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2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).

The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Kevin Boyle'

28
Bobby 'Bobby'
Review Snapshot: On their self-titled debut album, Bobby have created an absorbing, multi-layered record, one that definitively disproves the oft-quoted cliché that 'less is more'. ...

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02
The Pains Of Being Pure at Heart (Live in Dublin)
Review Snapshot: Not to worry, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it's not your fault. I don't think that the combined bill of Obama, the Queen of England, Jedward and a large hadron collider could...

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25
Wild Palms 'Until Spring'
Review Snapshot:  Despite occasional glimpses of promise, the debut album from British band Wild Palms loses its way somewhere between ambition and execution. The Cluas Verdict? 5 o...

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13
The Decemberists 'The King is Dead'
A review of the album 'The King is Dead' by The Decemberists Review Snapshot: Casual listeners to the Decemberists will be glad to learn that the group's sixth album, ‘The K...

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03
Silje Nes 'Opticks'
A review of the album 'Opticks' by Silje Nes Review Snapshot: The Norwegian singer’s second album, Opticks, is a triumph in delicacy. The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10 ...

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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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24

The Decemberists (live in The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver)

Review Snapshot: The Decemberists are an unusual band. They have a knack for integrating theatre into their music in a way that many bands attempt to, but few actually accomplish with the same gusto as the Portland outfit. Far too often this merging of ideas tends to take away from one or the other and more often than not it is the music that suffers. The audience that packed into The Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver last night, however, were treated to a feast of over the top storytelling and live music.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
An anticipative crowd queued outside the arena in the unforgiving Canadian sunshine for a good two hours before being admitted. The Vogue is an intimate venue and perfect for a band as interactive as The Decemberists and was comprised of a ground floor and balcony, both of which were seated. In relation to Irish venues it was only slightly bigger than the Academy, but boasted better sound and easy access to the bar. 

The headline act appeared to attract a fairly motley bunch. A number of people nestled quietly into their chairs with a good book, some casually played Nintendo DS, whilst others sat decked head to toe in Decemberists inspired clothes (the Winter Queen was in attendance, sporting a crown fashioned from leaves) and waited patiently for the show. 

Up first were support act Blind Pilot who played a short set to a surprisingly receptive response. They were proficient players, but none of their songs were out of the ordinary. My cousin commented that it was music you would listen to on a train going somewhere you didn’t really want to go. Comparisons were immediately struck with Damien Rice, though Blind Pilot certainly lacked a Blowers Daughter or Volcano

The Decemberists quickly followed and their opening set was comprised of their latest album, The Hazards of Love. The album was done as a story and the tale was re-told live for about an hour, pretty much non stop, with the exception of brief pauses for sips of wine or the changing of tambourines. It did however drag along at times, and just as I was about to borrow a DS from the girl in front of me for a quick game of Pokemon, the set ended and they retreated for an intermission. 

Those who had raced to the front of the stage retreated to their seats and took out the bookmarks. There really is nothing quite like getting a good read of Twilight in while your waiting for your favourite artfully theatrical alternative indie band to resume. The band’s second set contained tracks from earlier albums, including the hits O Valencia and We Both Go Down Together. It was frantic and made all the more enjoyable by lead singer Colin Meloy’s witty crowd banter. 16 Military Wives was arguably the best received song of the night, particularly when Meloy divided the room and assigned each section with singing duties. 

The show finished with an entertaining re-enactment of the founding of Vancouver, which involved band members entering the crowd and standing on drums, pretending to be Native Americans and Norwegian sailors. All in all it was an unforgettable performance by one of the great theatrical acts around today.

Kevin Boyle


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10

A review of the album 'A Journal For Plague Lovers' by Manic Street Preachers

manic street preachers - journal for plague loversReview Snapshot:
Fourteen years ago Richey Edwards, the then lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers, went missing at a well-known suicide spot on the Severn. And despite a handful of alleged sightings of the former Manic, was in November of last year announced dead. And now in 2009, A Journal for Plague Lovers adds another chapter to the legacy of one of Britain's great songwriters.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
For those of us inclined to sentimentality, the Richey Edwards saga has been an ongoing source of enchantment, never allowing us to stray too far from Manic album releases, on the admittedly slight chance that the tragic lyricist might return. Sadly, since it has been well over a decade since his disappearance, it would seem unlikely that such a scenario might arise and so A Journal for Plague Lovers serves as the next best thing.

The use on this album of a folder of poetry left by Edwards is a source of controversy that has split opinion amongst even the most hardcore fans of the Manic Street Preachers. For some it is a worthy homage to the band member who supplied so much of the content that made 1994's 'The Holy Bible' such a mesmerising and quintessential rock offering. For others, the folder of poetry left behind embodies the most intimate of details written by the troubled icon in his darkest moments and question whether it is advisable to put these words to music after so much time has passed. According to the band themselves, the lyrics were simply too good to be left unreleased.

