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Various Artists - BBC Radio 1's The Nixtape Album Review

For our American readers, no, that's not a typo. 'The Nixtape' is a regular feature on BBC Radio 1's popular 'Breakfast Show'; a weekly segment every Friday morning where an hour of music, usually consisting of classics and barely-dated hits from the 90s and earlier 00s, are played. 'BBC Radio 1's the Nixtape' is split into two discs, each with a different style. The first is a rap/hip-hop compilation, with the second being more of a club/techno/house mix. While it's all the same 'Nixtape', the styles are divergent enough to demand a separate look at each.

Various Artists - BBC Radio 1's the Nixtape Album Review

The first half of the 'Nixtape' kicks off with some vintage swag in TLC's 'Creep' and Ashanti's 'Only U', starting the first CD squarely into classic 90s hip hop, before quickly launching into more conventional rap beats like A$AP Mob's 'Trillmatic' and the enjoyably hilarious 'Shake Ya Ass' by Mystikal, all of which ooze with vintage. The second portion of the album lands the big hits of the last two decades, featuring Sean Paul's 'Get Busy', Snoop Dogg's 'Beautiful', Busta Rhymes' 'Thank You' and Notorious B.I.G's 'Mo' Money, Mo' Problems', encompassing some of the most profound hip-hop in music history. It wouldn't have been a hip-hop album without Nelly's 'Hot in Here' or 'The Way You Move' by Outkast, but the latter half of the album had fewer memorable beats. 'Welcome to Jamrock' by Damian Marley and 'Nobody to Love' by Sigma stand out amidst a number of old school rap tracks, but few of the rest stood out as being particularly memorable after the repeated punches of the big hitters made their way.

The 'Nixtape''s electronic second half isn't bad, though it's something that's going to appeal more to die-hard fans than casual listeners. There aren't quite the same identifiable groups of music within disc 2, though there are equally a few stand-out acts scattered throughout. The soothing 'Rather Be' by Clean Bandit, the ivory-tingling 'I Wanna Feel' by second SecondCity, and an infusion of pop in 'Take Care' by Rihanna and Drake prompt all but the most lethargic listener to get on their feet and move. Where the first half of the 'Nixtape' had variety, the second half runs together completely. Perhaps this is an appealing factor for fans of club music, and maybe this would make the second half of the 'Nixtape' perfect for your next dance party, but it can be difficult to stay interested in an album when the songs begin to run together so cleanly.

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Various Artists - Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5: Smokin' (Signed Vs Unsigned) Album Review

It is rare that we see record labels actually bother to put any effort at all into their compilations and samplers these days. Most of the time, labels will scrape together the bare minimum number of tunes by a couple of their flagship acts backed by six to ten cuts from their less well-known artists and chuck it up on their website with little to no fanfare or care for the quality of the product being sold. This is not so for Xtra Mile, the label that brought you Reuben and continues to back the incredible rise of Frank Turner. 'Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5' delivers a whopping 42 tracks for a fiver. That's right: whatever your taste in punk, indie or folk might be, with such a high volume of work on show here, you are bound to find something new to get into for the price of a couple of pints. Winner.

Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5: Smokin' (Signed Vs Unsigned) Album Review

This mammoth compilation kicks off with Against Me! at their thrilling, roaring best with 'Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues'; a song packed to the gills with bite and venom from what is probably the most important punk album of the last ten years. It is a tough act to follow, but the quality on disc one is incredibly high.

You get more rock as Cheap Girls take on a Drive-By Truckers kind of sound on their contribution and recent signing 'Billy the Kid' turns in; an absolute emo gem. Arguably, the two most high profile acts on disc one also bring the guitars with Jamie Lenman putting in a grotesquely entertaining and terrifyingly heavy turn in the form of 'Shower of Scorn' from his 'Muscle Memory' album and Frank Turner slips back into a hardcore sound he has not experimented with since the end of 'Million Dead' on Mongol Horde's nautical 'Blistering Blue Barnacles'.

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Various Artists - The Giver: Music Collection Album Review

As someone who's long been a fan of the book, to see 'The Giver' movie finally come to fruition has been quite the nostalgic trip. Headed and ended by OneRepublic and featuring rising stars such as Tori Kelly ('Silent'), Capital Cities ('One Minute More') and other solid up-and-comers in the music industry, 'The Giver: Music Collection' has a perfect mix of superstar power and the flair of still-indie but progressively more mainstream acts to inspire confidence in its pedigree. But is that confidence warranted?

