Professor Penguin ‘Planes’ Album Review

“Set to turn heads with their debut album” Q Magazine (Track Of The Day)

 

“Love it, really love it” Nick Grimshaw (BBC Radio 1)

 

“Such a beautiful piece” Brian Eno

From the creation of Jonny Abraham Professor Penguin developed into a nine piece ensemble of talented musicians. The band, who have sold out live shows, have gained support from The Fly, Q Magazine (Track of the Day), BBC 6Music (Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq) and none other than Brian Eno who described their debut single ‘Pilot’ as “such a beautiful piece”. On April 9th the band releases their debut album ‘Planes’ through Gentoo Recordings.

From start to finish the album possess a very natural and somewhat effortless beauty. Despite being a nine piece band the album is very intimate and delicate; the songs are allowed to breathe and yet are richly layered with wonderfully paced instruments. The real beauty of the album lies in the fearlessness of the band to experiment with the songs and instrumentation; the band are not afraid to change tempo of the song, while the unusual mix of instruments (from slow plucking guitars to Spanish trumpets) transcend different musical genres that creates a truly fresh sound. Perhaps the only negative (and it really is only small) is that the lyrics can wash over you and take a back seat compared to the instruments however they are delivered in a very harmonious and unique voice.  This album is unique, different and is as perfect as an album can get; an incredible debut from some seriously talented musicians.

Key Tracks: Pilot, Pirate, Present & Puzzle Pieces

For more information you can visit their website or facebook page. You can also click here to listen to the band on soundcloud.

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Spotlight: Daniel Pearson ‘Satellites’ Review

Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Elliott Smith; the comparisons are strong but in a saturated singer songwriter market Pearson manages to stand apart in his own light. The debut album ranges from strong upbeat moments to delicate acoustic offerings. For a debut it sounds mature with great production, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect. What makes Daniel Pearson a great talent is that the songs are delivered with a unique voice whilst the instrumentation offers depth and good structure, with the more upbeat songs being the stronger components of the album as they burst with melody and become instantly infectious, a prime example being ‘Black n Blue’. The downfall of the album is the lyrics themselves, they are emotionally driven but often lack focus and so the meaning becomes blurred and so lacks impact, for example “When the ranches are bare, chemicals hang in the air… I will be there when you need me, like the stars in the sky, sand on the beach and the waves in the sea… We are all waves in the sea”. This is a great album despite the lyric element; it is well polished and infectious.

Key Songs: Black n Blue, Waves in the Sea, Tracks and Wishing Well.


Availiable through iTunes or Daniel Pearson’s online store.

Tribes ‘Baby’ Review

Having gained a lot of attention during 2011 Tribes have finally released their debut album ‘Baby’ and it is certainly worth the hype. From songs such as ‘Sappho and ‘Whenever’ it is clear Tribes have a lot of imagination with strong songs but what is evident is their ability to absorb a wide range of influences from grunge, indie and glam rock to produce a refreshing sound for 2012. The song writing is very strong and inventive, such as ‘Corner of an English Field’ a song dedicated to Charlie Haddon of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. The album is very consistent where each song has a similar theme or instrumentation which creates strong links to tie the album together. However, the most powerful aspect of the album is the strong energy the band produces, particularly through Johnny Lloyd’s vocals. This is certainly an excellent debut and a must own for 2012.

Key Tracks: We Were Children, Sappho, Nightdriving, When My Day Comes, Corner of An English Field

First Listen: Howler ‘America Give Up’ Review

Howler received a lot of attention and hype towards the end of last year and it is no surprise in a music industry littered with electronic outfits (this is not necessarily a bad thing), these five lads from Minneapolis daringly step out with fuzzy guitars which draws strong comparisons to The Strokes. Next week on the 16th the young band releases their debut album and here at NorthernRoom we are lucky enough to have heard it before its release. The boys release a strong album full of guitar hooks and noise which is very reminiscent of The Strokes. Each song is strong enough to stand alone, but place in a context of an album and it starts to feel like an 11 track compilation. The album isn’t original as well; it is like Julian Casablancas fronting The Vaccines or scraps from The Strokes debut, this could be down to the young age of the band and with time they might find their own sound (much like The Maccabees). The originality aspect isn’t a major hurdle that can’t be jumped because the songs are very catchy, and perhaps isn’t something the band themselves care about: “I keep hearing a lot of witch house stuff, chillwave, shoegazey keyboards with Casio drums. But not rock, so we wanted to make it dirty rock’n’roll” (Jordan Gatesmith); this is an album that does just that each song is punchy and mostly comes in under the 3 minute mark. This is a fine debut from a young band, but you just can’t help feeling slightly cheated by it.

