GWAR – Battle Maximus (Metal Blade Records; 2013)
The ‘Scumdogs of the Universe’ have returned to grace us “disgusting earthlings” with their thirteenth studio album Battle Maximus. Gwar has made a name for themselves with their sci-fi themed costumes, tongue-in-cheek backstory and elaborate displays of staged violence over the past 30 years. With such visual stimuli, it is easy to forget that Gwar is a musical act. Thankfully, Gwar themselves have not forgotten this with their newest record.
However, fans of tracks like “Sick of You” should be advised; this is not the Gwar you are used to. Some will notice that Battle Maximus is quite different from its predecessors, as it focuses more on tight guitar work and heavy riffs. Despite the stylistic differences, Gwar manages to show that they have not lost their odd sense of disturbing humour. The eccentric band has been known to release dark and comical albums, and this one is no different.
Trial Track: “Triumph of The Pig Children”
Tom Odell – Long Way Down (Columbia; 2013)
Winner of BBC’s Sound of 2013 Poll and Critics Choice Award at the BRIT Awards, Odell created quite a buzz before his debut album, Long Way Down, was even released. Despite the panned 0/10 review from NME, the 22-year old still appears to be on an upward trajectory.
Songwriting since the age of 13, Odell’s lyrics revolve around themes of love and loss, or rather his “inability to hold a relationship with someone for more than six months.” Don’t expect anything revolutionary from this debut. The album lacks variety and originality, serving up sensitivity and angst all within the established template of piano-pop.
Long Way Down is ultimately a showcase of Odell’s potential as a musician. Though vulnerable and immature, he boasts some impressive vocal performances and a promise that the hype may be well-deserved.
Trail Track: “Storms”
Drake – Nothing Was The Same (Cash Money Records; 2013)
From rookie to seasoned sophomore to a swaggering, confident third effort, Nothing Was The Same features a Drake who has firmly planted his foot near the top of the rap game.
The album features plenty of bragging from the rapper, but it wouldn’t be a Drake album without him singing. In fact, some of the best songs off the album are the soft, R&B ones as they balance out the album.
What’s outstanding about NWTS is that Drake doesn’t have to rely on its features to be successful; most of Drake’s songs could easily survive just being “Drake featuring Drake”. Features from Jhene Aiko, Sampha, and the duo of Majid Jordan shine because they are simply complementary.
When Kanye West announced at Drake’s OVO fest that his Watch The Throne album with Jay Z was made in fear of Drake’s rise in power, Drake suddenly had a backing that rap fans had to respect. Drake can boast, croon, woo, and do whatever he pleases with Nothing Was The Same, he’s earned it.
Trial Track: “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe (Virgin Records; 2013)
We could all use one more Scottish act. Enter CHVRCHES (pronounced Churches, but stylized in a way that makes them easier to find on Google), who have just released their debut album The Bones of What You Believe.
The electro-pop group, as you would expect, is heavy on synthesizers, and while they aren’t bending over backwards to combine anything drastic with their electronic sound, their album features plenty of addictive beats and radio-friendly material. Most of the songs are able to pull you in from the opening beats, which would please most major labels.
Trial Track: “Lies”