ALBUM REVIEW: Bloc Party – 'Hymns'

Bloc Party are back with a new album after 4 years. It’s clear that the band’s style has changed since their debut album Silent Alarm was released in 2005. The new album Hymns has a different feel to it, with one of the singles from the album “The Good News” being described by NME as “One of the most conventionally ‘rock’ songs Bloc Party have ever done.” It’s a bit more Blur than Bloc Party, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this shift is probably unsurprising considering the band lost two of the original band and gained two new members since 2013.

There is also a curious religious theme running through the album. For a start, the album name Hymns already suggests this, followed by the second track “Only He Can Heal Me” which has strong gospel-like backing singers underlying it. However, lead singer Kele Okereke denied that the album title had any reference to some kind of religious epiphany within the band earlier this year.

Nevertheless, “The Love Within” still has that Bloc Party dancey vibe with Kele’s unique voice and lyrics over a synthy and catchy tune, similar to the hit 2007 single “Flux”.

Overall, it’s a different kind of Bloc Party. More rocky and less catchy, but they still cling to their interesting lyrics and alternative sounds. Long-term fans of the indie band may be slightly disappointed by the changes, but it’s definitely likable for both new and old Bloc Party followers.

Review by Sophie Shapter



ALBUM REVIEW: Panic! at the Disco – 'Death of a Bachelor'

Ten years after releasing their first album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out with memorable tracks like “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, defining a whole generation of black haired emo kids with questionable hair styles, Panic! at the Disco released its fifth studio album. Death of a Bachelor is completely written and recorded by Brendon Urie himself after the band lost bassist Dallon Weekes from the official line-up, and is now only a one-man band.

After almost half a decade of hiding inside my body, I was ready to embrace my inner emo again, preparing myself by getting my fringe game on again. But Panic! is not the emo-pop band from 2006 anymore (the band threw away the eyeliner around 2011), as the band is evolving continuously along with their fans, but without losing their original sound, which is mostly owed to Urie’s vocal range.  The album follows a specific theme pattern, telling stories of the youth and carefree living like the opening song “Victorious” featuring a choir, handclaps and Urie’s smashing vocals, whereas in contrast songs like”Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time” or the just released single”Emperor’s New Clothes” (with like the best music video I have seen in a while, seriously stunning!), concern the consequences and down bringing of a decadent lifestyle.

Whereas songs like”LA Devotee” sound like typical Panic! songs, Urie was definitely inspired by the swing era with”Crazy = Genius” and the album’s title song”Death of A Bachelor”, which symbolises the current state of leaving the party life behind and growing up, while directly transferring the listener back into the Golden 20s. The album sets the listener onto a journey through Urie’s life like a theatre play with”Impossible Year” as a curtain closing song. Death of A Bachelor is coherent but at the same time varied, offering tracks for hardcore Panic! at the Disco fans or people  like me who still nostalgically listen to Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance once in a while, as well as for  new listeners, who experience Urie’s wide range of talents for the first time.

Review by Carolin Wolfsdorf

ALBUM REVIEW: Sia – 'This Is Acting'

Sia is back with her brand new album This Is Acting. The Australian’s seventh studio album has seen high anticipation for its release on 29th January 2016, and she has once again revealed her undeniable talent and the emotional intensity of her lyrics. Her performance of each song portrays an in-depth story or feeling that many listeners can relate to.

Almost all of this album was written by herself for other artists, including Rihanna, Beyonce and Adele. The singer-songwriter is most likely grateful that these artists turned them down, as her own vocal style perfectly fits the pitches and tones of the songs like a glove. Sia felt that since she wrote the songs for others, she couldn’t relate to all the songs personally:

“I’m calling it This Is Acting because they are songs I was writing for other people, so I didn’t go in thinking ‘this is something I would say’. It’s more like play-acting. It’s fun.” [NME]

Considering she didn’t write these songs for herself, she has still mastered the art of displaying powerful emotions through her singing. Her “play-acting” style has come across as real and true, and listeners would be none the wiser.

Her successful and explosive lead single “Alive” has certainly led the album with a fine start. Originally intended for a slot in Adele’s new album 25, the electrifying song is instead sat comfortably in Sia’s outstanding discography. She sings about Adele’s life journey; making it in life and living it her way on her own. The strain of her voice in the chorus reflects the words that she has written, which helps to create a powerful story with the lyrics. In this album, the majority of the songs sound a lot more pop than in her previous albums with plenty of catchy beats. However, the powerful ballad “Bird Set Free” shows off her impressive vocal range, stretching it to new heights and reminding us that she is the modern queen of gut-wrenching ballads. Some listeners may find that her voice is too scratchy, and that it cracks too often in the choruses. In my opinion, this occurrence in her voice actually conveys rather powerful emotions, and should be viewed as an incredible talent rather than an impediment in her vocals.