The Giver: OST Music Collection Album Review

One Republic's first track 'Ordinary Human' has a pleasant synthetic backing and uplifting, optimistic lyrics that, with a certain "sci-fi" vibe, is reminiscent of Muse combined with the nouveau-disco feel common to contemporary popular music. 'One Minute More' plants the album more firmly in the territory of contemporary pop-rock with a light, airy and upbeat tone alongside, again, positive lyrics, and some interesting mid-paced synth. From there we go into the only female vocals on the album with Tori Kelly's 'Silent', which is a competent acoustic guitar song with a country twang. Where 'Silent' takes that distinct country flavor, 'Feel What's Good' by Jake Bugg brings in a dash of classic rock in some electric guitar. It's not strictly acoustic, of course, but it maintains a certain soulful element to its lyrics that resembles that of more acoustic and instrumental music. Bruno Major's 'Children' is more stripped down, its lyrics taking center-stage over a lightly strumming guitar.

Rixton's 'Whole', oddly enough, sounds more like a OneRepublic song than the actual OneRepublic. The music seems unnecessarily slow to the point of lethargy. However, Rixton give way to album highlight Aloe Blacc's 'Here Today'; the strong vibe of gospel and blues give it a certain dynamism and very inspirational quality. 'Shine My Way' by Sheppard has a lot of the same sound, and its more subdued lyrics carry all the richness that the swinging beat demands. The album departs with two more acoustic style songs - NEEDTOBREATHE's 'Difference' and OneRepublic's closer 'I Lived'. 'Difference' is slow and somber throughout, invoking the same vibe that made 'Children' work, while 'I Lived' picks up the pace around the time it gets to the bridge.

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Various Artists - Pepsi Beats Of The Beautiful Game Album Review

It makes absolute logical sense for any company to want to be affiliated with the biggest events in the world, which the football World Cup unarguably is. But what to do when your biggest rival is a corporate partner of said tournament? In this case, the answer is a compilation record.

Various Artists - Pepsi Beats Of The Beautiful Game Album Review

Whilst a couple of months may already have elapsed since the World Cup ended, this does afford us the ability to review this album using a host of clichés and tournament-inspired analogies.  Santigold's 'Kicking Down Doors' signals the start of play with a pounding dub beat on a track that fails to take off. The arrival of a collaboration between Rita Ora and Calvin Harris - 'I Will Never Let You Down' - is like Spain making an appearance, but the resulting club number is as disappointing as the showing from the former champions. The decision to allow Janelle Monae to give Bowie's 'Heroes' an urban makeover gets a red card, but Don Omar adds the correct sort of bite to proceedings with a carnival-enthused 'Pura Vida'.  

The second half begins with a substitution to the likeable quirky pop of 'Crescendo' by Jetta, before Kelly Rowland takes centre stage. Unfortunately, 'The Game' is a tuneless effort that falls well beneath the high standard of the output she has previously been involved with and leaves us needing a hero as we enter the latter stages of play. It would be too much now for the result of the album to be saved, but like a late consolation, it doesn't mean you can't put positives into the outcome. It isn't forthcoming though, with the remainder playing out a drab affair lacking impact and passion. Likening this to the England team's performance seems too obvious, but given the lack of expectation in the first instance, is actually quite appropriate.

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Various Artists - Kitsune America 3 Album Review

Given their heritage, it would be easy to assume that Gallic fashion house Kitsuné would be "Into" the sort of soul-sucking EDM you'd associate with catwalks: via this series and, more frequently, its Europhile sister imprint, they've, however, unearthed more than their fair share of pop mavericks from around the globe over the years.

Various Artists - Kitsune America 3 Album Review

A compilation itself is like a box of chocolates of course, but in the third instalment of their  American version, 'Kitsune America 3', much of the good flavours seems to have gone. On opener 'Karma', NYC-based duo Beau bring something of a spaghetti western touch to their sweet tale of wished-for revenge, sounding not unlike their neighbours Lucius, whilst Sunni Colon's auto-tuned harmonies on the otherwise uneventful soul balladry of '1000 Roses' narrowly help to avoid the feeling it was salvaged from the talent show dustbin.  

