Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Welcome back to The Ephemeric. I can only apologise for not posting more frequently as of late. Plenty to say, but no time in which to say it. Rather I've been very busy with work, writing, and various other endeavors of greater life importance. Don't let the radio silence and the constant political gloom fool you, there's plenty of awesomeness going around right now, and so this week I am going to give you a rough and tumble summary, the Summer Music Round-Up, which will be split into two parts.
In today's Part 1, we're going with a bit of a theme, reviewing three long awaited albums that have attained near mythical status for their decade-spanning gestation periods and their celebrated predecessors. We will be looking at the new albums from The Avalanches, The Last Shadow Puppets, and Radiohead.
"Wildflower - The Avalanches" Album Review
Incredibly it has been sixteen years since The Avalanches released their debut, Since I Left You. A huge success at the time, but it was only in the subsequent years that it attained the truly cult following that it enjoys today, owing as much to the mysterious elusiveness of the band as the album's undeniably high quality music.
The long-discussed follow up album became something of a running joke of the music industry, sort of a "Duke Nukem Forever" of music; perennially teased as being just around the corner, and yet never actually materializing. Indeed here on The Ephemeric I have often gone out on a limb as predicting their return in my yearly previews. Just my luck that the one year I don't mention them is the year they actually do come back.
Well at long last that album, Wildflower, is here in a move that ranks alongside the 2013 returns of Daft Punk and David Bowie as one of the great unexpected musical comebacks. And great it is. While clearly a considerable refinement of the sound of their first album, featuring for the first time collaborators like Father John Misty, Ariel Pink, and Danny Brown, the results will be largely familiar for longtime fans.
As with their debut, there are one or two novelty tracks like lead single Frankie Sinatra and the awful The Noisy Eater which do get pretty annoying, but they are few and far between. For the most part Wildflower simply sounds like a dream, warm and welcoming, straddling genres and combining disparate sources from across the decades in a piece of work so perfectly formed that it is hard to believe it has been pieced together largely from samples. It's an album that in many ways exceeds even the lofty standards set by their debut, and indeed it's a testament to the band's incredible vision than an album that was largely produced so long ago sounds so fresh, not at all dated.
Stunning second single Colours is an instant classic, blending offbeat melodies that sound like a psychedelic record on reverse, but illuminated by a sense of optimism and awe at the world. Harmony follows a similar suit with an unashamedly positive, urban twist on 1960s pop, while Stepkids takes a detour into the grit and soul of country music and elevates it with the strings of a soaring Western soundtrack. Really though, Because I'm Me, If I Was a Folkstar, Saturday Night Inside Out, Kaleidoscopic Lovers, and so many others really deserve a listen. This is one to sit back and listen to from start to finish.
Do yourself a favour and add Wildflower to your music collection. This sun-kissed array of tracks is the perfect summer album, and a triumphant return for the most enigmatic band of the new millennium.
"Everything You've Come to Expect - The Last Shadow Puppets" Album Review
A blast from the past in more ways than one. The Last Shadow Puppets is the side-project of The Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and Miles Kane, former lead of The Rascals. Their debut album The Age of Understatement was something of a cult classic, an sublime cocktail of the retro baroque-pop stylings the two men have grown up and the seductive trappings of modern indie rock. After eight long years, follow up album Everything You've Come to Expect is here.
Disappointing lead single Bad Habits feels like a bit of a misstep, giving fans cause to worry that the band was heading off in new stylistic direction more driven by Kane's punk roots than Turner's soul. Fortunately we need not have been concerned, the rest of the album is very much more in line with the sensibilities that made TLSP great.
The quality of the music is actually generally more consistent than on their debut album, Miracle Aligner, The Dream Synopsis, and The Bourne Identity all merit listening to, among others, it's a very solid album throughout. Unfortunately what this album lacks is a real stand-out hit. Their first album had a David Bowie cover in In the Heat of the Morning, and two ready-made hits in Standing Next to Me and My Mistakes Were Made for You.
Everything You've Come to Expect is a lovely album with numerous songs worthy of your playlist, but fails to make a knock-out blow with any track that hits as hard as some of their debut LP's singles. Still easy to recommend to all music lovers.
"A Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead" Album Review
And our last of the day. Radiohead's new album A Moon Shaped Pool has not endured quite as legendarily protracted a production as the other two in this feature, but five years is a long time, and a new album from Radiohead inevitably comes with great hype.
Fortunately all the things one expects from Radiohead are present, artistic experimentation, inventive meshing of genres and tones, and complex and challenging content. A Moon Shaped Pool hits these notes as well as any album Thom Yorke and his boys have yet produced, and merits listening to for the bold and impressive artistic work that it is.
At the same time, this is a considerably more "poppy" effort than we have seen from Radiohead in many years, starting with the utterly ingenious lead single Burn the Witch with its wonderfully unsettling driving rhythm and psychotic strings. The album additionally consists of some very lovely folk pop tracks with the likes of True Love Waits, The Numbers and Daydreaming. It's high quality stuff.
A Moon Shaped Pool probably won't convert any Radiohead doubters, but longtime fans and music lovers in general will probably find much to admire with their latest effort.