Bat For Lashes- The Haunted Man Review

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With Halloween once again upon us it seems only fitting that the aptly named Bat For Lashes (presumably Squirrels For Side Burns was already taken) releases this week her third album, the even more aptly named The Haunted Man. One look at the album cover and its plain to see that multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan is already in the spirit of things, a completely starkers Ms Khan appears on it with an equally as naked man draped around her neck like a fine Russian mink, a fashion statement that even Lady Gaga might think twice about. But far from Gaga, it is Kate Bush that the artist seems to be most evoking within the contents of the album album, with its discordant melodies and sparse arrangements producing an unnerving at times, but ultimately pleasurable listening experience.

Opening number ‘Lilies’ starts off lush and ethereal but morphs into a stomping synth leviathan utilising the loud-quiet-loud formula that features prominently on the album. The single ‘All your Gold’ is nice enough, but you cannot shake the fact that its sounds oddly reminiscent of that Gotye song people got far too hyped over. The song ‘Oh Yeah’ has the single best opening of a song I have heard this year comprised of what sounds like the sea-gulls from Finding Nemo repeating the title over a drum line that can only be emitting from those Casio keyboards you used to find in the music room at secondary school, but before some-one starts stabbing at the ‘DJ! DJ!’ button it transforms into a Bjork-lite romp that ultimately disappoints but might grow on repeated listenings. But all the plaudits must be reserved for first single ‘Laura’, a masterpiece in understatement and minimalist song-writing, a simple meld of vocals and acoustic piano with flourishes of light orchestration that proves amazing song-writing beats gimmicks and over-production any time. Soul-wrenching.

Other notable moments on the album include the Gregorian chant breakdown on the album’s title-track as well as the weird pan-pipey intro to the song Winter Fields. Overall, far from being horrific in keeping with the holidays, the album is a solid release from an artist who answers the question ‘I’m a big fan of Kate Bush, can you recommend me any contemporary artists that are similar to her and if you say Florence and the Machine I’ll kick you in the head’.

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The Cribs- In the Belly of the Brazen Bull review

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On their fifth studio album In ‘The Belly of the Brazen Beast’ Wakefield’s The Cribs have gone back to basics. The brothers Jarman, reduced to a trio once more after the departure of former Smith’s axeman Johnny Marr, have done away with the shiny production and restrained pop songs that characterised their last LP Ignore the Ignorant to produce a collection of more abrasive and raw tunes that usher in the summer with a sledgehammer blow to the eardrum. This is not to say that there aren’t any catchy numbers to be found on the album however; heavens knows the Cribs know how to pen a good hook, a fact attributed to the bands childhood obsession with the Bee Gees by guitarist Ryan Jarman earlier this month after the sad death of Robin Gibb. This is no less apparent than on the albums first single ‘Come on and be a no-one’, a song that begins with a vivacity similar to that of Nirvana’s ‘Drain You’. Late eighties and early nineties American alternative music is definitely a thread that runs throughout the album, helped in no small part no doubt by the presence of former Pixies and Nirvana producer Steve Albini. Songs like ‘Chi-town’ and ‘Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast’ with their stampeding drums and fuzz-drenched guitars unabashedly hark back to the days of flannel and five o’clock shadows, but let us not be too hasty to apply the dreaded g-word to the whole album. As opposed to a band like, say,  Yuck, The Cribs manage to borrow the best elements from the early nineties and appropriate them without sounding too hackneyed or conceited and manage to retain the spirit that so endeared them to their fans, something that some critics thought was dented by the inclusion of Marr on their last album. Overall this album is definitely one for the fans, managing to sound heavy but pop-y, grungey but not too angsty. This is without doubt the sound of summer, if you plan on spending your summer in a leather jacket jumping into things. The Cribs are back, now let’s go break stu

Lethal Bizzle at Royal Holloway Student Union

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As a resident of North London for about 18 and a bit years or so, grime is a genre I have found hard to ignore. I don’t hate it, but I’m not going to be trawling the new releases section of my local urban record store (Boombox Records, Palmers green. ZOOP ZOOP!), for a deep cuts album I can spend a lonely Sunday afternoon listening to. I like the big tunes. And Lethal Bizzle possesses one of the biggest tunes of the last decade in his repertoire, a tune that most grime artists would kill to be able to have in their back pocket if a crowd isn’t going as hard as they might like. “POW! (Forward)” was released all the way back in 2004, the stone age of British rap, and is the only reason that I and, I’m guessing, half of my fellow audience members purchased a ticket to see Lethal B at the Student Union on Friday. Arriving onstage a full 40 minutes late to rapturous applause that I can only assume was generated by a mixture of relief and Jaegermeister, Bizzle seemed disinterested throughout the first half of his performance. Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘DENCH’, which is short for ‘Dentures’ I believe, and complaining about the lack of sound being emitted from his microphone (going a tad deaf in your old age Bizzle?), I began to get the sense that maybe after 9 years in the game the once mercurial Lethal B was past it. Then the opening salvo of ‘POW!’ blared over the speaker system and the room crumbled at the power of one of grimes greatest anthem’s. Fists flew. Bodies were flung. And I feel sorry for anyone under the height of 5’6. It must also be noted that Lethal B managed to stage dive into an unsuspecting crowd of punters which is always impressive, especially at a fresher’s event. That, coupled with his performance of House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ as a grand finale made the whole night worth it and provided the perfect end to fresher’s week, for me at least. Because for 20 minutes in that sweaty, crowded room inside the student union, I felt like I was back in London. No wonder I spent an hour afterwards trying to find a tube station to get home…

James Morrison- The Awakening Review

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Coming straight out of left field and in a move that is likely to alienate his entire fan base, James Morrison has for his third album The Awakening, recorded a titanic dubstep behemoth that would make Skrillex or Nero blush. Discarding his trademark whisky gravelled vocals and acoustic guitar, Morrison has released an album designed to liquefy brains and tear down club… Oh no wait. Yeah, no, James Morrison has actually just released a James Morrison album, my mistake.

   Housewives second favourite floppy-haired singer songwriter (Next to Sir James Blunt of course), Morrison did not make things easy for himself when he released his debut single ‘You Give Me Something’ way back in 2006. Trying to surmount a song that good would be a challenge for anyone and whilst there are moments on The Awakening where he comes close, Album opener ‘In my Dreams’ and closer ‘One Life’ are both lovingly crafted pop songs, there isn’t a moment that transcends the middle ground that Morrison has treaded since releasing his duet with Nelly Furtado ‘Broken Strings’. The album also finds Morrison wearing his influences squarely on his sleeve, tracks such as ‘Slave to the music’ and ‘Beatiful World’ find him doing his best Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder impersonations and the song ‘Forever’ has him sounding curiously similar to Ceelo Green. But however hard he tries to channels these artists he is let down by a set of songs that lack any tangible emotion, an odd occurrence given the passing of his father and birth of his child that took place before the recording of the album. This is exemplified in the track ‘Up’, where the effects laden voice of Jessie J sweeps in to remove the last drops of sincerity from an already emotionless song. To summate, only purchase this album if you are a diehard fan and for a more earnest account of contemporary soul look up a man called Michael Kiwanuka, you won’t be disappointed.

Matt La Faci