ALBUM REVIEW: Netsky – '3'

Originally published on inthemeantime.me.uk

When it comes to the drum and bass scene, the first artist that usually comes to mind for me is either Sigma or Netsky. But as this title suggests, this is not a review of Sigma, today I’ve decided to review the highly anticipated third album by Netsky.

For me, I only got to know about Netsky after the start of the new year when I heard ‘Rio’ which features Digital Farm Animals. The chilled out vibes and the slower tempo, combined with the DnB made for a quaint mix which I personally liked, a lot. It was not until I discovered ‘Work It Out’ which also featured Digital Farm Animals, that I actually became a fan of his music. It was certainly a departure from my usual tropical house and cheese vibe, but I liked it.

Three Tracklist:

  1. Thunder feat. Emeli Sande
  2. Work it Out feat. Digital Farm Animals
  3. Rio feat. Digital Farm Animals
  4. Leave it Alone feat. Saint Raymond
  5. Who Knows feat. Paije
  6. Go 2
  7. High Alert feat. Sara Hartman
  8. TNT feat. Dave 1 from Chromeo
  9. Stay Up With Me feat. Arlissa
  10. Forget What You Look Like feat. Lowell
  11. Bird of Paradise
  12. Jauz X Netsky – Higher

I’ll try not to talk about every song..

To kick things off, Netsky partners up with Emeli Sande to produce ‘Thunder’. Starting with a string based instrumental introduction, it was an immediate cue for me to continue listening. In fact it became one of my favourite songs on the entire album. Emeli’s vocals were perfect for this song. I was glad to see that ‘Work it Out’ and ‘Rio’ were on this album because they were the first songs that made me a fan and so to see them on his third studio album made smile. ‘Leave it Alone’ was an interesting song which I found to be very funky in its approach. The backing vocals reminded me of ‘Higher’ by Sigma, but when the beat came in after the intro, I knew I’d like this song, and it certainly did not disappoint. But what surprised me the most was the next song. ‘Who Knows’ was certainly a surprising package. The mellow vibes along with the combination of string instruments and Paije’s vocals (which reminded me of John Newman) made for a beautiful song. ‘TNT’ was a departure from Netsky’s usual vibe. It was funky, it was something that I really got into. I think the vocals by Chromeo assisted in adding a certain degree of funkiness. No complaints though, I really like Chromeo as an artist and so to see them back is a welcome thing to see.

Whilst looking for music, I’ve been gathering lots of songs which I’ve found to be chilled in its approach, and I found a new songs to add to my list in ‘Who Knows’ and ‘Bird of Paradise’. In ‘Bird of Paradise’, the beautiful mixture of ambient noises, string instruments and piano, juxtaposed with the drum and bass beat makes for a wonderful combination.

‘Go 2’ showed promise. I could just about grasp a beat to the song. But it’s not something that I would say I enjoyed. Instead lets just say that it left me confused. Some songs that didn’t seem to hit the right chord with me were ‘Stay Up With Me’ and ‘Forget What you Look Like’. With these though, they’re not necessarily bad songs. They are in fact pretty good. They have the standard vibe that you would expect of a DnB-based album. However, I feel this is one occasion where releasing instrumental versions first followed by the release of the versions with vocals as ‘remixes’ might have made me enjoy it a lot more. I can certainly get into those songs, I just think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if it had been released as an original mix and a separate vocal remix. Something that is commonplace in the music industry, especially when it comes to EDM.

The Verdict..

The verdict from me personally is generally positive. I’ve criticised a few songs (sort of). Just like most EDM these days, there has been a shift in what can be considered ‘mainstream’. I’ve seen DnB evolve with that shift. From liquid DnB to just full on dirty DnB, you will always find something that you will enjoy. The thing I saw with Netsky was that there weren’t moments when the quality of the album peaked or troughed. Instead, it remained consistent. His style always shone through which is what we generally expect. We want more, but we want their type of more. The only gripes I had were based on my own confusion or what I would consider to be a better way to release the tracks. This certainly does not mean that it was flawless, but putting all my little gripes to one side, I will put my hands up and say that I loved this album.

Cloud Nine – A Review

The long awaited album by Kygo is here! After an original release date of 12th February 2016, Kygo has made us wait for 3 months to finalise something that was apparently 99% done. Technically, it was the longest February on record by Kygo standards. That being said, I was excited to see what he could offer.

