James Blake – Assume Form | Review

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James Blake’s Assume Form is his fourth studio album, released on 18 January 2019. Somehow, Blake has managed to produce an album that is more upbeat than his last, but radically more vulnerable than anything else he has ever written.


Blake blends hip hop, high production, and pop, in his destruction of the masculinity/ vulnerability dichotomy, in twelve songs. Blake writes of the song, “I’m just talking about how I feel now” (James Blake: Learning to Share, Dazed). Yet, lyrics such as “Power On”‘s “I thought I might be better dead, but I was wrong” are both a reflection on the past and a conviction on the future.

“Power On” is undoubtedly the strongest track on the album with lyrics such as “drop the pin on the mood that you’re in”. The album brings together collaborations with artists from different genres and languages to reside in moments of mindfulness, speaking directly on these moods and feelings. Although the album is directly romantic, it’s somewhat spiritual in its commentary on time and the self.

In “I’ll Come Too”, the more surreal and dream-like tones of “I’m in that kinda mood” make us realise the absurdity of love. Echoing rhythms and transcendental modulations represent infatuation, and a certain kind of desperation in catching up to the extremes of somebody else’s existence: “I’m getting there, I can get there too”.

“Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” is a track more overtly belonging in the pop genre, yet speaks volumes on absence and loss. Blake articulates a fear of losing a part of yourself in “Nothing makes a sound/ When you’re not around”. This fear is human, romantic, and pitiful at the same time.

The album’s concluding track, “Lullaby For My Insomniac” sounds like something out of a Michel Gondry film. In the sense that it is both romantic, and a reflection on what being grounded means, it acts as an electronic response to Newton Faulkner’s “Lullaby” from 2007. It is choral and angelic, as if the raw residue of the rest of the electronic album has seemed into this closing track.


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

Villagers @ Black Box, Galway | 13/12/18 | Review

Following the release of their most recent album The Art of Pretending to Swim in September 2018, Villagers have been playing non-stop. Miraculously, there wasn’t a sense of exhaustion from their November 2018 European Tour seeping into their show at the Black Box in Galway. The crowd fuelled their wild dynamics of both acoustic and synth. The band’s latest album includes a taste of electronica and rock amongst maintaining the usual folk-like lyrics and guitar patterns. This show wasn’t just a performance of an experimental album – this set was built off of the reciprocal relationship between audience and band, driving each other to new capacities.

Image result for villagers album the art of pretending to swim

Villagers’ performance of “Again”, the opening song on their new album, mixed synth, techno, bird noises, and gave the impression of elevating into a new dimension. The lyrics, “I feel it ripple and ready its soul again” make us question whether “it” is music, the artist, the audience itself, or a zest of huamnity. Within the one song, the audience was dancing, swaying, or shocked into silence at any different moment in the song.

Another standout performance was that of Darling Arithmetic‘s “Hot, Scary Summer”, leading the audience through pain, awkwardness, and ultimately reassurance. “Courage” was performed in a similarly raw and acoustic style, building in huge dynamics to a dramatic climax in the final chorus.

The strongest performance of a new song was undoubtedly in “Ada”, a homage to Ada Lovelace, fading into an amazing electronic soundscape at the end of the song to mimic the fantasticalness but also confusion that a technologically developing world brings. The Black Box performance was one of both tenderness and techno, lyrics remaining simple yet poignant. The drummer drove the band from folk to rock across the performance of the band’s variety of albums, with his multitalented musicality carrying over to performances on the flugelhorn.

O’Brien himself picked up the horn at the end of the set; the set’s conclusion was, unsurprisingly, {Awayland}’s “Nothing Arrived”. There was a sense of uncertainty amongst the audience as to how this dynamic and vivacious set could possibly be concluded by a well-known and sensitive acoustic song. The song was performed humbly, focusing on the guitar fingerpicking and the tender lyrics. Yet, it built on O’Brien’s raw lyrics through the use of harmonies and the respectful accompaniment of the band, and finally, through an incredible brass performance, raising hope and radiating musicality through the audience.


More from Villagers’ 2018 album, The Art of Pretending to Swim


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

Maria Kelly & All The Luck In The World | Róisín Dubh | 14/11/18 | Review

Maria Kelly 

Maria Kelly’s set was beautifully eerie whilst gaining the attention and support of the intimate crowd in the Róisín. Kelly’s song “Dark Places” provided a somber opening to the set, the haunting music video for which can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMhcI5LEXAg

Dark Places goes hand in hand with Kelly’s song “Small Talk”, a revealing melody based on the struggles of social anxiety. To conclude the humble set, Kelly performed “June”, “July”, and “August” from her upcoming EP, Notes to Self. The EP was written following Kelly’s move to Berlin, and is a reflection on change, alienation, and movement. June’s “I lay on my back, I stare at the ceiling” establishes the tone of vulnerability and uncertainty present through all three songs, and the progression of finding oneself was performed beautifully in this set.

