Album Review for February with Elbow, Hippo Campus, Vant, Deaf Havana and Amber Run

Some very good albums this month – as you will see from our consistent scoring, none of them quite going to be Album of the Year come December, but all very good indeed.

Elbow – Little Fictions

Why does the usually lugubrious Guy Garvey of Elbow sound so content, almost cheerful on Little Fictions, the new album? As well as being the “most-loved man in rock”, a radio star, a brilliant and critically acclaimed song-writer who can sell out the biggest venues, he is recently married to the clever, talented and beautiful Rachael Sterling, who is now pregnant. So all is well, we guess, in Garvey’s head and this comes out in perhaps the most upbeat and cheerful of the band’s seven albums to date. It is another strong collection of interesting but tuneful songs, and “Magnificent” will join “One Day Like This” as a future classic for weddings and sports events, while All Disco has a touch of Richard Hawley about it and is just lovely. The band’s drummer left last year so some tracks like Gentle Storm use very obvious electronic percussion tracks – a little irritating at times, I thought, but that is a small negative in another fine album. 8/10


Hippo Campus – Landmark

I so much wanted this to be great. Hippo Campus are a young band from Minnesota that we saw at Reading Festival two years ago and loved. Saw them again in London recently, still great. So I approached debut album Landmark with some trepidation. Would it live up to my expectations? Well … almost. They play bouncy indie-pop at times but with deeper and more thoughtful songs mixed in like the emotional ballad Monsoon. There is an “afro-beat”, early Vampire Weekend sound on some tracks, and it is all enjoyable but not lightweight music. However, I can’t help thinking that as this is their first “real” album, they should have included at least two tracks that were on the previous "EPs" they issued – actually two of those were put together into an album which I bought at their gig. But South and Suicide Saturday are simply stronger songs than anything on Landmark, even Way It Goes,  and should have been included here, we’d suggest. Anyway, a very promising and enjoyable debut nonetheless. 8/10


Vant – Dumb Blood

Mattie Vant comes from Seaham, in County Durham, where we would go for a walk along the beach many Sundays when I was a child. It was also home to one of the largest underwater coal mines in the world in its day too, and frankly was both beautiful and a bit of a dump in places. I’m not sure that matters but Vant, his band, with Dumb Blood have produced an unexpectedly excellent album that any rock fan will enjoy. There is anger and socio-political comments in the lyrics, accompanied by tough but commercial rock that sits somewhere in the area defined by Catfish / Foo Fighters /  Bring Me The Horizon.  Some tracks (like the one below) are overtly commercial, others somewhat more ragged, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you like this genre as much as we do, you’ll love this. 8.5/10


Amber Run – For A Moment, I Was Lost

Don’t know why we haven’t come across Amber Run before, but For A Moment, I Was Lost, their second album, should make the band much better known. Much of it is firmly in the Coldplay / Keane genre of tuneful, atmospheric, adult and tasteful rock. Lead singer Joe Keogh has a fine voice with an impressive falsetto, and the song writing is very polished and effective. But it never sinks into blandness and at times it branches out into something more interesting like Haze with its multi-tracked vocoders that bring Bon Iver to mind. We suspect a high proportion of our readers will really like this! 8/10


Deaf Havana - All These Countless Nights

Let’s finish with some more RAWCKK! Deaf Havana started out as a post-hardcore screamo band, but have matured now (All These Countless Nights is album number four) into one of the best exponents of “heavy” but radio-friendly and tuneful rock that could probably get them appearances at both Download and the V Festival. And virtually every track here sounds ready for the biggest stadiums, which is where they will surely be soon. Not the most challenging sound perhaps, but surprisingly sophisticated in places and very well executed. 7.5/10



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