I can recommend this album to anyone who enjoys listening to mainstream pop, but in this case it is met with a raw and extensive vocal sound created by a talented musician. She is definitely a rare vocalist worth listening to!

Review by Zoé Stanton

ALBUM REVIEW: Sigma – 'Life'

These days everyone can associate something with the name Sigma. Nowadays, “Nobody to Love” is not uncommonly played several times in one night out, resulting in everyone trying to dance to the drum ’n’ bass sound by hyperactively jumping around.

As I have been a drum ’n’ bass listener for almost 10 years now, I knew Sigma before their mainstream phase (yep, I know I’m being a hypocritical hipster here). The 2009 released track “Paint it Black” was an often played song when hanging out with my friends. We just loved the pure d’n’b, not featuring any famous singers or cheesy lyrics. But today, more and more DJs turn to mainstream electronic, making an underground genre suitable for the masses. Skrillex lead this commercialisation with dubstep a couple of years ago and has now produced Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”, and it seems like now many of DJs like Sigma and Netsky want to do the same with drum ’n’ bass. Nonetheless, calling Sigma’s first album Life a drum ’n’ bass album would be ridiculous as it only features one true d’n’b song.

“Beyond The Wall” is a pretty decent track, so I’m wondering why they didn’t put more of these on the album. The other songs are pretty much like hit Paloma Faith collaboration “Changing”. The not really unique lyrics are pushed in the foreground while the drum ’n’ bass sound becomes the background melody. Too often cheesy piano music is used for the intro of the song, making it sound like every other pop song in the charts. The duo found a method that works: take some famous guest singers, a piano and mediocre sounding electro melody and mix it together et voilà, an economical valuable dance-pop hit. Most of the album’s songs sound the same, with the same structure of lyrics with a building beat that ends in a droppingdrum ’n’ bass sound. This results in an album full of unoriginal songs, only produced for the charts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate a drum ’n’ bass track immediately when it becomes successful. I was always over the moon when between  horrible r’n’b songs, a DJ played “Nobody to Love”. But DJs who are jumping onto a train and just recycle music over and over again, only because it made money once, are bothering me (not to mention all the people who suddenly ‘love drum ’n’ bass like Sigma and DJ Fresh’).  In conclusion: if you’re a fan of pop ’n’ bass, take a listen, you might like a couple of tracks, whereas if you are someone like me who enjoys the sound of pure d’n’b, I advise you to avoid the mainstream drum ’n’ bass in the charts, it’s not worth it.

Review by Carolin Wolfsdorf

ALBUM REVIEW: One Direction – 'Made in the A.M.'

Thousands of teen hearts were warmed last month when One Direction’s new album Made in the A.M. was released – mine as well, although I can’t call myself a teenager anymore. Their fifth studio album is the first without Zayn Malik, who left the group earlier this year and gave an interview to the magazine Fader, stating that he wasn’t standing behind the ‘generic’ sound.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Justin Bieber – 'Purpose'

I’ve been a low-key Belieber since ‘My World 2.0’ was released in March 2010. I liked how Justin was found on YouTube, his poppy not-yet-broken voice that sung of all the struggles of teenage romance appealed to my nearly-16 year old self. There’s a stigma around being a Belieber, going to university I didn’t shout it from the rooftops, only confessing my secret to a couple of close friends by suggesting we watch the ‘Believe’ DVD one New Year’s Eve in 2012. It went as far as having to pretend not to love it when a DJ would ‘ironically’ drop a Bieber tune on a night out. Now 5 years on I no longer have to hide it. I am a Belieber and proud, and it’s likely no matter how you hard you fight it, soon you will be too.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Little Mix – 'Get Weird'

ALBUM REVIEW: Grimes – 'Art Angels'

The Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes is notably known for her album Visions from 2012, which was praised for its experimental, dark and atmospheric electro- pop. Now she is back with her fourth album, ‘Art Angels’, and Grimes has to face genre discussions as many other musicians had to encounter before.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Foals – ‘What Went Down’, Track-by-Track

Foals had built up a lot of anticipation in fans before the release of their fourth LP ‘What Went Down’ in August. It had promise to be one of the best albums of the year and a bold statement for Foals after 2013’s ‘Holy Fire’. With some very clever writing and melodies, ‘What Went Down’ has taken the music scene by storm since its release, with Foals performing a secret set at Reading and an impressive session at Maida Vale. The album as a whole is beautifully written and organised, and each track speaks a different part of Foals’ repertoire. Here’s my first listen track-by-track review of ‘What Went Down’.

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