Music

Album Reviews – Coasts, Mystery Jets, Savages, Bloc Party

Coasts - Coasts. Photo: coastsband.com
Coasts – Coasts. Photo: coastsband.com

Coasts – Coasts
If you are not yet aware of Coasts, they are an upcoming five-piece from Bristol full of indie-pop, feel-good anthems. Their self-titled debut album was released through Warner Music and peaked at number twelve in the UK album charts.

Coasts are best known for their catchy singles ‘A Rush of Blood’, which was named Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Record’ way back in October 2014, and ‘Oceans’ which received media attention worldwide. Both of these singles are featured on the album, alongside last year’s single ‘Modern Love’ and seven other slick pop tunes.

Their most popular song to date, ‘Oceans’, is the perfect opener for the album. It immediately defines the band’s euphoric and expansive sound, in a love song about all of the dumb little things that make you crazy about someone. With an addictive chorus tailor-made for daytime radio, it sets very high expectations for the rest of the album.

The third track, ‘You’, is a pleasant and catchy song, with a huge build up to an incredibly memorable chorus. Vocalist Chris Caines describes the song as being about chasing your dreams while not forgetting about the things that matter the most, relating it to being away on tour while remembering that family and friends are important. In parts the lyrics appear a bit bland and cliché, however this also makes them easily relatable for the festival going masses.

‘Modern Love’ is the fourth track on the album and it really shines through as a huge anthemic sounding song that is capable of carrying them up to much larger venues. Caines has described the song as being about how falling in and out of love has changed over time, which was heavily inspired by Tinder and other social platforms affecting the way we interact and meet people. This song successfully flaunts Coasts largely varied set of musical influences, ranging from electronic, dance, alternative rock, eighties to pop music.

After five years of working towards their debut album, a handful of relatively successful singles and lots of media coverage, there is a lot of pressure for the album to be successful . The previously released singles set high expectations for the rest of the album, which proves a struggle at first as many of the songs are difficult to distinguish between, sounding too polished and clean-cut. However, this is not the case when Coasts perform live rather than on the track, as their sound is a lot more passionate, energising and raw. For a debut album, this is definitely a pleasant listen, however it does not strike as a game changer.
Natalie Cole

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Mystery Jets - Curve of the Earth. Photo: The Line of Best Fit
Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth. Photo: The Line of Best Fit

Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth
As I sit in Unio, hungover and without a coffee, fate has placed next to me a couple – young and in love – who have no hesitations when it comes to café PDA. This is lovely (in a ‘good for them’ kind of way), but it’s also a little distracting when I’m trying to analyse an album. Fortunately, Mystery Jets newest creation, Curve of the Earth is here to remind me with its lyrics that there is more to life than this desperate search for love; which is the subject of most of the songs I hear.

‘Telomere’, the first track in the album, is passionate and empowering. It is immersed in ideas of identity and predestination. However, like poetry, its meaning can be interpreted in different ways. It could well be an aid to people dealing with unavoidable illnesses. In their ‘Behind the Scenes’ video, William Rees (guitar and vocals) describes a Telomere, as something that ‘contains your fate, future and also your history… a bottled version of everything that you’re going to be or go on to do.’ Using clay to show the human body transforming, the music video is a genuine piece of artwork. Blaine Harrison, the lead singer, is the central figure in the video which represents the personal nature of this song and album. He has Spina Bifida, a physical disability that causes weakness of the legs.

After touring America with Mumford and Sons in 2013, Mystery Jets spent six months turning an old button factory in London into a recording studio. They then spent the next few years creating this album. Although it has a slower pace than the upbeat, more light-hearted sound that fans are used to hearing, this album has the potential to conquer indie hearts globally. Noteworthy tracks include ‘Bombay Blue’, ‘Bubblegum’ and the aforementioned ‘Telomere’ which are the first three tracks on the album. This provokes the question – did they peak too early?

Mystery Jets endear themselves to listeners with their optimistic and refreshing attitudes towards separation in ‘Bubblegum.’ This song is particularly special because it is open to multiple meanings; it could be about estrangement from a family member or friend, a break-up, or about death. The slight ambiguity in their lyrics is part of their charm, and allows them to express themselves without limiting the potential interpretations of the lyrics. However, some of the later tracks in the album have a numbness to them that could be considered a good or bad thing depending on your mood. Either they feel tranquil and meaningful, or detached and devoid of passion.

This band deserves more recognition, as does the unpretentious album they have just produced. It feels as though they have been true to themselves as they have tackled difficult topics while maintaining a hopeful and sensitive sound.
Mary O’Driscoll

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Savages - Adore Life. Photo: the skinny.com
Savages – Adore Life. Photo: the skinny.com

Savages – Adore Life
Savages are back at it with their newly-released album and beautifully-entitled Adore Life reaffirming themselves as a major rock and punk phenomena of our time. An increasingly popular female post-punk collective, founded in 2011 and based in London, Savages meshes punk-revival power with fresh, pretty, and melancholic lyrics to establish themselves as incredibly original and pure.

