The Breeders - All Nerve 4 stars

posted 7 Mar 2018, 07:03 by Scene Alba Magazine

The Deal sisters have haven’t been away as long as you think, they’ve been either playing or releasing EPs it’s just that they haven’t released an album in ten years which is probably why everyone is hearalding this record as a major comeback.

First off to answer your question, no, it’s not as inventive as ‘Last Splash’ and there’s no ‘Cannonball’ however the alchemy created when Kim and Kelly get together is still there, something about their voices together, so similar but still different sounds like indie heaven.


The songs are quite short, little bursts of jangly, gnarly guitar gems just like you remembered, never outstaying their welcome when it’s time to finish they just, stop. This is the same line up that created ‘Last Splash’ and they’re playing just as well as they did back then if anything the rhythm section is even tighter on this album both driving each other and providing a powerful spine to hang the muscles of the songs from.


‘Archangel’s Thunderbird’ and ‘Nervous Mary’ are the most incendiary songs here but everything feels solid if less experimental than you may expect from this line up and there’s much loveliness too. ‘Spacewoman’ and ‘Dawn: Making an Effort’ both have a shimmering beauty to them while ‘Walking With a Killer’ has some of Kim Deal’s lovelist vocals ever.


Solid comeback, very solid it’s just a shame it’s couldn’t be a little more colourful but as it is it still carries the dark beauty of the Breeders near, if not at the top of their game.

Titus Andronicus - A Productive Cough 1 stars

posted 7 Mar 2018, 07:02 by Scene Alba Magazine

Devoid of their usual punk thrash-outs ‘A Productive Cough’ has to look to other places to deliver the goods for Titus Andronicus’ fifth album, so where have they looked? A bit indie, bit gospel choir, a bit bluesy, a bit folky and at its worst a bit Bob Dylan.


There’s a real shift towards a warmer, fuller sound on this album. ‘Real Talk’ sounds like an attempt to ape Dylan and The Band and it’s reasonably celebratory if a touch derivative however their shambolic take on ‘(Like a) Rolling Stone’ really shows up the limits of their playing and also singer Patrick Stickles’ voice is turned to rags as he screeches his way through all bloody nine minutes of it. Quite unpleasant, you’ll never complain about Bob’s voice ever again.


On the much gentler ‘Crass Tattoo’ there’s a go at a country ballad which in all fairness suits them much better even if you suspect that the whole thing is one big piss take.


Generally Titus Andronicus are much more believable as snotty punk rockers spitting snot and vitriol rather than trying to push their boundaries, something I normally applaud but not in this case when all it does is show up the band’s limitations.

Tracey Thorn - Record 5 Stars album of the month

posted 7 Mar 2018, 04:56 by Scene Alba Magazine

The evergreen Tracey Thorn is back and we welcome her with open arms. Tracey is blessed with a voice that fits into a multitude of different musical styles, from the early lo-fi jazz of Everything But the Girl to their rebirth as super hip dance influenced pop with ‘Missing’ to her unmatchable vocal contributions on Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ it seems she just suits whatever is put in front of her.


‘Record’ isn’t shyly hanging around at the back of the party it comes straight to the point with opening track ‘Queen’ a fast pace, glittering eighties pop number and as Tracey was making music back then she’s more than entitled to claim that style as her own. On this album Ms. Thorn’s voice seems to have matured a touch and there’s a previously unheard depth to her vocals on this album which is a pleasing development. This is no album of moping songs (take note Moby) there’s a real positive thrust even delivering a pean to women everywhere on ‘Sister’ a celebration of feminism featuring guest vocals from Corrine Bailey Rae.


Lending her falsetto to ‘Go’ Tracey enhances the very texture of the song while on ‘Babies’ she discusses her desire for children but on her terms over a great throbbing electronic backing, it’s a deeply satisfying album, there’s a sense of playfulness and experimentation on ‘Record’. 


Tracey Thorn sits in that rare place of being a true national treasure and similar to Alison Moyet’s ‘Other’ from last year there’s maturity, experience and solid inventiveness creating some of the best music from one of Britain's best vocalists. Now if only the poor boys could measure up to the women.

Moby - Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt 2 stars

posted 7 Mar 2018, 04:54 by Scene Alba Magazine

Poor Moby, he’s never really been able to escape the mega-success of ‘Play’ has he? Ten albums since that seminal work and people are still looking for Volume two. Well it’s not coming so what’s hiding in the grooves of this new record? A lot of darkness it would seem.


