Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chelsea Grin – Desolation of Eden (2010)

Anna Shkuratova

I am going to dedicate my review to the band whose name was hardly known back in 2010 when they released their first LP.

As the true followers of the genre Deathcore, Chelsea Grin made a huge investment in the history of metal music (especially in this particular genre Deathcore), by releasing the LP Desolation of Eden in February 16th, 2010.
The year 2010 was notorious for CG for many reasons (release of the first LP, big tour with famous bands (Dr. Acula, Attila, major incomings, more than 1000 sold copies in the first week). Two main of them are new big LP and vocalist Alex Koehler’s jaw trauma, which, as many fans point out, started the Dark Age of Chelsea Grin’s vocals (but this is another story).

Let’s start with the most obvious fact – the album Desolation of Eden is unique, CG-unique, not generally (because the history knows such bands as Despised Icon, Whitechapel, All Shall Perish etc.). For the band like CG (I mean small and not even US-wide known, back in 2009), it was a musical boom.

Let’s take a closer look at the album itself.

Judgement is a good beginning, which gives us an introductory hint. The words This is your last judgement. Time to pay the final price try to scare the listener away, but we do not really recognize the words through the vocal style. The first minute of guitar “deep” riffs clears the path for greater expectations.
If anyone would ask me what would I put as an introduction to this work, I would answer Elysium. 7th song is the instrumental part, lyrical even. There is a proof that such songs were being put and keep being put at the beginning of an album with the message “Listen to the instrumental and prepare yourself for the rest”. The fans call such songs “Good songs of evil men”.
I collected some of these and put into this playlist: 

I have to say Elysium is more hardcore (not by the definition of the genre, but as usual slang adjective) than many songs collected in this playlist, but nevertheless it is a good song of evil men which I think should be put first.

Desolation of Eden opens up as a fast and aggressive, so the listener does not quite understands what is going on. In the opening piece we are witnessing usual for this band method – the sequence of two different vocal styles: scream and guttural. The stylistic changes and guitars/drum solo make it compelling to listen to and
show the range of creativity. Personally, I appreciate linking moments performed by guitars, drums or both.
Many parts, which are not as fast as the introductory one, feel way too slow. But if we want our experience to be positive we may think of it as a good part of the song because the listener may tire of the permanent rapidity and intensity.

False Sense of Sanity again shows already common patterns (fast changing of tempos, guitarists’ and drummer’s solo, vocal range). The two vocal styles which sound one right after another create the feeling like the voices in a person’s head are speaking at the same time. But classical “good” and “bad” scheme does not work here. These are two ways of interpretation: a) the inner voices are creating the illusion that something bad happened (Looking in the mirror you begin to contemplate your sanity, last night’s horrors were far too much for you to take) or b) they are trying to explain or to make the person realise that something bad happened (You cry out in terror, corpses all around, but you can't remember a thing. Who caused this crime?).

Sonnet of the Wretched has everything the genre needs it to have: an intro, different vocal styles, “low guitars”, memorable drum parts, epic “doom is coming” lyrics. It is the peak of this release.
I hope the band realised it too when they decided to make a video for this song.

Cheyne Stokes, the re-make of the first EP’s song, has this album’s motive, so when we listen to the 5th song, we are pretty sure that we are listening to CG’s new release.
I am glad the band decided to re-make it. Not because it was a highlight of the previous EP, but because everything about previous EP leaves the feeling of genre chaos which you cannot get rid of. So when this song is re-made in the new, Desolation of Eden-ish, way, it gives hope that band members want to improve their style and already doing it.
This song’s beginning hardly resembles those of next songs (drum and guitar solos).
Do not get tricked by the name of the song which relates to an abnormal pattern of breathing. The song has nothing to do with this abnormality.

The Human Condition opens up with a great collaboration of guitar riffs and drums. The tempo of this song changes, as from very fast to normal fast (not like in Desolation of Eden and False Sense of Humanity). Fast and normal parts have different kind of vocals, as obvious. I would name it as one of the best songs of this album.
I like the moral of this song: there is a big teaching part – do not believe everything others say, speak for yourself (and never give that right away), do not be afraid to open up your mind. Especially influencing sounds screamed out line: Don't just say the things you're suppose to say speak for yourself and never give that right away.
It is interesting how such useful and teaching motives are covered in (we can name it that) scary form of the genre. But at the same time this vocal is far from scary.

Recreant is another great song of the album. It also opens with the collaboration of guitars and drums. The sequence of vocal styles is fascinating – highlight of this album and the group. The vocal parts are in a harmony with instruments, giving the latter the space for mini-solos.
The lyrics are built by two blocks: first one repeats in the beginning and the end, the second one is placed in the middle.

Cast from Perfection does not follow the pattern of openings featuring guitars and drums. The beginning of this song is more pressing or even aggressive (like in Desolation of Eden). This effect is emphasized by the opening lyrics: someone is asking (even blaming) another one Who are you to decide what the meaning of perfection is and what makes you so high and mighty? The manner and topic, together create a great influencing the listener effect.
Moralistic aspect of the song – think for yourself, do not mind other people’ business, be in charge of your own life not everyone else’s.

Revenant’s opening reminds of scary methods of horror movies – sudden scream out of nowhere I’m in your head. As long as
This song, as many songs in this album, has very memorable pattern – performed by different vocal styles repeated line I have your soul you will perish. If Revenant would be the last song, that part would be an impressive ending for Desolation of Eden.

