Review: Upbeat, upfront and wholeheartedly unapologetic, the return of Friendly Fires is about as proud as an album can be. After eight years off whatever soul searching took place has clearly paid off, even if only to give them the confidence to make these tracks. There's a pure 80s chart-disco vibe throughout the track list. From the breathiness of that "Baby I" line on "Can't Wait Forever" to the sexy and sleazy "Offline", which might as well be an homage to George Michael. It's no cheap parody, though, with enough accomplished musicality here to ensure that an instrumental pack would have club DJs with penchants for yacht pop chomping at the bit. Not least the frantic pace and punching kicks of "Almost Midnight", synth accents taking us closer to the outfit's debut than anything else here, perhaps with the exception of closer "Run The Wild Flowers".
Review: The third album from Marika Hackman, and arguably her most honest and exposed to date. An artist who has tangibly progressed from what was already a head start, it's a complex record that seems to be the sum of the artist's previous parts. A proud and forthright declaration of someone arriving at where they want to be wouldn't be putting it too far. It's scuzzy, desolate, bleak and then at the same time energetic, poised, guttural, disco. Tracks such as "Send My Love" couldn't be more emotionally charged, but nor could they be more inviting- somewhere between this life and the next- inviting and then visceral. Flip it and find "Conventional Ride" and "Come Undone" as two tracks that are entirely different but share one thing in common; a heartbreaking work of extraordinary genius.
Review: The weight of expectation has been lifted. Having turned heads in the right places with breakout track "More Is Less", Dublin's The Murder Capital fulfil the promise of being Ireland's next great guitar hope by delivering a staggering debut album that's powerful yet subtle, uplifting and outward looking yet dark and introverted. No walking contradiction, it's an accomplished and entirely human record. It also sounds as tight as you could ask for. Produced by none other than Flood, whose credits are good enough to drop any jaw (PJ Harvey, Foals, New Order), for evidence just stop to consider the top end hooks and percussive detail on single "Green & Blue", invoking Liars in pared-back post punk mode. Or the tense, unnerving introduction to opener "For Everything". By the time you hit "Don't Cling To Life", arguably the most emotionally charged and reflective here, hopes of walking away unmoved are done for.
Review: It's certainly not going to surprise any newcomers to Purple Pilgrims that this duo hail from the enchanted landscapes of New Zealand. A timeless sound pervades the work on their sophomore long form effort, befitting a corner of the world that's just far enough from the relentless hype machine of the music industry to allow for genuine individuality to shine through. At times tracks invoke images of endless, unspoilt landscapes where sirens lure us into painfully beautiful sonic worlds. Opener "How Long Is Too Long" is a case in point, along with the pained beauty of "Delphiniums In Harmony/Two Worlds Away" and "Ruinous Splendour". This Mortal Coil eat your heart out. In other moments, what's here gives more than a soft nod to the heyday of hypnotic, opiate rock 'n' roll; "Sensing Me" and "I'm Not Saying" were surely born in a time when free love really was free.
Review: With so much at stake when seminal outfits decide to get back together it's understandable people usually greet the news of reunification with a degree of skepticism. But if RIDE's first epilogue didn't confirm it, their second post-comeback album should; sometimes a return is exactly what we needed. Tracks like "Future Love", "Jump Jet" and "Fifteen Minutes" stand up as excellent in their own right. At its most adventurous and confident, "This Is Not A Safe Place" is a startling work of extraordinary daring. RIDE sound as powerful and room-filling as it does hypnotic. "Repetition" vacuum packs a party in sharp, staccato goodness, "Kill Switch" takes us into dark, edgy territories, high pitched chord refrains and crashing cymbals creating an air of menace. So, if we didn't say it already, welcome back.
Review: Socio-political commentary abounds Sleater-Kinney's latest. The title references Yeats' "The Second Coming", and while the catalyst for this call for help isn't clear we are so desperately lost as a civilisation, bound by the chains of what Adam Curtis calls oh dear-ism, the specific sickness is irrelevant. Our symptoms are universal. This is clearest on "Can I Go On". In contrast to the aforementioned, with its furious guitars and anguished vocals, it's a poppier, almost-80s affair. Yet it discusses exhausted, wired-in people, questioning if we are worth saving. Perhaps "Love" will help? A jerking, proto-electro infused effort that charts (presumably) the band's early years touring in a van. When things made sense. But nostalgia isn't salvation, especially when the distorted vocals and scuzzy riffs of "Bad Dance" tell us to get down before it's all over. Hope lost in a deliciously textured, provocative record.