Sunday, 23 November 2014
And this is exactly how Exeter based band Black Foxxes sound.
It's not that 'Pines' is bad, by all means, it isn't at all, and lead single 'River' showcases the quality of a band able to pen a song that is emotive, fragile as well as gut wretchingly heavy in part. It's just that between that guitar tone, those almost cute little guitar slides that are littered everywhere on this EP, those moments of silence before the crushing gravelly shouts, and that almost American vocal tone, you can say that you've heard this done before, by Manchester Orchestra. And by the time the final track rings out, you're almost wondering if Andy Hull will persue suing the band for stealing his intellectual property.
If you want to listen to emotive rock that sounds like Manchester Orchestra, avoid this, just listen to Manchester Orchestra.
2 / 5
Monday, 1 September 2014
This Will Destroy You - Another Language Ah, post rock. Crescendos, melodic and cinematic interweaving guitar play. Beautiful songs that were made for dramatic movie scenes. I would listen to you all day, every day. But that was ten plus years ago before a slew of bands came along with the imprint and did nothing with it beyond unashamedly copying. The bands to survive this; Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. All bands who you could argue were never post rock in the first place. So, how to avoid copying and maintain relevancy in a genre that's a corpse so dead that it's beyond rotting? This Will Destroy You luckily have always stuck their necks a little higher out of the sinking post rock ship than most. On earlier releases (Young Mountain and Self Titled) they still did the "oh my god is this record skipping or something" thing, but attacked melancholy guitar work with a slew of electronics and drum work which betrayed the post rock rule of 'only hit the hi-hat until the crescendo'. This actually led them to becoming one of my favourite bands until the release of their third album (which I either 'didn't get' due to me no longer liking the genre, or just simply knew that it wasn't a good album). The point being that, to maintain relevancy, an artist must be willing to make changes to the genre they are in. Challenge themselves, and their listeners. On latest album, Another Language, have This Will Destroy You achieved this? Well on first glance it would appear so (nine tracks instead of the standard four/five tracks each lasting up to eight minutes). Look beyond this however and you have songs that feel like introductions that have lasted far too long (as on first track, New Topia, before it swells into the predictable crescendo), and songs like War Prayer, which initially sound fresh with fuzzy distorted bass, only to passively lull into a silence before yes, you've guessed it, the crescendo. When the band look at the rule book but only from a distance, they create tracks like The Puritan. A three minute ambient track that doesn't as much do anything special but grabs you by the ears and focuses your attention because it doesn't do anything except for being unashamedly beautiful. Leading into the almost jazz drum infused feel of Mother Opiate which is sparse and calmly alarming, not ever needing to be aggressive with guitars. As well as Invitation, an upbeat snare driven track with cutting guitar work that very much competes with even Mogwai's best work. So, Another Language, worth parting cash for? Yes. If you're into post rock or instrumental music then sure, this is as good as recent releases from Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But if you're one of those who gets two minutes into a track and always says "where are the vocals", then steer clear. This isn't one of those albums that will bridge the gap into the mainstream. The rule book has definitely been printed and published meaning that, for most, post rock remains another language. 3/5
Monday, 31 March 2014
Standout, and opening song 'Numb' showcases Brookes at his best, with soothing vocals sitting comfortably upon intricate finger picked guitar playing. It is here, while Brookes vocals almost break under the fragility of his story telling, that layers of whistles and vocal harmonies just passively soak into your willing ears.
'Crazy World and You' picks up the pace, with up-tempo strummed guitars, anthemic drumming and one of those pre-chorus build-ups that just begs to become the folky soundtrack for one of this summers festivals with Brookes almost spilling into crooning as he belts out the chorus lyrics, 'Out in the countryside where it feels like there's just a crazy world and you', but luckily saving himself with a glorious high note (of which there are many on the album).
However, it isn't all positive. At times, 'Kairos' feels like it doesn't really fit anywhere. It's a little bit seventies folk, influenced by jazz, with tracks like 'On The Mend' bordering, musically at least, on being cheesy and sounding dated. Whether this is a musical issue, or lyrical, or vocal, I'm not quite sure, but on a couple of tracks the album begins to feel almost like a guilty pleasure (as if you are secretly listening to one of dads old records that you said was awful previously). To some, including myself, this isn't a bad thing, but it could just be the difference between 'Kairos' being ignored, or getting the attention it deserves. This reviewer at least, hopes that music buyers can see this album for what it is, sonically heavenly, lyrically intelligent and an absolute pleasure to listen to.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Instrumentally 'Young Animal Hearts' is a well rounded and accomplished record. Indie at heart with the occasional subtle post-rock guitar moment, it's the creative rhythm section that mostly triumphs here, reminiscent of a 'Total Life Forever' era Foals, with snare rim shots, hand claps, tambourines and egg shakers ever present and a disperse bass rhythm that creates an often surprising groove that belies the emotive nature of the bands lyrics. And lyrically it is perhaps where the band are at their most impressive, recalling the prowess of Elbow's Guy Garvey and Counting Crows Adam Duritz before they both had too much success and ran out of things to write about. Songs like 'No Assets' are for the affected and financially struggling youth of today; "Our parents didn't wait for this long to have big ideas and our big homes". While in songs like 'Speak' the band tackle relationships with a masculinity theme with them announcing "I can't easily communicate how I feel to you, where I'm from, we tend not to speak until we're spoken to".
'Young Animal Hearts' is the soundtrack to those in the twenty to thirty age bracket, caught in dead-end jobs, or no jobs at all, all the while watching their relationships fail as their lives go nowhere. At times it is musically gorgeous and yet still, lyrically affecting and utterly, emotionally, destructive. If ever an independent record deserved to be listened to, it's this one.
4.5 / 5
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Sadly though, somewhere along the way, A Seaside Town In Winter seems to lose itself and the pacing of the album goes awry. While the early subtle tracks sound like a mix of Radiohead, Portishead and folkier acts, tracks like 'Visiting Hours' sound from the offset more like a lackluster Coldplay or Keane (think epic piano build-up with repeated vocal melody and you have the whole seven minute track figured out). While 'Wolf River/The Smoking Room At Hotel Cafe' suffers from the being an eight minute track mid-way into an album, with more repeated (and this time chant) vocals which don't seem to be the bands forte.
At fourteen tracks long, A Seaside Town In Winter is the victim of being too long, and with the inclusion of a more anthemic turn, seems to lose sense of the narrative the band were clearly trying to tell with the album titles theme. That said, if this is anything to go by, Falling Off Maps have clearly got a bright future and are one to watch out for.
3.5 / 5