Sign in using your account with
Tracy Bonham: Masts of Manhatta
You’d be forgiven for not knowing who Tracy Bonham is, but 90s rock fans will remember her 1996 debut single 'Mother, Mother,' an aggressive anthem for a generation of angst-ridden teenagers boasting screaming vocals that made Alanis Morisette's 'You Oughtta Know' seem like a lullaby in comparison.
Fast-forward a decade and three albums later, and Bonham seems to have a completely different, almost folksy sound on Masts of Manhatta.
Gone are the 90s heavy rock guitar riffs. Instead, Bonham demonstrates an older, more sedated style that’s heavy on the guitar and violin arrangements. A lot of detail and attention have been invested in layering the album’s eleven tracks with clever arrangements and background vocals.
The Highlight of the album is 'Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend', a 1940s folk tune that uses gypsy fiddles, an echoing cello bass and catchy vocals to tell the story of a two-timer. 'Your Night is Wide Open' is a gentle melody with finger-style guitar and cello that help create a haunting, dream-like serenade abruptly interrupted by a drum interval. Bonham gets to show off her violin talents on 'Josephine,' while on 'You're My Isness', the strong bass riff and her vocals sound very similar to Shivaree’s 'Good Night Moon'.
'We Moved Our City To The Country' demonstrates Bonham’s skills as a witty lyricist, where she mocks city folk’s put-on airs and houses in the countryside. Starting off with a simple guitar riff and soft beat, the contrast between city and countryside is clearly demonstrated midway, where the melody suddenly changes to a violin melody, only to shift into a slow melody accompanied by electric piano and haunting background vocals.
'Big Red Heart' builds up nicely with a catchy bass riff, hand claps and intelligent lyrics, while her vocals are somewhat reminiscent of a younger Sheryl Crowe or Meredith Brooks.
'When You Laugh The World Laughs With You,' is a tame and sweet love ballad that’s surely intended for singing a kid to sleep. It may have the same effect on its listeners; the melody’s too predictable, though it does have a good string arrangement.
'Reciprocal Feelings' is a weak track, where her rather annoying vocal melody is saved by a beautiful cello solo. 'In The Moonlight' boasts witty lyrics about growing up as a teenager and a similar style to 'Reciprocal Feelings' where she sing-speaks the lyrics in a rather monotonous voice interspersed by a high-pitched 'Ooh' in the chorus.
There's something very intelligent about Masts of Manhatta’s folk tunes; even if it takes a few listens to appreciate this album and Bonham's talents as a musician. However, if you don’t have the time and don’t like folk music; this album may fail to impress you.
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.
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’.
Just when we thought David Bowie had gracefully slipped into retirement, the sixty-six year old has thrown us all the screwiest of screwballs and released his first album in ten years. Unlike so many comebacks and reunions, though, Bowie has made a return of the utmost grace – one befitting of his age and his already cemented status as one of the most influential and innovative musicians of the 20th century.
The Next Day is an album that, in varying degrees, pops and crackles with a trademark flamboyancy and panache, with a little sprinkle of seventies rock-effeminacy.
Opening tracks, ‘The Next Day’ and ‘Dirty Boys’ announce the album with force, but it’s not till ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ that Bowie slips back into his flow like the proverbial old slipper; raw acoustics underline the track, before ‘Love is Lost’ strips it all back for a masterful vocal performance – one that sees Bowie dip in and out with a sense of dramatic timing. The album’s first single, ‘Where Are We Now?’ is the first of several ballads; Bowie teases with John Lennon-esque vocals, which threaten to break out into a dramatic crescendo, only to root itself in typical Bowie brood.
On the other hand, ‘If You Can See Me’ ignites Bowies more experimental phases with polyrhythmic guitar lines carrying strained vocals at breakneck speed. Several ballads and a few rock thrashes later, The Next Day finishes on a fade-out that trickles the man’s trademark haunts.
Hardcore Bowie fans have and will continue to gush at the very fact that that their musical messiah has returned with gusto. But for most, the fact that Bowie has resisted stepping outside of his comfort zone serves up relief and regret in equal measures. No one does Bowie like Bowie, and his firm grip of his own musical identity is commendable. But what this ultimately translates to is a body of work that is a little too familiar. The album sleeve cover is an adapted version of 1977 album, Heroes, apparently signalling a break from the past. But whether deliberate or not, The Next Day actually fits his eclectic back catalogue, touching on various tangents of his career.
But this is a collection of songs that need to be delved into deeper for maximum appreciation. The most significant element of The Next Day is that Bowie’s words in no way show any yearning for the days of Ziggy Stardust, face paint and leather trousers. Lyrics touch on the fleeting nature of fame and his humble beginnings, amongst other things, though through a completely intangible perspective.
And so in the end, it’s a catch twenty-two situation; this is a refreshing release that stands alone in this still relatively young year; but Bowie has been such an innovator that you can’t help but feel a twinge of defeat. At his age, though, maybe it’s for the best. Either way, like so many of Bowie’s albums, The Next Day has been conceived and executed in an ethereal bubble, unconcerned with the world around it.
Highlights‘Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend’, ‘Big Red Heart’, ‘Your Night is Wide Open’
Like This? Try
Shivaree, Meredith Brooks, Sheryl Crowe