April Album Review – Big Moon, Tall Ships, Blaenavon and Amber Run

This month, four English bands with four really good albums.

The Big Moon are four young Londoners who form the most exciting “girl group” we’ve heard in quite a while. Their debut Love In The Fourth Dimension is confident, clever and smart, with both energy and a rare sense of humour.  Snappy pop-punk songs (they claim Weezer as an influence), with strong guitar work but also the occasional background classic girl-group “woo-hoo” harmony, it is highly enjoyable.

The pace varies with slower numbers such as Formidable working just as well as the more raucous numbers, and the lyrics are a real bonus – witty and genuinely funny in places. “Finally you’re here with me and will you stay the night? I’d like to let you stay the day but my schedule’s very tight” is a line I wish I’d written.  Here is the video for the excellent Cupid, also an example of how to make a really memorable video without spending a fortune – brave girls! (It starts slow but stick with it…)   9/10

 

Whilst The Big Moon sound like they know exactly who they are and what they want to be, the debut from Blaenavon, That’s Your Lot indicates less confidence. That’s not to say it isn’t good, very good in places, but you get the sense that they have not yet really settled on exactly what the Blaenavon sound should be. That’s not surprising, they are pretty young (21-ish now) – they’re from near us, in north Hampshire, and started out as a school band at age 14 or so.

They are excellent musicians, and some songs here are very indie in style, think Bombay Bicycle Club or Wild Beasts, melodic, and interesting rhythmically. But when we saw them live, we had them more in the Smashing Pumpkins / Nirvana grunge genre, and a few tracks here like the 8-minute Swans fit that description – the longer tracks get both looser and heavier than the shorter poppier stuff.  Now we like variation but suspect they might need to be more coherent on album number 2. And a bit tighter - it’s a long album at 55 minutes and someone should have told them to cut a couple of the less memorable tracks – and why put your best song as track 10? Prague ’99, which builds beautifully and is really memorable, should have led off as track one. For all that, and we offer the criticism in a constructive spirit, this has some great songs and shows real promise. 7.5/10

 

Impressions is the second album from Tall Ships, originally from Falmouth in the far south-west of England, but comes five years after their debut. In summary, we love this. There are elements of Sigur Ros in the stately pace and atmosphere of some tracks, and the very effective use of quiet / loud, slow / fast contrasts (touches of Mogwai maybe as well?)  While the band probably see themselves as more leftfield than these bands, (hip website Drowned in Sound loves this album), we might also make comparisons on some tracks with the soaring choruses and strong tunes of bands like Coldplay and Dry The River.  It is genuinely emotional at times too, with Sea of Blood all about a lost friend, but the overall feel is positive and upbeat. I don’t know why we haven’t come across this band previously, but  we’re glad we found this.  Still growing on us at  8.5/10

(Editor's Note - I only realized last night that I reviewed this next album last month as well! Sorry! We'll keep this here anyway but apologies for any confusion - we give it half a point more this month, suggesting it has grown on me...)

Amber Run caused another “why don’t we know this lot” exclamation in the Smith household when their second album, “For A Moment I Was Lost” hit the CD player.  Released in February but only getting our attention this month, the Nottingham band has produced a very impressive collection of songs.

If you took a triangle with Coldplay and Keane at one apex, Muse at another, and early Radiohead at the third, Amber Run would fit neatly in the middle of the shape.  Some tracks rock pretty convincingly, others are tuneful, adult, commercial pop-rock, and at times we get a little stranger (but still Bends  Radiohead-like, not Kid A weirdness). Keyboards are at least as important as guitars, and Joe Keogh can do a great falsetto – Nothing But Thieves would be another relatively recent band we might compare here.  Bands like this are resolutely unfashionable at the moment – you couldn’t see Coldplay breaking through if they were a new band in 2017 – but hopefully Amber Run can build a fanbase through live work (they are a headliner at the Dot-to-Dot event in Manchester, Nottingham and Bristol shortly), because their music deserves to be heard and enjoyed widely.  8.5/10

First Voice

  1. Alex Kleiner:

    Thanks again for the post Peter, as usual. I always give bands a read / listen on Spotify after they show up in Spend Matters. Check out Aussie Indie band Methyl Ethel – I think you would really like them given your preferences. Two strong albums – I like ‘Twilight Driving’ in particular. ‘Ubu’ is different in a good way. AFK3

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