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Ode to J. Smith.Ode to J. Smith
September 29, 2008

Some say that Scottish band Travis’ Ode to J. Smith could well be the band’s best record ever (to which I must respectfully disagree).

Travis’ earlier albums, The Man Who and The Invisible Band, were makings of a great success: songs that still stick to your mind after months or even years past (oh, the brilliance that was “Driftwood”!), annoyingly addictive guitar hooks, mind-bogglingly strange (and apparently, post-worthy) music videos – all displaying the band’s fun and carefree approach towards music.

Perhaps, with the coming of age and more serious responsibilities, the two albums that come after (12 Memories and The Boy with No Name) were darker and somewhat forgettable, as I cannot seem to remember anything off them save their well-received singles (“Re-offender” and “Closer”, respectively). Then, they were with a blanket seemingly over their heads; now, to lift them slightly from all that gloom, could be Ode to J. Smith.

For a brief moment, the sounds that were reminiscent to their earlier days were present, only to be fleetingly gone the next. In the end, while this album is decidedly more accessible than their previous two, it has yet to earn a spot in my heart.

(Yep, I miss the old them.)

Perfect Symmetry.Perfect Symmetry
October 14, 2008

This one is quite a surprise. (And at first I thought they were weird…)

I admit that I first found it all a bit unnerving when Keane opened their latest album, Perfect Symmetry, with the brash and flamboyant “Spiralling” and The-Killers-que “The Lovers are Losing” – so much so I actually had to check if it was indeed Keane on my player – but (surprisingly) they pulled it off rather decently. This is an album that does not quite captivate right from the start, but instead gradually grows in you – probably because it takes time to realise that Keane is no more the piano rock band that they once were famed for…

Perhaps true to its name, the earlier tracks in the album are more loud, pop-ish, in-your-face, and, well, least-Keane-like; while the later tracks display a slightly softer approach, bringing to mind sounds from their previous albums.

There is also a certain degree of intensity that makes your hair stand when Tom “Chipmunk Cheeks” Chaplin takes his vocal duties as earnestly and engaging as he does in my two favourite tracks “Black Burning Heart” and “Love is the End” – both of which is enough to win me over.

The Dears
October 21, 2008

Why, who would have thought that there would be some dramatic developments in The Dears (creative differences and the departure of members that has now effectively stripped the band down to a husband-and-wife team)? All interesting and worrying no less, but it is easy to not be reminded of those difficult times, however, once Missiles come into play.

The songs here are simply-titled (the “longest” is “Meltdown in A Major”, as compared to “Expect the Worst/‘Cos She’s a Tourist” or “You and I are a Gang of Losers” from their earlier albums No Cities Left and Gang of Losers respectively); the tracks lasting about five minutes in average each. The sounds are not as grand or epic as in their previous albums, but The Dears have yet to lose their shine.

Also, the band seems to have perfected a knack of peppering moments of splendour and magic on the final bits of a few tracks, letting them fade away in a memorable way (most evident in “Dream Job”, “Crisis 1 & 2” and “Demons”).

This album further solidifies The Dears’ position as one of my favourite bands, and I fervently hope that they are here to stay.

A Hundred Million Suns.A Hundred Million Suns
Snow Patrol
October 28, 2008

It feels like a long, unending run from Final Straw to Eyes Open to A Hundred Million Suns – and goodness knows what for. You would still be persuaded to continue listening to Snow Patrol anyway, because hmm, they are nice guys…

A Hundred Million Suns starts off decently, opening with “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It” and “Crack the Shutters” – but the subsequent tracks are more of a snoozefest. Sure, there are some interesting bits here and there, but they are few and far in between and never enough to make you completely fall for a whole song hook, line and sinker.

This album’s saving grace could well be the 16-minute closer “The Lightning Strike”, the object of my affection for the past few days. It is also easily the one song that you would either love to bits, or loathe to pieces. Ooh, how I would love to hear this played live…

Upcoming releases for 2009:
Doves, David Gray, Wilco. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.

Details of this entry.Sunday, November 16, 2008, filed under Reviews.
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Recent tracks played are displayed on Last.fm.The Planets Bend Between Us, Snow Patrol

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