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Album Reviews


Frankie Lee STILLWATER. Loose

Highly anticipated follow up to Frankie Lee’s critically acclaimed 2016 debut album AMERICAN DREAMER. Whilst on Frankie Lee’s 2016 debut album the characters were set loose in a seemingly inescapable inheritance of self-destruction, on STILLWATER, they seek a path towards redemption by returning home and confronting the past. Based on the loss of youth, with a focus on the dissolution of love, as well as the real life of the working class, STILLWATER is a scrapbook of short stories, reveries and musical growth by one of America’s greatest unknown songwriters.

‘Speakeasy’ open the album on a sombre and rather dull note as it wanders along at a leisurely pace. ‘Only She Knows’ livens up the mood with a more upbeat sound but I’be yet to hear anything that sets the artist apart; that turbo-charges his alt-country/folk heart - that sets him apart. ‘Downtown Lights’ ups the ante somewhat but while lyrics are strong I’m struggling slot this into my ‘very special box’. Lee’s voice is quietly reassuring and expressive but I’m missing the passion ingredient that so often makes the difference.

The introduction of piano in ‘In The Blue’ goes some way in convincing me. Lee’s voice also reveals a sense of real feeling and, yes, passion. The song is utterly beautiful and is powered by a beautiful melody and backed by a well-judged instrumental arrangement. ‘(I Don’t Wanna Know) John’ sustains this increase in quality and connectivity.  ‘Blinds’ repeats the dose with piano adding drama once more. ‘One Wild Bird’ features more aggressive piano notes initially but stays in tune with Lee’s contemplative tones for the rest of this lovely song. ‘Broken Arrow’ ventures upbeat with piano again leading the charge. This song could so easily find itself conquering the radio airwaves given a fair wind. It’s a lively song with a solid melodic underbelly, strong choruses, rockier instrumentation and another great vocal.

‘Ventura’ concludes the album with highly emotive and lyrical piano notes supporting the most sincere vocal on the album. The bittersweet song moves at glacial pace with mouth organ cementing one of the most moving songs you’ll hear all year.



Vampire Weekend FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Sony Music

Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 2006 and currently signed to Columbia Records. The band was formed by lead vocalist and guitarist Ezra Koenig, multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer Chris Tomson, and bassist Chris Baio. The band’s first album VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2008) was acclaimed by critics for its world music influences. Their following album, CONTRA (2010), was similarly acclaimed and garnered strong commercial success. Their third studio album, MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY (2013), won the group a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014. Batmanglij departed the group in early 2016.

The band’s fourth album, FATHER OF THE BRIDE, was released in 2019 and is their first since 2013. Comprised of 18 tracks, the album title - in typical VW fashion - has multiple layers of meaning, expressing the band’s signature paradox: creating songs that easily find a home on any playlist, but revealing their complexities upon closer listening.

The album opens on a gentle note with the countrified pop of ‘Hold You Now’. There’s a sparse instrumental backdrop featuring an acoustic guitar, gorgeous bluegrass style choruses featuring Danielle Haim, with Koenig’s voice crystal clear and melody to burn. ‘Harmony Hall’ follows in the same gentle mode albeit with a slightly more rapid pace and stronger pop orientation - great radio fodder. Choruses are catchy as are the meandering guitar sounds.

‘Bambina’ travels an even wider pop path while adding some rockier sounds. ‘This Life’ follows the same formula but I’m still waiting for that killer blow that distinguishes the album. ‘How Long’ is the album’s obvious radio single with its strong melody and highly infectious choruses. The lyrics are also some of the best here: “Tough choice? Don’t make me laugh/My life’s a joke/Your life is a gas/You broke my heart at midnight mass/Now I’m the ghost of Christmas past.” ‘Married In The Gold Rush’ is a gentle homespun highlight, again featuring Danielle Haim. Track 11, ‘Sympathy’ reveals the band’s rockier and more distinctive side (at last) as it speeds along with a strong Latin rhythmic hum. For me this is the business end of the album.

‘Sunflower’ features a wonderful opening spell of guitar and even some Swingle Singers style musings. It’s different and good. ‘Flower Moon’ introduced electronic vocal distortion to the intro followed by a swift Latin rhythm and a sound package that is somewhat seductive. ‘Stranger’ is the album crowning beauty of a song with Koenig is fine and expressive voice exhibiting his wide vocal range. There’s also a strong melody which carries the song along. The album concludes on another emotive little number. ‘Jerusalem, New York, Berlin’ has floating piano notes, a sensitive vocal and lyrics which move: “I know I loved you then/I think I love you still/But this prophecy of ours/Has come back dressed to kill.”


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