Albums of the week: From Augustines to The Mirror Trap
American indie-rockers Augustines present what could finally be their breakthrough album, This Is Your Life; award-winning crooner Tom Odell returns with Wrong Crowd, and Scottish boys The Mirror Trap share new record Simulations. Here we round up the best of this week's CD releases.
AUGUSTINES — THIS IS YOUR LIFE
It’s easy to have missed this New York trio; their first offering, Rise Ye Sunken Ships (2011) lacked confidence, and their self-titled second somehow slid beneath the radar, despite choruses you couldn’t not belt out loud in the car.
This Is Your Life might just be the indie rockers’ chance to break out. The sprightly When Things Fall Apart has all the core components of an Augustines classic: bass, beats, epic soaring vocals, and many a tuneful moan (“Oohh” is a well-harnessed staple).
The Forgotten Way Revised taps into dark seams of nostalgia — “Drunk on Christmas Eve/ What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” sings Billy McCarthy, “We’re going through changes/ Baby we’ll be alright, you will see”.
The guitarist and frontman has a depth to his vocals that just churn you up inside, but they can do jaunty, too. Hold Me Loneliness blends strings and drums to put your feet in a frenzy while No Need To Explain switches back to yearning rock. Turn it up loud.
BARBARISMS — BROWSER
Stockholm three-piece Barbarisms are the latest Swedish act to break into the British music scene singing faux-nostalgic Americana, much in the vein of The Tallest Man On Earth and First Aid Kit.
This generation of Scandinavian musicians clearly had Bob Dylan-addicted parents, as his influence hovers above this hazy, lo-fi album of short, simple, yet lingering songs.
Browser is Barbarism’s second record after 2014’s eponymous debut, and much like that first release, it seems made for long summer drives — although it’s all over in 40 minutes.
The occasional haunting lyric juts out from the nasal delivery — “I came home with no irises” on first single I Have Not Seen You In Days is particularly evocative — while Ice Storm #2 is a well-timed swelling ballad, revitalising the flow as the strummy, mid-tempo tracks threaten to merge into each other.
TOM ODELL — WRONG CROWD
It was easy to be contemptuous of Tom Odell, Radio 1 golden boy and Brit Critics’ Choice Award winner, when he set hearts swooning with his debut, Long Way Down in 2013.
I was massively dismissive of his angsty love tunes; then I saw him play them live, battering his piano practically to pieces with passion.
Wrong Crowd has that same gap — it’s alright on disc, live it might just become magnificent. The title track has the repetitiveness and blandness of muzak — the whistling doesn’t help, but delve further in and things improve.
First single Magnetised rattles and leaps, Odell’s vocals stretching over the top, while the smoky, bluesy Daddy has a glittering darkness to it. Odell is playing with sounds here that aren’t strictly piano, which works at times (the fantastic Concrete sounds like a homage to Prince’s funkiest high notes) and less so at others (Silhouette is a synthy, dancey, Eighties mess).
But in essence, it’s a solid second effort.
THE MIRROR TRAP — SIMULATIONS
Dundee five-piece rock and roll band The Mirror Trap are back with a beast of an album. It starts by smacking you straight between the eyes with full-on Under The Glass Towers, a rampant two and a half minutes of punk rock, and gets catchier with New Trance, still heavy but with that keyboard hook-line.
However, from then on it descends into much of the same — heavy guitars, okay tunes and muddy production, and that’s at its best. The band, who have a huge following in Russia and count Placebo among their fans, slow it down midway, though to little effect.
That said, Simulations is a likeable album, and The Mirror Trap sure can play those instruments, but it’s unlikely to win them many new fans.
BEARTOOTH — AGGRESSIVE
Metalcore band Beartooth’s sophomore effort Aggressive mixes elements of hardcore punk and thrash metal that fans of both genres should enjoy.
The album features heavy guitar riffs, compressed drums and scorching vocals with lyrics that deal with singer Caleb Shomo’s feelings of isolation and angst. The guitars keep to riffing, with minimum extended instrumental breaks, and the emphasis is firmly placed on the singer, so it’s fortunate there is such a confident and imposing individual behind the mic.
Whilst the songs are in general well written with intricate instrumentation, they can be guilty of sounding repetitive, especially to the casual listener.
By the end of the 40-minute album it’s hard not to be a bit tired of Shomo’s self-pitying lyrics.
At least in tracks such as Burnout, he sees the ironic side with lines like: “It’s really getting old writing negative songs”.
Despite such qualms, there’s enough quality to keep you rooted till the end.