The Tab’s round up of recent album releases.
Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
Opening with the excellent “Zorbing”, a wonderfully catchy love song which perfectly captures the heady thrill of love and rolling in a giant plastic ball, it becomes obvious from the get go that the entire album is drenched with idyllic beauty. “Fuel up” raises the hairs on the back of the neck as Brian Briggs’ vocals blast through the track like a strong wind on a glorious summer day.
The shimmering guitars of “On the rocks” evoke the clattering stormy seas, with clashing cymbals in the crescendo resonating with the imagery of waves crashing onto the cliff side. But it’s the beauty of “The Cold Harbour Road” that truly stands out. The lonely violin that opens the track melds into the discordant piano and hauntingly distorted vocals to really summon in the mind the image of a depressingly breezy, rainy landscape of a winter day by the ocean. It’s a stunning track which effortlessly sums up the Stornoway method of song-writing; constructing solid tracks which rely on the quality of the musicianship and little fancy technology to cover their defects. The result is a listen which feels both instantly familiar and totally individual.
I worry that after a certain number of listens the album will lose some of its shine. There is a slight underlying feeling of a lack of weight on some tracks such as “We are the battery human” while the pseudo Lou Reed bluegrass rock of “Watching Birds” doesn’t really work. However, these are small quibbles with an impressive debut album. Beachcomber’s Windowsill is a watercolour in a world of baffling modern art: it may not seem particularly hip or in fashion but it is more than content to revel in its solitary excellence.
Jack Johnson – To The Sea
Jack Johnson, undisputed champion of the middle class coffee shop playlist, returns with yet another unobtrusive, punctiliously inoffensive acoustic album. It all meanders along nicely enough – opener ‘You and Your Heart’ has a decent vocal melody, while title track ‘To The Sea’ does indeed evoke a lazy day spent on the beach in his native Hawaii. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing stands out – the whole album slips by in a blur of gentle, ultimately vacuous crooning. Johnson helpfully informs us in a press release that the water “represents the subconscious… so it’s about trying to understand yourself”. If these songs are the results of such a search, he is one bland character. Johnson is clearly a proficient musician – I just can’t understand why anyone, anywhere would part with a tenner for the privilege of owning his record. If you just wait a couple of months you’ll be sure to hear it in Costa anyway.
Tiefschwarz – Chocolate
Given the nature of dance music, full length releases can be problematic affairs, often sounding like little more than a collection of single tracks. I’m not completely convinced that ‘Chocolate’ avoids this pitfall, but the German duo deserves credit for not resorting to the pretentious filler many others have used in pursuit of the elusive electronic ‘album’. Opener ‘Home’, featuring a soulful vocal from Daniel Wilde, explores deeper territory, compelling you to move without sacrificing the seductive housey tone. ‘Kraft’ employs a more minimal sonic palate, with its insistent beat and wonky atmospherics, before the richly textured shuffle of ‘Legends’ aims more at satisfying the home listener.
‘I Can’t Resist’ is a little busy for my liking, but its hypnotic lead line will no doubt work well on the dance floor. The collaboration with man of the moment Seth Troxler, ‘Trust’, has spawned several big remixes; the album version strips it back to a jazzy lilt, and is as fun as it is ambitious. For me, ‘Find Me’, featuring a personal favourite in the shape of Cassy, is a standout – dynamic and propulsive, with a haunting vocal. ‘Chocolate’ is a testament to duo’s enduring knack of crafting tune which are both danceable and engaging.