Review: When is a psychedelic rock album not a psychedelic rock album? Anyone who has quickly scrawled answer-on-postcard reads "when it's Temples" can go straight to the top of the class. Evidently you have been paying attention over the course of the British three piece's last two full length records. It's not that things don't sound pretty out there and trippy. All the elements to achieve that are here, but the accessibility is ramped up to the level of a pop album, with arrangements owing more to traditional song craft than anything particularly experimental. Don't read that as criticism, though. Tracks like "Not Quite The Same" are huge, proud, instantly catchy but far from obvious numbers. "You're Either On Something" thumps and lunges through its various permutations, "Atomise" pares everything back, luring us in, before opening up into a frantic, grunge-metal guitar line. We can only imagine the fun they had recording it.
Review: "Father Of The Bride", Vampire Weekend's first album for six long years, has been receiving praise across the board from critics. It's been variously described as a "modern California pop masterpiece", a "scrapbook of brilliant ideas" and "the band's magnum opus". To our ears, it's certainly joyous and celebratory, with the acclaimed New York band wrapping their usual punchy-indie pop in subtle and not so subtle nods towards everything from Flamenco and Country music, to mournful piano ballads, excitable electronic indie-dance and 1960s baroque pop. In other words, it's a giddy collection of inventive, enjoyable songs that boasts the same eclectic, anything-goes swagger as the Beatles "White Album" or other similar wide-ranging sets.
Review: Just when you thought all hope was lost along come The Strokes to fulfil the promises they made way, way back with their startling debut 'Is This It'. That was 17 years ago, and while the outfit have made plenty worthy of note in the years between then and now, we'd be surprised if we're the only ones thinking this latest is their best effort since that inaugural outing. Confident but also hungry, rather than bloated and lazy, there's plenty here that you won't be able to get away from in a hurry. 'Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus' might define the package best, delivering some powerful pop energy in an all-round homage to and critique of the 1980s, an era revisited again on 'Bad Decisions', which owes plenty to Billy Idol's Generation X classic, 'Dancing With Myself', with tracks like 'Why Are Sundays So Depressing' diverting to a synthdom route and 'Not The Same Anymore' throwing crooner styles into the mix. Exceptional stuff.
Review: Thirteen studio albums in, and 'Colors' sees Beck maybe at his most playful and upbeat since the late '90s. Title track 'Colors' opens the albums with an immediacy that bursts out like a heavily polished 'Devil's Haircut'. The album veers off in all kinds of pop directions, from the anthemic 'Seventh Heaven', to the almost trap-like 'Wow', Beck shows he's willing to experiment and wrangle as much as possible into an album. It might not be his most contemplative record, but it's definitely his glossiest and most entertaining in a while, and promises a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
Review: "Hyperspace" sees Beck venture further down the pop road, drafting in a wealth of high profile, stadium-filling collaborators to realise what's arguably his most synthesised work to date. Full marks to anyone who, upon blind taste test, immediately jumped to the conclusion this was indeed Beck. Fear not, that's less a result of his iconic and infinitely listenable voice not shining through, and more down to what else is in these arrangements. Working with legendary studio genius Pharrell Williams (who co-produced and co-wrote), you'll also find Coldplay's Chris Martin and Georgia, US rapper and drummer Terrell Hines involved here, amongst others. Together with these names we're taken into a soaring, immersive and glittering world of sophisticated but chart-friendly anthems, from clap-a-long number "Die Waiting", to the epic space-rock closer "Everlasting Nothing".
Review: To say there's something staunchly retro about the second album from this Los Angeles-based outfit would be both accurate (in some ways at least) and slovenly. Yes, there are clear shades of 80s electronic romanticism in this, nuances of New Order audible throughout, but this is a record very much of Moaning's own making, as vivid as it is complex and engrossing. It's not all uptempo business like opener 'Ego', which could score any movie featuring oversized coats and ill-fitting shirts if ever a track could. 'Connect The Dots' feeds on shoegaze, 'What Separates Us' is for Simple Minds followers, and "Say Something', which closes out the LP, is a stadium-filling anthem set to marching band rhythm that manages to pull you into a sort of meditative, trance-like state.
Review: Before we get to his solo career credentials, it's a good thing to know something of Kevin Morby's background first. The American singer-songwriter has counted himself as the bassist in the Brooklyn outfit Woods and was frontman of The Babies before that. This cassette release of Oh My God delivers Morby a fifth solo studio album since his Harlem River debut in 2013 and the versatility of his styles and inspirations seem to be hitting a new high, given the sometimes bluesy substance of his lyrics. Often where Morby's voice hits a sweet spot, subtle humming attenuations caress his deeper notations, all coated in a slight smokey haze similar to Bob Dylan (of now) and the late Leonard Cohen. Throw this into a mix of light distortion, piano ballads and theatrical big band techniques, it's in Kevin Morby we trust.
Review: It's safe to say when City Slang releases a record everyone listens, with White Denim now the newest Texan contingent filling the ranks of the German label. Following a longplayer this year from Calexico outta Tucson, White Denim bring the sound of Austin to the label by delivering their ninth long player in ten years. Like the artwork of performance, the music is a colourful montage that brings together saxxy jazz, mellow tropicana and distorted garage to psych rock and pop, with melancholic vocals only adding to its unique cross section of colours. A highlight for us is the '70s Biker rock of "It Might Get Dark" and finger snappin', vibrato heavy "Moves On".
Review: Damon Gough's millennial-era massiveness was never going to be easy to maintain. Such was the strength of his first record, preceding singles, that score to British smash hit movie 'About A Boy' and LP three, 'Have You Fed The Fish?', the Manchester maestro could have hung up his yarns then and retired comfortably. He didn't, and gradually moved towards 2010's 'It's What I'm Thinking Pt.1 - Photographing Snowflakes', a far more introverted work you needed to spend time with. So a return to the release schedule after the subsequent hiatus, perhaps presumed retired, was never going to be predictable. Take it from us, though, 'Banana Skin Shoes' is another Badly Drawn Boy album and a career landmark for more reasons than a comeback. Lyrically never more confident - even forsaking subtle metaphor for brazen emotions at times - and instrumentally innovative, intriguing hooks and curveballs abound, it could be his best to date.