I suppose it’s difficult not to be enveloped in darkness when you look at who is running the world and where they’re dragging us to and clearly this weighs heavily on Moby, a man who has been known for his humanitarian stances. Sensing danger everywhere Moby is channelling those uneasy feelings that come up whenever the news funnels more misery and more examples of the ever decreasing sense of true justice on this planet.


The music is a doomy sounding, even the bass lines sound like they’re hanging their heads but it’s a good kind of misery, a collective gasp for air among desperate people. Melancholic dance music with Moby’s weary vocals being counterpoint to the much lighter female vocals lifting the mood which is much needed, but it tends to stay in a morose, sparse place. The usual Moby tricks of a little piano riff here, some bluesy gospel vocals there, big processed beats and sullen synthesisers are all here, so it has a degree of familiarity if no real big stand out tracks.


It’s clear that Moby is sickened with the world at the moment the track listing alone informs us of this. Songs like ‘Welcome to the Hard times’, ‘The Sorrow Tree’ or ‘A Dark Cloud is Coming’ show his discontent writ large and it’s difficult to disagree with him however a bit of fighting spirit would be welcome here and it’s not like Moby doesn’t do angry, he’s got full albums of sniping rage so this album feels like a surrender when indeed we need more raging against the dying of the light.

Rats From a Sinking Ship - Fight The Future 4 stars

posted 7 Mar 2018, 04:52 by Scene Alba Magazine

We need a bit of righteous anger right now, fortunately Rats From a Sinking Ship have grasped this and are applying a dutiful boot to the balls of modern society’s floundering moral compass.


Loudly too, tight beats and the growling metallic guitars supplied by Jamie Price roar alongside vocalist Alex Lusty’s call to arms recalling the golden age of razor sharp political unrest in music that was prevalent in the early nineties, the Rats seem to scurry in the same circles as kindred souls such as Consolidated, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy or Public Enemy as shot through the most disgruntled of British eyes.


The insufferable Royal family, our currently disintegrating government and of course the ghastly spectre that is Trump are just some of the society’s modern maladies that are given a refreshing shower of sulphuric acid via Lusty’s insatiable vitriol but it’s not just a madman screaming at the moon, Alex injects a knowing humour into the proceedings with some inventive wordplay but the songs always retain a solid message. 


For the most part the music is fuelled by a sneering punk sound but there are diversions away from that sound like the bouncy ‘To The Sword’ with it’s hip hop beats and shimmering guitars, there’s even an acoustic intro into scathing ‘Katie Fucking Hopkins’ but as the energy here is anger that’s what propels the album, it’s not a peaceful record so if you’re looking for something to placate you after a day of fighting the onslaught of the miseries of modern life then this is not the cd to reach for.

However if you need fuel for the fire and maybe want to start a revolution then ‘Fight the Future’ may well be the light to the blue touch paper that you need.

Scene Alba 20 Albums of the Year

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:16 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 04:56 ]

20. Beck - Colors

Beck generally does two types of albums: slow moping laments to loss, sad tearful but beautiful and bright, breezy inventive attacks on the senses, ‘Colors’ is in the latter group. Chirpy modern pop reflecting the world as seen through Beck’s eyes. Joyful.


19. Mogwai - Every Country’s Sun

Mogwai continue to dazzle with ‘Every Country’s Sun’ one of their most accomplished albums yet. Solid with the unmistakable Mogwai post rock sound they have even produced what surely must be one of the best indie songs of the year with ‘Party in the Dark’.


18. Oh- Sees

Another name change, another album for the San Franciscans and a heavy, robust psych-rock album it is too. Packed with more ideas than most bands have in an entire career ‘Orc’ is a delicious mind fuck of a record made to melt down your mental boundaries and shake your reality to bits.


17. Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest

Modern electro and musings on death go surprisingly well on Gainsbourg’s fifth album. Stark and confessional in places, upbeat and punchy in others this is an album of broad scope and class.


16. Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy

Just one of the many unlikely comebacks of 2017 and a record that really shouldn’t work but does due to the sheer tenacity and talent of the battling Reid brothers. More howling, ripping guitars over racing beats coupled with Jim Reid’s sneering vocals.

We never knew how much we’d missed them until they returned.


15. Spoon - Hot Thoughts

More dashing art/indie/dance vibes coming from the super-cool Texans. Just odd enough to be cool and good enough to write great songs,’Hot Thoughts’ was a welcome blast of upbeat indie joy.


