Foals – ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt 1’
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what sort of band Foals would have become in a less bleak period of time. More than ever it feels as if their latest musical output is directly influenced by the world we live in, the changes and challenges we face and the chaos that is called life these days. There are just too many angles you need to take a closer look at and that’s just one reason why the band decided to split Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost into two parts that are loosely connected but also work independently. Party 1 shows all facets of Foals’ musical skills and is a burst of confidence from the four-piece. While the intro track Moonlight still keeps things quite mysterious the following Exits opens the curtain to the band’s perspective on the world. ‘I wish I could figure it out but the world’s upside down’ sings Yannis Philippakis while he and his band deliver an irresistible groovy sound around that. While tender and aggressive songs went hand in hand on Holy Fire (2013) and What Went Down (2015) the sound appears to be more balanced on Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1, tighter and more cohesive. There are less moments to catch your breath, the level of intensity is kept on a constant high.
There are still typical Foals numbers like the rocking on Wild Onions and the catchy On The Luna (this record’s mandatory My Number) but apart from that surprising twists are also highly welcome. In Degrees is a funky dancefloor filler that feels like a modern day update of the Manchester rave sound while Syrups might start quite psychedelic but turns into a furious rocker for its second half. Sunday remains an outstanding highlight and the great finale of part one. While it starts as a nostalgic and warm reflection (‘Cities burn, we got youth to spend’) it later turns into a monster of a song. Foals are always best when they perform themselves into a state of intoxication on tracks like this. The tender ballad I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me) is a fitting crescendo that also makes you long for more despite just having experienced one hell of an intense record. Not many bands are capable of doing that. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 is a lot of things and being a testament of one of the world’s most adventurous bands right now is just on of them. (Norman Fleischer)
Alice Phoebe Lou – ‘Paper Castles’
Alice Phoebe Lou is one of those young independent artistic women we need a lot of more these days. For her young age (25), she already has reached a point in her life where some people arrive at earliest in their 40s or even never in their lives. The songstress can reflect our times in a way that many people never will and manages it to transform it into just the right soundtrack. Reflecting on our current state of society, politics, feminism, independence and self-definition, she always hits the zeitgeist and broaches important themes. Not like many other female singer-songwriters that write another love or break-up song we all heard enough about.
Her second album Paper Castles is again an independently released record that shows her artistic value and her strength to do her very own thing. Alice found the perfect combination for her music: a strong and confident voice mixed with impulsive melodies and some jazzy vibes. But the most important role play her lyrics, where she proves strength and reflectiveness. ‘I wanna live like I mean it’ (New Song), ‘I don’t need to have a prince at my ball/ How about right now I’m my own prince’ (Skin Crawl) or ‘Didn’t wanna be told what I’m supposed to look like/didn’t wanna be told what makes a woman look right’ (My Outside) show that she is a strong woman who can sort things out on her own. Although her texts are sometimes a bit heavier and accusatory (e.g. against the patriarchy or blind consumption), there is always this kind of lightness – just like she is floating above all things – in Alice Phoebe Lou‘s music. This combination of heaviness and easiness, of difficult themes and light melodies, is exactly what makes the young lady’s sound interesting and outstanding. (Miriam Wallbaum)
SASAMI – ‘SASAMI’
Sounds like … a personal diary with an analogue lo-fi rock score.
When I first witnessed Sasami Ashworth live on stage last fall, opening for Snail Mail, she was as charming, furious and crazy as you would expect a character to be who’s been part of the LA indie scene for the past ten years. However, the sound of the self-titled SASAMI debut heads towards a different direction than the one I experienced live. It’s a more tender and laidback affair, a bit more introverted and very personal record. ‘It’s a mix of a diary and a collection of letters, written but never sent, to people I’ve been intimately involved with in one way or another,’ Ashworth explains the reflective notion of the album. The opening track I Was A Window sums it up pretty good, it’s a warm and gentle piece in which SASAMI‘s voice delivers a restrained performance that suits this song very well. Rougher and more upbeat moments like the lo-fi rocking Not The Time are an exception on this album and that’s part of her debut’s quite unique magic.
