January album reviews

AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

Time to dress in black, paint the mascara and wail in the darkness. If that doesn’t float your boat, you could add in a listen to the new AFI record, too… (Then you’d understand our pain *cries*) Davey don’t scream no more and they’re really a guilty pleasure these days, but I maintain AFI are cool-as-hell. Having reimagined themselves in various ways in the past, album ten does just feel like a continuation of Burials and Crash Love – not any dramatic turn probably due. Its familiar riffs and overall vibe are as melodically dark as you’d expect (“We both prefer romantic murder / To erase time and my, my empty life”). Track two bluffs a surprise, acoustic guitar leading ‘Still a Stranger’ to have you thinking: “What the hell are you doing AF…” before Jade steps in and brings it back to your expectant level of high spirited, rocky sadness, complemented at many turns by Davey’s anthemic choruses. Some people ask whatever happened to them emo kids? They’re standing behind you.

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The xx – I See You

I remember I was at a festival once and my bro, standing next to me, fell over. A nearby punter/nurse exclaimed dehydration, he assured it was the result of earlier surgery, but I knew the truth – the xx did it. Was this swooning in the actual sense of the word? No. More like snoozing (“the zz”). I was really delighted to hear I See You, then. For the most part, it’s a fun record that you want to stay awake for. The xx have brightened the hell up and its paying dividends. This is an album that will cheer you up, bring you back for many listens, and even make you dance (if you’re not the I’m-too-cool-and-hip-to-possibly-dance-to-music type)! Heaps of people loved them before, but it’s only now they’ve won me over.

Austra – Future Politics

In the event you’re ever caught up in a robot space alien cowboy invasion in the middle of the desert, you now have a soundtrack for said situation by way of Austra’s Future Politics. This is a wacky trip of a record, with loads of impressive (and occasionally comical) pitch and warble. The levels seem a bit weird, with vocals and synths on par, making Katie’s voice sound like its somewhere off in the distance or lost in space. But the upside is the album having a weird way of presenting the upbeat among darker edges – quite subtly cool. There’s plenty going on here, from vast and scared (‘I’m a Monster’), trippy psych (‘Future Politics’) and soaring vocal tracks (‘Gaia’). Overall there’s an air of positive gloom that still gives you something to nod, flail lightly or just pull weird shapes to.

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Kasey Chambers – Dragonfly

I can say quite confidently I’ve never been a fan of Kasey Chambers, although that being said I haven’t heard much beyond the whiney singles of the early 00’s. I was pretty surprised then, when one afternoon Henry Wagons played an absolute corker of a tune called ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ on Double J. Heavy, rocky, soulful – the track sucked me right in. When he back announced it, I was really surprised, and with that I decided to give Dragonfly a go to see if I’d pegged her wrong back in 2001. I was kind of annoyed… I listened to the whole thing and there was a total of three dark belters! The rest was a blend of folk ballads and ramblings, old school blues, mournful country and religious nods. All bar the last of those categories are fine enough, but overall this album was not what I was sold on the radio.

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