Here’s my view on what were the best albums released last Friday 1st February. There’s a fair few links to my fuller (though still not too long) reviews here too. There’s also a Spotify sample playlist so you can make you own mind up about the artists.
The Specials – Encore
The kings of Ska return to put the world to rights – and don’t we just need it.
London post-punk 3-piece White Lies release their fifth studio album a decade after their first came out, with the band pushing hard on the oh-so-fashionable alternative 80’s vibe. A lot of familiar synth noises back up their guitar work on an enjoyable, but ultimately unremarkable, work.
Opener Time to Give, is quite emblematic of the album as a whole, starting with some soft echo-laden keyboards before moving into a indie-pop vibe with synth overtones. Nice enough, but then it throws in a keyboard break that doesn’t really feel like it fits with the rest of the track and keeps going with it.
Never Alone is piece that uses a throbbing keyboard bass line to push the track along, adding a touch of Editors alongside the pop elements of the track. Pushing the pop even further is Tokyo, which feels like it was written to maximise radio airtime.
Everywhere you turn on this album you can feel the influences screaming at you. Kick Me, for example kicks you in the face with Pink Floyd before a change in direction brings you to towards an actually quite satisfying crescendo. Denial starts like ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police, though the chorus is a lot more dramatic than Sting’s version.
Some of the synth/guitar combos across the album, particularly on Jo?, land somewhere between Bon Jovi and Van Halen, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your predisposition to those artists.
To my mind, the band saves the best until last with Fire and Wings, a classic loud-soft effort that at moments sounds like a collaboration between Gary Newman and Nirvana.
In many ways, Five is reminiscent of the recent Twilight Sad album, but doesn’t quite reach the same heights. Rather than pulling threads of reminiscence from their influences, White Lies have instead chosen a more direct borrowing from their past favourites the album. Add to that the vocals of Harry McVeigh, which are competent if not outstanding and you have a work that is nice enough to listen to, but I can’t see it staying on my favourites playlist for too long.
Another glut of new releases to work through. Of today’s debuts we see the likes of Ian Brown, The Specials and White Lies offering up some fresh material. I’ll review the best through the coming week and rate them all as I go along.