Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Metric - Synthetica


01. Artificial Nocturne
02. Youth Without Youth
03. Speed The Collapse
04. Breathing Underwater
05. Dreams So Real
06. Lost Kitten
07. The Void
08. Synthetica
09. Clone
10. The Wanderlust
11. Nothing But Time

The album will be released June 18th in the UK (the US gets it on the 12th) and will be preceded by a single, Youth Without Youth, on May 1st.

New Hot Chip Track On Radio Tonight

A new Hot Chip song, Night And Day, will be Zane Lowe's Hottest Record In The World on his Radio 1 show tonight at 19.30 BST. The song is the first 'proper' single from their upcoming fifth album, In Our Heads, due out June 11th, and follows Flutes, which was released to the internet last month.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Album Review: Neon Trees - Picture Show

It has only been a year and a bit since I first heard Neon Trees' debut album Habits, mainly because it was only released in the UK at that point, despite being out in the States for a year. So while it seems that this album has been recorded at lightning speed, it really hasn't. On this, their sophomore album, the band retain the basic sound and style of their debut, but expand on it to create a much more diverse album than before, even adding to the 80s influences their debut hinted at. But are the songs any good? Let's have a look...

Synth stabs and claps start us off, merging seamlessly into the first verse. A lightly strummed guitar joins in for the layered vocals of the chorus, then the drums kick in and the song moves towards full pace. It is a big way to open the album; incredibly catchy and a massive chorus. It has a slightly different feel to the stuff from the first album, but it's still familiar territory.

Well, I was expecting some sort of cheesy, cringe-worthy song. But in fact it's at the heavier end of the album, with punky guitars dominating the track. It's quite rough around the edges and does take time to grow on you, but once it gets to you, it's actually pretty good. Even if every other line starts with "I'm sick of..." or "I'm tired of..."

The first single seems a little out of place at first, but at least it's very clear why it is single number one - it's unashamedly poppy. After an odd intro, which can be summed up by "ah-ah-ah-ah, ahem", it slinks into a guitar rhythm for the first verse before going full power for the chorus. "It started with a whisper, and that was when I kissed her" sings vocalist Tyler Glenn over an incredibly catchy background - his vocals are fantastic on this album, if nothing else.


There are two things I don't like about this song. Firstly, it sounds like it could have been plucked straight out of an episode of Glee (yuk!) or some other cheesy musical. Secondly, the chorus consists of the words "we got a really really really really really really mad love" - lazy lyricism, maybe? But having said that, it's amazingly irresistable and surprisingly one of the best on the album. Drummer Elaine Bradley takes a lead vocal on this song too, and she plays off fantastically against Glenn. It's unclear to me why I like this song, but somehow it hits the spot.

Having said that, this one does not hit the spot. Another song where the guitars become a little more prominent, even if it's another change in style. However, for the most part, the song just seems so uninteresting and mostly unmemorable, bar the chorus (but even that doesn't compare to most of the band's mostly amazing choruses). But this is not the band's finest moment on this album - or ever. And it goes on way too long.

Back on track for this one, then. It's catchy and shows off more of this 80s style they've been toying with so far. A dancey bassline runs through the verses, and there's another big chorus that sounds like it could be a big sing-along at gigs. Possible single material, even if it's not the best on offer.

Speaking of the best on offer... This one goes full-on 80s, with almost no guitars in sight - a serious change in direction - but works brilliantly. At first it seems like a piano ballad, but soon morphs into an electronic beat and synths that remind me of Keane's song Your Love. The angst-ridden lyrics return - "you'll lose all your friends, that's the thing about trust", anyone? - but it's a real hands-in-the-air moment. Definitely the best song here. At least until the four-and-a-half minute mark, as it stops and then turns into some completely pointless instrumental up to the six minute mark. I've just removed that bit from the album in my iTunes, though.

The pace significantly drops for this track, as a single drum and a synth pulse form the initial backbone of the song, as little guitar melodies float about throughout the song. However, it doesn't really go anywhere interesting and as a result, leaves no lasting impression. There's nothing wrong with changing it up a bit, but this one just doesn't make its mark as much as the others. Clocking in at five minutes long, it also drags a lot especially considering it doesn't really have any real new ideas turning up throughout. It's inoffensive, but ultimately boring.

Another track that needs a few listens to like, even if a couple of parts of it still irritate me - namely the "la-la-la-la"s that follow each chorus (lazy lyricism again, I think) and the odd middle eight section where Glenn just rants off names of Hollywood stars who are sadly no longer with us. Besides that, it's quite a fast-paced song that is actually quite fun after it grows on you. Just watch out for the start - after the rather dull track that precedes it, the heavy guitar packs a punch!

A peaceful synth opening gives way to a guitar riff that gives off an epic vibe slightly reminiscent of their debut album. And what an epic it is, particularly during the chorus - powerful guitars and top-quality vocals. It seems the band have had the same problem they had on the first album in that they have two tracks that could act as closers, and just put both in (Our War and Farther Down, to be specific). Except this time, both of them are huge! This one is another five minute track, but it doesn't overstay its welcome, as the guitar riff leads us on out and into the finale proper...

A brilliant name for a closing track, eh? A galloping drumbeat runs through the first verse, only accompanied by the occasional guitar strum and the deeper edge of Glenn's vocals. It hits full pace for the chorus (unsurprising at this point!) of "I am the DJ, and you are the record that I play". A fantastic, upbeat way to end an album filled with more highs and lows than a rollercoaster. Well, if you're excluding another pointless instrumental that turns up about four minutes into this track...

So, what can I say? The album has several standout moments, but also a couple of tracks that fall flat on their faces. The band should definitely be commended from breaking out of the limited range of styles and sounds that Habits had - there's definitely more experimentation here - but some of the songs just don't quite work as well as the others. There's definitely no 'Animal' or '1983' here, but maybe that's a good thing. The 80s style definitely shines around the middle of the album, providing us with the album's highlight, Trust. The vocals are very well done, but not when they descend into "la-la-la"s or even Mad Love's "really, really, really..." section. Overall, though, it's about on par with Habits - despite being less consistent in terms of both quality and styles.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Moving In The Dark, Everybody Talks, Trust

PREVIOUS ALBUMS (as I would rate them now): Habits (3.5/5)