Editors – The Weight Of Your Love (album review)

Editors The Weight Of Your Love album art

After a near four-year absence, Editors are back with their fourth studio album ‘The Weight Of Your Love’.

And whilst many will label this album as a return to their original guitar-based style, there is plenty of evidence that the band has evolved and matured during their break.

For starters, founding member and lead guitarist/synth player Chris Urbanowicz has left, and his searing tremolo is notably absent.

In his place, Justin Lockey takes on lead guitar responsibilities, while Elliott Williams provides keyboards, backing vocals and additional guitars.

Despite all these changes, Tom Smith’s vocals still sound as rich and powerful as ever, albeit with far less falsetto than on 2009’s synth-led ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.

A more straightforward song-writing style is immediately noticeable, which Tom credits to the influence of bands such as REM and Arcade Fire.

‘The Weight’ kicks things off with a brooding stomp that bursts into life with orchestral flair, recalling Elbow‘s recent rich and densely layered arrangements.

The lyrics are as bleak and honest as ever, with Tom imagining how he would cope if he outlived his long-time partner Edith Bowman and suggesting that love can be overwhelming and almost intimidating at times.

‘Sugar’ bristles and buzzes with a Kings Of Leon-esque bassline before lead single ‘A Ton Of Love’ raises the bar yet further with a punchy riff and an instant classic of a chorus…

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Jimmy Eat World – Damage (album review)

Jimmy Eat World Damage album cover artIn the turbulent world of rock music, emo veterans Jimmy Eat World are a reassuring constant, with the same line-up sustained for nearly 20 years now and a new album arriving more or less every three years.

For their eighth studio album, the Arizona quartet has gone back to basics, recording on analog tape in producer Alain Johannes’ Los Angeles home.

Former Nine Inch Nails collaborator James Brown was brought into digitally mix the record, but Trent Reznor-inspired grunge this certainly ain’t.

The result is a fuzzier, rougher edge but with the same warming centre, particularly on opening track ‘Appreciation’ and standout song ‘How’d You Have Me’, which both chime nicely with their 1999 album ‘Clarity’.

That said the band have not completely turned their backs on the atmospheric rock sound curated on 2010’s ‘Invented’.

‘Byebyelove’ builds to a distortion-drenched finale, before ‘You Were Good’ strikes a mature, peaceful and reconciliatory note at the close of the record.

As always, there’s something strangely comforting about the sound of lead singer Jim Adkins‘ brave optimism against a backdrop of melancholy…

To read the rest of this review at Virgin Red Room, click here.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls live in London

Frank Turner - Tape Deck HeartIn the week that his fifth studio album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ was released, Frank Turner was in a distinctly upbeat mood.

The former frontman of hardcore punk outfit Million Dead hasn’t always had an easy ride since he made the transformation into folk-rock troubadour seven years ago. Overnight sensation, he is not.

But with a hit single (‘Recovery’) under his belt, not to mention a headline show at Wembley Arena and a cameo at the Olympics opening ceremony, he is now well-equipped to not just sell out, but truly own venues like the Kentish Town Forum for many years to come.

Warm-up act Larry and His Flask did a tremendous job of getting the capacity crowd moving with their turbo-charged hobo blues. If Seasick Steve ever joined Gogol Bordello, it would sound something like this.

After a minor technical delay (possibly relating to a live YouTube stream of this gig), Turner took to the stage with standout anthem ‘Four Simple Words’. This looks set to become a fan favourite with its dynamic juxtaposition of dancehall waltz, chest-beating punk and the irresistible refrain: “I want to dance”.

From here on the show progressed like a greatest hits compilation, with Turner freely flitting between all five of his studio albums. Recent album cuts ‘Polaroid Picture’ and ‘Good & Gone’ were met with the most muted responses, suggesting…

To read the full article on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Funeral For A Friend – Conduit (album review)

Funeral For Friend Conduit new albumFuneral For A Friend do have more than one register. But listening to their sixth studio album ‘Conduit’, you could be forgiven for thinking that they don’t.

With only 40% of the original line-up still intact (singer Matt Davies-Kreye and lead guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts), much of what made them seem like one of the UK’s most exciting emo-core prospects ten years ago has evaporated. Conduit is a fairly repetitious album which feels short on inspiration and bustles along for 29 minutes with barely any variation from the distortion-drenched guitars or the relentlessly angst-ridden vocals.

