OneRepublic “Oh My My” Album Review: Amorphic Playlist Pop

OneRepublic deliver contemporary pop euphoria fit for radioplay on their stereo-syncopating fifth album, Oh My My.

OneRepublic’s multitalented frontman Ryan Tedder has an impeccable songwriting resume. Collaborating with a cadre of elite superstars, including Commercially-clouting Adele, American Sweetheart Taylor Swift and Bigtime Britpopper Ellie Goulding, Tedder has certified his status as a household name in mainstream music; garnering a reputation as one of the most universally-recognised hitmakers of the past decade. Aside from an incessant list of star-studded songwriting credits, Tedder is also an exceedingly talented vocalist – boasting a flawless falsetto that oozes ambits of emotion, and a multifarious vocal range which showcases a heartening balance of the ethereal and earthly – as heard on the jouissance jaunts of platinum-selling singles, ‘Counting Stars’, ‘Love Runs Out’ and ‘Something I Need’. Therefore, it’s surprising that, despite penning a monopoly of Billboard 100 songs throughout the noughties – comprising Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’, Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ and Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Already Gone’; that the brainchild behind OneRepublic and Native’s cornucopia of successful singles and album downloads has only managed to secure one platinum-charting album to date.

So how does Ryan Tedder’s encyclopedic knowledge of songwriting and studio experience transcend onto OneRepublic’s latest album, Oh My My?

Unlike the canorous country bop of 2013’s Natives, Oh My My explores a rich lexicon of music genres, ranging from metropopolis and neo-funk, to RnB and deep discofox. Besides adopting a new musical direction stylistically, OneRepublic welcome a refreshing change-of-pace on production, exchanging the failsafe formula of slow-burning countrified pop with polished party anthems containing more ammunition than a semi-automatic machine gun: If 2013’s Natives was an independent art house film without government funding, Oh My My is a critically acclaimed blockbuster with bigger budgets, higher production costs and an airbrushed cast.

This is showcased in the form of superlative lead single ‘Wherever I Go’; a pulsating K-pop leaning powerhouse as proverbially palpitating as hentai porn. Intertwined with anime-styled percussion and speech modifications – reminisinent of Miike Snow’s central tour-de-force ‘Genghis Khan’, Wherever I Go’s multi-layered instrumentation and protuberant production is as binge-worthy as a boxset of Netflix original series. However, the songwriting often feels forced and contrived, as Ryan Tedder consumes a veritable syllabus worth of candy pop samples and cultural references in a desperate attempt to sound trendy and current.

Although Tedder’s failed attempt at appealing to a younger audience is arguably a metaphorical car crash, Oh My My is brimming full of catchy choruses and awe-inspiring melodies. In a recent interview with NPR Magazine, Tedder explains “Melody is the single most important thing to any song, period. I don’t care what anybody says, it trumps everything. Not because that’s my opinion, but because I think it’s actually indisputable fact: The human brain retains melody easier than it retains words. It’s that simple.”  This instinctive sixth-sense of conceiving melody thoroughly transpires onto the album’s title track, Oh My My. If 2010’s Timberland-produced jam ‘Apologise’ was an earworm, Oh My My’s brass-studded, speaker-quaking potpourri of early Motown influences and Cassius’ Eurovision disco gleams are a figment of Bruno Mars’ wet dreams. The production is lively and vivacious: think Macklemore’s ‘Downtown’ on anabolic aids. From the French Duo’s appetizing keytar chirrups to Tedder’s icy falsetto runs; ‘Oh My My’ possesses the charismatic charm of Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ and the danceability of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ – a deadly combination.

Oh My My is also packed with dystopian tales as futuristic as Daft Punk’s robotic helmets. Have you ever seen Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning biopic Her; a film about a lonely writer who kindles an unlikely intimate relationship with an operating system? ‘A.I’ is essentially the musical adaption of this premise, replacing actors Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson with musicians Ryan Tedder and infamous 80s prodigy Peter Gabriel, as it questions our over obsession with multimedia technologies; specifically modern romance and it’s online-augmented, match-making, tinder-swiping dating culture – coalescing the feeling of intimacy in the internet age with fears of technological paranoia. With its Westworld-inspired robotic romps and Tron-esque vocal manipulations, A.I’s glitchy 8-bit production feels sonically cohesive, yet characteristically playful; as Tedder’s myriad of retro soundscapes effortlessly replicate the timeless euphoria of first-gen console soundtracks, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World. Additionally, ‘A.I’ showcases the Ohio born singer’s most poetic wordplay and thought-provoking lyricism in years. With the Syco singer chanting “Yeah I just want my love automatic, if artificial love makes sense, I just want your love, I’m an addict, Artificial intelligence” and Peter Gabriel’s haunting beautiful choral harmonies doubling up on the bridge: “Just automatic hurt, Bring me back tonight, Cause you’re intelligent” – Tedder delivers a collection of quotable lines and technical analogies as memorable as John Badham’s 1986 Sci-Fi classic, Short Circuit. However, similarly to the motion picture’s beloved protagonist Johnny-Five, ‘A.I’ short circuits from its inability to establish an distinctive sonic identity of its own, as Ryan Tedder’s voice sounds anodyne and anonymous, resulting in a vocal performance as unengaging despondent as Windows 98’s dial up connection.

