Album reviews

Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

First published in Entertainment & Lifestyle

Ariana Grande: My Everything

THE petite songstress with the big voice returns with her second album, a year after her debut Yours Truly. Already on a roll with Problem, her chart-topping collaboration with Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande’s success is sure to continue with My Everything.

More pop and dancey than her previous offering, the 21-year-old soars throughout the album, which includes collaborations with EDM stars David Guetta (One Last Time), and Russian-German musician Zedd (Break Free), as well as OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (Why Try). Grande also shows off her ever-sweeter vocals by teaming up with rappers Big Sean on Best Mistake, Childish Gambino on Break Your Heart Right Back and ASAP Ferg on Hands On Me. Her ballad roots book-end the record, with Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart, partly penned by One Direction’s Harry Styles, and the title track.

Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

ANYONE thinking Cold Specks, aka Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx, has cheered up since her 2012 debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion will have that hope shattered within the first distorted notes of opening song, A Broken Memory.

It’s only 2.25 minutes, but Spx’s soulful vocals oozing over angry gospel-jazz-blues set the tone for the rest of the record, ie: betrayal, letdowns and broken dreams. The only upbeat track is the cheerfully titled Bodies At Bay, while highlights include vengeful ballad Old Knives and Let Loose The Dogs, which showcases her inimitable voice.

Neuroplasticity also uses percussion to create ominous, earcatching harmonies, culminating in the understated, mournful male duet on closer A Season Of Doubt. It’s stunning, but you may need a stiff drink afterwards.

Dry The River: Alarms In The Heart

DRY The River have found it more difficult than most to negotiate the notoriously tricky second album.

Pieced together in part by lead singer Peter Liddle and guitarist Matt Taylor singing down the phone at each other, the London band – violinist Will Harvey quit in February – travelled to Iceland and holed up in a studio to record Alarms In The Heart. Their efforts have been rewarded, with the London indie rockers showing significant musical growth from their debut Shallow Bed. Armed with Liddle’s unique vocals, Gethsemane, the first taster of the new album, was a rousing comeback. New single Everlasting Light is a highlight, as is Roman Candle featuring Delgados singer Emma Pollock.

Royal Blood: Royal Blood

SURREY-BASED duo Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher have already created quite a stir this year with a seismic performance on Later...

With Jools Holland as well as supporting the Arctic Monkeys at their shows in London’s Finsbury Park. Tipped as the next big thing, singer and bassist Kerr and drummer Thatcher have gone for a primeval sound on their debut selftitled album, bringing to mind the White Stripes on their first couple of albums and even harking back to 1960s acts such as the MC5.

So, the big question is, does it live up to the hype? Well, to a large extent, the answer is yes. The band’s first two singles, Out Of The Black and Little Monster, are included here, and are notable highlights with Kerr’s thunderous basslines and impassioned vocal perfectly complemented by Thatcher’s ferocious drumming.

Ten Tonne Skeleton is an absolute barnstormer and although the remaining tracks don’t hit quite the same heights, this album shows huge promise.

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