Continue reading “Maria Kelly & All The Luck In The World | Róisín Dubh | 14/11/18 | Review”

oh sleep – try to rest | EP Review

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Florian Sczensny (releasing music under “oh sleep” since 2017) has created a new EP, to be self-released on 12/10/18, entitled “try to rest”. This breakthrough artist utilises dulcet acoustic tones reminiscent of “flatsound”, lofi production paired with skillful mastering, and acoustic/ indie vibes, sounding rough around the edges, but successfully raw and emotional.


The new EP features four tracks, the first of which is entitled “why did you have to leave us behind”. The track develops into ethereal and emotional layers. The echoing vocals remind us of echoing memories, and resemble that of an early Ben Howard’s sorrowful realism. The acoustic guitar loop that the track opens with is very much in the style of Mitch Welling (flatsound)’s early EPs.

The following track, “numbers”  is accompanied by an existential but colourful music video. The layering of the sound tracks mimics the struggle between technology and humanity depicted in the song, and the internal struggle between night and day. The anonymity described in the haunting lyrics is not comforting but one that evokes fear. We don’t know whether “lean towards the light” encourages us to return to the safety of our technological devices, or if we must search onward for answers.

The eponymous track “try to rest” is ambient and again derives from the experience of existence. This heavenly acoustic tone is continued in the final song on the EP, “mm/dd/yyyy”, which also represents a return to the opening track with the consistency of the guitar chord progression, and the building dynamics.

This EP pays homage to lofi indie, acoustic and punk artists of the early 2010s but also looks toward something fresh and exciting about the incorporation of raw emotional lyrics into a well-mastered, sorrowful, and cyclical collection of songs.

★★★


See more of oh sleep on social media, to keep updated with the release of “try to rest”:

www.facebook.com/ohsleepmusic
www.instagram.com/ohsleep_
www.twitter.com/ohsleep_
www.patreon.com/ohsleep www.soundcloud.com/ohsleep


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

Hozier – Nina Cried Power EP | Review

Hozier’s EP “Nina Cried Power” was released last week on 6 September 2018.

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In an interview with Billboard, Hozier makes a stand for the soul and origin of blues – “There is no blues music without one of the most horrendous atrocities of human trafficking in the last few centuries.” Hozier Interview Billboard

The title track indeed evokes rebirth in the face of disaster and oppression. Mavis Staples’ vocals on the track bring force to the record’s sentiment. The opening lyrics “it’s not the waking, it’s the rising” establish the tone for Hozier’s new era as one of both delicacy and defiance. The Bray singer tweeted that working with Staples on the track was “nothing short of a dream come true” (Twitter).

The EP pays homage not only to the strength of grassroots civil rights movements, but also to tenderness and power within love. “NFWMB” is vulnerable but also powerful and a little sinister. Its celestial, acoustic, fingerpicked guitar melody is underpinned by the piano’s dulcet’s chords.

“If I was born as a blackthorn three

I’d wanna be felled by you, held by you”

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” continues this duality of a love-song and political statement. The lyrics dwell on the pleasures of physical love but also defiance against the Catholic church. Musically, it is almost an upbeat sister song to first album’s “To Be Alone”.

“Shrike”‘s confession, “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted”, is also politically charged. The imagery of the bird and the thorn is one of flight and return, and of the necessity of the unsightly. It is a song of both attachment and ambition, and of the desire for rebirth.


Hozier writes in the description of his new music video that, “Ireland has undergone a socio-cultural sea change, the results of which will benefit generations to come”. The video, released on 12 September 2018 is a subtle nod of admiration to Irish artists and activists. For information on those involved in the video can be found here: Music Video Cast

This EP is one of regeneration – for Hozier, for Ireland, for blues.

 

★★★★★

Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer | Review

Josh Tillman, aka “Father John Misty” has produced another romantic yet satirical masterpiece. God’s Favourite Customer is a departure from sing-along acoustic ballads, and a move toward truly heartbreaking, but at times hilarious, folk.

The opening track to the album, “Hangout at the Gallows” demands the listeners’ self-awareness, with “What’s your politics/ What’s your religion?”. Father John wants us to know that they’ll let you drown if your answer is wrong. Yet, since the track is followed by the funny, bourgeois, self-deprecating Mr. Tillman, the album’s tone is not one of self-righteousness and pitying those following one path. It is instead one of confusion and the consciousness of failure.

“Just Dumb Enough To Try” is the first really vulnerable track on the album, reminiscent of “Nancy From Now On” from 2012’s Fear Fun. The track is confessional, personal and transparent, and divergent from Tillman’s usually acerbic tone.