Wasteland is the last song of the album and also instrumental. Two instrumental songs in one album is not very a very common tradition, but it does not make any of them unsuitable.
The song consists of two patterns which follow one another and are common for the whole album.

Some of my friends who wanted to listen to something “metal” but were scared of too much “metal” liked the album. I may say that this album is universal in some way because it is placed right in the middle of the metal musical culture.

Here is the whole album:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rammstein – Mutter (2001)

Ivo Mattus

Rammstein, the industrial metal (also classified as Neue Deutsche Härte) band from East Germany. One of my all time favourite bands and because their last album came out seven years ago, I picked out their third and my favourite album – Mutter!

Like many younger Rammstein fans, I got hooked when I first heard ,,Du Hast’’ while I was just a kid in elementary school. Because their songs are mainly in German I had no idea what the song was about, did not speak any German back then (I still don’t), but the power and the simplicity of the song sounded just so awesome!

Rammstein can be described as rhythmic, energetic, powerful, aggressive and sexual. The last part is usually discovered when people look up the translations of the songs, which can create some disturbance. Rammstein has always had it’s disctinct sound that differs it from the other bands. This sound is carried by low and deep barritone voice, hard edged guitar riffs and melodic keyboard. These descriptions fit well for their third album. Although ,,Du Hast’’ itself is on the second album, there are many other tracs as good as the song that opened my...ears.

The album starts off with ,,Mein Herz brennt’’ (My Heart Burns). This symphonic song is sad and powerful at the same time, especially during the chorus, when Till Lindemann screams how his heart burns.  The lyrics speak of monsters that are creeping through children's bedrooms, but all that I can think about is how Till’s heart burns like a phoenix. A dying phoenix that screams out in pain.
The next song is quite different - ,,Links 2-3-4’’ (Left 2-3-4). Very rhythmic, chanting and aggressive like a military march, which it does mimic with the marching feet at the beginning of the song. The chorus is very catchy! The song has some interesting backround: Rammstein was accused of nazism (because every well-built German man with beared torso on an album cover is a nazi of course), so they made this song. The message comes out in the following translated lines: ’’They want my heart on the right spot but then I look below it beats left there’’.

The third song is my personal favourite. ,,Sonne’’ (Sun) is bombastic, beautiful and kind of sad. It has some memorable guitar riffs with eerie vocal samples that reminds the Snow White singing (will make sense after you watch the video). The song sounds like a countdown to apocalypse – the Sun comes and devours us all. That is how powerful this song is. The video has taken a bit different approach than my vision of it – an adult version (not porn) of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The fourth track is ,,Ich will’’ (I want). Again, a powerful song that talks about the influence of media or just some guy who wants everything. Could be both. ’’Ich will’’ is chanted throughout the song. Makes me want more things. Like maybe a new Rammstein album.

Next comes ,,Feuer frei!’’ (Fire at will!) that is the fastest paced song on this album. Like with most Rammstein songs, the chorus is pretty simple: BANG BANG Feuer frei! Simple, but effective. The meaning behind it could be connected to some antiwar topic, but it also could be about impregnation. Translated lines: ’’A sparking thrust into her womb A hot cry fire at will!’’. Typical Rammstein.

,,Mutter’’ (Mother) is the name of the next song and also the name of the album. I first heard this song when I was watching a youtube clip about ’’Aliens’’ (1986). Aliens (the creatures in the movie) fascinated me while I was a kid, especially the queen alien. ,,Mutter’’ was playing in this video and it was very fitting. Now everytime I hear this song I think about alien chestbursters ripping through flesh. How nice.

The song itself is slowly building up to a moment when Till screams MUTTEEEER. Very powerful, the song is also very sad, dark and hauntingly beautiful. Lyrics speak of a child who has no mother and was created in a laboratory. The offical video is not (sadly) about aliens.

,,Spieluhr’’ (Music box) is the seventh song on the album. It is also eerie and haunting (especially when you understand the lyrics) as ,,Mutter’’ but not so slow and heavy. The song talks about a child who is assumed dead and then buried with her favourite music box. Even without the translation one could understand, that the song talks about some dead kid, the creepy child with a robotic voice gives it away.

The next song is a bit more lustig - ,,Zwitter’’ (Hermaphrodite). Lyrics talk about a hermaphrodite who likes to have fun with his or her body. Yes, that kind of fun. The song is very catchy and energetic and gets quite heavy particularly at the end.

Continuing with the sexual theme, ,,Rein raus’’ (In out) is much heavier and more aggressive than the previous one and is even catchier. It is easy to chant REIN-RAUS-REIN-RAUS until you find out that it describes a sexual act (in-out-in-out and so on). After that it becomes even easier!
,,Adios’’ (Goodbye) could be very well the last song of this album, not only becasue of it’s name but because it would still be a strong finish. It is a fast song with interesting chorus that maybe talks about a drug addict (the translation is difficult to comprehend).

The last song of the album is ,,Nebel’’ (Mist). It is very different to the other songs of the album: beautiful as ,,Mutter’’ and ,,Spieluhr’’ but lacks the punch that every other song on the album has. It’s still good, a nice and calm song about two lovers who get departed, but it is much weaker when compared to the other songs on the album. Maybe it is just me, but I listen Rammstein because of it’s sheer force and energy that it gives. Yes the track diversifies the album BUT I still think that it is a bit ’’weakish’’ finish for the album.

