Grimes – Art Angels
I first reviewed Art Angels by Grimes a little over a year ago. My rating of 4.5/5 could be seen as overly enthusiastic, as this is an assessment reserved for relatively few PearShaped reviews. Yet, a year on, the album remains as captivating to me as ever.
In my review, I suggested that the album would be one of my favourites of 2015, and would certainly make many Best Albums Of 2015 lists. I ended up being correct, Art Angels was my favourite album of the year. Plus, it turned out that I was not alone in my enthusiasm, with NME crowning Art Angels album of the year only a month later.
One of the main reasons for my praise was the album’s consistency, and listening again now, I continue to feel that each of the 14 tracks deserves its place. The eccentricity of the album still impresses me; as I described in my original review, I initially worried that Grimes may have lost her experimental edge in the break between Art Angels and her 2012 album Visions. Hearing Grimes’ new track Medieval Warfare, released in August as part of the Suicide Squad soundtrack, was consequently a bit disconcerting. This new song seems a little overproduced, more commercial than the tracks of Art Angels. I am therefore hoping that Art Angels is not a fluke. Grimes took an innovative and highly creative direction on this album- let’s hope that her next one lives up to the hype.
She & Him – Classics
She & Him are just about to release a new album. It’s a Christmas album. I’m not sure about Christmas albums. But, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of cover albums and She & Him’s last LP, Classics, the first I reviewed for PearShaped, was actually amazing. In fact, I was so won over by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s work that I bought a CD copy of Classics for my mum for Christmas that year. It’s now one of the records my parents insist on playing almost 24/7 during advent.
Listening to it now, my opinions haven’t changed at all. I still really like this album, and it was a blessing in disguise that I was, like, legit the last person to see the content call for the month that Classics was released, and consequently had a choice between She & Him and, well, nobody. Coming back to Classics, I think I should have commended M. Ward more on his vocals which, though rare, are supremely tranquil yet also quite gripping. Although I don’t much like Stay Awhile, the LP’s most upbeat constituent, and one of my picks at the time any more, ultimately, the name Classics sums it up for me. I’d still rate it a 4/5 and looking back my picks are: Time After Time, Would You Like To Take A Walk? and We’ll Meet Again.
Justin Bieber – Purpose
The first album I ever reviewed for PearShaped was Sara Bareilles’ What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. I gave it 2.5/5 and that rating would stay the same if I were ever to re-review it, so let’s move on…
The second album I reviewed was Justin Bieber’s Purpose. Giving it a 3.5, I wrote about the exciting new electro-pop sound Bieber was taking on, showing how he was supposedly maturing his music as his original fanbase grew up alongside him. This is something I still appreciate now. Bieber didn’t just attempt to take on more of a tropical house vibe, he truly owned it – the fact that the lead singles are still being played repetitively in clubs and remixed by artist’s shows this. Another thing I tackled in my original review was the fact that, despite featuring the hit lead singles, the album also features plenty of weak filler tracks. The lyrics of these are cliché, with each track reverting back to basic pop. Listening to the album again now I find myself skipping through all of these songs and going straight to the singles. For this reason, in my re-review of Purpose, I have to give it a 2.5/5 instead. You do house-pop surprisingly well, Bieber – more of that and fewer crappy fillers next time, please.
Jessikah Hope Stenson
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
Way back in 2014 I reviewed Ben Howard’s sophomore album I Forget Where We Were and gave it an incredible 5/5. Oh, how silly I was. Swept up in my love for Ben Howard’s debut LP, Every Kingdom, I was determined to enjoy his new, darker sound. The Burgh Island EP gave a sample of his talented, electronic guitar work combined with whispered, heartfelt lyrics. However, I Forget Where We Were was nothing like the EP. From the cover art to the songs themselves, it was dull, forgettable and, quite frankly, overrated.
