The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Album Reviews

27
Ten Kens 'For Posterity'
A review of the album 'For Posterity' by Ten Kens Review Snapshot: 'For Prosperity' is the second album from Toronto Four-piece Ten Kens. The album is a heady mix of psychedel...

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07
The Courtyard Hounds' debut album
A review of the The Courtyard Hounds debut album Review Snapshot: Emily Robison and Martie Maguire – formerly of the Dixie Chicks are now recording new music under the moniker ‘Co...

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22
Jack Johnson 'To The Sea'
A review of Jack Johnson's album 'To the Sea' Review Snapshot: Jack Johnson - famous for his soft, laid back sound and how he’s the perfect accompanist for a holiday - has r...

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21
 Sarah Blasko 'As Day Follows Night'
A review of the album 'As Day Follows Night' by Sarah Blasko Review Snapshot: Aussie songstress Sarah Blasko's third album, but her first to be released in Europe. An album e...

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03
Ann Scott 'Flo'
A review of the album 'Flo' by Ann Scott Review Snapshot: Ann Scott returns with her remarkable new album 'Flo', a collection of songs that will enthrall and disquiet in equal...

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12
Villagers 'Becoming A Jackal'
A review of the album Becoming A Jackal by Villagers Review Snapshot: Despite the huge weight of expectation, Conor O'Brien delivers possibly the finest Irish record you'll hear this year ...

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12
Craig Walker 'Siamese'
A review of the album 'Siamese' by Craig Walker Review Snapshot: Fifteen years after the demise of his former band - the brilliant Power Of Dreams - frontman Craig Walker returns with...

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10

A review of the album 'High Violet' by The National

The National High Violet

Review Snapshot: High Violet is the fifth album from the National and the group's most eagerly anticipated record yet. This time around the Brooklyn based band have the added burdens of worldwide exposure and greater critical scrutiny to deal with, though it appears that such pressures have either been openly embraced or actively ignored, such is the confidence with which this record is approached and realised. The result, a poignant exploration of 21st century anxieties, carefully crafted and delivered with an admirable sincerity.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Article: Few bands it seems take the long road to success anymore. What with the information super highway and the like, an outrageous hairstyle, an investment in treadmills, or even a spirited Paul Weller impression (yes, that’s a swipe at The Enemy), might just get you where you want to be. The National however, adopt a more old-fashioned approach to making music. Their incremental ascension to indie-rock stardom has been the product of hard work, strong albums and touring the arses off themselves. After Boxer (2007), the group have made their way to the precarious summit of alternative music. Those who may have feared how Berninger and co. would handle such dizzying heights need not have bothered.

High Violet is the most assured album from these guys yet. It is dark and brooding from the offset, with ‘Terrible Love’ exhibiting Matt Berninger’s sombre baritone over the inimitable guitar duelling of the Dessner twins. ‘Sorrow’ follows, beginning with the line “sorrow found me when I was young. Sorrow waited, sorrow won”. And on in such a dark vain the album continues. It might be gloomy, but it is never dull. There is a refreshing honesty about the songs which makes them entirely absorbing. The National’s albums always have a deeply personal feel to them, probably since the anxieties Berninger communicates aren’t exclusive to the front man of a rock band. He sings about tenuous relationships, financial woes and feelings of alienation and paranoia.
 
The tracks on this record are meticulously constructed. You can just tell that the lanky lead singer has wrestled with every word he sings, every lyric written and rewritten until deemed suitable. Similarly the music is complex and bittersweet. The instrumental arrangements are the most delicate and evocative from the band to date. ‘England’ in particular showcases their musical strides, building slowly to a stirring refrain. ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and ‘Conversation 16’ are further musical triumphs, with Matt lending his signature self deprecation to the latter, muttering “I was afraid, I’d eat your brains…..because I’m evil”. Lyrics like this are not unfamiliar to fans of the band, but whereas on Alligator that line might have been a guttural roar, on High Violet there is an uneasy restraint to both the vocals and the music.
 
There has been no effort to radically venture a different course on this album. The band tackles introspective matters in the same way they have always done, channelling feelings of disillusionment and fear, with their distinctive voice. Instead the emphasis has been on refining the sound that has taken a decade to form. And they do it with flying colours on High Violet. It is perfectly paced, getting the balance just right between slow paced growers (Runaway, Lemonworld) and instant toe tappers (Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio). They have managed to once more improve on their previous album, which is an incredible feat considering how good Boxer was. Unrelenting in their quest to push the boundaries of their talent, it remains to be seen just how far the National could yet go.
 