’’Mutter’’ is a very strong Rammstein album and one could say, the peak of their success. It is more diverse than the previous two albums, but not tuned down (except maybe the last song). The sexual theme is still there (,,Zwitter’’ and ,,Rein raus’’) and the lyrics are simple to singe along but often with deeper meanings with some German wordplay. All in all – the album is dynamic and epic. I shall give it 9 sonnes out of 10. Would recommend.

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King (2013)

Joonas Järv

To talk about Avenged Sevenfold and their songs without first touching on the subject of their former drummer, the Rev (Jimmy Sullivan), who died in 2009, feels somehow wrong. In the past, the drummer was the main driving force behind most of the songs, with both lyrics and instruments. But having brought in a new drummer, the band needed to find their own voice. The album right after the Rev’s death, ‘Nightmare’, was top-notch stuff, and also heavily influenced by the Rev himself (some songs quite literally taken out of his drawer). With this album come and gone, they needed new material. And so ‘Hail to the King’ came to be.

‘Hail to the King’ is Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album. The album consists of 10 songs with a bonus track. Without the Rev’s influence they seem to move in a different direction. The once-metalcore band is more set on trying to sound classical metal. And they have had classical influences in their past songs, with even covering a Pantera song. But sometimes the songs seem to go on and on and on without an end. Some songs just have the same drumbeat almost the entire song. Similarly, some of the older metal bands used to have these really long, drawn-out songs (e.g Metallica, Pantera). But nowadays, is it really necessary to try and replicate the past? More fitting would be to draw inspiration and go forth with completely your own tunes.

On the flip-side, if you take this album as it is, an oldschool-ish metal album, then it really isn’t that bad. They reign in the old from their own albums, while In ‘Shepherd of Fire’ the typical solos and twin-solos of Gates and Vengeance really shine through. When watching live performances, they even seem effortless. But then again, the have been playing for years. The whole song puts a stomping beat through you as if begging you to bang your head and almost start looking for a nearby moshpit. Not all the songs are that hard. ‘Requiem’ and ‘Crimson Day’ bring forth softer, darker songs, choir-like tunes, coming down as almost emotional, instead of the usual hardness.

The vocals of Matt Shadows seem to really shine through the whole album. In the past, he had problems performing and there were rumours of him having ruined his voice. But now, all of that seems to have been left behind and forgotten, looking (and hearing) how he rocks it out hard. There don’t even seem to be any strenuous efforts to hold the high notes, showing his high capabilities of control.

As for the last song on the track (‘St. James’), it is a nice homage to the late Jimmy Sullivan, with its lyrics referring him. The song itself is nice but to me what made the song perfect, were the drums. This really bring down the heat with the fast tempo of the double bass drum pedal (a characterstic trait of Sullivan).

I have to add that I am positively biased towards this band as it was my favourite as a teenager. Overall, the album does seem to come together as a whole. The lyrics and the instruments are finely tuned. The ending of ‘St. James’ does seem to emphasize the fact that Jimmy is gone and the band is moving forward with new people and new material. And this album proves that point.

Coldplay - A Head Full of Dreams (2015)

Joonas Järv

‘A Head Full of Dreams’ is Coldplay’s latest album. Immediately it gives off a very positive feeling, an album full of uplifting tunes. The lyrics are full of groovy beats which seem to invite people for a dance. This is all in pretty heavy contrast to their last album ‘Ghost Stories’, which was released in 2014 soon after the lead-man, Chris Martin’s divorce from Gwyneth Paltrow.

In my opinion, Coldplay has a bit of a reputation of being ‘easy-listening’ and not providing the listener with much depth in terms of technicality or even lyrics. And for the most part I would have to agree with them. The lyrics go on to say how great the world is and how we should love and hold everybody. Right now as there are a lot of crises going on around the world, this does seem a bit like denial. On the other hand, we could treat it as escapism, just roll with it and not let it bother us that much. All of this does not have to be a bad thing, it just shows who their target audience is and if both the band and people are happy with it, then let it be so. But from an objective (or sometimes rather subjective) point-of-view, Coldplay do not seem to put that much effort into their music.

The instrumental side seems rudimentary, although as a silver-lining it is easy to follow, finding yourself bouncing to the beat. Most riffs are pretty generic with the bass-line recognizable from a number of their own songs and even other bands. To me the most exciting part instrumentally was the last song, where Noel Gallagher pulls off all stops and delivers a nice solo.

There is a lot of emotion buried in each of their albums (mostly from Chris Martin himself), with their previous album being darker and more gloomy. With this one, all the good emotions have come bubbling to the surface, just like cream to the top. Just get down to business with the ever-green ‘oh-s’ and ’ah-s’ in the chorus, which do give forward emotion but lazily so, with Martin being quite lazy in ‘Army of One’ by singing: ‘beautiful-est treasures’. Let by-gone’s be by-gone’s as even Gwyneth Paltrow herself makes an appearance on ‘Everglow’. All hard feelings have been left behind and both of them are ready to move on, which Martin expresses many times, over and over in this utterly positive album. Alongside his ex, an even more notable person appeared. Beyonce shows off her vocal skills and brings a bit of variety to the album in ‘Up&Up’ and ‘Hymn for the weekend’.


