Tag Archives: La Roux

Marina and the Diamonds ‘Family Jewels’ – Review

26 Feb

Is anyone else getting sick to death of British female singers? To begin with it was a nice change of pace from guitar driven boy bands, and the likes of Lilly Allen and Amy Winehouse were genuinely unique and interesting. But they have just inspired a seemingly never-ending list of clones that seem only interested in being more bizarre than the last and belting out the tunes with increasingly bigger voices.

There was Duffy and Kate Nash to begin with (the clean cut versions of Amy and Lilly respectively) and they in turn gave record labels encouragement to seek out the likes of La Roux, Florence and Little Boots. But recently we have had the garbage that is Adele, Pixie Lott, Paloma Faith and the not completely bad but certainly boring Ellie Goulding and Daisy Dares You. It is an annoying trend and one that I thought would end ages ago but shows no sign of slowing.

Marina and the Diamonds are an odd one to categorize; they fall somewhere between Florence and the Machine and Paloma Faith but more interestingly, although expectedly, they also draws inspiration from Kate Bush. Marina’s voice is certainly strong and even quite unusual, if you imagine a cross between Regina Specktor and Imogen Heap you are probably pretty close. She has a pretty stunning range and therefore manages to sound sincere on ‘Obssesions’, madly passionate yet appropriately robotic on ‘I Am Not A Robot’ and absolutely crazy on ‘Hollywood’.

Does she do enough to differentiate herself from the rest of the pack? Well the album certainly isn’t without it’s faults but this is a good debut that establishes Marina as one to watch. Whereas La Roux and Florence made great singles and very patchy albums, ‘Family Jewels’ sounds well crafted and thought out. It’s certainly too long and there are far too many ideas but that is quite admirable in a new artist. In terms of hits there is nothing here to match ‘Bullet proof’ or ‘Rabbit Heart’ but then neither Florence or La Roux had an album track to match ‘Are You Satisfied’.  lyricaly and musically this is an ambitious and rewarding listen.

The first side of the record is very strong but things fall down a bit in the second half. Everything past track 7 ranges from average to forgettable to terrible. In fairness the terrible moments are rare but lyrical embarrassments do pop up every now and then (‘Hermit the Frog’) and the weird accents in ‘Oh No’ are a bit cringey. Perhaps these songs aren’t so bad, maybe the first seven tracks simply wore me out to an extent that I didn’t want to hear any more. Only lots of repeated listens would answer that question but it has to be said that I don’t really fancy listening much more to this. Not that it’s bad, it’s just….too much.

‘I’m a F**King Wild Card!’ Marina declares halfway through the album. She actually is kind of. It’s still a bit of a clichéd, try hard album but it’s nowhere near as predictable as most of the chart music at the moment. Marina crafts dreamscapes that are not at all original to pop music but her great voice and off the wall production make this an enjoyable album. Repeated listens may be a bit too much to take (at 13 tracks and 50 minutes of craziness even one listen is quite overwhelming) but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to hear ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Obssessions’ on the radio.

7/10

La Roux Vs Little Boots Vs Florance and The Machine

9 Jul

This month has seen the release of three debut albums by some 80’s loving, slightly eccentric British women. There has been a lot of competition between the three (competing for press, tv, radio etc) so I thought I’d spin all three to find out which is worth investing in.

La Roux – La Roux

Listen without any prior knowledge and it would be easy to think this album came straight from 1984. The Synths are squeaky, the drum machine is kicking and the vocals are robotic and strong. There are some killer tunes here as proved when two songs when top 2, not bad for a first attempt. ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘In For The Kill’ were the singles and they are also two of the best songs here, on what is a singles driven album. ‘Quick sand’ and ‘I’m not your toy’ are also future hits, surely, and both could easily have been  Annie Lennonx songs as well. Like much 80’s pop the songs are steely hard and just as cold. La Roux’s vocals are good but hardly stunning, you certainly wouldn’t class here alongside Lennox in that respect.

Unlike 80’s pop albums, I can’t help thinking there is a classic ballad missing. There are some slower songs but they never really hit the mark, and she is missing one essential ingredient of that decade – echo. The production is very simple and 21st century, I think it’s the one thing letting this album down.

