Time once more to enjoy the moveable feast of new album releases. Which albums are a hot cross bun, dripping with the perfect amount of melted butter? Which are a pound shop Easter egg, speckled with the white hallmarks of frugality and wrapped in foil that disintegrates upon contact? Let's find out...
We'll begin with one of the bigger albums of the week – Memories... Do Not Open by The Chainsmokers. Since their debut single #SELFIE (A song which, for those that haven't heard it, is the auditory equivalent of having your liver repeatedly pecked out by crows), The Chainsmokers have gone on to have a series of top ten UK hits including their worldwide number one Closer – extra marks for including details of a payment plan for a Rover. Memories... Do Not Open is the duo's debut album.
Let's start with the good things... or should I say 'thing'. Paris is the album's debut single and it feels like a heady trip through an updated Truffaut or Godard – the charming haze of cigarette smoke replaced by peach vape and a selfie stick where once an 8mm had been. It is a cleverly crafted little song but the rest of the album is such a complete mess that it would amaze me if many people get as far as track eight.
The Chainsmokers hit a solid 3 out of 7 on the Zara Larsson Songwriting Checklist which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't cover 'struggling to make it in the music industry' at least three times. Break Up Every Night is classed by the band as their 'indie track' but it sounds like something rejected by McFly ten years ago. I also think that 'fucking someone back to life' veers more towards the Harold Shipman end of the medical spectrum than it does standard NHS resuscitation procedures. It Won't Kill Ya, undoubtedly recorded in a shipyard due to the number of foghorns present, takes its approach from the Dr Pepper Seduction Manual and would be a far creepier song were it sung by a man. Even Something Just Like This, the duet with Coldplay (in this instance, Coldplay seems to mean Chris Martin on a day off feeling a little brassic) is a bland mythological meander with far too many doo-doo-doos for my liking. Save yourself forty minutes and just bosh on track eight, even twice if you're feeling extravagant, and then jaunt out into the sun safe in the knowledge that you're not missing a thing. The Chainsmokers... Do Not Listen.
Next up, we have That's Your Lot by Blaenavon. We've all heard this story before – three twentysomething lads, grew up in Hampshire, named their band after a mining town in South East Wales and plot a course for rock stardom. No, not heard it before? Well, you may just hear a lot more of it. Contrary to the album's title, That's Your Lot is the first release from a group who, by their own admission, spent significant portions of their English Literature classes planning to make a 'dreamlike album'. Their understanding of the intricacies of Of Mice And Men might not be up to scratch but was the sacrifice worth it?
The album is a joy. There is definitely a hint of Blossoms in Blaenavon's work but there is also enough nods to an indie past to make them feel like a band you have been listening to for years. Opening track Take Care has jolts of Morrissey running through it whilst also maintaining a dark grace. Orthodox Man is an upbeat ode to subservience. The otherwise understated Lonely Side is laid on a bed of majestic melodies that cast it in a beautiful oxymoronic hue. Closing track That's Your Lot has a compelling simplicity interweaved with its nostalgic overtones. The overwhelming parallel that can be drawn with Blossoms is the maturity and sure-footedness with which That's Your Lot is made – these are not teenage lust songs, they are deep and powerful tracks handled by artists with understanding that defies their meagre years. I only hope that is not my lot and there is much more to some from a band that have huge potential.
In what seems to be becoming quite a regular 2017 feature, we are now going to play a game of 'Do You Remember?'. This week's contestant is Arizona chanteuse Michelle Branch. I, for one, do remember Michelle Branch – specifically her 2001 single Everywhere which became part of my life soundtrack at the time after featuring in the arthouse classic American Pie 2. Branch returns to us with Hopeless Romantic, her first album in fourteen years and her fourth studio album overall. In the interim, Branch has dabbled as part of duo The Wreckers and has been deemed worthy of a Wikipedia sub-category of which I was not previously aware – Unreleased Albums. The general gist of this in Branch's case is that two albums were continuously promised and promoted, only for one to be released as a six track EP and the other to disappear off into the ether a la Shergar.
Hopeless Romantic, however, is most definitely here and, with all due respect to an artist whose one really big hit has seen me hold her in high regard for over fifteen years, it was not worth the wait. To say that it is bad is the equivalent of saying that porridge is bad. Like a food created with the sole purpose of being filling, Branch's music seems to exist merely to ensure that silence does not get a look in. Her words are dull, her melodies are uninspired, her voice seems to have taken on a ridiculous nasal whine that would put pay to romance of any nature, even in the most determined of Lotharios. Every time you believe a track might get going, Branch reigns it in and tells it to sit quietly and not try any of that expressionist stuff again. It is painting by numbers where every number is a shade of grey.
I think the thing that was great about Michelle Branch in 2001 was the exuberance of youth. She was the slightly rebellious teenager singing memorable poppy songs who you wished went to your school because she might liven the place up a bit. She was to female solo singers what Busted were to baggy-jeaned reprobates. The difference with Busted's comeback was that it was calculated and it took into account the shift that had happened in the music market while they had been away. Michelle Branch, for want of a better word, has come back as far more measured and boring. Unfortunately, Hopeless Romantic has escaped the Unreleased Albums category only to become a warning on how not to orchestrate a return to an industry in which you no longer fit.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Ban on Chainsmokers?
Just the start for Blaenavon
Michelle should branch out
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