May 2015 – Review Round Up

After an excellent April, what would May bring?

Album of the Month – Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love

One thing I love about music is, on occasions, someone who has barely touched your radar can come along and enthral, entrance an enchant you. This month it was exactly what UMO managed to do. To discover them involved a routine visit to the wonderful Pie and Vinyl, the ever knowledgable Rad told me to listen to a particular track, I did and loved it. It was the opener to this album. It sounded so old yet so new all at the same time. Trying to describe this record is tough. There is psychedelia, there is disco, there are synths and even trumpets. A real variety of musical styles but blended together make this a very special collection indeed. I would strongly recommend this to anyone.

A band that needs no introduction, and lets be honest, also do not need reviewing as they will sell by the lorry load are Mumford and Sons, cruelly – but entertainingly – described by Charlie Brooker as the Trustfund Worzels. Well Worzel no more, they have decided to remove the banjo and go electric. The two tracks they previewed from Wilder Mind showed little promise though. Believe sounded like an awful Coldplay song and The Wolf was a little better with echoes of an early, therefore better, Kings of Leon. Hearing the rest of the record though its as is they just used guitars instead of banjos and, for me, lost the sound that made them interesting. Instead of fiddly folk you now have middle of the road and frankly very dull middle of the road too – imagine the A303 between Ilchester and Taunton to give you an idea how dull!

It was obviously a month for those who have been around for a while. Paul Weller brought us his latest solo work Saturns Pattern. Weller is a mixed bag. One minute you feel he is back on form, the next that maybe he’s just gone on too long. This record sits as if he is heading back towards the former. It crashes open with a very rock lead White Sky and gets you imagining which direction he is heading, by halfway though the pace relaxes considerably. Whilst not up there with his very best stuff, it certainly one of the better in his now 23 album solo career.

Weller may have been going for the best part of 40 years now and Ash have been going for some considerable time too. In fact its 19 years since their debut album 1977 came out. They are back with their latest album and in Kablammo! they have returned to making albums, in fact their first in 8 years!It certainly is a very solid return, the classic Ash sound comes to the fore from the opening bars of Cocoon and doesn’t really relax the pace at all. With the old ’90s Britpop bands being very much back in fashion, it is great that the makers of the brilliant  Girl From Mars are amongst them. Great fun all round.

In 2012, on a sunny Reading Festival afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed chilling on the grass listening to the somewhat different sound of Django Django. Their debut album gave a contemporary sound much akin to the Beta Band. But that was the debut, and the tricky second album often lowers the quality. Thankfully Born Under Saturn goes far from doing that. This album grabs you a lot quicker than the debut, the familiar rhythms are very much evident, no more so than in the superb Giant. This is a band who have moved from strength to strength. Live sets will certainly benefit from this and whilst I won’t be catching them live listening in a field, sticking this in the car and driving west – as I seem to do so often – it will just make me glad its summer.

The first time I saw The Tallest Man on Earth was on Later with Jools Holland, he was one of those fillers in between the ‘important’ bands on the episode but he was rather excellent. The Swede has just released his third album Dark Bird is Home and his influences have moved from Dylan to Springsteen and he has created a beautiful sound of Swedish uplifting melancholy which is never better demonstrated than on the title track which is so warming to listen to. Give him a listen on a Sunday morning.

The third album from The VaccinesEnglish Graffiti opens at a real pace with Handsome and immediately you are thrown back into why they became so popular from the heavily hyped beginnings in 2011. Unlike their second album they have moved the sound along and Handsome isn’t a representative reflection of the rest of the album. It is very much a Vaccines record at heart but one in which they have looked to move the sound along and give them a breath of fresh air. Never more so than on Denial. It may have taken 3 years but it certainly was worth the wait. Not as instant as What Do You Expect but still great.

Worth mentioning that the American Recordings by the late and very great Johnny Cash have been re-issued on Vinyl. If you have never heard them before you have missed out. His work with Rick Rubin is simply breathtaking at times and to hear the increased fragility in his  voice makes you wish he was still very much with us, in fact just listening to Hurt perfectly encapsulates what he was capable of, arguably the greatest cover version there has ever been and a song that will always bring a tear.


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