As a case in point, the only track that sticks around for more three-and-a-half minutes (the raucous finale of ‘High Castles’) was released fourteen months ago as part of their ‘See You All In Hell’ EP.

Indeed this song is the only one to feature a memorable sing-along, in the form of the guttural refrain: “Our words are weapons / They are our shield”.

The band’s newest recruit, former Rise To Remain drummer Pat Lundy, puts in an accomplished and energetic shift behind the kit…

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Top 20 albums of the year 2012

It’s been a hit and miss year for rock music, with just a handful of high-profile releases, but plenty of surprise packages. In keeping with tradition, here’s my Top 20 rundown. Click on the links to take a listen on Grooveshark or Spotify.

1.) Dry The River – Shallow Bed

There were a few difficult decisions in the Top 20, but picking a top album was not one of them. Dry The River’s highly engrossing blend of folk and emo is nigh-on irresistible and sets the standard for their contemporaries to aim for.

2.) Bloc Party – Four

A triumphant return to form from Kele and his cohorts who remembered just how effective distorted guitars and thunderous riffs can be.

3.) Muse – The 2nd Law

Taking the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to songwriting, Muse threw everything at this third album and the result is a thoroughly adventurous record which improves with every listen.

4.) Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun – Death

The record I’ve been waiting four years for Jim Lockey to record – Death throbs with powerful tunes, and excellent production values underpin this meaty new sound.

5.) Sonic Boom Six – Sonic Boom Six

Running Muse close to the wire as Britain’s most inventive band, SB6 went for an electro approach on their self-titled fourth album, resulting in some hard-hitting tunes and a bit of a classic ska-punk thrown in for good measure.

6.) Mumford and Sons – Babel

More of the same from folk-rock’s darlings – they may have cracked America with Babel, but will need to display more invention next time around.

7.) Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Five months ago I called this a strong contender for album of the year, and whilst it has faded in appeal after a few dozen listens, Handwritten remains a solid album full of big riffs and bigger choruses.

8.) Baddies – Build

First Danananaykroyd then these guys – for the second year running, I tip a band for big things, then they split up. Nonetheless, Build will stand as a fitting swansong for this dynamic quartet.

9.) Maximo Park – The National Health

Going back to their roots, a return to forum, call it what you like, this album is Maximo Park playing to their strengths and hitting heights not seen since their 2005 debut.

10.) Maps & Atlases – Beware & Be Grateful

Perhaps the most confusing album in my Top Ten – Maps & Atlases manage to blend together math rock and 80s pop into a delightful combination of charm and sheer technical brilliance.

11.) The Futureheads – Rant

12.) The Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull

13.) Frank Turner – The Second Three Years

14.) Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Maps

15.) Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love

16.) The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio

17.) The Killers – Battle Born

18.) Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune

19.) Green Day – Uno!

20.) Tenacious D – Rize Of The Fenix

So, what can we expect from 2013? Well the year will surely get off to a great start with Biffy Clyro due to unveil their double album, Queens Of The Stone Age will return with Dave Grohl on drums, and Lostprophets will… oh, wait.

Until then, I leave you with my favourite video of the past 12 months, enjoy:

Dry The River – Shallow Bed Acoustic (album review)

Dry The River Shallow Bed AcousticNine months ago when Dry The River released their debut album ‘Shallow Bed’, it was met with widespread positive reviews, but a handful of critics accused the folk-rock quartet of somewhat overdoing the production values.

So as if to prove them wrong and show that these songs can stand up on their own two feet without the bells and whistles, the band have decided to release an acoustic version of the album.

It’s an interesting choice for a band with just one album to their name, since some of the most effective acoustic albums (Foo Fighters – ‘Skin and Bones’, Nirvana – ‘Unplugged In New York’) have worked as greatest hits retrospectives.

Despite sticking to the track listing, ‘Shallow Bed (Acoustic)’ sees Dry The River do much more than just unplug the amps. Many of the tracks are cleverly re-arranged with instruments switched and tempos altered.

The recording style has a real ‘live session’ feel to it, so much so that you might expect warm applause to greet the end of each track.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Sonic Boom Six – Sonic Boom Six (album review)

Sonic Boom Six self titled album coverNo-one could accuse Sonic Boom Six of standing still or resting on their laurels. Each album they’ve put out has seen a clear progression, subsuming more and more genres into their all-encompassing sound.

