15/10/3018: You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough – Estrons

I’m in a good position. The first experience I’ve had listening to Estrons was their debut album. You’d like to think they are proud of the overall style and the tracks they have collated – and they should be, it gives a marvellous first impression.

‘Killing Your Love’ cranks up the distortion on the guitar and shows the occasional feedback swell, whilst layering vocal parts smothered in delay. All leading up to the massive sound at 2min15secs – the ultimate climax of the track. It’s hard to resist pulling out the air-guitar concentration face and having a little head bang. I can imagine the pits go mad when this song is played live.

As the album goes on it dips out of the thrashy and into the catchy. ‘Make a Man’ has a memorable chorus with a kick. Sometimes the non-explicit version of a track can be equally as good, but the last chorus in this instance just highlights how fucking good it can be when a band just go off on one. It shows some similarities to the style of Dream Wife, which I am not complaining about, but Estrons definitely have their own notable USP.

Taken aback by lead vocalist Tali Källström‘s performance on this album, I’m unsure if there is anyone else similar. There’s hints of 70’s rock star, almost borderline Axl Rose especially heard in ‘Body’, but also we are sometimes treated to Joplin-esque rasp. Källström delivers strong powerful notes, notably in ‘Cameras’, which would not be out of place on a metal album.

The overall tone and taste of tracks on this album are cohesive and interesting. It’s a catchy album on the heavier side of life – and I’m always game for female lead vocalists to pack some punch.

 

01/10/2018: REDUXER – alt-J

In the brother album of the 2017 ‘RELAXER’, alt-J recruit the likes of Pusha T, Goldlink and Little Simz to expand their repertoire into the world of Hip-Hop. There’s always been strong Hip-Hop influences in alt-J’s work but now they’ve have fully embraced it and have created a gritty rival of ‘RELAXER’ that packs a whole lot more of a punch.

We are treated to two different versions of ‘3WW’, ‘In Cold Blood’ and ‘Hit me Like that snare’ – this emphasises the imagination and production skill alt-J possess. They can seamlessly transform a track into something completely different – this is apparent for the whole album really. In one version of ‘3WW’ we are treated by the talent of Pusha T: his performance and the arrangement of the track give it a similar energy to as if it were a live set. The overdriven guitar and vocal parts give the track a desirable bite – one of which stands out within the album. The heavily produced vocal hook supplied by alt-J is very recognisable -consisting of a similar vocal style to one presented in ‘Interlude I’ and ‘Fitzpleasure’ from alt-J’s debut. Even though it’s so recognisable it fits seamlessly into it’s new Hip-Hop surroundings, only being enhanced by Pusha T. It sounds as if this track could have been originally written for this re-work.

Despite going in a new route alt-J have maintained some core aspects: they continue to use unusual vocal phrasing with quirky lyrics. Engulfed by ambient percussion: a perfect homage to the obscure rhythms and sounds alt-J use but in parallel with strong and heavy Hip-Hop snares and kicks.

This album gives a new audience a chance to experience the wonderful world of Hip-Hop. Fans of alt-J will give the album a listen regardless of genre – even more so if they are familiar with the content of ‘RELAXER’. Any album that entices you into a new genre, one you may not necessarily listen to, is on for a winner.

 

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24/09/2018: Black Honey – Black Honey

This debut opens with the single ‘I only hurt the ones I love’ – and the intro performs every duty an intro to a debut album should perform. It builds energy, it gives a sneak peak of the track in little snippets and provides a huge guitar tone that Black Honey fans are more than use to.

This album feels like its split in half – even some of the tracks seem to be split. One half is Black Honey presenting sexy songs with interesting lyrics with a clear rock undertone – sounding like a progression from the days of their hits ‘Corrine’ and ‘Madonna’. But the other half sounds like a whole different band – a band using thicker production orientated by synth-based sounds rather than a classic rock band setup and heavier production on the vocals meaning the kooky vocal of Izzy B Phillips can’t be as clearly recognised.

