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Album Audit: London Grammar, Halsey, Bleachers And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 06/05/2017

Album Audit is a weekly Interns feature, recapping and reviewing the album releases of the week with a cheeky score out of five.

Bleachers – Gone Now

Album Of The Week

Jack Antonoff is one of the best pop writers in the game right now, so much so that it overshadows his own project as Bleachers. The best thing about Bleachers though is it doesn’t feel like he’s reaching to be one of the biggest acts around. Even though there are some huge pop tunes on here, it’s niche. A direct representation of his quirky, nostalgic and hyperbolic personality.

The first thing you realise about Gone Now is it’s dramatic. It’s like a Bruce Springsteen stadium show contained in a studio album with big rollicking drums and layered, anthemic vocals. Gone Now remembers the death of baseball player Mickey Mantle, Antonoff’s “first memory of anything going away,” and as such, it takes us back to Antonoff’s childhood, coated in nostalgia. He’s an ’80s kid and much of the record is inspired by that. Don’t Take The Money has a huge, arena-sized chorus, Hate That You Know Me sounds like Whitney went rock and Let’s Get Married could be the result of a writing session with Aerosmith in the ’80s.

We’re rarely given restraint but when we are its sweet relief. All My Heroes sees Antonoff follow his modern pop instincts with a flickering synth behind it and Nothing Is U is a ballad disguised by a muted beat. Sure, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea because it’s a lot to swallow. It’s also probably going to sound better in the live arena. But if you’re in the mood for something unadulterated and over-the-top, you won’t find many record better suited for that this year. 4/5

London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

It’s been three years since London Grammar‘s incredible debut album If You Wait and yet it feels like nothing much has changed at all. The British trio stick to the winning formula on their sophomore effort Truth Is A Beautiful Thing except with more familiarity, everything is less impressive the second time around. The singles that came out before the album have failed to stick in the same way as Strong and Wasting My Young Years and that’s because this record is very much something that would’ve impressed the blogosphere in 2012.

As one of the biggest acts in the world now, you’d be forgiven for expecting more from their second effort. Once again, the record centres around Hannah Reid’s brooding, beautiful voice. It’s back in force again here and while it’s truly affecting on tracks like Big Picture and Who Am I, every track exceeds four minutes and it starts to feel like we’re being given the same mode over and over again. The centrepiece Hell To The Liars runs for over six minutes without reason and Leave The War With Me plods along at the same arduous pace for five minutes.

In many ways, this album is more mature than the first. Opener Rooting For You shows a poise and restraint as does the closer Truth Is A Beautiful Thing but maybe they were better off when they were more youthful. Big Picture is by far the album’s best moment because it trades in pop melodies and drama while maintaining its youth. It’s possible that this release will see them cast to the dull end of adult contemporary which would be a shame because they’ve got the chops to be something spectacular. Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is just too one dimensional to take their career to the next level. 2.5/5

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is out Friday, 9th June

Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom

Halsey – the popstar that doesn’t want to be a popstar so she disguises it with loose concept albums. Despite her best efforts, hopeless fountain kingdom reveals Halsey to be a popstar and that’s a good thing. The painful attempts to be alternative on Badlands are gone with this one and she’s been pulled from triple j to commercial radio in Australia which suits her better. The issue with this record is that the quality doesn’t match her ambition. It’s a good album but the concept she attempts to portray is not successfully conveyed by some of these watered down tracks.

The album starts dark and cinematic but then we’re immediately handed a quasi-tropical beat behind a pretty light melody on 100 Letters. Then she starts jumping around stylistically. Eyes Closed is dark, The Weeknd-flavoured R&B, Alone is West Coast cruising music and Sorry is an emotional ballad. It’s fine to be diverse in 2017 but when you’re wrapping up something as a cohesive story, it just doesn’t make sense.

There are certain moments on here that are triumphs as solitary pop songs. Bad At Love has the best wordplay of Halsey’s career and is a fast-paced, clever pop song bereft of melodrama. Strangers is a neon-lit, power anthem that importantly uses same-sex pronouns which is too often brushed over in pop music. It all goes wrong though when she follows trends. Now Or Never is closer to a rip-off of Rihanna’s Needed Me than a straight-out cover, Don’t Play is a pointless, Drake-flavoured dancehall song and Lie sees her team up with man-of-the-moment Quavo for a scarily dark track that’s out of place on the record.

Halsey has the potential to be great but maybe she needs to work on the songs first and let the concept come after rather than the other way around. Too often, hopeless fountain kingdom is style over substance. 3/5

Major Lazer – Know No Better EP

To put it bluntly, Major Lazer‘s last EP Peace Is The Mission was not good. It was an obvious foray into the pop world off the back of the success of Lean On and it just didn’t feel like an honest Major Lazer record. Know No Better, their surprise drop sees them return to their island roots with some of their most wild songs since Free The Universe. The title track, which recruits Travis Scott, Camila Cabello and Quavo in the peak of their careers, is a clever, on-point pop song but it’s also the safest song on this record.

Elsewhere, Diplo and co get wild again. They give us a brassy, unrestrained drop with Busy Signal on Jump, warm dancehall on Particula and Latin crossover vibes on Buscando Huellas. From J Balvin to Jidenna, their collaborators are as diverse as their influences on this record but it all comes together tightly. It’s not introducing us to any new sides of Major Lazer but it’s giving us what they do best – world-flavoured party music. 3.5/5

Kilter – Through The Distortion

After a steady string of scintillating singles, raucous remixes and lit live shows, Kilter has finally unleashed his debut album Through The Distortion. This album delivers on the potential that the Sydney musician has shown for some time now, and packs in a stack of diverse tracks showing off the many sides or ‘Shades’ if you will, of his persona as a musician.

In no small part due to his musical background as a drummer, Kilter has become a staple of the Aussie live music scene for some time now, but it was no guarantee that he would be able to pull off a large project such as a full length LP with the same conviction. Kilter has, over the years, released plenty of fun, percussion-driven remixes and originals, but as he showed with his 2014 EP Shades, there was always a sense that he wanted to put together a more diverse and explorative project that would encompass his far-reaching stylistic influences.

A debut record is often as much about exploring what you are capable of as an artist as it is putting together a refined body of work. Kilter has done that in spades, and with Through The Distortion he has smashed apart the box that represented what you’ve come to expect from his music, whilst still satisfying those who’ve popped by for a short boogie. This record is going to take his live sets to a whole new level. 4.5/5

– Zanda Wilson

Read the full review here.

Through The Distraction is out Friday, 9th June.