Oh My My is not only filmic in terms of its lyricism, but the emotional aesthetic it evokes.  Remember the diaphanous cinematography of The Perks of Being a Wallflowers closing sequence, where the trio drive through Fort Pitt Tunnel, windows down, listening to Bowie’s ‘Heroes’;  as the camera pans to a windswept Sam standing with her arm’s aloft; feeling the breeze running through her fingertips, being overdubbed with Charlie narrating a heartfelt monologue about being infinite? ‘Kids’ perfectly encapsulates the halcyon days of being young and feeling liberated. With a plethora of pulsating Bronski beats – channelling Nick Jonas’ ‘Famous’ – overlapping Tedder’s rhapsodic vocal rhymes, ‘Kids’ is big enough to dominate the Top 40 Charts and bold enough to inspire a generation.

‘NbHd’ sees Tedder collaborate with South coast songstress Santigold to pen pulp-novel-esque lyrical vignettes of big city dreaming – as the frontman leaves the outskirts of Ohio, his hometown, for the wide-eyed crepuscular canvas of Hollywood Boulevard; providing the album with, if not a rectilinear narrative, then a recurring notion of emotional detachment. Although ‘NbHd’ is thematically strong, is imposes the question of what a more distinctive singer could have achieved with its dark and ominous instrumental – picture the cracking of John Newman baritone or the husk of Rag‘N’Bone Man on vocals.

In an article with Wonderland Magazine, Tedder talks about his musical childhood and religious background, stating that “his father was a gospel songwriter in the Seventies with an endless knowledge of the hits. ‘He could tell you the top records on the chart at any given point in time for basically all the Eighties and Nineties’”. These gospel roots can be heard on ‘Choke’; a sumptuous acoustic ballad about family and cherishing past memories. With his passionate outcries of “I’ll keep a picture of you one the wall, of you on the wall, And choke on the memories”, and summery guitar twangs – channelling the beach vibes of Frank Ocean’s ‘Self Control’, ‘Choke’ sounds as uplifting as it is eternally optimistic – a certified fan favourite.

Another album highlight is gospel-inspired ‘Human’; a fast-tempo floor-filler that recounts a spiritual conversation between Ryan Tedder and God. He preaches “Told him that I’m sorry I lost communication, But I just, I just needed some holiness, I said that the things that I’ve been trying end up in frustration, Life ain’t what it seems in any situation”, questioning his relationship with his own religious beliefs as he searches for self-enlightenment – Tedder’s most autobiographical song since ‘Stop and Stare’. From the track’s adrenalin-fuelled EDM embellishments to concretely-crumbling crescendos as powerful as an industrial drill, ‘Human’ is raw and authentic – a faultless track.

However, Oh My My isn’t completely without its flaws. ‘Lets Hurt Tonight’, ‘Fingertips’ and ‘The Future Looks Good’ all sound as painfully generic and malleable as an X Factor winning single. Whereas ‘Dreams’, ‘Born’ and ‘Heaven’ are so formulaic, One Republic could almost be mistaken as a Maroon 5 covers band.

In conclusion, although One Republic’s latest album is evanescent, fun and full of life; woven with honey-eared melodies and Tedder’s signature staccatos, the band are ultimately hindered by their inability to produce pop music which sounds characteristically recognisable, as Oh My My features a collection of songs which resemble a Spotify playlist on shuffle rather than a fully conceptualised body of work.

 

6/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

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Kings of Leon Return With New Comeback Single “Waste a Moment”

The Aha Shake Heartbreakers return with their euphonious new single, “Waste a Moment” – the first song taken from the band’s forthcoming seventh studio album, Walls (released on October 14th via Columbia Records).

