Goldfrapp – Headfirst
You may be told that Headfirst – the fifth studio instalment from Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp, known to us as Goldfrapp – is a glorious celebration of true pop music, and anyone that tells you it isn’t can be called an outright fool. Well call me an outright fool. The album cover puts you in the clouds, as does the music. Goldfrapp stick to their guns with the Gary Numan-esque keyboard, but this is not pop music. This is a celebration of electro, of chilled disco, almost a modern, cloudy version of ABBA. Pop music these days tends not to focus around escapist lyrics of rejecting a lover in the addictive ‘Rocket’ and the problems love brings in ‘Hunt’. This album is a more revitalised lift from the darker material of Goldfrapp’s past, immediately reflected in a high tempo start to the album. It has a more joyous feel, a summery feel, only to be released in perfect timing with the summer ahead. Goldfrapp, in my view, haven’t reached their previous heights with this one. Personally I prefer the older, darker tunes, and this album gets a bit familiar a bit too quickly.
Mr. Fogg – Moving Parts
This band give little away with their vague and colourless album cover, but unperturbed by a mystery I waded into the Fogg. First encounter: the opening track, inspiringly titled ‘A Second Look’. I was exposed to the cold, wet force of a combo of wailing violins and a melancholy of vocals. Unable to divine anything from the lyrics, I concluded that this song could only be about the unpleasant experience of being repeatedly and very slowly slapped about the face by a shoal of tiny, malicious fish. This minimalistic malice pervaded across the entire album; whilst there were a few bright patches in places like Track Four, ‘Stung’ and Eight, ‘Keep Your Teeth Sharp,’ it’s clear to me that the main aim of this super group was to create the aural equivalent of SAD (that’s seasonal adjustment disorder, folks). For hardier souls seeking a touch of Vampire Weekend meets Radiohead inside a dark, dark tunnel, tune in, but for lovers of something more upbeat and… passionate, stay away. Once inside the Fogg it’s hard to get out.
Liars – Sisterworld
Three-piece band, Liars, originally from Los Angeles, is an odd one. The band is known for its dramatic shift in styles between albums; they began with a dance punk sound in album They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Mountain on Top and their style in Sisterworld has turned into a peculiar brand of noise rock. Opening track ‘Scissor’ begins like the quiet vocals of famous Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós before descending into overdriven guitar cacophony reminiscent of early Biffy Clyro. The band start as they mean to go on, with tracks ‘I Can Still See An Outside World’ and ‘Drop Dead’ following the same pattern of silence and noise. Although obviously an attempt to change the dynamic of the songs, it just ends up confusing and overpowering. Amidst the speaker-destroying guitar wails and offbeat synth-driven backbeats, songs like ‘Drip’ and ‘Goodnight Everything’ demonstrate how the tools of post-rock can be at their best. It seems the band did not quite know in what direction they were going with Sisterworld and that they still had no idea by the release date.
James – Night Before
James have had an on-and-off relationship with fame and success over the years. Formed in Manchester in 1981, the band has had UK chart hits in the form of songs ‘Sit Down,’ ‘Laid’ and ‘She’s a Star.’ After a hiatus in 2001, they reformed in 2007 to resume recording and undergo international tours. Night Before shows the band’s classic roots in alternative Brit pop. At only seven songs the album is not large, but it boasts a quality not often found in small releases. Songs ‘Crazy’ and ‘Shine’ hark back to the band’s 90s brand of Brit rock but still work surprisingly well, while ‘Dr Hellier’ and ‘It’s Hot’ are just as good as any song of the established indie genre today. With their somewhat unfortunate reputation for launching other bands into the big-time (having been supported by Radiohead, Nirvana, Coldplay and Stereophonics to name a few), James must be looking to give themselves a voice in the new decade. Night Before could do just that.