Review round-up

7 Apr

Foals ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’

At this point Foals are one of the biggest rock bands in the U.K by virtue of being one of the last surviving. ‘Everything Not Saved Will be Lost’ bares little resemblance to the quirky, infectious Math-Rock the band perfected with early hits like ‘Cassius’ and ‘Balloons’ or the slick pop of ‘My Number’ and ‘Miami’. Instead it continues in the ponderous Headliner Rock direction laid out by previous albums ‘Holy Fire’ and ‘What Went Down’. In 2019, with so much water under the bridge between their best work and now, it’s hard to imagine what a great Foals album would sound like anyway but ‘Everything Not Saves Will be Lost’ is certainly not it. It’s a margenly weirder, more esoteric variation on the same sort of popular, muddy rock music they have competently been churning out for most of this decade. Occasionally proggy (‘Sunday’) occasionally slinky (‘In Degrees’) occasionally atmospheric (‘Cafe D’Athens’) but rarely ambitious, experimental or vulnerable in any meaningful sense, the album snaps under its own weight. Foals have settled in to a dour, serious mood years ago and they never break character, even for a second. As such ‘Everything Not Saved…’ is undone by a pretentious tone that the passé lyrics never really justify. Fittingly, ‘Part 2’ is coming out in a few months and I wouldn’t expect anything more (or less).

5/10

Billie Eilish – ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go’

Billie Eilish is enough to make you feel old. Or maybe it’s just me. I mean, I knew she was popular but not ‘3 songs in the top 10’, ‘most pre-added album in Apple Music history’ popular. Maybe Dave Grohl was on to something when he compared the teenager’s meteoric rise to that of Nirvana’s. What’s heartening is that Billie Eilish built her massive following largely off her own steam and without bowing to industry pressure to look or sound like anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, she nabs from some of the most influential Big Tent albums of the past decade – the production closely mirrors Lorde’s innovative work on ‘Melodrama’ while Kanye’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ and ‘Run the Jewels’ self titled albums clearly loom large as influences. There is also the barely concealed influence of sound cloud rap in her half mumbled, breathy melodies and use of pitch distorted samples.

She is however, without any doubt, an assured artist in her own right, with a strange, singular identity and haunting vision. ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go’ is, at points, funny, eerie, mournful, ironic, distasteful and heartbreaking. Just when you think you have a handle on its sadness, Eilish disarms you with a sample from ‘The Office’ or a recording of her slurping her own saliva. She also subverts the stereotypes of genre and age; ‘Xanny’ is surprisingly a self assured dismissal of the sedative of choice for generation Z. ‘Bury a Friend’, the album’s lead single, is a nightmarish unravelling of fame written from the perspective of a monster under the bed. Thematically complex, if occasionally derivative and overwrought, ‘When We Fall Asleep’s bold ambition justifies the hype. As Eilish develops her songwriting and vocal capabilities to match that ambition we could see a rare talent unfold.

7/10

Sharon Van-Etten ‘Remind Me Tomorrow

‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ is difficult to pin down. It’s an experimental pop album that often doesn’t sound particularly experimental or particularly poppy. Instead, Sharon Van Etten seems to be finding comfort in the familiarity of beloved genres and soft melodies whilst delicately unpicking them and pushing at the boundaries of what we expect. At times she triggers memories of quiet storm balladry, drivetime Rock, ambient, grunge, indie, chamber pop… the relics of less tumultuous times. But this isn’t a copy and paste by any means. Murky production effects deliberately distort and interrupt our enjoyment. Essentially Sharon Van Etten is an avant-garde artist, not interested in upholding the orthodoxy but rather in breaking it down and subverting our expectations. ’17’ is the best example; a dreamy ode to New York and youth, which could so easily melt into easy nostalgia, particularly with the Springsteen-esqe driving melody, but instead takes more ambitious turns. ‘I used to feel free – or was it just a dream?’
The album may not be as cutting as the most extreme examples of the experimental form, or as touching as Van-Etten’s more sentimental, straightforward ballads (2014’s ‘Are We There’ remains the standout in her catalogue), but on ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ she finds a niche somewhere in between.

8/10

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