Everything Now Arcade Fire
Four years of relative silence followed the transcendental double LP Reflektor. Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, the album represented a departure from their rockier roots, instead ushering in drum machines and glitter-pop. July’s Everything Now was one of this year’s most anticipated releases, and seemingly sought to put even more distance between them and their Funeral days. The lead single and titular track set the tone for the rest of the album; it was very… ABBA. Now don’t get me wrong, I like ‘Dancing Queen’ as much as the next guy, but behind the frolicking piano riffs and kaleidoscopic harmonies there’s a distinct lack of the oomph and introspective vigour that they’re known and loved for.
Controversial one maybe. To give them credit, the hype generated in advance of the release was immense. Posters adorned the balustrades, bus stops and billboards of the country; the disdainful, animated eyes of 2-D & friends (now ironically rendered in three dimensions) patrolled the pavements like it was 2001. Everyone was very, very excited. Sadly, it proved to be underwhelming. Of indulgent length, with a multitude of features and very little coherence, the album felt like more of a mixtape than a fully realised piece that had kept fans waiting for seven years. It’s no Demon Days.
RELAXER ∆ ∆ alt-J ∆∆∆
∆∆∆ I’m well aware that by this point it’s no longer cool or original to bash alt-J (∆), but I’m gonna do it anyway. The experimental art-rock outfit from Leeds (∆) entered the collective consciousness in 2012 with their Mercury Prize winning An Awesome Wave, which brought disorientating, capacious riffs and indecipherable incantations to the masses. Despite their considerable following, their sophomore effort, 2014’s This is All Yours fell reasonably flat on its face. Sadly, the same was true (∆) of their latest outing. RELAXER starts strongly; brooding opener ‘3WW’ is comparable to ‘Intro’, and lead single ‘In Cold Blood’ has the hi-fi auditory muscle of their early work, albeit more radio friendly. However, it’s not to last. The second side is barely worth mentioning ∆, but just before the break there’s a dreary cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, followed by the seedy standout ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’, which is… well, it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? ∆(∆∆)
This Old Dog Mac DeMarco
We enjoyed 2, we adored Salad Days, we were ambivalent about Another One. Mac DeMarco’s latest foray, Another Bloody One, sorry, This Old Dog, shows us Mac at his best. And worst. And all levels in between. (They’re all the same). Remarkably consistent, he’s certainly found his winning formula, one that he is clearly content to rehash again and again. And why wouldn’t he be? Pitchfork lap it up, and not really caring what people think is his whole thing. Maybe I’m too harsh. I will admit, this record gives us glimpses of a new Mac, one that is wistful and reflective. And the soundscapes in ‘Moonlight on the River’ are sublime. But still, I can’t help but want for something more.