EP Review: Young War – Trinity.

The smooth, albeit aimless sound of Young War’s newest EP provides a number of mixed feelings.

We all like to relax, kick back and chill out. Here, Young War have offered their solution to the ideal chilled experience with their new EP, ‘Trinity’.

As another Manchester band, Young War have veered off from the usual hard-hitting, guitar-filled sounds that Manchester is famed for, in favour of more relaxed pastures. Middle track ‘Eyes Closed’ slowly thumps through, clicking together like a thinned out tribute to chill-pop masters Miike Snow. Atmospheric to the max, you find yourself steadily bobbing away to a track filled with subtle synth lines, and soothing patterns.

Opening track ‘Darker Love’ plods along to a more sentimental timbre. Here, a theme can be easily sensed. Joining clapping beats with a gentle guitar arpeggio, and Theo Hutchcraft-esque vocals plainly pencil the track along on it’s merry way. Matching the mood of the backing track, the lyrics glimmer with a sexy disco-like pounce: “baby take it slow now, I wanna feel it from the start” and “when the whispers turn to screams, it wouldn’t hurt to do it right”. As this suggests, Young War’s sexy side is held very much in focus. They feel the heat of the dance floor, and project this through their music.

Ending where it started, the same formula is put in repeat with ‘By Now’, but with a bit more bass. Crashing piano chords, and rusty synth crackles. ‘By Now’ brings a solid end, to an overall uneasy EP. Whilst the record is vocally and melodically sound, each track still stutters into one another, like two strangers bumping shoulders. There’s hardly an end and hardly an intro, just an awkward stare and delayed apology.

There’s something hugely methodical about this EP. Something wrapped up in Young War’s velvet R&B sound. There’s something more behind that aching keyboard, and there’s certainly something behind those seductive vocals. Unfortunately, unearthing whatever this ‘something’ is is a different matter. Whilst the songwriting is crisp and brimming with sex appeal, one can’t help but feel that the market is missing a gap for this particular brand of soul music. In the end, it’s message is drowned out by its over production.

Whereas bands like Hurts, Miike Snow and Miami Horror offer more than just a sexy sounding piano and soft vocals, Young War are still held back by the delicate simplicity of their sound. Whilst it’s a steady creative product, the ‘Trinity’ EP is missing the key commercial ingredient to take Young War to the next level. Their niche has not quite been targeted, and therefore grasped. In essence, whilst ‘Trinity’ provides a relaxing, yet interesting sound, one can only weep as it drops into the mix of similar sounding recordings.

Ambivalent at best, ‘Trinity’ falls on its heels at my awkward conclusion. Whilst the EP sounds pooled with meaning, it seems to be sounding off into a dead end and onto deaf ears. Alas.

See more here! http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/electronic/ep-review-young-war-trinity/20903/

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Album Review: Alt-J – This Is All Yours.

The follow up to the bands Mercury Prize winning ‘An Awesome Wave’ is a bittersweet triumph of pop-infused melodrama.

When Gwil Sainsbury announced his departure from Alt-J back in January, we all feared the worst. Alt-J’s emphatic indie empire seemed to be coming to an end. Thankfully, the band have pressed on with some aplomb, with their tantalising new record ‘This Is All Yours’Following what is arguably one of the most important albums of the decade, the band’s brilliant award winning debut ‘An Awesome Wave’, ‘This Is All Yours’ was always going to have a difficult birth; a birth which seems to have had some hand in Sainsbury’s exit.

In reviewing ‘An Awesome Wave’NME’s Jenny Stevens credited Alt-J for “making geometry sound raunchy”. In turn, its successor is far less mathematical, and more organic. The opening track ‘Intro’, following the same blueprint as ‘An Awesome Wave’, indulges in more world music remarks and sitar fun. Still riding on a crest of electro-pop swoons, ‘Intro’ prizes the album up slowly, before leading into the crisp, ‘Taro-like’ sitar riffs, in a hip-shaking style.

