Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Album Reviews: Mariachi El Bronx / Howling Bells / Scroobius Pip / Mastodon

Mariachi El BronxMariachi El Bronx II (Wichita Recordings)
More of the same from the LA Punk band, turned Mariachi wonders. The songcraft is arguably more finely tuned than on Mariachi el Bronx and everything's just that bit more special. With a wonderfully produced, luscious sound this is probably the most uplifting album that you'll hear all year. A real treat if you're willing to go off the beaten path. Whilst it's a shame that this has hit after the summer has finished it's a sure-fire way to bring the sunny vibes into your desolate winter.

Howling BellsThe Loudest Engine (Cooking Vinyl)
Despite a cohesive sound and some deft flourishes (such as the keyboards on 'Charlatan' and 'The Wilderness's whirlwind outro) The Loudest Engine fails to scale the same heights as Howling Bells previous work. Their guitar work is mighty fine, but vocalist Juanita Stein occasionally forgets to use her voice with the seductive subtly that makes the band truly great. 'Into The Sky' is brilliant, however the album just lacks a little magic. More fairy dust and less production next time, please.

Scroobius Pip Distraction Pieces (Speech Development)
With a more aggressive live sound (blink-182's Travis Barker provides drums on one song) than on his Dan Le Sac collaborations Scroobius Pip has made his finest album since Angles. The less pop-focused structure betrays Pip's beat-poetry origins and there's some really special moments when the inspiration strikes just right (a sample of The Lovely Eggs for example). 'Broken Promise' and 'Introdiction' are easily among his best songs with the former captivating utterly and the latter containing, arguably, some of his best lyrics yet. Across Distraction Pieces the subject of death (murder and suicide) looms large, but Pip always provides a twist and in doing so ensures his place in our music collection.

MastodonThe Hunter (Roadrunner)
Eschewing the lengthy prog structures of Crack The Skye, Mastodon's fifth album condenses the bands experimentation into 13 digestible chunks. Although this is still clearly an album birthed from metal there's plenty of other touchstones to give it appeal outside of the sub-clture. The awesome 'Curl Of The Burl' features a wicked QOTSA-esqe southern rock groove whilst 'Stargasm' is home to some gloriously spacey keyboards. There's much more going on across The Hunter ('Thickening' is particularly weird) than there's time to go into on an indiepop site such as this, but the record is proof enough that Mastodon are the only contemporary metal band worth bothering with for anyone but the hardcore.

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