Album review round-up

The Maccabees: Given To The Wild

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The Maccabees embark on their third studio album, managing what many modern day artists fail to do; constantly tweaking their sound while still retaining what made them successful in the first place.

Opening track ‘Child’ displays a deeper and more refined style of song writing. It builds from a simple and elegant introduction to a crescendo of distinguishing bass lines and hooks. This theme, reminiscent of fellow English indie rock band Foals, is repeated throughout the album, all the way to closing track ‘Grew Up at Midnight’.

It is still distinctively a Maccabees album however, with lead single Pelican drawing up memories of their 2007 début Colour It In. Sure to be a hit at summer festivals, it barely pauses for breath and almost forcing you jump along with it. Orlando Weeks unique lead vocals can still be heard all the way through, and they go superbly with the bands more sophisticated style.

This is a highly polished from start to finish, and successfully combines the traditional sound of The Maccabees with an interesting new direction.

5/5

Lana Del Rey: Born To Die

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Lana Del Rey or Lizzy Grant? Independent hero or major label marketing ploy? Has she had plastic surgery or not? These questions can and should be met with a resounding indifference, for it is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that someone has created a persona to support their musical ambitions. However, Born To Die makes it clear that her persona has now taken precedence over her music.

‘Video Games’ reflected a certain detachment from our desires and wants, an inability to realise, a preference for longing. These sentiments bore resonance with people, along with the sumptuous coating of a wonderful chord sequence and melody. Throughout the rest of Born to Die the aggrandisement of her persona serves to further a disconnection from any real emotion. We instead find her delving into a mire of pop gluttony: money, sex and drugs.

This would be all well and good, if she provided any novel and meaningful insight into the joys and vagaries of the world to which she has now been exposed. However, when one looks to her lyrics for anything of substance they find clunkers like “Money is the reason we exist/Everybody knows that it’s a fact/ Kiss kiss” and “Up Bacardi chases/Chasing me all over town”. Worse than the vapidity of it is the lack of fun. She may have discarded the substance of emotion from ‘Video Games’ but she’s kept the morose and morbid atmosphere, such that we cannot revel in the joys of her new found fame. She does not plumb the depths, nor does she lay on the icing of her cake. It is left flat, dead and empty.

The production and melodies do provide relief, with ‘Dark Paradise’  a particular highlight.  The melody carries you into the sway of what can only be called a trip-hop love ballad, while the up-tempo Mountain Dew’, in spite of the awful name, showcases an ability to carry something faster paced.

Luckily Del Rey does not close the door on the former possibility; she just needs some life behind those pretty eyes.

2/5

Django Django: Django Django

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Touted as ‘psychedelic art-pop at its brilliant best’, it’s no surprise that Django Django is a band with creative flair. The Scottish band’s unshakably catchy debut album has emerged after a three-year creative process sounding completely sure of its unique musical identity. It’s an eclectic hybrid record, dedicated to surf-rock, spaghetti-western and psychedelic electro music, sometimes all at once. This blend is as hyper and crazy as it sounds, but in their hands the mix becomes something new and exciting. If they didn’t sound so different, you would think they’d been taking tips from their doubly-named genre-mixing peers, Everything Everything.

In ‘Hail Bop’ they cleverly work dissonance into their hook-laden harmonies, and last year’s polemic single ‘Default’ blends jarring computerised snippets with a low-fi guitar riff. The clearest Beach Boys influence is revealed in the carefree sun-and-surf song ‘Life’s a Beach’, but the most striking track is ‘WOR’, a thrumming Wild West battle song mixed with air-raid sirens and handclaps. Though the length of the album detracts from the effervescence of the initial tracks, this is hardly a complaint when such vibrant creativity is on display.

4/5

Enter Shikari: A Flash Flood Of Colour

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Imagine metal, post-hardcore, dubstep and rock with politically influenced lyrics all mixed into one forty-three minute record. This is a cocktail that is not meant to work. However, Enter Shikari’s third album manages to pull it off with aplomb. Highlights on the album include the cleverly constructed opening double-wammy of ‘System…Meltdown’, the haunting and surprisingly quiet ‘Stalemate’, and the catchy yet dirty ‘Arguing With Thermometers’. This truly unique album cements Enter Shikari as pioneers of the future of music. Expect to see big things from these four boys in 2012.

4/5

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