Remember last year, when Kele Okereke, Bloc Partyâs lead singer, thought he was kicked out of the band in apropos of nothing but wild speculation? The weirdest part of that whole event is how the band then felt divided into Kele versus the rest of the band, making the inner-workings of Bloc Party seem perpetually on edge. After 2008âs Intimacy, Kele took time to explore a solo career, leaving his band to wonder when they might start making music again. The awkwardness of their relationship seems to seep into their new material, causing the record to feel less cohesive. Four appears to be Bloc Partyâs attempt to combine everything theyâve been praised for in the past to create one, ultra-awesome mega-record. However, the result feels more like each band member got to voice their ideas for the record and none of them were turned down.
The album is perhaps their weakest to date simply because they offer nothing new for their listeners. âOctopusâ could have easily fit onto Intimacy because of itâs glitchy, rambunctious nature. Keleâs extra-soft delivery on âThe Healingâ recalls Silent Alarm.Â Calling attention to the likeness of Four to other Bloc Party releases may be viewed as a weak jab to an otherwise inherent part of bandâs releasing new music but for a band like Bloc Party, who take enormous risks in each release to adopt a specific sound, this release is uncharacteristically unbalanced.
The only recurring theme comes in snippets of Bloc Party in the studio, which makes the album feel more like an unfinished product than a musical stream of consciousness. Oddly, the album takes a turn into sludgy, Top 40 jock-rock with âKettlingâ where poor Kele can barely make his presence known amongst the sheer, thunderous wall of instrumentation. âColiseumâ has a slight country drawl before slipping back into an uninteresting mash of grungy, spectacularly predictable chord progressions. By âThe Healing,â a slowed-down, echoey track where Kele shows the true diversity of his voice, Bloc Party donât seem totally aware of just how many genres theyâve left in their wake.
For a little less than half the time, the album sounds like the Bloc Party of yore, clinging tightly to Keleâs brazen delivery and dance-rock ethos. Inoffensive tracks like âTeam Aâ and âV.A.L.I.S.â will surely appease Bloc Party fans of every degree simply because they contain these elements. âReal Talkâ also falls along those lines calling attention to sounds that have helped Bloc Party solidify themselves as indie rock staples. Any fans interested in hearing the bandâs growth since Intimacy will most likely be disappointed since Four shows a band at odds and restlessly unfocused. By naming this record Four, Bloc Party could be calling attention to it being their fourth record, the number of years between this and their last release, how many band members they have, or just because theyâre uninterested in their music entirely.
Bloc Party’s fourth album Four has seen the band shed some of the more experimental (for them) electronic signals they were put out on their last album Intimacy and instead have gone for a harder, more in-your-face approach that’s been winning fans back since they dropped “Octopus” and “Day Four”.
After their last album Intimacy was met with only a scant amount of praise, there were a lot of people who were skeptical going into this new album and whether Bloc Party could rekindle their flame of old.
After their first track “Octopus” dropped, however, the excitement around the track was huge. New fans were made, old fans were back in the game, and die-hard fans were overjoyed. Today they gave us “Day Four”, the second new track from their upcoming new album Four, and the first taste of a slower, more balladic sound from the band.
Four will be released on August 21st via Frenchkiss and below you can listen to and buy “Day Four”.
A quick update on the music news for the week before I get started: The Righteous Brothers’ cover of “Unchained Melody” is on jukeboxes everywhere; anticipation for The Beatles’ up-coming album “Help!” is reaching fever pitch; and The Ronettes’ latest, “Is This What I Get For Loving You?”, has flopped, rather embarrassingly. That’s right: it’s 1965.
Relax, you’ve not really gone back in time. But there are moments on El Paso-fivesome The Royalty’s self-titled debut when you could be forgiven for thinking that you have. As they openly admit, there’s more than a touch of ’60s pop influence. Brass stabs, doo-wop backing vocals, and some really, really satisfying drum fills all add up to one fat, old-school Wall of Sound. That’s fine by me: I love Phil Spector - not necessarily his life choices, but at least his production techniques.
The four gentleman members - Jesus, Dan, Will and Joel - have been playing together in various projects since they were in their tweens, but the real lethal weapon in the arsenal is their most recent addition, singer Nicole. She’s gifted with a voice that might hit sweet highs at times, but make no mistake: it could knock divots out of concrete. At times there’s a hint of Rainer Maria’s Caithlin de Marrais, and you know what? I like Rainer Maria; Pitchfork be damned.
There have been a few stabs at recreating the girl-group soul magic (in the “Supremes” rather than “B*Witched” sense) in recent years, most notably The Pipettes. But where The Pipettes feel like a lab experiment that didn’t quite work out (+5 points for science gag), The Royalty feel much more natural. There’s no sense that they’re deliberately trying to mimic a sound; just that they like to make music, and the music they like happens to include a big whack of Phil Spector.
This avoidance of pastiche allows them to bring in more contemporary influences, such as Pixies (okay, slightly more contemporary influences). They also look to the current glut of surf-gazers: Best Coast, Surfer Blood and the like. Overall, though, their sound is very much their own. “Every Little Bit” opens with a big all-members-in yell-fest worthy of Arcade Fire; “Chinese Fire Drill” deploys angular guitars that any British indie rockers of the past ten years would be happy to call their own (I’m looking at you, Bloc Party).
When I asked them what inspired them to start a band, the reply was simply, “because we love music.” It’s a sentiment I couldn’t agree with more, and it shows through in the quality of the song-writing. I can’t imagine The Royalty are going to be anything like under the radar for much longer, with a new album due later this year and tours to follow. In the meantime, though, you can grab “The Royalty” free on a track-by-track basis, or $1 (very much worth it) for the whole shebang, over on Bandcamp. If you still need more convincing, check out the highlights below.
[Listen/Download] - Afrojack - “Replica” (Daft Punk Vs. Yelle Vs. Katy Perry Vs. Bloc Party Vs. Major Lazer)
This post is a “QuickPick”. QuickPicks are my attempt at getting all of the music that’s sent to me that I like (or just music I like but have no words for because it’s so awesome), out into the dubya dots.
Any time I get sent music that I like I “star” it in Gmail and then go back and listen to it a day later. If it’s still as good as it was a day before then it goes up on the site, but sometimes I get backlogged and can’t get through writing up pieces for each artist and stay on top of the game, so hopefully this will alleviate some of the logs of rear. You’ll still get the MP3s, pictures, links and fresh fruit that you’ve come to know and love around here, you’ll just get less of my inarticulate musings (win for you!).
Afrojack - “Replica” (Daft Punk Vs. Yelle Vs. Katy Perry Vs. Bloc Party Vs. Major Lazer)