At times, you feel that in their obvious haste for artist diversity the compilers have fallen into the trap of focussing on the sound and not the songs, the result being a series of tussles with generics as opposed to fresh talent which is also doing new things. This slip up means that Navvi's plodding closer 'Speak' is more sleep inducing that the dream pop it aims to be and Misun's girl-band chirping on 'Eli Eli' grates. But the biggest turn-off comes via Brenmar's 'Medusa', a more by-the-numbers rip off of The Weeknd you're less likely to clock from San Francisco to Miami.

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Various Artists - Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One Album Review

Producers Jesse Lauter and Sean O'Brien's pet project for ATO Records, 'Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One', is a curious proposition. A cut above the usual covers compilation, it's an ambitious attempt to reclaim lost gems from Dylan's much maligned career low point. While many listeners may not realise it, the eighties were also a prolific period for Dylan. Cherry-picking material from his eight studio albums released in just over a decade is an interesting challenge for the likes of the Hold Steady's Craig Finn and Blitzen Trapper. But, ultimately, the album doesn't elevate itself beyond a curio for the most dedicated Dylan fan.

Various Artists - Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One Album Review

The good news is that, for the most part, the project does succeed in breathing new life into songs long since neglected by Bob. Stripped of the fashionable production elements of the time, there is indeed hidden beauty to the updated and diverse performances here. The song choices are also bold. Not content with simply choosing better respected compositions,there's a feeling that the artists have really tried to push themselves. For example, many would have put their money on 'Oh Mercy''s 'Most Of The Time' making an appearance, far fewer would have hoped for 'Under The Red Sky''s 'Wiggle, Wiggle'. Surprisingly, only the latter is attempted here. Yet it doesn't feel like an academic exercise to rescue these songs from obscurity, there's a real affection for the material and many of the performances warrant multiple listens.

The bad news is that, despite an impressive selection of artists contributing, the range of musical genres covered does provide for some really awkward moments. For example, I'm pretty sure that we didn't really need a dub reggae version of 'Brownsville Girl'. There's nothing that detracts from the source material, but something a little more cohesive may have been more compelling as a record. When the songs really are stripped back to their bare bones, they work far better - perhaps because the focus shifts from musical reinvention to Dylan's lyrics. That's where the real joy is here, because the eighties production and flat delivery on records like 'Down In The Groove' really did mask some classic writing from Bob.

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Various Artists - College Radio Day The Album Volume 2 Album Review

On their 1985 minor hit 'Left of the Dial', The Replacements sang their ode to college radio, America's best solution to showcasing all the most interesting up and coming bands to all the coolest people. 'College Radio Day the Album Volume 2' demonstrates that this is an American tradition which is still in rude health.

College Radio Day Volume 2 Album Review

The curators of 'College Radio Day' stress that this is an album put together with care by the college radio community for the college radio community, and profits from the sale of this collection get pumped back into college radio. As a result, they have got some fairly big names in to contribute music. You get the southern rock of My Morning Jacket, you get a live version of Passenger's inescapable and insipid 'Let Her Go' and Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam's punk idealist side project RNDM even take a turn, as do the brilliantly named The Front Bottoms.

One of the strengths of 'College Radio Day' is its diversity. This is a compilation with little regard for genre boundaries, embracing everything from the Alice In Chains grunge revival of Killed the Fixtion to the hip hop stylings of Feli Fame. As a result, it would be difficult for anyone to enjoy absolutely everything on offer here but there is indeed something for everyone.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty OST Album Review

What with 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' not being released until Boxing Day and knowing little about what the film actually entails - Ben Stiller goes on some grand adventure to save his job and Sean Penn makes an appearance at some point - rather than approach this review by discussing how well the songs work as a soundtrack, it seemed best to approach it as a compilation with no hitherto connections. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty OST Album Review

The suspected whimsical air about the film suggests that the gentle soundtrack would accompany the various reveries Mitty travels through well and as a collection of songs there is a likeness throughout the album as one track drifts to the next. The quieted tone lasts throughout the album, diverting only briefly and only slightly when the pace quickens. These diversions come along frequently enough to prevent the temperance of the album from becoming tiresome and, as a stand-alone album, the quality of songs hold relatively strong for the full fifty minutes.

José Gonzalez has a handful of original songs on the album, also featuring with his side project Junip for a pair of back-to-back tracks. His third solo contribution '#9 Dream' is easily his best, his hazy vocals carried along by a round, guitar-led beat and subtle yet sweetly used orchestration overlaid on to the track as it progresses. The Junip track 'Far Away' is another standout; the steady build of the humming bass injecting a sense of urgency into the mostly gentle soundtrack. Of Monsters and Men's 'Dirty Paws' is another notable cut from the OST, the interweaving of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson's finely-tuned harmonies proving their worth as always.

