Archive | April, 2018

Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age

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Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age

Posted on 19 April 2018 by Joe

There’s usually something so reassuringly comforting in hearing a new album by Nebraskan singer songwriter Josh Rouse.

The songs are often packed full of melody and heart. Sometimes they even seem to speak direct to the listener.

For my own move from urban to rural life around a decade ago Rouse was there for me with Nice To Fit In on Country Mouse City House, which focused of his own move to Europe and sense of identity.

Every Josh Rouse fan will have their own song, where he was there for them with just the right lyric and tone.

Josh-Rouse

All of that heart is still evident on Love In the Modern Age, but Rouse’s switch from acoustic guitar folk-pop to synths and delay effect guitar is still taking a while to sink in, even after a good few weeks of listening.

In short – Josh Rouse has gone a bit 1980s and I’m not sure I like it.

Sometimes this new direction works, as on Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives, where his voice and lyrics are given the chance to shine.

Other times it jars too much, with the melody lost in the 1980s production.

The sexy saxes on the title track just sound too un-Rouse to be credible for me. This track also has some truly awful lyrics, such as the repeated line “this one’s for the lovers” and worst of all it features some Cher-esque vocoder. Shudder.

Businessman fares little better with some heavy synth chords and cowbells making it sound like a Spandau Ballet B-side.

It’s not until around the half way point with Women and the Wind where the album comes to life. It goes lighter on the synths, the focus is on the voice and it has the catchiest melody on the album. This is beautiful pop.

Hugs and Kisses too is another high point, the electronica is used just right – to compliment the main attraction – Rouse and his lovely voice.

This album is certainly not among the best of Rouse’s output, with only really one or two songs that linger in the head.

But having said that his desire to do things a little different – to focus on a different sound – has to be applauded even if it doesn’t always work.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Josh Rouse visit his website here.

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Jack White – Boarding House Reach

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Jack White – Boarding House Reach

Posted on 16 April 2018 by Sarah Robertson

Unlike its two predecessors, this third solo album by industry heavyweight Jack White failed to reach number one in the UK’s official album chart.

Having hit number five before sliding to 35, Boarding House Reach is a shift in style and its chart performance an indicator of appetite for it.

In the four years since Jack White launched Lazaretto, and six since his solo debut Blunderbuss, he has reached out to new sounds. While staying loyal to gospel-infused backing vocals, strong funk harmonies and lively guitar-lead melodies, he here injects a touch of the uber-eccentric.

white-house

The synth heavy introductory track initially makes the chat about this album being his most experimental ring immediately true.

Those opening heavy chords spring straight out of a horror film, handing me a momentary sense of intrepidation as I ask myself if he’s gone too far. It’s a brave opening for someone famous for the aforementioned characteristics. However, we soon move into similar White territory as he chucks in a minor chord harmony and we move away from something that sounds like the soundtrack to the 1978-slasher film Halloween.

Proceeding tracks takes us safely back into the secure zone, with Corporation (track three) being one of a handful of phenomenal pieces designed to take your breath away. This particularly powerful funk rock ballad is supported by layers of strong keyboard and guitar riffs that roll through a funky bongo-tinged journey, refusing to follow typical rock-track format, showing White at his strongest.

Other tracks,  including Over and Over and Over and Hypermisophoniac, are guaranteed to please traditional White fans and reconfirm his position as a master of suspense, crescendo and powerful alternative rock.

But even dedicated fans will struggle with the bulky new layer of surrealism on this album.

White has always been eccentric and here he repackages his eccentricities and represents them in a way that is not always entirely convincing.

When my ipod started playing Everything you’ve ever learned I was convinced it had shuffled onto the audio book of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I persevered through the confusing start and was duly rewarded as it unfolded with layers of sound and power that matched Led Zeppelin-level skill, but many will be put off more easily by this and the other few unnecessarily odd songs.

Jack White has operated independently for so long it’s not his first chance to pretend be totally odd, but at times, this is how it sounds.

Parts of this album speak to me with the quality I expect from Jack White, but I am left asking how much is this the pursuit of an image he wants to create as much as the music he wants to make?

The answer, I leave to you.

7/10

by Sarah Robertson

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Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

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Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Joe

One of the best aspects of running a music blog is receiving a fantastic album in the post.

But 0ne of the most frustrating aspects is to see such a release fail to get the publicity it deserves from the wider music media.

This has happened many times over the years with acts such as the wonderfully inventive Free Swim and the beautiful Co-Pilgrim, both bands that dazzle time after time as exponents of great English pop.

We do our bit. We promote such acts via social media and write reviews, however, we are just a small fish in a gigantic pond.

Alex Highton

With this in mind we were delighted to receive the third album from another English pop dazzler, Alex Highton, ahead of its March 30th release. But have been also frustrated to discover, via a hasty Google search, that so few reviews have been published since then.

Let’s at least get this review out there and hope more follow. Alex Highton and his great music deserves it.

But before we wade into this latest release here’s a quick recap of Alex Highton’s recent career. He first appeared on our radar in 2012 with the release of his debut album Wooditton Wives Club. This focuses on his own move from city to rural life and features some marvelously savvy pastoral folk-pop. Song for Someone on this is a particular highpoint, and was later covered expertly by John Howard.

Two years later 2014 album number two, Nobody Knows Anything, was released. This saw his palette become far broader, with electronica and a few nods to 1960s psychedelia added to the mix. It garnered a 9/10 score from us.

With this third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths with 1980s and 1990s influences coming more to the fore. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

There’s a Part to Everyone That You Can(‘t) Love is also a great pop song, complete with woodwind section, oddly placed brackets and clapping.

Another highlight is Getting Fucked Up (It’s all you ever do), which somehow manages to blend Beck’s back catalogue with George Harrison’s Beatles epic Within You Without You. This is not the first time the Fab Four’s influence has become apparent across Alex Highton’s albums.  Although previously he appeared to be more of a Macca man, particularly on some of his more whimsical numbers.

Across the ten tracks there a range of different styles. All are hinged together by an inventiveness and desire to do more with the notion of the three minute pop song.

So here we have a great album, one that will appeal to a wide range of people, with a varied array of tastes. The production value is strong. The tunes are excellent.

It is demanding to be reviewed, listened to and even cherished.

What are you waiting for?

9/10

By Joe Lepper

For more information about Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness visit here.

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