A week, or so, ago you may have read in my xx review a mention of newcomers, Alt-J. Alt-J are a band that burst onto my radar not so long ago when I read an article that they are already the bookies favourites to win the Mercury Prize, and that some guy who’s high up at Ladbrokes has donned them ‘the next Radiohead’. Now while that is obviously a rather bold statement it’s one that would provoke most people, I hope, to at least give them a chance.
An Awesome Wave, the bands debut album in question, is an unusual journey through the many varying sounds of a band so diverse an different it would be quite hard to group them with any generic form of popular music. The main tracks are split apart by three musical interludes which show off some of the groups even more unusual skills while the named tracks manage to create what sound like new rhythms with quite a dance-y feel to most of them, not unlike Friendly Fires. The vocals are another talking point, lead singer Joe Newman’s voice maybe has an element of Thom Yorke but sounds a lot more like Dougy Mandagi of The Temper Trap. The lyrics seem to often veer off into words that don’t exist and that, I found, makes it a lot easier to get completely lost within the songs. Stand-out tracks if you want try a taster would be ‘Tessellate’ or ‘Fitzpleasure’ and both should give you an idea of quite how diverse the group are.
While it may take another ten to fifteen years to see if Alt-J really are the next Radiohead this album is certainly a very strong start. Go and listen my blog followers, go and listen now…
Back when The xx’s debut was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2010 I decided to give the record a listen, since then the album has become one of my favourites of all time. Chilled, yet thought provoking, melodic and intelligent. The best thing about the album is its maturity, the band never give in to any inhibition to suddenly just burst into a bout of heaviness and instead bring brilliance in subtleness, and that ultimately is what sets them apart from any other band on the scene at the moment.
It was, in fact, in doubt whether The xx would even do a second album but I, as I’m sure most of you were, was very pleased to hear that they were. And this time their was a lot more hype surrounding it. Numerous articles, interviews and statements in the run-up to it finally being unveiled. The most interesting things being the claim that the album is heavily dance influenced and that Jamie Smith’s ultimate aim is to write a song for Beyonce. Both of which gave me the impression that Coexist might well be a world away from their previous effort.
When I first listened to the album, I have to say, I felt underwhelmed. I think I discovered for a short period of time that I was actually really hoping they had gone in a wildly different direction. They haven’t, and immediately I was disappointed. As I was listening I thought to myself, ‘My reviews are going to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. I listened to Billy Talent and I thought it was going to be something to slate, it wasn’t. Then I listened to The xx thinking I’d have another album to gush about, but it wasn’t that good.’
Then, lo and behold, I gave the album another chance, and another, and another and it was on these repeat playings that I realised I was slowly falling in love with it without even fully knowing what was going on. In many ways now when I listen to it I find its actually so much better than xx. It is another masterpiece. They’ve taken everything they did on the first album and made it more defined and more profound creating another album that’s genius lies in its subtlety. This has got to be a shout for another Mercury Prize nomination although the win may not be quite so set in stone with newcomers Alt-J being the early favourites; but Coexist certainly deserves some recognition and it is definitely worthy of a high amount of praise!
When I listen to albums what I’m looking for is a record that can become my next obsession, one that I can listen to again and again over a short period of time and each time gets more enjoyable than the last. Then I want to put the album down for a while look at other stuff and after a few months pick the album back up listen and be transported back to the first time I heard it and fall in love with it all over again. All of Bloc Party’s previous three albums have had this affect on me at some point, which should give you some kind of scale of my anticipation to hear this record. Another thing with Bloc Party records is that every album has its own completely unique style while still being recognisable as the Bloc. Four does not let up. Four brings another flavour to the ever-evolving sound of Bloc Party. Four, as is boldly stated on the bands website, is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
With all the three previous albums it would appear that Bloc Party were becoming increasingly electronic based and with the release of their single, ‘Octopus’ it would have seemed that this was going to continue, again this notion was furthered by the unveiling of ‘Day Four’ but do not be fooled because minus these two songs Four is by far the most raw sounding, back to basics album Bloc Party have released to date. And it is within that raw sound that Four finds its own flavour it moves from twangy indie sounding melodies that are unmistakably Bloc Party into heavy, at times metal-y, riffs that could blow your socks off, songs such as ‘Coliseum’ and ‘We Are Not Good People’ offer a new aggressive edge that I’ve never got from the band. On the other side of the spectrum, though, in the quieter songs there are other new elements the aforementioned ‘Day Four’ and other tracks such as, ‘Truth’ and ‘The Healing’ display a new lo-fi sound that wouldn’t feel out of place an a record by The xx. And on the top of all of that the band manage to bring a catchy pop feel to a lot of the album that hasn’t been found since ‘Silent Alarm’, ‘Octopus’ being a prime example of such efforts.
Four, at points, has tracks that sound like they could have slotted in on any of their three previous albums while others have a completely new direction and in doing so creates a feel that, as the band claim, is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s very rare that I hear an album and know that, for now, the search for my next favourite album is over.