Review: Soberhaul by MilesExperience

Soberhaul by MilesExperience“I am listening to this in November, right?” Not that it’s a bad thing – the sun was shining harshly outside when I listened – but I wasn’t sure if MilesExperience should have kicked off their new album with “Sunshine”: a competent song, but one that painted them to that corner that says “feel-good drinking songs”. Not to mention it is November, not summer. (And I like horn sections.) But it’s a misstep that doesn’t look like one. Soberhaul sees the band more confident: after the tentative Again & Against, the band has shaken off their nerves and delivered a pretty strong album. It could have been stronger, though: the reliance on instrumental interludes scupper most of the momentum generated by the songs, which sound quite tight. That crutch could have overpowered “Pagkakataon (Wag Kang Titigil)”, but thankfully, that song – my highlight – builds up at the right time and swells into a climax and a resolution at the same time. A part of me is grinning, seeing MilesExperience did their homework and managed to, at least, start putting themselves apart from the other “sexy pogi rock” acts defining this generation of Filipino alternative. Just a few more steps, then. [NB]4/5

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Review: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Reputation by Taylor SwiftThe transition is over. Yes, 1989 was Taylor Swift’s all-out pop record, but we wrongly assumed that would be the end of it. Nope, there were more depths to plumb, and Reputation sees her go deeper into the urban pop milieu she’s been playing with (and for) these past few years. The move seems apt: her previous records have been statements, but this is the first time she’s knowingly made it so. The record is brash, in-your-face… but it doesn’t exactly work the way it should. “…Ready For It?” ushers in the album’s forgettable first half, which makes it a failure. She ends up doing a retread of everything we’ve heard before, from her and others, with a dash of “I can do this too!” – but it was all unremarkable (although it did succeed in making “Look What You Made Me Do” tolerable). “Gorgeous” kicks off the second half where, it seems, Taylor understands what she wants to do sonically: a little hint of 1989-esque glitter with a bit more aggression, as she planned. And then everything becomes tolerable, even the still-misjudged forays towards face-off mode. And then you remember her pretty good songwriting, finally getting a chance to breathe after all that wham-bam. (The main hook to “Dress”, I thought, is actually brilliant.) In the end, it really is just another Taylor Swift album, with the extra dose of drama – whether it be her romances, her marketing strategy or the sheer ridiculousness of her concepts these days – and its resulting disjointed feeling, which the fans will embrace anyway. I wonder why she needed to make that statement. [NB]3/5

“We wanted it final.”

“Richard” by Nadia Reid | Let’s step away from the inbox first, because here’s a song from a few months back, which I just heard last week, and thought was so intense, I hated myself for missing it the first time. Her name is Nadia Reid; she’s from New Zealand, and this song – this dense, empowering yet conflicting tome to… I’m torn between an abusive relationship and a needy one, I don’t know yet – comes from her album Preservation, which dropped earlier this year. That record got love from both the Kiwis and the Brits, and got a mention from the Americans too, which makes me a little more furious that I missed her the first time. It’s folk that is, well, dense and a bit overwhelming, just the way I like it. But never too late, right? [NB]

“Never meant to come near enough, but you drew me in.”

“Rise” by Nadine | Still in the inbox, and an artist from Switzerland who’s crossing the channel (not that it’s an easy trip, geographically). Born in Emmental (yes, where the cheese is from), Nadine moved to London in 2011 and has been performing there ever since. A bit cinematic, this, and apart from the production it’s her voice – a contrast to the rumbling; fragile and quivering yet punching through – that carries this through. “Rise” is her new single, and as the name suggests – perhaps because of it? – it floats as it goes, again punching through until it breaks free and goes up, up, up. It’s a bit of a transcendental experience, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Her EP of the same name drops soon. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“It would be easy if I could split my heart into three.”

“For Me, For Her, For You” by John Adams | Here’s something new from John Adams, the singer-songwriter who, the first time I wrote about him back in February, I compared to James Blunt – not unfavorably; I think my hook was that comparison. This is off his upcoming album You Never Know Who’s Listening, and it’s a relatively straightforward track whose lyrics make me really keen for it. It’s simple, yes, but it’s lovely. Again, his earnestness keeps it going, but nicely this does not feel like an ordinary song from the get-go – it quickly captures that special thing at the very start, and I think that’s worth writing home about. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)