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Various Artists - Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake Album Review

As well as being the name of a Nick Drake song and a best of compilation album, Way to Blue was a touring ensemble of folk musicians recreating the songs of Nick Drake. This album of live sessions documents their re-workings of the source material.

Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake Review

Much has been made over the years of the tragic life, short career and posthumous admiration of Nick Drake, and it is clear that he has had a great deal of influence on many popular musicians of today including Robert Smith of The Cure, Badly Drawn Boy and Beck, most obviously on his sparse, mostly acoustic sombre Sea Change album. Tribute albums can be a woeful waste of time, shedding the original songs of any charm or personality, but for the most part, Way to Blue is not one of those. Of course, Way to Blue is not without its hang ups, but we will get to those in a short while.

The album begins with Luluc taking on Things Behind the Sun from Drake's most famous and final album Pink Moon. The arrangement is somewhat more intricate than Drake's sparse original take, and Luluc's Nico-esque vocals give the song a fresher edge despite staying fairly faithful to the original. Next up is Scott Matthews doing a passable impression of his hero on Place to Be, again from Pink Moon. Again, the arrangement here is layered and intricate with the pedal steel sounding like possibly the saddest instrument in the world.

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Various Artists - The Great Gatsby OST Album Review

The Great Gatsby movie may not have received universal praise and critical acclaim since its silver screen release but that doesn't mean you should write off or disregard its soundtrack. What do critics know anyway? There seems to have been far too much analysis of the film's sub-text and possible parallels with the global economy rather than old fashioned cinematic enjoyment. Is the world more greedy now, more star struck, more in need of fame and fortune? Have we all become more self-absorbed, self-obsessed, materialistic and vacuous or is it just that, nowadays, it's more in plain sight, easier to identify and more readily hyped and publicised. (The film adaptation is, after all, taken from the F. Scott Fitzgerald book published nearly ninety years ago.) 

The Great Gatsby OST Album Review

Setting aside any need to put the film on the psychiatrist's chair (to see whether Fitzgerald's cautionary tale of excess rings true) and taking the film and its soundtrack merely on musical merit alone, I think it safe to say that without doubt it is a triumph. Any suggestion that it is 'style over substance' is missing the whole point. The Jazz Age was all about style, all about how opulent and how lavish you could possibly be. Yes, it may have been a little vulgar but it was all about extravagance and living the dream, even if the dream was ultimately a lie. 

The soundtrack of The Great Gatsby captures the very essence of the post war age, an age of optimism and high spirits where the grim realities of the not too distant past could be suspended. You can lose yourself in the cocktails, flapper dresses, pearls and spats, cigarette holders and dinner jackets quite easily. The allure of the decadent lifestyle being flaunted by the charming and charismatic Jay Gatsby has an intoxicating appeal that is difficult to resist. Both Baz Luhrmann, the film's director, and executive music producer Jay Z have done a meticulous job in making that come to life, brilliantly mixing a twenties thread through a contemporary score. 

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Various Artists - Renaissance: The Mix Collection; Tale Of Us Album Review

The compilation CD is something of a dying art form nowadays, replaced instead with Soundcloud mixes, Mixcloud playlists and so forth; the lost art of assembling a physical release that people might genuinely be interested in seems to be a waste of time, money and energy altogether. Thankfully though, this isn't an idea shared by everyone, in particular the people at Renaissance Recordings, who have released an inspired mix collection featuring some of the biggest (and some not so big but still equally exciting) names in house and dance. 

Renaissance: The Mix Collection.. Album Review

Fashionable or otherwise, the Tale of Us mix is a great little teaser into some of the more obscure factions of house and deep house, with Gold Panda, Simian Mobile Disco, Daniel Avery and a Four Tet remix being some of the biggest names on the record. The lack of big names by no means spells bad things for the album though, as the newcomers take on the task of filling out the album with ease and impressive consequences.