After the initial excitement provided by his remix of I See Fire by Ed Sheeran, and the success of his original song, called Firestone, I was eager to see what he could offer. He’s been drip feeding us his songs for a long time now and his tracks make another appearance in the album.

 

Cloud Nine Tracklist (Requires Spotify):

1. Intro
2. Stole The Show feat. Parson James
3. Fiction feat. Tom Odell
4. Raging feat. Kodaline
5. Firestone feat. Conrad Sewell
6. Happy Birthday feat. John Legend
7. I’m In Love feat. James Vincent McMorrow
8. Oasis feat. Foxes
9. Not Alone feat. Rhodes
10. Serious feat. Matt Corby
11. Stay feat. Maty Noyes
12. Nothing Left feat. Will Heard
13. Fragile feat. Labrinth
14. Carry Me feat. Julia Michaels
15. For What It’s Worth feat. Angus & Julia Stone

Other notable tracks that aren’t on the album are:

Firestone (Live Acoustic Version)
Firestone (Fireworks Version)
Stole the Show (Acoustic Version)

Listen/Buy it here

iTunes: https://goo.gl/6WGv6E
Amazon MP3: https://goo.gl/b5mfL9
Spotify: https://goo.gl/yosHPi

The first impressions that I got from this album is that there are some tracks that seemed a bit half baked. Overall the album was very good. He is consistent in the type of vibe that he wants to produce. The introduction to the album is very chilled and opens beautifully into one of my personal favourites, Stole the Show. It’s not to say that all the songs were pleasing to the ear. Some tracks I personally thought sounded a bit out of place. In an area where Kygo seems to want to establish himself as a Tropical House music producer, some songs just seemed to be there for the sake of being there. But then again, this album (within Insanity, at any rate) has had overall critical acclaim despite the few bugbears that exist within its track listing. Songs like ‘I’m in Love’ (Track 7), is a personal pet hate of mine. It’s just annoying and very whiney.

That being said, the tracks are overall very very good! The combination of interesting mixes and artists, he has produced an album which has risen to the top of my most played on Spotify. Notable mentions include the collaboration that Kygo did with Foxes to produce Oasis (Track 8). It is a fantastic song which utilises all aspects of Foxes’ vocal talents. Carry Me has a lot of similarities with Avicii’s Broken Arrows, but he’s using a winning formula to produce something that was pleasing on the ear and (dare I say it), better than the original. Give them a listen and you will see the similarities.

In the end, this is just my personal thoughts, but overall I feel this is a very strong debut album by Kygo.

Album Review – "Lady Sings The Blues", Rebecca Ferguson

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As the weather is slowly (very slowly) getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, and balmy, lazy afternoons are once again in sight, what better way to chill out and melt into relaxation than by listening to the languid, soothing tones of Rebecca Ferguson? Her brand-new album is called Lady Sings the Blues, and is a fitting tribute to the legendary era of Swing and Jazz. The influences of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Amy Winehouse are clear, although Rebecca’s distinctive tone manages to leave her own individual stamp on the songs.

 

The tracks themselves vary in tone within the genre: from the upbeat and joyful ‘Get Happy’ (if you deny clicking your fingers along to that one then I don’t believe you), to the melancholic yet romantic ‘Embraceable You’. My personal favourites of the album are ‘That Old Devil Called Love’ and the wonderful ‘Summertime’, both classic songs that Rebecca does sweet justice to. If you have a penchant for the old-era vintage swing blues, then this collection is the ideal soundtrack to your afternoon of lazing in an armchair or snuggling up with that special someone. The perfect accompaniment to a smooth red wine, or a glass of G&T with cucumber.

 

~ Eleanor Goodman

Album Review – "We Slept At Last", Marika Hackman

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I’ve been a fan of Marika Hackman’s English folky sound for some months now, and I’ve been anticipating her debut ‘We Slept At Last’ to be the ultimate dreamy album. It’s somewhat different to what I usually go for, but it’s beautifully crafted and Marika Hackman is probably my favourite artist in this kind of genre.

The album kicks off with ‘Drown’, a track with beautiful guitar melody and ghostly vocals, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon vibe, or if you just need to chill, this album is the one. Poetic lyrics accompany the whole album, such as ‘you can polish me for hours/but I’ll always look best in your head’, sung on the lead track ‘Drown’. The writing of this album is very clever (I felt like I was reading Shakespeare and I am in no way an English Literature buff!).

