Lorde-Melodrama (album review)

Lorde released her second studio album, Melodrama, on the 16th June 2017. The album follows up from her stunning debut album, Pure Heroine, in 2013. So far only two singles from the album- ‘Green Light’ and ‘Perfect Places’- have been released. The album focuses mainly on Lorde’s break-up with long term boyfriend James Lowe in 2015.

The album opens with the explosive hit Green Light. It’s the ultimate break-up song. There’s something so personal about it, whilst the lyrics are overlaid with a heavy syncopated piano and a strong dance feel. It’s an infectious opener, which stands strong as a single. It sets the tone of the album, as a break-up track- a theme which Lorde draws on a lot throughout.

Sober (again, with it’s syncopated beat) tells tales of growing up, late nights and love. It remains close to Lorde’s usual style. It incites a feeling of wanting to dance, the perfect party song.

Homemade Dynamite remains close to the style that made Lorde famous. It’s a brilliant song that is set to get crowds singing.

The Louvre is by far one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s different to Lorde’s usual style, so much so that it’s refreshing. It’s a song about “having a crush”, Lorde told the audience at Glastonbury Festival, and that feeling of having a crush- the rush. The song encapsulates that ‘rush’, if you will. It’s filled with obsession, love, promise and hope. It holds a strong narrative, too.

This is followed on by the piano lead ‘Liability’, which is about that feeling of not fitting in, feeling too ‘different’, ‘weird’, “not good enough”, hopeless, almost. It’s gut wrenchingly poignant. I think it’s something most people can relate to in some respect and I think that’s why it commands so much respect as a song. It feels as though Lorde understands and connects with the audience, despite being personally confessional. It showcases her vulnerability as a writer and artist. A reprised- albeit more optimistic- version of Liability (‘Liability (Reprise)’) features later on in the album. It creates a somewhat theatrical sense, which makes it exciting to listen in full.

‘Hard Feelings/ Loveless’ is a post break up song. It’s incredibly sensitive and beautiful for a break up song. Lorde’s good at that. After 4 minutes, ‘Loveless’ plays after a sample- “what is this tape?This is my favourite place”- as if it’s almost not meant to be found. It’s a welcome treat.  Lorde sums up the modern generation as a “L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S Generation”, due to the way we love, through smartphones and Snapchat, as if it’s how she feels that she is meant to feel. She voices what is expected, what happens now, the norm. It’s interesting how she can go from writing such a reflective, passionate song and juxtapose it with a more generic, blunt break up song.

‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ feels like a triumphant reprise. It follows a narrative, like a show. The album is a spectacle itself and the almost theatrical side aides it. It feels like the album deserves to be played as one whole piece.

‘Writer in the Dark’ feels like it could’ve been a Kate Bush song. There’s something beautiful and fascinating about it. It’s one of the album’s key stand out tracks and unlike anything Lorde has done before. This versatility is what makes her so admirable.

‘Supercut’ seems almost like an epilogue for The Louvre. It feels reflective. Reflective of the last few years, of love, of fame, of friendships. It’s a beautiful song.

The final song on the album is ‘Perfect Places’. It’s the perfect closing track because it feels like it sums up the album. It sums up the life she appears to lead, the feeling of euphoric rush that comes with being young and tales of love and loss. It epitomises life. It feels triumphant, yet not overtly optimistic.

The concluding line “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?” is a lasting sentiment.

Lorde’s Melodrama is easily one of the strongest album’s of the year so far. It could quite easily have been a disaster, but Lorde pulled off the tricky second album with effortless ease. She did something different. She took risks. Ultimately, she told the story of life, of being young, of falling in and and out of love, of self deprecation and self worth and I think everyone can relate to that in some way. Lorde was young when she released Pure Heroine, she was championed by David Bowie and thrusted into the public eye, yet she has managed to grow and produce an incredibly mature, phenomenal record, which feels timeless.

