Foxes! - Foxes!

Foxes!

Foxes!

Released: Jan 16 2012

Genre: Indie Pop

Label: Big Salad

Rating: 8/10

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By: Dan Titcombe

Foxes! offer a breath of fresh air within the indie pop music spectrum, through their captivating rhythms and simplistic, yet infectious melodies. Foxes! husband/wife partnership gifts them with an innocent aura which separates this straightforward indie pop from other upcoming bands.

Their self-titled album ‘Foxes’ is a compilation of 12 songs, each with their own atmosphere but with enough familiarity to defines Foxes! as a band with exceptional talent.

Amongst their many standout tracks is ‘The Panda Bear Song’ which flaunts an innocent and childlike motif, held up with a toe-tapping drum-beat, harmonic lyrics and an outstanding guitar technique which showcases the beauty that this band can achieve through their music.

‘Welcome to the Jivin’ starts with a style which sounds, as the title sounds, very close to that 1930s sound – a real slice of nostalgia and exceptional demonstration of diversity. ‘Welcome to the Jivin’ has a relaxing keyboard melody, a great drum beat and a fantastic rhythm section, which combined with the right tempo creates yet another beautiful song on this outstanding album.

Another admirable track is ‘Oh Rosie’. This song has an incredible guitar piece which closely eludes an almost chaotic atmosphere and when the song starts to break down you can really sense the emotions bursting at the seams.

Foxes!, with their eponymous debut, offer their own truly unique take on music with this record. This album could quite possibly kick start this band and place them on the path to success. Foxes! is most certainly a name to look out for.

Foxes! – The Panda Bear Song

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VVOLVES - When I'm Down

VVOLVES

When I’m Down

Released: Oct 03 2011

Genre: Indie Rock

Label: Peski Records

Rating: 3.0/5

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By: James Murray

Originally written for The 405

Stylised band names seem to be in fashion. VVOLVES might not take their quirkiness to the lengths of tUnE-yArDs – but with such bands it can be difficult to see beyond their barefaced attempts of flamboyance. Luckily, in both cases, these bands carry the unique punch to justify their textual gaudiness; though in the case of VVOLVES their music certainly isn’t as far-out as the title suggests.

It’s incredible how swiftly bands can move on and adapt their musical style, and there are fewer cases where this is more relevant than with VVOLVES. In January of this year their self-titled EP was released; a fast-paced, electronic influenced indie pop record, quite comparable to Klaxons and other (controversially labelled) nu-rave bands of the 00s. The When I’m Down EP, however, takes a much more melancholy approach. The feel-good aura is still tangible, but VVOLVES focus has shifted away from their original eccentricity – instead taking a step backwards into the shadows of their 80s influencers.

‘Clearer’ is a suitably named opener. With a strong focus on vocals that aren’t present in earlier releases, it wouldn’t be outrageous to compare the record to the earlier sounds of The Cure. VVOLVES have definitely moved away from their electronic roots, but it’d be unfair to brand them as backwards or dated. The nostalgic value is certainly there, but more relevant music tendencies give this band their splash of originality. Incongruous to their generally uplifting sound, at times eerie patches of musicianship arise – in closing track ‘Where You’d Start’, vocals aside, much of the track wouldn’t sound out of place beside some of The Horrors later work.

The When I’m Down EP isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a successful music experiment for a band making such a radical side-step. Later releases will clarify whether changing direction is a smart move, but When I’m Down certainly shows signs of potential. VVOLVES show no lack of musicianship, the only worry is whether this newly-found panache carries enough novelty to stand out from the rest on a musical level, and not just on print.

VVOLVES – Where You’d Start

Norman Palm - Shore To Shore

Norman Palm - Shore To Shore

Norman Palm

Shore To Shore

Released: Mar 15 2011

Genre: Indie / Pop

Label: Slumberland

Rating: 4.0/5

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With spring around the corner sometimes it’s nice to be able to listen to something a little ahead of the weather. The sun may not quite be here just yet, but the uplifting sound of Norman Palm helps bring a touch of buoyancy to our ears.

Norman grew up in Germany and became a multi-instrumentalist at a young age. Once he finished high school he went off to art school, a relaxed atmosphere which may describe the calming nature of his productions. As a result of Norman’s artistic background his live shows often incorporate audio visual backings.

Tropical indie is the best way to describe Shore To Shore – a record with tender lyrics and joyful instrumentals. For a record so soft vocally, it doesn’t shy away from the bass. At times Norman’s production drifts away from gentle indie rock and crosses over to the electronic side of the music spectrum. For an indie band or artist to converge with electronic elements isn’t as innovative as it was five years ago, but Shore To Shore combines the two without feeling artificial; the addition of atypical and vintage xylophones adding to the scenic atmosphere intended. The opening track ‘Start/Stop’ opens the real mood of the record. The guest female vocals act as a demonstration of the dynamics and intricacy that are prevalent throughout. Although much of the record seems instrumentally straightforward, unusual yet effective elements help to build up a jubilant yet contradictorily soothing aura.

