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Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco’s eigth album opens with the eccentric “Art Of Almost”, seven minutes of guitars battling some electronic bleeps before deranging into a psychedelic jam session. Hello world, they’re back! It shows a band feeling very comfortable with where they are in their career and listening to “The Whole Love”, you can just see the band smiling in the studio. Well, maybe it’s more of a fleeting smile or maybe even just a baring of the teeth mistaken for a smile… lines such as ‘You won't set the kids on fire, but I might’ will have that effect on people.

After that first cut though, this becomes a conventional, somewhat formulaic Wilco album. Some of the tracks will probably remind you of older Wilco songs, a couple more slip by almost unnoticed. But hey, even a conventional Wilco album sounds pretty friggin’ good compared to some of the other crap we got shoved down our throats on a daily basis. And with songs like “Dawned On Me” and “Open Mind” or the 12-minutes-long pop symphony that is closer “One Sunday Morning”, they did write a couple of instant Wilco classics… so yeah, not their best album but still a damn good addition to their discography.
Score: 8 out of 10

Radical Face – Family Tree : The Roots

You might remember Radical Face (real name : Ben Cooper) from 2007’s “Welcome Home”, a song that was picked up by Nikon for one of their commercials. He’s back now with his second full-length, the first in what should become a trilogy telling the story of a fictional family throughout the centuries.

We already knew that Cooper is a gifted storyteller who knows how to write a great song. This time around the songs sound a lot bigger than before thanks to the wider range of instruments and fuller arrangements and it only adds more layers to the beauty that can be heard on “Family Tree : The Roots”. Songs like “A Pound Of Flesh” and “Black Eyes” almost sound too good to be true!

It’s like the ultimate exercise in balancing between wavering folk and broad pop songs and the result is something that will remind you of The Shins, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear yet stands completely on its own merits. The piano and subtle percussion drive almost every song onward with Cooper’s warm and slightly nasal voice soaring high above it, backed up by choirs from time to time. And then there are tracks like “The Moon Is Down”, which comes with a more stripped down sound and brings Elliott Smith to mind and “Ghost Towns”… the part where the accordion comes in just knocks it right out the ballpark!

“Family Tree : The Roots” simply is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful albums I’ve heard in quite some time and I can’t wait for the second installment to find out more about the trial and tribulations of the Northcotes.
Score: 9 out of 10

Mansfield.TYA – Nyx

Mansfield.TYA are two French ladies who were probably drinking a glass of wine when they thought it was a good idea to start a band together. I don’t even know how many bottles it must have taken them to actually believe this was a good idea, but let me assure you it is not. As a matter of fact “Nyx” could very well be the most boring album I’ve heard in a long time.

The music usually consists of nothing more than one rhythm that stays the same from start to finish with the ladies moaning their nonsensical lyrics over a bland synth line. That’s it!
Score: 2 out of 10

O’Death – Outside

Let’s be honest here, on previous releases O’Death was kind of a sloppy band and sometimes even downright clownesque. That has changed though on their fourth album, “Outside”. The songs are more concise and the tempo has been brought down. Does it have anything to do with the fact that drummer David Rogers-Berry was diagnosed with cancer two years and has fought quite the battle to survive? Could be.

Whatever the reason, the result is an album that’s better than anything they’ve released in the past. You can still call it gothic country (think Murder By Death) but they use their fiddle, ukulele and banjo to head for the Balkan just the same.

You might find it a shame that you have to leave your dancing shoes in the closet this time around, but you do get a more thoughtful album that kicks it precessors’ ass in every way possible.
Score: 7 out of 10

Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting

After two albums of more conventional dream pop, Young Galaxy decided to try something new. And so they recorded what would become “Shapeshifting” and then handed the whole thing over to Dan Lissvik (half of the Swedish duo Studio and producer of Fever Ray and Kylie Minogue among others) with the permission to do with it as he saw fit.

