The Round-Up: March 6th-20thMarch 20, 2017
When trying to figure out which album to review for you this week, it struck me just how overwhelmingly generous the industry has been lately. The past fortnight has seen new releases from veterans such as The Shins, The Magnetic Fields and Spoon, as well as relatively new names to the scene including Jay Som and the solo project of Kurt Rosenwinkel. Lovable indie rockers Real Estate and electronic poppers Depeche Mode also released some new stuff, as did Australian faves Methyl Ethyl and Middle Kids. Because of this plethora of material, instead of providing you with one in-depth review, I’ve decided to share the love around and give you a snapshot of my thoughts on a few recent releases. It may become a regular thing, so keep an eye out for this round-up style review format.
Laura Marling – Semper Femina
Marling states in the fifth track of her new record that she has “25 years and nothing to show for it”, yet her life so far seems to suggest otherwise. Now 27, Laura has released six full length albums and has explored themes well beyond her years. At 22, I can barely glue a sentence together for this blog whilst Marling created a string of masterpieces in Once I was An Eagle; a Mercury Prize-nominated album that received mass acclaim and was likened to legends Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell.
This newie is no exception to her already gleaming track record. She highlights femininity and female relationships (whether that be romantic or platonic) with such elegance and nuance. Male pronouns are not mentioned at all. The tone of the instrumentation, including simple guitars and lush strings, is sweet and comforting and her vocal performance is chillingly good. Marling makes an effort to add intrigue in her quintessential indie-folk offering by including an intricate, almost eerie, bass line in opener Soothing, as well as the addition of punchy electric guitar in closer Nothing, Not Really.
Semper Femina is like a big, warm, progressive hug that we all need to get us through.
Ed Sheeran – Divide
Just for sh*ts and gigs, I decided to give the new LP from everyone’s favourite guitar-wielding red-head a spin. Oh boy, do I regret it. Lyrically, on tracks such as Perfect it seems as if Sheeran skipped to the nearest Hallmark store with a notebook and pen. He uses cracking lines such as “Now I know I have met an angel in person” and “I see my future in your eyes” whilst depicting two lovers dancing barefoot in the grass and cradling one another. The melodies are what you’d expect from a Sheeran album, however his rap/slam poetry vocals on majority of the tracks are confusing at best. There are some redeeming factors, including sultry hit ‘Shape of You’ that packs a groove, and he does provide great vocals when he decides to actually sing.
Ultimately, sorry Ed, you haven’t won my heart with this one.
Jay Som – Everybody Works
You can’t pin Jay Som down when it comes to genre. In her second creative offering, the solo project of Californian Melina Duterte spans jangly surfer pop, to soft punk, to familiar indie-rock, with sprinkles of grunge. And yet, Everybody Works never feels disjointed. It somehow (and please forgive me for this) works.
There’s a washed-out, lo-fi shine to all the tracks as Jay Som experiments with the norm. She throws in an unexpected psychedelic guitar solo (One Billion Dogs) and a shoegaze, ambient breakdown halfway through the infectiously upbeat track One More Time Please. The scatteredness is accomplished with such great taste, and the result is a fully formed exploration of sound. This is epitomised in the last track “For Light”, an epic that builds to a climax of horns, accordion and glockenspiel, with slow but driving guitars mixed in as Duterte’s repetitive vocals sends chills. Jay Som sings about the regular culprits, i.e. relationships, growing up, “making ends meet” etc. with simplicity yet poignancy.
Jay Som had my heart pounding and my head banging. I have no doubt that there’s an exciting future for this insanely talented 22 year-old.
(Jay Som is N/A on Spotify yet)
What were your favourite albums this week? Let me know! Leave a comment, tweet @radio_fodder or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org