Chemical Brothers-Born in the Echoes

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The electronic music icons that are Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands – otherwise known as The Chemical Brothers return with their eighth studio album Born in the Echoes after a five-year hiatus.

Despite being together for the best part of over twenty years, Simons and Rowlands show no signs of slowing down on this release.

As soon as you hear the baseline from the first track Sometimes I feel so Deserted pumping out of your speakers, you just know you are going to be taken on a whirlwind of emotions on this crazy 52-minute adventure.

The second single released from the album Go sees them reunite with rapper Ali Love from A Tribe Called Quest, who appeared on their 2005 tune Galvanise.

While it doesn’t quite hit the heights of that track, it still carries those synths that have been a trademark of their career.

EML Ritual has a real dark 90’s minimal Techno feel to it while I’ll see you there contains a sound clash for the ages, in one word twisted, in three words- pure Chemical Brothers.

That the duo doesn’t really belong in one electronic basket is a credit to them. They push the boundaries that very few can, and manage to stay relevant in today’s EDM marketplace, which is vastly different to when they started out.

To pick a highlight from this album is hard to do, but it has to go to the seventh track on the album, the instrumental track Reflexion where it’s twists and turns, leaves you dazed and confused in places, but like other minimal masterpieces from their back catalogue such as Swoon, Electric Battle Weapon and Star Guitar puts the listener in a very happy place at the end of them.

Some critics have pointed out that the Chemical Brothers haven’t been as dynamic as their earlier releases- that may be true, but this effort sees them produce their best effort since 2005’s Push the Button album.

7.5/10

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Years and Years-Communion

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To say this reviewer had been waiting for the release of Years and Years debut album to drop would be a massive understatement

Having fallen in love with the vocals of Olly Alexander on last year’s release of The Magician’s track Sunlight, it was just a matter of patiently waiting to see when this London act would release some of their own works.

Since early last year, fans have been drip-fed tunes from the upcoming album, including tunes such as Real, Take Shelter and Desire.

They were nice appetizers to the main course- a nice electronic backdrop, with pop and even calypso undertones.

The band won the prestigious BBC Sound of 2015 award in January. The award has seen such luminaries such as Haim, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding amongst others so by winning the award they are in solid company to say the least.

Did that put more pressure on them? – Well judging by their next release you would have to say no.

When the single King dropped in March of this year, you could really feel sense the early hype of this band was justified. It undoubtedly has that feel of a new-age electronic anthem to it.

The album has a pleasant feel-good factor to it. The happy electronica feels from the tracks previously mentioned, predominantly fill the release with thoughts harking back to acts of years past. One immediately sprang to mind, was the Scissor Sisters- now what happened to them?

The trio dips their feet into slow tempo tracks with 1977, Without and Memo with mixed results. It is still a work in progress, but they have plenty of time to hone their craft in this regard.

After hearing many of these tracks before the official album release, the album doesn’t really offer any major surprises and that is the way with music these days, mostly thanks to the popularity of music services like Spotify and Soundcloud- most of the tunes are released before the album hence negating the surprise factor of years past.

That debate is one to have for another day the verdict on Communion is a very promising beginning, and there is little doubt that they will improve from here.

6.5/10

The Prodigy- The Day is my Enemy

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The Prodigy, the grand old stagers of electronic music are back with their first album in six years The Day is my Enemy.

A long time between releases you may say. However, for this act that is not strictly true.

When you  look through their entire career they average an album around 6-7 years.

This can be perceived as being risky as music tastes can fluctuate over time, and as fans of Dr Dre or The Avalanches (and a few others) can attest to that promised album which just disappears into the wilderness never to heard of again.

However, much to the joy of their legion of fans, the lads from Essex have returned  and they have plenty of things they want to get of their chest.

Their last album Invaders Must Die was a personal favourite, but split opinion across the board. The rave backdrop to the majority of the tunes were said to be overdone and a bit one dimensional.

Prodigy curator Liam Howlett is a perfectionist and it took him a great deal of time to come up with a follow up. Having basically scraped one effort and having to start from scratch, he came up with an effort that channels that hard ‘in your face’ edge they had in the mid  to late 1990’s.

Lead track The Day is my Enemy with its hard unrelenting rhythm sets the scene to where this album is going.

That continues through the next two tracks Nasty and Rebel Radio, the fourth track Ibiza is a  pisstake  taking aim at the modern day DJ creating soulless empty dance music and collecting their pay at the end of the set instead of having a real love for the industry.

The Standout track is Wild Frontier is a mash up of their old and new style, a track meant to be played at the maximum decibel level.