Produced by regular Coldplay collaborator and recording veteran Markus Dravs, “Waste a Moment” is raw, vivacious, and on-the-trigger impulsive – as Kings Of Leon appear reinvigorated, perfectly encapsulating the wayward hysteria and hyperreality of Because of the Times.

Conflating the South western swoons of Caleb’s vocal cadences with bombinating basslines which buzz like agitated beehives – “Waste a Moment” transforms a cautionary tale of caustic love into something as wildly chaotic as Mick Jagger’s relationship history, and as danceable as a 1930s lindy-hop. The song opens with Caleb narrating the intemperate lifestyle plaguing a relationship between two Texan reprobates. He ripostes “All the way from Waco to WeHo with the rabbit on a chain, Drove a little slick car to ten bar with the static on her brain”, eulogising a compelling two-sided argument, and delivering his most notable songwriting since Only by the Night – a resounding return to form for the Nashville native.

Similarly to Caleb’s newfound oddball lyricism, the music video is equally as perplexing. Waste a Moment’s narrative follows a hostile relationship between a supernatural cheerleader and her inebriated stoner boyfriend, as a series of paranormal disturbances; including cardiac-arresting cops, switchblade showdowns with ponytailed strangers, blindfolded band members and forensic investigations, leave a recluse suburban American neighbourhood in complete desolation.

Watch Kings Of Leon’s surreal and symbolic new video for “Waste a Moment” below.

The band also appeared on Later… with Jools Holland last week, debuting title track “Walls” and “Around The World”.

 

In a recent interview with NME, lead singer Caleb Followill iterates the positive effect Drav’s had during the creative process of Walls and how changing producers forced the band to experiment and challenge them artistically – unlike ‘Mechanical Bull’, where the band admit to remaining in their comfort zone musically while rekindling their relationships with each other. He explains: “We were definitely going for it and trying really hard, but we got into a comfort zone. We’ve tried to peel that away on this album, by not using the same producer and doing it in our studio. We were really challenging ourselves, doing things where we were scratching our heads going ‘Holy shit, is this right? Is this wrong?’”. Bassist Jared Followill also elaborates on his experience of working with the LA based producer, stating “He’s kind of like a drill sergeant”. “You’d write something and you’d change it and I mean it’s not easy to wipe away a part that you’ve written and then just have to start from scratch, and then have to do that again”.

The band also discussed their personal issues, admitting that they became “business partners” instead of family members during the pinnacle of their career. Jared Followill explains “We’d only see each other for the hour-and-a-half before a show. We went too far in the other direction. If you’re going to be friends and family, you can’t really be a band, or we can’t be this band”. Caleb briefly added “After a while, it’s not ‘I’m going to do an interview with my brother’, it’s ‘I’m going to do an interview with the drummer’. When you get together, it’s never ‘We are the band’. We lost that”.

Watch Kings Of Leon’s world exclusive Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/post/idsa.67167233-80e1-11e6-a3ae-346e50840051

 

8/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

Bon Iver: A Complete Linage of Bon Iver’s Hiatus

Can you believe that Bon Iver released their Grammy-winning, self-titled sophomore album five years ago? Me neither. What’s equally as mindboggling is that it’s been half a decade since Rebecca Black’s “Friday” became a viral YouTube hit – accumulating over 97 million views, Spitzer’s space telescope discovered super-Earth Exoplanet Kepler-22b, Nyan Cat became everybody’s favourite pop tart GIF and Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neo Noir pulp thriller film Drive, became an instant cult-classic.

Since Bon Iver have returned from their long-awaited hiatus; Donald Trump has become a major Presidential Election candidate, Musician/Carpenter Frank Ocean has trolled fans with his mysterious Apple Music live stream (and yet another fake album release date has passed), NASA have discovered water on Mars and Niantic’s Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon. Inevitably, the world has changed. Unfortunately, Bon Iver’s abiding obscurity hasn’t, as the Eau Claire composers are yet to announce the heart-rending sequel to their folk and soul infused magnum opus, Bon Iver. With growing scepticism surrounding the band’s future, and multi-instrumentalist and human mouthpiece Justin Vernon remaining clandestine about the release of upcoming material, many diehard fans have been left foaming at the mouth at the very thought of new music – treating enigmatic social media posts like cryptic crime scenes, dissecting speculative rumours like Key Stage 3 science experiments, and investigating details on unforeseen album collaborations like scrutinising games of Cluedo.

