January Album Review with the Decemberists, Night Terrors of 1927 and Enter Shikari

Not a whole lot of big albums out in January, but a couple of interesting releases for us to consider.

Night Terrors of 1927 is a new band but with experienced members. Blake Sennett was lead guitarist and half of the songwriting team for the superb indie cult favourites Rilo Kiley, whilst Jarrod Gorbel was singer for alt-indie band The Honorary Title (not one I know).

First track on debut album Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Dust and Bones is a big, anthemic song with “woh oh wohs” and a memorable catchy chorus. The vibe across the eleven tracks is synth based electro-pop, but with big production, multi-tracked vocals and generally strong tunes throughout. There are echoes of 1980s British electro bands, of Future Islands (last year’s US breakthrough act in this genre), The Killers, and Tegan and Sara, who guest on the lovely mid-paced ballad When You Were Mine. That sounds like an outtake from the girls’ 2013 brilliant Heartthrob album, as well as reminding me of the Human League! On another anthem , Always Take You Back, (see video), Gorbel does his best Bono (Joshua Tree period) impersonation – and makes it work. The lyrics are darker than you might expect from the music and all in all it is a very enjoyable listen without being too lightweight. 8/10

Your biggest chance of being trampled to death at Reading Festival is to get in the way of the Enter Shikari fans as they migrate to whatever stage their idols are playing on. The music is “post hardcore”, combining “screamo” punk-metal, with electronics and serious danceability. Back to Reading. Average age of fan – 18. Average state of fans – VERY over-excited. Favourite activity – the biggest Circle Pits you’ll see in the festival. Yet after 11 years and three albums building this strong fanbase, particularly for live gigs, the band have not broken through to mainstream consciousness. New album The Mindsweep, sounds like an attempt to broaden their fan base a little at least. There is a rather lovely slow piano ballad (Dear Future Historians) in amongst the carnage, and even the tracks that have some screaming are more varied then previously, whilst retaining the manic energy levels. It’s still not one for easy listening, the political (and sometimes pretentious) lyrics are still largely unintelligible, but a definite progression for the band. 7/10

The King is Dead from The Decemberists was one of my two favourite album of 2011, and has aged well; one of the best albums of the millennium to date, in my opinion. It was also a big commercial success for them, hitting the top of the US Album charts to everyone’s surprise. The mix of acoustic folk with REM-type indie rock was easy on the ear with memorable tunes but with enough depth to keep you coming back. New album What A Beautiful World, What A Terrible World is not a huge departure, but the folk influence is less obvious, and it is less REM-like as well. Instead there is more straight ahead indie pop, some tracks such as the lovely Lake Song have a sophisticated classic AOR sound, whilst others have touches of Moondance period Van Morrison. Generally, there is more brass, piano, strings, and less mandolin, you might say.

There is one welcome added ingredient however – a bit of humour. Opening track “The Singer Addresses His Audience” is a song about the relationship between band and fans that manages to be quite touching and funny too. My favourite lyric of the year so far is this: “we are aware, that you cut your hair, in the style that our drummer wore in the video”.

Is it as good as their last release? I’m not convinced, but it needs a few more listens. It is instantly enjoyable, I love Colin Meloy’s voice, it does have strong melodies again, and I think it will be a grower. So worth a more than acceptable 8.5/10 for now.

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