Split into two discs, the first is a collage of ethereal, dreamy tracks stood tall next to more serious house bangers, Gran Cavaliere's opener 'Dancing Alma' setting the ball rolling with a lush undercurrent that runs through most of the earlier tracks. By the time we get to the crashing cymbals mid-song in 'Life and Death' by Tale of Us & Clockwork featuring The/Das, the pace begins to pick up, but it isn't until we reach the groovy beat and wobble of the bass on Roman Flügel's 'Cookies Dust' that things really start to escalate. Flügel's track blends effortlessly into the equally infectious 'Hardboy' by one of house's most watched up and comers, Scuba. Although he is only on remix duty on FaltyDL's 'Straight & Arrow', it is fitting that Kieran Hebden/Four Tet makes an appearance as his influence can be heard throughout the mix. The track is awash with his trademark vocal glitches and builds from a cavernous chiller to a seriously deep beat. 

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Various Artists - 'Dermot O'Leary Presents The Saturday Sessions 2013' Album Review

Dermot O'Leary's Saturday Sessions Allbum Review

Using a tried-and-tested formula of acoustic versions and covers, this most recent instalment of the series sees further performances for Dermot O'Leary's radio show now available to own.  The artists included cover a broad spectrum, from near-unknowns to arena fillers, and predictably results vary from the terrific to the terrible.

A brave and successful take on 'Eleanor Rigby' from Emeli Sande begins proceedings, while Will Young reminds us of his vocal talent on a lovely rendition of Blondie's 'Hanging On The Telephone'.  The classic Jackson 5 number 'I Want You Back' loses its magic in the hands (or should that be voice?) of Rachel Sermanni, but the running is immediately rescued by The Do taking on Kings Of Leon's 'Sex On Fire'.  They morph the rock anthem into a chill-out moment and in vocalist Olivia Merilahti have a fantastic talent.  Of those presenting their own material, Florence + The Machine and Jessie J give solid presentations of 'Never Let Me Go' and 'Price Tag' respectively, while Robbie Williams' altered performance of 'Candy' does well to take it away from sounding like an advertising jingle and make it a folk-style sing-a-long.

An ill-advised attempt at Blur's 'Song 2' from Plan B begins the second disc in horrendous manner, something that becomes all the more surprising once you hear the beautifully soulful version of 'Empire State Of Mind' gifted by Maverick Sabre.  Miles Kane gives a decent rendition of The 'Stones 'Play With Fire' before Dry The River provide a highlight of this release with a lovely cover of 'Homeward Bound', originally by Simon & Garfunkel.  A trio of British bands close out this record and, for an act with such a fierce live reputation, Kasabian's 'Days Are Forgotten' is limp to say the least.  By contrast, the Manic Street Preachers bring a raucous 'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough' and Athlete provide a stirring 'Wires' - a worthy selection as the latter book-end.

Alex Lai

Sony Music Presents 'Cooking Songs' Released 4 March 2013

Posted on31 January 2013

Sony Music Presents 'Cooking Songs'  Released 4 March 2013

Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review

Well, this is the soundtrack to a western, but it's also the soundtrack to the bloody new vision of Quentin Tarantino so while it hints at it, it's not exactly the most classical collection of dusty old desert songs you could imagine. It's a soundtrack that packs just as many punches as his movie and brands those wincingly visceral scenes into your mind as if it was an 'r' on Jamie Foxx's face.

Django Unchained: Soundtrack Album Review

From Ennio Morricone to Rick Ross it's a thrilling OST that somehow manages to modernise the western without completely ruining it in the process, I mean perhaps Rick Ross out of context is a little jarring, but John Legend's 'Who Did That to You?' is the smarmy second gun in Foxx's hand after you think he's all out of bullets. It's drawling guitar line wails with a lone gunman swagger as Legend's R&B vocals cry out with an over the top pulp. This more than any other song on the soundtrack encapsulates your thoughts of not what a Tarantino western is, but what it should be. 

It's difficult to pick out tracks here that are better than the rest, they're all good, but this isn't a record in the usual sense, it's a soundtrack, obviously, and therefore it's about the feeling it brings with it and Tarantino's choices of tracks like 'Freedom' ring with the authenticity of classic slavery hymnals. It's a record that feels as sadistic and redemptive as the tale is on screen and it's a testament to these musicians that you don't need to see the film to understand the tale. It's spliced with some of the finest cuts of dialogue and death from the movie which add an extra layer of texture to this inspired collection and mean that you get to hear Christoph Waltz say, 'five thousand dollar n***a, that's practically my middle name' as much as you bloody well please. 