One of the stand-out tracks on Shore To Shore is ‘Images’. The opening to the track uses pulsating drums and soothing chords – a combination of instrumentals that wouldn’t sound out of place on Foals latest record Total Life Forever. The lyrics in Palm’s tracks often focus on isolation and new life, presenting a realistic and optimistic outlook on life: “I need another beginning; I need a very good start”.

While Norman’s lyrics are interesting, it’s the instrumentals that make Shore To Shore a very listenable record. The euphoric drums and synths throughout ‘Easy’ act as a simple but highly rhythmic backing to the vocals. The chords in the run up to the chorus lift the mood of the record to an epic, tranquil high.

Shore To Shore is a clever and entrancing record; powerful instrumentally and lyrically serene. For those in need of a little optimism in their lives, the tropical sound of Normal Palm could be the fitting soundtrack to the run-up to this year’s summer festivals.

Norman Palm – Easy

Originally written for The 405.

Lightspeed Champion - Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You

Lightspeed Champion - Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You

Lightspeed Champion

Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You

Released: Feb 15 2010

Genre: Indie/Acoustic

Label: Domino Records

Rating: 3.3/5

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Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is a complete progression from the last Lightspeed Champion album; Hynes still keeps his special song writing talent, but more heavily incorporates more instruments and more experimentation on this album than he did on Falling off the Lavender Bridge. Although violins feature on many tracks on the debut album, they take a far more dominance on this record, as well as this Hynes experiments much more with the electric guitar, a tool he used a lot less on the debut album.

As usual on Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You Dev’s vocals are completly infectious, as he sings so many of his addictive lyrics, his voice fits in perfectly with the blend of guitar, violin and piano that he sings on top of, whether the music is full on, all instruments playing chords, or if it’s a simple synth beat he sings on top of he pushes his voice in a direction that fits just right for the song and the pace of the song.

Another great feature on this album are the intermissions, where we mainly hear Dev experimenting with various music. With Intermission 1 we hear Dev over laying piano and synths on top of each other giving an interesting short composition, where as with Intermission 2 we hear Dev experimenting with drumming, and then finally we have Etude Op. 3 Goodnight Michalek, where we hear Dev playing more classical piano at a much faster pace than Intermission 1. If Dev decided to do the next Lightspeed Champion album completely instrumentally he would be able to pull it off, especially if it was in the style of Intermission 1. The highlight tracks on the album are undoubtedly I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone, a violin and piano led song, perfectly paced but is rather short at 2:29; the other highlight track is the follower Madame Van Damme which features interesting guitar technique with the infectious ‘Kill me baby wont you kill be’ it’s a song that can be listened to for days and days, certainly one of the more timeless stand out tracks on this album.

Overall the album is a nice progression from the debut, but does not offer the amazing album feel that the debut possesses. As good as this album is, it simply doesn’t compare to Falling Off The Lavender Bridge which was  one of the best albums of 2008. This album is not one of the best of 2010, it is a decent album, but just seems to lack the amazing tracks that the first contained, such as Midnight Surprise and Galaxy of the Lost. None of the songs on this album really show Dev’s fantastic song writing talent as much as tracks on the first album do, and for this reason Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You is a slight disappointment.

~ Article by Chris Fishlock

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Vampire Weekend

Contra

Released: Jan 12 2010

Genre: Indie Rock

Label: XL Recordings

Rating: 4.0/5

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In December drinking Horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava”.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, that line signals the return of New York four-piece Vampire Weekend, and they may just be wackier than ever. Don’t be fooled by the quite frankly boring artwork, this album is a rollercoaster ride right from opening song “Horchata”, inspired by the almond based beverage, to the final track.

The aforementioned “Horchata” is followed by “White Sky”, an upbeat track which is held together by a processed drum beat. This song sums up Vampire Weekend’s experimental nature to a tee, with lead singer Ezra Koenig choosing not to sing on the chorus but to scream an incoherent wail. Unconventional it may be, but somehow it works.

Next track “Holiday” is the closest this album comes to repeating the commercial sound of “A-Punk” from the self titled album whilst other tracks such as “California English” and “Run” both plod along and piece the album together nicely.