Mainstream media has qualified their new songs like The Answer or Adore as ‘stoner-punk’ or ‘neo-grunge’ and this is understandable, all these element are most definitely present. The band emits an incandescence and deeply-rooted strength with rhythmic tribal sounds, incendiary guitars, a rounded, heavy bass, and a voice that carries an impending depression… a painted essence of what Savages are. Singer Jehnny Beth (originally named Camille Berthomier) illuminates the stage in her live performances with sleek, dark and sometimes very poetic lyrics lined with a slight French accent. She is the perfect female reincarnation of Ian Curtis and, in fact, the entire collective are a throwback to late 70s and early 80s underground punk and new wave music scenes. Finally, we are able to dream of what it must have felt like to experience the debut releases of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd or Joy Division and in this, we feel an other-worldly, transgressional power take us over. Two tracks on Adore Life depict the split in Savages musical style: ‘The Answer’ and ‘Adore’. The first is a somber song, harsh and loud as the headliner of the second album.

It promises an album changed and hardened by experience. The band, led by Jehnny Beth and her singular charisma opens herself out and discusses troubles, angers, anxieties and sentiments unsaid, but focuses mainly on the one theme that cannot be undertaken enough: love. In the music video for The Answer, simple and unravelling, the director Giorgio Testi films rebellion in its most natural state. It is difficult to not think of Smells Like Teen Spirit at the sight of these images: a crowded sweaty mosh-pit, head-banging to the shrieks and anthems of the band in black. The fourth track on the album, named in association with the title of the entire album Adore stages a more demure, solemn but equally (if not more) powerful atmosphere. Beth asks in her song if it is ‘human to adore life?’ and intertwines fresh, simple metaphysical self-questioning with affirmed responses to heartbreak.

Adore Life was recorded at RAK studios in London with Richard Woodcraft on sound, Anders Trentemoller on mixing and Johnny Hostile for production. And although Savages are not for everyone as tastes are tastes, it cannot be denied that this band has proven itself in many ways as talented musicians and, strong vocalists who’ve crafted even more powerful lyrics to become headliners of an immense punk-rock revival renaissance.
Muse Giacalone

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Bloc Party - Hymns. Photo: Reddit
Bloc Party – Hymns. Photo: Reddit

Bloc Party – Hymns
Hymns, the latest offering from Bloc Party, arrives over a decade after their 2005; energetically unfettered, alternative rock classic, LP: Silent Alarm. An album defined by sharp guitar and experimental synths, the debut propelled the band to fame. With this new fifth album we see the exit of Gordon Moakes (bass) and Matt Tong (drums) for new members, Justin Harris and Louise Bartle. Has this new line up shaken Bloc Party for their new release?

The title track ‘The Love Within’, with its almost single note electronic modulated organ riff, offers a glimpse of the experimental Bloc Party that won them cult acclaim in the past. I found myself praying for more variety. Yet, this title track is saved in the chorus with its beautiful happy illation, uncommon in Bloc Party songs.

With other tracks on the album the production takes a new turn towards contrast. Songs like ‘Living Lux’ and ‘Fortress’ are almost muted and ‘foggy’ to the point of monotony with abundant ‘loss’ symbolism. Yet there are breaks in these clouds of reverb soaked suppression with the awesome resolutions on standout songs like ‘The Good News’ and ‘So Real’ offering clear if not linear guitar work. This more riff driven section seems to fleetingly showcase a more ‘live’ energetic Bloc Party, missing for much of the album.

Hymns has a real biblical feel to it similar to the 2007 single ‘The Prayer’. In songs like ‘Different Drugs’ and ‘Only He Can Hear Me’ we can see. Lead singer Kele’s distinctive, shifting, vocals more refined, and even restrained behind background, often overbearing, throbbing synths and chants. This conflict seems to be the band’s intention in order to pursue a supposedly larger, grander, and encompassing picture.

To this effect, it attempts to explore religion and death with its haze symbolising the confusion of life culminating in Different Drugs with its stressed, anxious vocals. Then, stripped back songs like ‘Into the Earth’ progress linearly onto topic of human perception: its dark lyrics counter-balancing happy chords making a remorseful yet certain song (a narrative highlight for me). This concludes in songs like ‘Exes’ which take a reflective view on the life portrayed in the album.

In conclusion, and to this album’s credit, what Bloc Party have done here reminds me thematically of Grace by Jeff Buckley. Its narrative is well planned yet a little blunt. But will it please a Silent Alarm fan? For the most part, bar a couple of glimpses of viscera, no. Bloc Party seem now to be a different, less cutting, more background- beast. The throbbing production on this album can detract to the point of boredom. I feel that new members, unproved in this record, could have offered a lot more distinctiveness, even if it weren’t in the style of previous records. However, with time, maybe they will – Bloc Party have more to offer.
Chris Grosset

09/02/2016

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nataliecole