Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Album reviews - La Roux and Temper Trap

La Roux
La Roux
THIS IS an album I really didn’t want to like; is that highly unprofessional to say?
Billed from the first of this year as one of umpteen female-led electro-pop outfits to watch by music magazines (exclusively British-based publications) my hackles were raised when I heard about La Roux, along with Florence and the Machine, Little Boots etc.
However, even a mere half-listen to this album will induce a disco-high, foot-tapping, enjoyable-against-better-judgement, aural experience.
La Roux, the electropop, synth duo of Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid have pulled off that most impressive of feats, namely living up to the hype.
Where Jackson is the singer/synth-playing La Roux persona, Langmaid is the shadowy co-writer and producer, willing to leave Jackson in the limelight. But Jackson is no window dressing, there is real talent and spikiness in her voice and performance, while the former Faithless contributor Langmaid has clearly done much to encourage her out of her shell.
The interesting thing is not just that they have co-written most of the offerings on this 12-track debut - but that Jackson comes from a folk background, and that comes through in the songs, despite being twisted inside out with synthesizers and drum machines.
First single Quicksand is not as dancy as expected, a synth-pop sound in evolution and an interesting contrast with In For The Kill, the second single from the album, Jackson allowing her personality to filter through.
The effortlessly cool and unflinchingly dark Tigerlily is an eye-opener, right down to the clearly Thriller-inspired spooky voiceover.
Things hot up on the bouncy disco-beat of Bulletproof, the duo’s first UK number one, “I’ve been there done that, messed around / I’m having fun don’t put me down / I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet”, declares Jackson boldly.
The best thing about this is that the album is so much more than the sum of its singles; the gentle, relaxed beat of Cover My Eyes is stuffed with emotion; the acerbic I’m Not Your Toy is a smash waiting to happen, while Armour Love will seduce you with its angular rhythms.
A thrilling debut, worth the hype.
Temper Trap
(Infectious Records)

THIS Australian four-piece have literally mined every known influence under the sun and produced an album suffused with bits from here and there; U2/Edge jangly guitars, Bloc Party’s angular drumming, the Killers’ thumping bass-lines, Coldplay harmonies, Stars/Broken Social Scene vocals, Sufjan-strings - the list could go on. Do they succeed?

Yes, in a word.

Hailing from the musical hotspot of Melbourne - there is literally a bar around every corner groaning with any manner of new, up and coming bands - this indie quartet have recently decamped to London and it is hard to see them remaining relatively unknown for long.

The plodding beat of opening track ‘Love Lost’ echoes with these influences and more, finding peaks and troughs, rising and falling along with Dougie Mandagi’s (what a great name) vocals.

‘Rest’ is stuffed with pulsating rhythms and atmospheric guitars, no standard run of the mill indie music here. The Unforgettable Fire-esque Sweet Dispositions impresses, “Don’t stop till you surrender”, sings Mandagi and we are tempted to agree.

The epic ‘Soldier On’ is the centre-piece of this album, a whiff of Empire of the Sun about it despite its acoustic nature, building to a booming conclusion.

‘Resurrection’ exhibits the confidence this band has in spades; what could be a bad Scissor Sisters-style disaster instead veers toward a bouncy, Zeppelin influenced - check out the falsetto vocals on this - breakout, all jangly-spacey guitars and thumping drums.

Oh yes, I’ll have some more of this please.


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