With the upcoming installation of Eaux Claire’s Music Festival – which Vernon co-curated alongside The National’s Aaron Dessner – being given the greenlight for August 12th and 13th 2016, and new material appearing imminent; here’s the complete chronology of Bon Iver’s activity since their second hiatus.

September 23, 2012: In an interview with The Local Show on Minnesota Public Radio, Justin Vernon was questioned about the future of Bon Iver – preluding rumours that the band was taking an indefinite hiatus: “Winding it down. I look at it like a faucet. I have to turn it off and walk away from it because so much of how that music comes together is subconscious or discovering. There’s so much attention on the band, it can be distracting at times. I really feel the need to walk away from it while I still care about it. And then if I come back to it – if at all – I’ll feel better about it and be renewed or something to do that”. Bon Iver’s label, Jagjaguwar, later clarified Vernon’s bemusing comments on the uncertainty of the band’s future, stating that “he meant he’s winding down promotional efforts for the band’s self-titled 2011 album. They are just going off cycle after two very busy years on the road”.

November 12, 2012: The band finishes their European Tour in Dublin, Ireland.

August 28, 2013: During an exclusive interview with Pitchfork, Vernon promotes Volcano Choir’s latest album, Repave and offers an update on the current status of Bon Iver, claiming “There’s a large opportunity for Bon Iver to be a special thing, even from a business standpoint– just trying to do cooler things. Every band sells t-shirts and plays certain auditoriums, but I’m sick of being like everyone else, because I’m not. I think I need to take a long time. In the last month or so, I started to get some musical thoughts that agree with the future of what that project can be. I don’t want the big flashing lights and red carpet, like, ‘Here comes another Bon Iver album!’ I just want it to be my bedroom-y thing. But that’ll take a while to figure out.” Positive news from the forlorn frontman.

September 03, 2013: While continuing the on-air promotion of Volcano Choir’s Repave, Justin Vernon briefly readdresses the status of Bon Iver’s next project during a radio interview with Australia’s Triple J, to which he replies “I don’t really write songs anymore. The last Bon Iver record was a very ‘sitting down with a guitar and writing’ kind of record… I really have to be in a specific headspace to even begin to illuminate an idea that would create another Bon Iver record, and I’m just not there. I’m really honoured that Bon Iver gives me a platform to do whatever I want, but there’s only so much time you can spend digging through yourself before you become insular. I’m not in a hurry to go back to that temperature. All of the music I’ve been making shifting away from Bon Iver feels really good … so if I ever do go back to Bon Iver it will be all the better for it.” A disappointing setback.

June 30, 2014: Bon Iver premier their electronically contemplative song Heavenly Father, for Zaff Braff’s Wish I Was Here soundtrack. Featuring a harmonious blend of rich Wisconsin croons with melodically cyclic Electronic Choir vocal coos, Bon Iver’s meditative sound feels progressive and renewed, indicating a new direction for the band both sonically and stylistically.

July 8, 2015: Vernon quickly dismisses speculation regarding new music or a tour in an interview with Grantland. Describing his current songwriting process and future plans, Vernon admits “I’ve been taking it really slow. I don’t mean to get all cerebral about my art, but I’ve been trying to collect improvisations and collect moments. I’m thinking more, I guess, like a painter or a sculptor, like Andy Goldsworthy or something, in the way I’m putting songs together”. Adding “As far as putting a record together, I don’t really know what’s happening. Our show (Eaux Claires Music Festival) is our main focus. We don’t have anything booked after this. We don’t have any plans. We’re not being secretive — we just don’t have any plans”.

July 18, 2015: Headlining alongside The National, Bon Iver performs their first live show in almost three years at the Eaux Claires Music Festival in Wisconsin, treating the audience to a spellbinding setlist of fan favourites with the surprising addition of two brand new songs. Vernon praises the festival, stating “it’s the perfect platform for us to be like, this is how we’re starting this new cycle, new life of the band.”

November 18, 2015: The band announces a tour in Asia starting at the beginning of 2016.