 

Lorde-Melodrama (album review)

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Hull 2017 (Review)

This year’s BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend was held in Hull, at Hull’s Burton Constable Hall, on the 27th and 28th May 2017. The free music festival was jam packed with the biggest and hottest names in the music industry and was a huge success.  Katy Perry and Kings of Leon headlined the two day bank holiday weekend event, with acts like Two Door Cinema Club, Bastille and The Amazons playing across the weekend. It’s always one of the most fascinating and exciting music festivals of the summer, for where else can you watch Kings of Leon, Little Mix and Twin Atlantic all within a matter of hours?

I was lucky enough to attend the festival on the Sunday this year and the day was full of glorious pop music and all things Radio 1. Bands and artists played short hit fuelled sets (exactly the sort of thing you’d hear on the radio) with the station’s DJs playing in-between sets.

Here are my highlights (a very small selection of them)-

Little Mix opened the main stage on the Sunday. The X-Factor winning girl group played a phenomenal confetti filled set, full of all the hits (that you’d know even if you don’t- or rather won’t admit to- like), dancing timed to the second and huge, captivating graphics. It was totally feel good and empowering and distinctly awe-inspiring for the many families in the crowd. Little Mix are very clearly the biggest girl group in the music industry currently and what they’re doing for music is very significant, even if you don’t like it personally. The set felt special and unifying (especially considering the huge amounts of families, mainly children, in the crowd) after the tragic events in Manchester, which happened a matter of days before.

Bastille brought their worldwide tour (in support of their latest album, Wild World) to a sunny Hull and played an energetic afternoon set. The band played sing-a-long hits from their first album, Bad Blood, including ‘Flaws’ and the iconic ‘Pompeii’, as well as a whole host of songs from their UK number 1 2016 second album, Wild World. The highlights of the set was definitely when the single ‘Good Grief’ was played to a backdrop of post-modern, satirical, futuristic collage graphics.

Pop sensation Shawn Mendes brought illuminations to Hull with his Sunday set. Mendes brought all the hits to Burton Constable Hall in what transpired to be a huge sing-a-long spanning all ages. He played a selection of songs from his new album Illuminate, including the singles ‘There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Stitches’. It was the Radio sensation’s first ever festival performance and he performed it with ease.

Brighton’s brilliant rock duo Royal Blood played a huge set headlining the Where It Begins stage at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The band played what could’ve been an arena show to a packed out tent, just before the release of their second album How Did it Get so Dark? (June 16th 2017). The band played a blend of stunning instrumental and memorable hit, including ‘Two Tonne Skeleton’, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Figure it Out’ (from their 2014 debut album Royal Blood). The band also played new single ‘Lights Out’, which was met by applause from the eager crowd.

Scotland’s finest Twin Atlantic played the Where it Begins tent on Sunday afternoon to a captivated audience. The band played a riff filled set featuring songs from all four of their albums, including the latest album GLA (which was released last year). Frontman Sam McTrusty was full of energy as he leapt into the crowd and crowd surfed at the end of the set. Twin Atlantic are one of my personal favourite live bands ever because the energy their shows give off is just electric. You just have to experience it.

Alternative icons Circa Waves brought sun-kissed tunes and an overdue dance session to the sunny Hull festival. The band, who are consistently brilliant live, played a short set filled with songs from their 2015 debut album, Young Chasers, including ‘Fossils’, ‘Stuck in my Teeth’ and the fan favourite ‘T-Shirt Weather’, as well as a handful of tracks from their latest 2017 album, Different Creatures, including the mosh-pit inducing ‘Fire That Burn’s, ‘Goodbye’ and the single ‘Wake Up Call’. It was definitely one of the highlights for me.

Stockport’s finest Blossoms brought their huge debut album tour to Hull, one year on from their return to the festival as special guests on the BBC Introducing Stage in Exeter. Blossoms played a set filled with crowd pleasing hits, including ‘Blow’, ‘Blown Rose’ and ‘At Most a Kiss’. Like at ever Blossoms show, the band dedicated acoustic hit ‘My Favourite Room’ to a member of the crowd who had “recently been dumped”, an appreciated gesture. Lead singer Tom Ogden effortlessly merged the ending of the song into an impromptu mash-up of Babybird’s ‘You’re Gorgeous’ and Oasis’s ‘Half The World Away’, which the crowd loved. The band played latest single ‘This Moment’ (featuring Chase and Status) at the end of the set, before ending with the indie anthem ‘Charlemagne’, which never fails to excite a crowd.