The rest of the album plays out to plan with plenty to keep the fans going. It doesn’t relent in its delivery.

They collaborate well  with up and coming producer Flux Pavilion on track nine of the album Rhythm Bomb.

With the departure of  Faithless from the scene, it is up to acts like The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers to keep the flame flickering for sentimental electronic music fans.

With Liam recently saying he doesn’t see them continuing Into their 70’s like the Rolling Stones, who knows how long they have left.

However, it is hard to think they will bow out anytime soon. They are still a formidable live act which anyone who saw them perform at Future Music a Festival will attest to.

They still have the fire and edge thanks to Keith Flint’s pin-point breathless delivery not a bad effort for a fourty-five year old raver from back in the day.

While this album falls a little short of their seminal efforts from the 90’s Music for a Jilted Generation and  The Fat of the Land,  however this is the best effort they have produced since the turn of the century.

7.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of year musical favourites

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Sia Furler. A breakout year in 2014.

As we reach the end of another year, it is around that time that every music lover gets ready to publish their end of year favourite tunes that saw them through the year.

It has been a solid year for music. While pop artists still seemingly dominate the charts and on commercial radio, it is refreshing that new artists with a different take are having success and I will highlight some of them in my top 10 list. It was also great to see the resurgence of deep house music this year, which was a real throwback to the mid to late 90s. In a period where electronic music divides opinion, it was nice to have a face from the past back to prominence. I also discovered a love of stripped back electronica, but more on that later.

I can’t say there has been one standout track like other years, but just a lot of solid tunes that cover a few music genres a eclectic mix you could say.

Luckily I kept a monthly playlist on my iPod of all the tunes that I liked which made this process easier than in the past.

Enough of the lead-in here is my top 10 tracks of the year in no particular order.

Sia– Chandelier

Hard not to sing along to this  great tune from the Adelaide born publicity shy songstress Sia Furler. A slow burner of a track  it hits it’s peak once the chorus arrives. It is hard to believe she has been on the scene for well over a decade, but commercial success in her home country has been far from prolific for someone of her undoubted talent. The film-clip adds another bit of class to the song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vjPBrBU-TM

Zhu- Faded

A  dance tune that wouldn’t look out of place in the early 90s in the clubs of Berlin or Detroit, the dirty dark vibe of  Faded had everyone talking as it came like a bolt from the blue. The question has to be asked who exactly was this mystery producer? It was later discovered his name was Steven Zhu. He still has no plans to go public giving two radio interviews to Triple J. It was a token of thanks for his Australian fans as the song was first to break in little old Australia a rare thing indeed. His EP the Nightday displays the skill that he possesses. A unique but intriging artist and definitely one to watch in the future.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk3r-K8TQ5g

The Magician  (featuring Years and Years)– Sunlight

Another dance tune that has hallmarks from another era, once I heard this tune I knew it would be one of my favourites for 2014. Although it has summer vibes dripping all over it, it is a tune that puts a smile on your face as it has a happy cheerful tone and it isn’t destroyed by big electronic beats either, Minimalistic  you could say.

The Magician (Stephan Fasano) who used to be one half of Belgian electronic act Aeroplane gets great help on the track from Uk electronic trio Years and Years whose own track Desire is another tune to keep an eye on in the near future.

Alt J-Every other Freckle

It could have been any number of tracks from the four piece  from Leeds’ second album This is all Yours, but this one is my personal favourite. It is quirky but that is what sells it as a great song. Just like Alex Turner with the Arctic Monkeys, Altfrontman Joe Newman uses some unorthodox lyrics but it works. In this day and age where there is not a lot to tell a number of songs apart,  it is great to see some acts trying something a little different.

Milky Chance- Stolen Dance

This tune belongs the same category,a little different a little funky, and  yet a chilled out, stripped back piece of music. The German folk rock duo have achieved global success with the track. Dare I say just like the Alt J tune, it wont be everyone’s cup of tea,( some would be waiting for the killer beat to drop), but this tune isn’t about all that . Just a good old folky tune.

Banks- Beggin For Thread.

This is R and B at its very best. Dark, edgy,deep and brilliant. Jillian Banks has been on the bubble for a year least with some of her tracks slowly drip-feeding out,  but it was when she released her album Goddess in September, that the music world could really see her talent. Hailed by those in the know as the second coming of Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill, she puts a great deal of thought and passion into each one of her vocals.

Foo Fighters- I am a River

I stated in the first blog how much I loved this tune From the Foos new album Sonic Highways. It definitely has earned a place on this list.