The album is available for streaming at nme.com

Released: 16/01/2012

Essential Tracks: Told You Once, Beach Sluts & America

Snow Patrol ‘Fallen Empires’ Review

Snow Patrol return with their sixth studio release and the result is a mixed one. The band have stated that this release is musically a change of direction but nothing has really changed; the band still produced an album bursting with anthems; they have just scrapped the guitars and added synthesisers.

The synthesisers rarely blend well into the songs however when it does, as on the track In The End, the result is immense. Furthermore the album lacks consistency and focus, the songs that are electronica focussed don’t blend well with the ballad songs and in particular the more rock based anthem ‘This Is Isn’t Everything You Are’. At nearly an hour long the album is also too long and would have helped the consistency if some of the songs were scrapped, such as the awful ‘Called out in the Dark’.

Fallen Empires isn’t a terrible album and there are some truly great pop anthems whilst ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’ has to be their best song yet. The problem really is that we have heard it before on their three previous releases.

Key Tracks: This Isn’t Everything You Are, In The End and Fallen Empires

Out Now!

New Album Releases!

So another week has come and with it it brings more album releases, but this week it’s extremely disappointing. I will be (briefly) reviewing five albums out today, these are new releases from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Kooks, Ed Sheeran, Peggy Sue and St. Vincent.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: ‘Hysterical’

This is a below par release from the Brooklyn/Philadelphia band, it’s not necessarily a bad album but it feels like we’ve heard it before such as their debut. There are some really magnificent songs, such as Misspent Youth and Hysterical; whilst Alec Ounsworth voice has never sounded so melodic and it really suits the music. There are two massive problems with this album firstly (as in the case of The Rapture) the synths are too much in your face that it detracts from the rest of the instrumentation and lyrics, secondly there has been no musical progression since their debut. If you are a fan of CYHSY then you may like this album but if you haven’t listened to them before then you’re best starting at the beginning.

Key Songs: Yesterday Never, Hysterical and Misspent Youth

The Kooks: ‘Junk of the Heart’

The Kooks also release a new album , and well it’s not brilliant. When The Kooks came on the scene with their debut they were a guilty pleasure, songs where you find your foot tapping to the sweet melody but would never admit to actually liking them. With this album they lose any melody or catchiness, have added a bit of a piano and synths but it just fails, you get the feeling this album is The Kooks trying too hard to attempt to get back into chart success, while adapting a ‘bad boy’ attitude, yet both fall short.

Key Songs: erm.. Is It Me.

Ed Sheeran: ‘+’

I had no expectations to like this album so on listening I wasn’t disappointed when I hated it. Ed Sheeran is best described as Bruno Mars wrapped in a little bit of Jamie T and looks slightly like Prince Harry. Firstly I will get the bit that really irritated me out of the way, this was his lyrics particularly on U.N.I where he sings “you and I ended over U N I” it’s lazy, clichéd and boring song writing. His songs sound all too similar, they slowly drudge along. However there are a couple of positives: he does have a pleasant singing voice but then he ruins this when he horrendously raps; but his song The A team shows that maybe Ed Sheeran does have some talent and song writing ability.

Key Songs: The A Team and nothing else.

Peggy Sue: ‘Acrobats

One of the best releases this week is Peggy Sue’s ‘Acrobats’. The three piece have now dropped their folk tinged songs and the pirate bit of their name, the outcome is a dark, bluesy album that is an unsettling listen. The two women’s vocals are sweet and perfect, and that contrasted with the intense, lo-fi electric instrumentation creates a captivating listen.

Key Songs: Cut My Teeth, Changed & Waiting and All We’ll Keep.