Even all this glamour and fame does not move our eyes (or ears) away from the fact that most of the time on this album Chris Martin does what he does best – spinning out sentimental nonsense. Everything is full of goodness and angels, miracles and honestly – sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming to listen. There is rarely divergence from this album’s main recipe, which seems to be to inject positivism into all the non-believers to try and get them to just turn their leg to the album’s very groovy beats. Contradictingly, however, I did like when all of this culminated in last words of the song ‘Up&Up’: ‘When you think you've had enough’ and ’Don't ever give up’, which at first looks really cringy and even corny, but in reality, it actually is more often than not what a lot of people want to or even need to hear.

Then in the end all of the lyrics and instrumentals are neatly brought together by the famous Norwegian hit-makers, Stargate, who have produced, among others, such big celebrities like Rihanna and Katy Perry. It seems pretty hard to go wrong with such people backing up your album-in-the-making. In the end this makes for a fairly average album, without giving us anything too spectacular to remember them by. Although, the band said this was supposed to be their last album, so their decision to end with a positive and uplifting (oh-so-very positive) note, could be the right one. But let them tour for while, go through a relationship or two and then see if it will be the final chord from them. And of course money will have nothing to do with their future, possibly 8th, album. Instead it will once again call upon people to be kind to each other.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hurts - Exile (2013)

The duo’s history is pretty funny: they met outside the bar while their friends started a fight but Teo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson were too drunk to fight, instead they decided to talk about music. Their tastes unexpectedly matched and they decided to form a band called Bureau which existed for a year. After disbanding Hutchcraft and Anderson formed the band Daggers, that was pretty popular and even won the Popjustice £20 Music Prize. After the split on 30th January 2009 Hurts appeared.
Hurts are a British synthpop duo formed in 2009 in Manchester, England. The duo consists of a vocalist Teo Hutchcraft and synthesist Adam Anderson. Their debut album Happiness was a great success: they topped many music charts in Europe, and despite being not so popular on their homeland, the Europe and Russia especially really loves them. 

Their second album Exile was released in 2013 and acclaimed a great success as well. Despite not having a hit like Wonderful life from their debut album, critics acclaimed Exile as a very good follower. The album consists of 12 songs in official version + 2 songs from Deluxe Edition. The duo participated in writing lyrics and composing all of the songs. The album has a more Depeche Mode sound as well as it’s more dark than their debut one, the name Exile justifies the mood of the whole album.

The first track in the album is called Exile. It is a very good track for the Intro. The bas-guitar and drums help warm up the listener before next songs:
“So we’ll say goodbye girl
And watch as the world burns
This is exile
We’re in exile”
The repetition of the word exile gives a kind of hypnotizing feeling and this track is like a beginning of a disaster that we will meet with good music and a pair of handsome British men.
The next track is Miracle – the lead single from the album. It has a very light and flourish vibe. It’s sunny – the perfect song for spring and summer time but the lyrics give a completely different feeling. As it usually happens the love destroyed everything:
“Look at all of the damage you have done in time
You can see what a savage I’ve become, in my eyes”

As well as Miracle the song Blind has a sunny vibe but the song is about break-up – a not very funny occasion. This is the feature of Hurts: they can sing about sad things but the melody will fool you. Despite being my of my most favourite from the album I find the lyrics pretty funny: The man cries, that after they broke up he sees and hears the girl everywhere but if they meet he prefers to “turn to stone” because he understand, that she is “better off alone” – what kind of logic is that? Then he asks to “cut his eyes and leave him blind”, so that he doesn’t see the cruelty of their decision. Maybe I take it too seriously but, in my opinion, this is too much of a sacrifice for a person. But let’s go back to the bright side: the beat and the chorus are very catchy, especially the part: Oeoeo-eoeo – this thing really stucks in your head for weeks. As to the melody – the guitar plays the main role here and in the end of the song produces a really calming sounds, like everything is good, despite being bad.

The next song in the album is Sandman which is a metaphor for a dream. According to Hurts: “us trying to work out if we could make a song that sounded like Hudson Mohawke, but as a pop song”. Hudson Mohawke is an electronic music producer famous for his genre-smashing productions. Sandman as well has an electronic upbeat and a choir in the end of a song, which is really calming. There is one more song in this album that includes choir – Help. An interesting fact is that the choir consists of Hurts’ fans. What makes the song special – is the piano part that is played by Sir Elton John and the piano – is what made me fall In love with this song. And the choir – is the cherry on the cake. This song must be listened to with eyes closed – the harmony of the piano, the guitar, and the choir will take you away from reality: "Cause I just need some help". Somehow Hurts know how to do this.  

Only you is the most critically acclaimed song from the album and is said to be the best. It has an electro-sound, a catchy beat – it is a party-friendly song. The theme about love and relationship that started in Miracle and Blind continues in this song but this time it’s all about good things: contributing to each other’s lives and that: “only you can set me free” and without her he will “comatose each waking hour of life”. Sometimes love does very great things. The song Cupid has the same electro-sound song with repetitive lyrics: I’ll never let you go – which is perfect for parties and the electro-guitar contributes to the party feeling.

The Road starts with a slow, sexy, calm singing - like the vocalist is about to fall asleep, but then comes the chorus – a growl-like with strong beats but then we turn back to calm telling. The construction of the song is very interesting: there is transition between slow and calm sounds and more dark-like audacious sounds. You feel like you are on a cemetery where in the beginning the ghost is talking to you but then the whole cemetery rises up and tells you a story about The Road. The lyrics of the song is dark as well and it ends with electro-guitar solo.

