Bloc Party FourThe title: Does what it says on the tin. Four members of Bloc Party, four albums in. Could also possibly be a reference to the new found commitment from each member to Bloc Party life, with Kele having recently returned to the fold following a reasonably successful stint as a soloist.
The artwork: Simple and effective. Bloc Party have always been fans of the simple cover image with each record, and this one has great potential for merchandise and colour co-ordinating live light shows.
The sound: Big. Riffs are plenty, sexy grooves are present and generally speaking, it's a welcome return to the Bloc Party of Silent Alarm-era who sounded truly lost in what they were doing. Don't be fooled by the indie disco of lead single Octopus: when split wide apart, Four is secluding a dark heart that gives the likes of We Are Not Good People a Queens of The Stone Age -esque agression and Real Talk a raw, open honesty.
The highlights: Real Talk, V.A.L.I.S, Day Four
Two Door Cinema Club - BeaconThe title: Beacon. I'm not sure what it means. A friend of mine suggested it is urban slang for a ladies nether regions, in which case the artwork begins to make a tiny bit more sense. However, I do believe the band mentioned in an interview somewhere or other that it refers to beacons in a lighthouse sense, the idea of searching for a sign of safety or an indication of where you are. An explanation that I like a lot more.
The artwork: Let's be honest, it's pretty dubious, and not something I'd like to pin up on my bedroom wall. I was rather fond of the Two Door Cat or the debut myself, and quite liked the idea of seeing him return. In a deckchair perhaps, or playing a live gig, or chasing after an equally cool mouse. But I digress. I can kind of see what they've gone for, 50's risque kitch that got a bit of the Carry On about it. I'm just not sure I'm sold.
The sound: In short, Beacon is Tourist History for grown ups. If you're expecting every track to be as instant as on their debut, I suggest you lower your expectations somewhat. This isn't to say that Beacon is a let down in itself, because that simply isn't the case. It's just that in places, it requires a patience that casual fans may not be willing to give. In terms of lyrical lexis, the trio are talking less about girls wearing too much makeup and making it to the top, rather musing on the perils of touring life and missing home. Next Year and Settle are two such tracks that would sound actually pretty miserable if it wasn't for Two Doors way of blending a melancholy narrative with an uplifting melody, and Handshake and Sleep Alone are as good as any single they've released before. Considering the nature of the step up between this and Tourist History, I would be very excited to hear their next record where they properly decide the kind of band they want to be.
Highlights:Settle, Handshake, Sleep Alone
The Vaccines Come Of AgeThe title: I was quite taken with the titling of The Vaccines debut record (What Did You Expect From The Vaccines) and I think they've pulled off the same trick here with The Vaccines Come Of Age. It smacks just the right side of humourous and self aware, almost reassuring their audience that music doesn't always have to be taken in such a life or death manner.
The artwork: Four androgynous young girls each chosen to resemble a different member of The Vaccines. Presumably a visual homeage to one of the albums best tracks I Wish I Was A Girl , I can confirm that this already looks pretty ace on a t shirt and is destined for endless 'loves' from the Tumblr generation. It's pretty iconic looking, which the vaccines have never made any qualms about gunning for.
The sound: More of what they do best. And Justin is actually singing! Like, properly singing! Once you get used to that, it's easy to accept that they have moved on from the sugar rush adrenaline of Noorgard or Wreckin BarThey've managed to identify their po. sition in musical society with appropriate irony, Teenage Icon downplaying their new found celebrity status as Justin proclaims himself to be nobody's hero/reserved and shy/your average guy/no piercing stare/just out of shape with messy hair . All In Vain is all swinging 60's with flowers in its hair, THE natural cousin the Mystery Jets recent retro-tastic Radlands , and Ghost Town interestingly enough seems to borrow a little from The Fratellis Creepin Up The Backstairs. For a band who have never apologised for appropriating influences from yesteryear , they're beginning to do a very good job of sounding like themselves.
Highlights: No Hope, Teenage Icon, I Wish I Was A Girl