The day was headlined by American rockers Kings of Leon, but their set was slightly lack lustre, bar the handful of iconic anthems the band have, which the audience and atmosphere made entirely. The band, whilst still sounding brilliant in instrument, played a 50 minute long set, which saw the audience consistently disintegrate throughout the set. The band’s iconic status made their headline set fitting, but their lack of connection to the mainly young, radio listening crowd seemed uncomfortable and awkward in part. It seemed as though the set was a year too late, as the hype for their latest album, Walls, had somewhat fizzled out. The band are set to headline British Summer Time in July though.

Overall the weekend was brilliant with plenty of huge sets. I’d like to mention how brilliant the tail end of Anne Marie’s set was (with the singer performing hits such as Christmas number one single, ‘Rockabye’, which was originally sung with Clean Bandit and latest single ‘Ciao Adios’), how fascinating Christine and the Queen’s captivating dancing was and the star filled Clean Bandit set, which was perfect for a Sunday afternoon dance.

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Hull 2017 (Review)

The Kooks- Best Of… So Far (Album Review)

The Kooks released a greatest hits record, Best Of… So Far, on the 19th May 2017, in support of their May 2017 greatest hits tour and Autumn/Winter UK arena tour. The album cements what makes the Brighton band and their infectious late 00’s indie-rock music so loveable, with a perfect blend of golden oldies spanning their impressive ten year career (including ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’), as well as brand new tracks, including the latest single ‘Be Who You Are’.

The albums with the band’s biggest hit ‘Naive’, which creates a buzz. The hits sound as good as ever, with iconic indie tracks such as ‘Shine On’, ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ and ‘Ooh La’ making the album. The album is a nostalgic dive into the band’s back catalogue, which is pretty respectable as they’ve been around for over 10 years. The band are the soundtrack of many people’s teenage years or childhood, so it’s nice to have all the songs you’ve loved over the years in one place (and there are many).

The album also features brand new songs, including the huge, optimistic ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Broken Vow’, which is all about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. ‘Be Who You Are’ sounds similar to the band’s original material (which was the aim) and it’s unbelievably upbeat, catchy and optimistic. It also sounds pretty good live!

Overall, the album is an obvious choice for any fan of The Kooks or anyone who’s ever like ‘that song’ of theirs because I strongly believed you’d know loads of them and not know why. They’ve got some absolute bangers.

The Kooks- Best Of… So Far (Album Review)

The Kooks, Alexandra Palace (13/05/2017)

The Kooks played to a sold out crowd at London’s prestigious Alexandra Palace, on the 13th May 2017, on the final night of their sold out UK tour. The band were supported by Fickle Friends and Clean Cut Kid. The Kooks played a mix of new and old songs, as it was meant to be a greatest hits tour. They played a staggering 25 songs in total.

The band opened with ‘Eddie’s Gun’ from their first album, Inside In / Inside Out, which was released in 2006 (10 years ago!!) In total they sung 10 songs from their classic debut album, which were favourite amongst fans. The crowd went wild when songs like ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ (which they joked was their “only hit”) and ‘Ooh La’ were played.

The band debuted two new songs from their greatest hits album, which came out in late May. They’ve been playing ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Broken Vow’ on this tour, both of which translated well live and didn’t distract too much from the band’s performance of hits (a good choice when they could quite easily have overwhelmed everyone with unknown new tracks and really artsy B-Sides).

They played handfuls of songs from all of their albums (with it being a greatest hits tour and that and 10 years since the release of their debut), including ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Down’, from their 2014 album, Listen, and ‘Always Where I Want To Be’ and ‘Sway’, from their 2008 album Konk. They also played ‘Pull Me In’, an initial EP B-Side that never saw the light as an album track. The band left the stage having played Junk of the Heart (Happy) (from their 2011 album of the same name) to a buzzing sold-out Alexandra Palace audience, who all sang and danced along (and even started a few unexpected moshpits).