Whilst ‘Intro’ is awash with vibrant sound and texture, ‘Arrival In Nara’ has a more sobering effect. The naked sound of soft guitar and piano accompaniment for nearly two whole minutes soaks up the scatterbrain ‘Intro’. Far more guitar orientated, ‘Arrival In Nara’ signals the start of a thinking man’s album. Even moodier, comes the fast-nodding ‘Nara’. The story continues, in this darker, crooning electrolyte of fiction and woe. The harmonies are harsh, and the chords snap like crunching glass.

Better known tracks like ‘Hunger of the Pine’, ‘Left Hand Free’ and ‘Every Other Freckle’ stab straight through heart of the pop-song writers manual. ‘Left Hand Free’, in particular, draws in the sunny-side up style of blues-guitar. Drummer Thom Green commented on the songs rhythms section as being deliberately “Cliched”, and purposefully lacking “personality”. ‘Every Other Freckle’, on the other hand, is a welcome injection of lust and R&B groove. “Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” hums singer Joe Newman, in his lyrically abstract way. Unlike any other tracks on the album, ‘Left Hand Free’ and ‘Every Other Freckle’ have a little sexy-something put into them.

All at once, the Miley Cyrus “I’m a female rebel” sample that’s caused so much stir in ‘Hunger of the Pine’ is both ironic and deadly serious, making it the perfect choice for the albums first single. Taking inspiration from ‘Maltida’, ‘Pusher’ and ‘Warm Foothills’ clasp together as folk songs that helps the to album wave between thick and thin. The soft temper tantrums keep flowing into songs like ‘Choice Kingdom’, ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’, and the ultimate album climax with ‘Leaving Nara’, the journey’s end. Soft guitars with bursts and anguish, dirge and grit. The album is all the better for it.

Arguably the albums most interesting and closely-linked track to ‘An Awesome Wave’ is the deeply anticipated ‘Bloodflood Part Two’. Like fireworks going off in a box, ‘Bloodflood Part Two’ is a wide crescendo of harmonic implosion. A loose change in melody with added lyrics, the track still hits on the themes of aggression and confrontation, yet melodically sounds more at ease, and more like a love song. At the decrescendo and back to the crescendo, Joe Newman continues to croon “a flood of blood to the heart” as the drums and melodramatic guitars and synths pound to the climax.

The worry was that ‘This Is All Yours’ wouldn’t have been the same hit-filled punch that ‘An Awesome Wave’ did. In the end, ‘This Is All Yours’ hits on striking differences whilst following the same brilliant predispositions as its predecessor. Whilst Alt-J will inevitably receive brighter reactions at concerts when they start to string out ‘Breezeblocks’ or ‘Something Good’, the sheer magnificence of ‘This Is All Yours’ will not be undermined. ‘This Is All Yours’ breathes signs of a journey, with ‘Nara’ being a particular theme throughout. Starting with ‘Arrival In Nara’, and coming to a bittersweet end in ‘Leaving Nara’. Once looked at in detail, ‘An Awesome Wave’ and ‘This Is All Yours’ should not be looked at as two contrasting albums, but as two sides of the same coin.

A more mature and picaresque album, ‘This Is All Yours’ is every bit as important and groundbreaking as ‘An Awesome Wave’The only downside is that Alt-J have made their third album all the more difficult to conceive.

This Is All Yours Artwork

For Fortitude Magazine http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/album-review-alt-j/20898/

News: Portishead to Reissue Dummy for 20th Anniversary.

The reissue of the seminal 1994 album will be available to pre-order from the 13th of August.

Belting news for Portishead fans: The Bristol band are to reissue their 1994 studio album ‘Dummy’ in celebration of its 20th year since its original release. However, the band have decided against adding any additional songs to the record, with the first 1000 pressings to be released on blue vinyl.

Portishead will make up the remainder of the summer with a string of festival dates:

August 15th: Route Du Rock, St Malo, France
August 16th: Pukkelpop, Belgium
August 17th: Lowlands, Netherlands
August 20th: Istanbul, KucukCiftlik Park
August 23rd: Rock En Seine Festival, Paris, France
August 30th: Electric Picnic, Ireland
September 5th: Artloop Festival, Sopot, Poland

The ’Dummy’ reissue will be available to pre-order on August the 13th.