St. Vincent: ‘Strange Mercy’

The best album I’ve heard this week is St. Vincent’s latest release: ‘Strange Mercy’. This album sees denser orchestral arrangements but distorted guitar spasms are more prominent, whilst a Jazz influence is clear. The lyrics are effective and sung sincerely “I tried so hard to be clever” is a prime example. What makes this album magnificent is that you never quite know what is going to happen next and this makes you really listen intensely to it and subsequently creates a truly exciting listen.

Key Songs: Champagne Year, Cruel, Hysterical Strength and Dilettante but all are amazing.

The Rapture – ‘In The Grace Of Your Love’ Review

Releasing one decent album (Echoes) in their 13 year career The Rapture don’t seemed to have progressed or learned anything with this latest release. The lyrics are poor and clichéd, “I’ll see you on the other side” and “you’re life’s a roller coaster” are just a few examples, the electronica sound is shoved too harshly in your face. The songs seem to build and yet never lead anywhere whilst it lacks that toe tapping catchiness found on earlier albums; you merely find the songs far too annoying, Luke Jenner repeating the words roller coaster is a prime example. I really don’t think a diehard Rapture fan could like this album.

Key Songs: Well they are all really poor, but the best of the bunch I suppose is Sail Away.

Out Now

Slow Club – Paradise Review

Slow Club’s debut album, ‘Yeah So’, was disappointing, there are flashes of good songs but their lyrics failed them, lines about crumbling shins from crunking are a mere tip of the iceberg. Their twee sound of old fashioned love and rhythms made from chairs and bottles becomes repetitive and the songs sound too similar (‘When I Go’, ‘Dance til the Morning Light’); quite simply it’s a boring listen.

However, their second album is a much better outing. The duo make strongly layered tracks; and a more electronic sound is clear whilst Rebecca Taylor’s voice has much nicer range. Their album is very upbeat with moments of beauty, and they avoid what their first album didn’t: their mushiness is toned down and on multiple listens it becomes more addictive. They have a distinctive sound and humour that won’t be for everyone and it certainly won’t set sales alight, but never the less, if you are after a nice indie pop album; then this is defiantly for you.

Key Songs: If We’re Still Alive, You Earth or Ash, Two Cousins.

Out September 12th, but you can stream the album at NME.com

The Horrible Crowes – ‘Elsie’ Review

I was both apprehensive and excited when I heard that The Gaslight Anthem front man was joining up with Ian Perkins (who played guitar with the band), this is really because I think The Gaslight Anthem are great, I feel they bring a sense of fun to their rather working class and sometimes poignant lyrics (“If I’m not your kind then don’t tell a soul, I’m not the one who hates being alone” and “my teenage heart pumped all my misery”); and I absolutely love that you can hear the rhythm guitar changing chord whilst the lead guitar remains the same and this creates a switch in the mood of the song. The reason I was apprehensive is because with many artists whom have side projects, they either never sound as good (Brandon Flowers, Morrissey) or they just churn out the same music, Them Crooked Vultures could easily have slipped into a QOTSA catalogue; however The Horrible Crowes avoid these pitfalls.

Brian Fallon has admitted that there has been a change in influence on this album “As much as I have this fantasy in the Gaslight Anthem of being Bruce Springsteen , I also have this fantasy of being Tom Waits or Greg Dulli”. Gone have the working class lyrics replaced with dark and reflecting ones: “did you say you were lonely, I was just about to miss you” and “I aged five years at the mention of your name”, Brian Fallon’s raspy vocals have never felt so heartfelt and they really compliment the soft guitar lines and piano. This is not to say the album is depressing there are more upbeat songs that occur throughout the album, such as Mary Ann and Go Tell Everybody; these give a much needed relief to the album.

What I love about this album is the rock and roll sound has been striped back and it feels much more like a soul album. I also love the pace of the album, it opens slowly, like a man begging for forgiveness, regretting what he has lost; the pace changes in the middle as he remembers the past before it then plunges you back down with the final three songs ending the album with a cry of redemption.

This album is not a second rate Gaslight Anthem, nor is it a solo record, what this album is is two creative minds coming together and producing an album that will stand the test of time. It is a must own album and one of the best I have heard this year.

My pick of the songs are: Go Tell Everybody, Black Betty & The Moon, Mary Ann and I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together.

This album is released on the 6th September, but you can stream the album on NME.Com.