The band played a three song encore. They played ‘Around Town’, the huge ‘Shine On’ and the band’s biggest hit and undeniable mammoth indie anthem ‘Naïve’, which was the highlight of the night for me. The crowd went wild for this song and confetti rained from the sky over a sea of excited concert goers. The night was a triumphant success.

The band then went on to play across Europe with Blossoms and are set to tour with the DMAs across the UK on another greatest hits tour at the end of the year, which, I’m sure, will be just as much fun.

The Kooks, Alexandra Palace (13/05/2017)

Paramore- After Laughter (Album Review)

Paramore (finally) released their 5th studio album, After Laughter, on the 12th May 2017, via Fueled By Ramen. The band announced the record release details last month, alongside a string of UK/European June/July tour dates (later releasing ‘Tour One’ dates in the States, as well as a handful of forthcoming summer festival announcements), as well as their comeback single, ‘Hard Times’. The band went on to release ‘Told You So’ before the record came out. The album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen and the band’s guitarist, Taylor York.

After Laughter is the follow up to 2013’s phenomenal self-titled record. Paramore seemed to be the band’s comeback record, having been knocked back by the uncertainty of losing the Farro brothers in 2010. It was- and still confidently remains- a stunningly eclectic record filled with more styles of music than you can imagine. It had everything from huuuuge bubble-gum pop hits, glorious ukulele interludes, gospel choirs and heartbreak songs that were tender enough to destroy the toughest of hearts. It felt ballsy and empowering. No, it wasn’t anything remotely like All We Know is Falling and, no, we didn’t see the second coming of 2007’s pop-punk anthem ‘Misery Business’, but what we got was something more mature, something that shouldn’t have worked but miraculously did. It wasn’t the record people had been waiting for- it was better. It got a UK number 1 album and won a ‘Best Rock Song’ Grammy (for ‘Ain’t it Fun’.) The band went on to re-release the album in its extended deluxe form, in 2014. The album felt as if Paramore were where they’d longed to be for years. It was optimistic and the outcome was bigger than anyone could’ve expected. It felt like a “we are Paramore” statement.

Everything was going so well. The band were the biggest they’d ever been. They’d toured the world, began stepping up to headliner position at huge, globally recognised festivals (co-headlining Reading and Leeds Festival in 2014 with Queens of the Stone Age is a personal highlight), they’d won a Grammy and were about to embark on their second sold-out Parahoy! trip when in 2017 bassist Jeremy Davis announced his departure from the band. This news shook the fan base and was something no one had seen coming.

A fifth album wasn’t looking likely, yet the band- tangled in a tricky law suit with their departed bassist- decided to continue, as two. They’d signed up ex-drummer, Zac Farro, to play on the album before officially asking him to join the band again, which he accepted, and from it we have After Laughter.

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After Laughter opens with lead single ‘Hard Times’, which draws on the trials and tribulations of the last few years. It’s an obvious comeback single, with fans knowing what has happened since the self-titled release. It’s 80s influenced, synthy and pop-fuelled. More importantly, it’s entirely optimistic in tune, yet alarmingly deep and sad in lyric (a sentiment which runs throughout the record).

Then it leads into ‘Rose-Coloured Boy’, a song which has echoes of ‘Fast in My Car’. You can’t help but want to dance to the infectiously groovy upbeat 80s melody, despite the sombre lyrics.

‘Told You So’ is another brilliant track, exemplified by Williams’s (lead singer) stunning vocal. The vocals, of course, still ring true of the albums they’ve released prior to After Laughter.

‘Forgiveness’ feels honest and authentic. It’s something the band have had to do a lot over the years, especially over the last few. It’s slower and showcases Williams’s mature vocals.

‘Fake Happy’ starts off slow and acoustic, before kicking back into the electronic keyboard lead, melodic- funky even- 80s vibe. It has a chorus you can imagine arenas singing back. This is similar with the bubble-gum, cheery ‘Pool’ and ‘Grudges’ (along with its catchy bridge).