Overall this is a good pop record, original, dark and intelligent. I don’t think it’s a classic, but it could be the start of better things for La Roux.

Little Boots – Hands

If La Roux comes straight from 1984 than Little Boots is a little harder to track down. In fact she could equaly be said to come from 1974, 84 or 2004! She is equaly parts glam rock, prog rock, synth pop and kylie pop. The production is very modern and in keeping with Girls aloud, Sugababes etc which gives ‘Hands’ a much more contemporary sound than ‘La Roux’. That’s not to say this album is uninteresting though.

I feel it is a three headed album. First you have the earlier songs we are all familiar with – ‘Meddle’ and ‘Stuck on repeat’ That Little Boots made in her bedroom on some high tech instrument and then posted on youtube. The we have the shiny, dancey numbers that were clearly worked on by some big name pop writers (see ‘Remedy’ and ‘New In town’) and then we have the rest of the album – slightly weirder songs that vary in quality.

Hands is a very good pop album from someone who only has an OK voice.  It isn’t as funny or original as Lilly Allen, isn’t as sharp as La Roux and isn’t as immediate as Girls Aloud – but it’s confidence and ambition make it a sure winnder. I love the style and the sharp vision which make Hands a winner.

Florance and The Machine – Lungs

This album is very well named. Whereas Little Boot’s album was hand crafted and sculptured (i.e the title ‘hands’) this album is all about the voice (i.e the title Lungs.)

But Florance isn’t the amazing singer she thinks she is. Her voice is whimsical and powerful sure, but it you can’t help thinking that echo plays a large part. At times she feels distant and fantasy like, a voice to admire but not one to love. Unfortunately there is too much emphasis on the voice and not enough on the songs which are all over the place.

It kicks of with two belters -‘ Dog Days’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’ – but the highlight is ‘kiss with a fist’ which represents the rockier side of the album. ‘Howl’ and ‘I’m not calling you a Liar’ also stand out. By the final few songs however I was bored and slight tired of her voice. Several songs sound the same – tired, forgettable and indulgent. ‘Lungs’ is not a bad debut but I forsee much, much better albums than this to come from Florence.

Results

1. ‘Hands’ – Little Boots = 7.5
2. ‘La Roux’ – La Roux = 6.5
3. ‘Lungs’ – Florance and The Machine = 5.5

Reading and Leeds

9 Jun

There have been yet more additions to this year’s Reading and Leeds festival. The Festival Republic stage has been announced and there are some great bands playing. Headlining are La Roux, The Blackout and Marmaduke Duke. I’m particularly thrilled with Bear Hands, The Soft Pack, Golden Silvers and Lightspeed Champion and I’m sure there are other bands to be discovered before August.

The View and The Living End have been added to the Radiohead day on main stage (with two or three more still to be announced) and still no word on Faith No More who are rumoured to be headlining the NME/Radio 1 stage above Jamie T. Below is a complete rundown of the new additions.

Soulsavers with Mark Lanegan, Black Lips, Bring Me The Horizon, Atreyu, Lightspeed Champion, The Rumblestrips, The Big Pink, Broken Records, Bombay Bicycle Club, Marina And The Diamonds, Skint And Demoralised, The Temper Trap, The Soft Pack, Hockey, Bear Hands, Amazing Baby, A Place To Bury Strangers, A Day To Remember, Fight Like Apes, Titus Andronicus, Middle Class Rut, Single File, Jack’s Mannequin, Pulled Apart By Horses, Grammatics, The Chapman Family, Detroit Social Club, Golden Silvers, Baddies, Go Audio, The Joy Formidable, Magistrates, The Hot Rats, Mariachi El Bronx, The View and The Living End.

They join an already excelent line up led by Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, The Prodigy and Kings Of Leon. For the complete line-up visit Readingfestival.com or Leedsfestival.com and look for the famous yellow poster.

The Alternative stage, Dance tent and BBC introducing are still to be reveled and I would be surprised if we didn’t see a couple more for the Main Stage, NME tent and FR stage. Time will tell…