February 11, 2016: In a recent interview with Billboard, Vernon confirms that he’s working on new music and talks about his Eaux Claires Fest’s return: “I’m no longer winding down. I’m not exactly sure where I am with it. I’ve been winding down for a number of years for numerous reasons. For exhaustion, exposure. It’s never died or anything to me. It’s one of those things that needs to be protected in my own spirit. I’ve been working on music, you know, man. It takes a long time, and I’m not sure exactly what it is or what it means to me, and until that happens I won’t really know exactly what sharing it will look like or feel like or when. There’s sort of this internal pressure, not from anybody but myself, to come out with new music for the festival. But I’m not gonna make myself do anything. I really have to take it step by step and have patience and know that the music — if it comes out, it’s gotta be really true, it’s gotta really live with the other records and extend from them and be reborn and all that. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’ve definitely been working on music”.

May 06, 2016: Bon Iver appear as a feature on James Blake’s second album, The Colour in Anything.

July 7, 2016: Bon Iver collaborate with Kanye West on Francis and the Lights’ latest track, “Friends”.

July 22, 2016: Bon Iver tease a cryptic video post on Facebook entitled “22 Days” – a date which coincides with Vernon’s Eaux Claires Music Festival. The mysterious footage features a computer screen frantically flashing through a sequence of abstract images and a bombinating, gospel-inflected cut – reminiscence of Bon Iver’s Heavenly Father soundtrack. The band has also revamped their website, social media profiles and cover photos with screengrabs extracted from the video. Could this video signify the rebirth of Bon Iver? Or is Justin Vernon planning a larger scaled project? All we know is that “It might be over soon”.

Written and published by James Macdonald.

The Last Shadow Puppets “Everything That You’ve Come to Expect” Album Review – Electrifyingly Striking Sonic Cinema

 

Following on from the unanimous success of Miles Kane and the Arctic Monkeys’ prismatic discographies; comprising the lo-fi Beach Boys-esque magnetism of “Suck it and See”, the mellifluous minimalism of “Humbug”, the mod-leaning “Colour of the Trap”, the symphonious rock and roll stylings of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”, the hip-hop infused hypnotism of “AM” and the post punk revival of fan favourite “Favourite Worst Nightmare”; and almost a decade since their platinum debut, “The Age of the Understatement” – selling a staggering 300,000 copies worldwide; The Last Shadow Puppets miraculously return with their sophomore album, entitled “Everything That You’ve Come to Expect”.

Since the release of their ebullient first album the British supergroup have undergone an enormous transformation, both sonically and physically, replacing unkempt bangs for slicked pompadours and buzzcuts, politically-leaning chamber pop with psychedelic dream pop, and the native soil of British Grove Recording Studios for the sunny stateside of Malibu’s notorious Shangri La Studios.

Similarly to the puppy-eyed innocence and messianic zeal of “The Age of The Understatement” – leaving critics in awe of the unexpected; Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s cinematic sequel paradoxically juxtaposes what their album title suggests.  If “The Age of the Understatement” is a Siberian Arctic Expedition, “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” is an adventure into the Amazon Rainforest with David Attenborough.

“Everything That You’ve Come to Expect” is a lavish Californian Confectionery, packaged with whimsical anecdotes, suggestive innuendos and voyeuristic romanticism.  This is showcased in the form of superlative single, “Aviation”, a blistering blockbuster baroque-pop thriller which is as mouth-wateringly memorable as the opening credits to Sam Mendes’ “Spectre”. Woven with Ennio Morricone guitar twangs and seductive brass embellishments, Aviation’s rich instrumentation and textured production makes it the perfect composition to represent Daniel Craig’s tetralogy of James Bond films – urbane, laboured and with a weakness for temptation – much like our two frontmen. However, the songwriting often feels forced and derivative, as Alex Turner swallows an entire Oxford dictionary in a desperate attempt to sound sophisticated and grandiose.

“Miracle aligner” is a sensual ballad which feels as strangely halogenic as the opening sequence from Terry Gilliam’s cult classic, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Flourishing with transcendent orchestral string sections and choruses which are as addictive as recreational drugs; “Miracle aligner” is thought provoking and enigmatic – highlighting The Last Shadow Puppets most experimental work since Arctic Monkeys’ 2011 LP, “Suck it and See”. However, although the production is glossy and colourful, yet again, the duo’s substandard songwriting feels more like a bad trip. This becomes noticeable when the showmen softly chant “So what’s the wish, he’ll make it come true/ Simple as a line out of a Doo Wop tune” – demonstrating lyrics which are as metaphorical as they are carelessly lackadaisical.

