Music: CD Reviews

Friendly Fires, Tune-Yards, Bell X1, Britney Spears and Yngve & The Innocent

Album of the fortnight:

Artist: Friendly FiresAlbum: PalaWord Count: 170Rating: 5/5Pala is the second album from Friendly Fires, following up on their Mercury nominated self-titled debut. Whilst many bands seem to struggle with second album syndrome, this has clearly not been the case for Friendly Fires. This is the record of a band with utter self-confidence and at the peak of their powers. Pala strikes a perfect balance between indie and dance, and the record fits together very well with no songs seeming out of place. The first track, ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ is a fantastic opener and a real floor-filling club tune. It’s a great song and sets the tone for the rest of the album.‘Hawaiian Air’ has quite a positive, summery feel to it and the album’s title track also makes perfect listening for a laidback, sunny day. Pala also closes very nicely, with the final track, ‘Helpless’, containing elements reminiscent of some of the best dance music from the 90s. It should make for some excellent live performances on the festival circuit. In a nutshell: An ideal summer soundtrack.- Steven Balbirnie Artist: Tune-Yards Album: w h o k i l lRating: 4/5 Just over a year ago, Dirty Projectors played an impressive show to a packed audience in Whelan’s. Yet despite the excellence of their performance, it was not the Brooklyn-based band that everyone was raving about. Instead it was Merrill Garbus (aka Tune-Yards); with her idiosyncratic blend of folk-cum-afrobeat-cum-yodelling, that left an indelible mark on the evening.w h o k i l l represents a maturing of her sound, following her intermittently brilliant but badly produced debut, Bird-Brains. Yet the eccentricity and brilliance remain, as she manages to temper her excesses into a more coherent, crisp-sounding second album.Given the sense of musical chaos and countless idiosyncrasies that permeate album highlights such as ‘Powa’, ‘Bizness’  and ‘Killa’, the obvious comparison is to other alluringly strange female solo artists like Bjork and Kate Bush. Nonetheless, the hip-hop tinge to her sound, coupled with her ability to play an assortment of instruments equally adeptly, means the potential female equivalent to Beck is a more apt comparison. - Paul Fennessy Artist: Bell X1Album: Bloodless CoupRating: 3/5On their fifth album, Bloodless Coup, Bell X1 have uncovered some dusty melodies that breathe with a fresh undertone of rhythmic electro beats. The stripped back opening track, ‘Hey Anna Lena’, makes a change to the expected festival-friendly choruses associated with the Kildare band.Bloodless Coup cuts deep, immersing the listener in its laidback aura and alternates its pace with many noticeably lengthy tracks. Tracks such as ‘Nightwatchmen’ and ‘Sugar High’ manage to whisk your mind away and highlight the textural strengths of Paul Noonan’s voice.‘Velcro’ is the most vibrant track on the album, offering lyrical insight into romantic obsession so effectively that the line “I’ll be your Velcro” somehow works. O-two is sure that after repeated radio plays, it will seem as profound.In a Nutshell: Sit back, relax and let it slowly win you over.- Laura Brennan Artist: Britney SpearsAlbum: Femme FataleRating: 3/5Britney Spears may be forever associated with her teen-pop roots, but her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale, audaciously attempts to change these perceptions through a mish-mash of musical flavours, from dubstep (‘Hold It Against Me’) to Euro dance (‘Till The World Ends’).Everyone knows that Spears isn’t revered for her vocal ability and by the sound of Femme Fatale, so do her producers. Every song has been treated with auto-tune to the point that anyone could be singing. The Will.I.Am-produced ‘Big Fat Bass’ only hints at being a Spears tune with a few of her trademark moans. Femme Fatale is a triumph for style over substance. While Britney will win few new fans over with this album, I’m sure everyone will be found dancing to it in Coppers. In a Nutshell: More auto-tuned than Rebecca Black, but the perfect album for a power walk into college.- Kieran Murphy