’26’ is the most stunning acoustic track. It doesn’t feel like ‘the obligatory slow song’, it feels introspective, whilst feeling hopeful and somewhat optimistic, as if Williams is directly guiding us (in a ‘Hate to See Your Heartbreak’ sort of way).

‘Caught in the Middle’ is a brilliant alt-pop song. It’s chorus is undeniably- albeit rather infuriatingly- catchy, whilst still feeling deeply sombre in lyric. The bridge is also a sight to behold, again, with lyrics you can imagine large crowds singing- ” I don’t need no help. I can sabotage me by myself. Don’t need no one else. I can sabotage me by myself.”

Then there’s ‘Idle Worship’, which feels similar to songs like ‘Anklebiters’. It’s significant within the album. It feels strong and ballsy, as if to get a point across. It feels honest. ‘Idle Worship’ is about the fabricated relationship between fan and singer. It outlines how Williams feels as though she shouldn’t be idolised and hailed as a hero, something which is a main sentiment in ‘No Friend’- the only Paramore track not to feature Hayley Williams as the main singer.

‘Idle Worship’ seamlessly flows into ‘No Friend’, as if its three-and-a-half minute spoken word is an outro to the previous song. The song is performed by Aaron Weiss, from mewithoutYou, and has a spoken word introduction verse before turning poetic and overlaid by drums and guitar. When you listen closely you can hear the echoes of ‘Idle Worship’- “I’d hate to let you down, so I’ll let the waters rise and drown my dull reflection in the naïve expectation in your eye” and “You see a flood-lit form. I see a shirt design. I’m no savior of yours and you’re no friend of mine” – as well as plenty of references to Paramore’s expansive back catalogue- “we’ll do our riot! dance”, “burning their houses down” (Let The Flames Begin), “Another black top town” (Franklin), “God knows no one needs more misguided ghosts” (Looking up and Misguided Ghosts), “that’s what I get when I let ambition win again” (That’s What You Get)- and even a reference to their band name- “another misspelled band” (Paramore derives from the French word, ‘Paramour’, which means secret lover).

The album ends with the slow paced ‘Tell Me How’, which is piano lead. The song is about Williams losing friends- including previous band members- over time, yet it ends optimistically (“I can still believe”). It’s one of my favourite songs on the album.

Overall the album is brilliant. It seems clear and defined in its genre, yet totally different to anything else the band have ever put out. There’s not the variety of Paramore, but whether or not that’s a bad thing I don’t know, however only time will tell if the album can have the sort of legacy the others have had- namely the self-titled. Each album has a unique selling point about it and this one’s is definitely its cool 80s feel. Each of their albums feels more mature and this one seems the most mature yet.

I think fans seem to trust Paramore more now after the self-titled album, in which they covered a multitude of genres and still managed to pull it off. Yes, they’ve lost fans (mainly those who loved the pop-punk fuelled earlier albums, such as All We Know is Falling and Riot!) along the way, but they’ve gained many along the way in reaching a more mainstream audience. They’re the benchmark for every female fronted alternative/pop-punk band ever, whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to you to decide for yourself.

Paramore- After Laughter (Album Review)

Blaenavon- That’s Your Lot (Album Review)

Blaenavon released their stunning debut album, That’s Your Lot, on the 7th April 2017, on Transgressive Records. It’s 59 minutes long and every second is a beauty.

Blaenavon’s debut album is one I’ve been looking forward to for months. The band seem to bring out such beautifully crafted songs, which are effortlessly easy to listen to. They’re a band you want to fall in and out of love with and their album is one that I wish I could listen to again for the first time in its entirety and savour every minute. It’s difficult to prise the best songs out because it works so well, so coherently together. The band also featured on my list of bands and artists to keep an eye on in 2017.

The album begins with the melodic ‘Take Care’. Its sentiment is significant and sets up the album perfectly as a bold, five minute long start. There’s no ‘filler’ intro song, which bands seem pretty into doing at the moment. Having said that, there’s no filler anywhere on the album. Everything feels intentional.

