Heavenly Beat – Prominence (3/5)
Captured Tracks is arguably the hottest independent record label around these days. Mac Demarco, Wild Nothing, DIIV, Beach Fossils; the list goes on, but suffice to say that the Brooklyn-based label seems to have found an endless well of talent and they’ve brought us some of the best-loved albums of the past two years or so.
Heavenly Beat, aka John Pena, is the latest artist to contribute to the label’s list of releases. This is his second record in as many years, and like his last effort, it was all recorded at home rather than the studio. And it has to be said that for a home recording, Prominence sounds extremely smooth. Pena uses a template of clean, acoustic guitar and steel pan drums mixed with some synths over sampled break beats to create a seriously slick sound.
The breezy dance-pop on offer here is most likely to draw comparisons to label mates DIIV, or perhaps Caribou, and sounds like it should’ve been released a few months earlier so it could serve it’s true purpose as the soundtrack to a summer beach party.
However, Prominence is not without it’s faults. Sadly, extensive use of echo-y reverb has never been a substitute for a singing voice with character, and Pena’s meek murmur never even begins to assert itself in the mix, rendering most of his lyrics indecipherable. And while “Complete” and “Familiar” are examples of how Heavenly Beat is capable of crafting beautifully textured dance music, the final few tracks just sound like a series of attempts to recreate those highlights which sadly fall a little short.
Make no mistake; this is a really good album. But if Heavenly Beat had only managed to add some more variation and consistency, it could have been up there with the Captured Tracks ‘greats’ that made the breakthrough to a more mainstream audience.
The Fratellis – We Need Medicine (4/5)
It may be hard to believe, but it’s been 5 years since The Fratellis last released an album. The Glasgow born, guitar pop trio enjoyed a critically acclaimed debut, however they failed to replicate this success with their second album in 2008. After pursuing various other music ventures during their time off, the group are now back with their new record We Need Medicine.
Unfortunately, We Need Medicine seems to be going the same way as the band’s 2008 flop. The Fratellis seem to have lost the charm they produced music with when they started, the album as a whole is disappointing and many of the songs feel like half hearted, token attempts.
Admittedly, you could not call We Need Music a completely awful record, it is merely frustrating, as many of the tracks start full of potential only to quickly lose momentum and eventually descend into a somewhat uncoordinated and brash amalgamation of noise.
The album’s title track is actually quite good, in the sense that it is catchy and easy to sing along to. However, again, it’s hardly a musical masterpiece and although arguably one of the better songs on the album, it doesn’t compare to the tracks the band used to produce.
We Need Medicine is worth a listen, even if it does fall short to meet our prior expectations of the band.
Favourite track: Rock N Roll Will Break Your Heart.
photos: Album of the year