Album Reviews – Orla Gartland, Miley Cyrus, Arcade Fire, Hellogoodbye, Lorde, Katy Perry

Artist: Orla GartlandAlbum: Roots EPDublin-born singer-songwriter Orla Gartland is no stranger to those of you who have been reading Otwo this year. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard of the 18-year-old yet, don’t worry; you’ll be hearing her name an awful lot in the coming months.Roots is Gartland’s debut EP, and it is sure to delight both her loyal followers and those just discovering her. While many young musicians will choose to keep their early releases as basic as possible, Gartland has not been afraid to supplement this four track EP with an array of instruments.This gives Roots a much fuller, more mature sound than you might expect. Simple effects, such as the ticking clock in ‘Human’ or the echoing vocals of ‘Roots’ add to the atmosphere of the entire EP. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re listening to a much more established artist.The second track, ‘Clueless’, is a poppy delight that you’ll most likely find yourself humming days after last hearing it. That’s if you can last that long without sticking it on again, of course. There’s a certain charm in hearing someone confidently singing with such an evidently clear Irish accent.As it progesses, the songs get darker, with the emotional ‘Empty Man’ concluding Roots in a satisfying manner. It will be interesting to see what Gartland can do when given the freedom of an album of ten or so songs.In a nutshell: A surprisingly diverse four-track EP that will leave you wanting a full album.~ Kevin Beirne Artist: Miley CyrusAlbum: BangerzThe twerking, wrecking-ball-straddling Miley we’ve all recently been (un)willingly exposed to laid down great expectations of what to expect from her newly released album Bangerz.They say controversy sells records, and that certainly applies to this 16-track explosion. Collaborating with a plethora of big names including Pharrell and, from the onset she had a clear, focused outline; to create in her own words, “dirty south hip-hop.”Opening the album with ‘Adore You’ features some remarkable vocals sung by an obviously gifted singer. Yet this gentle, swaying opener is almost a mockery of what comes next. While ‘We Can’t Stop’ is a crippling guilty pleasure, reaching number one in 24 countries, it’s an undeniable pop hit.The much applauded and appalled ‘Wrecking Ball’ holds audible merit, particularly in its lyrical choices. Strip away the ultra-blue eyed white knickers clad video, Miley should be commended for pulling no punches in her striking display of love forcibly lost.The remainder of the album contradicts ‘Adore You’ completely. While ‘4x4’ is reminiscent of ‘Hoedown Throwdown’, it seems to be a tribute to her father Billy Ray’s country roots.Although there are certain ear-catchers, many are lacklustre and fall short of causing any sort of commotion, including ‘Drive’ and ‘#GETITRIGHT’. Similarly, some absolute catastrophes like ‘Love Money Party’ and ‘My Darlin’ linger, somewhat out of place on this indulgent release.In a Nutshell: Miley’s passion and raw talent resonates the truly great artist she will become if only she would stop trying so damn hard.~ Roisin Culligan Artist: Arcade FireAlbum: ReflektorAlways eclectic and varied, with three stellar releases behind them, expectations demand that Arcade Fire keep delivering. With the mammoth Reflektor, the Canadian big picture ensemble has done just that.At 75 minutes, Reflektor is their longest LP to date, yet flows with a purposeful sense of pace. None of the songs are overly lengthy or self-indulgent, with the possible exception of 11 minute closer ‘Supersymmetry’, half of which is an abstract ambient outro that asks a bit much of the listener.The splitting of the album into two distinct sections is appropriate, each one reflecting a different type of Arcade Fire. The former is a playful disco-rock infused romp while the latter shoots for the tender epic, with producer James Murphy’s electronic influence used sparsely to great effect. The halves come together to form a cohesive and immensely satisfying whole.