Animal Fear’ is a track that I’ve been enjoying for quite a while, and it’s one of the most upbeat on the album. I’d describe this track as quirky folk, and although it also has some pretty heavy lyrics, I feel like this track is the most fun that Marika has on the album and the change of tempo is appreciated after tracks ‘Skin’ and ‘Claude’s Girl’. Other tracks such as ‘Monday Afternoon’ build on Hackman’s own harmonies with woodwind instruments and strings, which the album needed as it can feel a little samey at times. It’s a really nice addition to the tracks. Although I’ve categorised Hackman as ‘folk’, ‘We Slept At Last’ is much darker than what you would expect. Track ‘Undone, Undressed’ reflects this – it’s very slow and hard to get into and I’m not 100% sure that I’m a fan of it.

My favourite track on the album is probably ‘Ophelia’. The lyrics are much more prominent and its plodding guitar melody matched with these is really appealing. I find that the track builds more than other tracks on the album. ‘Ophelia’ is a sweet love song and one that I’d recommend to listen to from the album.

‘We Slept At Last’ from Marika Hackman is all-in-all a beautiful album; its dreamy melodies and intense lyrics make the album sound so atmospheric. Though I’d suggest that at points it is slightly ‘samey’, ‘We Slept At Last’ is an album I’d recommend to anyone as its arty nature is so captivating. It was even my Valentine’s present from me to myself. Enjoy!

 

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes

Album Review – "Rock Or Bust", AC/DC

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There’s an argument to make that AC/DC’s approach to songwriting is the most successful in the history of popular music. Every album they’ve recorded draws from a beefed up treble-heavy take on blues rock based on big chords and bigger choruses, and since 1980’s legendary ‘Back in Black’ album they’ve been untouchable at the top of the hard rock mountain. Because even though every record they’d made before it and have made since is transparently cut from the same musical cloth, they’ve all come with a handful of incredible songs it’s impossible for the primal human brain to connect to.

 

‘Rock or Bust’ makes no attempt to differentiate itself from its predecessors and doesn’t suffer a smidgen from that, in fact standing head and shoulders above the other AC/DC albums of the 21st century thanks to its reined-in, filler-free 35-minute runtime. It’s also, despite the lack of chief songwriter and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, a perfect channelling of the band’s immortal strengths – the perfect fusion of melody and hardness, a youthful vigour that the decades of their existence has not diminished, and simple chemistry. No prizes will be won for variety, but there’s enough to maintain the listener’s interest, from the belligerent call and response of “Dogs of War” to a headlong charge on “Baptism by Fire”.

 

Lyrically, the lewdness and single entendres may not be to everybody’s taste particularly delivered by a group of this vintage, but Brian Johnson sounds as energised and ever and somehow gets away with it. The music could never be described as complex, but it shows a mastery of the base elements of songwriting that may never be bettered. ‘Rock or Bust’ may well be the last AC/DC album the world gets, and it’s thus appropriate that it’s as single-minded and uncompromising as anything in their discography. No matter how many imitators continue to spring up in their wake, their like will not be seen again.

 

~ Michael Bird

Album Review – "Smoke + Mirrors", Imagine Dragons

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The difficult second album. It’s one of the great challenges in the career of any band with aspirations to reach the top of the mountain, particularly if they’ve put out a debut as well received as Imagine Dragons’ ‘Night Visions’ was. With singles as immediate and anthemic as “Radioactive” and “Demons” it could only ever have been a resounding success, but inevitably gave the young band a mountain to climb when it came to crafting a follow-up. Not that it seems to have deterred them – ‘Smoke + Mirrors’ is a supremely confident collection of songs that lives up to and surpasses the best of the Imagine Dragons back catalogue.

 

Far more nuanced and unorthodox than many critics have given it credit for, the album spans myriad genres often within the context of single songs. There are times when this means the record feel’s a tad lost, and the folkier elements of admittedly huge-sounding single “I Bet My Life” and deeper cuts “It Comes Back to You” and “Trouble”. But at its peak this is an enthralling experience; on the one extreme there’s the hip-hop-sass of “Gold” and crunching oriental pulse-charger “Friction”, on the other the lovely ballad “Hopeless Opus” and immaculately produced title track. Producer Alex da Kid indeed deserves plaudits for drawing out the best of the group again and again.

