Review Round-up September

22 Sep

Jagwar Ma – ‘Howlin’

Calling Jagwar Ma baggy revivalists feels too reductionist; there is so much more to them than that. And yet that’s unquestionably a large aspect of what they’re about. The beats are baggier than Ian Brown’s Jeans. The acid tinged guitars have just the right amount of funkadelic phat, and the vocals are sufficiently in debt to early Happy Mondays. But just when you think you’ve got the band pigeon-holed, they do something to surprise you. After the particularly loose ‘Four’ comes ‘Let Her Go’, a proper British Invasion style guitar song. Then there’s a track like ‘The Throw’, which descends into a mega 2013 house banger. It makes for a swirling and somewhat messy debut. It could be argued that they have their fingers in too many pies and a bit more focus may have resulted in a more commanding album. But you can hear the band’s hunger, and that ambition ultimately makes for of the year’s most enjoyable dance records yet.

7.5/10

Swim Deep – ‘Where the Heaven Are We’

 

Swim Deep come from the same B-Town scene that birthed Peace and un-coincidentally they have made an album with very similar strengths and weaknesses. It’s a debut that leans on the excellent singles for stability. One that wears its many influences very proudly (and obviously) on its tie-dyed, over-sized, vintage sleeve. It would take a heart of stone not to fall in love with the insanely catchy songs that make up the first half of the album – ‘Honey’, ‘King City’, ‘Francisco’ and ‘She Makes my Sun Shine’ but equally it would take a more patient man than me not to get bored stiff during the second half’s run of baggy, mid-pace plodders. Perhaps not unusually for a debut, it is indecisive, unfocused and often brilliantly promising, particularly considering the age of the band members. Like Peace, Swim Deep now need to focus on developing a sound they can truly call their own.

7/10

London Grammar – ‘If You Wait’

On track two of their debut album, London Grammar’s front woman asks you to ‘stay awake with me’. It sounds more like a challenge than a seductive request. This is a boring album – and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Every now and then the trio will bust out a break beat, but for the most part these songs are romantic slow burners. It’s funny that ten years ago Keane were ridiculed for making much less monotonous music, yet in 2013 London Grammar are winning plaudits left, right and centre. Something tells me it has a lot to do with the Disclosure association (London Grammar appeared on their album) – but this really isn’t the same type of record as the energetic ‘Settle.’

The group started writing around this time last year, which just happens to have been when The XX released ‘Coexist’, and that album clearly influenced these minimalist grooves and trippy beats. In fact you can pinpoint London Grammer’s origins to one song – The XX remix of Florence and The Machine’s cover of ‘You Got the Love’. Everything from that record’s production, to the howling vocals and very old-school melody seems to have left an imprint of London Grammar. This very familiar, and very stripped back, production really means that the record lives or dies on the quality of the song-writing, which is varied. ‘Strong’ sounds beautiful, especially when you hear it on the radio in between all the bustling EDM pop that passes for chart music nowadays. The other singles, ‘Hey Now’, ‘Wasting My Young Years,’ and ‘Metal and Dust’ are easily the next best things on here, but for a good half an hour this is a consistently good album. Of course It fades into a mundane, middle of the road slog in the final third – the band don’t have many tricks up their sleeve yet and this is an album short on stylistic variety and emotional depth. I stayed awake though – just.

6.5/10

 

 

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