Beneath the Wilder Drones

One of the features of summer is the endless articles proclaiming songs for their “Summer soundtrack”. Songs on these will undoubtedly be played over and over again on radios and at festivals, giving anyone who listens or attends no moments of peace or variety. Sadly, I’m about to buy into these concepts as I introduce an article where I talk about 3 albums yet to be released that Emma and I are both very excited about. All three have potential to be commercially successful and show evolution from the artists more recent work. This article feature a concept album, an album with a drastic change in genre and one which sounds like a polishing of an existing strong sound. So, without further ado, these are the albums we are most excited for.

Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind (released: 4th May)

Wilder-Mind

Track list:

  1. Tompkins Square Park
  2. Believe
  3. The Wolf
  4. Wilder Mind
  5. Just Smoke
  6. Monster
  7. Snake Eyes
  8. Broad-Shouldered Beasts
  9. Cold Arms
  10. Ditmas
  11. Only Love
  12. Hot Gates

Let’s start with the first to be released, M&S’s third album and first to seemingly not feature a banjo. Following a short break after 2012’s Babel, the band returned to the studio to experiment with a more rockier/electronic edge and the result is a cross somewhere between an upbeat Snow Patrol and a non-boring Coldplay. Believe was the first single released, and the reception was mixed to say the least. Critics praised the change of direction, enjoying the lack of banjo and increase of electronic sounds. However, the fan reaction was less positive. In truth, that’s no surprise. Fans hate it when you change, unless you are returning to where you were when they found you. They can’t accept that bands don’t want to be stuck making the same record over and over again, churning out singles that sound identical to the last and therefore not improving. So-called fans opinions on this song are to be taken lightly.

The Wolf was the next song to be released and is more upbeat than Believe. In truth, neither are polar opposites of the songs Mumford have released before. The Wolf takes what would have been a banjo in the past and replaced it with an electric guitar while Believe replaces the acoustic guitars with keyboards. I see how that could be classed as a band losing their soul, however I think Mumford have used synths and guitars in a way which retains their energy and heart. From the first two songs of this album, it sounds like Mumford & Sons have improved from an already strong position and will appeal to a new set of fans, which is not a bad thing. The fourth of May can’t come quickly enough.

Muse – Drones (released: 8th June)

MuseDronesCover

Track list:

  1. Dead Inside
  2. [Drill Sergeant]
  3. Psycho
  4. Mercy
  5. Reapers
  6. The Handler
  7. [JFK]
  8. Defector
  9. Revolt
  10. Aftermath
  11. The Globalist
  12. Drones

Of course Muse feature on this list. Anyone who knows me knew that was a given! Muse said that with this album, their 7th, they were returning to the instruments that made them popular, and would strip back to playing intimate gigs while progressing and learning from the more electronic based last two albums. They entered the studio to record with Robert Lange, the man behind ACDC’s Back in Black amongst others, and made many instagram teaser videos including an orchestra, Matt playing the guitar and the mixing of promotional single Psycho. We also learnt from these sessions that this is a concept album, following the story of a man being turned into a human drone by the government before fighting back.

Psycho dropped on the 12th March, along with a set of intimate tour dates for the week after. Psycho is much heavier than anything they’ve done since the early years of this century, and is far rockier than anything released on a studio album so far. It seemed that, for once, Muse had stuck to their promises. The song builds on a riff that Muse have been playing for years, adds some rather dodgy lyrics and a strange interlude with a shouting drill sergeant in a mix that is surprisingly catchy. It’s not a song for the radio mind, whereas first single Dead Inside is. Dead Inside takes what Madness, Undisclosed Desires and Follow Me started, blends in more guitars and produces one hell of a song. Drawing upon influences from Prince and U2, Dead Inside is a huge improvement on the 2nd Law’s output. However, the best song may be lying amongst the album tracks. They’ve played Reapers live to a great reception and Matt’s confirmed that The Globalist is Citizen Erased mark II, with an added orchestra. It seems to be a mix between CE and Butterflies and Hurricanes, all of which gets me very excited for this album.

Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin (released: 9th June)

BTS

Track list:

  1. Crystals
  2. Human
  3. Hunger
  4. Wolves Without Teeth
  5. Empire
  6. Slow Life
  7. Organs
  8. Black Water
  9. Thousand Eyes
  10. I of the Storm
  11. We Sink

This is the second outing from the Icelandic band and it’s one we’ve been excited about for a long time. Their first album, My Head Is An Animal, is one of the few albums that we both own and were listening to a lot when we met. It’s difficult to explain the band if you haven’t heard them before, as their take on music is slightly different to a lot of stuff out there at the moment. It’s not quite folk; it’s not quite rock – so quite possibly the definition of alternative! Their music is very easy to listen to, being soothing and catchy at the same time. One word I’ve seen used to describe their sound is expansive, and that fits perfectly.

Every band needs to progress, OMAM are no different, and the first single from Beneath the Skin, Crystals, shows further expansion whilst retaining the qualities which made their first album so good. The combination of the male and female vocalists remains strong, as does the simple guitars and beating drums. How is it different? Well, for me it shows more comfort in the style of music they find themselves making and as a result it’s more powerful. Without realising it, I’ve just listened to it three times in a row. This album may be the longest one to wait for, however the signs are it will be worth it.

We are aware that Mumford, Muse and Of Monsters and Men aren’t everybody’s cups of teas but give a listen to the songs and make a judgement based upon those. All the songs here are very different from each other, and show just how strong the music industry is despite all the soul-less tripe produced by the proper chart artists. There may well be an album released that we like more than these three but as we have no way of knowing what that will be, at the moment these three are at the front of our minds. I predict we will listen to all multiple times and will continue listening even after the initial hype has faded. If you have liked what you’ve heard here then you should do the same.