14. Granddaddy - Last Place

Another revival, ‘Last Place’ was Grandaddy’s first album in eleven years showed that while they had matured the music was still as relevant as ever, in fact possibly better. Many of the songs focussed on lead singer Jason Lytle’s divorce imbuing the album with a sense of loss and regret but never self-pity.

13. Max Richter - Three Worlds

A masterpiece, once again Richter shows his command over the movement of his compositions at times intimate and dark and others huge and swelling out into the night at the heart of the human condition. Based on the works of Virginia Wolfe, ‘Three Worlds’ is a fitting tribute to a troubled genius.


12. The National - Sleep Well Beast

Unhurried and deliberate in its intentions ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is a gentleman of an album. Once more Matt Beringer walks us through the darker recesses of humanity with an elegance and self-awareness that other bands simply can’t match, a terrible beauty written in dark poetry.


11. Gorillaz - Humanz

An album 2017 desperately needed ‘Humanz’ was a fierce message to the powers that be from Damon Albarn and his eclectic mix of colourful collaborators. Possibly the Gorillaz’ darkest entry to date this album reflected the helplessness most people were feeling when faced with some of the worst leaders the world has ever seen but as usual Albarn delivers the message in a vibrant style and with a cheeky wink.


10. The Charlatans - Different Days

Pushing their sound forward with the momentum gathered from previous album ‘Modern Nature’, ‘Different Days’ finds The Charlatans focused and experimental. With guest vocals and the feel of a concept album Tim Burgess and co show that no matter what, they will take any experience and forge gold from it. This may not be the best Charlatans album but it certainly their most startling.


9. The Shins - Heartworms

With so many artists exploring their dark sides and the world holding its breath due to the sheer scale of political ineptitude it was wonderful to find the Shins displaying a fun, upbeat sound to soundtrack 2017. A shining pop album absolutely bursting at the seams with frothy sing along tunes to heartily counter the miseries of modern life.


8. Elbow - Little Fictions

Once more Guy Garvey bestows his poetic worldview with us on Elbow’s most unashamedly romantic album yet. ‘Little Fictions’ equipped us with gentle laments to big busty anthems with a looser funkier sound without jettisoning any of the charm and intelligence that we’ve come to expect from Elbow.


7. Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Dressed in the sounds of the eighties ‘Everything Now’ is Arcade Fire’s most poppy album yet. Drenched in neon and chrome this record funnels the synth heavy music from pop’s golden age and shoots it through with the oblique edginess that has come to define Win Butler’s quirky bunch of misfits. Themes of modern life and the stresses that come with it form the core of the album but the reluctance to be overwhelmed by it makes this an optimistic record and surprisingly good for parties.


6. Ride - Weather Diaries

More resuscitations, this time for the Oxford quartet and their best album since their debut ‘Nowhere’ back in 1990. ‘Weather Diaries’ takes Ride’s initial shoegazing sound and gives it a sleek modern make over courtesy of producer Erol Alkan. Driven and in places, ferocious this truly is the sound of a band reborn and re-energized and realising their potential at last.


5. Slowdive - Slowdive

And again a rebirth, Slowdive were essential ridiculed out of the business back in the nineties when music press hacks had voices louder than they really should’ve been but now they are back and with a stunning continuation of their previous works. This eponymously titled album is a perfect distillation of all that was beautiful about Slowdive and has an added depth and clarity. A superb record from start to finish.


4. The XX - I See You

In the five years since their last album ‘Coexist’ there’s been an evolution in the group with Jamie XX pushing the band’s sound into a fuller feel without jettisoning their innate coolness and ‘I See You’ is testament to this and shows that they have the talent, inventiveness and courage to push their boundaries and create even bigger and bolder music.


3. Perfume Genius - No Shape

‘No Shape’ is Perfume Genius’ most fully realised album thus far, it’s bolder yet still has the experimentation of previous albums if less vulnerable sounding. The blossoming of a songwriter knowing what he wants and being able to produce the results, it’s a marvellous collection that gets better with each listen.


2. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

Early Cure/P.I.L get a look in on ‘American Dream’ it’s very much in that early eighties minimalist vibe while you can still dance yer arse off with songs like ‘Tonite’ all big electronica and big beats even if James is lamenting the ever advancing lacerations of age whilst you’re making moves. ‘American Dream’ is a solid, worthwhile return to activity from a much loved band who have decided to just stay at the party, after all, it’s later than you think.  