Mercy – is one of the most loved songs of the Hurts fandom: M-E-R-C-Y – every fan knows this letters and during concerts it really sounds like a kind of a sect gathering. The dark vibe and strong melody of Mercy continues The Road history and The Crow takes the lead next. It is the deepest song in the album musically and lyrically. It has no repetition and upbeats. The song tells the story about the girl who is being called The Crow. But she isn’t a good bird – she is an evil crow: “frozen hand takes your breath away”, “she spread her wings and they black out the sun”, “bright eyes, black soul, she’ll never let you go”, “she’ll leave when the damage is done”. Listening to these 3 songs one after another puts you in vacuum, you just dissolve in the atmosphere that the melody, the voice and  the lyrics create.

Somebody to die for – one of the best Hurts’ songs of all time. No wonder it became the third single from the album. The song is pretty simple – it is about dying for someone, it’s about pure love: that the man can take you from the fire, drag from the ocean, the life means nothing if you don’t have somebody to die for. This is what makes the song special. He’s not even afraid to look the devil in the eye and let him know that “he was brave enough to die”.  The beat of the song and the choir (again) create an atmosphere of pure happiness and carelessness.

The Rope – is a classical soft-rock song but with a metaphor that the rope is the life – It is long and strong and there will be always someone to pull you out of bad times. This song is not for listening, but for thinking about the lyrics and its true meaning.
Honestly, I’ve never paid attention to the 2 tracks from the deluxe version which are Heaven and Guilt, because after Somebody to Die For and Help I just can’t return to the album – they absorb without residue. But for the review I listened to them and I must say that Guilt – is something magical - calm melody with deep lyrics. It gives a feeling of the last breath - a perfect finishing song for the album.

In conclusion, Exile – is a great album that shows that the duo can change, can develop, can grow. And I will be forever thankful to them for reviving the synthpop genre and being a worthy representative of the 80th’s music.

 Viktoria Kudrenko

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Vaccines - English Graffiti (2015)

A recently released (25 May, 2015) album by the band that rocked the charts in 2011, 'English Graffiti' makes us expect a lot. That is, a lot of drive, positive emotions and a will to dance. Of course, a person who has listened to both previous albums would be also waiting for some improvements or changes that would vary the overall impression of the album. Have The Vaccines accomplished that? Will the album be able to outdo the predecessor? Let's find out!

The opening track - 'Handsome' - is a fast, jesting beginning to the album. The rhytm makes you want to dance, the vocals to sing along and the guitars to play along, even if you don't know the song at all. While listening to this song, one can totally say that the sound is 100% Vaccinish. Sadly, I couldn't help buth think that I've heard the song before. It seems that The Vaccines are getting quite repetitive, you can find similar songs from album to album. Take the track 'If You Wanna'  from 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?', for example. If it is a bad thing or not, is up to the listener, though a person who is not acquainted with their music would definitely like it.

Even though the beginning of the album seems quite energetic and fast, its mood changes halfway through the tracklist. A good example of that is 'Maybe I could hold you' - a slow, smooth and romantic song that - I would say - is not really similar to what The Vaccines usually do. This track is a good instance of what I expected from the album - a change in tune, something that The Vaccines haven't done before. Great backing vocals, minimalistic verses and appropriate bursts of instruments during choruses - all add up to the sound and make the song look just great. The lyrics are cathy and intruiging:
''I don't know who I thought you were
But no one ever made me wonder
And it's getting to the point where I'm gonna have to ask you
Maybe I could hold you''

However, not everything is perfect about the album. One of the singles - 'Dream Lover' - makes me question why the band has chosen it to be a single. Even though the song is not particularly bad, it lacks the spark that makes The Vaccines who they are. The chorus seems to be too far-fetched and pop-music-like, possibly in order to attract the pop-loving audience. Again, for somebody it might not be a bad thing, but it also may be the first step to turning into a sellout band, making faceless songs for profits. Let's hope it's not the case and The Vaccines will remain the unique flower among the chaos of modern music industry.

Overall, the impression received from the album is positive. However, if I had to compare the album to the previous ones, I would say that 'English Grafiti' is not as great as, for example, 'What did you expect from the Vaccines?', though it has its own strong sides. I would definitely recommend the album to anybody who is yet not acquainted with the band or is just plainly interested in indie rock or would like to try something new and pleasant.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chet Faker – Built on Glass (2014)

Australian musician Nicholas James Murphy, famously known as Chet Faker, released his debut album in April 2014. He has said that the inspiration for his stage name (and partly for his music) came from one of his idols, Chet Baker, the talented jazz artist. Yet, Murphy thought that he does not deserve to use that name himself, thus he changed Baker’s surname to Faker, as he felt that in a way this is who he is. On Built on Glass, Faker definitely does not fake the passion with which he is contributing to every song. Though if he is, then… well, then he must be a really good ‘faker’.

The opening song of the album is "Release Your Problems", which perfectly fits this place as it sounds like an introduction to something big that is coming up. The song starts off with a slow and mellow piano tune, the high notes of the intro create an especially relaxed and peaceful environment. To me it sounds like a melody that could stand on its own as well, without lyrics and vocal part, and still be a really enjoyable song. There is a bit of a change of melody and a small break some seconds before Faker starts singing, it feels like the music makes a way for him to come and show off his strong yet smooth voice as the first few seconds of his singing there is no background music. The overall tune stays the same but the song evolves into something a bit more upbeat as a rather humble background beat is added to the piano tune. Faker’s voice engages perfectly with the song and you can sense his passion the most in the chorus. The song ends again with the tune of the piano and the beat, supported by quiet humming, which again brings us back to this relaxed atmosphere created in the beginning of the song.

