March has gone. So it goes. With it went a bunch of albums which we were, sadly, unable to review together. Luckily, through the power of the internet, we can give some their due nod here. This is our best of the rest for March.
The Coral // Distance Inbetween
After a five-year hiatus that followed an underwhelming stream of albums, The Coral are back with their heaviest record yet. Their usual blend of indie rock and psychedelic folk remains, with an added influence of thicker guitar music that emphatically pays off. “Connector” is a fantastic opener that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Queens of the Stone Age project, whilst “Chasing the Tail of a Dream” is one of the finest rock singles of 2016 so far. There’s a wide range of sounds on Distance Inbetween that aren’t difficult to pinpoint – elements that range from The Black Keys, to Spiritualized, and even John Lennon – but combine to make a sound that is fresh and exceedingly cohesive.
Distance Inbetween also benefits from its minimal production. That’s not to say hard work hasn’t gone into its construction, but rather that the straight forward approach suits the heavy sound down to the ground. Tracks like “Holy Revelation” and “White Bird” revel in their energy, containing an element of rawness that The Coral truly profit from. When it’s roaring, the album verges on pulsating garage rock, and it’s the most I’ve enjoyed listening to the band in quite some time. It’s taken a while, but The Coral have found a new sound that clearly works for them. Distance Inbetween is a triumph, and one of the best albums of the year thus far.
Underworld // Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future
Underworld return with their ninth studio album, but don’t expect a frantic raver’s release from Barbara Barbara…. Co-produced with drum and bass producer High Contrast, the spacy, cavernous aesthetic, vaguely reminiscent of early Underworld, can be heard throughout the album. While the opener and single, “I Exhale”, does drive forward with an urgent drum line, the slower pace is generally set from here on out. This is no negative, but it’ll be a difference for many fans of the band.
Hyde’s vocals, a defining pillar of Underworld’s sound, echo across the top of the tracklist, with notable vocal performances on “If Rah” and “Motorhome”. Complementing the vocals, the instrumentation and writing on Barbara Barbara… comes from a wide variety of influences, with both the piano heavy “Motorhome” and the instrumental, latin guitar centric “Santiago Cuatro” proving the duo are far from stagnant despite their longevity.
While there is a slight sagging point at the halfway point of the album, the pace quickly picks up, with arguably some of the highlights of the album in the latter half. A good electronica album for fans of the genre, and certainly one that won’t be out of place over the summer.
KANO // Made in the manor
On his first album in six years, Grime veteran Kano shows us his mature side. The first portion of Made in the Manor showcases a supreme rush of confidence that translates excellently into songs that revel in their attitude, harking back to the early grime roots that Kano played a major role in. Shortly after however, we’re shown the more personal, reflective side of Kano, with an assortment of tracks that are gentle, subdued, and surprisingly passive. Whilst these cuts are certainly pleasant enough, Kano possibly pushes the sombre tone a little too hard at times, creating somewhat of a lull that prevents Made in The Manor from being a truly gratifying record.
One positive consistency is the variety found in its instrumentals, from saturated guitars in album-opener “Hail”, to the piano driven nature of softer tracks such as “Strangers” and “Seashells in the East”. Regrettably, such dynamism isn’t found enough in Kano’s delivery: sentimental moments such as “Little Sis” would have surely soared if Kano’s tone wasn’t so monotonous. Lethargic, even. Still, Made in the Manor is certainly worth your time, and lovers of grime will find a good handful of tracks that appease their need for ferocious bangers, but Kano’s choice to explore his more personal side is, ultimately, far from a resounding success.
Clark // The Last Panthers
This new release from Clark is the best of the soundtrack he scored for the TV series of the same name. While OSTs aren’t a staple for this site, this is definitely an exception. Between the largely instrumental output that we normally see from Clark, and the production and structure of this release, The Last Panthers feels close enough to an album, or at least a cohesive set of tracks, to listen to without any further knowledge of how the music relates to the TV series.
The album is structured in a way that the short musical moments required for the TV series. Here they are stitched together into longer pieces of music, and this works well as a listener. The majority of tracks are soaked in delay and reverb, creating expansive, dystopian soundscapes, and setting the stage for often catchy yet ominous hooks. Departing from Clark’s normally beat reliant output, The Last Panthers is conservative with its use of untuned percussion, with sporadic, dramatic, bassy thuds accenting points throughout the soundtrack, though the eerie beat in “Brother Killer” certainly adds to the atmosphere alongside the stinging synth that attacks later.
It’s not your average listening experience, even for Clark fans, but The Last Panthers would certainly make for good background music, and fans of Reznor/Ross soundtracks or Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 will certainly appreciate this.
What we missed
Lapsley // Long Way Home
Miike Snow // iii
POLIÇA // United Crushers
Ray LaMontagne // Ouroboros
The Joy Formidable // Hitch