Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Spring Offensive - Young Animal Hearts

Eight years to release a debut album seems an awful long time. In the case of Spring Offensive it comes after a series of record label false starts leading the band to release 'Young Animal Hearts' independently, gaining the funds to do so through Pledgemusic. Luckily however, this long delay in releasing a full length has only seemed to increase the bands resolve and their willingness to think outside the box and the release of this album and its low budget theatrical music videos are testament to the bands work ethic.

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

Falling Off Maps - A Seaside Town In Winter

Nottingham five piece, Falling Off Maps debut album, A Seaside Town In Winter, is a tale of two halves. On one side, songs like 'Honest', 'The Redeemer', 'I.D.S.T' and 'Through The Forest' have an emotive fragility which doesn't so much sucker punch you in the gut, but more so prods your heart to check it is still pumping. It is on the earlier stages of the album and the aforementioned tracks where this is most visible with singer Dave Wrights often childlike high vocals almost cracking under the weight of the burden of his words with a story telling lyric style of damaged relationships, as well as the difficulties of getting older at the forefront of subtle guitar work, trip-hop styled drumming, groove driven bass playing and intelligent, minimalist piano and electronic work that we've seen before in a less subtle way from the likes of Radiohead's In Rainbows.

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