For our 8th Voyage of Discovery newsletter, we’ve decided to mix it up a bit. Gone are the mini-reviews, news excerpts and gig alerts. Instead, we’ve gone for the musical jugular, biting deep, down into big, chunky recent releases from three industry big hitters.
Don’t be shy … let us know what you think! Disagree? State your case! Agree? Did anything in particular resonate? Pen your thoughts in the comment box below, or feel free to slug it out on our socials – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Either way, we hope you enjoy digesting the reviews, and even more importantly, that you listen to our featured releases. As usual, we’re including a Spotify playlist comprising a mash-up of tracks from the three records. DervSwerve x
PS. If you missed VoD Vol 7, you can catch up on all the news, here.
DerVerdicts – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ER
For the doubting Tommies out there amongst you, let I Wouldn’t Be, the title track from Kodaline‘s new EP, be proof positive (and final) that this Dublin four-piece have, along with Hozier and The Script, cemented their place as one of the strongest Irish musical exports this side of the millennium.
To bridge the gap until the 2018 release of their third album and ahead of their UK headline tour, the Irish outfit has just dropped a four-track EP, something that should assuage their ever-expanding horde of fans both at home and abroad.
The first of four strong and very different tracks, this quasi a cappella homage to motherhood and family is an earnest blend of wistful tranquility, and uplifting celebration. I Wouldn’t Be comprises four seamlessly interwoven vocals, its sole instrumental contribution arriving in the form of a sublime piece of Uillean pipe playing by Mike Mc Godrick.
Lead track Ready to Change has a touch of the Chris Martin’s on the soft vocal rise and fall, and charismatic, crowd-pulling chorus. With its tight, insistent guitars, high-energy drums and gotcha-hooks in all the right places, this dynamic energiser has hand-waving anthem stamped all over it. Laid back, Indie-pop fuelled The Riddle replicates the magnetic chorus-effect of Ready to Change and with its chillaxed melodies and slacker tempo, is bound to be another crowd-pleaser. Finally, down-tempo Blood and Bones provides a fitting close to this organic soother.
I Wouldn’t Be comes across as a spontaneous, uncontrived recording filled with thoughtful sentiments sans the emotional toxicity.
Kodaline is Stephen Garrigan (vocals/guitar)), Mark Prendergast (guitar), Vinny May Jr (drums), and Jason Boland (bass). They will play dates across Denmark, Germany and the UK in December supported by Aine Cahill and are booked for Neighbourhood Festival, Warrington next May – full details on their Facebook page.
DerVerdict – I Wouldn’t Be did for us what Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All failed to do – converted the nonbelievers. Kodaline – I Wouldn’t Be is available now via the B-Unique imprint.
“You know me well … I’d do anything for you … ?” Ok Moz, you could start by turning down the foghorn on your stomp-ridden, melodramatic album opener! Riotous My Love, I’d Do Anything For You evokes classic Morrissey’s mid-80’s lyrica obscura but without the swirling genius of Marr and whirling Dervish of the diva that was to tame its shrew. It does however, have enough of a fine line in big band banter and scorching hot brasses to take the edge of Moz’s moth-eaten disaffection with life, love, the media, grass-fed beef and William.
Having said all that, by invoking the glam-rock of Your Arsenal, this robust opener to Low in High School gets your backside moving towards the chair’s edge in anticipation of what might come next.
“Stop watching the news”,”Teach your kids to recognise and despise all the propaganda/Filtered down by the dead echelon’s mainstream media.”
What does come next is a sequence of Un-PC ideologies shrouded in the most blithe of melodies and instrumental potency, delivered with all the mature-pathos befitting of artists of a certain vintage. Becoming more bellicose with age, Morrissey brings the usual fare of contentious lyrical themes to the table – fake news, ‘evil media’, and the omnipresent, ubiquitous sex. In addition, there’s an astonishing pro-Israeli stance much at odds with the current ‘leftie’ world view which for once, posits the gnarly Mancunian somewhat in the same camp as Thom Yorke. Cue rabid debate.
And rabid debate is indeed something which glam-master Moz has never shied away from. But, if we separate the artist from the activist, we expose a polished, and thoughtfully conceived of creation. Lustful In Your Lap is a beauteous confection of intense piano chords and desirous sound effects; Home is a Question Mark a sensational skew-ways torch song given the full classic-Morrissey-vocal treatment; but it’s All the Young People Must Fall in Love and Spent the Day in Bed on which this 80’s enigma excels. Melodic potentates, their idiosyncratic, and for once infectious upbeat qualities, flaunt the musical flair of this erratic genius.
If 80’s Smiths’ Morrissey invented philosophical indie, his mid-life solo self has honed it; sharpened its lyrical edges by driving it through a hail of condescension and wilful animosity. Morrissey has a natural gift for melody, and it is through this which he redeems himself. An album of atmospheric balladry, baroque pop and egomaniacal rock, Low in High School is as unorthodox as one has come to expect from one of the leading exponents of contentious composition. It is also a finely balanced menagerie of orchestral theatrics and melodic finesse.
DerVerdict – Accomplished musicianship, big on drama – Low in High School is an A-Z of testosterone-fuelled ballads and poison-pen letters; supers and fans of Your Arsenal will swipe right, all others probably left. Morrissey – Low in High School – is out now via étienne/BMG.
Notwithstanding its description as a “social observation” and “political” record on the face of it, Paloma Faith‘s fourth album is not an obvious socio-political commentary.
Despite being her fourth album, The Architect represents the artist’s first foray into these previously uncharted waters and in doing so, Faith joins that legion of artists of a certain age/status/’phase’ who have nonchalantly discarded those [lovelorn, wistful, broken-hearted] [wide-eyed, optimistic, all-our-lives-ahead-of-us] dreamers of yore that inspired their early catalogue. Instead, they present their ‘serious-artist’ selves as earth-parent, activist and ‘insert as appropriate’ rights campaigner, whose new found love of political discourse and social warriorship drives them forth on a mission to share their brightly burning ideologies.
Opening with a Samuel L Jackson monologue, the album’s palpable subversive tendencies quickly dissipate with the onset of the rather cryptic The Architect. A song about the much misunderstood and oft overlooked world of domestic violence, it’s a big-voiced ballad whose salient message suffers at the hands of obfuscation. Elsewhere, Labour luvvie and very Marmite Owen Jones throws his rousing lot behind Faith’s efforts by jumping on his portable soap-box to wax lyrical about “the politics of hope“.
Album lowlights, limp pop track Kings and Queens and the unworthy John Legend duet I’ll be Gentle pale in comparison with the Motown melodrama of Guilty which sees the erstwhile Brexiteer shine a la Winehouse. Where Paloma Faith never fails to impress is when her faultless vocal reaches its true ‘powerhouse’ soul-singer potential.
It does so unfailingly on tracks like retro belter Crybaby which recalls late 70s R&B funk, while the slightly melancholic Surrender benefits from having a glorious gospel chorus and shimmering bridge to augment Faith’s pole-vaulting vocal. Sia penned Warrior falls short of its potential; a track about the refugee crisis, like the lead track, its debatable how much its lyrical vagueness will resonate with fans of the diminutive colour-pop chameleon.
DerVerdict – Never one to follow fashion, Paloma Faith must be lauded for marching to the beat of her own drum. But not everyone moves to the same rhythm! Paloma Faith – The Architect – is out now on the Sony label.