Atoms for Peace – Amok
Amok, a collaborative work by the supergroup Atoms for Peace, is a blend of artistry and musicianship from well-respected members like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. The album begins with the contemplative sounds and cacophonic rhythms of ‘Before Your Very Eyes’ – a Radiohead-esque juxtaposition which layers Yorke’s porcelain vocals over house-like synth chords that meander unpredictably. Voices intertwine, conflict and coagulate, both enchanting and soothing the listener.
Some of the initial songs have little progression – each seems only a single thought – which means the music is engaging, but not compelling. Yet the album gracefully frets and rumbles on, a gorgeous mix of smooth and fricative soundscapes. ‘Stuck Together in Pieces’ melds the genuinity of Mauro Refosco’s percussion with the modern, heavily-produced sounds of Flea’s bass, Yorke’s voice and Nigel Godrich’s synth. The album’s title track and final song, ‘Amok’, melds subtle discordance with an echolalia of song, creating an accumulation of emotions that swells up to a feeling of triumph and then peters out gracefully. Amok is a delightfully limitless introspection; a Russian doll of noise.
Johnny Marr – The Messenger
Johnny Marr’s debut solo album is a qualified success. The songs are largely excellent, occasionally redolent of his heyday as The Smiths’ guitarist. ‘European Me’ and ‘New Town Velocity’ are highlights; the latter’s emotive, autobiographical lyricism sets it apart. The guitar riffs are predictably superb, particularly so on title track ‘The Messenger’. However, Marr’s vocals are less individualistic, often blurred, and his lyrics can feel distant. He never captures the personal expressivity of former Smiths collaborator Morrissey, but what difference does it make? Marr is above all a legendary guitarist, and this album reminds us of that.
Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
Youth Lagoon’s sophomore release is like a massage for the ears. Trevor Powers, who runs this one-man operation, has matured considerably since his last album – and grown more introspective in the process, it seems. The beats here are muffled, if they exist at all; on ‘Sleep Paralysis’, the record dips into lullaby territory, but with the metallic weirdness of Animal Collective mixed in. Powers’ ability to combine the dreamy with the bizarre, all the while remaining highly listenable, is exemplified on ‘Pelican Man’ and ‘The Bath’, while the tinkling outro in ‘Daisyphobia’ is downright hypnotic. Make like a sponge and absorb this record thoroughly.
We Cut Corners – Today I realised I could go home backwards
With memorable lyrics and exciting harmonies, the dynamic Irish duo We Cut Corners have recorded a unique and fresh-sounding debut album. From the calming melodies of ‘Yet’ to the angstier vociferous cry of ‘Three People’, the album is distinct and diverse. The duo’s musical integrity is most noticeable in their digital single ‘Go Easy’, which has a softness and emotion different to the other tracks. Unfortunately the band’s core sound, in all its multiplicity, is sometimes lost to the listener, but an album can’t go too wrong when its last track sports the title ‘Are You A Man Or A Mannequin?’
Post War Years – Galapagos
The combination of captivating drum rhythms and unusual synthetic melodies in Galapagos makes it a highly enjoyable listen. The echoing vocals are fantastic throughout, particularly in ‘Growl’, although they can at times contradict the musical backing. The tracks frequently mirror natural sounds, and the influence of German electronic music is clearly noticeable, lending the album a vaguely futuristic tone. Overall, though, Galapagos lacks coherence and consistency. Post War Years try to combine multiple angles that unfortunately don’t entirely fit together, and this limits the emotional impact of the album.