This other side of Black Honey can be clearly seen in the track ‘Midnight’ where sawtooth synth sounds are flying all over with a heavily produced vocal singing repetitive vocal patterns. Artistic autotune and excessive reverb is also prominent in ‘Bad Friends’ which sounds like it could break into an Eminem verse at any given moment.

‘Dig’ is the standout track on this record. But maybe this is just because I’m thirsty to hold onto their old style as a band. Even though this track has one of the thinnest textures, and no mad synth parts, I think it sounds the most complete and most thought out. ‘Hello Today’ is another competitor – but once again this is old school Black Honey, but this time with production laced thick with reverb.

This record seems to be a watered down rock album with synths thrown in all over the show. It’s very far from a bad album, but maybe not the album I was fully expecting.

03/09/2018: A Better Life – Spring King

‘A Better Life’ is ripping at the seams with snare-heavy drum grooves, grungy guitars and an array of different vocal layers. Spring King are back with their follow up album to ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ bringing in heavier sounds and heavier themes.

‘Animal’ gives us the classic Spring King crunchy vocal and an aggressive opening guitar riff which would be no stranger at a Spring King gig. It was no wonder this was the first single released from the album – it’s clearly a strong and valuable choice.

‘Let’s Drink’ is a favourite on the album. It’s a perfect mix between Circa Waves and The Big Moon with Britpop undertones but still gives the salt and pepper splashes of the Spring King we know and love. It celebrates the introvertism of people and shows even if a person wants to be by themselves they can still be having fun.

The album is rounded of by ‘Thunder’ – this is a Spring King ballad. Vocalist Tarek Musa presents his signature tone in a slightly calmer environment which is well welcomed. A strange choice to end a Spring King album, purely because they’re live shows always end with such a punch. But it sounds like they are continuing to broaden their sound and maybe this is a hint into the next album. It’s a cohesive album in a well put together order, although it is unsure if the intro (Static) and interlude (Lightning) are beneficial, it seems they could have used that time in the album more wisely.

Spring King have moved on in this album. They’ve evolved in production – more succinct layers and classier vocals, they’ve evolved in writing – slower, less frantic songs you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy in comparison to the fast non-stop train that was their debut. They’ve become more daring in their lyrics and it feels like they are writing about the issues they want to be writing about rather than just random scribbles they’ve noted down on a piece of paper.

 

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25/06/2018: Bad Contestant – Matt Maltese

Throwback to 16-year-old me, sat waiting nervously for my dad to take me to go play my first ever gig. It was a day festival in Reading, and having already forgotten to bring a kick pedal, I was already out of my depth. And I was about to become starstruck: Matt Maltese was playing the set after me. I had already fallen in love with his velvety voice after discovering his Burberry Acoustic debut, when he was just 16, with his track ‘Good Old Days’. Now fast forward, it’s the 8th of June 2018, and a parcel has arrived at the door. It’s the debut album that 16-year-old me had been longing for.

Matt Maltese has mastered the art of creating a record which seamlessly wanders from jazz-infused head bops such as ‘Greatest Comedian’ to dark all-encompassing ballads like ‘As the World Caves In’. It shows bravery in its diversity but Matt Maltese has successfully planted his own specific scent on each track. Matt Maltese is the king of using imagery to get across his thoughts – the title track shows his self-depricating thoughts of ‘I’m a dead end, a budget hotel‘ – whilst all his lyrics are enveloped in dark humour which tops this album off.

The instrumentation soars from massive house band vibes, backing singers and all, to more delicate piano numbers such as ‘Less and Less’. Proper old school Matt Maltese.

This album could perfectly soundtrack two high school sweethearts having their last dance at their last ever high school prom. Dance on kids.

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01/05/2018: Cool Like You (Deluxe) – Blossoms

So Blossoms’ time has come – the long anticipated second album. The time has to see if Blossoms’ are a long-standing band or just a fluke summer hit.

