Album reviews: Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Moon, Gabrielle Aplin, Courteeners
Bombay Bicycle Club
Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
THE London indie rock quartet released So Long, See You Tomorrow in 2014 before a hiatus was announced in January 2016. They returned last summer for comeback gigs and now there is finally a new record to enjoy – and, unsurprisingly, it's a resounding success. With crashing drums and atmospheric synth from the off in opening number Get Up and title track Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, this is a quirky album of entertainment and intrigue on first listening and joy thereafter. Pleasing guitar riffs, epitomised in Is It Real and Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You), along with pronounced, rumbling bass and experimental electronic themes offer a rich breadth of sounds. From loud beginnings to the album's gradual, softer conclusion, Racing Stripes, frontman Jack Steadman's distinctive vocals guide you through. For lovers of indie-rock, this is a must-have. For everyone else, it will grow on you if you give it a chance.
The Big Moon
Walking Like We Do
THE Big Moon's follow-up to their 2017 Mercury prize-nominated debut sees them branching out from guitar-based indie pop and experimenting with new instruments and darker subject matter. While Don't Think heads directly into the arena of electronica, most of the songs have a minimalist, down-beat character, often emphasising stark piano chords and vocal harmonies, such as on the haunting Waves. Thematically, the lyrics tend towards the rueful – and occasionally apocalyptic – but they're distinguished by a high level of wit, such as in Dog Eat Dog's refrain that life's struggle is "more like a pigeon eating fried chicken in the street". It can sometimes make for abrasive listening, but this is a pop record of uncommon depth that deserves close attention and will definitely reward perseverance.
GABRIELLE Aplin's third album is a peppy and emotional look at happiness from the ever-maturing artist. The 14-track album makes for a cheerfully cohesive listen and provides a well-needed balm for the challenges of 2020. Aplin's third album – her first since 2015 – shows immense growth from her darker previous work. Til the Sun Comes Up is a strong, upbeat opener to set the tone of the album and the relentlessly cheerful Kintsugi encapsulates the best of Dear Happy. The singer-songwriter moves through the genres with pop tracks paired with the more exposed piano ballads most associated with Aplin. Although her vocal talents shine best in these slower moments, it does so at the risk of dragging and becoming monotonous. The listener's attention is most likely to wander during these slower moments which are tender but over-long. Dear Happy's true strength lies in its bubbliness and relentless optimism, which make it almost impossible to be dour when listening to the upbeat tracks.
More. Again. Forever.
THE Manchester indie outfit recently went through a bit of a line-up shake-up and the product is a 10-track treat that ultimately sounds nothing like the Courteeners. Hailing from the centre of the musical universe, the band were known for emulating the greats that went before them, but when you get to your sixth album, which direction do you go in? Well, songwriter Liam Fray went left of field, far more so than on their synth-heavy third album Anna. The stripped-back St Jude Re:Wired, More. Again. Forever features a multitude of instruments from modulated vocals, fuzzy driving bass lines, piano, sitar, synthesised orchestrated strings and sirens. It's a frenzied, scatty affair as the music chops and changes through different tempos. Then there's the very cool title track, akin to stepping into a 70s disco in the heart of NYC. However, if it weren't for Liam Fray's signature vocals, would we have known it was a Courteeners album? Overall, it's a brave and bold, psychedelic, swirling mash-up of different styles set to a rough indie background.