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Various Artists - [PIAS] Alternative Spirit Album Review


When you think of the words alternative spirit you think -upbeat, raucous indie-pop music and that's exactly what this new PIAS compilation album provides. The album consists of 39 tracks from artists such as Roisin Murphy, Basement Jaxx and Fleet Foxes.

[PIAS] Alternative Spirit - Album Review

Alt-J's Left 'Hand Free' is a fun opening track with its catchy hooks and upbeat melodies - a perfect intro that leads into The Black Keys track 'Tighten Up' which is one of the compilations many highlights. With a raw, blues sound it's everything you'd want (and expect) from a Black Keys track.

One of the more guitar heavy tracks comes courtesy of Bloc Party and their contribution '3x3'. Its hard-hitting vocal and frantic playing remind us just how good their album 'Four' (which the song was featured on) was.

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Various Artists - XL Chapter VI Album Review


Being cynical, you could make plenty of assumptions about 2015's "Best of" charts featuring returns for the likes of The Prodigy, Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers. All worthy choices they may be (Okay OKAY except that Prodigy which album was rubbish) but the inclusion of a number of boppers whose best samples are definitely behind them in the gong list pointed to a little stagnation in electronic music around it's edges. Sure, there's been plenty of interesting stuff this year, but much of it wasn't club music in any real sense. This compilation is a good example. The XL label has been around for long enough for it to be 20 years since the last edition of this series was released, a pedigree which suggests they know how to turn water into wine regularly enough. They claim that their "..DNA is made up of weird, outsider, two-fingers-up electronic records that crawl out of the concrete and onto wax", a hefty set of self props, but ones mostly proven here by the intriguing choices the compilers have made.

Various Artists - XL Chapter VI Album Review

Firstly you've got to admire their refusal to pander to a specific niche, even in a genre riven by fragmental, insta-movements which germinate in closed forums and are over before you've even heard of them. Instead the selection here bravely spans all kinds of beats, times of night and vibes, looking backwards as well as into your next Friday night rave.

Let's also not forget one final thing: you need to be able to dance to this stuff - and this is where Chapter VI wins. Opener Special Request by Amnesia may sound other than it's odd garage bass flourishes like it was culled from a decades old previous release in the series, with it's spectral up front piano line, funky break and diva sample, but it's still midnight and on the money. Similarly bubbling with intent, MC Novelist rhymes over Mumdance's fuss-free bass lines on 1 sec like he believes it's all the time he's going to get to prove himself, whilst rLr's I Am Paint is fresh but weirdly alienated sounding dubstep filtered with jagged sample loops.

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Revolution - The Shoegaze Revival Album Review


For those of you who aren't fully aware, the Shoegaze of this compilation's title refers to a splinter group of late 80's British indie that, initially inspired by the likes of Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine, traded their paisley shirts for effects pedals and layers of filtered guitar noise. At its peak bands like Chapterhouse and The Telecopes crept onto underground music mag Snub TV, whilst Oxford's Ride crossed over into the chart world with their 1992 album Going Blank Again.

 Revolution - The Shoegaze Revival Album Revie

All of that changed with just a few strummed chords, pinched wholesale from Boston's rock-opera tune "More Than A Feeling" by a little known American band from upstate Washington. The pilferer was Kurt Cobain, and the release of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit proved to be a mass extinction event for shoegaze, and indeed for most British band orientated music, at least in the short term.

Life will overcome of course, and in recent years there have been signs that not only is the Anglophile vibe much alive again, but thriving: Ride's unlikely reformation is now very definitely a thing, whilst the list of all day retro festivals continues to grow each babysitter defying year. Comprising a globe spanning twenty seven outfits from sixteen countries, this is you feel a collection that can challenge preconceptions based on strength of numbers alone. From the off the roster also represents nearly every facet and stylistic cul-de-sac of the original diaspora, finding a place for both it's blissed out sense of hypnosis and less welcomingly it's awkward self-indulgence. The squall of feedback which begins opener She Doesn't Feel The Sun pegs Brazilians Duelectrum as responsible citizens of this planet wide new brotherhood alright, the song's peaks and troughs like vintage battering rams and tragedies. Hazy Youth's Trementia is very My Bloody Valentine mind you, to the point of tribute band status, until it wakes up from slumber with a Lush-esque chorus.

