Bright Eyes – Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was Album Review

Dead Oceans – 2020

The world is certainly a different place than the last time Conor Oberst and co. banded together to form Bright Eyes. Stretching all the way back to turn of the decade 2011 and the release of ‘The People’s Key’ which eventually led to the band taking a break from collective working, each taking the opportunity to branch out on their own workings. Oberst taking the time to bring out some solo albums and work closely with none other than Phoebe Bridgers on both her albums and to form the Better Oblivion Community Centre duo. It’s also been 15 year since ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’, an album that focused on televised wars, body counts on the news and the eternal plight of American greed. In many ways the album was of its time, and unfortunately every bit as relevant today. What Bright Eyes have returned with now is an album full of loss, experience and hope, in a world where at the moment there might not seem like there’s much to go round.

Even after all these years the one consistent that has remained is Oberst’s flourishing and ever rolling songwriting. His ability to paint a scene and an emotion through witfully joined lyrics is what allowed Bright Eyes to become a staple of the MySpace indie era. “Don’t read my worried mind, That smoking gun passing through time, I’m yours, you can decide, What fate I’ll have on the firing line, Because now all I can do is just dance on through, And sing” Oberst proclaims on ‘Dance And Sing’ as he reveres in the notion that through all the unrest he is feeling, it all might be okay. This theme of hope is one that carries through to the end of this album. “You clenched your fist and threw the dish and called me Peter Pan, Your aim’s not very accurate and I thank God for that, Although I told you many times I’m not much of a man, You held out hope believing that at least I might pretend”. It’s an Oberst that is reflecting with a knowledge that’s he’s done all he can to be true to himself.

Instrumentally there are moments where the lyrics are then reflected in the sound “You always liked cinematic endings” Oberst states on ‘Stairwell Song’ after which the song bursts into a flurry of brief orchestra movements to close out the track. And on ‘Tilt-A-Whirl’ the “It vanishes into thin air, So suddenly” causes the track to suddenly stop as well. Subtle production chooses that show a sense of humour of the compositions.

There’s a certain unease that flows within this album in the way of the nightmarish and distorted samples that crop up on occasion at the start and end of tracks. Which stem from the intro of the album ‘Pageturners Rag’ which was a recording of a real evening ragtime recording of a bar that Oberst visits. Creating a surreal sense of uncertainty, that although the topics are seemingly trivial, the way they are presented feel almost as if you’re reaching a point of paranoia, where every sentence seems damning.

They’ve also recruited a couple of helping hands this time in the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers own Flea, who slaps a mean bass on tracks such as ‘Mariana Trench’ and ‘One And Done’. And Queens Of The Stone age’s Jon Theodore who provides the rolling beats on many moments of the album, especially coming into his own on ‘Forced Convalescence’ with the tight grooves and frantic drum rolls.

Throughout this entire album though there’s a certain boxy feel to the whole production that often distorts a lot of the sound. It’s hard to pin down to one element but it feels that there’s either too much bass at points or there’s too much mid-range volume that pushes the sound out further away than perhaps intended. It keeps in with the typical raw sound of previous Bright Eyes albums but at points can make the delicate melodies or searing orchestra movements hard or even harsh to listen to.

There’s plenty of ballads to go around in this album, with the track-listing at 16 songs and just under an hour their does sometimes feel as though there are moments that could have been shortened or left out, to help the bigger songs to really standout. ‘Hot Car In The Sun’ offers some of the dreamiest sounds on the album, but lyrically it’s not the most explorative on the album “Baby it’s okay, I love you, Baby it’s okay, Because I wanted to, Love you” sings Oberst on the chorus. It’s a tender ballad but with what the rest of the album delivers on, it leaves you just wanting a bit more.

Although there may be some more stripped back moments throughout, but when this album really wants to let rip, it certainly knows how. ‘To Death’s Heart (In Three Parts)’ is a masterclass in anthemic prowess. Building up through atmospheric guitars and spacey synthesisers, twisting and turning through emotive chorus’ to eventually bursting into full rock opera prowess towards the ending.

Sticking true to the classic Bright Eyes sound whilst adding in new elements of expansion has allowed the band to return after nearly a decade just as relevant as when they left. The names that make up this collective have stayed active which will have helped keep the Bright Eyes sound fresh and modern, but they still know how to tug on a heartstring.

L.A. Priest – Gene Album Review

Domino Recording Co. – 2020

Sam Eastgate aka Sam Dust aka LA Priest returns after nearly 5 years with the follow up to the genre bending, critically acclaimed ‘Inji’, which saw Eastgate blend elements of Pop, Electronic and Jazz music to create a truly unique sound. Since then Eastgate has been stayed fairly underground but in 2016 did collaborate with the king of genre bending himself, Connan Mockasin for their ‘Soft Hair’ project. Now Eastgate returns with another batch of electronic infused pop, jazz and folk endeavours. The center-piece of the album is an electronic drum machine named ‘GENE’, from which the album name derives, that Eastgate designed and built fully on his own (You can try a virtual version of it here) due to frustration over the limitations of other drum machines.

