Bring It On Down'' that most certainly took a leaf or two from the aforementioned style of the 90's with a sped up pace and distorted guitar showcasing that Noel was never afraid to mix and match something he liked to his own music, even if he'd typically end up trashing it in the press afterward. Other major highlights are the ones that show the softer side to the band- ''Slide Away'' and ''Married With Children'', the album's closing tracks, suggest the kind of maturity that would eventually manifest itself in the group's magnum opus ''Champagne Supernova'' a couple of years later, but as Definitely Maybe comes to a smooth, almost humbling end, it's obvious that the band were destined for glory all the way back in '94.

The best, and simplest, way to summarize Definitely Maybe is with another Noel Gallagher quote, one in which he claimed  "I've pretty much summed up everything I wanted to say in "Rock 'n' Roll Star", "Live Forever" and "Cigarettes & Alcohol'', after that I'm repeating myself, but in a different way". Maybe that's a dismissive way to put it, but maybe he's right too- what came afterwards got better, worse and leveled out to some extent but the message, the attitude and the style of it all remained the same, and that's why at its heart Definitely Maybe, while not Oasis' best album, is probably their most definitive. It's one that celebrates the band, their fans and its culture like no other while capturing British rock in the 90's like lightening in a bottle, and that's enough for it to qualify as one of many seminal recordings in a landmark decade of music.

This reissue is certainly going to give fans a reminder why they still want Noel, Liam and Oasis to exist in peace, and the fact is that there's more reason to hope than ever since they called it a day in 2009 if you're to believe Liam's cryptic Twitter account. You might never hear the results of the band stepping into a studio again (and maybe that's a not a total loss) but twenty years on it's hard to believe we won't be hearing the band launch into ''Rock'n'Roll Star'', ''Live Forever'' and ''Supersonic'' again sometime in the near future, and that will be a very welcome sound to the legion of fans that Oasis originally won in 1994 with this brash, instinctive debut record.