 

Set to top the bill at some of the country’s vastest arenas on their upcoming tour, Imagine Dragons have filled their arsenal with songs of the appropriate enormity with this new album. ‘Smoke + Mirrors’ may very clearly be geared towards accessibility, but has enough of an edge and significant textural shading to avoid vanilla banality. In other words, the band could have become just another Coldplay clone and laughed all the way to the bank. Instead, they’ve cemented their own identity and recorded a damn good album to boot, and it’s hard to not respect them for that.

 

~ Michael Bird

Album Review – "Happy People", Peace

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Peace are a band renowned for their wild live performances and hard work, so it’s no surprise that that they’re already onto album #2. ‘Happy People’ is a statement of the band’s influences and their experimentation with new sounds since their 2013 debut ‘In Love’, and I think it’s a really sophisticated album.

The album kicks off with ‘O You’, a track which to me sounds like it reflects on the musical styles of the ‘60s era. The whole album actually gives me a Beatles-y vibe, but this song especially. You can really hear Peace’s influences, more than you could on their previous album and the track’s defining catchy riff makes it a cracking opening track to set the tone of the rest of the album. Track 4 on the album, ‘Perfect Skin’, is one of my favourites as it’s catchy and doesn’t require much attention when you listen to it. When I saw this track at Peace’s album launch in Kingston it was obviously a stand-out crowd-pleaser so I reckon this will be one to watch out for at festivals this summer.

The album’s title track, ‘Happy People’, takes a slightly slower melody with a brilliant bassline and layered guitars. It’s the kind if track that gives you goosebumps when you see it live and really listen to the lyrics. I personally feel like ‘Happy People’ is a beautiful choice for a title track and probably deserves more credit than it gets on this album.

If I’m being completely honest, ‘Someday’, a track nestled in the middle of the album, really doesn’t appeal to me. It’s the slowest song on the album and the start of it somehow reminds me of something that a band such as Green Day would write (really not good in my eyes). To be fair, the chorus of the song is actually not too bad and the track was surprisingly beautiful live. It’s the most acoustic track I’ve ever heard from Peace, but I must say that I don’t see how this track could ever match up to other slower offerings from the band such as the beautiful ‘California Daze’ or ‘Float Forever’.

‘I’m A Girl’ is the heaviest track that Peace have ever put out and it’s bold, brash nature and carefree lyrics really stand out on the album. Whilst it’s tailored for crowds and rowdy mosh pits (I can’t wait to rock out to this one at festivals!), ‘I’m A Girl’ makes the biggest statement on the album for me, in terms of things I’ve never heard from the band before and how they are put together in a track. This track outlines the album’s new sound and hopefully is an omen for things to come.

‘Happy People’ is closed with ‘World Pleasure’ which is a track that I feel is one of Peace’s most defining tracks to date, alongside other older tracks such as ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’. It’s 6 minutes and 23 seconds of brilliant layered guitars and retro vibes and THAT bassline. The way the bass takes the lead in this track is something I’d love to see more from Peace, and other bands in their music. For me, this is the best track on the album by a mile!

Overall, ‘Happy People’ is a great offering from Peace as it shows changes in the way the band are composing their songs and mixing their styles – it’s in no way samey to their other albums like so many are. Though I have to say that ‘Happy People’, whilst great, still has not lived up to Peace’s first EP, ‘Delicious’, which is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music. Though, of course I will still have ‘Happy People’ on a loop for the foreseeable future. More tracks like ‘World Pleasure’ please, Peace!

~ Ceri-Ann Hughes 

Album Review – "Everything Is Fine", Hawk Eyes

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It has been three years since Hawk Eyes’ last full length release “Ideas”. However, despite receiving almost universal critical acclaim in the mainstream music press, the album only sold modestly. This eventually left the band without a major label, forcing them to adopt the more DIY approach in their following EP “What Is This”.

 

I have very much enjoyed all of Hawk Eyes’ offerings to this date, so was really looking forward to getting my hands on “Everything is Fine”. On first listen I was not entirely sure of how much I liked it, due to how different it was from their previous releases. Initially the album lacked some of the manic energy from songs like “Hollywood Sweatshop” and “You Deserve a Medal” from “Ideas”. Despite this, upon further listens the album began to grow on me and I found I very much enjoyed the new approach. While being a little tamer than Ideas perhaps, most of the heaviness is still there and the focus seems to have shifted slightly to making the songs more concise and cohesive.

 

The band’s signature guitar sound is back and better than ever in my opinion: their continuing work with producer Andy Hawkins is really paying off, his touch giving the album some of the best guitar sounds I have heard in a long time. This is particularly apparent on tracks “The Trap” and “More Than a Million“. The drums and bass are also clear and well placed in the mix and serve the songs very well thought the album.