The album is laced with huge singles and previously released songs. In fact, what I loved most about the album was that I already knew and loved half of the songs on the record because they’d already released them prior to the record’s actual release (like a greatest hits of what they’ve done before- yet there’s no ‘Hell is in Your Head’, which makes me sad). ‘Let’s Pray’ followed by ‘Orthodox Man’ followed by ‘My Bark is Your Bite’ is a pretty strong line up. ‘Let’s Pray’ is melancholically beautiful, whereas ‘Orthodox Man’ is undoubtably one of the strongest songs on the album and could easily be a classic indie anthem given time and popularity increase (seriously, if you do only listen to one song from the album then let it be this one because it’ll win you over and make you totally smitten and undeniably infatuated with the band). It’s gloriously upbeat, infectiously catchy and, overall, just a stunningly written and composed piece of music.

‘Lonely Side’ is another strong contender for the greatest song on the album though. It’s feels really ‘cool’, if you will, and has this chilled out indie rock vibe.

It’s followed by the short, piano accompanied ‘Let Me See What Happens Next’. The song is sung and played by Ben Gregory (lead singer) and you can hear how great Gregory’s vocals really are. It breaks the album up and leads us into the second half, which features plenty of deep cut tracks and longer songs.

‘Alice Come Home’, ‘I Will Be The World’ and ‘Prague ’99’ all feature incredible instrumentals and really show just how polished the album really is. They’re all strong songs, but work perfectly well supported by one another.  The band show off their incredible talent in a way which is effortless to listen to. ‘Swans’ is the longest song on the album and stands at a mighty 8 minutes long. It’s unapologetically deep cut and fits perfectly into the latter half of album.

‘That’s Your Lot’ is the final song on the record (I’d assume because that really is your lot). The lyrics are hauntingly poignant, which is something the band do very well. It’s triumphant and ends in a euphony of guitar and drum, before Gregory declares “that’s your lot” and is really is, sadly.

It feels like Blaenavon have really given their all to this album. There’s no ‘token’ song. Each song is beautifully crafted and deservingly necessary. You can’t really choose a highlight because every song is intentional and has a significance within the album and every song is brilliant in its own way. You’d be a fool not to check them out. They’re one of the greatest (relatively) undiscovered indie gems and I’m sure they’re onto something good.

Blaenavon- That’s Your Lot (Album Review)

Circa Waves- Different Creatures (Album Review)

Different Creatures is the second studio album from Liverpool indie-rock band Circa Waves, following 2015’s Young Chasers. The album was released on the 10th March 2017, on Virgin EMI Records, having previously released the brilliant singles ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Fire That Burns’. The band toured with the album throughout the UK in March/April.

The album opens with the energetic lead single ‘Wake Up’. It’s a bold opener. It’s one of a number of catchy, loud songs on the album, which feel somewhat ‘heavier’, less ‘sun-kissed’ than that of their debut album. I like the ‘no-frills’, mature sound of these songs; it exudes a confidence that they’ve gained over the last few years of constant touring and writing. Songs like ‘Fire That Burns’, the future single ‘Goodbye’, ‘Stuck’ and title track ‘Different Creatures’ signify a boldly subtle change in direction that appeals to old and new fans alike.

Songs like ‘Without You’ are fascinating with slow breaks between upbeat, loud choruses and catchy guitar riffs. Similarly, songs like ‘A Night On The Broken Tiles’,which has a bold bass line, are catchy and fit well within an album of strong tracks. The album does, however, have a few less raucous songs nestled within the brilliantly strong upbeat songs, for example the almost balladic ‘Out On My Own’ and the beautiful acoustic ‘Love’s Run Out’.

“She text me during that” are closing the words on the album, as Kieran Shudall (lead singer) laughs to end a recording of perhaps the most notable song on the album, “Old Friends”. The closing track is wonderfully reflective and tells tales of longing. It stands out on the album and is an undoubtable highlight.

The album’s like a more grown up version of the last. It’s brilliant to hear how the band have matured and changed over the last couple of years and how they’ve produced such a strong record filled with songs that I can’t wait to hear played on tour/at festivals over the summer.

 

Circa Waves- Different Creatures (Album Review)