Theres a certain mystique about this album, through its psychedelic landscapes it never settles on one movement or idea, instead it constantly shifts and glides between the weird and wonderful. Staying true to Eastgate’s style of genre-blending, there’s influences from all over the spectrum. There’s the pop melody’s of ‘What Moves’, the freeform jazz interlude of ‘Black Smoke’ and even elements of folk on ‘Open My Eyes’. What ties all these sounds together is Eastgate’s classic woozy psychedelic textures; be it through heavily phased guitars or glistening synthesisers. As the album progresses these sounds become familiar and connected yet constantly shifting, with tracks flowing seamlessly into one another. Like ‘Peace Lily’ which acts as the instrumental progression from ‘What Moves’, keeping the same beat and chorus heavy guitars but instead takes the sound into a more funky landscape, slowly adding some groovy synth bass lines. The connections don’t just end at the instrumentation, because Eastgate’s voice throughout is consistently vibrant and he shows off his incredible range; from the high falsetto of ‘What Do You See’ to the flowing polyrhythm of opener ‘Beginning’.

Eastgate excels at the psych pop ballad and there’s some stand out examples of those sown throughout. The track ‘What Moves’ has a flowing chorus melody that’ll be spinning around your head for days. It’s beat is simple but driving and the phaser heavy guitar allows the sound to float around the free-forming landscape. And the vocal melodies ‘Beginning’ are so hypnotic that they could easily carry you away to sleep. But Eastgate also knows how to create a harsher and more experimental soundscape, like on the track ‘Monochrome’. Featuring some heavy tribal drums and distant rain sounds that morph into the electronic beats and dirty synth lines that build to a truly eerie soundscape.

The production and instrumentation of this album follows on from ‘Inji’ in that it only uses what it needs to, keeping the minimalistic sound of closed in sounds throughout. As promised the clicks and pops of GENE are present throughout, providing as a constant within each song. Not that the palette strays too far from the phaser guitar or synth bass, but even as more experimental sounds are introduced like in the acid trip induced ‘Kissing Of The Weeds’ the glitchy beat patterns remain sustained. It’s been said of Eastgate the he “lives an analogue life, not even having a phone” and this certainly comes through as every sound is raw and untampered, almost like you’re sat in the studio watching Eastgate slowly add the layers to each song.

For all the layered harmonies and intricate textures the moment that lets this down is the ending track ‘Ain’t No Love Affair’ which starts with glitchy breathes of “Ain’t no love affair”, western guitars and wailing synths. It then slowly descends into some really loose melodies and vague synth lines until everything fades out, almost as if the albums giving up. After putting so much detail into the rest of the album it just feels like a bit of an underwhelming ending.

A long time coming, and worth the long wait. There’s so many layers of intricacy to this album it will demand repeat listens to try and unpack it all and hear every shifting sound. Eastgate has further solidified his place as a master of psych-pop and everything in between, and enhanced his technical ability within the studio.

The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form Album Review

Dirty Hit – 2020

Indie millennial heartthrob boy band The 1975 are back with their latest album ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’. The follow up to 2018’s ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ which saw the band expand their sound into more areas of electronic and ambient music whilst still retaining their signature indie pop groove. Now they have returned with their most expansive work to date, after already being delayed twice for production reasons. This album certainly contains a lot, to say the least. At nearly 1 hour and 20 minutes theres so many left turns, different directions and ideas screaming to take the lead next that there’s enough material here to encompass two stand alone albums; and maybe thats what this should have been.

To get through this album properly you need to clear your schedule and be ready to embrace everything and anything that’s thrown at you by Matt Healy an co. That’s not to say there aren’t standout moments within this album, there really is. There’s forward thinking music and messages whilst still calling up a sound that feels nostalgic and yet familiar. Like the opening ‘Welcome’ track as Healy calls it, the usual 1975 theme song is replaced with a more ambient texture that surrounds the extremely important speech by modern day Joan Of Arc Greta Thunberg, telling of the importance of acting now if we are to anything about climate change. I truly believe this is one of the most important pieces of music of our time as it perfectly captures the most important issue of our time, given to us by one of the most important figures of our time. A staple of modern times. Some of the more ‘folkier’ styled songs on the album really shine through as well. ‘The Birthday Party’ which although can be a little whacky and weird in moments, a similar theme for most of this album, still has some really great instrumentation. It’s got a nice chilled out sound and short but sweet saxophone solo that altogether is creates a breezy atmosphere. And ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ a song about repressed homosexuality which features the Queen of sad indie-folk herself, Phoebe Bridgers. The harmonies here are outstanding, with the stripped back sound allowing these to really stand out over the distant horns.