The dreamy aspects that characterized Young Galaxy are still very much present but things sound decidely more electronic this time around. I’m not sure how much of an influence Lissvik had on the songs but whatever the case may be, “Shapeshifting” turned out to be a great album that sounds like The Knife getting it on with Kate Bush or the Eurythmics. It’s synth-pop at its best and it more than lives up to its title… it’s laid-back and nostalgic yet distant. It sounds organic yet comes with a lot of electronic sounds. It has a strong eighties vibe yet sounds very modern at the same time. And the dual vocals add only more layers to the continious shapeshifting of this album.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Herman Dune – Strange Moosic

Behind the Herman Dune moniker are two Frenchies called David-Ivar Herman Dune and Cosmic NĂ©man. They’ve been cranking out poppy, slightly folky tunes for over ten years that are always simple yet catchy. That’s once again no different on “Strange Moosic”. The problem however is that the songs – along with the lyrics - are a bit too simple and don’t leave much of an impression. Sure, they’re easy on the ears but the choruses are mostly nothing else but the song title strung together a bunch of times and the fact that Dune’s voice is kinda limited doesn’t exactly help things along either. It makes “Strange Moosic” an easily digestable yet equally forgettable album.
Score: 6 out of 10

Love Inks – E.S.P.

Love Inks is a new band out of Austin, TX consisting of the husband-and-wife team Sherry LeBlanc (vocals) and Kevin Dehan (bass) along with guitarist Adam Linnell and an as of yet unnamed drum machine. Just like their line-up, they like to keep their indie-pop tunes minimal and end up sounding not too different from acts such as Young Marble Giant, The xx and Warpaint.

“E.S.P.” is the name of their recently released album, which they recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder in true DIY fashion and it’s a keeper! The songs are lazily pushed along by the bass lines, there’s some less-is-more guitar and Sherry’s lush, whispering vocals blend right in and make sure that the songs not so much get under your skin as slip right in. Oh, and the cover of David Essex’ “Rock On” is awesome!
Score: 7 out of 10

The Static Jacks – If You’re Young

Since forming in 2009, New Jersey’s The Static Jacks have already released an EP and toured with the Futureheads, Biffy Clyro and We Were Promised Jetpacks among others. And now there’s the band’s first full-length, “If You’re Young”. Is it any good? Yes! Am I surprised? Yes!

I honestly didn’t think it was still possible for an indie rock band to get me excited anymore because – let’s face it – they all sound alike after the first hundred bands. But there’s something about the way these dudes spice up their indie rock with elements from punk, garage and – why not – soul, that just drags you in as soon as “Defend Rosie” kicks in. “Girl Parts” is another little sparkplug of a song and comes with guest vocals from Beast Make Bomb’s Ceci Gomez.

The twosome that is “Sonata (Maybe We Can Work It Out)” and “Walls (We Can’t Work It Out)” sounds great as well, the former being a more mellow cut and the latter being a high-energy track where the band keeps on chasing a jagged riff throughout the entire song.

“If You’re Young” is a very solid offering and I don’t think I’ve been this excited about an indie rock debut since Bloc Party’s “Silent Alarm”. Oh, and I love how they mention in the album credits that Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha contributed on one song by playing… the tambourine! That’s endearing.
Score: 8 out of 10

Breathe Carolina – Hell Is What You Make It

Damn, this is a fucking terrible album… Breathe Carolina is a duo from Denver, CO and hell is indeed what they made it. They somehow figured it was a good idea to mix metalcore with cheesy eurobeats and lots of synths. Let me assure you… it is not a good idea. In fact, it is a horrible idea that is right up there with Meatwater (it’s a real thing… check
Score: 1 out of 10

Tonight Alive – Consider This EP

Aussie fivesome Tonight Alive recently inked a deal with Fearless Records and to get the US ready for the invasion from down under, the label re-released the five-song “Consider This” EP. Listening to opener “Wasting Away”, it becomes clear right away why Fearless was interested in this female-fronted pop-punk outfit. It’s a catchy, explosive track that comes with a lead role for vocalist Jenna McDougall. Inevitably this will spark comparisons to Paramore but contrary to that band, Tonight Alive sets themselves apart with a more edgy sound.

The band then launches into the equally energetic “Five Years” before slowing things down with “My Favourite Thing”, showing a more sensitive side of themselves. It’s not bad but that’s the kind of thing every other band is doing as well. No, then I prefer the darker “Revenge And Its Thrills”. If they focus on tracks like this, I’m more than looking forward to a full-length!
Score: 7 out of 10