 

Vocally the album is not a huge departure from their previous work, which for me is a good thing as I have always enjoyed Paul Astick’s vocal style and the lyrical content found in Hawk Eyes’ back catalogue. They continue exploring themes of disillusionment with modern society, as well as some songs with what I would assume were slightly more personal themes. I would think of it in terms of following similar themes to much of the alternate music of the early 90’s, something that really excites me since I’m a fan of the time period.

Despite my initial reservations I really like “Everything is Fine” and think that I will be listening to it for a long time to come just like I did with “Ideas”. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of alternate rock or metal as the band has such a unique and distinct sound that I think they are well worth giving a try and “Everything is Fine” is a great place to start.

 

~ Robert Appleton

Album Review – "Twenty Three Years", Nessi

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Nessi Tausendschoen is an up-and-coming German artist. Her new EP was created with Canadian guitar player William MacKenzie, which was the first collaboration between the two artists in their respective careers. To add even more to the mix, they teamed up with various guest muscians like Harry Manx and Kevin Breit. The teamwork behind this EP resulted in a fantastic piece of work, described as a ‘minimalistic blend of jazzy, folky, rootsy tunes’. When listening to it for the first time I found all of these qualities and more; a beautifully mellow vibe with an almost dreamlike feeling to the blend of voice and guitar. I have to admit that heartfelt, acoustic music is not usually my cup of tea, but despite the inevitable cliche, ‘Nessi’ contradicts that completely. ‘Twenty Three Years’ is an EP I could listen to repeatedly, particularly when in a chilled-out mood as her vocals have such a calm and soothing feel. On the flip side, the tracks don’t get boring at all as the tempo changes intermittently especially in ‘just a line’ or ‘you’, keeping your attention with more upbeat moments between the gentle parts.

So far in her career, Nessi has been compared to the likes of Ellie Goulding or Paloma Faith but she has also been congratulated on not resorting to the ‘thoughtless lyrics’ or ‘high pitched trilling’ that modern female singers are frequently accused of. Overall the EP has been highly praised, especially for ‘Hush Hush’, her biggest single yet which is included. Personally I’m in complete agreement as it’s my favorite track on the EP: a perfect summary of her feminine yet powerful voice and collaboration of acoustic and upbeat elements.

 

~ Natasha Barrett

Album Review – "Lost Forever // Lost Together" – Architects

For the last few years the UK has been a hotbed for heavy music, with numerous bands like Bring Me the Horizon, Asking Alexandria and Enter Shikari flying the flag on an international scale for a prosperous homegrown scene. Deserving to be mentioned in the same breath as those hugely successful acts, Architects have never achieved the commercial acclaim that they’ve deserved, despite exploring various different approaches to the highly technical metalcore that is their stock in trade. While some of these experiments have been less successful than others – 2011’s The Here and Now was a fully-fledged bid for mainstream radio that sounded completely unnatural for the band – it’s clear that Architects have learned important lessons from such genre-hopping and are ready to make a bid for the top with Lost Forever // Lost Together.

 

As an entry point into modern metalcore for a complete novice, this is not the best place to start, namely because the album is relentlessly heavy and at times startlingly unconventional. Those with a taste for big riffs, breakdowns and screamed vocals, though, will find much to enjoy on Lost Forever…, an album packed with massive songs, each one assaulting the senses and making it clear that Architects mean business. From breakneck opener “Gravedigger” to epic, expansive final song “The Distant Blue”, the album refuses to let up for an instant, aside from perhaps the beautiful instrumental interlude “Red Hypergiant”. Not a single ounce of filler is here to be seen, only the best in modern British heavy music. Uncompromisingly heavy though this record is, there is room for melody and unsettling ambiance as well, ‘Colony Collapse’ showing that Architects understand dynamics and can use them to craft masterful tunes.

 

The musical performances on Lost Forever // Lost Together are second to none, the mostly screamed vocals perfect for the material. Lyrically, the songs explore unusual, grandiose topics including whale hunting and religious fundamentalism, but do so in a tactful manner. Architects have worked long and hard to get to the position they’re in as one of the British heavy rock’s leading lights, and Lost Forever // Lost Together is their best album to date. They deserve every success that this remarkable collection of songs will surely bring them.

 

Best Tracks: “Colony Collapse”, “Naysayer”

 

~Michael Bird