Review Roundup

5 Oct

The Futureheads ‘Power’ 

Post-punk legends The Futureheads have returned with ‘Power’, their first album in seven years, to a somewhat muted reception. Times have changed and The Futureheads with their art-school credentials, punk rock enthusiasm and Northern accents are at odds with almost every current trend. Which is why this is a very welcome comeback. ‘Power’ is a looser update of their signature sound, somewhat lacking in the cleverness and quirkiness of their still brilliant debut. Nonetheless it still conveys more personality than most bands are capable of producing. It’s perhaps not surprising that after nearly a decade away there is a rustiness to the songwriting – some clunky chord changes here and there, lyrics that labour the point and occasionally awkward melodies – but the likes of ‘Good Night Out’ and ‘Listen Little Man’ are spiky reminders of the band at their best. It’s good to have The Futureheads back.

6.5/10

(Sandy) Alex G ‘House of Sugar’

House of Sugar’ is a throwback to the earnest, almost quaint, indie albums of the last decade. With his honest, emotive songwriting and delicate arrangements, Sandy Alex G is able to strike resonating notes on a variety of topics. You can most evidently hear echoes of Elliot Smith in the aching, yearning melodies of ‘Southern Sky’ and ‘In My Arms’ but I’m reminded of less obvious songwriters as well – the likes of Woodbine and Adem. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that all of the above are part of the Domino roster, a label that has always nurtured sensitive, quietly experimental, singer-songwriters. Alex G is no stranger to the weirdness either, as much of the record’s second half demonstrates. On ‘Project 2’ and ‘Bad Man’ he uses sound collages and an odd array of synthesisers to simulate a sense of dread and foreboding. He goes back to basics at the album’s end with the strange and strangely moving ‘Cow’. ‘House of Sugar’ should be Sandy Alex G’s big breakthrough.

8/10

Midland ‘Let It Roll’

Midland don’t care a jot for the hierarchies of taste – which initially makes their shameless throwback sound quite jarring. You won’t have heard anything like this for a while. Their preference for flares, cowboy boots, moustaches, honky tonk sounds, slide guitars and unadulterated tales of revelry make Midland anachronistic on both aesthetic and musical levels. But this allows them to cut straight to the heart of whatever subject they’re tackling, bypassing notions of cool and artifice altogether to examine what lies underneath. What initially scans as hokey ultimately feels authentic and reassuring. The poses they’re pulling are too naff to be anything less than sincere. If the uptemp rockers (particularly the jaunty ‘Mr Lonely’) are a little too much, even for died in the wool country fans, then the ballads strike exactly the right tone. ‘Cheating Songs’, ‘Fourteen Gears’ and ‘I Love You, Goodnight’ are heartbreaking highlights.

8/10

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