Review: What Went Down by Foals

What Went Down by FoalsWhoa, Foals. What happened there? I know this is the trajectory the band has been heading towards. Their last record, Holy Fire, embraced a groove that they merely hinted at in their previous, more mathematical releases. But man, What Went Down is crunchy. The band have pinned down their festival ambitions so well that it sounds like they have been at it from the very beginning. (Not that we had any doubt, but you get the idea, yes?) It’s like they went on a collision course with the more recent Arctic Monkeys and cleaned up and took it as their own. (However, as the album runs you get the feeling that they could go a bit further with it, but I’m not allowing that to wallow in my head.) The grooves are irresistible, the bass is dirty enough to dance with, and yet there’s no feeling that they’ve ripped off anybody, or even paid homage to anybody. This is unusual. I am actually amazed. What Went Down is a strong, cohesive album, and I dare you not to get funky with this. [NB] | 4/5

Review: Depression Cherry by Beach House

Depression Cherry by Beach HouseIf you’re new to Beach House, then there’s a lot to enjoy on Depression Cherry, the fifth record from the Baltimore band. Alex Scally’s lush instrumentation and Victoria Legrand’s sublime vocals are a combination to behold, packing a punch that stretches towards a languid, dreamy soundscape. If you’re not new to Beach House, however, Depression Cherry is a disappointment. The band’s done five records, and minor tweaks aside – there’s a bit more of a rumble here that lends an interestingly sinister element to this whole thing – it sounds the same. It all sounds the same. It’s not that we demand Beach House move their sound to unknown lengths and depths – why fix what’s not broken? – but staying in one lane for five albums across ten years isn’t really any fun. It’s like doing five starter albums, introducing yourself each and every time. Depression Cherry isn’t that much fun, and not because of the title. Sure, there is a lot to be found, but you’ve heard all of this before. [NB] | 3/5

Review: Honeymoon by Jensen and the Flips

Honeymoon by Jensen and the FlipsMaybe it’s the weather when I listened to the record. Monday night, cool weather, with the worst of the rains long over but the idea of a few showers still lingering by. I wasn’t on the road, but rather on bed, doing some writing. Jensen and the Flips’ Honeymoon, their debut LP, slotted into that mindset quite well: 47 minutes of sprawling funk-flavored jazz-licked alternative, of pretty tight musicianship and astute words, enough (or more so) to get you shuffling your butt in your car seat. Of course, I wish it did better transitions: while not completely uneven, I felt the tracks jumped around a bit too much considering the genre’s characteristics. But that’s a minor quibble. The record is cohesive enough, but the sequencing builds up to the apparent crowd favorite “Borrowed”, a quiet closer that feels like a proper pay-off, if anything. [NB]4/5

Review: We Were Here by Boy

We Were Here by BoyThe opening track (and lead single, and title track) to Boy’s second album We Were Here speaks of marks that remain in particular places despite reality no longer reflecting it. It also is a bit of a nod to what the Swiss-German duo’s new release is all about. Sure, their 2011 debut Mutual Friends also traded in the contemplative (although it had the more straightforward pop of “Little Numbers”), but We Were Here sticks firmly in the quiet. It’s not a bad thing: they play up the quiet, so to speak, a side that inevitably got drowned out in the first record. The result is a record where, perhaps intentionally or otherwise, nothing sticks. You can say it’s beauty is in the ethereal, the lingering nature of the songs, the sort that you have to capture in the moment; I get that impression down to the transitions. You can also say it’s a one-track record that suffers from a lack of texture. I’ll say it’s a grower, not enough for one listen. [NB] | 3/5

An appreciation, hopefully not belated, of Lush 99.5

Looks like the existence of one of my go-to radio stations, the Singaporean indie beacon Lush 99.5, is under threat again. Yesterday they launched a social media campaign encouraging its listeners to tell the world why they listen – a campaign I’m glad to be part of, despite the geographical differences I outlined. Yes, I understand that supporting the arts and music community in your locality is at odds with any commercial radio station’s raison d’être, which is to earn money. In the Philippines, the radio landscape is littered with carcasses of dead alternative stations. NU 107 closed down despite being able to sustain itself for over two decades, because a more profitable broadcasting opportunity came along. And Jam 88.3, the only one left in the country, sustains itself by being a parallel universe pop station exclusively for cool kids and cool kid wannabes. Yes, I also understand that there will always be an element of cooler-than-thou when you tune in to alternative radio, but the format has the unique obligation to do something that, ironically, could kill itself in the long run: support local artists, no matter the genre, persuasion or perception. (Like pandas: carnivores who exclusively eat bamboo, to the point that it’s likely affecting their survival.) The closest this region has to that is a scrappy radio station from Singapore. I will continue to listen (and maybe write about the songs I hear and particularly like, many of which are littered across this blog) as long as it lives. [NB]