From the instant that the opening track 'Peeled Apples' kicks in, you get the impression that this is the Manics back to their best. There are the movie snippet sound clips that have become a common feature of their albums, followed by thumping bass lines and the familiar grungy guitar riffs of James Dean Bradfield.  On this album the Manics are typically outspoken and meddlesome. The first track explores the role of brands and consumerism as Bradfield roars out:
"The levi jean will always be stronger than an uzi" and "A series of images against you and me trespass your torment if you are what you want to be".

And without time for so much as a breath, the second song on the album kicks off. 'Jackie Collins Existential Question Time' is arguably the strongest track on the album, combining the various elements that over the years have merged to define the Manics, such as the anthemic guitar riffs, caustic lyrics and the inimitable vocals of Bradfield.

A Journal for Plague Lovers has, in parts, an uncomfortably overwrought feel to it. The lyrics are that of a confused, emotional mind struggling to get a grip on the multiplicity of mysteries in modern society.  'She bathed herself in a bath of bleach' for example, is a fairly cynical insight into the pitfalls of love and lust.

Despite the gritty and often forlorn nature of the album, it enthralls from start to finish. Undoubtedly there is enough quality on the album to whet the appetites of the now almost famished Preachers' fans (their last album 'Send away the tigers' wasn't all that great) and enough to re-ignite the interests of those who were often sitting on the fence in relation to the Welsh band. With the ominous sounding riffs and frenetic vocals, A Journal for Plague Lovers sounds more like a follow up to The Holy Bible than any other Manics release.

Kevin Boyle


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19

A review of the album 'Limbo, Panto' by Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts Limbo PantoReview Snapshot: 'Limbo, Panto', the debut album from British band, Wild Beasts, a theatrically over the top record about sex, sin and struggling soccer teams. A genuinely strong and enjoyable debut.

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

Full Review:
At first listen, you would be forgiven for thinking that Wild Beasts were a satirical cover band of The Smiths spliced with 18th century opera. Lead singer Hayden Thorpe has a camper singing style than Morrissey. Just think about that for a moment. Camper then flower flinging, blouse wearing, falsetto singing Morrissey. At times Thorpe’s voice is comically operatic and on other occasions it is a guttural growl, wandering where it pleases, without consideration for the taut bass lines and energetic guitar strumming, hopelessly trying to keep up. There is a raw charm to his voice, but one that will not be to everyone’s liking. It is so incomparable and alien it will have the effect of polarising opinion on the band. You’ll love it or hate it, but definitely won’t be indifferent.

There is certainly a novelty aspect to this offering from Wild Beasts, in the way the record is presented, sung and indeed the topics sung about. But there is a whole lot more to it besides. It is an unobtrusive album, that doesn’t aim to blow the listener away, but instead coaxes you in with every listen you afford it. And after awhile the rewards come in the form of initially misunderstood lyrics, where you had mistaken wit for pretentiousness.

What is remarkable about Wild Beasts is their ability to transform the mundane into the epic, or at least bravely attempt to do so. The most notable example of this coveted skill comes four tracks in with 'Woebegone Wanderers' a song about the plight of a non-league football team. It sees Thorpe at his most flamboyant and in spite of this, or maybe as a result of it, the song actually works. Proof again that fantastically unnecessary sentimental lyrics alongside great pop rock music can work.

There is a lot to admire about this unusual album. It offers ambiguous lyrics and disjointed musical pieces yet has the potential to appeal to a wide audience. 'The Devil’s Crayon' is the track that showcases Wild Beasts ability to take on a pop song and master it with clever lyrics and catchy guitar work. It’s loud and epic with contrasting singing styles from Thorpe.

At times, Wild Beasts' debut sounds like it was produced with the view to soundtracking a Tim Burton animation. It is eerie and theatrical, particularly 'Please Sir', and 'His Grinning Skull'. The latter is the probable highlight of the album as it saunters along at its own pace with delicate guitar strumming.

The bawdy side of Wild Beasts rears its head on a number of occasions, the best xample being 'She purred, while I grrred'. You can really get away with unmannerly sexual talk if you put it cleverly. It sees Wild Beasts try and nail the mystery of life with the line:
“I die every day, to live every night, under the industry of her want for me in our fusty foundry”.

This is a cracking album from a young group doing their own thing in a British scene clustered with indistinguishable bands. It may take a while to grow on you, but what they do they do with style. 

A genuinely strong and enjoyable debut.

Kevin Boyle


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