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Les Miserables - Les Miserables: Highlights From The Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review

From one end of the internet to the other, review upon review of this collection of Les Miserables songs is cluttered with well-informed opinion. Passionate fans of Schonberg's musical have debated, with fervour, whether or not the omission of songs such as 'Do You Hear The People Sing' has rendered the soundtrack lbum a no-go area, or a forgivable oversight. The well-informed fans, they are cooing over Anne Hathaway. They are open minded about Russell Crowe, though it irks them that other actors could have performed the songs so much better. Many of the reviewers, from one end of the internet to the other, have even performed in this world-famous musical themselves, so they know it inside out, they understand the physical and emotional demands on an actor when it comes to performing these much-loved numbers.

Les Miserables OST - Album Review

Here at, we're doing things a little differently; you can get all the well-informed opinions you like from elsewhere. Our reviewer, it seems, has been holding the fort in some kind of cultural no-man's land for the last few decades and is approaching the Les Miserables soundtrack as a complete 'Les Mis' virgin. Above all else, they are hoping that they will be able to glean all that they need to know about Les Miserables from listening to the soundtrack, so that they can speak confidently about the Oscar-winning movie, come awards day, without actually having to go to the movie theatre.

So, Les Miserables virgin, what have you learned from listening to the soundtrack CD? Do you have a grasp on the basics of the plot, at least?
Frankly, no. I am aware that someone dies, partly because the music got VERY emotional and partly because I had already assumed that that was why they were all so miserable in the first place. Someone steals some silver at some point, there's a confrontation (I know this because there's a song called 'The Confrontation' - handy!) and there's a hearty amount of disagreement going on. You probably could just about follow the story, from the songs, but it's all too easy to get a little bit emotionally caught up in all of the warbling they do. It's no audiobook, I'll tell you that for nothing. It sounds very much like I would expect a hammy musical to sound, but sung by famous people from Hollywood, some of whom are talented vocalists.

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Various Artists - Montreal Bass Culture Vol. 1 Album Review

Imitation: that sincerest form of flattery, or so they say. Normally, this means that the content referred to is some pale facsimile of the original, like but on a bad day. So painfully underground it hurts, when one of the contributing artists on Montreal's Pointé label said they were releasing this compilation as a response to something the Brits had been doing "so well for so long", it has to be said not many people were expecting this package, one so routinely excellent that it deserves to exist far outside of the shadow of anything produced on these shores.

Various Artists - Montreal Bass Culture Vol. 1 Album Review

Of course, for some there's the usual spotters-only discussion about what "Bass Music" actually means, but who the hell cares about the answer to that debate? It's easier just to focus on the tunes brought to you here by people who are genuinely faceless (in a good way), making it easier to deal with any of your preconceptions up front. And Mon Dieu, those Canucks can do bass, whether it's in the amping footwork-esque sirens of Loungery Day's Kapow or running through the sweet, light acid-techno flourishes of KwikFiks' My Heart.

But it's not that easy to win us over across the pond. We're a bit, well, funny really; we get bored easily. So throw some diversity at us, the work of a different point of view of three, and we get happy. Truly here, then, we are blessed as Paveun breathes life into R&B on Let Me Down, warping its soul and then taking a blow torch to the nipples of its usual vacuum packed, sample heavy, auto-tuned grooves, making it darker, more desperate somehow. To follow that MDMA's Alten Schule sounds like a full on punch between the eyes from a rave cannon, huge blasts of sampled white noise and 303 squelches making us come all over all Darwen warehouse circa Xr2i.

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Various Artists - Christmas Rules Album Review

It's the most wonderful time of the year. That guy from the first series of Big Brother is starring as Dick Whittington's cat in the local pantomime, uncouth youths are pelting innocent people at bus stops with snowballs, and every café, store and doctor's office you go in you hear Noddy Holder screaming, "IT'S CHRISTMASSSSS!"   

Christmas Rules Album Review

Now, whether you're a fan of holiday music or not is irrelevant because, just like Brussels sprouts, it's an unavoidable staple of the festive season so you may as well just shut up, smile, and swallow it.  This "alternative" collection of time-honored classics and lesser-known ditties is brought to you by Hear Music, the label owned by Starbucks, and if I had to describe this album to you in one word, that one word would be, well, "Starbucks." 

The album gets off to a Fun start.  Not literally, it's just the band Fun covering Yuletide favorite 'Sleigh Ride'.  The fundamental problem with Fun's interpretation is that it doesn't sound like Christmas.  Unbelievably, some might say criminally, they didn't care to record the magical sound of sleigh bells.  It's all swirly synths and over-produced vocals and it doesn't make me want to drink mulled wine by the fire goddammit! 

