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This will be updated throughout April 2014. For the full, extended reviews, click on the album titles.

During March 2013’s reviews, I lamented over how the albums were so morbid. With April 2014 bringing The Birds of Satan’s self-titled album, the words aren’t much jollier, but that’s not to say that there weren’t any great albums, because there most certainly were.

ALBUMS

The Birds of Satan – The Birds of Satan (8/10)

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The ballad: a heartstring tugging ode to passion. Unless the song in question is titular track ‘The Ballad of the Birds of Satan’, no time to cuddle up to a loved one. Ten minutes of chorus-less hard rock scraps, beginning with a long cacophony of drums and crying babies, unfolding into an indecipherable rock opera.

The Birds of Satan is a side-project of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins – enough to know to anticipate a rhythm-lead tangle from the first click until the final crash. What else would anybody expect when a hard rock band (with toes dipped in ‘progressive’ waters), hands the baton of control to the drummer? A rapid stomp to the finish line, holding splintered drumsticks aloft.

This is a half-hour crash course in brilliantly rough and fast progressive pop, with percussion chaotic enough that only drumming virtuosos may be able to keep track of.

Flaming Lips – 7 SKIES H3 (6/10)

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Considering The Flaming Lips’ nutty reputation, it’s a surprise that they haven’t attempted to release their twenty-four hour track ‘7 SKIES H3’ on a monstrous vinyl box set, in time for Record Store Day. However, they have made a start with this single-LP fifty-minute snippet collection.

It may be easier to swallow. Still, that’s not to say that it’s truly easy. ‘Battling Voices From Beyond’ is an abrasive war cry, hellbent on opponents standing, before Oklahoma’s army attack. The later ‘Riot In My Brain!!’, with its horrifying fusion of distorted thrash, screaming, harps and lasers, is presumably the sound of the invasion itself.

7 SKIES H3 is at its best when containing the demonic parts within slow tracks, as Wayne Coyne sounds mournful, and creepily plotting during the brilliantly uneasy title track. However, we are too often subjected to unpleasant chaos, such as the noisy synth handsaws, wielded by the robotic ghouls of ‘Meepy Moop’.

Wasted Potential – Wasted Potential EP (6/10)

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The name Wasted Potential, portrays images of therapeutic seminars. Alcoholics Anonymous for example. Intoxicated victims, washing their days away with the umpteenth drink of the night, groaning about how they must pull themselves together. The Wasted Potential EP however is a bold flip-off at aspirations, considering how they could take over the world… but why bother?.

Wasted Potential have decided against introductions across its six tracks, choosing to drop listeners into verse number one. At only eleven minutes, they have decided not to bother with much substance, unless the substance happens to come in a pint glass, in which case, there is plenty.

This brief taster of hard, thrash party punk, is brilliant fun, but quickly that moral of ‘why bother?’ sadly has an answer. Its bitesize tracks scream out (literally) for second verses to give each track time for its own sound, theme and personality, beyond titles such as ‘Urine Luck’ and ‘Slam Drunk’.

 

SINGLES

Lana Del Rey – West Coast (8/10)

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Once ‘love’ and ‘beach’ collide in song, it’s only natural to envision just how little in the way of swimwear that our singer’s characters are wearing, or how intoxicated they are amongst hilariously filthy bluntness. All in good fun of course, enough that Del Rey suggests that “if you’re not drinkin’ then you’re not playin’”.

That’s where the comparisons end. ‘West Coast’ is a seductive stare and crawl towards her darling. Masterfully produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, ‘West Coast’s humming and pulsing bass synth and lone surf rock guitar, atmospherically ring around the hypnotic echo of Del Rey’s whispers. The freeform sound, subtly slowing and accelerating between its verses and choruses, creates a soothing, slow-motion sink into the Californian sunset-lit ripples. A rare occasion that so many whispers of “ooh baby” aren’t filler, but a beautifully intimate stream of consciousness.

The comfortable warmth of the lead single of upcoming album Ultraviolence, suggests it might not be as destructive as the brutal title suggests.

Meadowlark – Family Tree (8/10)

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Kate McGill laments about when she was 17 years old. What on earth happened during those Three Six Five days? McGill is quick to tell listeners just how unhappy she is, after a sharp intake of breath and piano chord, diving in within a second to a lament about her problems. During ‘Family Tree’, the choruses are similar only in lyrics and tune, as by the time that she wishes that “if I ever have a lover like my father had my mother I would say, let me go” she is accompanied by much more than the opening piano. First the distant hum of an infinitely echoing guitar, then the rattle of a brushed snare, and finally a full band at full force and strings enveloping her, by which time, she needs to scream her heart out for her plea for moral help to be heard. That, she certainly does, beautifully.

 

Avril Lavigne – Hello Kitty (1/10)

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In the age where information will be on display forever once it hits the internet, it takes a special mishap for culprits to bother trying to hide it. Having had its video removed within hours, this is one such mishap.

‘Hello Kitty’ is a total mystery, enough so that it might not only be the Japanese lyrics that need to be translated. There is an electronic dance section, with the first ten seconds engulfed in enough vocal effects, that they could at least have had common courtesy not to do it for the following three minutes. But no.

There is a ‘pop-punk’ section, and even a dubstep-style drop during what might be the chorus, but anything seems to go. Is this mess a nod to the chaos of childish Japanese kawaii? Whatever the incentive behind the pulsing headache-inducing, and racial abuse accusation-tempting ‘Hello Kitty’, it isn’t as fun as it hopes to be.

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