Read more here, guys! http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/electronic/portishead-reissue-dummy-20th-anniversary/20770/

 

News: Alt-J unveil video for ‘Left Hand Free’

The second single from the bands forthcoming record gets the summer treatment.

London’s Alt-J have revealed the video for single ‘Left Hand Free‘, taken from the anticipated new album, ‘This Is All Yours’The blues-addled track is built amongst summery visuals and warm colours.

The full, gritty guitar sound of the States is the main theme in the band’s cassette-esque video. Following a group of playful youths, splashing around and enjoying the summer sun; they capture the true sentiment of camaraderie and companionship. The video has shone light onto a side of Alt-J we’ve not seen before. Musically, ‘Left Hand Free‘ strikes forth as a more playful, relaxed style of song-writing, rather than the mathematical and formulated work on their Mercury Award winning debut album, ‘An Awesome Wave’.

Get out your pencils and diaries, as Alt-J hit the road in September for their latest tour. The tour dates are as follows below:

18 September – Glasgow, Academy
19 September – Manchester, Apollo
22 September – Wolverhampton, Civic Hall
23 September – Brighton, Centre
24 September – London, Alexandra Palace
27 September – Dublin, The O2
29 September – Paris, Casino de Paris

http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/alt-indie/alt-j-unveil-video-left-hand-free/20710/ <— Watch the video here!

Track Review: Ben Howard – End of the Affair

Ben Howard’s return is singled out with a breathtaking, gorgeous digression of loss and romance.

Blimey Ben, where the bloody hell have you been? Since his release of the stella Every Kingdom in 2011, the solitary and melancholy sound of Ben Howard, with his signature mumbled vocals and strewed harmonies, has been sorely missed. Returning with new single ‘End of the Affair’, the London-based singer songwriter clasps together all of the reasons why we missed him so much.

Plucking in with the deep, cold sound of a lonely acoustic guitar, Howard begins to gruff out his dead-pan, yet soul-stirringly beautiful vocals. Coated over a sheet reverb, the beginning of the song captures Howard’s ghostly charm like never before. Walking along the bass line, the title of the song rolls off of Howard’s tongue slowly, yet sharply. “The end of the affair”; the concept is gripped tightly by Howard’s sheer sorrow, in this tight-lipped and thoroughly depressing love story.

With Ben Howard, it’s very much a case of a lightning in a bottle: So much energy, feeling and profound intention held together in such a restricted, simple sound. His message could be pages and pages long, yet it’s completely diluted down into a roaring seven minute epic. Unlike the songs on his previous releases, Howard has stretched ‘End of the Affair’ out, drawing out a greater level of ferocity. Textually, the track gives as good as it gets. Subtly improved by vocal echoing effects, the track seems more breathless and certainly more ambitious than some of his earlier hits, such as ‘The Fear’ and ‘Oats in the Water’. His sense of purpose is certainly accentuated.

As Howard continues his lonely serenade, he starts to ease off, and the soft guitar playing ceases to a gentle halt. And with what sounds to be the close, the track ignites back into life. Like a folkster’s ‘Spanish Sahara’, ‘End of the Affair’ erupts into a tangled mess of sonic harmonies, leathery tones and scattered rhythms. In essence, ‘End of the Affair’ has a jamming quality about it. With his head bobbing, Howard strums along as the track pounds on through into it’s devilish climax.

With out a doubt, Ben Howard has cooked up one of the most exciting and thought provoking tracks of the year. From a distance, it looks like a simple case of a change in the formula. Look a bit closer, however, and you see that the changes are more subtle than that. Rather than creating something completely different, Howard has shifted, shaped and exaggerated every aspect that makes him one of the leading folk musicians of the decade.

Ghostly, sad and, above all else, masked in a vibrant, stretched out sound, Ben Howard’s ‘End of the Affair’ has offered a sample taste of what his new material may yet consist of. If we get more of the same, we’ll be biting his hand off.

http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/track-review-ben-howard-end-affair/20666/ <— See and listen here!