Five albums in a decade is a pretty good batting average, but I'm always a little cautious when an album is described as a "return to form". It's with that attitude that I approached Band Of Horses' new record Why Are You Ok. I've rarely been disappointed with the output of Ben Bridwell's band, which has continually produced thought-provoking, occasionally explosive moments of aural bliss. If revisiting the predominantly quiet grandeur of 2010's Infinite Arms is considered the best that Band of Horses can offer, then perhaps Why Are You Ok is a triumph of sorts. Personally though, I found it a very difficult album to love.
As a record Why Are You Ok is perfectly inoffensive, but perhaps that's part of my problem, there are far too few moments where the band actually feels energised. Many of these songs feel lethargic and caught in a suburban slumber. It's also rare that an album clocking in at just shy of fifty minutes feels like it got lost somewhere in its own plodding and meandering songs. That's certainly the case here, and when one of the high points is called 'In A Drawer', you realise quite quickly that these songs are focusing on the minutia of a pretty contented life, rather than a grander theme. It's an album that could probably lose ten minutes along the way and it would greatly benefit: not in culling the number of songs, rather pulling into focus some of the dreamy moments where brevity would be a blessing.
That's also the frustrating thing, there is a genuinely good album hiding in here somewhere. On the opening cut which spans seven minutes and effectively stitches two disparate songs together ('Dull Times/The Moon') Bridwell reminds the listener that "home is where the heart is". If that's the case, then why do so many of these songs sound devoid of warmth and homeliness? It may sound lazy, but I just found that the opening song title said it all really, dull.
Continue reading: Band of Horses - Why Are You OK Album Review
Listen to their new track 'Cumbia de Donde'.
With tour dates ahead of them and other miscellaneous events in the near future, Calexico are on the way to release their ninth album 'Edge Of The Sun', out on Berlin's City Slang in April this year and featuring various collaborators.
Calexico release 'Edge Of The Sun' in April
Calexico are set to unveil 'Edge Of The Sun', which follows up their 2013 live release 'Spiritoso' and the previous studio album 'Algiers' from 2012. In true Calexico spirit, as they are well-known for their ever changing line-up and huge touring band ensemble, 'Edge Of The Sun' features a huge variety of special guests, beginning with Iron & Wine's Sam Beam - having previously worked on their 2008 album 'Carried to Dust' - who features on the track 'Bullets and Rocks'.
A Week In Reviews... It's hard to believe that's it's been well over a year since M83 released their single 'Midnight City' and signalled their long-awaited move up to alternative music's big leagues. Going gold in America on sales, and featuring heavily on hit UK TV shot Made In Chelsea, the song precluded album Hurry Up We're Dreaming reaching the US album charts top 20. Our reviewer found that, with 2012 now drawing to a close, the French group's party was very much still in full swing. "'Midnight City', as expected, gets the biggest cheer of the night before an epic version of 'Couleurs' brings the set to a close, and if your mind wasn't already blown, this unbelievable wall of noise was the final knockout blow" he wrote in gushing praise.
Away from the live arena and back to the studio, former Mercury nominees The Unthanks doled out another uncompromising slab of their ethereal folk. Songs From The Shipyards is the group's third release within a year, and was initially a soundtrack to a film documenting their local North East England's shipbuilding industry history. Andrew Lockwood took this one on, and found a band in the form of their life seven albums into their career: "The album, as you might expect, is full of character and love" he wrote. "The songs are performed with great care and attention and each note stirs the emotions as it recounts a slice of Shipbuilding history. Regardless of whether you have seen the accompanying film this set of songs works wonderfully well and once again shows what a prodigious and prolific talent The Unthanks are."
A Week In Interviews... We managed to grab a chat with stalwart Canadian pop-punkers Billy Talent, a group still fizzing with energy with their 20th anniversary of existence just round the corner in 2013. David Straw chatted to the band formerly known as Pezz (they changed their name after legal issues in 1999) and chatted of tours, new albums and the US general election, finding the group in bullish mood on the eve of a show in Nottingham.
Band Of Horses' fourth album Mirage Rock is a record that isn't quite sure what it wants to achieve, but it seems perfectly happy to do so without sounding directionless. Much of the production sheen that was a hallmark of predecessor Infinite Arms has been removed in favour of a looser more country feel. It seems a more intimate affair, but lacks some of the punch that made Band Of Horses quite so compelling. Ultimately it's the sound of a band having fun without wanting to repeat themselves. In a word it's a little underwhelming.
However opener and first single 'Knock Knock' doesn't really indicate Mirage Rock's more laid back tendencies. Instead it feels like an updated 60's pop song. The drums and backing vocals along with handclaps bring to mind a strange indie-rock mash-up that piques your interest. It's a great introduction to a record and although the lyrics are lightweight it's clear that Glyn Johns' production work helps it to barrel along at quite a pace. If Mirage Rock had decided to follow this template over its relatively brief 40 minutes, it may well seem less difficult to love the record.
Among Ben Bridwell's nostalgic southern excursions ('Slow Cruel Hands Of Time', 'Shut-in Tourist', for example) are brief flashes of more memorable material. 'A Little Biblical' features some great lyrics; "Welcome to another world, look at the water, look at whatever. We broke the last one apart, put it back together, it didn't matter." It's a carefree guitar led pop song that muses on growing up and moving on without feeling heavy handed.
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Neil Young and Foo Fighters were among the star attractions at Saturday night’s Global Citizen Festival in Central Park. The concert was held in order to raise awareness about issues surrounding poverty and according to the Washington Post, organisers “used an innovative approach to ticket distribution so that many concert-goers were forced to learn about an array of global problems in order to get a ticket.”
Anyone wanting to attend the concert, which also featured performances from the Black Keys, John Legend and Band Of Horses, had to register for tickets at globalcitizen.org. They earned ‘points’ towards a ticket for every poverty-related video they watched, of piece of information that they read. Around 71,000 people signed up for tickets and 60,000 of those crowded into Central Park for the unique event. The bands played for a round an hour each and were interspersed with guest speakers talking about global poverty issues.
Neil Young was joined, for his set, by Dave Grohl and members of the Black Keys, for a rendition of his classic track ‘Rockin’ In The Free World.’ When Foo Fighters played their own set, Grohl told the audience “Feels good to be here.” John Legend made a “surprise appearance,” playing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ just a short way from where Lennon used to live. The concert had been deliberately scheduled to coincide with the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month, to increase public consciousness of the presence of poverty.
For the past few years with their previous two albums, Band of Horses have been building quite a buzz. Infinite Arms, their third and highly anticipated new album clearly needs to deliver something special to launch this band into the big time.
Continue reading: Band of Horses, Infinite Arms Album Review