Best Coast – Fade Away EP (4/5)
Don’t let the length of this record fool you; Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno easily cram enough energy and enticing musicality into just 7 tracks. ‘Fade Away’ is a delicious, bite-size chunk of noisy surf rock straight out of LA. The so called ‘mini-album’ is the first release on Cosentino’s own label ‘Jewel City’ and whets the appetite for any fan anticipating the third full studio album scheduled for release in the spring of next year.
‘Fade Away’ represents a progression in terms of sound for the duo; compared to debut album ‘Crazy For You’, this record shies away from their trademark lo-fi vibe. Instead, ‘Fade Away’ sounds like the older brother, more mature and clean-cut; the pair has clear musical direction and the momentum builds as the record progresses.
Opening track ‘This Lonely Morning’ is a brief but irresistible introduction to an album that grows in stature each passing minute. The sporadic synth melodies and understated guitar solos instantly lend the album the kind of ballsy self-assuredness you’d expect from a pair accustomed to the beaches of California as well as the eclectic Los Angeles music scene.
Progressing further into the album, the simple combination of repeated chorus lyrics and straightforward drumming feels rather formulaic, but generally works to their advantage. Punchy guitar hooks give Cosentino the perfect platform for her distinctive voice; a sexy hybrid of a calmer Karen O and Debbie Harry that instantly stick in your head.
The album’s reaches its peak with ‘Fade Away’ and you can understand why it was chosen as the title of the album; bold and defiant, the song captures the essence of the EP as a whole. The gradual build up only increases the delight when the grungy chorus is finally unleashed.
Their final song ‘I Don’t Know How’ is filled with a broad palate of harmonised vocals and strong guitar chords that, although slow to start, provide a glorious finish. With a dynamic and fruitful offering from Best coast, their next full studio album couldn’t arriver any sooner.
Katy Perry – Prism (2/5)
Flying out of the blocks with ‘Roar’, the track that was responsible for Robin Thicke’s dethronement, Katy Perry has just released Prism, which unfortunately does not live up to the promise of its lead single. The album’s conceptual focus is undoubtedly the dissolution of her relationship with Russell Brand and the ways with which she’s dealt with it; from the determination and optimism of ‘Roar’ to the more introspective and accepting ‘By the Grace of God’, one of the first oblique references to her religious beliefs since her origins in the Christian Rock world. This results in a degree of sincerity that I wouldn’t usually associate with Perry, though admittedly there is not a great deal more; this is, after all, a finely tuned pop behemoth and the emotion can often feel like it’s been lost in the records sheen. Unfortunately she’s now completely eschewed the trappings that came with her roots for an embrace of America’s current love affair with cheap and cheerful electronic dance music. She’s now less girl next door and more generic pop diva. And of course with the territory comes the obligatory mismatched rap feature. This record’s comes from Juicy J whose frankly abysmal contribution to “Dark Horse” proves he has a bizarrely poor grasp of fairytale tropes. On the whole the album is a choppy affair and doesn’t manage to rescale the heights of ‘Roar’, which never really gets the album it deserves.
Active Child – Rapor EP (3/5)
Active Child’s new EP starts and ends strong, which only makes the overly bewailing core so much more disappointing. Opening on a quasi-instrumental note, reminiscent of his earlier work, accompanied solely by ghostly and ethereal exercises of the vocal chords, Active Child (Pat Grossi) teases the anticipation of the listener who is expecting him to break out into full word constructions at any second. However, Grossi side steps away from what might be expected with his second track which is strongly reminiscent at points of Justin Timberlake whilst, however, keeping distinctly to what can be called Grossi’s own sound. The dancy track, which breaks from the mould of the rest of the EP, thanks in large part to the vocal accompaniment of Mikky Ekko who adds the necessary R’n’B orientation, has an up beat tempo which the two vocals add their own unique complementation. However, the next three tracks blend into a tedious lament of a musical recluse, with lyrics such as “I have a shoulder to cry on” being the most easy to capture in the foreground of the song. Especially difficult to listen to is the track Silhouette feat. Ellie Goulding who helped to bring Grossi to fame, which is so heavy scented with elements of the 90s love ballad it could make one lurch. The EP does, however, end on a surprisingly strong note, with Evening Ceremony capturing the love torn theme of the EP, whilst being powerful and emotive rather than wet and whiny like its three predecessors.
Diana Vickers – Music To Make Boys Cry (1/5)
The Blackburn singer gained moderate fame from the X Factor, back in the days when people watched it. As a kooky 16 year old, she dazzled with delicate vocals and bare feet until the judges dropped her in the semi-finals. Music to Make Boys Cry is Vickers’ second album and was released in September to little effect. The numbers make grim reading: lead track ‘Cinderella’ only managed 76th in the singles chart. This song encapsulates the album’s persistent problems; there’s no force, no beat and no innovation. Rhyme schemes are forced and rhythms fall over themselves. Vocals are always strangely stilted and binary, as if Vickers is trying to karaoke blindfold. Lyrics aren’t a strong point either, despite an average of three and a half minds working on each track. Lines like, “For you I would lose both of my shoes” fail to articulate any known human emotion, highlighting how far Vickers’ soul is divorced from this recording. ‘Mad at Me’ out-Numans Gary Numan with its mixture of synth, high pitched bass and random electronic noises. ‘Mr Postman’ replaces the bass with backing vocals, but is otherwise identical. ‘Better in French’ adds mangled Franglais. Pop culture and clubbing allusions abound, as does mild implied sexual activity. Safe, samey and synthetic, this is polystyrene music from an artist who seemed to stand apart from the melee of mediocrity. At once the music of anyone and no one, Music to Make Boys Cry opposes all that makes music great.