Album of the Fortnight
Artist: The Virgins
Album: The Virgins
THERE IS A worrying number of bands out there who seem to think all they need to make it onto a stage is their granny’s cardigan and their girlfriend’s jeans, viewing song-writing and musicianship as an optional extra.
At first glance, the New York foursome who bravely call themselves The Virgins look like just another one of these well-groomed, but disappointingly bland contrivances. But looks can be deceiving, as this effort vividly displays.
This eponymous album may not be breathtakingly original, but The Virgins certainly stands out as being of a different league among the recent surge of indie releases. It is clear from this album that the band has a certain spark that many of these generic indie groups lack.
Is it singer Don Cumming’s distinctive voice, uncannily reminiscent of Elvis Costello in the album’s first track: ‘She’s Expensive’? Or is it the cheesy-Eighties-pop sound of ‘Teen Lovers’? Perhaps it’s the exuberant Dandy Warhols-style backing vocals of ‘One Week of Danger’?
Whatever it is, it’s catchy. Rolling Stone magazine included the track ‘Rich Girls’ in their Top 100 Songs of 2008 – quite a feat for a band that has only been around since 2005 and only have one album to their name.
Any fan of outfits such as The Rapture or Franz Ferdinand should definitely invest in this album. Funk-driven bass-lines, soul-tinged vocals and lashings of good old-fashioned rock and roll make for ten tracks of pure pop pleasure.
In a nutshell: A satisfying blend of funk, soul and rock n’ roll.
FROM CANADIAN BAND Malajube comes their third studio album, Labyrinthes. Some may recognise the band from their show at Electric Picnic 2006, but for those of you not familiar with them, Malajube are a four-piece indie-band hailing from Quebec.
The first thing about Labyrinthes which will jump out at any listener is that the lyrics are French, which is intriguing and off-putting in equal measure. The album kicks off to a decent start with the track ‘Ursuline’, which nicely combines keyboard and guitar in a way which all-too-few bands can pull off.
After that, however, the album nosedives. In ‘333’, Malajube attacks the Catholic Church, with the subtle and imaginative lyrics – “On loue et on vend nose sprits (translation: They rent and sell our minds)”. This boring Catholicism-bashing remains a central theme throughout the album, as it continually leaves the listener anticipating the onset of a more original subject matter. Sadly, this never transpires.
Things get worse as Labyrinthes progresses to ‘Dragon de Glace’, which, on paper, sounds rather dark and disturbing, with the lines: “Dans tes yeux noirs de peur, J’ai vu mon sang cramoisy (In your black eyes of fear, I saw my crimson blood)”. However, these lyrics are sung in an annoyingly cheerful voice, devoid of a more appropriate, melancholy tone.
Although ‘Dragon de Glace’ is at least instrumentally sound, which is more than can be said for large parts of this tedious affair.
In a Nutshell: Thanks, Quebec, but no thanks!
Album: A New Tide
THE MERCURY Prize-winning Englishmen are back with their sixth studio album and their first since 2006’s How We Operate. The opening track ‘Mix’ begins quite slowly, but it soon moves up in the gears and provides a great example of the quiet-loud-quiet technique that Gomez employs so effectively.
Three of the band’s members share lead-singer duties and the album’s second track, ‘Little Pieces’, sees a change in vocalist but no change in song quality. It boasts a ferociously powerful vocal line and a guitar lick more infectious than a case of the mumps in UCD. The fifth track, ‘Win Park Slope’, is the album’s undoubted highlight.
The wonderful arrangement of string instruments, eclectic mix of effects and cracking vocal harmony, make this a true gem. The psychedelic funkiness of ‘Airstream Driver’ and the acoustic beauty of ‘Natural Reaction’ are further songs which stand out.
However, the album never quite reaches the dizzying musical heights we’ve come to expect from Gomez. While tracks like ‘Very Strange’, ‘Other Plans’ and ‘Bone Tired’ aren’t terrible, they could be regarded as filler when compared to some of the band’s earlier work.
Since the band won the Mercury award with their debut Bring It On, Gomez has tried in vain to replicate its brilliance, and with A New Tide they have again come up short.
IN A NUTSHELL: Worth a pop if you’re already a fan, but not a good album to start on for the first time listener.
Artist: Kelly Clarkson
Album: All I Ever Wanted
LIKE GIRLS ALOUD, Kelly Clarkson is an alumnus of reality TV and also like Girls Aloud, she has shaken off her television beginnings and blossomed into a respectable recording artist.
Clarkson’s new album All I Ever Wanted is a credibly crafted work of pop rock. Similarly to her previous work, it relies on stylishly subtle guitar riffs layering each track, without obstructing Clarkson’s natural asset – her voice.
While the lyrics of the songs are not going to win an Ivor Novello award, they’re not intended to do so. Lead single, ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’, is an upbeat number that on first listen, permeates your memory and sticks with you. Apart from the obligatory rock ballads, ‘Cry’ and ‘If No One Will Listen’, the album is generally very up-tempo, as epitomised by tracks such as ‘If I Can’t Have You’.
The downside of it all is that perhaps the songs are all too formulaic. Most seem to follow the trend of having a gentle opening verse, bursting into a chorus that too often just results in Clarkson shouting out the words aimlessly.
The faults can be ignored because, without wanting to overly critical, it isn’t intended to be a work of musical art. A solid example of some of the more credible mainstream music churned out in the charts, All I Ever Wanted is a delicious slice of fun pop. Enjoyable, fresh and frivolous, you’ll be dancing to these songs all summer long.
In a nutshell: It’s guilt-free pop music and there’s no harm in that.
AFTER SHOOTING to fame with the over-night hit ‘Low’, Flo-Rida will be hoping his new album shows similar success to that of the “apple bottom jeans” that saw him break digital download records.
A year on, the American rapper is back with R.O.O.T.S, an acronym for Route of Overcoming the Struggle, which is inspired from his visit to Africa and his own life story.
In January, the first single off the album ‘Right Round’ broke the previous digital download record, set by Flo-Rida’s single ‘Low’, to become the fastest two million selling download ever. Following in its predecessors footsteps, ‘Right Round’ has become a major club hit and hip-hop anthem.
The second single ‘Sugar’ was released in March to re-ignite media attention before the album’s release later in the month. Unfortunately, the song follows the Kanye West approved route of using past catchy tunes to strengthen the song. In this case, the memorable ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ tune takes any vestige of originality away from the song.
The thirteen-track album is also not shy of collaborations, as Flo-Rida teams up with the likes of Nelly Furtado and Akon to name a few. It is evident from listening to the album that Flo-Rida is taking a huge step into the electro-hop scene. ‘Jump’ and ‘Available’ are good bets to be his next single releases and to go on to be big club hits.
Thus, Flo-Rida is obviously not suffering from second album syndrome with this impressive release.
In a Nutshell: Definitely going to provide some more catchy singles.