Album reviews published in the Agenda supplement of the Sunday Business Post throughout January 2012:
Future This (4AD)
Best known for catchy yet obnoxious girl-baiting single ‘Dominos’, Londoners The Big Pink’s womanizing antics are left happily in the dust for their second full-length. Musically, ‘Future This’ is a subtler venture, packed with smartly layered synth/ guitar flirtations, slow-building, throbbing beat-harmonies and, at times, surprisingly emotive lyrical surrealism. Sure, there are still moments when you could be plugged into the mind of a hormone-driven teenage boy, but the (largely) refined new style has a beyond-the-hooks longevity and drive that their previous silliness couldn’t have foreseen.
**** James Hendicott Download: (Hit The Ground) Superman
Little Sparks (DeloRecords)
While Delorentos road to Irish-music stardom has been slow and burdened with potholes, this long-awaited tertiary effort sees the Dubs finally slam pedal to metal. Little Sparks is sparse, delivered vocal-heavy and clutter free, and leans firmly on tightly-woven guitar splurges and mellow, lovable emo-pop ditties. A genuinely captivating opening double-salvo of ‘Did We Ever Really Try’ and ‘Bullet In A Gun’ in particular is destined for heavy radio play, yet succeeds in projecting genuine, thought-provoking depth. Superb.
**** James Hendicott Download: Bullet In A Gun
The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)
In the finest traditions of Swedish alt-pop, the Söderberg sister’s second full-length is an often forlorn outing that occasionally edges into all-out morose. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but ‘The Lion’s Roar’ only occasionally lifts itself beyond thoughtfully plodding. For all the nicely layered vocal harmonies and glances at the sister’s hearts through sweeping melody, this lacks the devastating, tear-inducing lyrical brilliance that nu-folk’s greatest assets routinely serve up. It’s accomplished, yes, but disappointingly lacking in sparkle beneath that dingy façade.
** James Hendicott Download: Emylou
Clear Heart Full Eyes (Full Time Hobby)
In taking a break from his day job as front man of indie icons The Hold Steady, Craig Finn seems merely to have stumbled to a calmer corner. His distinctive vocals might be difficult to shake, admittedly, but Clear Heart Full Eyes is crammed with that same-old otherworldly storytelling his reputation’s built on. Finn’s album-length character explorations are quirky and poetic, dabbling in playful country tinges, yet for all the whimsical interludes, the end result is threadbare, and too average to win over the uninitiated.
*** James Hendicott Download: No Future
Have Some Faith In Magic (Rock Action)
Wedged nicely between an album-long, subtly-woven synth wave and all-out, wrought energy, Glasgow foursome Errors strike a fine balance in their third effort. Have Some Faith In Magic is a complex concoction, riddled with slowly morphing electro-epics like ‘Earthscore’ and ‘Blank Media’ yet holding fast to the occasional angular, beat-tailored moment. It’s that spattering of fun, electro-pop glitz that pushes this far beyond an exercise in technical brilliance, adding an essential boisterousness and dancability to the established lush, ambient blend. Comfortably their best yet.
**** James Hendicott Download: Pleasure Palaces