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Now That's What I Call Pop! Album Review


In the words of N'Sync, 'what's the deal with this pop life and when is it gonna fade out?' Well, if this three-cd compilation is anything to go by, then the answer is: not anytime soon. Ironically, the clean-cut American quintet isn't actually among the 66 artists featured across this album.

Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Pop! Album Review

Kicking off with Little Mix's recent single Black Magic, the tracks here span almost a 10-year period, from present hits back to Take That's 2006 smash Rule The World. Pop as a genre arguably has been around for an awful lot longer than a decade, but perhaps the folks at Now! who put this together felt it was easier to focus on a specific time frame, or that the age of people they're expecting to purchase this record aren't old enough to remember anything prior to this period. Either way, this compilation demonstrates that there have been both a huge amount of both ridiculously catchy and ridiculously awful songs that have captured the public's attention in the past few years.

It's almost a prerequisite that Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk is included, and it certainly reminds you why the catchy hooks and memorable lyrics of pop songs help the genre dominate the music industry. Followed by Roar from Ms. Katy Perry, Sexy And I Know It by LMFAO, CeeLo Green's Forget You, Happy by Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga telling us about her Bad Romance, there's certainly enough hits to get you smiling and singing along (however much you try to resist). There's also songs in this mix that are questionable as pop and could easily be classed in other genres - there's Lean On from Major Lazer x DJ Snake, a blend of dancehall/electronica; the dreamy indie synths of MGMT's Kids; and Rudimental ft. John Newman's drum and bass tones of Feel The Love to name a few. However, pop or not it's no bad thing these have been included, as they're all absolutely fantastic tracks.

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Southpaw - Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture Album Review


Southpaw, a film directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhall that tells the story of a boxer who tries to get his life and career back on track, features a soundtrack executively produced by Eminem. Released through Shady Records, and featuring new music from Shady himself, as well as some Bad Meets Evil cuts and tracks from Slaughterhouse, Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ amongst others. This is the second soundtrack release by Shady Records, the first, obviously, being 8 Mile, and it's a markedly different sound; it fits the film's theme with its triumphant, powerful and energetic hip-hop soundtrack.

Southpaw - Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture  Album Review

Kings Never Die, which features Gwen Stefani and is produced by DJ Khalil, is an emphatic track from Eminem. It follows Cry For Love (Part 1), composed by James Horner who scored the film and sadly died in June this year in a plane crash. Shady's staccato flow over the strikingly polished production is delivered excellently; the track isn't especially raw or gritty, but the pride and the passion on show lend themselves both to the sport of boxing, and the sport of rap. The following track Beast, by Rob Bailey & The Hustle Standard, featuring talented lyricists Busta Rhymes, KXNG Crooked and Tech N9ne, is a high octane ride, with convincingly decisive flows from each MC.

The crisp What About The Rest Of Us, by Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ and featuring the talented singer/producer Rico Love, is successful. The punchy live drum sound and the overall subtlety in the production of the track make it professional and enjoyable, and Action and Joey bring that authentic east coast flavour. Slaughterhouse most definitely turn up for R.N.S. A dramatic and intense slow-paced Araab Muzik and Just Blaze production backs the supergroup, comprised of Royce Da 5'9", KXNG Crooked, Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz, as they drop passionate verses demonstrating a variety of flows and impactful deliveries.

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Various Artists - Pitch Perfect 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review


After the success of the first 'Pitch Perfect' and, more specifically, the 'Cup' song, the soundtrack for the sequel has a lot to live up to. However, there is a thing as trying to be too clever and here is a perfect example. 

Various Artists - Pitch Perfect 2 Soundtrack Album Review

By trying to cram even more songs into each a cappella mash-up, some tracks just don't work without the visual aid of the movie and it becomes a race to recognize just what has been used. Two/three lines and it is on to the next song. 'Riff Off' starts off enjoyable, with a cover of 'Thong Song', but then goes through a circle of booty-complimenting tracks at a dizzying speed where it confuses and loses itself. A better example of a mash-up would be The Barden Bella's 'World Championship Finale' as you can clearly hear each tune used throughout.

