Album review: Ladytron – Ladytron

Ladytron - Ladytron album cover

Borrowing heavily from new wave, 80s synth and a touch of 90s rave, Ladytron return after more than seven years with an incessantly catchy collection of electro-pop tunes that have that special something about them – in most places.

The self-titled Ladytron album takes a little time to hit its stride with Until the Fire enjoyable enough but failing to develop as much as you might anticipate. Conversely single from last year The Island, featuring huge 80s-style synths, manages to build just at the right moment to avoid you losing interest in the track.

Things get significantly better after this point with Tower of Glass, a catchy head-nodder with some intricate organ work and the vocals of lead vocalist Helen Marnie standing out in particular.

The upward trend continues with Far From Home, which starts off a little Human League but that addictive synth track and pop beat end up taking you somewhere else entirely.

Highlight of the album for me was Deadzone, which employs some great vocal structures and layers of atmospherics against an uptempo beat, building to a delicious crescendo.

At 13 tracks and 53 minutes long, this album isn’t exactly of epic length, but it did feel that the last few tracks could have been trimmed and you would not have noticed the difference. Had the album stopped with the moreish You’ve Changed everybody would be left very happy. As it is Horrorscope, The Mountain and Tomorrow is Another Day have some noticeable moments but feel a little laboured.

Bar that, this is a fabulous album and well worth listening to the first 10 tracks at least.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Deadzone

For fans of:

  • Goldfrapp
  • Boy Harsher
  • Gwenno

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: SPC ECO – Fifteen

SPC ECO - Fifteen album cover

Former Curve member Dean Garcia has been ratcheting out a new album with daughter Rose Berlin pretty much every year since SPC ECO formed in 2009. This is my first encounter with them and not a moment too soon.

Fifteen manages to combine shoegaze and trip-hop to create an experience of an album that deserves to be listened to in a single sitting without distractions to feel the full effect.

From opener Fading Out Of Time to epic closer Little Ones Out Of Time Mix, you are taken on a dream-like journey. The use of muffled drum lines and bass, the processed angelic vocals of Berlin, and the feedback – oh the feedback – give you the effect of having taken something seriously strong before bedtime.

The influences of 90’s trip-hop are clear to see. Massive Attack is clearly in their record collection, while Berlin’s vocal style bears an uncanny resemblance to Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

There’s shoegaze to be found beyond the simple feedback, with some nice buzzy guitars in The Heart and Soul and standout track Breathing.

There are also some more oppressive songs, which at times can make you feel like you’re being smothered with a pillow. Fortunately, Berlin’s vocals keep it from becoming too overbearing.

From a critical perspective, this is a long album and many of the songs, as you progress, struggle to differentiate themselves. But as an overall experience it washes over you and takes you to another place.

Find a quiet spot, stick on the best headphones you can find, and let this cracker of a record take you far, far, away.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Breathing

For fans of:

  • Curve
  • Massive Attack
  • Portishead

Listen on Bandcamp

Album of the week: Yak – Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness album cover

Yak‘s second album sees them grinding out some pretty heavy sounds, recalling the likes of Sabbath and Zep alongside more recent psych and stoner rock. But they’ve also managed to add in some elements of doo-wop and swing along the way, making Pursuit of Momentary Happiness the most intriguing album of the week.

Bellyache get us underway with a nice bit of distored funky wah-wah guitar and a heavy bass line, that contrasts well with its high pitched chorus. As a opening track it show us that Yak are at the peak of their game.

We get more bluesy on Fried, but the groove-laden bass continues – it’s a track that stoner rock fans will find hard not to appreciate.

Title track Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a slower number that plays heavily on the atmospherics and keyboards to create a more Floyd-esque feel, before the full-on psych kicks in.

There are a number of other softer moments and 50’s influence on show here, especially in Words Fail Me, Encore and closer This House Has No Living Room. But it is in their heavier moments that Yak truly come alive.