Meanwhile, “Date Night” is a return to portraying the discomfort of arrogance and failure. Using a similar chord pattern to Mr. Tillman, the song perfectly portrays the self-accepted awkwardness of romantic endeavour:

Nothing impresses me much
I’ve got a great attitude
And a map to the stars

Tillman seems to utilise a different and vaguely dislikeable character in each song. In “The Palace” the character we are encouraged to mistrust is “my true love”, who seems to have our protagonist entangled in their snare. The discordant, melancholic bass notes in the background affirm this desolation.

Empire writes that “God’s Favorite Customer turns away from the human condition <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/03/father-john-misty-live-review-dublin-gods-favorite-customer&gt;. This is evident in the eponymous track “God’s Favourite Customer”, where the speaker employs angels to answer his prayers by speaking in an accusatory and desperate tone.
The album does not conclude, however, on a tone of desperation or arrogance, but one of guilt, with “The Songwriter” and “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)”. In “The Songwriter”, Tillman asks if his partner would make their living off of him, questioning his own status as a romantically struggling yet candid songwriter, and the morality of this; is loving Tillman an “unsung masterpiece” of dedication in itself?

Frances Wilde
franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk
+353 83 043 9326

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino | Review

The new Arctic Monkeys album of May 2018 has shocked many, and disappointed others. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino has elements of jazz, soul, The Last Shadow Puppets, Bowie, The Beach Boys, LA, and Sheffield – undeniably a strange combination.


The album opens with “Star Treatment”, a lengthy track focusing on somewhat stream of consciousness lyrics. The opening, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes/ Now look at the mess you made me make” is confessional, apologetic, honest, and hilarious. The honesty of this cynical sci-fi narrator establishes the tone of the album as otherworldly. The track lies somewhere between ethereal and futuristic. The standard AM writing method of jamming on guitars clearly didn’t work for the writing of this album:

We definitely had a great time, but it didn’t seem like that was the way to do [the new album], and I needed to find a way to trick myself into it.”
<http://www.nme.com/news/music/alex-turner-arctic-monkeys-new-album-tranquility-base-hotel-casino-writers-block-interview-2312690#XIzkiCMyKicYpJbe.99&gt;

The alternative jazz-like riff and the basis of each track as surrounding the piano’s melody give the album an originality which is established in “Star Treatment”.

A personal favourite track of mine is “One Point Perspective”. The focus on rhythm and minor chord progressions, yet light-hearted jading of middle-aged men who ramble on about film and music, creates a sense of playfulness yet sourness. This track is very reminiscent of almost any track on the Puppets’ 2016 album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect. 

“American Sports” and “Science Fiction” utilise a thick synth bass, affirming a new era for the band. Although the album is described as “not a concept album, “Science Fiction” confirms the alternate universe that each track and each character is set in. In this fictional “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”, each bridge and chorus seems to introduce a new character to the world.

This is affirmed in the layering of “Four Out of Five”, evident in the bizarre music video, too. This track is arrogant; harmonious in the layers of “take it easy for a little while” in a way that is reminiscent of Pet Sounds; and somewhere between pastiching commerciality and discordance. This discordance is continued in “Golden Trunks”, probably the most politically charged song off the album.

In “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”, the lyric “you push the button and we’ll do the rest” is taken from an old Kodak commercial. Rather than critiquing this commerciality, consumerist promise, and a generation of social media, the track pays homage to inexplicability of this sci-fi world.

“She Looks Like Fun” is reminiscent of “Bad Habits” or even the older Puppets song “I Don’t Like You Anymore”. It is grungy but playful, a little dark, and a track that is made to perform. The performative quality of this song is opposite to that of “The Ultracheese”. “The Ultracheese”, in my mind, is easily partnered with “Sweet Dreams, TN”, from EYCTE. The album is not just a commentary on platonic relationships, romanticism, but more about accepting the death of something, allowing a phase and a version of yourself to pass. The imperfect cadence at the end of this track affirms the uncertainty.

This new album is a conscious move away from AM; it’s a necessary move away from the electric guitar, and maybe it’s a fatalistic departure from the indie-rock genre.


★★★★

Of course, Four Stars out of Five.


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

Humingbird – Flatsound | Review

Mitch Welling, also known as “flatsound” released a new album last month, which is now available on his site, Bandcamp and Spotify. The relatively short, self-produced, ambient album speaks loudly, but in soft tones, about Gilmore Girls, love, depression, transience and the permeation of pain.