As gripping as vampire fangs, “Dracula Teeth” is more irritatingly infectious than a petulant lovebite. From cacophonous West-end cabaret horns to tumultuous Mini Mansion-inspired synthetic tiffany bass drums, “Dracula Teeth” bleeds style, substance and class – a resoundingly beautiful triumph. However, unfortunately, this contagious composition isn’t complete without setbacks, as the song’s narrative feels as two dimensional and cartoonish as 60s horror shows, such as Bewitched and the Munsters. This becomes explicitly evident when Alex Turner compares a suffocating relationship with a woman to the fear of sanguivoriphobia, by suggesting “You’re hovering above my bed looking, Down on me, Haunted house sound effects, Dracula teeth” and “Lipstick on my pillow via my cheek, The full moon’s glowing yellow and the floorboards creek” – delivering countless nightmare analogies.

Revved up with the same theatrical intensity as “Aviation”; album title track, “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” and “Used to be my girl”, are as suspense-driven and filmic as a Quentin Tarantino classic. With fleeting baroque as moving as a Philharmonic Orchestra and silky soprano-esque vocals redolent of George Michael’s “Outside” – it’s The Last Shadow Puppets’ chromatic quality to sift between musical styles which are so reflective of their vintage sound.  Focusing on Miles’ obsequious obsession with a past lover, the starlet pleads “I’m a liar, I’m a cheat, a leech, a thief, The outside looks no good and there ain’t nothing underneath” as he attempts to win her back – gifting his most candid performance to date. However, my only criticism is that both these songs’ themes offer little to no scope other than stories about desire and heartbreak – a notion which remains ubiquitous throughout.

Opening with piercing violin stabs and bellicose-tempered guitar riffs, lead single “Bad Habits” is punchy, oppugnant and energetic – a certified lad’s anthem. From its dark and ominous interjections to honey-tongued harmonies heard throughout the choruses; “Bad Habits” paints a vivid painting of nymphomania and sexual gratification. However, much like bad habits themselves, Miles Kane’s wines of “Bad habits, Sick puppy, Thigh high, Knee deep” are irritating and feel annoyingly repetitive and unrehearsed.

“Pattern” witnesses Turner at his most pensive, fretting over the fragility of his psyche during a torrid comedown, confessing, “I slip and I slide like a spider on an icicle” – offering a rare glimpse of Turner’s adept lyrical talents. Mirroring the orch-pop often favoured by Iggy Pop on his latest star-studded project, “Post Pop Depression”, “Pattern” is emotionally terse and as structured as aesthetically pleasing symmetry. However, occasionally, the duo’s collaborative crescendos fall flatter than a horizontal line.

Laced in poetic promiscuity and suggestive stanzas, “Sweet Dreams, TN” is a sadistic slow burner – a monogamous medley filled with modern tales of lamenting love and feeling. Written as a love letter vying for the attention of girl at the heart of his objectifications, Turner pries “It’s just the pits without you baby, It’s really just the pits without you baby, It’s like everyone’s a dick without you baby, Ain’t I fallen in love” – showcasing Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze. Unfortunately, the hopeless romantic’s affections share more similarities with poorly written excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey, as Turner’s typically witty and poignant librettos are non-existence – failing to live up to the high standards displayed throughout his oeuvre.

“She Does The Woods” and “Element of Surprise” are by-products of the same blueprint used throughout the entire album. With fictions of failed intimacy and classically-imbued musical arrangements, every song features the same failsafe chronology and misses the originality and contextualisation of their previous solo work.

Channelling the fairylike fantasia of Matt Demarco’s “Another One” EP and the ethereally ambient nuances of Damian Rice’s “O”, comes the remotely tranquil album closer, “Dream Synopsis”. Philosophically deciphering the mechanics of a nonsensical dream, Turner questions “Visions of the past and possible future, Shoot through my mind and I can’t let go, Inseparable opposing images, When can you come back again?”, gifting his most mystifying and convincing vocal performance on the album. With insipid piano keys which emphasise the emotional prowess of Miles raw staccatos, and an introspective writing style which pays homage to Richard Ayoade’s Sundance festival film, “Submarine”; “The Dream Synopsis” is sonically mesmerising and visually stunning. However, occasionally, the simplistic nature of the track becomes as paralysing as sleep paralysis, as the choruses lack finesse and fail to reach a definitive climax.

To conclude, although “Everything You’ve Come to Expect” is dynamic, temerarious and transcendently beautiful, the songwriting feels lyrically trite and offers very little in contrast conceptually. In addition, apart from “Aviation” and “Bad Habits”, the stylisation of this record becomes monotonous and predictable – and as a result, the rest of the album feels like a transitional period to tie fans over until the release of new material from The Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane. If everything’s what you’ve come to expect, don’t expect anything revolutionary.

