Listening Post: The Horrors/Eilen Jewell/Neil Finn/Mastodon
Our weekly wrap of new music.
The Essex modern rock icons take their quintessential British sound to new heights on this aptly titled fifth release. V has a sharp and striking electronic edge which moves smoothly with the excellent vocal work of Faris Badwin. Great synthesisers create a lush land of an almost dream pop nature. Machine, as the name suggests, carries an industrial atmosphere with harsh noises carried by driving grooves and stunning distortion. The Horrors display the best of both worlds by taking their classic British alt-rock influences and placing them into a contemporary context. Badwin and co aren't trying to mimic their heroes but instead transport them to a futuristic and colourful world, a place more modern rock acts should be striving towards.
Down Hearted Blues
Is Eilen Jewell the coolest singer in American music right now? The 38-year-old from Boise has developed an enviable reputation as one of Americana's finest talents and it's a reputation that Down Hearted Blues only bolsters. The album is classic Jewell, with her smoky voice belting out tunes that would have sounded right at home in a late-night '50s honky tonk. With a crack of a snare the album kicks off with It's Your Voodoo Working, a deep, dark Louisiana swamp tune that sets the theme. Other rockers follow, such as I'm a Little Mixed Up and Don't Leave Poor Me but there are quieter, bluesier numbers such as the late-night tear-in-your-beer Another Night to Cry. Backed with a cracking band — especially guitarist Jerry Miller — Down Hearted Blues is a treat from start to finish.
Out of Silence
Neil Finn's latest was created and recorded in front of a live online audience earlier this year, a fascinating and very public way to put together an album. So what's the result? One thing is obvious straight away: Out of Silence isn't an especially joyous listen. Instead it's a quiet, serious affair, with mostly piano-driven songs touching on the tumultuous state of the world. And yet sometimes it all just seems a little, well ... sappy. Things don't start off particularly well, with Love is Emotional — I mean, really — and many of the songs are a bit too grandiose for their own good. Take Widow's Peak, an account of taking a walk through a former battlefield: it goes for deep emotion but comes off a tad melodramatic. There's no doubting Finn's fine eye for detail. He's created a very lush-sounding album but, just maybe, one that takes itself a little too seriously.
Cold Dark Place
A slight surprise release from Atlanta's modern metal kings considering they only just dropped full length Emperor of Sand in March. And despite that being their weakest effort to date, Cold Dark Place feels much more like classic Mastodon. Featuring four tracks recorded during the sessions of the previous two records, this is essentially a B-sides release. But this doesn't sound anything like leftovers. The twin guitar attack from Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher is as stunning as ever it harks back to 2006's phenomenal Blood Mountain and 2008's prog-epic Crack the Skye. Toe to Toe for instance is far superior to anything from Emperor of Sand with its spectacular riffs and great vocal work. Mastodon may have entered a lull earlier in the year but a Cold Dark Place suggests otherwise.
- Sunday Star Times