Following their sophomore album Heavy in the Day, British four-piece Canterbury have returned with their third instalment, Dark Days. This latest offering sees the group’s sound evolve into a faster paced and much edgier tone than that of their previous records.
The stadium aura of this album is obvious from the outset. First track, ‘Expensive Imitation’, that has a crashing guitars sound alongside strings that explode into a headbanging riff, could serve as the opener of an arena performance, with a chorus no enthusiastic crowd could resist. From this, the follow up track ‘All My Life’, boasts a heartier core driven by layered vocals and a robust guitar sound.
The album’s incorporation of different genres further proves that Canterbury have taken profound maturing steps in their musical inclinations. The repetitive vocal style and chord progressions on the piano of ‘Hold Your Own’ entwine the track with unmistakeable bluesy undertones, while ‘Satellite’ has the potential to be the commercial hit of this album. It’s likely, however, that its infectious pop punk sound will resonate more with younger listeners.
In fact, despite the band’s maturation, the album is still caught up in juvenile angst. This is particularly clear from the lyrics, such as those of ‘By the Trail’, which come dangerously close to cliché. Nevertheless, Dark Days has proven that Canterbury has the potential to achieve the success that comes with age.
In a Nutshell: A promising album from a band who still have time to grow up.
One could describe Springsteen’s eighteenth installment, High Hopes, as a musical collage; a collection of once electrifying live exclusives, and re-recorded staple pieces.
While it may not be an essential Springsteen album, High Hopes certainly features an interesting array of the 64-years-old’s past and present sounds, interjected with fresh energy from Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello.
While title track ‘High Hopes’ is a lively introduction, it is lackluster at that. In this respect, it’s an advantage that this album lacks the cohesion that has been a tenacious characteristic of Springsteen’s past works.
If one track fails to excite, you’re guaranteed the following track will be completely different. Long time fans will find this album nostalgic, while younger fans will appreciate this neat package containing a broad view of Springsteen’s catalogue.
What is most interesting about this album is its “variety bag” set up of Springsteen’s past and brief experimentations. For example, the track ‘Heaven’s Wall’ gives a nod to gospel music while elsewhere you can find elements of folk. In ‘Frankie Fell in Love’, his penchant for storytelling prevails.
Highlights include ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, on which Tom Morello is a much-appreciated addition and ‘Dream Baby Dream’ which is on the verge of being a lullaby, while remaining true to Springsteen’s style.
In a Nutshell: A vintage goodie bag that’s worth the journey of nostalgia for Springsteen’s dearest followers, but difficult to digest for any newcomers.
Taken as a complete entity, Warpaint’s self-titled second album, Warpaint, presents a confident and proficient group of musicians treading familiar pastures. This should not be read as an endorsement to omit Warpaint from your list of compulsory things to listen to in the new year, as even the most seasoned listener will inform you that the Los Angeles quartet’s soulful, luxuriant brand of dream pop is a realm that one can repeatedly indulge in.
‘Intro’, the aptly titled opener, works as a false start to the album. The anguished post-rock strings and drums barely reach a crescendo when they are interrupted by an apology in the middle, before resuming and dissipating into ‘Keep It Healthy’.
‘Love Is To Die’, the album’s first single, is easily the catchiest track on the record. It is also the darkest, weaving a sordid tale of regret and fatalistic romance. This song, as well as the last two, is left to Theresa Wayman’s curious, insinuating melodies to soften the flinty edges, providing tantalizing glimpses of hope in an otherwise brooding concoction.
The most consistently gratifying component of the entire record is the handiwork of drummer Stella Mozgawa. This is especially present in the propulsive dance number ‘Disco//Very’, which conjures up the bouncing nightscapes of later LCD Soundsystem jingles and the stumbling ‘Go In’.
In A Nutshell: A confident and immensely talented bunch of artists sticking to what they know, but also providing room for the most animated, toe-tapping that they have ever composed.
With his second instalment, Dubliner James Vincent McMorrow has seamlessly moved away from his staple guitar-driven folk brand and slipped into newer territories. As nuances of his falsetto-tinged beginnings are still very much evident in ‘Post Tropical’, it’s clear the artist has blossomed.
While comparisons with Justin Vernon are inevitable and over-analysed in most regards, their similarities lie in their outstanding composition. However, McMorrow unleashes songs that are larger and more instrumentally inflated as evident in the track ‘All Points’, than the somewhat stark pictures painted by Vernon.
The mixture of the organ and synth in ‘Cavalier’ and ‘The Lakes’, the opening tracks on this ten-track album, create the melancholy undertone that permeates the album. There is a strength and sense of optimism to the music, undoubtedly felt on ‘All Points’. However, this is one of the album’s downfalls as it begins to sound too familiar. The triumphant choruses begin to blend into one another, but do create a theme within the album.
McMorrow creates a flowing, vivid world with his music, drawing us into a warm embrace and leaving them unforgettably beautiful. ‘The Lakes’ is a chilling, flowing piece, while ‘Gold’ creates an otherworldly spine tingle. Yet again, McMorrow manages to communicate his view of the world with a perfect mixture of music and poetry.
In a Nutshell: An occasionally familiar yet thrilling, melodic and atmospheric piece of work from an artist with ever growing potential.