14 October 2017

Beck - Colors

So, this album is slightly late…...  When Beck released Morning Phase (our review cleverly linked here), it was supposed to be accompanied by a second album.  But things have not gone to plan, his documented health issues, the various tours that needed to be completed, all distractions than can cause plans to be changed.  Due to all the sprawling chaos, the recording sessions with Greg Kurstin’s has been delayed and postponed at times, leading to a fractured production process.  Work on Colors started in 2013, so you would expect that it has been released without any flaws.  The first single from Colors “Dreams” was released in 2015, with three other singles coming over the next two years.  Now, as with all Beck albums, he has changed his style once again – this time he has gone art-pop according to some reviews I have read beforehand, but am I gonna agree with those sentiments?  Personally, I am still awaiting the louder album that was due to follow Morning Phase, but I can only dream at this juncture.  Now, without much further ado, it is time to see what Beck has been up to……

01 – Colors

Starting with the title track, “Colors” begins this album with a Euro-centric, modern electronica disco piece that is full of breakbeats, panpipe keyboards, atmospheric moments to collect your breath and a production job that is second to none.  But it's a little hollow, as if there is a desperate grab towards past events occurring, and a desire for youthful experiences growning in an unhealthy fashion.  So, an interesting opening, but not one that sits well with me.

02 – Seventh Heaven

After the raindrop keyboard introduction, Beck goes Bruno Mars/Michael Jackson on “Seventh Heaven”. It's a shiny pop song, nothing more and nothing less to be honest.  For full disclosure, I find the production to be as brilliant as ever and the hook in the chorus is great to be honest.  But once again, that uneasy feeling is hard to shift on this song for me.  I cannot get rid of that vision of a Ferrari badge that needs to be added to the album cover, and “Seventh Heaven” does nothing to change this.

03 – I’m So Free

I’m So Free” suffers from a case of mis-heard lyrics for me, when I first heard the chorus, I though Beck was saying “I’m So Fake…”. Even after reading the lyrics over and over again, I cannot shake that mistake from my head, so I owe Beck an apology there.  Musically, it is a larger than life song which aims to be a crowd pleaser, with a chorus that will have people jumping up and down in unison. Those old-school indie rocker sensibilities start to creep through the pop veneer of the album, but it does nothing to change my view of the record.

04 – Dear Life

Starting with a piano introduction, “Dear Life” is a slower moment on this record, one which laments the world and is brimming with regret.  It's a straight forward pop number, one that could have easily been created by any charting acts over the last 20 years.  Once more, the production is on point, but I am still not loving "Dear Life" sadly.

05 – No Distraction

I think that “No Distraction” has truly took inspiration from the Bruno Mars song “Locked Out of Heaven”, with a positive uplift to the music.  Lyrically though, “No Distraction” is dealing with lost times, failed moments and indecisiveness.  With that sounds of desperation, this well produced song does not hold my attention as well as other songs on the record.  It is played well once again, but it's not his finest song in Beck’s long career.

06 – Dreams (Colors Mix)

A remix of the first single from this album is next, with “Dreams” hitting the dancefloor with a huge amount of swagger!  With a larger than life sound, “Dreams” hits all the right buttons to be an indie disco classic, you cannot deny that Beck has made a powerful pop number with “Dreams”, but it feels hollow where there should be a warmth to the sound.  Beautiful, but ultimately, empty.  For information purposes only, the deluxe version of this album has the original version of “Dreams” added at the end of the record.

07 – Wow

“Wow” is the only song of the whole album I can honestly say I don’t at least admire, which is not the case with the rest of the record.  It feels like a bad version of “Loser”, updated for the modern age and with no real conviction behind it.  I will move on swiftly, I don’t to waste my effort on this one.

08 – Up All Night

“Up All Night” is a song about sex, sexy, sexy, sex with the usual stellar production job to the music, but the words are not delivered with conviction for my money.  It's the ongoing theme of the album where you find cold where there should be warmth, amazing music which lacks a defined soul at its core.  It is played well, but there is not emotional attachment.

09 – Square One

“Square One” is the penultimate song of this album, a song which transcendence the overall empty feeling of the album.  It reminds me a lot of Ben Folds at his most outlandish, there is a humour to the song that has sorely been missing from this record.  Everything comes together, production, music, performance and the result is head and shoulders above everything else on the album.  Beck has always been able to do pop, this is proof positive of that.

10 – Fix Me

“Fix Me” is all about the desire to be washed away, to be lost and needing to start all over again.  "Fix Me" is a slow and moody song, the pop energy of the rest of Colors is nowhere to be seen on this one.  Beck has added a good ending to this record, but it's still not a song I would reach for if I wanted to listen to some Beck.