 

6/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

R E D // 02-05-16

 

Centuries have,

Conditioned us,

To think,

In brown,

And pink

Identities branded,

Barcode black and white,

By origin of ethnicity,

Or the pigment,

Of our skin

If the colour spectrum,

Shines a thousand shades,

Of you & I,

Inconceivable to human eyes;

Prejudice is ultraviolet,

Racism is colour blind.

Written and published by James Macdonald

Blink 182 “Bored to Death” Track Review: Nothing new, but a soaring comeback nonetheless

 

Over the past two decades Blink 182 have cemented their status as rightful heirs to the pop-punk throne. With a legendary career-spanning discography at their disposal, including “Enema of The State”, “Take Off Your Jacket and Pants” and the self-titled “Blink 182”; the troublesome trio have manifested a universally recognised signature sound, which not only represents a golden age for musical reinvention and indie sub-culture, but reflects a generational shift within alternative music. Renowned for using charming and charismatic songwriting to disguise their vulgarity and bathroom humour; Blink 182 have become an arena-sized, hit-making machine, known for churning out gargantuan hooks and fruitful choruses more flavoursome than two pence sweet dispensers.

However, since the turbulent fallout of Tom Delonge’s departure – the leading mouthpiece and co-founder of Blink, the death of lifelong producer and dear friend Jerry Finn, and the post-replacement of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba; much skepticism has surrounded the future of the band and what the new incarnation of Blink 182 will sound like.

Fast forward five years after 2011’s forgettable Neighbourhoods album and Blink 182 have silenced speculative fans with the explosive release of a graphic novel-esque lyric video entitled “Bored to Death”; the spine-tingling first single from the “Rock Show” rockers’ long-awaited sixth studio album; “California”. Recorded by veteran producer and Goldfinger frontman, John Feldmann has an aptitude for transforming songs into fully fledged head-bangers – demonstrated through his collaborations with 5 Seconds of Summer, All Time Low, Panic! At The Disco,  Black Veil Brides, We Came As Romans and Electric Love.

Compacted with a conglomeration of rampant guitar licks, riveting bass-lines and rambunctious drum solos, “Bored to Death” features the emotional integrity of “Missing You”, the euphoric elation of “What’s My Age Again?”, and the philosophic sensuality of “Up All Night” – a testament to all of their previous work. The lyricism is conceptual and terse, with Mark Hoppus narrating the trials and tribulations of a tedious and estranged relationship. He extorts “There’s an echo pulling out the meaning, rescuing a nightmare from a dream” and “The voices in my head are always screaming, that none of this means anything to me” with painstaking trepidation in his voice – gifting his most Herculaneum vocal performance since 2003’s “Always”. Additionally, Matt Skiba’s backing vocals effortlessly compliment the track’s soaring instrumentation and Hoppus’ angelic choral harmonies – a valiant and spirited contribution to the song.

Although “Bored to Death” may highlight a lack of progression for Blink 182 stylistically and sonically – by returning to their distinctive hybrid sound of roaring guitars with fizzing distortion instead of experimenting with different musical genres and utilising electronic equipment such as drum machines and electronic beat pads – fans will appreciate Mark, Travis and Matt sticking to their roots and Blink sounding quintessentially Blink.

 

7/10

 

Check out the “Bored to Death” lyric video here:

 

For more information regarding Blink 182’s earth-shattering summer tour, click on the link below:

http://www.blink182.com/

Written and published by James Macdonald.

 

P E R F E C T D A Y // 30-04-16

Beautiful morning;

Sun shimmering high,

As we paint perfect portraits,

Not a cloud in the sky

With pools to bathe in,

Of crystalline blue,

What a magnificent life,

For me & you

Beneath champagne showers,

Confetti will shoot,

In palaces of paradise,

Made for two

Transfixed in the Twilight,

We’ll watch birds take flight,

As dawn turns to dusk,

and day turns to night

Serenaded by silence,

As the world passes by,

A moment of solace,

Between you & I

*Daydreams*

Mouthfuls of forever,

Sweet whispers say,

Oh, what a feeling:

“A Perfect Day”

In the dark of the hour,

Stars will shine,

Your eyes glisten like diamonds:

Precious adamantine

Memories made,

In essence of time,

Waiting on words,

Hard to define

No camera lens,

Can capture,

The emotion,

Of today:

This is my “I Love You”

“A Perfect day”.