Where this album loses its footing and becomes really drawn out are some of the attempts at different styles and the instrumental tracks that end up suffocating the better tracks. There are some interesting ideas within the instrumental passages like on ‘Having No Head’ that starts slow and ambient with its piano riffs, and then transforms into a club-like electronic movement bringing in different elements of funk and house. But it feels like at the point in the album thats this song is placed it’s just being dragged out for the sake of it. The instrumentals altogether take up nearly 12 minutes of the albums run time which is about a sixth of the album. It’s not to say that The 1975 shouldn’t experiment in instrumental tracks, some of these are sonically quite expansive. But perhaps if they want them to be this long they should be on a project of their own, allowing them to stand out and be more coherent together. Aside from the instrumentals there’s tracks that just feel a bit half baked like ‘Yeah I Know’ and ‘What Should I Say’ that don’t really progress past Healy saying the title over and over. There’s the weird ‘alt-country’ attempt on ‘Roadkill’, a song about touring America that feels like a parody of every classic patriarchal American anthem. And ‘Then Because She Goes’ which feels like a 2 minute chorus snippet from a complete song. There’s not a huge amount of progression behind the buried vocals and occasional throws of “Love You”, leaving the track falling flat.

When the band wants to experiment with their sound they can do it, and they can do it well. ‘People’ which is probably the hardest 1975 song there is, brings back a classic emo punk sound. It’s got a hard hitting riff and a kick your teeth in chorus. “People like people, They want alive people, The young surprise people, Stop fucking with the, fucking with the”. And being placed straight after Greta Thunberg’s powerful statement it allows the message of allowing progressive thinkers in our time to not be pushed down for questioning the status quo to really hit hard. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ is bathed in 80’s nostalgic sounds, not that this isn’t a style that The 1975 haven’t played with before but this time they go full throttle. From its chorus induced to its screaming ‘Late Night TV’ sax solo its got it all, whilst still speaking on a modern topic of being obsessed with a model online. “I see her online, All the time, Well, she said, “Maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes, I’m not playing with you, baby, I think that you should give it a go”.

There’s certainly a lot to unpack within this album and perhaps the ‘Notes’ part of the title is more relevant than intended as this album comes together as lots of ideas and unconnected thoughts, that don’t quite make a full piece. The 1975 still know how to make a banger that’s for sure and there’s plenty of those within, if you’re willing to dig deep enough.

Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately Album Review

Matador – 2020

Michael Hadreas aka Perfume Genius returns after 3 years with the follow up to 2017’s critically acclaimed ‘No Shape’. This is the 5th release from Hadreas under the Pefume Genius moniker, 10 years since the release of debut album ‘Learning’. On ‘Set My Heart On Fire Immediately’ Hadreas embodies themes of masculinity, love and eventual heartbreak and creates his most refined work to date.

Sonically this album is the most expansive project Hadreas has created yet. It ranges from the indie-folk and dream pop sounds of ‘Without You’, sounding like the lovechild of a Beach House and Angel Olsen collaborative session. To the shoegaze induced ‘Describe’ with its blown out guitars and distorted vocals, that then moves to an ambient soundscape of hushed vocals and distant synthesisers. And to the minimalistic noise hits of ‘Moonbend’, of which the subdued and closed in saxophone lines reminisce in the sounds of Bon Iver’s ‘____45_____’ from ’22, A Million’. There’s still of course the usual piano ballads laced throughout, but this change in style and movement in different directions has allowed Hadreas to showcase his ability to take a sound and own it. His vocal performance especially on every one of these tracks shines through brightly. Like on the track ‘Jason’ where Hadreas’ falsetto and harmony lines allow the intimate lyrics to become sweeter and more joyful.

The intimacy carries through onto tracks like ‘Nothing At All’, where Hadreas’ vocals are compacted and distorted over the rolling synth bass to feel like he’s breathing them into your ear. “I got what you want, babe, I got what you need, son, Nothing, nothing at all”. And the track ‘Your Body Changes Everything’ in which Hadreas is describing a deeply personal experience “Your body changes everything, You are anchoring, Until you fit beneath me, And you’re breaking like a wave”. On top of this symphonic instrumentation that bridles with joy and builds on this passion for the person Hadreas is describing.

There are many tender moments on this album but one of the absolute standout tracks is ‘On The Floor’. This is the ultimate heartbreak anthem. It’s got an incredible funky groove, almost reminiscent of an early Michael Jackson jam. It’s got deeply personal lyrics of a compulsive obsession with someone that Hadreas is trying to escape that juxtapose perfectly with the upbeat instrumentation. “I’m trying, but still, I close my eyes, The dreaming, bringing his face to mine, The constant buzzing all through the night, The fighting rips me all up inside”. And it’s got a chorus that you’ll be singing in your sleep. All whilst being surrounded in this silky smooth production that glosses through your ears seamlessly.