My gut feeling for this album is not good, but this must be explained.  I cannot shake the feeling that this album needs a Ferrari badge on the cover, as if the midlife crisis is in full effect.  It's either that or something has in Beck’s life to infuse this youthful desire, this energy into his current album, because it is a hollow record.  I love the production on this record, it sounds larger than life and it has a cutting-edge feel.  But hear me out here on this one, as I do have a few issues with the overall result.  Firstly, my end impression of Colors is that Beck has guested on his own album, one created with the assistance of Daft Punk, Bruno Mars and Justice with its Euro-Continental Disco vibe that incorporates a Taylor Swift on acid lyrical vibe.  It feels as if he is keeping up with the current sound of the world, even though it was started years ago (does that make him visionary?) and it doesn't sound natural when I am listening to it.  Secondly, even by Beck’s standards, the lyrics are not as strong as he has works he has produced before.  Some of the words are tortured into rhyming, when these usually feel like water flowing, as if they are written such easily it would defy the Gods.  Whilst I am moaning about those aspects of the album, I cannot claim that Colors is a badly performed album.  I don’t think Beck is capable of such a thing, not without starting Armageddon.  Musically, as I have mentioned throughout the review, the production job on Colors is great, I applaud him for following his own path on this pop record.  But I cannot say this is the best thing Beck has done, it's just not up, it doesn't come close to his own high standards and that will become more apparent through the years.  Colors is a fun ride for sure, but that feeling of midlife crisis is haunting this record.  That said, at least he has kept it interesting and no-one would have seen this coming, so business as usual with Beck…. maybe.

6 out of ten – Now, I see where you are going, but it is not quite there.

Top track – Square One

Vladopus9 - Li-Alien Attack

Vladopus9 have recently contact me to review their latest single, Li-Alien Attack. If I am truly honest here, until the email arrived I had not heard a thing about them.  But that is the way it works with this blog at times.  So, I am quoting their ReverbNation information for this section of the review:  "National Recording Artist Vladopus9-, is the accumulation of many years of eclectic musical experiences accumulation of many years of eclectic musical experiences. Joseph Page's influences originate from the classic rock, hair metals bands, and heavy/speed/thrash metal bands of the 1980’ into the punk scenes that dominated the 1990’s and early 2000’s. While cultivating his techniques and musical agendas through writing, playing, and performing in various alternative, punk, noise, and rock bands throughout the years-, the music that Joseph Page is now creating is a true reflection of what influenced him the most within all of those musical communities as well as the life experiences, and worldviews that drive daily life. Lisa Rau is the truest example of how a love for music can produce real talent. With her unique and honest approach to vocals, alongside her passion to never imitate another performer-, her vocal style is compelling, honest, and her own. Dakota Jernigan (also known as badapple artist) is a Nashville Native-, Jack of all Trades and a Master of None. Whether it be painting, cooking, writing, or drumming- Dakota creates his art intuitively, untrained, and unregulated."  Well, that is the band introduced, so what is the like?

"Li-Alien Attack" is an abstract piece of sonic art, one that reminds me of the work of artists such as The Transcendents, The Chewers, Lucy Stoner and other musical mavericks.  It is a spoken world vocal performance by Lisa Rau over the noise created my Messrs Page and Jernigan, with random sounds and strange notes drifting over listener as an alien attack is played out in the mind of a slave to the new world, intertwined with the mundane and boring everyday reality of the sludgery of the modern world.  If you love your music to be off the wall and abstract, this is going to be your bucket of madness.  It is a strange piece and is not going to sit well with your average Gwen Stefani fan, but they are not aiming to reach those type of people.  Valdopus9 are aiming for the misfits, the drifters, the people who live on the edge of music and prefer sonic attacks over a song wrote by committee.  It is a good song which mixes fantasy and reality to create an unqiue vision of the world, the euphoria at the end of the song gives it a huge, uplifting ending (no-spoliers there).  But before I could make a full opinion on Vladopus9, I would need to hear more of their work.  However, this little bizzare song is a good introduction to the crazy world of Vladopus9, lets see where the madness goes from here.

 Crazy cat symbol - I cannot mark this as it is a bit out there, so as this is a strangely titled song, here is a photo of a giant, lazer eyed cat attacking some houses (all copyright is owned by the original artist).

You can find previous works by Vladopus9 on their Soundcloud page here.

You can find previous works by Vladopus9 on their ReverbNation page here.

You can follow the activities of Vladopus9 on Facebook here.

12 October 2017

InHeaven - InHeaven

InHeaven have been making waves for the last few years, getting praise from all sections of the press and fans alike.  They have recently been headlining gigs around the country (Newcastle show review to be posted soon), appeared on many festivals around the world and it all seems to be going well for the London four-piece.  Released on the 1st September 2017, InHeaven has been hailed as one of the best up and coming band and their debut self-titled album is one of the best releases of the year.  So, is the hype justified?

01 – Baby’s Alright

The album starts with the ridiculously positive “Baby’s Alright”, musically it is overflowing with joyful music.  All may seem well on the surface, but nothing is as it seems.  Lyrically it has a few harsh things to say about the world, but musically I have not heard anything with an indie tone sound joyous.  Every time this song starts, a smile as wide as the mouth of the Hudson appears on my face and I cannot help but lose myself in the moment. 