The record rips open with a soaring synth line which anyone would find hard not to feel elated by. ‘There’s a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’ is a stand out track, so was a wise choice making it the opener. This could be released as a single and I think it would do spectacularly: it’s catchy, well-arranged and got substantial style to it. The first glimpse we got of this second album ‘I Can’t Stand It’ is up next. We are once again absorbed in the familiar Blossoms mixture of warm synths and groovy rhythms paired with a solid indie beat. Title track ‘Cool Like You’ has a production feel similar to Peace in the verses and intro but by the chorus we are definitely back in Blossoms land. Blossoms land is a great place to be, don’t get me wrong. The rest of the record has a mix of synth lines following the vocal line presented to us by front man Tom Ogden – a classic characteristic of Blossoms. But Ogden is exploring his falsetto range in ‘Unfaithful’ chorus which is hugely welcomed. ‘Stranger Still’ gives us the more melancholy track on the record (especially in the acoustic deluxe version) and ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ shows weird similarities to a particular Rolling Stones track.

Blossoms have got bigger – this album shows growth from the band in comparison to their first album. But also they’ve managed to maintain a style which is recognisable to them. The fact they’ve managed to achieve a recognisable style already is impressive alone. But is that all they’ve got in them?

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23/04/2018: Ex-Directory – Spector

This collection of tracks oozes out waves of nostalgia. I’m not sure how they’ve quite done it – the overall sound of a Spector track is so identifiable that even if you’ve never heard the track before it feels like you are being transported back in time to a Year 9 sports day where you’re having a water fight with your soon-to-be best friend.

‘Untitled in D’ beckons us into this EP very nicely. The opening verse exhibits a complimentary duo of front man Fred Macpherson’s soothing voice and a carefully concocted guitar pattern that is both beautifully intricate and also one that is memorable enough you can imagine crowds singing it back to them. By the time the chorus hits we are into full Spector swing: the high pitched screeching guitar riffs building layers underneath the vintage vocal melody which contains repeated motifs – classic Spector. The 80’s synth sounds in ‘Fine Not Fine’ is reminiscent of a slightly melancholy Madonna track. It’s also slightly melancholy in theme as well – probing and questioning male mental health. It doesn’t give the answer to solving any mental health issues, but vocalises in a simplistic way what many people are probably feeling. Something which can be reassuring to hear.

It’s clear to hear the intention of providing a more ‘real’ sound in comparison to their older work. This can be heard in ‘Local International’ which is produced similarly to how I imagine they would play it live as a 5-piece band – rather than elaborate atmospheric production. I think this gives it more energy and proves that this band can actually play and write just down to earth good music, rather than relying on edgy production techniques.

The lyrics which stuck with me from ‘Wild Guess’ was ‘Licking the side of a cigarette before it’s lit, The realest hearts take the hardest hits’. Just goes to show how you can make a beautiful lyric out of a fairly mundane task, probably because it sends you flying back to somewhere. ‘Don’t ask me who I’m trying to impress’ probably sums up this entire EP, you can hear that this is just the music that Spector wanted to make and didn’t really care about if it sounded similar or different to their older work. It just became what it wanted to be.

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16/04/18: isaac gracie – Isaac Gracie

23-year old, London born Isaac Gracie is breaking Wanda’s Tracks records by being the first artist to appear on an Album of the Week for the second time. He is entirely worthy.

I could sit here all day and attempt to spout out the words to describe the sincerity and artistry within Isaac Gracie’s lyrics. However, the only way to fully comprehend it is to take this album and let it lock out the rest of the world. Having a poet for a mother has clearly rubbed off on Gracie, he really has a knack for creating captivating verse.

There’s elements of hurt, anger, hope and love soaring throughout this collection of songs. All each as convincing as each other.

Hurt: ‘reverie’ shows a heartbroken man, simply wishing for the comfort of his loved one – ‘I could tell you that I’m doing great, but darling I’m just not okay‘.

