Review Roundup

24 Nov

Willis Earl Beal – ‘Acousmatic Socery’

Willis Earl Beal promised so much when his demos started doing the rounds late last year, but for every potential classic that leaked there was a potential disaster to go along with it, and this is a line Beal seemed to delight in treading. When Beal gets it right he gets it stunningly right, but when he gets it wrong the results can be almost unlistenable. Sometimes it’s not as simple as that though – sometimes the material is excellent but the production is appalling. ‘Evening Kiss’, for example, is a beautiful tune, as anyone who saw Beal’s jaw-dropping appearance on Jools Holland will attest to. The version on the album is completely subdued in comparison; it dispenses with the melodic flair and emotional wailing, instead Beal sounds disinterested and unaffected.

As a live performer, Beal has proven himself to be a classic soul singer in the mould of Marvin Gaye but on record he sounds closer to a bargin bin Daniel Johnson. He’s consciously (maybe deliberately) out of tempo and off key on some of these songs, and they have all been recorded on a cheap cassette recorder which does Beal’s luxurious voice absolutely no favours whatsoever. ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’ is something of a damp squib then, a missed opportunity from a great (and greatly misguided) talent.

4.5/10

Odd Future ‘The Odd Future Tape Vol 2’

The new Odd Future album is the first they’ve released as a collective since they exploded into public consciousness early last year. It’s also the first release since Earl was finally ‘freed’ (he makes a brief and slightly anticlimactic appearance on album closer ‘Oldie’). To date Odd Future have been successful in brief snatches – singles, TV appearances, album art, music videos etc- but they have yet to truly be successful where it counts, with an album. Tyler’s ‘Goblin’ was very good but it wasn’t good enough to justify the hyperbole, and neither is ‘OF2’ – although it certainly doesn’t do them any harm. It’s less inflammatory, less chaotic, less indulgent, but also, perhaps, less exciting as a result.

It’s not a surprise that the most interesting material comes from the collective’s two main stars, Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. Ocean’s smooth and slithery ‘White’ is, at 2 minutes, both the shortest and the most enjoyable song on here. ‘Sam Is Dead’ is Tyler’s finest contribution and he saves the day when he pops up on the otherwise forgettable ‘P’ and ‘NY’.  Hodgy Beats bring out the usual solid material and Domo Genisis is as lazy as ever. Overall it’s a pretty predictable Odd Future release, which may be the first time I’ve used that word to describe an OF product. Now the hype and hyperbole have faded away, they need to do better than this.

6/10

The Soft Pack – ‘Strapped’

If the fact that at one point The Soft Pack were called the saviours of guitar music seemed ridiculous once you actually heard their album, it seems even more ridiculous now, three years on. They are a solid, tight-knit garage band, nothing more, nothing less. They’re so unspectacular it’s hard to believe they originally called themselves The Muslims, and it was no surprise that they changed their name to the much more conservative (And boring) Soft Pack.

I’d almost forgotten about the band until I saw this second album featured on Mexican Summer’s release schedule, and in true fashion it’s another solid but unspectacular release. Their debut succeeded because it was so simple and catchy, now they’re adding synths and horns into the mix(not to mention slower tempos) so the results are a lot more hit and miss. It’s adventurous, possibly, but we never listened to this band for adventure. Still, there are moments that remind you the hype wasn’t all wishful thinking on NME’s part. ‘Saratoga’ is a thrilling introduction to the record, and ‘Bobby Brown’ is a melodic 80’s throwback that really works well. ‘Tall Boy’ and ‘Chinatown’ also have great hooks. This is a good album from a good band but if they disaster for another three years before coming back with the next record then they may find people have forgotten about them completely.

6/10

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