The first song created a perfect path for the next song to make an entrance. “Talk is Cheap” is a bit more upbeat compared to the first song. It starts off with a rather long intro (a few seconds over one minute), yet as Faker is an electro-soul artist, it makes sense that he wants to show off his skills in that field as well, especially since not everyone will notice what is going on in the background as soon as he starts singing. His voice sounds a bit lazy and this gives a sort of cool, chill vibe to the song. In this song Faker’s jazzy soul voice is more noticeable. One of the key elements of the song is the use of a saxophone. One would probably think that saxophone is not the most suitable or best choice for an electronica track, yet as Faker engages soul with electro, the use of saxophone seems to be fair choice, creating a sweet-sounding combination.

The next song, “No Advice (Airport version)”, is again a sort of a move in another direction. It is a short piece, in which Faker has a minor part as he only sings six lines that can be heard clearly. His vocals are backed by a quiet humming sound, which supports the overall mysterious vibe the song has. “No Advice” sounds to me like a short meditative song, which has to be listened more than once to get the right feeling out of it.

Next song is “Melt”, which already from the start seems to have more beat to it. Here, the laziness in his voice comes out even more clearly, yet while this might not work in other genres or in the case of other artists, it definitely works in favour of Chet Faker, as this for me is a characteristic feature of his. One small feature that gives a certain touch to the song, is in the chorus during the lines Melt my happiness, some kind of fucked up mess and Hell, my loneliness will take no part in this, the way how he emphasizes the words ‘mess’ and ‘this’ with higher notes, that certainly get your attention back to the song if you have got lost inside. This is the only song on the album where he has a featuring artist, in this case Kilo Kish, an American artist. Faker said in an interview for Clash, that “I felt like ‘Melt’ was a good song,” he says, “but it was boring with just me on it. Kilo’s stuff is dope and I’d been listening to heaps of it. I got in touch and asked if she wanted to be on the track. She put down a verse and did her thing, which was totally dope. The rest is history. I haven’t even met her yet.” Although, I would not be so blunt here, stating that it would have been boring without Kish, it sure does put a nice extra touch to the song. Moreover, this is a great (yet for me even a bit weird) example, how today’s technology gives opportunities to do collaborations without ever even having to see your song partner.

The following song on the album, “Gold”, is probably the most well-known song of Chet Faker. In addition to his 2011 cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, this is probably the song through which people discover and have discovered Faker and his addicting music. “Gold” is another one of those upbeat songs of the album. The song has a certain pop song touch to it, so at first it might seem like something that is totally out of the ordinary for Faker, yet I feel that it still is Chet Faker in all its glory. In the chorus of “Gold” he demonstrates his higher pitch as well, in contrast to his chill lazy sound. “Gold” was nominated for the MTV Music Video Awards for the choreography of the famous choreographer Ryan Heffington.

“To Me” follows the style of the previous song, yet adds a something certain to it, so again Faker has created a piece that sounds nothing like any of the previous songs. Actually, for me all the songs on the album sound different, although Faker can be felt in all of them. “To Me” is again a bit calmer and more relaxed song but the song itself still sounds intense and passionate, although, I feel that he could have engaged more with this song. Here the laziness of his voice is not really present and in a sense this is the feature that could have worked especially well for this song, adding to the overall mood of the song.

The album is in two parts. In between the two parts (the 18 seconds that carry the name “/”) an unknown voice says: “This is the other side of the record. Now relax still more and drift a little deeper as you listen.” And this sounds like a good suggestion for the following song “Blush”, which feels more like an electronica song than the previous ones, in which the soulful part was mostly on the foreground. The song is fascinating due to the many layers it has, it just keeps surprising.

The previous song already gave a hint that this half of the album is going to be different from the first one. “1998” also gives a hint, that Faker is not called electro-soul artist for no reason, he really can mix sounds together and create futuristic, yet contemporary pieces. In “1998”, the vocals seem to be the supporting feature as there is so much more going on, which draws more attention.

The longest song on the album is “Cigarettes and Loneliness”, which in the beginning gives a feeling, that this might be “1998” all over again, yet as soon as Faker starts singing, it is clear that he has done it again, this song does not sound anything like we have heard so far as well. Through the song the vocals are supported by four repeating notes with few exceptional modulations, at one part a change occurs though, yet it soon returns to the main pattern, and in the end it combines the two patterns as a cohesive whole.

“Lesson in Patience” starts off as something, that at the same time sounds like something annoying, yet at the same time it engages you and does not leave you bored or disturbed. Again, there is so much going on, that it is impossible to bring out the main feature. Yet, the curious part here, is that Faker does not sing a line in this song. He only hums and shows off his vocal range. I believe that the song works on the album, but I am not sure whether listening to the song separately would create the feeling it does while listening to the album as a whole. Yet, on the album it works as a transition between the previous song and last one, guides the album towards wrapping up.

The last song of Built on Glass is “Dead Body”. This in a way feels like a return to the first half of the album with the mellow tune and slow and soft vibe. It really does give the album a nice final touch and leaves you wanting for more soul, more jazz-like features, more electronical beats and chords, more Chet Faker and more.. More albums, perhaps!?

Anne Rahusaar

Overwerk - Canon (2015)

“Canon” is the most recent EP from Canadian producer and DJ Edmon Huszar who is better known by his stage name Overwerk. Released in 2015, it contains five songs.

