Belfast Telegraph

Album reviews

There are plenty of new releases to sink your teeth into this week, including albums from US rockers Fall Out Boy and They Might Be Giants, as well as a new EP from Scottish band Belle & Sebastian

They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun: It's hard to believe that this is Brooklyn rockers They Might Be Giants' 20th studio album - it's just as fresh sounding as they were back in 1986 with their self-titled debut. One thing is certain, TMBG found their sound early on - and they are sticking to it.

With many bands this could be a bad thing, however for TMBG their bouncy, fun melodies paired with some often dark and melancholy lyrics the output never seems to fade.

I Like Fun is no different, from the rousing tones of Let’s Get This Over With, yet its sombre lyrics about the slow passing of time are so at odds. But it works well and the overtones of Birdhouse are there just waiting to take off to the blink and you’ll miss it bounty that is The Greatest (sitting at just one minute 48 seconds).

There is no one else out there that can hold a light yet stark philosophical candle to John Flansburgh and John Linnell.

9/10

Rachel Howdle

BELLE & SEBASTIAN — HOW TO SOLVE OUR HUMAN PROBLEMS — PART 2

Opening with the rousing Show Me The Sun, the latest in a trilogy of Belle & Sebastian EPs, How To Solve Our Human Problems — Part 2, ranges from themes of fatherhood to the metaphorical falling of kingdoms. The heavier Cornflakes uses repetition in both lyrics and production to reflect on using imagery and experience in creating music while I’ll Be Your Pilot is Stuart Murdoch’s beautiful ode to his young son with frequent references to the Sahara. Sarah Martin croons on The Same Star which features a shifting arrangement — a common theme on the five-track release.

Released across three months with one more to come, their peculiar manner of issue is perhaps more a reflection of Murdoch and co’s attitude towards the current music industry, as well as definitive pieces of art in their own right.

7/10

Joe Nerssessian

FALL OUT BOY — MANIA

American band Fall Out Boy return with their seventh studio album and, after listening to Mania, it’s impossible to pigeonhole the band as being of one particular genre. They have been constantly evolving since their first album was released in 2003.

Mania is pure pop. It is not pop-punk, stadium rock or emo — at least not sonically. However, all elements of these genres are witnessed in either the band’s back catalogue, their lyrics or their concerts. Once you come to terms with that (especially if you are a fan of older, rockier albums) you can enjoy Mania for what it is.

There are soaring vocals from Patrick Stump and typically sardonic lyrics (“I’ll stop wearing black/when they make a darker colour” heard on Wilson (Expensive Mistakes) of what is an unabashed pop record.

7/10

Ryan Ward

SHOPPING — THE OFFICIAL BODY

Like an illicit graffiti artist wary of the next tap on the shoulder, Rachel Aggs rushes in to spray vivid colour across London-formed trio Shopping’s third LP. She daubs instantly gratifying and intricate guitar lines across animated opener The Hype after just 10 seconds of set-up from bassist Billy Easter and drummer Andrew Milk, and 30 minutes later chimes out on jerky closer Over Time with another spindly flourish. The artful throb delivered throughout by Easter and by Milk’s insistent clatter combine to form the rhythm backbone in Shopping, providing a canvas on which Aggs shows she’s got the smarts for this post-punk game.

With their taut sound and feminist outlook, Shopping would surely have been comrades of Delta 5, the influential but short-lived Leeds band of yore. Shopping’s left-wing politics flavour this often-sublime Edwyn Collins-produced record, and Aggs casts an admiring glance towards the counter-culturally licentious on the synth-bolstered stand-out Wild Child.

8/10

John Skilbeck

PORCHES — THE HOUSE

It’s been a few years since synth-pop came back into fashion, so it’s only natural that the Eighties vibe that has characterised the genre’s revival up to now should be starting to take on a decidedly Nineties texture. The opening two-punch of Porches’ new album, Leave The House and Find  Me, with their simple drum loops and minimalist riffs, could have come straight off a Now compilation circa 1991.

Although, like the music it imitates, many of the tracks on The House skirt dangerously close to naffness, they’re idiosyncratic enough to keep the interest.

6/10

James Robinson

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