April came and overwhelmed us with new releases, it’s been a great month for music and we had just enough time to squeeze in some words for these four releases.
Moderat // III
Berlin based electro-trio Moderat returned this month with their third (and possibly final) album together, with a mix of slow evolving, rich, dark sounds, considered vocals and ever-interesting, glitchy beats. Building on their well received 2013 release, II, this new album presents the listener with tracks like “Reminder”, which could easily be mistaken for a Thom Yorke single and carries many elements over from the trio’s other projects, including an agitated, Modeselektor-esque synth in “The Fool” and warm, enveloping instrumentals that certainly wouldn’t be out of place on an Apparat release.
The album sees its peak in the mid-third, but still holds listener interest afterwards with tracks like “Intruder”, which builds through the track with a strong beat and endlessly reverberating vocals that fly above it, and “Animal Trails”, which builds from an airy stand still to clattering juggernaut.
III is a good listen and will more than likely satisfy fans of Jon Hopkins, Thom Yorke or Four Tet. Given that this is the third in the group’s trilogy of releases, it’s not clear whether we’ll hear anything further from them, but if not, III is a good LP to go out with.
Beyoncé // Lemonade
Beyoncé’s evolved into somewhat of an enigma these past few years, interacting with a select audience in such an edgy manner that mirrors the recently deceased icon Prince. It’s a refreshing contrast that is most welcome in an industry primarily assembled of narcissists. When Beyoncé speaks, you listen, and her confessions on Lemonade are intense and strikingly intimate. With an opening line of “you can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath” speculation over her marriage with Jay-Z has unsurprisingly been the subject of conversation. This is undoubtedly one of the most personal pop records I’ve listened to.
With excellent beats, enduring hooks and an extensive assortment of instrumentation, Lemonade has everything you could possibly want in a pop album. It contains such variety in almost aspect that it will likely be a highly satisfying listen for a number of audiences. Listeners who have experienced dishonesty and deception in a relationship will find it utterly compelling, and those with an ear for excellent production and artistic craftsmanship will likely feel a similar sensation. Beyoncé’s voice is utterly sensational, particularly in “Sandcastles”, a piano ballad driven by so much passion it blows Adele out of the water. Lemonade is a glorious success. It’s one of the best pop releases I’ve experienced in many years, and will stand high at the end of 2016. Well played, Queen Bey.
Brian Eno // The Ship
The latest record from ambient pioneer Brian Eno is a flowing piece of music broken into four separate tracks, and impressively manages to feel distinct from the rest of his vast catalogue. The Ship’s opening track is a chilly soundscape initially of the same nature of Music for Airports. Beautifully textured tones are eventually joined by Eno’s low vocals that feel like a distraction from the lush ambient music, which subsequently becomes a mere backdrop. Whilst it’s still a lovely piece of music, the chant-like vocals are often in danger of agitating the soothing ambiance. “Fickle Sun (i)” follows and challenges the listener further, but does so in more satisfying fashion, running in multiple directions whilst retaining a sense of cohesiveness throughout.
At the other end of the album lies “Fickle Sun (iii)”, which is an absolutely gorgeous cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”. It arrives unexpectedly, commencing at a steady pace, but develops into something so delightful that you’re left wanting more: with a track time of just five minutes, you wonder why the extensive treatment given to The Ship’s title track isn’t applied here. As with all of Eno’s work, the determination to advance into progressive territory is to be appreciated, and even if not every experiment works, The Ship is a deeply enjoyable work. Its finest moment, however, is ultimately the result of Eno tapping into his pop sensibilities. He may be one of the Godfathers of ambient music, but Eno still has the ability to write immensely satisfying vocal-driven pop.
Weezer // Weezer (White Album)
Weezer returned this month, building on their 2014 release, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which, for many, was an up turn in the band’s output after almost a decade of material that was met with lukewarm reactions. As far as I’m concerned, this latest album continues the steps in the right direction. With all the quirks and insecurities that you’d expect from a Weezer album and some catchy riffs to boot, the white album has quickly found itself being repeated on multiple occasions.
The lead single, “Thank God For Girls”, is catchy and provides a bit of substance (River Cuomo even went to the effort of discussing his lyrics over at genius.com), and “L.A. Girlz” surely wins the award for “earworm” level memorability. Lyrics still can come across filled with teen angst despite all the band members being over 45, but that may not need to be pointed out at this point.
It’s standard pop-rock fare from Weezer then, which will unlikely win over any detractors of the previous albums but will certainly provide fans with more of the angsty, nerdy, catchy music we expect from the band.
What we missed
The Last Shadow Puppets // Everything You’ve Come to Expect
Pet Shop Boys // Super
Yeasayer // Amen & Goodbye
M83 // Junk
Tim Hecker // Electronic
Cate Le Bon // Crab Day
Fanfare Ciocarlia // Onwards to Mars (Andrew: Listen to it, it’s brilliant!)
Drake // Views
Katy B // Honey
Travis // Everything at Once
Stay tuned during May for more reviews and recommendations as albums drop and a bigger, better round up article at the end of the month