Allah-Las – Worship the Sun (Innovative Leisure, 2014)
by Mia Pearson
Worship the Sun? More like worship this album. It seemed like an impossible task for Allah-Las to follow their incredible self-titled debut, but the band’s perfect sound seems to shine eternally. Worship the Sun has a nostalgic sound that burns back to ‘60s grime and glamour. The album elegantly weaves in Miles Michaud’s soft vocal harmonies, backed by waves of twangy guitars slowly reverberating, while the drums whisper warmly throughout.
It’s as if each song was filtered through circa 1960s thick gold jewels, dug-up on the beach and spit-polished by a pool-side model. Their tunes are so sharply unique that you’d think band members leave a trail of glitter and sand wherever they walk. The album begins by blaring “De Vida Voz” which travels fast into a listless chant. Further unravelling, “Had It All” could be a slowed-down Kink’s song, had The Kinks grown-up lounging on SoCal beaches. The album peaks midway with “Follow you Down”– a catchy tune with a cute pop chorus. The sun sets on the song, “Every Girl,” with a few ‘ya ya ya ya’s…
Trial Track: De Vida Voz
Sondre Lerche – Please (Mona Records; 2014)
by Paul Traunero
Please is not your typical break-up record. Conceived during the sudden divorce from his eight-year marriage, the Norwegian singer-songwriter expands on his signature corky indie-pop style, with a sonically-adventurous interpretation of his heartbreak.
Though never a stranger to eccentricities and catchy pop hooks, Lerche’s bold new direction often creates a feeling of distance from the listener. Not only are most of the tracks on his seventh studio album structurally disjointed and riddled with askew breakdowns of yelping guitar and strobing electronics, they also suffer from over-production, which often drown his voice in the chaotic soundscape throughout.
Perhaps, if Lerche had dealt with his heartache and loss, instead of evading his feelings in the studio, Please would have sounded more like a gratifying assertion, rather than a desperate plea.
Tria Track: “Sentimentalist”
John Southworth – Niagara – (Tin Angel Records, 2014)
by Lan Thockchom
John Southworth definitely has the capacity to surprise us with the wide range of musical styles on his latest album, Niagara. However, despite his efforts and talent for many music genres, the album itself lacks cohesion. It sounds more like a collection of music that aims to put you in a state of relaxation than like a complete work. Some tracks stand out, such as “Fiddler Crossed the Border” or “Folk Art Cathedral.” The album would have benefitted from sounding like those songs, with their folk/blues rock sound and Leonard Cohen-inspired female backing vocals. Southworth is well respected for his his ability to recreate the sounds of some legendary folk artists, but he still needs to work on making an LP sound complete. There were some tracks that sounded really genuine and dynamic, but there were some throw-off tracks such as “Ode to Morning” and the opening track, “Niagara Falls.” Those songs fell short because of their generic structure and uncreative lyrics.
Trial Track: “Fiddler Crossed the Border”
Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love (Atlantic; 2014)
by Paul Traunero
Already one of the fastest-selling albums of 2014 on the UK charts, with 109,000 copies sold in its first week, Caustic Love, is a masterpiece. The 27-year-old, Scottish-Italian singer-songwriter rose to fame alongside Amy Winehouse, yet never achieved her credibility—until now.
With his signature raspy vocals and retro-soul swagger, Nutini exudes confidence and maturity beyond his years with his third album. Though steeped in vintage sound and channelling R&B legends like Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Bill Withers, this album displays a tasteful level of restraint and contemporary pop sensibility that transcends its retro labeling.
Caustic Love is more than a collection of chart-topping singles: it is a coherent and innovative album for its genre, by an artist who has finally found his identity and the critical success he deserves.
Trail Track: “Iron Sky”