I Got U- Duke Dumont feat Jax Jones

I have been a fan of all of Adam Dyment’s releases to date, and this one is a personal favourite. A Beautiful Calypso vibe is prevalent throughout the song and it is a tune that you can’t help but move your feet to and like a couple of other songs on the list a tune that puts a smile on your face.

Chet Faker-1998

There was never any doubt that  this local artist wouldnt be on the list. Chet’s album Built on Glass was my favourite local album for 2014, and along with Flume is undoubtedly my  Aussie act of the moment. While Talk is Cheap is the bookie’s favourite to top the Hottest 100 poll, this tune was the personal highlight of his album. I have a real thing for stripped back electronica at the moment, and to have this Aussie bring it to life is a great thing. It was also fantastic to see his album chart in the Billboard 200 chart and in the UK as well. Long may he represent us on the global music scene.

Caribou- Can’t Do Without You

Canadian Dan Snaith has gone through a few monikers in his musical life but Caribou is seemingly the one that resonates most. To be honest I had not taken much note of his career beforehand, but as soon as I heard this track I instantly became a fan. Continuing my love for old style electronica, Snaith’s music reminds me a little of LCD Soundsystem. Dance is such a great musical genre, there is room for the commercial style that seems to be the punter’s choice at the moment, also your more striped back casual style like this. Each to their own.

So there it is. A personal choice, but there are quite a few tunes that were unlucky to miss out. As for albums my top two are pretty easy to select with Foo Fighters just edging out Alt J by a very small margin.

For album number 3 It was a very close call. Chet Faker’s album was superb  but I wanted to pay tribute to a greatly underrated album by an artist called Sohn(real name Christopher Taylor).

In April this year he released an album that was one of the most captivating I had ever heard. The ambient sounds rang true throughout the 40 minutes of music. I wouldn’t have given this style of music a look at 1 year ago let alone 5 years, but I am so glad I did. I think over time everyone’s taste in music matures to a certain degree and personally its a great thing as you explore a whole new range of artists you would have ignored in the past.

Hope you have a very musical Christmas and New  Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways album review

The Good Guys of the rock scene are back. One of the best bands of their generation, Foo Fighters seventh studio album Sonic Highways has landed  with a bang, the only way they know how.

It has been an interesting time for the Seattle 5-piece. Always a band that are open and honest, in 2011 they gave the public a captivating view of life on the road in the documentary Back and Forth and last year lead singer Dave Grohl produced and directed the Sound City Film, documenting the Sound City recording studios in Los Angeles.

While both of these projects were received very well by the public, the fans have been eagerly awaiting the new album.

The band had been teasing their legion of fans with little teasers and snippets of the album, and as is the modern way, songs have leaked out before the official release. It is the band’s shortest album standing at eight songs, but they average over 5 minutes per song not leaving their fans short-changed.

When you hear the opening track   Something from Nothing which starts as a mid tempo track and rises  rapidly, you realise this is going to be an interesting journey that the band take you on.

The second track The Feast and the Famine hits you square between the eyes, and has that late 90s frenetic Foos sound dripping all over it.

What did I do/God as my Witness  is one of those head scratcher type songs that the band come up from time to time,  more of a reflective tune  Grohl puts some pretty interesting lyrics down on it, but far from it being a gospel tune as the name may suggest, it is done in typical ironic Foo’s style and it works.

The personal standout on the album comes at song eight with the track I am a river. It is a slow burner of a track with its long instrumental introbut if you stick with it, you are in for a memorable seven minutes of music.

Emotive, yet raw at the same time, it brings back memories of Times Like These on the One by One album. The track builds and builds until it reaches its pivotal moment when you know that you are listening to the boys in top form. It really is a great way to close the album as it  leaves you wanting more.

The youtube link is below if you want to make a judgement on the track yourself.

Having gone through the album, you notice a constant switch up, between the harder rock edge tracks, and the mellower tunes that they tend to do so well. They do this on purpose I feel to keep the listening public on their toes, not to assume what is coming next.

There are always risks in legendary bands staying together past their use- by- date, U2 being a recent case in point, but there is no better feeling than listening to one of the bands you grew up with still at their peak.

The difference between this album and their previous two is, where they seemingly just coasted along for the rest of the album after their lead track in Sonic Highways however, they kick along till the very end.

Having not being won over by their previous two albums, I was a bit sceptical of what to expect and stayed away from the early released tracks on purpose, as I wanted to make a judgement on the album as a whole.

It was worth the wait and Dave and the rest of the boys have not let their legion of fans down with this effort.

8.5/10

The next review I post in the next couple of weeks will be the Norwegian electronic act Royskopp’s final album The Understanding.