Written and published by James Macdonald

Foxes “All I Need” Album Review: Queen of Synthpop Royalty

 

In 2013, Southampton songstress Louisa Allen (not to be confused with Lily Allen), most commonly known as stage persona Foxes, became an overnight sensation with the release of her euphoric debut album, “Glorious”. Since winning a Grammy for her “Clarity” collaboration with renown EDM artist Zedd, featuring on Fall Out Boy’s monumental comeback record “Save Rock and Roll”, opening for megastar Pharrell Williams’ Happy world tour, and establishing herself as an ambassador for British pop music – Foxes has catapulted herself to the highest zenith of stardom.

Fresh from British pastures, Foxes joins an influx of emerging home-grown talent in the UK – Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, London Grammar – all producing authentic, glossy, organic, tasteful music. However, unlike the tropically fruitful-sounding stylings of Dua Lipa’s “Be The One” EP and the urban underground pastiche of Charli XCX’s PC SOPHIE-produced “Vroom Vroom” project, Foxes’ musical style is “pop” in its purest form – personal, unapologetic; and without gimmicks – a style that is celebrated on blockbuster-sized singles, “Youth”, “Let Go for Tonight” and “Holding onto Heaven”.

So after the unanimous success of “Glorious”, can sophomore album “All I Need” recapture the magic and originality of her first album?

“All I need” is sophisticated, emotionally captivating and an autobiographical manifestation of dejection and dolour. This is showcased in the form of “Body Talk”; a defiant, electropop classic that feels as vibrant as a 80s neon roller disco. From the plaintive cries of “Days like these, I just want you back, I can’t breathe, I can’t even speak”, with Foxes eulogising the heartbreak from a former relationship; to the single’s dark, dolorous choruses, reminiscent of M83’s “Midnight City” – “Body Talk” is easily a contender for song of the year.

Produced and co-written by Bastille’s Dan Smith, “Better Love” is an oriental-tinged lullaby that is equally as enchanting as it is heart-rending. Confined by the clutches of a haphazard relationship, Foxes harps “I do my best to ease your pain, and here we are, but we’ve learned nothing, and it’s killing me”, as her thoughts of resentment trap her like a silk woven spider’s web.  From a dreamy Cyndi Lauper-esque instrumental, to a textured macrocosm of vociferous, big beat drums and atmospheric vocals; Foxes has a gift of transforming misery into melancholic masterpieces.

Another notable moment from Foxes’ second instalment is slinky RnB dancehall groove, “Cruel”. Comprising modern calypso soul with soca, and carrying the 90s nostalgia & club swagger of Missy Elliott’s “She’s a Bitch”; “Cruel” is seductive, beaming with summery hooks, and extremely memorable – possessing all of the qualities of fully-fledged universal floor filler.

Aside from the aforementioned highlights, every track on “All I Need” could enact as a single. With the indie sensibilities of “Wicked Love” and “Lose My Cool”, to the bravura of insipid piano-closer “On My Way”; this album’s succinct songwriting and slick production effortlessly make it a compelling contemporary pop record, cementing Foxes’ status as a world beater.

However, it’s not entirely without faults and flaws. Ballads “Devil Side” and “If You Leave Me Now” lack the emotional trajectory and rawness of previous singles “Holding onto Heaven” and “Glorious”, and, as a result, Foxes’ vocals sound unenthusiastic and dialled in. Upbeat “Amazing” is as uplifting as it is commercially sickening, and “Money” feels like a cheaply recorded Logic project, with lyrics which rehash Jessie J’s “Price Tag”.

To conclude, although “All I Need” is laced in strong melodies and glossy production, it ultimately feels like a collection of songs specifically designed by Syco’s record label for breaking America and gaining commercial radio airtime, rather than a body of songs that adopt the charisma and flair consistently found throughout Foxes’ debut album. Allen is an immensely talented musician, a spine-chilling vocalist and an all-round superstar, making “All I Need” all that more disappointing for failing to leave an everlasting impression.

 

5/10

 

Written and published by James Macdonald.

Y O U // 01-03-16

Most stargazers,

Seek infinite universes,

In girls so celestial;

All the planets perfectly align

But I was unlike any astrophile

And she was a space odyssey like no other

Amidst the aurora and stardust

Through

Every collapse

And creation

Resonates the

Atoms of

You

&

I

Poem written and published by James Macdonald.