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The xx: Coexist
In eleven songs, they built a unique sound that you couldn't quite put your finger on: slow beats dressed in austerity, accompanied by enigmatic lyrics and lone wondering guitars. With a Mercury music prize under their belt and almost every music critic at their feet, they started work on their sophomore album.
Coexist is not a repeat performance; the xx rather seem to have redefined their own genre. It’s still very minimalistic: in most songs you hear only one or two instruments at once. The drums are still dry, the guitars still drowned in reverb, the voices still husky and the atmosphere in the songs remains rather mysterious.
But overall, this album is much less introverted. Both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim seem to have gained confidence as singers and hone their vocal skills with more conviction then they did on their debut album.
Beatmaster Jamie xx, having built a very solid reputation as a producer in between the creation of the two albums, also steps closer to the limelight on this record. Even more songs than on the debut album are built on beats instead of a guitar riff and those beats are slightly more experimental than they previously were. There is even some steel drum - certainly not the hippest of instruments - seeping through in ‘Reunion’.
xx had something very sensual about it.The main reason for this was the back and forth ping-ponging of lyrics between Madley Croft and Sim, giving the impression of eavesdropping on the exchange between two lovers and in some cases even leading to sexual innuendo’s.
On Coexist, this is much less prevalent and the vocalist duos seem to sing together rather than to or at each other. ‘Strangers’ is a notable exception. The Chris Isaak-esque guitar sound also finds its way back into the fold on this song.
Less is still more in case of the xx: Coexist features some of the most powerful silences you will ever hear. If only the southern Europeans were this good at austerity.
After his light-reggae hit ‘I’m Yours’, Jason Mraz has released his fourth album Love Is a Four Letter Word to further establish his image as a fun, peace-loving, the-world-is-a-wonderful-place kind of artist. In an album where the larger share of words revolve around love, he manages to do just that, failing to avoid, however, that seemingly unavoidable curse of cheesy lyrics.
What some might see traditional and romantic, others might easily see as outdated and heavily repetitive. ‘I Won’t Give Up’, with its quiet guitar riffs and pertinent backing vocals, gives considerable space for Mraz’s own vocals to show but let’s be hones; “When I look into your eyes, it’s like watching the night sky” isn’t exactly innovative.
Though most of the album’s instrumentalism is cleverly layered, ‘The Freedom Song’ is much simpler in sound. Distinct horn accents, a foot-tapping beat and a bubbly mood; the general mellow tones of the song, along with its reassuring lyrics, make this a feel-good track all over.
‘Be Honest’ is another subtle track that can take the listener back in time in an instant. Featuring singer-songwriter Inara George in the chorus, the song has a lounge music air surrounding it, all with a peculiar addition of a xylophone and an acoustic guitar.
The majority of the songs on Love is a Four Letter Word are able to stand on their own, yet as an album, it has a strange lack of obvious hits. Even the single ‘I Won’t Give Up’ doesn’t hit home as expected of a chart entry. However, fans who were introduced to Mraz’s music through ‘I’m Yours’ will probably fall in love with its twin ‘Living in the Moment’ complete with trademark casual guitar strumming, catchy whistling and a similarly positive vibe.
When it comes down to
it, Jason Mraz’s latest album will hardly change the music scene. But it can
be considered a step forward for listeners who thought his former
mono-emotional style too much to listen to throug a dozen or so songs per
album. At some points, it even comes dangerously close to a country sound, as can
be seen in‘Frank D. Fixer’.
Overall, Love Is a Four Letter Word is a safe ride that rarely goes through ups or downs; it talks about love in a very generic sense and doesn’t at any point hit a peak. The upbeat, high-pitched guitar-padded tunes are less in this album than the previous ones which hopefully hints at Mraz’s future evolution as an artist.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.