Advertisements

Hold My Home isn’t a modern masterpiece but is a very enjoyable listen

AlbumCover_1500_RGB

Hold My Home, the 5th album by Cold War Kids

 

In 2006, Cold War Kids burst onto the scene with their debut album Robbers & Cowards receiving worldwide praise for the blend of indie and blues-rock seamlessly knitted together. Since then, they’ve been on a musical journey through many different styles without achieving much mainstream success. They’ve certainly now gone down a more pop-driven route, and a few people have said they’ve sold their soul to the masses or become another generated band. I disagree with all that for I find that their music has soul, passion and heart in every song, which I find incredibly easy to listen to. As a result, they’ve become one of my favourite bands. I’ve been criticised for being too positive in this blog in the past, I apologise for that’s going to happen again. Cold War Kids have just released their 5th album and I am very fond of it.

This album seems to have taken ages to arrive. Following Dear Miss Lonelyhearts in 2013, the band returned to the studio and recorded songs for a new record. These songs started to appear in July 2014, with the release of first single All This Could Be Yours. A release date for the album was pencilled in, October 21st 2014. Due to my love for the band, I pre-ordered the signed version almost immediately and received downloads of All This as well as another new song, First. For some reason, the album was delayed in Europe and didn’t end up being released until March 8th 2015. The release date went ahead as planned in America and Australia, so the only possible reason I can think of for the delay in Europe was a record label problem. By the time the album arrived, I had received a download of a third song, Hot Coals. Despite the problems with the release of the album, the songs were of an incredibly high standard.

This album sums up everything that has made Cold War Kids great and so listenable. It takes some of the blues influences, fuses it with the catchy pop appeal they’ve developed and combines perfectly with Nathan Willett’s marvellous soul voice. That isn’t to say that Willett holds the band together though, as some people would have you believe. It’s my belief that Dann Gallucci has now put his stamp on the band, improving the guitar sections and gaining the right chemistry with Matt Maust, their talented bassist. The two new musicians, drummer Joe Plummer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Schwartz have allowed the band to add more layers and styles to their back catalogue. The result is quite spectacular.

However, it isn’t perfect. Hotel Anywhere, the fifth song on the record, is a song that doesn’t really go, excuse the pun, anywhere at all. Even Willett’s voice seems to fade a little bit, it’s possible they were trying to focus on the instruments but for me, it just doesn’t work. In Nights & Weekends, he croons about Black Friday, which doesn’t seem to be a proper CWK subject matter to sing about. It’s too obvious what the song is about, and then the chorus seems to leave the subject matter far behind, which improves it but not enough. Neither are bad songs, they just aren’t up to the usual CWK high standard. As a final negative, the album’s title track, Hold My Home, doesn’t remain in my head for as long as the others and some of the lyrics seem to be forced rather than inspired.

1966150_10152540244478962_7246345922421756710_o

It would be harsh of me to allow you to judge the album based on those songs. I find the other 8 to be wonderful in various ways. All This Could Be Yours is catchy and remained in my head for days after first hearing it, whilst Hot Coals provides the improvement in guitar pieces I’ve mentioned before. First has a chorus worth belting out, as Go Quietly (which btw would fit perfectly on Mine Is Yours – no bad thing!) provides the best of Willett’s vocal talents. For me, the two highlights are two almost quintessential Cold War Kids songs, despite only appearing on this album. Drive Desperate, with a guitar solo and a catchy bridge at the end becomes almost impossible to stop listening to. Flower Drum Song, appearing towards the end of the record, is about CWK as a song can get, featuring a sing-along chorus and a giant burst of energy. Throughout the album, Maust/Schwartz, especially on Drive Desperate where, for a refreshing change, the most memorable vocals are provided by the backing singers, suitably support the outstanding vocal range of Willett. Another improvement on past albums is the ending. DMLH ended with the title song and Bitter Poem, both good but improved upon by HMH’s ending of Harold Bloom and Hear My Baby Call, which I would describe as the growers of the album. Not spectacular at first, but I’ve found myself listening to them more and more as time passes.

Cold War Kids will never be a chart band and neither will they ever be hugely popular in this country. In fact, Hold My Home hasn’t even charted here. Is that a bad thing? No, it isn’t. I don’t buy the argument that they are stagnating; in fact I believe they are improving. They aren’t a perfect band, too many of their songs are middle of the road to be considered that, however they produce many great moments in songs that inspire and excite in equal measure. The albums are good but they are at their best when playing live gigs, as they can implement all their energy and desire to produce music into an hour and a half of unforgettable fun. This collection of songs will only bring better shows and a stronger set list. It’s been a month since this album was released in the UK and there hasn’t been a day I haven’t listened to it, hardly forgettable, as some would have you believe. It has individuality that separates it from their other outings whilst being certainly theirs.

The music industry is flooded with bands and artists who do the same thing every time, copy other artists and refuse to evolve yet when a band comes along who breaks that trend they are criticised for it. Cold War Kids aren’t in music for money, they are in it for enjoyment and as a result their albums are immensely easy to listen to and love. As the title suggests, all this had led me to believe that this album is not a modern masterpiece but one that I will listen to over and over again, for it is enjoyable and catchy.

Rating:

  • All This Could Be Yours – 7/10
  • First – 7/10
  • Hot Coals – 8/10
  • Drive Desperate – 10/10
  • Hotel Anywhere – 3/10
  • Go Quietly – 8/10
  • Nights & Weekends – 4/10
  • Hold My Home – 4/10
  • Flower Drum Song – 9/10
  • Harold Bloom – 6/10
  • Hear My Baby Call – 6/10

Album Rating: 6.5/10 (Very Good)

 

2015-04-14 16.13.05