Blinded By the Lies is a good old fashioned rock-out with a sense of urgency and relentless riffs. White Male Carnivore is driven by a single-tone bass line while vocalist Oliver Henry Burslem rants epically over the top, until the track takes a huge turn and we end up screaming along to ‘The Whole World In His Hands’. Pay Off vs. The Struggle is a prog-like number, taken along yet again by a funk-laden bass line.

This is by no means a perfect album, and some of the tracks do say in places, but there is enough quality here to make it worth spending 40 minutes of your time with.

Release date: 08 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Bellyache

For fans of:

  • Holy Doom
  • Warmduscher
  • Black Sabbath

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: The Specials – Encore

The Specials - Encore album cover

It’s been 18 years since The Specials last stepped into a studio, but with Encore they clearly decided it was time to put the world to rights again – and in the current political climate it feels just as necessary as ever.

The album starts with a couple of tracks that are a departure from standard Specials fare. Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys is a funk-laden, almost disco-like affair and a cry out for interracial harmony.

The funk journey continues, as does the calling out of racism, on B.L.M. Lynval Golding’s autobiographical monologue on the treatment dished out to him as a black man from the days of Windrush to modern-day USA.

Terry Hall provides his own monologue to depression and self-loathing on The Life and Times (Of a Man Called Depression), as does guest vocalist Saffiyah Khan on 10 Commandments, a heavy dub-laden number calling out sexism and sexual violence against women – to my mind the best track on the album.

Elsewhere there are more typical Specials numbers to delight hardcore fans. Blam Blam Fever provides us with an upbeat ska track deriding gun culture, while Vote For Me is another classic Specials number shining the light on hypocritical politicians.

Reggae gets a good airing on Embarrased By You, where Golding perhaps shows his 67 years a little in his rant against the “youth of today”.

There’s even a little tribute to The Doors on Breaking Point, a proper Oompah number that shares a lot of DNA with Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) as it roasts the twisted world of social media.

They may be a little long un the tooth these days, but Tje Specials feel remarkably fresh and just as relevant as when they first stepped onto the scene 40 years’ ago.

Bonus points also for the deluxe edition of this album with features a cracking live set from Le Bataclan.

Release date: 01 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: 10 Commandments

For fans of:

  • The Beat
  • The Selecter
  • Madness

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: Julia Kent – Temporal

Julia Kent - temporal album cover

Canadian cellist Julia Kent has, with Temporal, produced an achingly beautiful album, that while sitting firmly within the neo-classical genre, shows a wide range of influences.

Twelve-minute opener Last Hour Story, sets the bar high for the rest of the album, which fortunately it manages to match. The looping and building of strings on strings pulls at your own heartstrings and by the end of it you may be an emotional wreck.

Through all her tracks, Kent leans on elements of electronica to centre the album in the here-and-now. Without it many of these tracks would be well-suited to the dramatic parts of some of our darker period dramas.

The electronic influence is more obvious on tracks like Imbalance, which features a pulsating deep-bass synth and electro ticks and pops to counterbalance the cello and organ driving the piece.

Similarly Conditional Futures places us in a dystopian landscape, where looped strings and low-key synth tones provide the backdrop as Kent’s cello drifts in and out of the scene, before the tone lightens towards the end to provide that glimmer of hope amongst the gloom.

There are more uplifting moments to be found on Floating City, with its plucked strings and house-style pianos, and again on Through the Window which has an almost Balearic feel to it.

Crepuscolo brings events to a close, with Kent’s cello sitting alongside echoing piano notes, ambient swirls and the sound of chirping crickets as the whole album drifts off into entropy.

Temporal is a cerebral listen rather than one to get your feet going, or even to use as backing music at a dinner party. But if you are the kind of person who is moved by music – brace yourself – because this will be an emotional journey.

Release dates: 25 January 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Last Hour Story

For fans of:

  • Nils Frahm
  • Max Richter
  • Global Communication

Listen on Spotify