The highlight of the album for me however, is the brilliant “Giving Up the Gun”. Chris Tomson’s pounding drums really aid the “stop/start” nature of the verses, whilst the catchy chorus would surely make it a wise choice for the next release from the album.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Contra” is the band’s effort to evolve musically and reach a wider audience. The album is full of the energy that made the band so popular in the first place, just listen to the frantic first single “Cousins” for proof. However it’s clear that the band are keen to add a more mellow string to their bow, and songs such as album closer “I Think Ur a Contra”, in which Koenig seems to be getting a few things off his chest to a partner, show that it’s definitely an avenue worth exploring more on album number three.

All in all “Contra” is a record that probably won’t win Vampire Weekend many new fans, and is unlikely to see much commercial success in the way of singles (try and get Radio 1 to play “White Sky”!). On the other hand, their legion of fans are bound to be pleased with this offering and will be excited to hear how they sound on the upcoming tour.

~ Article by Jack Oldham

Delphic - Acolyte

Delphic - Acolyte

Delphic

Acolyte

Released: Jan 11 2010

Genre: Electronic, Indie

Label: Chimeric/Polydor

Rating: 4.4/5

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Electronic indie is a style of music that’s been explored by several well-known bands over the past few years, Editors, Bloc Party, and The Killers to name a few, however; the end-product seems to sound better when it comes to a band naturally. The ‘indietronic’ sound of Delphic isn’t built up of powerful guitar riffs over aggressive electro-effects, as the central sound of the Manchester three-piece is down to Richard Boardman (synths), the raw, electronic aspect of the group ultimately creates an innovative sound, encapsulating their originality.

Opening track, Clarion Call, is a short track, but the overall effect of the opener is explanative, in both vocals and instrumentals, for marking an opening theme and setting the tone. ‘We all need time to change, we all have time to change’, Acolyte is only 52 minutes in total length, but it’s long enough to change one’s opinion on electronic indie: it sometimes can actually work.

Second track, Doubt, is the most pop-orientated of the record, and although it offers the least in terms of originality, it doesn’t fail in tempting the listener to return for more. Here, simplicity is captivating. Similarly, Red Lights is far from complex — nevertheless, the trippy, quick paced backing synth conflicts with Cook’s tranquilising vocals in a bizarrely complementing manner. Perhaps the top layer of music is less complex than the overall product. It’s certainly an audacious move to attempt a sound that could so easily have resulted in an audible monstrosity, so its surprisingly pleasing outcome only makes it all the more sweet.

Album titled track, Acolyte, is the record’s longest, and both the most experimental and progressive in nature. As time elapses, elements of flamboyant electronica come and go, with distant, lulling vocals creating an expansive sphere of utopia for the listener. Following tracks, Halycon and Submission, offer sounds more vocal in dominance, offering a slice of reality before transcending back into an illusory state one last time with record finale, Remain.

Acolyte is an inspiring record, that’s extravagant without being too intrusive. It offers space for indulgence, and space to reflect — a refreshing example of truly mesmerising music. Delphic have set the bar for 2010, and seemingly the start of this new decade could be the ignition of potentially wide-scale success.

~ Article by James Murray

Bear In Heaven - Beast Reast Forth Mouth

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth

Bear In Heaven

Beast Rest Forth Mouth

Released: Nov 13 2009

Genre: Post-Rock/Experimental/Indie

Label: Hometapes

Rating: 4.0/5

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Beast Rest Forth Mouth, the second full-length studio album from Bear In Heaven, has offered plenty for critics to drool over — the use of progressive, experimental vibes has resulted in a refreshing 41 minutes of highly admirable and atmospheric indie rock. The Brooklyn based four-piece, fronted by Jon Philpot, have successfully recorded an album that is consistent yet brilliant. The generally slow-paced tempo of tracks takes nothing away from the powerful effect of the album; ‘Lovesick Teenagers’ being a great example of how strong and sincere vocals along side atmospheric drum patterns can result in a highly refreshing end-product.

‘Complex’ is no adjective suited to this album, however, ’simple’ would be equally inadequate — Bear In Heaven haven’t offered anything that is new, as such; but an album that offers diversity through its varying dynamics, specifically in the vocal quarter. Philpot’s vocals remain sincere throughout, however, manage to fluctuate from the intoxicated, continuous chants of ‘Dust Cloud‘, to the choppy vocals in album opener ‘Beast In Peace‘, leading to an emphatic falsetto chorus.

The diversity of Beast Rest Forth Mouth takes it from simply being a ‘good experimental album’, to a journey; perhaps not the most exciting of the last decade, but certainly an audible adventure from a relatively unknown four-piece (certainly in Europe) that, with one release, have captured the imaginations of many. Bear In Heaven are no longer a band with potential, they’re a band that listeners and fans will be eager to hear more from in the future — be it through more studio releases or expansive touring.

~ Article by James Murray