Anger: We’ve seen the evolution of Issac Gracie, from bedroom-recorded grungey demo’s from first EP ‘Songs From My Bedroom’ to a roaring lion pouncing into the current music scene. In ‘the death of you & i’ around the two and a half minutes mark finally shows the Isaac we’ve all been waiting for: he lets it all loose.

Hope: ‘last words’ is a track that’s been on the radar for a while now, but with every listen it gets more intriguing. The last verse show’s the question of realisation – ‘I thought I was just having fun, but no I was just looking for the one, always looking for you‘. The hope that maybe, it might just work out.

Love: There’s an overwhelming feeling of longing in this album – it’s all about love, every aspect of it. Thank god someone broke his heart so we could hear this music.

The lack of capital letters within the album text shows that it’s all about the words rather than how they are written. If there’s a time this week you need to get away from it all, just take 5:40mins and listen to the Mahogany live session of ‘reverie’. It will be worth it.

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09/04/2018: On Hold – Fenne Lily

On the day that Wanda’s Tracks’ favourite, Bad Sounds, are Annie Mac’s hottest record in the world, it is time for the long overdue Album of the Week. Having been absent for a few weeks we’ve missed some brand new corkers: The Vaccines, Tom Misch and even Demob Happy. However this week we’re focussing on an album consumed by beautiful acoustic guitar and serene vocals, brought to us by Bristol born Fenne Lily.

Title track ‘On Hold’ gives us a charming vocal line paired with a slightly grungey sounding guitar. It’s interesting – it feels like this could be a track you’d belt out whilst driving along with your friends, but simultaneously it is gracefully melancholic.

It’s clear to hear some artist influences in Fenne Lily’s work – yet she has successfully crafted her own unique sound. ‘Tip to Toe’ and ‘More than You Know’ both have elements of early days Lucy Rose or Daughter – simple acoustic guitar accompaniment with lullaby vocals which fleet up to high delicate falsetto notes. Additionally ‘Brother’ has moments where the vocal melody and style is similar to that of The Staves. The stronger, more defiant approach to ‘Three Oh Nine’ is something I wish for more on this album. The first vocal lines have a presence about them – a strong woman with an elegantly gentle voice. This tracks also delves into more expressive production, something which also appears in ‘The Hand You Deal’. I love the simplicity of the production on this album, the songwriting speaks for itself. However I am intrigued to see what music could be created with Fenne Lily’s memorable vocals with thicker, rockier textures.

 

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19/03/2018: The Magic Gang (Deluxe) – The Magic Gang

There was only one possible album we could celebrate this week: romantic indie-pop gold The Magic Gang. If you’ve previously been a fan of The Magic Gang then you will already love and appreciate a chunk of songs from this refreshing debut – but if you’ve never heard of them before, then you are in for double the treat.

Classic’s such as ‘All This Way’, ‘Jasmine’ and ‘How Can I Compete’ have been re-vamped and refurnished to give cleaner guitar chords, tighter bass riffs and that extra something in the drums. But we are treated to previously unheard song’s such a ‘Slippin” – graced with comforting production and notable harmonies this has the warm enjoyment presented in every Magic Gang track.

There are some stand out moments on this album for sure. Firstly, the piano introduction to ‘Take Care’. It sounds as if it’s about to lead us into the newest Drake album but it evolves into a glossy creation. One of which is thickened by fuzzy guitar layers and interlaced with the notorious Magic Gang harmonies showcasing the lead vocals of bassist Gus Taylor. Something we have not heard before, but we definitely like. A second high on this album is sing-a-long corker ‘Getting Along’. The energy and arrangement just gets you overflowing with excitement. The slap of vocals in the chorus hints at the performance The Magic Gang boys can give, they’ve got some punch. I would be sprinting into the pits if watching this live. If any track could present to you the essence of The Magic Gang in 40 seconds it’s this one.

Although this album has an uplifting and exhilarating outer layer it’s clear these boys have been through some heartbreak. The simple honesty and relatability of the lyrics adds another importance to this album. It’s another reason to belt these songs at the top of your lungs – because chances are, you sympathise with what you’re shouting.

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