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Track one, “hummingbird” opens with an ambient, cyclical track, blending seamlessly into the following “even the stars can be hollow”. This track is more lyric-based, like some of flatsound’s past work, especially songs off of the album sleep. The lyrics and melody are based on softness and repetition, creating imagery of breaking, contrasted with imagery of allowing for light to be let in, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. The third track, “action scene”, is a song written about the pain of desire and disappointment. Flatsound’s lyrics are often centred around the theme of depleting mental health, and the debilitating aspects of this, and this song is no exception. “Action scene” is a song written about not only this but also the overwhelming pressure to “succeed” in human relationships: “you said that you wanted everything”. Following a similar theme, “when we met” focuses on this pressure, but past tense: “when we met, I was broken”. The synth-electro track added in the second half of the song encourages us to question if the fragmented sense of self and purpose has been resolved, or if wholeness is just a fantasy that relationships and “adult life” try to sell to us. This emotionally heavy song is followed by a synthy interlude, “oatberry”, quite reminiscent of the Stardew Valley soundtrack. The following track, “wash away” is a selfless one, focusing on recognising other’s pain and beauty, prefacing the track that is the album’s culmination, “you said remembering would feel too much like moving back home”. This closure to the album focuses on the attempt to move away from a place, in order to escape from a person and the emotional state attached to them, but instead, being unable to let go of their existence, and that connection to the past. Through rereading messages, and remediating memories, the protagonist of the song keeps the past close – perhaps too close.

In a recent blogpost, Mitch wrote, on his online interactions and presentation of his music, “I don’t want this all to feel so passive” (Welling,<https://www.flatsound.org/blog/2018/1/22/a-few-scattered-hours&gt; [accessed 8/2/18]). Mitch’s heartfelt, short, subtle and self-aware album, available for free download on his website, certainly achieves this reduction of fan-artist space, in the emotional transparency it creates. Yet, I argue that this album is the best quality of flatsound’s in terms of production. Each track is balanced perfectly and framed with ambient sound’s reminiscent to those created on his recent radio broadcasts.

The combination of high production quality and touching lucidity makes this both a classic flatsound album, and a work of art astutely crafted to be something delicate and new.

★★★★

Top 5 Albums of 2017

1. Crack Up – Fleet Foxes

For me, Fleet Foxes’ long awaited album, “Crack Up”, topped the year. The album maintained Fleet Foxes’ minimalist and hazy winter aesthetic, along with their well-known beautiful harmonies, but it offered something different to their previous work. Without a doubt, this album created a whole record more than anything else produced this year. Toward the beginning of the album, songs are fragmented and discordant before reaching a climax, and the listener is forced to persevere through ambient struggle. Toward the end, songs have more unity, and each track is filled with literary and mythological references. “On Another Ocean” and “I Should See Memphis” are personal favourite of mine off the album. I was waiting for them ever since 2011’s Helplessness Blues.

2. For A Moment, I Was Lost – Amber Run

Everything about Amber Run’s indie rock album oozed class in its production quality. Each track was well balanced, and while it maintained their sing-along indie following, songs like “Machine” revealed a sombre side to the bands’ songwriting process. Meanwhile, tunes like “No Answers” and “Fickle Game” have proved most excellent when performed, again and again. It was a relief to have so many stand alone tracks finally on one completed album from Amber Run.

3. Semper Femina – Laura Marling

Semper Femina is a beautiful celebration of femininity and transience. Stand out tracks were “Wild Fire”, “Next Time” and, of course, “Nothing, Not Nearly”. For me, it feels like just yesterday that Once I Was An Eagle came out, but this album revealed the change in tone and change in time between the two.

4. Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect – Sundara Karma

It’s hard to believe Sundara Karma’s album came out in 2017 – January feels like a long time ago. Tracks like “She Said”, “Happy Family” and “Flame” have been the soundtrack to UK festivals and independent bars throughout the year, particularly in summertime, matching the band’s energetic flare.

 

5. I See You – The xx

While this album maintains The xx’s sensual, drum-driven vibe, songs like “I Dare You” reveal a more romantic streak, and by now you’ve probably heard “On Hold” played, with its confessional opening of “I don’t blame you”.

Fujiya & Miyagi @ Roisin Dubh, Galway | 30th November | Review

Slow Place Like Home

This was my second time seeing Slow Place Like Home live at the Roisin. I have to admit, I was more impressed by them this time around, and I feel their set matched the “indie x electronic” sentiment behind the main act. Although the venue remained relatively subdued during the support act, the vibe for an electronic dance set was definitely established.

Fujiya & Miyagi

The band played older tunes such as “Ankle Injuries” from their earlier album “Transparent Things” near the beginning of their set, and it was evident from the beginning that their use of bass and synth captured the attention of the audience.

The band’s set developed to feature multiple songs off of their new eponymous album. Most popular appeared to be “Serotonin Rushes” which encouraged the small but attentive audience to reach the dance-floor.

The British band gave off an approachable vibe, taking requests from the audience and being attentive to each others’ musical flare.

I would highly recommend their most recent album for an energetic and unique buzz, coupled with thoughtful bass.