For every moment of joy there’s an equal moment of introspection and retrospection where Hadreas looks back on his life and whats ahead. Opener ‘Whole Life’ and closer ‘Borrowed Light’ both focus strongly on this and bookend this album of honesty. ‘Whole Life’ is a hopeful rejoice of life, where although half Hadreas’ life may be gone, what’s left in front of him doesn’t have to be defined by whats already happened. “The mark where he left me, A clip on my wing, Oh, let it soften, I forgive everything”. But on ‘Borrowed Light’ Hadreas sings that maybe everything’s already predetermined, you can’t control what’s going to happen. “I thought the sea would make some pattern known, And swim us safely home, But there’s no secret, Just an undertow”. He’s come to realise from all the events and stories described throughout the album that life is weird, strange and often fleeting and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Over the course of this album Hadreas has further solidified his position as one of the most expressive songwriters of today. He’s allowed his sound to expand outwards whilst still retaining his signature tenderness and passion that he sows into his songs through lyrics of honest truths and intimate tales.

Jerry Paper – Abracadabra Album Review

Stones Throw – 2020

Lucas Nathan aka Jerry Paper has been making music longer than most people might think. Originally releasing experimental electronic noise compositions under the Zonotope moniker back in 2011. Nathan then switched to the electro-pop sounds of Diane Kensington Devotional Band before finally landing on the groovy electro-funk world of Jerry Paper. Now Nathan returns with his 10th release under the Jerry Paper name; the second on the Stones Throw label. This time he brings back his weird and wonderful musings on life and refines his sound to be funkier and more psyched out than ever.

Over its 13 track span ‘Abracadabra’ offers an acid tab journey of small snippets into the mind of Nathan, with each track offering a different anecdote or passing emotion. From the quirky ‘Body Builder On The Shore’ to the sombre and remorseful ‘Apologist’, this album isn’t afraid to get a little weird or even a little sad.

The production on this album is some of the most refined on a Jerry Paper album to date, with its soft hazy warm summers day feel. Every instrument packs a punch and stands out clear within the mix. A standout moment is on the track ‘Slow Down, Buddy’ which features a psychedelic wall of harmonies and synthesisers on the chorus line which flows perfectly from the melancholy instrumentation throughout the track. Some of the best drumming and funkiest bass lines come on the tracks ‘Cholla’ and ‘Trash Can’, showcasing how far Nathan’s progressed his funk sound and feel. (He’s also recently started his own series on how to create a funk song over on the ‘Eternal Family‘ web-series, so that you too can be as funky as Jerry Paper). And theres also the rock-centric opener ‘Quicksand’ which might be Nathan’s hardest hitting song ever. It’s got a killer riff and even some hints of Tame Impala levels of psychedelic production.

Nathan’s signature humorous lyrics are ever present, like on the track ‘Drunk Man Talk’ where Nathan just wants to sleep after a party. “In my sleeping bag, drunk man talks to me, I’m trying to sleep I say, He’s begging me please, Just let me tell you me theory of art, please let me tell you why I am so smart”. Theres also songs about new characters Nathan has created, a prominent theme from his 2016 album ‘Toon Time Raw’. With closer ‘Puppeteer’ being about an alien captive who is being surveyed by a mysterious presence. “I trudge back to my cryo-tube post-meal, But no matter how much bread I just don’t feel, Alright, Maybe next few days they’ll release me, Cut me from my strings puppeteer”. It’s this kind of world building that allows Nathan’s music to become more than just funky tunes to chill to, but creates depth to his work if you look into it fully. But theres also a more honest and raw side to Nathan’s lyrics that have always been a part of his storytelling, but really shine through on ‘Abracadabra’. Like the track ‘Memorial Highway’ where sparser instrumentation back lyrics of longing to be remembered positively “And as you cruise, taking in the vista, Through that bird shit covered windshield, I hope you remember me, With a smile”.

My only wish with this album is that it was longer. With most of the tracks only reaching the 2 and a half minute mark they cut out just as they were establishing themselves. It would be nice maybe for the jams to extend or more depth into the stories. But I guess this what we’ve come to know from Nathan, who’s happy to let you know what’s happening inside his mind, without giving too much away.

Another hypnotic output from one of the grooviest musicians around. Creating some of his most danceable tunes to date, whilst still keeping the signature Jerry Paper abnormality.

