Reviews

Contributions to The Playground

Recently Wall of Sound Magazine has been contributing articles to The Playground, a magazine and record label focusing largely on electronic music – give a read of our articles and have a browse on the rest of the site, we’re looking forward to further collaborations with them:

 

Web_logo-header-Sept-2-16

 

Arca, Arca – Album Review

Vandana, Nox Anima – Album Premiere

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Album Review – ‘Honeymoon’ by Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey, the created alias of Elizabeth Grant, comes from the exact moment where the demure and formal side of 1960s gave way to the drug abundant days of mafia-men and gangsters. Honeymoon explores the her usual themes of unhappiness, the unwanted melancholiness garnered from fame, loving dangerous people, and indeed loneliness. The execution, however, combining a few elements from her previous albums Born to Die and Ultraviolence, is different.

Musically, the tracks definitely feel solitary, production personnel numbering only three (one being Del Rey herself) – look at the context of the album too, with its extremely low-key press release, and it all circles round to reminding us how little we truly know about the Del Rey or indeed Grant.

The title-track opens up the album, and indeed sets the structure for most of the songs on the album – dreamy-strings throw tense and sultry images into your mind, piano and bass providing barely-there backing, and the multi-layered backing vocals of the chorus, sighing “Our honeymoon”, really sends a chill up the spine. It’s cinematic, filmic, dripping Bond-esque qualities everywhere.

“We both know the history of violence that surrounds you
But I’m not scared, there’s nothing to lose now that I’ve found you”

Changes of pace come in tracks like ‘High by the Beach’ and ‘Freak’ – a trap hip-hop beat underlies the former, a different motif than the tracks that preceded it, and it’s somewhat jarring to those who aren’t expecting the throwback to Del Rey’s second album Born to Die. The trademark despondent lyrics are there, evoking despair as she sings “It’s so surreal, I can’t survive, if this is all that’s real”. The latter brings in a much more prominent bass than we hear on the rest of the tracks, though the California themes resonate with others like the haunting ‘God Knows I Tried’.

What was also slightly out of place was the interlude, ‘Burnt Norton’, an etheral telling of the T.S Eliot poem which doesn’t quite work due to Del Rey’s very clean voice.

Honeymoon is definitely not a bad album, but it’s not “very different” (as was billed) from Lana Del Rey’s previous records; indeed, it’s hard to call her original – but, at the same time, you can’t really compare her to any other artist around today. Those who are already fans of her’s will most definitely welcome her intoxicating and relaxed vocals, evoking smoke-filled bars of decades past – for some, the persona might be starting to get old, but for others such as myself, Del Rey pulls off what she does with such conviction that sometimes you wonder if Elizabeth Grant feels bored and blue too.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

Album Review – ‘What Went Down’ by Foals

In September 2015 Foals released their fourth album, What Went Down.

The band kick off the record in fantastic fashion, the title track a belter that steps right off from their previous album Inhaler, released in 2013. Reportedly this album was first recorded in a fit of creativity just one month after their performance at ‘Bestival’ in 2014, and with this Foals could easily have been in danger of not moving forward musically with this album, and though they largely avoided this, the sound is unmistakably Foals-like especially with the use of synth sounds that are strongly reminiscent of Inhaler.

There is a feeling of a wider spectrum of genres on this album. Songs such as ‘Albatross’ and ‘London Thunder’ are more pop-orientated than previously whilst ‘What Went Down’ sees an increase in the use of heavier guitars. For me, ‘London Thunder’ is the standout track of the album. The stripped back piano and organic guitar give a haunting beauty to the vocals that adds great suspense to the slow build up of the song.

Overall the album is a strong follow up to the previous album, and there’s a greater range and subtlety to this piece of work. Inhaler  catapulted them to so much success, and it was always going to be a hard act to follow. I can’t help but feel that whilst this album is good as a whole, and will no doubt please greatly existing fans, it lacks enough songs of single quality to move the band on commercially. They are preaching well to those already converted, but new converts may be thin on the ground.

This article was written by Sam Brunt.

What we’re listening to (#5): ‘Definitely Maybe’ by Oasis

Oasis were an English rock band formed in 1991 – the initial lineup included Liam Gallagher (vocals), Paul Arthurs (guitar), Paul McGuigan (bass), and Tony McCarroll (drums). Liam’s brother would later join the band as the back-up vocalist and lead guitarist. Oasis released eight number-one albums and eight number-one singles during their run spanning almost two decades, but perhaps no album was as well received as their debut Definitely Maybe.

Definitely Maybe was released in 1994 and received immediate critical and commercial success after the release of ‘Supersonic’, ‘Shakermaker’, and ‘Live Forever’ as singles. It would go straight to number-one on the UK Albums Chart and, at the time, became the fastest selling UK album of all time. The album would go onto be certified as 7x Platinum and would also bring Oasis fame in America, where over a million copies were sold.

Oasis have been noted as one of the forefront bands in the Britpop music, a movement that has often been cited as the second British invasion of America, though it was not quite penetrating as the invasion which occurred during the 1960s. Along with bands like Blur, Suede, and the Stone Roses, Oasis counteracted the grunge music which was popular at the time with a much more upbeat, pop rock style of music which took the Western world by storm.

The album opens with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, and this may be one of the best songs written about being on stage, and the aforementioned optimism is clear to hear. Liam Gallagher’s vocals are on point, and his brother said that he put “everything I ever wanted so say in Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. The reverb-laden guitar rings in your ears as the track reaches is eclectic and powerful crescendo.

Like ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, many of Oasis’s songs on this album are just incredibly catchy earworms (and the lyrics are kind of just gravy on top, they’re definitely not Bob Dylan-esque if that’s what your into). The simplistic ‘Supersonic’ was adopted by the masses across the Western world as a song about individuality (just listen to the opening lines), the tone of Liam’s voice really makes the entire song. It’s almost as if the band don’t really care what’s being said, just along as it sounds good (but, hey, whatever works, right?)

Oasis also had more heavier songs littered throughout the album – ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ is a hedonistic explosion and a look into their lifestyles (though, it sounds very similar to a certain T-Rex song, but at least they didn’t copy it note for note). You’ve also got  ‘Bring it On Down’, a non-stop hard rock song, with massive punk influences on both the drums and guitar backing Liam’s voice. The band managed to balance this however, and introduced more softer songs, types of songs which have often been referred to as ‘bubblegum rock’  – the prime examples of these would be ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Slide Away’, both very idealistic and opportunist, often to a fault, with the over romanticisation becoming borderline boring in ‘Slide Away’ (although, the lengthy instrumental in between verses featuring Noel Gallagher riffing away is a helpful remedy).

Now that you’re mine, we’ll find a way of chasing the sun” – Slide Away, Oasis

Not many people expected to see Oasis gain the traction and success they did, but it ended up happening – in America, when Oasis were starting out, it was almost cool to like Oasis as they were basically an underground band, and from there they grew into the “best band in the world”. It was a shame that none of their other albums were never as good as their debut, but this doesn’t take away from them in the slightest. They are, and will be, British pop monuments.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez