Albums of the week: From Tycho to The Flaming Lips
The XX is back with I See You, Tycho share Epoch and The Flaming Lips present Oczy Mlody. We round up the best of this week’s new releases.
THE XX — I SEE YOU
It’s been a five-year wait for The XX’s third record, and this one billows about you, swamping your ears in tender, supple soundscapes that shimmer melodiously with electronica, but then carve away into funky, bassy, beat-laden pop. First single, the heart-rending On Hold, builds with arcade soundtrack skitters, breaking into a chorus of pure dance, while the questioning, thrumming A Violent Noise hums in your bones, and on I Dare You — a song that swells with emotion — Romy Madley Croft’s cool, clear voice slices surgically through repetitive, numbing percussion. It’s a beauty.
TYCHO — EPOCH
Who’d have thought Tycho knew how to make things so intense? Usually this post-rock collective is all about the minimalist ambient sound, stunning for sure, but a mellow bliss. A happier Pink Floyd without the lyrics. Epoch is more aggressive. If it’s saying ‘chill out’, it’s in capital letters. And it’s really, really good. Every song is bright and sparkly, creating really crisp and straight-up enjoyable soundscapes. Glider just keeps on rolling in and title track Epoch feels like the best 5am slowdown. It is the same Tycho as before. Slot one of these songs into their previous albums and you might just think the colour’s been turned up, but there’s electricity that’s new. And even when that’s overwhelming — it’s harder to have this playing in the background than their previous — it’s still great.
THE FLAMING LIPS — OCZY MLODY
Frontman Wayne Coyne describes The Flaming Lips’ new album, Ozcy Mlody , as “Syd Barrett meets ASAP Rocky and they get trapped in a fairy tale from the future”, which certainly sounds intriguing. The title translates as ‘Eyes of the young’, but the phrase was actually chosen for its visual comparison to a prescription drug. Starting with psychedelic melodies, the title track has a mellow yet cool science experiment vibe to it that could easily put you to sleep. In its own dreamy tone, the album gets more upbeat as it progresses, ending on We A Family, which smacks of the music that dances through Super Mario. With this wonderful, intoxicating mix of sounds, variety in tempo and a cameo from Miley Cyrus, The Flaming Lips will have you believing in unicorns as you listen along.
LA LA LAND (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) — VARIOUS ARTISTS
The film’s just gone and won the most Golden Globes ever and garnered a slew of Bafta nominations, so it’s no surprise that the soundtrack to Damien Chazelle’s smash-hit musical, La La Land, has just as much charm and glamorous old-school pizzazz as its celluloid counterpart. At the Globes, the film snagged best original score and best original song for City Of Stars, the latter of which, written by composer Justin Hurwitz, appears in three iterations on the soundtrack. Gentle, lilting and questioning, version one showcases Ryan Gosling’s surprisingly soft vocals. On the second, Emma Stone gets in on the act, her voice hushed and romantic, interspersed with giggles. While on the final option, it’s all sweet, sincere humming. The remainder of the record flits enticingly between jauntiness and jazz, and then the pop power of John Legend on the funky Start A Fire. Impressive and endearing.
FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES — MODERN RUIN
Former Gallows vocalist Frank Carter and his Rattlesnakes have returned with an album of solid, if uninspiring, songs that will please fans, but won’t endear them to new listeners. Opener Bluebelle, is a departure from form, showcasing Carter’s vocal tenderness. It is a beautiful introduction to an album that fails to catch you off guard again, although God Is My Friend, all fuzzy, driving guitar lines and cymbal-soaked drums, will give audiences the opportunity to get sweaty. It’s a good album that will go down a treat live, but it just doesn’t do enough to make a more lasting impression.