The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Album Reviews

01

A review of Yael Naim's self-titled album

Yael NaimReview Snapshot: This self-titled second album from French-Israeli Yael Naim, shows off an excellent voice and some excellent compositional flare, though with much of the same from start to finish. The tracks go from folk to pop and back again, remaining rooted in acoustic guitar and piano. With some snapshots of something special dotted throughout, don’t be surprised if it ends up putting you to sleep...

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
Describing Yael Naim and knowing very little about her, you could be forgiven for calling her a French Feist. Both have got the husky-dreamy female vocalist bit down, both have sold their songs for use in ads, and sometimes, they both sing in French.

This is the second album from Yael, a French-Israeli singer-song-writer, released on the French independent label, Tôt ou Tard. It includes her most famous song - "New Soul", which was featured a while back in a MacBook Air ad, and gave her a top ten hit in the US charts. It really is the attention-grabber on the album, and for good reason. Being possibly the most energetic of the bunch - the remainder being more acoustic-orientated and down-tempoed, and having the added advantage of being in English, it's worth a listen in itself. It however is a slight misrepresentation of what to expect from the album. Expect something more slow-paced, pleasant and sleepy songs. Many are sung in Hebrew, which is an interesting experience.

Opener "Paris" sets up for some acoustic-folk, but a range of other influences make appearances throughout. David Donatein, himself a West Indian drummer, is Yael’s partner in crime on this album, and is responsible for the perfect accompanying backdrop to Yael’s voice. Her classical background is evident in the track "Lachlom", having all the correct interval-leaps for a successful tune. Also in Hebrew, "Levater" dabbles with a tension-building orchestral line, but never quite erupts. "Yashanti" and "Lonely" exercise Yael’s extensive vocal range – but this not exactly original stuff. Only when "Shelsha" finally breaks does it becomes a more noticeable song, highlighting a tendency for tracks to blend together in to - an admittedly pleasant - haze. However, "Too Long" is a memorable jazz-embracing pop-song, making up part of a clump of the catchier songs right at the start of the album. In quite unusual English, - "I irrigate illusions, then let them grow" - it also makes use of some basic but effective synth enough to make it a personal favourite.

The cover of Britney’s "Toxic" towards the album’s is slightly questionable. She manages to make it Bjork-esque, but deconstructed pop-songs to me just seem a little stale. It does however blend in seamlessly to the order of tracks, allowing the peaceful string of songs to hold up until the end. The final song is the disjointed waltz entitled "Endless Song of Happiness", which sounds like a merry-go-round. A pretty conclusion to a pretty, but only minorly eventful album.

Christine Cooke

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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25
Elbow 'Seldom Seen Kid'
A review of the album 'Seldom Seen Kid' by Elbow Review Snapshot: Top class intelligent rock pop – Elbow could never make you happy but they could afford you a better class of misery...

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10

A review of the album 'A Cork Wake Tale' by Chris Bathgate

Review Snapshot: The latest offering from Michigan folk artist Chris Bathgate, ‘A Cork Wake Tale’ is a decent and rewarding listen. Similarities to Sufjan Stevens can be seen, but unfortunately his talent is not as great as his contemporary.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Chris Bathgate A Cork tale wake

Full Review: Chris Bathgate’s talent is certainly not going unnoticed in his homestate of Michigan where he won ‘Best Solo Artist’ by the Detroit Free Press. This album is his first UK release, and he has become the latest folk artist to be put on heavy rotation by BBC Radio 2.

The album opens with ‘Serpentine’. This sublime track turns out to be the highlight of the record. It’s a beautifully simple piano led ballad. Its cyclical melody sucks you in and absorbs you. While ‘Serpentine’ may be the highlight of the album, the rest does not disappoint. It is an eclectic mix of songs for a folk album.

‘Restless’ and ‘Smile Like a Fist’ see our troubadour let out his rockier side, while he is at his downbeat and melancholic best on ‘Madison House’. The use of a reverb-laden outro on ‘Last Parade on Ann St.’ and his use of horns throughout show Bathgate’s diversity. Despite the mix of sounds, this album does not lose focus.

‘A Cork Wake Tale’ is a fine album, well worth a listen. The fact that it never lives up to the brilliance showed on its opening track might detract from the album, but do not let that deter you. It is an absorbing listen that intrigues the ear on first listen, and rewards thereafter.

Garret Cleland

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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02

CrayonsmithCLUAS Verdict: 8 out of 10

Review Snapshot: As ever running that fine line between rock, pop, electronica, alternative, and general unclassifiable, Dublin’s Ciarán Smith has produced an album of tracks that are well-written, well produced, well orchestrated and well performed. What more could you want?

Review: Out On A Limb is close to becoming my favourite record label, indie or otherwise, and OOAL0011 - in real words Crayonsmith’s White Wonder - is even more quickly becoming one of my favourite albums. Crayonsmith’s early and possibly more familiar lo-fi sound has expanded and developed into something totally original and new to the Irish market. Subtle snatches of melody, classic if sometimes unexpected harmonic twists, droning percussive synths and charming vocals so beautifully layered and produced that you can almost imagine them standing in rows in front of you: percussion, guitars and synths in rows up each side and Ciarán standing somewhere in the middle, his voice entering and falling out of the swells of sound. Each track is nothing if not considered, containing a wealth of musical ideas that combine to create a soundworld that almost feels like a glimpse into a new world.