I Break Horses – Warnings Album Review

Bella Union – 2020

I Break Horses is the indie-pop project of Swedish singer-songwriter Maria Lindén, taking it’s name from the song of the same title by Bill Callahan. Releasing her first album ‘Hearts’ way back in 2011, and follow up ‘Chiaroscuro’ in 2014. She’s now returned after nearly 6 years with her 3rd LP ‘Warnings’.

Embracing the full dream pop sound, ‘Warnings’ is like a hazy dream of pure bliss and psychedelia, and could be the soundtrack to many of life’s wondrous moments. It has an other-worldly feel about it, almost as if Lindén’s voice is guiding you on a great journey through your subconscious. It feels raw with its lo-fi production techniques and it evokes a nostalgic sound, whilst still feeling modern with its themes and lyrics.

Opener ‘Turn’ is a joyful resolute of sound that starts with a slow clustered beat, gently adding layers of synthesisers, xylophone melodies and vocal harmonies. Over its 9 minute run length it slowly changes through different phases whilst still keeping the initial ideas in view. It invites you into the bright and cinematic world this album creates, and never feels dragged out or overstretched. According to Lindén a lot of this album was written whilst watching films without the sound on, creating her own soundtrack. This comes into play in the final act of the song with the slow violins and string arrangements carefully bowing it out.

The cinematic feel makes a return on the track ‘Absolutamollpunkten’, which translates to “Absolute minor point, or Absolute Zero”. It summons a great wave of synthesisers that carry through a low pass filter, slowly detuning and becoming more distant as the song progresses, almost as if you’re drowning. Similar to some of the instrumentation on Weyes Blood’s titanic rising from last year.

Similarities between some of Lindén’s contemporaries are sown throughout this album. Like the track “I’ll Be The Death Of You”, which bathes in 80’s sentimentality. From its pounding arpeggiated beat, to its chorus filled piano hits it wouldn’t feel out of place on Bat For Lashes latest release ‘Lost Girls’. There’s also flairs of label-mates Beach House throughout most of the album, with it’s etherial feel and spaced out instrumentation. Showcased the most on the track ‘Baby You Have Travelled For Miles Without Love In Your Eyes’, as the synths are slowly layered over a punchy drum machine and the deep bass brings a driving groove to the sound. It also features one of the best vocal performances on the album, coated initially in small amount of phaser it progresses to these heavenly layered vocals that surround your ears like a warm breeze. It’s no surprise the album gained this feel as frequent Beach House producer Chris Coady was working his magic behind the scenes on this project.

Then there’s the closer track ‘Depression Tourist’, as song about the eventual breakdown of a relationship. “We hold on to our dreams, Our broken dreams, To keep our promises, At Heart, we’re a broken team”. It’s the only track that is all vocals, except they’re being processed through dozens of vocoders and pitch-shifters to create a robotic narration of the story being told. A very similar sound to that used by Bon Iver on many of their tracks, especially ‘Woods’ from the ‘Blood Bank’ EP.

There are moments on the album that can overstay their welcome just slightly, like the track ‘The Prophet’ which at nearly 6 minutes doesn’t offer a huge amount of progression past the repeating synthesiser melodies and chorus changes. But what this album does well in its instrumentation is create a textured atmosphere of sound and then will at times, step back and let you float around in this sound, allowing you to take in all the layers. One of the best examples of this is on the track ‘Death Engine’. It’s almost split into two parts over its near 8 minute run length, the first builds up through soft synthesiser tones and celestial vocals over a scattered and loose drum beat. Then it transitions to a glistening melody that carries through to the end of the song, with the layers slowly peeling away until just a vocal harmony is left.

Within this world building there’s also the interludial tracks ‘Larm’ and ‘Den Lilla Påse Av Lycka’. Adding atmospheric sounds, almost vaporwave like vocals and ambient samples into the expansive sound palette of the album help solidify the roots of these songs into the real world, whilst living in their own magical one.

It’s a strong return for Lindén after over half a decade away, but one that proves her sound is as contemporary and nostalgic as ever. An album full of exploratory landscapes to get lost in and a harmonious voice to guide you along the way.

Car Seat Headrest – Making A Door Less Open Album Review

Matador – 2020

Indie sad-boy, teenage Americana project Car Seat Headrest led by singer-songwriter Will Toledo return after 2 years since 2018’s Twin Fantasy. A re-make and re-recording of an album originally released in 2011 which like previous album Teens Of Denial became critcally acclaimed and helped cement CSH as a founding father of modern indie-rock.

On Making A Door Less Open the crunchy guitars and elongated musings of past albums are often dropped in favour of a more experimental and synthetic sound, stretching the idea of what Car Seat Headrest can be to its very thinnest ends.