Born in 1989 in London (no, not the London but the London in Ontario, Canada), he began to make music as Overwerk in 2010. Previously working as a graphical designer, he had named his portfolio “overworked” because he was always working on so many projects. He changed “work” to “werk” in tribute to the techno group Kraftwerk and thus Overwerk was born.

Overwerk’s music can be described as electro. It might be true in the higher level of genres but it does not really say much. His songs have a specific sound and do not resemble anything else which makes his songs really recognizable. Overwerk’s music has also elements from techno music, glitch and different subgenres of electro music. To top it all of he uses a lot of classical and old hits as music samples. As you can imagine, this makes his music very unique and different from your typical electronic music. Though there is one term which was coined by Porter Robinson named complextro. Complextro is an electro music subgenre which has glitchy, intricate basslines and is influenced by early analog synth music. Overwerk’s music fits that criteria but also brings the elements from different genres. For us to define the genre of Overwerk’s music, we probably have to come up with the term ourselves.  

Overwerk’s music has a distinct sound but there are also other elements that are characteristic for him. For example his songs have no vocals (except for two collaborations with Nick Nikon). There are also long intros which conclude usually with very dramatic drops. These characteristics make his music perfect for setting the mood and a lot of companies have recognised that which is why they have used his songs in their commercials. Chrysler, Lamborghini, Vogue to name a few. Most popular must be the song named “Daybreak” which was featured in GoPro’s commercial and is sitting at 42 million views on YouTube at the moment. With the right video his music really provides a powerful experience. It is a shame that he do not have original videos for his music and we have to accept his album art (which is still great) for videos. Apart from commercials, he has made songs for a computer games and (short-) movies.  

Overwerk has not released any albums or LPs. Instead he has opted to making EPs. So far he has released four of them - “The Nth Degree”, “After Hours”, “Conquer” and “Canon”. The latter includes five songs – “Canon”, “Toccata”, “Create”, “Canon Pt. II” and “Winter” where “Toccata” and “Create” are singles.  

First song from the EP is called “Canon” which includes characteristic elements from Overwerk such as glitchy sounds, long intro, serrated synths, dark melody and samples from classical music (Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s “Má Vlast: Vltava”). However through the song, the melody changes to more upbeat. Arguably it could be broken down to two different songs because the mood differs so much. This is funny because the EP contains also a “Canon Pt. II” which unfortunately does not sound like original “Canon” at all. Why is there two “Canon”s if they have almost nothing incommon? This remained mystery for me personally. It is also worth mentioning that “Canon Pt. II” is probably the weakest song on this EP.

“Toccata” and “Create are the two singles from the EP. Like “Canon”, “Toccata” uses samples from classical music. This time from Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”. Overwerk has transformed Bach’s masterpiece into more upbeat and joyful tune which still in some parts reminds you Bach. It also has the typical Overwerk elements like synths and fluctuating basslines. “Create” represents the core of Overwerk’s music. Long intro which gradually evolves into dramatic piece of complextro. This is the most similar to his previously successful songs like “Exist” and “Daybreak”.

Last but not least is the song „Winter“. As you can imagine it uses samples from Vivaldi's „Winter“ and combines it with the usual elements from Overwerk. I must say this is probably my personal favourite from „Canon“ mainly because it is not so messy like other songs. Overwerk has only minimally included his so called trademark sounds. Not to say I hate those sounds but while listening to the whole EP it makes a nice change.

The problem with this EP is that it does not bring anything new – more typical Overwerk which suits for hardcore fans. They listen to this and probably be happy but new people will probably do not like it. It might be the worst of the four EPs which Overwerk has released. These five songs are below the quality of some of the earlier singles like „Exist“ and „Daybreak“. Also the EP itself is not whole. For example one of his earlier EPs „The Nth Degree“ has seamless transition between the songs making it very nice to listen as a whole but „Canon“ has nothing like this. True, songs from „Canon“ are based more on classical music.

One thing we have to talk about is his album art. Before he was musicican, he made his living from designing and he's putting his skills to use. He is done all of his EPs artwork and succeeded spectaculary. Not only is the art beautiful but they really go well together with his music.

In conclusion, “Canon” is below average but by no means a bad EP. Hardcore fans will surely like it and newcomers can probably find some songs that they enjoy. Overwerk has stayed true to his style and it is hard to judge him for that.  

Thomas Toodo

King Charles - Gamble for a Rose (2016)

I first heard King Charles playing during the Positivus festival a few years ago. During that particular hot dusty mess of a music festival there were only a few acts I really wanted to see. King Charles wasn’t one of them. But after the first few songs I was hooked. His look was the good kind of strange, picture a Victorian era dandy stumbling upon a time-machine in his wardrobe and travelling to modern day with the whole lot. Hair down to his waist, pants up to his nipples, giving us waxed-mustache-regal-realness. His tunes back then, from his first album Loveblood, were quirky and catchy love songs perfect for listening in the summer heat. There was certainly style but it, dare I say, lacked substance to an extent with occasional cheesy lyrics and restless catchy melodies. Cheesy lyrics can be forgiven, though. Love is cheesy.

King Charles is the stage name of Charles Costa, 31-year-old West London singer-songwriter. His first album was released in 2012 under a major label and since then he has left the label to write the album about which he has said that he should’ve written it five years ago. Teaming up with Marcus Mumford under a new label resulted in Gamble for a Rose released in January of this year.  This wasn’t the first collaboration with Mumford, they also had a successful single Brightest Lights featuring Mumford & Sons on Charles’ first album.

