Album: Build a Rocket Boys!
It’s a strange time for Elbow; after a decade in the comfy confines of cult-adored obscurity, they find themselves releasing their “difficult” post-fame album. And the differences between Build a Rocket Boys! and Mercury Prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid are immediately apparent. ‘The Birds’ meanders (seemingly aimlessly) before reaching its glistening peak, whilst the band consciously deviates from the lush, orchestral stylings that made their previous effort such an emphatic success. Instead, Elbow choose to explore the dynamics of building tension and climactic release to rather dizzying effect.
Of course, some things never change; the band is, for the most part, as anthemic as ever and Guy Garvey remains their anchoring force. He’s grown into a remarkably versatile vocalist and his bandmates realise the importance of keeping the arrangements sparse enough for him to flourish. Whether compounding wit and heartfelt sentiment on ‘Jesus is a Rochdale Girl’ or harnessing the unassuming beauty of album opener ‘Lippy Kids’, Garvey and Elbow pull it off without losing their everyman charm.
In a nutshell: Elbow’s Kid A. Fantastic.
– George Morahan
Artist: Treefight for Sunlight
Album: Treefight for Sunlight
The accurate title for this album? Now That’s What I Call Noughties Indie! of course. Yes, barely a year after the decade ended, suspiciously happy Denmark exports Treefight for Sunlight are selling it on in repackaged, processed form. ‘You and the New World’ is the giddy rhythms of Vampire Weekend, without the fun.
A saccharine sweet 60s sound, lifted right off label-mates Fleet Foxes, permeates through the album. It’s all so tritely twee. I imagine it’s a decent approximation of what a lethal dose of Prozac feels like.
However, the terrifying lows are balanced by some creamy middles. ‘Facing at the Sun’ is a functional slice of summer pop and a major earworm. ‘Time Stretcher’ closes the album at a slow pace and gives the melodies room to develop. And at a half-hour, it’s mercifully short. But make no mistake; this album will do little other than remind you of the superior music it aspires to be.
In a Nutshell: File under – landfill indie.
– Cormac Duffy
Album: Blue Songs
Artist: Hercules & Love Affair
Rating: 1 star
O-two actually had to check half-way through listening to Blue Songs that we weren’t accidently listening to the first track on repeat the entire time; that is how forgettable a record this is.
Hercules & Love Affair’s second album could be classified as a genuine 1980s throwback collection of dance-inspired songs, but Blue suffers due to a lack of progression from the group’s debut as well as for the loss of Antony (and the Johnsons) Hegarty as a dynamic vocal presence. Bandleader Andy Butler clearly knows his way around the history of American dance and house music, but the songs rarely rise above loving pastiche.
The album blends into the background, without any standout tracks. If you happen to like 80s beats on a more laid-back level, Blue Songs might help to ease the odd hangover since your brain won’t have to process the changing tracks. Generally speaking though, the result is rather boring to say the least.
In a nutshell: Inoffensive, yet in no way memorable.
– Sophie Lioe
Artist: Sea Of Bees
Album: Songs for the Ravens
The debut album from Seas of Bees (known as Julie-Ann Baenziger to her parents) has an intriguingly raw and intimate quality to it. Centred on the fragile beauty of Baenziger’s voice and complemented by hazy, largely acoustic backing, the results are evocative and haunting.
Album highlights, such as ‘Won’t Be Long’ and ‘Fyre’, best represent the record’s self-described “freak folk”. It’s certainly an enjoyable listen, but – as opening track ‘Gnomes’ attests – it can sometimes verge on shrill.
The majority of the record never veers too far from mid-tempo and Baenziger has happened upon a perfectly pleasant formula. ‘Sidepain’ and ‘Marmalade’ buck the trend and will get your toes tapping, but it’s the ridiculously catchy chorus of ‘The Gold’ that steals the show.
Overall, Songs specialises in ambient and atmospheric vibes that can’t help but draw you in, although it could benefit from a few more upbeat numbers.
In a nutshell: A seductive slow burner.
– Claire Cassidy
Artist: Cut Copy
Zonoscope is the third album from Australian synthpop group Cut Copy. It will sound familiar to many people, not only because of its similarity to their 2008 album, In Ghost Colours, but also because many of the tracks have a definitively 80s vibe running through them, especially reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys. The style is one dominated by synth beats, but tempered by drums and bass.
The album is certainly a competent offering; featuring upbeat tunes that will stick in your head, such as ‘Take Me Over’. It must be said, however, that it can become overwhelmed by its nostalgic vibe, with the song (and title of) ‘Strange Nostalgia for the Future’ being perfectly indicative of the album’s sound. Anyone looking for a more modern sound will have to be content with the 15-minute ‘Sun God’ which closes the album.
In a nutshell: An enjoyably retro record.
– Steven Balbirnie