It’s so easy to rave about a new artist, new album or new sound, and then after touting it as the best thing since X&Y, to all too quickly lose interest, but this album has so far stood up to a week of constant listening, and still they are new things to discover. This fascination is due in part to the band’s admittedly not-totally-original concept for the album. Having pulled George Brennan on board to help out, White Wonder is a combination of sampled and electronically produced beats and sounds and live instrumentation. And what’s best about it is that you can’t tell which is which, and what appears to be a new and different sound is in fact in part made up of old sounds. Crayonsmith are just too clever for their own good.

 

In terms of tracks, the album fits so well together, it can be difficult to pick out worst and best bits. In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what belongs in one song and what to another. Consistency is the keyword with this release, but a number of songs such as The Boat, the gently melodies of which move slowly but inevitably towards a hurtling crash of sparring harmonies and guitars only to be suddenly reined back in, and the crunching Anything, which is as perfect an example as any other of the melding of sampled and real, stand out. Opener White Wonder Theme and Lost in the Forest and closer We Sleep bookend the album perfectly with their complementing expansive synth sections and driving verse patterns.

 

Anna Murray


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26
The Boggs 'Forts'
Review of The Boggs' album 'Forts' Review Snapshot: The sound of countless acts flows through the veins of the latest release from sometime Liar Jason Friedman, but no one utilises the...

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26
Erykah Badu 'New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)'
Review of the album 'New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)' by Erykah Badu Review Snapshot: Soul Queen Erykah Badu attempts to tackle black America's political woes and social ills as ...

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26
Cass McCombs 'Dropping The Writ'
A review of Cass McCombs album 'Dropping The Writ' Review Snapshot: Cass McCombs' career up to now may point to someone whose attention span never focuses on one pl...

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18

A review of the album 'A Wretched Sinner's Song' by Songdog

Review Snapshot: An ambitious album that deals with everything from talking crows to the mundane nature of relationships; A Wretched Sinner's Song is in equal measure creepy, sexy, scary and brilliant.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Albert Einstein once said 'Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.' Lyndon Morgan, however, would rather merely allude to reality than have you immerse in it; save to protect yourself from drowning in the depths of the alternative world he creates on A Wretched Sinner's Song. Morgan, who is also a playwright, constructs his cast of characters with the assistance of Karl Woodward and Dave Paterson, though it must be said that their efforts are at all times overwhelmed by Morgan's wry, wistful vocals.Songdog

'In their basement flat, Wendy's husband is humping her hard from behind, when he's not drinking, he's really quite kind' sings Morgan on Just Another Night in Limbo, one of the many songs on the album concerned with the act of coitus, most of which are bursting full of last chance lovers, cheating partners and Mr. & Mrs. Next-Door types who, after returning from church, like nothing better than spending their day in full fetish gear. It is this ability to make the listener give life’s losers, the ones we pass on the street every day, a second glance that really gives A Wretched Sinner's Song its pathos.

Biblical undertones also resonate throughout the album, with Loser Paradise and The Devil Needs you for a Squeeze reflecting Songdog's version of Heaven and Hell. It is in these songs in particular that Morgan’s fascination with the work of Jacques Brel, Tom Waits and, to a lesser extent, Nick Cave, comes to the fore.

A Wretched Sinner's Song is a work of immense bleakness and is pehaps a little too long (18 songs) but, despite this, it is also breathtakingly beautiful. Through spare acoustic arrangements and Morgans overpowering vocals, Songdog convince the listener to take the road less travelled, to suspend reality and to immerse themselves in their songs. Learn to lose yourself, and you might just find what you were looking for in this album.

Steven O'Rourke

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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13
David Turpin 'The Sweet Used-To-Be'
A review of the album "The Sweet Used-To-Be" by David Turpin Review Snapshot: A highly melodic, easily listenable work that creates a foundation for Turpin to work upon. The disappointin...

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13

A review of the album 'Correcto' by Correcto

CorrectoReview Snapshot: Just quite how a band can produce a record that, by their own admission, wasn't meant to be a masterpiece, and yet fall so short of even those paltry expectations, is beyond comprehension.

The Cluas Verdict? 1 out of 10

Full Review:
'And you and get it right and you can get it wrong' suggests Correcto's second track, Do it Better.  Just how Correcto - made up of Richard Wright, Paul Thompson (Franz Ferdinand), Patrick Doyle (The Royal We) and Danny Saunders - get it so wrong is breathtaking to behold.

Much like a sideward's glance at a car crash, repeated listens of this record are only to reaffirm that, yes, it really was as bad as you remembered.  Trapped in a hideous location on the musical spectrum - somewhere between post punk and alt rock - Correcto comes across as pure comfort zone pop.  There is a laziness and lethargy about this album that does little to separate it from the torrents of art school incubated albums vying for your time and money.

That being said, Joni, the album's standout track, is pure pop gold and repeated listens really do make you think that you might have taken Correcto up all wrong.  Alas, the only other true highlight of this album is when it ends.  Of course, being released on the much vaunted Domino label will probably help it sell bucketloads, as will the bands association with Franz Ferdinand.  If only they had the songs to go with the hype. 

Steven O'Rourke

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.