Their latest, self-titled album takes in many influences, from The Clash to Pendulum via Mad Capsule Markets, but the most noticeable change is the influx of hardcore electronica and warped drum and bass samples. Every track throbs with heavily synthesised guitars and drums, and the vocoder-treated choruses make singer Laila Khan‘s voice sound detached and more than a little bit J-pop. It’s a change of direction that takes a fair bit of getting used to. Anyone who discovered SB6 via the UK ska-punk scene of Capdown and The King Bluesmight well recoil at this, and the band have freely admitted that they are going for a sound that is more “inclusive and inviting to everyday people”.

Lead-off single ‘Virus’ sets the tone as the album’s touchstone and this style is carried through onto the breathless rush of ‘Karma Is A Bitch’, which packs some serious boss-fight riffs. Meanwhile ‘The High Cost Of Living’ manages the impressive feat of blending pulsing beats, metal guitars, reggae percussion and a baroque piano sample, into one cohesive song.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Green Day – Uno! (album review)

Green Day Uno! new albumFollowing two rock operas that sold 18 million copies worldwide was never going to be easy. Choosing to do so with a triple album has only made things even harder for irrepressible Californian punk rockers Green Day.

The whole concept of a double album has seen great acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers flounder, while even the Foo Fighters struggled to keep up the quality levels on their 2005 double-disc effort.

Undeterred, Green Day have come out with a triple album, starting with ‘Uno!’, which is due to be followed up by ‘Dos!’ and ‘Tre!’ as separate releases staggered over the next four months.

And for the first time in many years, Green Day have come out with an album that doesn’t really contain anything new.

Lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong said in a recent interview that making albums has become “a lost art form”, but this doesn’t really seem like a cohesive composition, more like 12 singles in a row. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have expected much more from Green Day, but they have raised the bar with their highly ambitious last two albums.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Mumford & Sons – Babel (album review)

Mumford and Sons - BabelPressure, what pressure? With three years of expectation on their shoulders, Mumford & Sons have finally followed up their monumentally successful debut album (which went multi-platinum on both sides of the Atlantic) with a record that they describe as “unashamed”.

‘Babel’ picks up where ‘Sigh No More’ left off, as the band stick to the recipe which got them where they are today. Produced once again by Markus Dravs (the man behind the most recent Coldplay and Arcade Fire albums), all the key hallmarks are present in these 12 tracks, from three-part harmony vocals to rapid banjo arpeggios and the odd orchestral flourish. Those hoping for a David Bowie-esque reinvention will be left disappointed; there is not a track on here that would sound out of place on the previous album.

The direct and uplifting title track sets the tone and foot-stomping tempo for the first half of this record, while ‘Whispers In The Dark’ keeps the ball rolling nicely. Lead-off single ‘I Will Wait’ is a definite highlight with a simple, yet fantastically sing-able chorus and a rousing crescendo.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Biffy Clyro live at the 2012 iTunes Festival

Biffy Clyro live at the  2012 iTunes Festival London Camden RoundhouseOne of this year’s major coups at the iTunes Festival was lining up Scot-rockers Biffy Clyro to play London for the first time in over a year. With the band having just announced a January 28th release date for their sixth studio album ‘Opposites’, this was a great opportunity to showcase some of their new material.

First up, the crowd were roused into good spirits by fellow Scots Frightened Rabbit. The Selkirk quintet served up a 45-minute set that varied from compelling to pedestrian. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ got a strong reception, with lead singer Scott Hutchinson sounding in fine fettle.

Following the now customary 60-second iTunes Festival countdown, Biffy Clyro got a thunderous response when they took to the stage, with the laid-back sounds of Simon and Garfunkel providing a stark contrast to the juddering rhythms of new single ‘Stingin’ Belle’.

From here on in, the set was fairly evenly split between new material, hit singles, and obscure tracks getting their first run-out in years. Of the new tracks, the expansive stadium rock of ‘Victory Over The Sun’ was by far the most impressive, while ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ blossomed from a funky off-beat intro into a full-blown hard rock crescendo. The hits were out in force, from a joyous rendition of ‘The Captain’ to the bounce-along classic ‘Who’s Got A Match?’. The arms-in-the-air ballad ‘Many Of Horror’ split the crowd right down the middle, with the odd cry of “we love you Matt Cardle” undercutting the mood somewhat.

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.