Album of the Year


Alison Moyet - Other

The unmistakable voice of Alison Moyet is a true treasure, there’s no one like her. Her career has also been a most interesting one too, from the synth pleasure of Yazoo, through her early pop career to here now, there’s a feeling of uncompromised steeliness. With ‘Other’ Moyet has created another dark jewel, first track ‘I Germinate’, dank and surreptitious, it crawls along the verses until exploding on the chorus, it feels dangerous. ‘Other’ is driven by dystopian synth sounds that could’ve been unearthed from a dusty grave in the year 2178. Apart from the suitably titled ‘Happy Giddy’ this is a very dark album, futuristic yet reflective of now, a startlingly relevant record, not bad for an artist three decades into her career.

2017 Top 5 Compilation Albums

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:15 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 04:54 ]


5. C88
A state of the nation address for all matters indie in 1988. Edgy to floral, angular to baggy rising, no stone is left unturned in this glorious snap-shot of late eighties alternative music.

4. James - Just Hipper
Showing the amazing burst of creativity the Manchester heroes had at the beginning of their career and how it shaped them into the huge band that they would become in a few short years.

3. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
The 1986 masterpiece from Morrissey and Marr. this re-issue comes with demos, B-sides and alternative takes. Also in the box set version is a live set of the band at their heights recorded in Boston.

2. David Bowie - A New Career in a New Town
The third of the Bowie retrospective box sets this time covering the artistically charged Berlin records to the eighties rebirth of 'Scary Monsters' a bracing stroll through one of pop's most eloquent singers.

1. Manchester North of England
Cherry Red's reissue masterpiece "Manchester North of England" is an excellent trawl through the hits and misses of Manchester's rich heritage of music from punk to the dance days. it's an excellent showcase of the talent that still lurks under the wonderfully wet skies of Manchester.

Morrissey - Low in High School (Track by Track)

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:13 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 04:56 ]

Divisive, loved and loathed in equal measures yet unignorable Morrissey is back with his eleventh studio and in these days of attention-whore rent-a-gobs and phoney president’s rapid fire twitter can Salford's favourite lad still be heard over the relentless noise of the 21st century?


My Love, I’d Do Anything For You.

The opening track is a huge, brassy, stomper of a song. Full of swagger and brio it has a no holds barred approach, both muscular and energetic, it should’ve been the title song for the last Bond movie. And Morrissey is sounding commanding, he’s completely convincing when he snarls “Society’s hell, you need me just like I need yah!” It’s easily one of Morrissey’s best openers ever.


I Wish You Lonely.

A fuzzy glammed up lament on forever being lonely, a long standing touchstone for Morrissey it has icy blasts of Numanesque synths throughout the song, one can only wonder what the Moz of 1985 would make of it all. And to be clear Morrissey only wants you to be lonely for a bit just you can see what life is like for him and also for humpbacked whales.


Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage.

Isn’t Morrissey’s sister called Jacqueline? I doubt that she’s the eponymous performer miserable due to a lost love, well I hope not as it’s not a particularly rosy picture painted here. Anyway, once more fuzzed up basslines and thundering drums clash with chiming guitars and a lone trumpet toots notes of panic until it reaches a thundering, clambering climax with everybody running for the exits. It really couldn’t be anyone else.


Home Is A Question Mark.

A mid-paced ballad, where our weary hero croons about a longing for home over twinkling sleighbells, huge orchestral swells and some deeply satisfying twanging guitar, it’s a terrifically sad song, the kind that has you joyfully weeping your eyes out on a misspent night in the company of too many glasses of red wine.


Spent The Day in Bed.

The jaunty earworm of a single led merrily along by a cheery electronic keyboard lyrically light until Morrissey implores you to “Stop watching the news” um, no don’t follow that advice that’s just as silly as telling you not to vote.


I Bury the Living.

Hmm, a bit of a clunker to be honest. Morrissey is not liking soldiers on this album at all, they get a kicking on a few of the songs on ‘Low in High School’. ‘I Bury the Living’ starts as a thumpy rocker, a bit by the numbers until about 5:15 when things turn very surreal. It then transforms into a gentle swaying coda with a playful African inspired guitar chiming away very much in the mould of early Smiths or Vini Reilly before it exits laughing.


In Your Lap.

A piano torch song attacking war and those who wage it (again), driving the narrator to put his face in someone’s lap. It’s simple but one can’t help but think if it had a more romantic sheen it would be a much better song. And yes Morrissey can do romantic. Honestly.