In my endeavour to continue enjoying Ben Howard’s music I went along to the Birmingham show of his I Forget Where We Were tour in 2015. Not just moody and rude on stage, Ben’s performance was flat and unimpressive. I even got a little bored. Back then, I highlighted Time Is Dancing and Rivers In Your Mouth as my two picks, but I don’t think I’ve listened to them in over a year. We all know a good album is one that stays with us, and this just didn’t. Gone is Ben’s creativity and in is his same-y, boring gruel.
Apologies to all the Ben Howard fans out there, but to re-review the album now I’m forced to reduce it to a 1/5.
Rosie Lowe – Control
I was nervous to write my first review for PearShaped – the quality of writing on this website has always been so strong and it can be unnerving, as a new writer, to not know whether or not you’ll be up to par. But anyway – enough about me and my unravelling sense of self-worth. Right On!, a solo project from jennylee (Warpaint’s lead vocalist/bassist), was the first album I signed up to write about – I’m a Warpaint fan so thought it would be fun to give her album a whirl. I think I gave it a 3/5, something I stand by – I liked it, I could appreciate what it was doing, but basically forgot about it after I’d sent in the review.
The album I’ve revisited over and over, though, is Rosie Lowe’s Control. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to new writers, it’d be to sign yourself up to review anything and everything – not just content from artists you already like – you never know what you’ll stumble on! I didn’t know anything about Rosie Lowe before I reviewed her but I fell completely in love with her album. She’s an incredibly exciting artist and she deserves above and beyond the somewhat bizarre 4.3/5 rating I gave her. Songs I wasn’t so keen on in the first couple of listens – For You, Worry Bout Us, title track Control – have since emerged as some of my favourites. It’s an album that gives something else with every listen; worthy of 5/5, completely.
Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love
Iceage’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love is the sound of a band maturing, without selling out. While the Danish post-punk bands’ first two LPs demonstrated an excellent knack for noisy, no-frills, DIY post-punk, their third album, Plowing Into The Field Of Love, saw them trying a range of other styles: country music on The Lord’s Favourite, a crooning ballad with Against The Moon, an almost militaristic march on On My Fingers. But where other bands might have co-opted these “maturer” sounds at the expense of their youthful energy, this album has them sounding as noisy, dangerous, and brilliant as ever.
Iceage are definitely one of those bands who can’t play their instruments or sing that well but are all the better for it. The brilliance of Iceage lies not in technical abilities or a polished finish. They relish the the squeaks, the missed beats, the tuneless grunts, for these imperfections come from a place of energy and authenticity, where the emotion and sentiment holds precedence over everything. While their musical abilities may not be flawless, their performance certainly is.
The songwriting is similarly brilliant. The quiet sections are unnerving and imbued with latent energy; the loud climaxes are almost overwhelming; their subtle appropriation of other genres is masterfully handled; and Elias’ lyrics combine the vivid imagery of Rimbaud with the wry misanthropy of a young Nick Cave.
Plowing Into the Field of Love remains easily one of the most innovative, underrated, and exciting rock albums of the decade so far – 5/5.
Animal Collective – Painting With
The penultimate line of my first PearShaped review reads, “The whole album is near incomprehensible, but maybe that’s okay.” Really, it probably wasn’t that “okay” at all. Retrospectively, I was possibly a little too kind on an album that I now consciously skip past at speed every time I stumble across it; from start to finish Animal Collective’s Painting With is just about as close as you can get to the sonic iteration of a migraine.
That being said, I stand by my assertions that Painting With does have it’s merits; intricate songwriting, innovative sampling and it’s unflinching self-awareness are still attractive in terms of the anarchy Animal Collective seem to be aspiring to. All it’s components maintain their original gleam, and it remains an album I can at least try to appreciate on an artistic level. However, it would be a lie to assert that I actually enjoy this album; in fact there’s literally no situation in which I can picture myself willingly listening to Painting With, unless as a soundtrack to my own frantic meltdown.
Looking back, I was certainly trying incredibly hard to find something I loved about Painting With and perhaps I managed that, there are moments that leap out of the chaos even now. Are those moments worth clawing through 41 minutes of music so dense it might as well be a concrete wall? Probably not, it’s a 2/5 from me.