Arts Team: Our summer music picks

THE ARTS team sat down to decide on the best albums of the summer. However, with all the fantastic albums that have been released, it was difficult to come up with just one. Instead, here are a few brief looks at some of the albums we have enjoyed over the summer!

Bronze Radio Return by Andrew Simpson

The return of Bronze Radio Return with their new album Up, On and Over was greatly awaited by myself after enjoying the delights of Shake, Shake, Shake. More than anything, I was intrigued as to where they would go next. It is safe to say that I was not disappointed. The band continue to explore many genres from rock and pop to indie, folk and country. This album masterfully brings them together in this ambitious task to create a far more expansive and also immersive album than before.

Personal highlights for me are “Mister, Mister” and “Melting in My Icebox”, which are brilliantly catchy tunes that endeavour to make you smile, living up to the overall aim of the album as an album for summer. The excellent vocals of Chris Henderson and the incredible indie-rock sound that the band exhibits just keep making you want to listen more. Other tracks, like “Sylvan” towards the end of the album are a little different, but just as good if not better as they explore different genres with each track; from the country “All In” number to another favourite “World Spin, Home Spun” which epitomises everything I love about indie-folk. It is safe to say that I was rather impressed with the band’s fourth outing and it is what I call the soundtrack to my summer.


The Blackest Beautiful – letlive. by Alex Pike

letlive. have been known for their no-holds-barred live shows, and their renown only grew when 2010 album Fake History received a solid response from critics and fans alike, but it’s been a long wait for their latest release. After writing and recording a new album that was scrapped when the band weren’t happy with the result, it was clear that letlive. wanted only to release the best. Now the new album, The Blackest Beautiful, is out.

It is certainly a genre-bending record, taking influences from hip-hop, jazz and much more besides, but at the core it is a post-hardcore album that’s packed full of soul. The emotion that is crammed into this 45 minutes and the genius with which it is done, makes The Blackest Beautiful a formidable album; but what takes it a notch above Fake History is the song writing. There are so many infectious choruses found throughout that are always swamped in unhinged chaos, yet the transition between the two is seamless and is made to look easy.


Letters Home – Defeater by Alex Pike

Letters Home is the third instalment of a series of concept albums from Defeater that follows an American family fragmented by World War II. Their less than conventional approach to writing hardcore punk has split opinion, but as the project reaches its later stages, it’s undeniable that Defeater have played a major part in the modern American hardcore movement. Their last couple of albums have been shining examples of this emotive “thinking man’s hardcore”, and the new record is no different.

Letters Home focuses on the father of the family, so the musicality reflects the nature of his narrative with the album probably being the heaviest release from them so far. Although there is nothing musically in this release that is radically different from their previous efforts (not that that is bad thing of course), the songs are fresh and have a raw and punchy delivery. Highlights include “No Savior” that offers a change of pace with a downbeat opening, but builds to a crescendo in which the vocals lock into the rhythm of the drums and guitars perfectly. I look forward to seeing where the strength of  Letters Home takes Defeater next.


The Thermals – Desperate Ground by Jozef Raczka 

Twenty-six minutes. That’s all it takes for The Thermals to re-affirm your faith in rock n’ roll. Their latest album Desperate Ground is their fifth since the Portland band formed in 2002. Like a combination of Titus Andronicus and Mountain Goats, but with a strain of the punk angst that gave the best of Jimmy Eat World their strength; The Thermals have the sound of a band finally dispelling the Garage Rock of their youth and moving onto something bigger and more beautiful.

In moving on from their lo-fi roots, they have not forgotten what fans love about them. Their riffs sound as good as ever, Hutch Harris’ near-theatrical delivery now sounds at once like the bruised cry of a man screaming and shouting to the back of a packed stadium.

On closer listening, it’s hard not to hear an influence in the lyrics from the death of former guitarist, Joel Burrows but this is not an album that becomes dragged down in misery. It is a loud, brutal and brilliant example of a band that show us that sometimes all that’s needed to bring us back from the brink are an electric guitar, a bass, a drum kit and twenty-six minutes.


Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork by Dan Abbot

A chilling moment comes on the title track of …Like Clockwork when you actually think that Josh Homme might start crying as he utters “it’s all downhill from here”. The track’s sombre piano chords and the almost weeping bends of its solo section ends the album on a plaintive, soul-searching note. On any other Queens of the Stone Age album this might seem incongruous but the somewhat surprising element of slender introspection finds an echo in other tracks, most notably ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memories’ and ‘Kalopsia’ (thank you, Alex Turner, for the title), with its gentle arpeggios and lilting, echoing backing vocals.

There are moments when squalling guitars and pummelling drums and loping basslines threaten to overwhelm Homme’s voice, underpinning the central theme of fragility in the face of typical devil-may-care Queens bombast. More than any other QOTSA record, …Like Clockwork reveals something of the human behind the badass, vulnerability behind the bravado. Of course, the old seductive danger is retained, as in the juddering, Mr. Brightside-skipping-on-the-turntable chimes of ‘If I Had a Tail’ and the thrilling, Mach 5 sprint of lead (and obvious) single ‘My God is the Sun’.

Meanwhile, on 6-minute centrepiece ‘I Appear Missing’ (with its killer line “it’s only falling in love because you hit the ground”), the verses litheness and the  power chord jabs of the chorus and the solo’s thunderstorm of flashing guitars eventually subsides to leave harmonised falsettos, nude and acapella. And then there’s the astonishingly powerful title track, a song that desperately reaches for something unspeakable until its slender heart breaks.

It’s a fitting end for a familiar and yet deeply surprising album.

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