Artist: Mumford & Sons
Album: Sigh No More
The debut album from this swashbuckling south London four-piece, released 2nd October, is filled with dark and confessional lyrics and a mesmerising ability to ensnare the listener, as seen in the title song ‘Sigh No More’. As far as these influences go, they are deliberately modern within a genre typically quintessential of an uncomfortably illustrious and English way of life.
Their songs – charged with all the emotional intensity of Bon Iver – make it difficult not to be fully captivated by their raw honesty and lovelorn tales. ‘Little Lion Man’ is a favourite track on this esteemed debut album and is a perfect example of their offset pining lyrics with upbeat instrumentation. Topped off with Winston Marshall’s trebly banjo, it is the perfect accompaniment for Mumford’s gravelly tones.
In a nutshell: They gave it all, without fail!
Album: Brand New Eyes
Tennessee quintet Paramore have hit the big time (quite literally, as number one in the UK and Ireland) with their third album. Mixing reliably catchy pop hooks with lyrical introspection, the band don’t stray from the formula that made them famous, but inject enough newfound pizzazz to ensure a few sceptics may be won over. Hayley Williams’ voice has come along in leaps and bounds, and while it remains vexingly whiny, she’s grown enough spunk and charisma to accentuate the flair of the music.
First single ‘Ignorance’ is a stand out, a ridiculously addictive attempt at corrosive Billy Talent-esque staccato rock that lingers long in the memory. The attempts at haunting laments (‘Misguided Ghosts’, ‘The Only Exception’) fail quite spectacularly, but the fast-forward button exists for a reason.
In a nutshell: Nothing new, but a vast improvement on the old. Sublime when it wants to be, at worst uninspiring: deserves a listen.
Artist: The Blizzards
Album: Domino Effect
The lads from ‘Mullgaria’, Co. Westmeath, have had quite a journey over the last couple of years, and this album shows maturity and depth compared to A Public Display of Affection. That being said, Bressie’s main vocal is frequently mixed too low, as if his voice was being used more as a background instrument than a leading component.
The multi-layered harmonies work well, and tracks like ‘Buy It Sell It’ and ‘The Domino Effect’ exhibit intricate lyricism, while ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ demonstrates the band’s continued ability to make a classic single. Yet there is a certain degree of dull, trance-like ambience about the CD, probably adding fuel to the train of thought that nothing this band have recorded is as powerful or energetic as their live show.
In a nutshell: The best is yet to come.
Artist: Sharon Shannon
Album: Saints & Scoundrels
The silent voice of Irish trad music returns with an eclectic band of fellow Irish musicians. From Jerry Fish to Imelda May to The Cartoon Thieves, Sharon Shannon’s Saints and Scoundrels is indeed a crowd pleaser. However, the only crowd it may please will probably be traditional music lovers. Nonetheless, Shannon’s music should inspire a growth spurt in her fan base with this release.
From the erratic opening track, ‘Mama Lou’, to the haunting lyrical closer, ‘Rake at the Gates of Hell’ and ‘The Scoundrel’s Halo’, this album seeks to once and for all amalgamate varying factions within the world of Irish traditional music. The end product is an incredibly diverse sound, comprising world music with tribal beats and deliberately disjointed composure. Indeed the pinnacle may come in one of two places: either in the funky depths of ‘The Wild West Wagon Train’ or in the appearance of Shane McGowan on the album’s aforementioned closing number.
In a nutshell: A classic Irish record, but unfortunately doomed to the stereos and iPods of a somewhat different generation.
Artist: Seasick Steve
Album: Man From Another Time
The fourth studio album from the self-professed hobo from Oakland, California could be his strongest yet. His voice’s preacher-like quality is allowed to shine here, unlike on his previous albums, where it was drowned out by his wizardly guitar playing.
The new collection of songs contains an eclectic mix of electric blues: ‘Diddley Bo’ introduces the listener to a cohesive and diverse album. Slower acoustic numbers like ‘Just Because I Can’ sound more like the work of Tom Waits than that of a man who spent a good deal of the last century running the railroad and working as a carnie and cowboy. With his beloved cigar box guitar, Steve has created an album that will transport you to another time.
In a nutshell: Close your eyes – you are on Route 66.