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Album reviews: From Pale Waves to Django Django

 

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The Pretty Reckless

The Pretty Reckless

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The Pretty Reckless

The Pretty Reckless

Death by Rock and Roll

In 2017, The Pretty Reckless landed a support slot on tour with Soundgarden. Then after a concert in Detroit, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell took his own life, following a decades-long battle with depression.

Some 11 months later, Kato Khandwala, friend and longtime producer for The Pretty Reckless, died in a motorcycle crash. These events have inevitably shaped their fourth album.

This is a band which rarely deals in subtleties, and the album is no different. The title track starts with a recording of Kato's footsteps before heavy riffing collides with the voice of 27-year-old frontwoman Taylor Momsen (formerly an actress in Gossip Girl).

"On my tombstone when I go, just put, 'Death by rock and roll'," she sings. Similarly, album closer Harley Darling features the sound of a puttering exhaust disappearing into the distance.

In between, the tone is fairly consistent - big riffs, Momsen's wonderfully versatile voice, vaguely derivative songwriting.

And that's the catch, Death By Rock And Roll is an album packed full of emotion and talent but without the tight songwriting to match.

Review by Alex Green

Pale Waves

Who Am I?

The latest release from Dirty Hit records - the home of pop overlords The 1975, Wolf Alice and Little Comets, enigmatic indie rock quartet Pale Waves have unleashed a show of force in the form of Who Am I?

The follow-up to their 2018 debut album My Mind Makes Noises, Who Am I? serves up an altogether rougher, '90s-centric take on the band's renowned pop-infused choruses.

Laying down the track framework in Los Angeles before Covid took the recording process online, the Rich Costey (Muse, Foo Fighters) produced offering combines grunge-tinged undertones with dancing highs courtesy of acoustic guitar embellishments on tracks like Odd Ones Out. And while the infectious pop sensibilities of Easy brand it an instant earworm, the 11-track offering is balanced out by the down-tempo closing notes of lighters-at-the-ready piano ballad Who Am I?

It's a follow-up that retains the band's penchant for indulgent pure pop melodies, but the introduction of rough around the edges late '90s and early '00s-style production can't help but leave you wanting more.

Review by Danielle de Wolfe

Django Django

Glowing In The Dark

Django Django only released their first album in 2012, but already they feel like a throwback in their insistence on guitar-based arrangements of songs, with choruses and middle eights and everything!

And it's fair to say that Glowing In The Dark certainly won't wrong-foot any fans.

Vincent Neff's svelte melodies and the Everly Brothers harmonies are both present and correct. Even Tommy Grace's use of synths is kept here to a tasteful minimum.

The album opens convincingly with Spirals, a solid statement of intent, with a chorus that manically ascends with tantalising intensity. And for those who liked earlier songs like Default or Love's Dart, Night Of The Buffalo is in the same ballpark, albeit with a bit of an Arabic influence - but we're certainly not talking about World Music here, just a playful flirtation.

Unfortunately there are a few misfires - the collaborator's collaborator and Because Music labelmate Charlotte Gainsbourg is wasted on the mediocre Free From Gravity.

But there are enough solid songs to merit being placed on rotation.

Review by Rachel Farrow

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

New fragility

New fragility is what we're all feeling these days, and the tension and sorrow of the times is captured by Alec Ounsworth, now the sole member of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

The band formed at Connecticut College in 2004 and the five-piece were among the first to harness the internet to make an impact.

They did, coming second in the BBC's Sound of 2006, but mainman Ounsworth was always ambivalent about fame and success, while his voice divided opinion.

As band members left, Ounsworth embarked on a series of tours of fans' living rooms, playing acoustic shows to around 30 people.

That sense of intimacy permeates CYHSY's sixth album, starting with Hesitating Nation, Ounsworth's brittle voice declaring "you are the ones who just don't care" amid insistent guitar.

Thousands Oaks is slower, with lyrics about "a massacre in southern California" and the failure of gun control adding to the ominous mood.

The album addresses tough subjects like divorce, anxiety and getting older, but provides moments of beauty and hope.

Review by Matt George

Belfast Telegraph


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