Issue 10 - Album Reviews

Album: The Slideshow EffectArtist: MemoryhouseGrade: BThe debut album by Canadian dream-pop act Memoryhouse, The Slideshow Effect, muses on several themes, most prominently death and representations of the past. Vocalist Denise Nouvion’s photography is included in the album and compliments the themes explored in the music. The potential of this album is realised when one accounts for the three forms of art featured: words, music, and pictures.Some songs on the album are typically pop and feature catchy melodies (‘The Kids Were Wrong’), but overall the songs expect patience of the listener. Some may be put off by songs such as ‘Little Expressionless Animals’, which has a tune and vocal harmony that will feel unfamiliar to those anticipating the generic. There are even hints at Asian influence on ‘All Our Wonder’, which is immediately alienating, but reveals itself over time. It may take several listens, but this an album worth the effort.In a Nutshell: Impressively complex and Allan McKee---Album: All of MeArtist: EstelleGrade: D+This is Estelle’s third album, her latest since 2008’s breakthrough Shine, and it is certainly not worth the wait.  Guest vocalists abound, with Chris Brown, Trey Songz, and Rick Ross featuring on a few radio-friendly jams, but not for the better. Whatever your thoughts on Chris Brown, his presence on ‘International (Serious)’ is damaging to an already weak record.Listener beware, every third track here is a skit that can only be described as Estelle having a chat with a few of her mates. It is an attempt at inspirational interludes wherein Estelle and some other nameless people offer some words of wisdom they’ve learnt from their mothers that come across as offensively inane. The two singles, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Break My Heart’, do slightly redeem the record, but they are the only tracks here that even attempt to explain how Estelle got this far.In a Nutshell: If you’re looking for some inspirational nonsense, this is the album for Sara Holbrook---Album: RosesArtist: The CranberriesGrade: BThe Cranberries return after an eleven-year interlude, with new material and the obligatory whispers of that oh-so-elusive 'return to form'. The verdict? They've exceeded all expectations; it's a damn fine comeback.Roses departs from the familiar Cranberries sound, replacing, for the most part, the howling choruses with a more sombre tone illustrated by the hushed 'Roses'. 'Raining in My Heart' merges pop sensibility with O'Riordan's trademark melancholy, and fans of the heavier Cranberries sound are duly obliged with the anthemic 'Show Me'.The album's true forte, however, is its lush string arrangements. 'Schizophrenic Playboy' boasts a dramatic orchestral rock vibe and the lachrymose 'Waiting in Walthamstow' channels a downcast Beatles to produce the moving pièce de résistance. Tracks such as 'Conduct', and 'Tomorrow' will prove too saccharine for many tastes, but Roses may nonetheless prove to be the comeback album of the year.In a Nutshell: A real-live return to form with moments rivalling former Martin Gilroy---Album: How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?Artist: Sinéad O’ ConnorGrade: B+The musical backdrop of Sinéad O’Connor’s tenth album is ruthlessly demolished and reconstructed from track to track, employing churning new wave reminiscent of her early albums, stomping Bhangra and hushed piano-led pieces. However, one vibrant artery winds its way forcibly through everything – her voice. It’s that same incandescent croon that, particularly in the context of her brutal lyrical openness, makes recent preconceptions regarding her vitality seem foolish.O’Connor’s characteristic defiance and forcefulness both perturbs and entices however, as she estranges the listener in ungainly passages where she has simply too much to say. Oppressively overt religious imagery threatens to alienate the casual listener in ‘Take off Your Shoes’ and ‘V.I.P’. The high points however, including ‘Old Lady’, ‘Reason With Me’, and ‘Back Where You Belong’, are magnificent, stirring and in the majority. Buck the trend and embrace her before everyone else comes round to it.In a Nutshell: A triumphant, albeit occasionally flawed reminder of why Sinéad is Stephen Connolly---Album: Anarchy, My DearArtist: Say AnythingGrade: C-If you’re still stuck back in your angsty teenage years, without a warm fuzzy feeling in sight, then Say Anything’s latest album Anarchy, My Dear will be the perfect accompaniment to your rampant mood swings. Despite being one of the most anticipated albums of 2012, it’s mostly just disappointing.It fits almost too snugly into the confines of the post-punk genre, with the songs becoming increasingly repetitive. By the end of the album, they have all blended seamlessly into each other, leaving no lasting impression. The lyrics are predictably bleak and emotionally chaotic, reflecting the tempestuous history of the band, with lead singer Max Bemis’ highly publicised struggle with bipolar disorder and excessive changes of band members.The only songs worthy of a mention are ‘Peace Out’ and ‘Anarchy, My Dear’. While they remain predictably angst-ridden and bitter, they manage to brighten an otherwise dull and gloomy album.In a Nutshell: Disappointingly Shauna Daly