Monday, 15 July 2013

reviews: Fists, Lust for Youth, Nadine Shah

                                                         Fists – Phantasm

Fists - Phantasm (***)
Phantasm won’t be lauded for its originality, channelling as it does a scrappy fuzz-pop sound that’s grown endlessly familiar: a garage-rock lip curl here, a whammy-barred guitar twang there, with insouciance across the board and brusque distortion wall to wall. But there are plenty other reasons to salute Nottingham quintet Fists, who pack their debut with enough scuffed melodies and energy that initial feelings of déjà vu soon subside.

Producer Rory Brattwell (aka former Test Icicle/current Warm Brains bloke Rory Attwell) helps bring out their best side, keeping the edges rough on bluesy opener Go but ensuring the compact hooks of tracks like Solvent (a sort of Britpopped Bleached) or Big Wave (a Fever to Tell-type rock number) aren’t swallowed by the lo-fi clamour. It does the trick: by the time breezy closer Try comes around, Phantasm has comfortably transcended its chosen limitations and delivered something decidedly satisfying.

Out now

                                                          Lust for Youth – Perfect View

 Lust for Youth - Perfect View (***)

Perfect View is Swedish producer Hannes Norrvide’s second album as Lust for Youth, following hot on the heels of last year’s Growing Seeds. Actually, make that cold on the heels, for there’s little warmth to be found amidst this record’s bewitching beats and frosty synths, despite a definite dialling-down of its predecessor’s confrontational distortion.

There’s a pop core to these compositions - for example, the muffled New Order-ish intro to Another Day, or bonus track I Found Love in a Different Place’s tight hooks - but it’s damaged and resolutely twisted, with a presiding claustrophobia neutralising any dance-floor urges. Narcotic synth lines, haunted shouts and metonymic thuds provide the three corners of its un-shifting aesthetic, and while it's effectively hypnotic, it also feels overly exposed. With its noir heart permanently shrouded, Perfect View proves to be a record to detachedly admire, rather than lust after or fall for.
Out today

                                                          Nadine Shah – Love Your Dum and Mad

Nadine Shah - Love Your Dum and Mad (****)

With its gently tremulous textures and smoky intensity, Nadine Shah’s voice is a revelation on Love Your Dum and Mad, her first full-length album following a brace of acclaimed EPs. The title’s spoonerism is a red herring: across these eleven tracks, Shah selects and delivers her words with precision, affording every syllable space to register atop a crepuscular bed of despondent, predominantly piano-based arrangements.

From the propulsive and dramatic Runaway to the richly gothic Dreary Town (remarkably, the first song the Whitburn-born chanteuse ever wrote), Shah evidences her compositional flair time and time again - even if the singularly lugubrious tone can at times feel arduous. Thankfully, said weight is largely alleviated through moments of crisp beauty such as the brass swells of Used it All and the final refrain of closer Winter Reigns, the latter imparting a lingering air of fragility and finesse. All in all, pretty gucking food.
Out 22nd July

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