Kevin Boyle

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14

A review of the album 'Go' by Jonsi

Jonsi - GoReview Snapshot: The falsetto flaunting front man of Sigur Rós embarks on a solo career with ‘Go’, an inspired nine track record swelling with more enthusiasm and optimistic sentiment than a Christian choir on Prozac.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review: It is hard to believe, but it will be thirteen years this August since Sigur Rós released their debut album Von. And it is even harder to believe just how successful the Icelandic group have become over that time, given their tendencies towards long, drawn out musical progressions and vocals sung either in Icelandic or, more commonly, a made up jargon. And yet there was something in Agaetis Byrjun (1999) and in particular Takk (2005) that seemed to strike a chord with music followers of various tastes, leading to impressive album sales and well attended tours. But with the news earlier this year that the band were on hiatus, it seemed that such patrons would have to look elsewhere for their belly warming melodies (and that RTÉ would have to seek out a new source of dramatic musical accompaniment to their sports advertisements).

Enter Jonsi Birgisson.
 
Even without his band behind him, Jonsi creates quite a large sound. This is due largely to the involvement of composer Nico Muhly, who brings a stirring orchestral energy to the process. Last year Jonsi released an album with partner Alex as ‘Riceboy Sleeps’. Although it was a moving experience, the album was notable for its lack of vocals, which was unusual, given that Jonsi’s voice is arguably the most potent ingredient in the entire Sigur Rós mixing pot. Fortunately, order is restored with ‘Go’ and we can once more marvel at one of the finest, gender deceiving voices in popular music.
 
Album openers ‘Go Do’ and ‘Animal Arithemtic’ are so lively and genuinely heartfelt that you cannot help but be drawn into the singer’s utopian convictions. And for once we can understand what he is singing about as most of the album was written in English. It is difficult to know whether this is such a good thing. Perhaps the predominant allure of Sigur Rós – and maybe all wordless ambient music - is the blank canvas that such ambiguity affords us, leaving us free to make of it what we will. It doesn’t help either that in the very first song the lyrics include “Tie Strings to Clouds” and “Make your own lake - let it flow”. Followed in the next song by a chorus of “We should all be oh alive”, which makes Jonsi Birgisson sound like a six year old, so unnaturally good natured that he could only exist in Bala-f**king-mory.
 
And yet that is exactly what makes the album great. The gloriously innocent lyrics and rousing musical pieces are enough to win over even the most cynical of listeners. ‘Tornado’ is one of the albums more subdued and somber numbers and seems to bring the singer down a bit, so he launches into “Boy Lilikoi” and we are returned to a state of inspirational frenzy.
 
In short, the album is a joyous celebration of nature, relationships and life, beautifully crafted by one of the most influential artists of the last decade.

Kevin Boyle


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13

A review of the album 'WHB' by We Have Band

We Have Band - WHBReview Snapshot: Three ex record label employees band together to produce an album with the dancefloor firmly in mind… The debut offering from two-boy, one-girl London-based trio We Have Band draws on an impressive array of influences, the result being an 80s-infused brand of modern day mix n’ match pop. Slick production and catchy melodies mean that WHB is an album which will command attention. With killer singles and a strong supporting cast of tracks, We Have Band are definitely ones to watch as we approach the summer festival season.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review: Winners of the Emerging Talent Competition at 2009’s Glastonbury Festival, disco-rockers We Have Band have gradually garnered a lot of attention in the run-up to their debut release. The back story alone is enough to intrigue – three ex-employees of EMI, with little experience between them, decide to get together to make an album free of record label influence. Two years (and a lot of buzz) later, the debut offering from We Have Band has landed. 

WHB kicks off with mundane opening track ‘Piano’, serving as a prelude to an equally bland ‘Buffet’ – both tracks in stark contrast with the energetic nature of what follows. Thankfully, recent single ‘Divisive’ is on hand to pick up the pace and get the WHB party started. It is ‘Divisive’ along with other previously released singles ‘Honeytrap’ and ‘You Came Out’ that are the obvious highlights - however, the infectious beats of tracks such as ‘Love, What You Doing?’ and ‘How To Make Friends’ really compliment the singles as part of the bigger picture of the album in its entirety. 2008 release ‘Oh!’ stands the test of time, just as enjoyable as it was first time around. And in spite of the slow start, it’s clear this is an album which has dancefloors firmly set in its sights.
 
What is most interesting about We Have Band is that they make no secret of the inspiration behind the music they make – the spirit of Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, New Order and even The Human League permeate the album from beginning to end. Easy comparisons can be made to modern-day counterparts such as Hot Chip, The Rapture, and New Young Pony Club. Yet in spite of the obvious influences and likenesses, the trio have still managed to carve out their own striking originality. 
 
Overall, WHB is flawed - but by no means disappointing. A promising debut from a band who will undoubtedly delight revellers when they take this album on tour across the European festival circuit this summer.  

Elaine Buckley


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Nuggets from our archive

2002 - Interview with Rodrigo y Gabriela, by Cormac Looney. As with Damien Rice's profile, this interview was published before Rodrigo y Gabriela's career took off overseas. It too continues to attract considerable visits every month to the article from Wikipedia.