Ashworth is not aiming to be part of the coolest gang in town, instead she lets her personal stories lead the way, sometimes a bit more hazy (Morning Comes), sometimes a bit darker (Pacify My Heart). She’s best when she breaks down these tunes to their analogue core like the simple Free which was recorded with the help of the almighty Devendra Banhart. Her power lies within her honesty and that doesn’t necessarily means such a debut album has to be a selection of instant slacker indie rock anthems. SASAMI picks a different part and this often nocturnal and fragile mood creates a great cohesive record. The hypnotic closing tack Turned Out I Was Everyone, build on a drum loop and a synth pattern really plays in a league of its own and so does this entire album which is already one of 2019’s most recommendable debut albums. (Norman Fleischer)
Ten Fé – ‘Future Perfect, Present Tense’
With their 2017 debut Hit The Light Ten Fé released a surprisingly ‘on point’ debut album whose qualities in terms of great songwriting and catchy melodies still fascinate me to that day. The moderate success was well deserved but of course for band leaders Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan it was only the start and luckily their sophomore full-length proves that its predecessor wasn’t a lucky shot at all. Future Perfect, Present Tense is a testament of grown experience and confidence; a logical continuation of the Ten Fé sound. Now, grown into a full five-piece band line-up and sharpened by countless live performances the group continues to walk its own path. Compared to the debut there is a more cohesive feeling that runs through the entire record. It’s a relaxed, yet somehow uplifting vibe that is sensible right from the opening track Won’t Happen.
Somewhere in the space between 70s West Coast rock, Fleetwood Mac and modern day revival bands like The War On Drugs, Moorhouse, Duncan and their bandmates found a sound that carries harmony and sensitiveness while also setting the listener into a positive mood. From the reflective notion of Isn’t Ever A Day, to the tender optimism of No Night Last Forever to the fittingly titled cruising piece Coasting – darkness is always followed by light in the world of Ten Fé. They are not the band for edgy experiments, they seek for melodic harmony in which a good melodies and a catchy chorus are the worshipped high priests and they are doing it really good. Future Perfect, Present Tense feels like a warm summer breeze on which the band rights through present’s troubled chaos into a brighter future. Optimism and melancholia go and hand in hand on this one and if you happen to love that combination this will be your perfect musical companion for the upcoming summer. (Norman Fleischer)
Stella Donnelly – ‘Beware Of The Dogs’
Australian singer Stella Donnelly might sound like the ordinary girl next door at the first listen. Her sweet vocals make the soft pop arrangements trickle down your spine as easily as a hot shower. But at a second listen the painful honesty of the lyrics turn it into ice cold and crystal clear water that might as well be the next ice bucket challenge. With quiet confidence the singer tackles very contemporary social issues.
Hiding behind the playful melody of the opening track Old Man to Beware of the Dogs is the hard-hitting message against patriarchy; ‘You grabbed me with an open hand, now the world is grabbing back at you’. The catchy guitar melody and the punchy retro video clip to the single stand in opposition to the angry, and way too contemporary lyrics, of our still man-dominated culture. Stella Donnelly is one of the many young girls who are not willing to sit back in silence anymore, while women get exploited and abused. The equally punchy Boys Will Be Boys kick-started the Perth-born artists career. ‘Would you blame your sister if she cried to you for help’ is a razor-sharp statement confronting the tradition of victim blaming in rape cases. Donnelly crafts witty and vengeful lines expressing her anger and pain about the current situation, with a great confidence and control, making the message of the song feel even more honest and painfully true. Vicious putdowns like these are the trademark of the singer and the silver lining through the debut album. The singer started out as a solo act with guitar and voice to captivate the listener but in 2019 a band serves for a more textured sound. Bistro delivers a glitch synth tune and the beat of the groovy ballad Watching Telly almost invades electronic pop terrains. Beware of the Dogs is the bold debut of a passionate indie folk singer with wit, humor, and a feminist spark. The weightlessness of the dreamy melodies competes with the heavy and coldly honest messages for attention on the strong debut album.(Liv Toerkell)