Review Roundup

24 Nov

Big Thief ‘Two Hands’

‘Two Hands’, Big Thief’s second album of 2019, is more woody and earth-bound than it’s mystical predecessor ‘U.F.O.F’. As a consequence it’s both more accessible and ultimately less fascinating. Nonetheless, Big Thief are operating like an all time great band, one who are releasing music almost on a whim because that is simply what they do. There are no discernible big ideas here, few experimental urges, just a great band making great music that is somewhere between folk, indie and rock. ‘Forgotten Hands’, ‘Not’ and ‘Shoulders’ are imbued with the effortless, rough energy of peak Crazy Horse. Elsewhere singer Adrianne Lenker gets up close to the microphone to unravel her emotions over the sound of crumbling percussion and finger plucked acoustic guitar. Not everything sticks; the mellow final third is difficult to recall even after multiple listens, and Lenker’s lyrics feel less precise and complex than previously. Still, ‘Two Hands’ caps an incredible year for Big Thief who have cemented themselves as one of the best young bands out there.


Coldplay ‘Everyday Life’

Ostensibly Coldplay’s Kid B to Radiohead’s Kid A, ‘Everyday Life’ turns out to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, less experimental than billed. It is however an ambitious and thought provoking return to form – albeit the somewhat patchy form of ‘Viva La Vida’. Its sixteen songs vary dramatically in both style, gravity and quality, giving the album a scrapbook feel. The likes of ‘Orphans’ and ‘Church’ are typical later day Coldplay tracks – light, airy pop things that lift you up in spite of their almost inane sappiness. Also effective are the pretty ‘Daddy’ and ‘Everyday Life’ which essentially return to the drippy, sentimental tone that Coldplay made their name with. ‘Trouble in Town’ even recaptures some of the frazzled, meloncholic energy of ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’. Less significant are the numerous sketches and genre experiments that pad out a pretty lightweight double album. At different points the band flirt pretty shamelessly with gospel, doo-wop, spoken word, choral music and contemporary classical. They do this without any real conviction – most of these more experimental tracks run under two minutes and feel like rote noodles rather than fully formed songs. But the record’s brevity and musical lightness are what make ‘Everyday Life’ enjoyable in spite of Chris Martin’s sometimes heavy-handed political themes. All in all ‘Everyday Life’ is the best thing Coldplay have done in years.


Foals ‘Everything Not Saved Will be Lost Part 2’

‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’ is the second part of an audacious double album that Foals have drip fed to us over six months. In many respects Part 2 is worse than it’s decidedly average predecessor, which at least had some sonic variety. From the sweaty chug of ‘The Runner’ to ‘Black Bull’s cumbersome riffs, this album has all the subtly of early 00s U2 (I.e no subtlety at all) and none of that band’s melodic gift. It’s unbearably pretentious and surely the logical end point of Foals increasingly boring ROCK experiment.


Rex Orange County ‘Pony’

Rex Orange County’s major label debut ‘Pony’ emphasises the sweet, almost cloying, aspects of Alexander O’Connor’s soulful songwriting. If you are familiar with his first two albums then the combination of catchy melodies, moody chords and frank lyrics won’t come as a great shock. But you may be taken aback by how sophisticated the album sounds. The likes of ’10/10′ and ‘Never Had the Balls’ are properly polished pop songs with melodies that stick. Nothing quite delivers like the very best songs in his back catalogue (the untouchable ‘Loving Is Easy’, ‘A Song About Being Sad’, ‘Best Friend’) but ‘Pony’ establishes him as something more than just a quirky, well connected singer-songwriter. It shows his star potential.



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