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Various Artists - Late Night Tales: Metronomy Album Review

Following in the footsteps of the likes of Belle & Sebastian, The Cinematic Orchestra and Four Tet, Metronomy take the curatorial baton for this Late Night Tales compilation/DJ set. Through the tracklist of their self-curated Late Night Tales release, Metronomy show multiple sides to their personality through quite a diverse selection of tunes.

Various Artists - Late Night Tales: Metronomy Compilation - Album Review

Outkast's 'Prototype' opens the compilation with spacey echoing guitar then heavily reverbed vocals before bass and beat kick into a smooth chilled vibe. It's a steady pace and gentle groove to open which segues seamlessly into Tweet's 'Drunk' which continues with a similar steady pace and almost trip hop like spacey feel. This is followed by a strange and slightly uncomfortable segue into SA-RA Creative Partners' track 'Cosmic Ball' which opens with a 'cosmic' sounding speech excerpt. The track continues as sax led jazz with busy drums and spacey synths underpinned and anchored by a barely audible walking bass line.

Chick Corea's 'El Bozo (Part 1)' then opens with an unaccompanied abrasive solo synth sound which sounds sombre tones before an interjection of eighties synth craziness a la Herbie Hancock. The mix then segues from the strange synth notes of El Bozo into the string riff of 'Blue Flowers' by Dr Octagon, a rap track which changes the gear of the compilation once again though its violin riff seems to continue this cosmic, spacey kind of theme beneath rhythmic scratching. There's a brief snap back to the eighties vibe with a synth heavy blend beneath speech during Lonzo & The World Class Wreckin Cru's 'Cache Vocal', before Metronomy include their own exclusive cover of the Jean Michel Jarre track Hypnose. During the cover version, Metronomy continue the spacey electronic vibe of the compilation with their trademark layered synth style, though it's good to hear the band delve into deeper moving film music away from their experimental electro pop; the cover version has a real intensity and atmosphere that much of their own original work lacks. 

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Various Artists - Songs Of Anarchy: Music From Sons Of Anarchy Seasons 1-4 Album Review

Hit Television series Sons of Anarchy has everything; countless complicated and fascinating characters, interwoven plot lines and an excellent soundtrack to boot. Combining a number of the finest songs ever written with some of the most talented musicians from all walks of musical life, Songs of Anarchy: Music from Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1-4 is a collection of some fifteen tracks that instantly take the listener back to the fictional California town of Charming and the tales of its inhabitants.

Various Artists - Songs of Anarchy: Music from Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1-4 Album Review

Dave Kushner, guitarist for Velvet Revolver has to take a lot of credit for the fantastic music associated with the hit series. Initially co-writing the show's theme song, he co-wrote much of the music involved with the first season before the 'house band' as it were became a separate entity entirely and the Forest Rangers, the band that play on the majority of Songs Of Anarchy were born.

The album opens with the show's now iconic theme song This Life, Curtis Stigers' excellent voice sitting perfectly alongside swampy guitar work that hearkens back to the days of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan. This heralds the soundtrack proper, entering a collection of interpretations of some of music's classic songwriters' biggest hits. First is Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man, most notable for the performance of actress Katey Sagal (who plays Gemma Morrow in the show) providing a soulful rendition of the 1968 hit. She also lends her talents to Leonard Cohen's Bird on a Wire and an excellent version of Abel Meeropol's poem Strange Fruit. Classic Gospel song John The Revelator, previously interpreted by everyone from REM to guitar virtuoso Steve Vai is given a whiskey oaked yet faithful retelling by Curtis Stigers and the Forest Rangers.

Continue reading: Various Artists - Songs Of Anarchy: Music From Sons Of Anarchy Seasons 1-4 Album Review

Various Artists, Communion: New Faces Album Review

The broad church that supports the collective assembly of Communion Records was only formed 6 years ago through the vision of Ben 'Mumford' Lovett, bassist Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble. From its early roots as a club night, it has now flourished into an umbrella that nurtures, produces and records some of the most interesting and individual emerging talents around. Communion Records has already had a helping hand in the development of Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Matthew And The Atlas, Alessi's Ark, Pete Roe and Lissie to name but a few. 'Communion: New Faces' represents the label's third full-length compilation and contains no less than 20 tracks from a diverse string of like-minded artists.

Continue reading: Various Artists, Communion: New Faces Album Review

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