02 – Treats

"Treats" is an old-school grunge/indie stomper, a hard-edge riff with angelic vocals and a hint of Sonic Youth in the tone.  But whilst it might have a retro vibe, it is bang up to date soundwise. It takes indie to the edge of what it can offer in places, the bass is hypnotic and the drums are blistering.  Any heavier and it starts to stray into metal, but InHeaven are wise to avoid those steps. "Treats" is a great number and one of the highlight of their live sets, it is also a highlight of the album as well.

03 – Stupid Things

"Stupid Things" is a song about wanting to be with someone, but not having the courage to talk to them, a tale that is as old as humanity itself.  There is a shoegazer feeling to parts of the song, but it also has this larger than life momentum to the horns that are on the song.  It is a hybrid that brings the work of The Sound Track of our Lives to mind, but InHeaven have added their own identity to this song as well.  It is a beautiful song, one which has a lofty aim at its heart and it achieves this easily.

04 – Vultures

Vultures” seems to be a song about having the determination to get what you want, regardless of the people who surround you and would see you fail so they can pick your bones.  There is a punk vein that runs through this song a mile wide, it is a track which sounds better when it is played as loud as possible.  It is another which will get any crowd jumping with its catchy chorus and massive riff!

05 – All There Is

Once again InHeaven aim for the stars, hitting their target with a massive sounding tune.  “All There Is” combines that shoegazing feeling with a punk sensibility to create something unique and it sounds like they have been doing this sort of thing for years!  It is a track which improves with each listen, with its subtle hooks that dig in deep.

06 – World on Fire

This song will be massive, if not it will be proclaimed as one of the hidden gems of 2017 in many years to come.  A track which bashes a certain leader with small hands, it is politically charged and full of anger about this man who is (for want of a better set of words) a dick of the highest order in this and every other age of humanities history.  It is a massive track on this album, one which I adore and with the kind of message I can get behind.

07 – Drift

Sadly, not every song can be a classic.  You will always get a song which does not quite click in your mind, for me that track is sadly “Drift”.  Its a shoegazing song that is played well, but it does not quite gel with the drums and it feels uncomfortable.  It is not bad per se, but it is not as exciting as other songs on this record either.

08 – Do You Dream

Do You Dream” is a song that is looking for answers, wondering if a lover feels the same about the protagonist when they visit the land of nod.  This song is all out retro-indie anthem, one that immediately recalls the feeling of the sun going down in the summer, the chill as the heat of the day goes and the promise of fun in the night. "Do You Dream" is a gentle soul on this record, one that loops around you and keeps you warm in the dark.  It is short and to the point, which leaves you wanting more.  Another highlight on this record, which seems to have top draw track in abundance.

09 – Real Love

"Real Love" is a song that has a classic rocker theme to the music, we are talking greaser rock as well, the original rebel music for some people and it is wrapped in a love song about wanting to run away from your troubles.  Real Love” is possibly the most stylistic track on this album, making it stand out from the crowd.  It is not a favourite to be honest, but it is still an enjoyable song that picks up pace as it rolls along.

10 – Bitter Town

I love it when this band aims for the sky, they seem to have a knack of hitting their target.  Bitter Town” is a song about those small towns which seem to hold people back, but sometimes the person in question doesn’t have the answers they require to escape their situation.  There is also romance in the song as it seems to be the anchor that is holding them back, but this is just my interpretation of the chorus.  I love the way this album feels, the momentum behind the song and how good it sounds.

11 – Regeneration

How can one band have two stone cold classic on one album?  It hardly seems fair in some ways, but that is how the cookie crumbles.  Regeneration” is a song youthful disenchantment, isolation and the desire to escape reality.  The powerful words of this song would be redundant without the music to back them up, something that InHeaven do not have to worry about.  It is a great song, the highlight of the album as it has the power to make thousands of people losing themselves for a moment, where they will not feel alone because of the unity of this song.

12 – Velvet

Ending the album is “Velvet” which slows everything down to a very slow pace.  It is a beautiful moment, one which pulls on the heart strings as their shoegazing music takes over the world.  It is a beautiful ending, one that guides you down gently towards the door as the album finishes.

As debut goes, this is spot on.  You are not going to find anything as good coming out of indie music this year (well, maybe Mogwai - but they are more Post Rock than Indie).  I love the laidback feeling of InHeaven which somehow manages to be energetic as well, the music is amazing and it has not been off my music player for the last week or so.  They have captured a feeling of youthful discenchantment, the hungry for something new and it is all done with a fuzzy guitar peddle, a large bass and drum combo, mixing female and male vocals and attitude.  Whilst it may not have been on my radar before I saw them live, it has made a massive impact for me.  Buy InHeaven, go and see them live and prepare to be amazed.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost……

Top track – Regeneration

You can purchase InHeaven on Amazon here.

You can visit the InHeaven website here.

You can follow the activities of InHeaven on Facebook here.

You can stream InHeaven on Spotify here.

You can stream InHeaven on Deezer here.

You can stream InHeaven on Tidal here.

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