The opening track Loose Change for the Boatman is a somber track about lost love. It starts out with a single guitar in the background and builds up to a proper banger. For anyone familiar to his first album, the opening of the album is a new take: gone is the cartoonish feel of the music, while the lyrics are still pretty cheesy: “If ever you loved me; If ever at all; Our souls are tied forever more”. The first track introduces us to his new sound and although more generic, it is a medicine most of us wouldn’t find overly sweet or too bitter. When the track picks up the sound fits better into the puzzle of Charles’ work, boasting a ‘nervous’ guitar sound like many of the tracks off his first album.

From the second track on we can’t deny the influence of Mumford. Not only are the folk rock arrangements very similar to Mumford & Sons’ own music, Mumford is heavily featured as a backing vocal through-out Gamble for a Rose. Animal Desires lets the listener know that although a bit more refined and toned-down, the old style is not something King Charles is completely leaving behind. 

Choke is an attempt to cast a wider net for the listeners.  The whole song is pretty generic but it’s not missing that familiar uneasy-sounding guitar in the background. King Charles has an ability to write catchy music but nothing about this song is very memorable. It could be a track on any folk rock album by absolutely anybody. That being said, it has a place on this album if just to show King Charles’ range as a musician because he has pointed out that his second album is a truer expression of himself than his first album.

The title track of the album is a beauty.  Gamble for a Rose combines the new with the old. Melancholy, yet hopeful “Oh you know I'll wait for you; When I'm all alone”, this track is well suited to be the title track. King Charles’ new style doesn’t distract you from his lyrics like on the first album, making avoiding the overall cheesiness of the lyrics a bit harder but the song flows so easily I don’t even mind. The track features a guitar solo that is somehow hauntingly beautiful.

Oh with your hand in mine I may be burdened but I will never be broke
I guess you could call this song my gamble for a rose

St Peter’s Gate is unsurprisingly yet another lovesong, the lyrics speak about missing a woman that is away. The lyrics are his version of the awfully cliché thing people in bad romance movies say: “If you love her, let her go and if she comes back to you she is yours.” King Charles’ take on this:

Go away from me
Don't stray from me
Get away from me
But come home to me

The song is almost too haunting and vulnerable to fault it for its’ lyrics but ignoring lyrics when listening to music is like ignoring the taste of food –  it may look good on the plate but it doesn’t leave a pleasant aftertaste.

Tomorrow’s Fool is the song that blends his melodic style, plucky guitar and strings in the background approach with a little dose of rock. The second half features a short but fitting guitar solo and we hear King Charles reassuring us that no sound of love will deafen him. The lyrics talk about a proud man trying to be emotionless:

Lord give me the strength to be
A man who could never be loved
Fearful, reckless, lazy, thoughtless,
Charmless traits betide my mind

The lyrics tell us he is struggling to stay macho in his actions and act like what people might describe as cold. It’s almost like he is trying to convince himself that no sound of love will deafen him again perhaps? He seems a bit too bitter for his age. He ends with the idea that although he might try, he is too proud to ever change.

I will be a fool today
I'm scared of what tomorrow brings
Tears will flow, I'll beat myself
But I'm too proud to ever change

New Orleans feels like what we’ve already heard from him but more grand and sweeping. It’s reminiscent of Love Lust from his first album. This is another track where we can clearly hear how big of an influence working with Mumford was. It could fit into the repertoire of Mumford & Sons quite seamlessly.

Carry Me Away is the track that made me fall in love with this album. It’s tender and haunting. King Charles has said that this is the first song he ever wrote when he was 17. Laidback, he lets his raspy and vulnerable vocals shine, beatifully complimented by his guitar. This track is certainly the highlight of the album. The live version doesn't have the strings but is just as beautiful.

So sing to the seven seas
All of the oceans far between
Carry us oh carry us away
I'm prepared to take my time
Let it go, let it go away

With Bright Thing King Charles brings us a bit cheesy yet ultimately enjoyable track. It’s melancholic but hopeful in nature.

If I'll let you into my heart I'll let you under my skin
And I'll chase you out just like I chased you in
If you don't know how to do how could you feel the blues
And you're gonna sing about love
Without singing about the blues

With In Silhouette King Charles leaves us with:

Time whispers when you're young
This won't happen again....

This feels like a pessimistic note to end the album on but it’s actually an inspirational song about how we are all just beasts of craving and Kind Charles reminds us to enjoy life for:

What's in colour now
will soon be in a silhouette, a silhouette.

Coco Chitty was featured on his first album but in a different light. This rendition of the song maybe gives us a glimpse of how he himself views his evolution. The track stood out on the first album but fits perfectly with the narrative and sound of this album. It is an appropriate closing track for the album, but in mind the credits start rolling halfway through this song, it doesn’t hold my attention for very long.

Ultimately the album is certainly proof that there is substance behind the style and fashion of King Charles. He managed to express his individuality in a more coherent way and this album doesn’t feel as gimmicky as his first but what we loved about him in the first place has not gone anywhere. About his first album he has said that his influences varied from Bob Dylan to Rihanna and Lady Gaga – he tried to take the best of all the genres he loves and fit them together. With this album we can hear a more focused approach and it is more of a flowing river than a stormy unpredictable sea. His first, LoveBlood, was quirky and bouncy but Gamble for a Rose is more refined and matured. This really is the album he should’ve written five years ago. All I can say is “Yass, Queen!”