It would be unfair to say that this album doesn’t take risks. They come in an abundance, all crammed into its 47 minute run-time. A short album in comparison to previous albums, Twin Fantasy and Teens Of Denial both reaching over the hour mark. And although there are some highlighted moments and interesting takes on the traditional CSH sound, more often than not these ideas dissolve into a mess of unfinished and sometimes ugly soundscapes.

Opening track ‘Weightlifters’ starts with a long thin drone, slowly adding drum beats, piano hits and scatty guitar hits. It takes a while but the main verse of the song kicks in and sets a strong tone for the album. It’s got an interesting and diverse opening sound with its varied beats, evolving guitar riff and static bass line, letting you know that CSH are no longer just a one trick pony. The track even has a flair of The 1975 about it, more in instrumentation than vocals, and it won’t be the last time this happens.

‘Can’t Cool Me Down’ is where the album starts varying its sonic palette even more. Opening with sequenced chorus filled piano hits and a loose vocal harmony of “Can’t cool me down”. It slowly adds small layers of background samples and sounds to build up it to an interesting sonic landscape. But it then quickly transcends into spending the next 3 minutes wondering how many different instruments and samples it can get to play the same melody before annoying you, with each as jarring as the next. Starting with a children’s toy horn, the same that can be found on some 100 gecs tracks, except their use of it flows with the experimental nature of the song. Then to a shimmering synth, a synthesised guitar riff, an ambient pad and eventually an 80’s clavinova. It goes through so many changes whilst simultaneously going nowhere.

‘Hollywood’ and ‘Hymn -Remix’ have some of the ugliest moments on them. With ‘Hollywoods’ rap interludes that completely throws the tracks off its course from its otherwise punchy indie-centric riff. Its lyrics, although important have been said a million times, especially in this generic tone. “Sick of staring at the ads on the bus, Hollywood makes me wanna puke, Hollywood makes me want to”. And ‘Hymn – Remix’s’ off-key out of tune vocals, that although do add a distinct new sound to the band’s palette, end up coming off as jarring and harsh. And with the heavy wobbling bass in the background, there’s no comfort to fall back onto.

‘Deadlines (Thoughtful)’ is perhaps the worst offender for broadening their sound, without proper reason or cause to. It’s an anxiety fused techno, Dubstep-esque panic attack at the club that reminisces in the sample music from a Youtube Call Of Duty compilation circa 2010. Bands have every right to change their style, and choose a new sound that fits the songs they’ve created, I’m looking at you Tame Impala. But the problem with this track is its synth wave progression and erratic lead solo are so jarring and off the cuff it breaks you away from any enjoyment you may have had listening to this album. It ends with a weird ‘Skit’ where some voice in the studio yells “Shut Up!” over and over, and after a few listens I still can’t work out why this was added. To be edgy?

There are some more refined moment on the album like ‘Martin’ which takes the classic CSH sound and adds a spark of freshness to it with its bold chorus, relay of sound between acoustic and electric guitar and electronic infused middle section. And the track ‘There Must Be More Than Blood’, which although slowly marches through its paces with its pounding beat, still offers a more defined sound. Provoking elements of Radiohead in its early verse’s, it also offers more lyrical depth than seen on most of the album. “I could sleep all through the night, But I’ve seen the tides are rising, Where once there was a shore, I can still remember houses, Stripped to the floor”. Exploring ideas of isolation and not being able to fit in, it brings back that honesty and rawness we’ve all come to know and admire from Toledo.

The album does start to bring back a glint of hope about it, that perhaps not all is lost in the CSH camp. ‘Life Worth Living’ brings a more melancholy and sculpted sound to it. Bringing a groove back in and throwing in elements of MGMT with its hopeful and bold chorus passages. It’s a bit more reserved than the rest of its musical counterparts, but in this case it’s definitely needed.

The 1975 sound returns again on closer ‘Famous’. The interesting synthesiser passages and glitched out vocals that wouldn’t feel out of place on their ‘Brief Inquiry’ album. The problem with this track is it’s often thin soundscapes, and lazy vocals don’t feel like much of a powerful closer on an album thats been all about the risks. It fizzles out with a vocal seizure and leaves a lot more to be desired.

Perhaps this was Car Seat Headrest just trying to see how far they could take their sound. And boy did they take it far. But often at the expense of structural integrity to the song, with the end result collapsing in on itself. When the songs work, they really work, but sadly on this album, and a first for CSH, they come far and few between.


Faux Real -Faux Real EP Review

Self Released – 2020

Shake off that second sweat and get ready to groove with one of the freshest new duo’s

Faux Real, the Franco-American avant-garde indie pop duo made up of brothers Elliot and Virgile Arndt have only been around a couple of years as a musical act, first starting in 2018. But in that small space of time have burst onto the underground scene and gained a loyal following with their high energy live performances, choreographed dance routines and unique take on what a pop song can be.