The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel.

A calypso tinged song about a resolute lady who is steadfast, well it is for a bit then it’s all bluntly political, except for when he informs us “All of my friends are in trouble, but there’s no need to go into that now” What a tease, it’s actually quite lovely and Morrissey’s voice is actually well suited to this style.


All The Young People Must Fall In Love.

Possibly the most lighthearted of lyrics on ‘Low in High School’ over a shuffling beat and handclaps Morrissey sounds his most carefree as he exclaims that “Presidents come and Presidents go” it has a pleasant cheer to it which is the opposite of what people expect from Morrissey.


When You Open Your Legs.

Unfortunately this track veers perilously close to parody, indeed it sounds like it comes straight out of Morrissey!: The Musical. Not for the first time it sounds like a half finished song, indeed it peters off unceremoniously at the end, a whispering slight destined to be unloved.


Who Will Protect Us From The Police?

Another uninspired lyric, ‘Who Will Protect Us From The Police’ has another fine vocal performance and musically it’s quite fierce but again it seems to have no real depth. There’s darting horns and great percussion but Moz seems distracted, if something like ‘Seasick Yet Still Docked’ is a novel then this is a magazine.


Israel.

‘Israel’ is fortunately more nuanced than the previous two songs, Morrissey seems to be trying to make the point that governments are not the people whilst steering clear of the actual conflict unravelling the area. It’s another piano-led torch song to end the album, not the buttock clenching song it could’ve been.


So in the end ‘Low in High School’ starts off exceptionally strong and has some great songs thatif  stripped of the frowning dissection currently being applied to the album due to Morrissey’s usual uncompromising worldview would be welcomed heartily with open arms.


If Morrissey had less half-formed political views and more focus on the human condition then possibly this would be a huge album in the league of ‘You Are The Quarry’ or ‘Your Arsenal’ but instead as there’s more media mileage to be had from soundbites and pull quotes damning the album which is a shame because the music in places is really very good indeed.

Tom Chaplin - Twelve Tales of Christmas

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:10 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 05:00 ]

2 Stars

Hardly the most appealing proposition is it? The singer from Keane singing a load of Christmas songs? The cash-in bells, they are a-ringing, but wait maybe it could be good, if you’re in the spirit and like the season to be jolly. (Spoiler - It’s not)


It’s pretty much exactly what you think it sounds like, sweeping strings and wistful pianos stretching up into big crescendos while rosy, cherub faced Tom burbles about snow and tinsel and he doesn’t really stretch the formula. It’s painfully pleasant and slow as hell, his selection of songs is odd too ‘Walking in the Air’ now has a grimy feel to it as an ex-rehab clinic survivor sings the song of a newly revealed sex pest. ‘2000 Miles’ get reduced from a smoky Christmas lament into a doe-eyed trudge through slush while Tom’s version of East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ (not even a Christmas song, it was a Christmas number one, yes but it’s a song about a dead relative hardly yuletide fun) is spectacularly misjudged.


Unnecessarily saccharine and with a deathly dull pace this is one for the Grans and bargain bins.


Sorry Tom but this collection of Christmas blah isn’t going to usurp Phil Spector’s Christmas Album anytime soon.


Bjork - Utopia

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:08 by Scene Alba Magazine   [ updated 8 Jan 2018, 05:00 ]

3 Stars

The sound of a true innovator and experimentalist Bjork has made some of the most uncompromising music of the last four decades and she shows no signs of tiring on this her ninth studio album. From the blissful pop of ‘Debut’ to the elemental sounds of ‘Utopia’ Bjork has always reached out to find unique ways to express herself, on this album she teams up with Venezuelan producer/composer Arca to produce an album that sounds like paradise (hence the title).


It’s a lush sounding album full of clashing sounds and styles, 12 piece flute orchestras and huge choral backings build the songs to something mythical alongside the stuttering loops and beats we’ve come to know from Bjork, the juxtapositions creating soundscapes for the singer to float above and drink in.


Glacial and akin to the pacing of a soundtrack ‘Utopia’ is a fully formed universe unto itself, it has an otherworldly feel to it and when tempered by Bjork’s totally unique and recognisable phrasing it brings the songs to life.


At almost 72 minutes it’s quite an undertaking and people who have a passing interest in the artist will be thoroughly lost in the rich soundscapes here but if you have the time and patience you can find rich rewards within ‘Utopia’ but you may have to take a guide with you.

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