‘Afterlife’ is an undeniable highlight; the kind of speedy, soulful refrain many have come to love the group for. ‘Awful Sound’ and ‘It’s Never Over’, a thematic pair, act as the album’s powerful emotional anchors, while ‘Normal Person’ thankfully suggests the band hasn’t risen above straightforward fun, the song driven by a delightfully heavy, grimy guitar riff.Reflektor marks another successful evolutionary step for Arcade Fire, a process that isn’t showing any signs of fatigue or hesitation. Their confidence and sincerity is as infectious as ever.In a Nutshell: Inventive and touching, this album is a reminder of everything that has made and continues to make Arcade Fire special. ~  Niall Gosker Artist: HellogoodbyeAlbum: Everything Is DebatableHellogoodbye are back with their new indie-pop album, Everything is Debatable. This band is best known for their catchy top 40 hit ‘Here (In Your Arms)’, but while this feels like it was released only a few years ago, frighteningly enough 2006 marked their debut appearance with Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! that included exclamation marks for effect.While the band did infact release a follow up album in 2010, entitled Would It Kill You?, it failed to make as strong an impact as its predecessor. A noticeable gap in album production, along with limited artistic progression from album to album, is also apparent. Yet, this album does have some serious peaks including opening tracks ‘And Everything Becomes a Blur’ and ‘Summer of a Lily Pond.’It labours, however, with an incessant amount of synth pop that initially makes you want to block your ears. But following a few more synthetic openings, the song writing and vocals start to redeem the bubble-gum layering.There are moments when it is difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins, as some of the tracks are so similar sounding. Yet it remains a relevant album and will fit nicely into the contemporary electro-indie scene, although it just might not stand out from it.In a Nutshell: If you liked their early stuff, or you’re just generally a big fan of keytar filled music, then it is definitely worth a listen.~ Sara Holbrook Artist: LordeAlbum: Pure HeroineWhen the name Lorde first appeared on our radars, there was confusion around the amount of acclaim being hailed upon the shoulders of the Eurovision winning Scandinavian monster rockers. That is until the spelling difference was pointed out.With the mistake corrected, Otwo was still wary, and so Lorde was approached with great trepidation. One listen to her album, however, soon settled the nerves. At just 16 years of age, Lorde has achieved what many musicians spend their entire lives aspiring to grasp.Her album is a testament to her success, and a viewpoint into the mind of a girl wise beyond her years. ‘Tennis Court’ is the opening call; dripping with swagger and attached to an eerie and minimalist music video. The song is a damning indictment of celebrity culture and the nonsense that goes with it.The record continues in this vein. ‘Royals’ is a simple yet catchy ode to the pedestal of celebrity while ‘Buzzcut Season’ is a rather terrifying depiction of the isolation of fame and its effect on people.Similarly, ‘Glory and Gore’ speaks of the effects of our fame engrossed culture on those who seek it. All of this is put to a minimalistic and atmospheric electro-pop backing, increasing the music’s effectiveness dramatically.Pure Heroine indeed. Lorde is the voice of a new generation of youth who are sick of the media and its saturation in society.In a Nutshell: A contender for album of the year.~ Michael O’Sullivan Artist: Katy PerryAlbum: PrismKaty Perry’s fourth instalment sees the pop queen delve deeper into her personal experiences. Packed full of raw emotion, with most of the tunes focusing on relationships, both positively and negatively, Katy has admitted that she is more “present” in this album than she has been before, and it certainly shows.The opening track ‘Roar’ is already proving to be a massive hit, ranking in the top ten in 25 different countries. It’s a melting pot of what makes a chart-thundering pop song, with its almost annoyingly catchy beat.‘Birthday’ and ‘This Is How We Do’ are two powerful tunes to please disc jockeys internationally. With simple lyrics and infectious beats they stand out in the otherwise stripped back album.‘By The Grace of God’ sees Perry delving into her personal entity for inspiration. An emotional track that deals with the perils of trying to maintain a long distance relationship, the powerful line I looked in the mirror and decided to stay catches the listeners’ attention. This showcases Perry’s vulnerability while proving her dedication to honesty within this album.‘Spiritual’ sees Perry team up with current boyfriend John Mayer. The opening lines “lay me down on your altar baby/I’m a slave to this love” immediately erases any presumptions that this track is puppet-led by Perry’s strict religious upbringing.In a nutshell: This album shows a new side to the previous playful Katy Perry and it doesn’t disappoint.~ Sinead Scully