For a while the only content you could find from them online was one single and the accompanying music video. Wanting the studio release to be the first time you hear the music the duo copyright claimed any live videos until the accompanying single had been released. Now they have shared their first major piece of work, the Faux Real EP.

Whilst the majority of the EP was was written, produced and recorded by the duo there are a few familiar names that make an appearance. POND’s own Jay Watson offers some drumming and production on the tracks and bandmate James Ireland helped with the mixing.

‘Kindred Spirit’ slowly builds through layers of vocal harmonies, sharp synths and funky guitars to create a downright dirty groove that will have you on your feet, moving your hips and wanting to get down and party. It’s got fantastic production, every instrument and movement is clear and stands out, with nothing piling on too harshly.

‘Boss Sweet’ slows the pace down, with wailing synths blowing in and out of the track. A more romantic and soulful vocal performance that shows off the brothers impressive harmonies. There’s even a brief moment of auto-tune thrown in to spice up the vibe of the track.

The standout hit. The one we all know. The track that introduced many people to the Faux Real experience. ‘Second Sweat’ doesn’t waste a second drawing you in. It’s got it all. A groovy beat, flowing melodies, psychedelic guitars and chorus you’ll be singing for days. With lyrics about remembering a nightmare during the day, “Not a doubt, I’ll be fine, If I can just get out alive, Walk it off, Pack it in, To be fair this is a dream”. Its dark themes juxtapose perfectly with its upbeat groove. A true mastery in what a pop song should be.

‘Come Thru’ is the most melancholy track on the EP. Minor chords aplenty, it comes straight from an 80’s rom-com. With its repeating chorus of hope and longing “I know you always come through, because you always do”, building as if they’re singing to reassure themselves. The end breakdown also showcases some fantastic production with its augmented vocals and swooning synths.

Final track ‘Airplane Mode’ offers a slightly dirty groove than the rest through a deep electronic bass line that leads the track. It’s got some of the most psychedelic moments on the EP, with echoing vocals and glitchy guitars, offering a fresh direction with their sonic palette. There’s even some small hip-hop elements cropping up in the background with piano hit occasionally sliding in and out.

A long awaited full release for fans that does not disappoint in any way. Faux Real are the new fresh duo on the block with their unique take on avant-garde Indie pop. Whilst we’ve all got some time to ourselves there’s no better chance to have this on repeat and learn the accompanying dance routines.

K-Lone – Cape Cira Album Review

Wisdom Teeth – 2020

After a few years of releasing EP’s, singles and remixes producer and DJ Josiah Gladwell returns with his first full length album, which also marks the first release on Gladwell’s record label Wisdom Teeth, run alongside Facta. The club-centric beats are moved aside in place of a more ambient textural journey of escapism through a rainforest of sound.

The album centre’s around distant and sampled recordings of birds, insects and nature and then building gentle and calming atmosphere’s around them. Like a walk through the rainforest getting thicker the deeper in you go, each track transitions through different phases of adding slow layers of samples, melodies and beats. Taking you away from the world you’re living in and into one of pure calm and space. A perfect companion for staying at home.

Opening track ‘Yelli’ starts from these simple timbral beats, slowly growing out into a jungle-like minimalistic dance groove. Adding layers of pipes, bird noises and bell hits that feels like you’re travelling down a great Amazonian river, watching the nature and simplicity of life surround you. Over the tracks course it doesn’t stray too far away from its original movement, but sets a nice tone for the rest of the album that follows closely suite.

‘Palmas’ is perhaps the heaviest track on the album with its hard hitting drum beat, industrial clanks and high pitched synth drone. It brings back in Gladwell’s club influences and creates the most danceable groove on the album. The falling woodwind in the backdrop incorporates the natural element of the album, but is all quickly faded out just as the track was about to pick up momentum.

One of the standout tracks ‘Bluefin’ builds from a deep synth drone, adding falling rain, bird samples and a glowing distant synthesiser, to make a deeply involved landscape of painted sound. Slowly it gets more chaotic as more ideas are thrown into the mix, sharp synth hits and swirling delays carefully blend together the natural and the synthetic.

The final track ‘Happened’ takes a slightly darker tone to the rest of the album. With a dissonant drone and hints of voices flickering in and out of the background, it creates this strange almost Lynchian atmosphere that marks the end of a journey through these bright and wondrous textures, back to reality. Almost as if man has invaded nature.

Where this album falls short of potential is the slow pacing and sometimes lack of movement within a track. It may sometimes take up to 3 or 4 minutes before a track adds a new idea from the original build up. Each track has a slow climb to its peak, and then fades out just when a new idea might have taken it to a new direction. It doesn’t have to be full of 200 bpm club bangers, but just a spark of something new and fresh, coming in a bit faster.

A promising debut from the UK producer that showcases his soundscaping abilities and world building within a song. If you’re looking for an album to relax with and keep you company during these lonely times, this certainly could be it.

Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters Album Review

Epic Records – 2020

It’s fair to say Fiona Apple has been around the block a few times, and then some. She released her first album ‘Tidal’ when she was just 17 in 1996, two years before I was born, which went gold in the U.S. and won her a grammy for the single ‘Criminal’. Over the next couple of decades she cemented herself as a staple of the American Singer-Songwriter club, being nominated for more Grammy’s and selling over 10 million albums worldwide. Now after nearly 8 years she’s returned, earlier than expected, with what could be her most poignant work yet.

Fetch The Boltcutters plays like a musical of heartbreak, longing and anger. Its minimalistic approach to instrumentation lets every moment be significant and every lyric be meaningful and expressive. It has moments of beauty, moments of pure anger and intricate storytelling throughout. Fiona Apple has had her heart broken and she’s here trying to help anyone and everyone who feels the same.

The album starts with ‘I Want You To Love’ by feeling optimistic with a piano riff that could easily be the intro score to an American love story movie, cue the camera slowly panning down the Autumn lane. This optimism soon turns to desperation as the track breaks down into a faster dissonant piano roll and the vocals descend into a pining dolphin-like squeal.

Leading into the punchy piano of ‘Shameika’ which develops into a chaotic diary entry of reflecting on someone in Apple’s past that told her she wasn’t pretty yet, but had potential. Grinding guitars, unhinged vocals and jarring noise samples build to paint the harsh picture of thoughts racing through Apple’s mind that adds evolving layers of unease with each chorus. “Tony told me he described me as pissed off, funny and warm , Sebastian said I’m a good man in a storm, Back then I didn’t know what potential meant”.

This track also features one of the first instances, of many, in this album where the drumming and beats are perfectly on point and never wasted. The vocals flow over each beat and hit with purpose. Similar to the track ‘Relay’ where the drums drive the song forward through various time signatures and patterns, marching it along with its military like beat. Of the few instruments that do feature on this album, the drums are the most prominent and the most expressive. They’re not just thrown in to bring a groove to the track but are carefully placed to make the message of the songs stand out and punch you in the ear. The track ‘Drumset’ may have even more of a meta meaning given the lyrics. Her drums have been taken away in the lyrics of the song, which to Apple is like taking away her driving force.

Some of the best storytelling on the album comes from the tracks ‘Newspaper’ and ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’. The latter of which is a tale of realising something you’ve fallen in love with isn’t quite what you initially thought it was and needing to break free of that situation. “He sings so nice, I guess he tries, I’ve been thinking about when I was trying to be your friend, I thought it was then, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t genuine. Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long”. With its sparse keyboards, sleezy bass lines and anthemic chorus chant it serves as a familiar voice telling you to leave that eventually fades away to strange ambient textures and dog samples to bring you back to your reality.

‘Newspaper’ is perhaps the most minimalistic sounding song on the album with an industrial glitchy beat and glowing vocal harmonies. But at the same time offers the most with lyrical content. It’s almost like Apple is standing in her kitchen watching her ex-lover walk by with their new partner shouting out to them even though they can’t hear, banging the counter with cutlery. “I watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you, And it makes me feel close to you”.

‘Rack Of His’ is an eventual realisation that the person Apple is with just isn’t paying her enough attention and cares more about his guitar rack. It starts with these big passionate vocals that are telling someone they care about them “I followed you from room to room with no attention, And it wasn’t because I was bored, It was because I was loving you so much” that by the end of the track have faded out to a distant mumble, realising the other person doesn’t care as much. “I know how to spend my time, And meanwhile I’m loving you so much”. It also features one of the catchiest melodies on the album, where the slightly off key lead piano line dances carefully through the track guiding you through the story.

Cynical lyricism is one of Fiona Apple’s forte’s and is showcased perfectly on the track ‘Cosmonauts’. “Your face ignites a fuse to my patience, Whatever you do is gonna be wrong, There’s no time to interrupt the detonation, Be good to me before you’re gone”. Over a crooning bass line and theatrical piano melody Apple sings with hope that eventually leads to raging anger as this crescendo of disparity builds to a chaotic and harsh climax.

The final track ‘On I Go’ offers a final mantra to leave on. “On I go, not toward or away, Up until now it was day, next day, Up until now in a rush to prove, But now I only move to move”. The heavy pounding drums and closely packed in and distorted, almost Billie Eilish-esque, vocals create a resolve for all the grief laid throughout this album. Just keep on moving for yourself, no matter where you go.

Fiona Apple hasn’t lost her golden touch. Just give her a drum kit and the occasional piano riff and she’ll guide you on a voyage through her life. Offering guidance along the way with her unique lyrical identity of harsh truths and enthralling anecdotes.