The song that leads the entire soundtrack - also the lead single - is Jessie J's 'Flashlight' written by Sam Smith and Sia. By far the most memorable, it is a highlight to the album and is what will keep people coming back to listen to it. An inspirational ballad, it is by far one of Jessie J's best singles, but as the success of Anna Kendrick and 'Cups' showed, a big star isn't always needed to get radio play time. There is also a surprise performance from Snoop Dogg and Anna Kendrick, which is a nice way to break up the a cappella sound of the album. The other original track is 'Crazy Youngsters' performed by Ester Dean, which adds a modern and more 'pop' sound to the soundtrack. These 3 tracks are undeniably stand-out numbers in an otherwise very predictable album. 

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Various Artists - Walls Have Ears: 21 Years Of Wall Of Sound Album Review


Label retrospectives are not without a degree of risk: it's easy for compilers to fall into the self-indulgent trap of looking after your pet projects, with the line by extension between vanity exercise and faithful cataloguing dangerously a thin one.

Various artists - Walls Have Ears: 21 Years Of Wall Of Sound Album Review

The guys at Wall of Sound will probably feel that they're worth it. Twenty years after their first and fondly remembered compilation 'Give 'Em Enough Dope', they're back to celebrate their 21st in business with a two disk, thirty-odd song opus, the idea to map the imprint's evolution from big beat boutique to its later, more cosmopolitan artist roster.

They've got the sense to start with two stone cold killers as well; it's been donkey's years since we heard the Propellerheads' 'Take California' or Royksopp's 'Poor Leno', but we're happy to report that both are still headphone gold. There are also selections from the respective acts at their peak, which is less than can be said, however, for some of the other choices strewn across the first disk. The problem here isn't a lack of the quality in the contributors - we've got stuff from the likes of Zoot Woman, The Bees and Les Rythmes Digitales - but they've all produced better material than that featured here, a point best illustrated via The Bees on the jazzy, underwhelming scat of 'A Minha Menina'.

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Various Artists - Magic Bus: 3CDs Of Huge Hits From The Hippie Trail Album Review


Well, it does exactly what it says on the box. The 57 tracks on this 'Magic Bus' compilation run from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, but, with remarkable perspicacity, the compiler has mixed them up very cleverly. 

Magic Bus: 3CDs Of Huge Hits From The Hippie Trail Album Review

The CDs are called 'Turn On', 'Tune In' and 'Drop Out' and the songs on each one reflect, more or less, their monikers. Thus, on CD1 Scott McKenzie rubs shoulders with Barry McGuire, CD2 is full of singer-songwriters; Dylan, Cat Stevens and the like; whilst CD3 rocks it up with STEPPENWOLF and Cream.

What this collection is selling is nostalgia and it does it very, very well. Anyone who grew up through the years in question will remember every one of these songs and probably sing along with them too. It has to be said that there are two major omissions though, there is nothing by either The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Down to licensing presumably. That said, this is an absolutely classic collection that has been selected with extreme care and, dare it be said, love.  

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Various Artists - Photo's of a host of rock and roll stars as they attended the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees 2015 ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, United States - Saturday 18th April 2015

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Various Artists - Kitsune New Faces 2 Album Review


The deal hasn't changed: the world's best known couture indie label is still releasing everything from pop to polo shirts, having unearthed the likes of Years & Years, TDCC, Citizens! and, most recently, BeatauCue as they mix style with Gallic substance.

Various Artists - Kitsune New Faces 2 Album Review

'New Faces 2' is one of their periodic compilations which has a says-it-on-the-tin vibe: 14 tracks (plus a bonus extra on the CD) all released by acts which should - unless you've been hanging out in all the right Shoreditch bars - be new to you. By way of setting expectations, if their previous collections were anything to go by, they confirmed that label supremo Gildas Loaëc is a man with a musical vision that sits somewhere between Europhile gloss and the preppy, Ivy League jangle of American outfits like Vampire Weekend and, perhaps less obviously, 'Kids'-era MGMT.

If that sounds like an odd combination, much of 'New Faces' is determined by these slightly narrow operating parameters and, by extension, a frisson of orthodoxy. Opener 'One Wing' by New Yorkers Beau is a sixties-indebted torch song in the mould of Lucius, whilst Suisfine's 'Heat' is glorious slacker rock, but, largely, the texture of most of the songs here is pristine and synthetic. This doesn't mean that, in series tradition, the odd gem isn't unfurled: RIVRS' 'Last love' is naked, almost prone R&B, with singer Charlotte delivering the band's dark pop in crystalline words; Danglo's 'Catch My Eye' is as sludgy as the Thames by which it was made; whilst Jai Wolf's mix of Mocki's 'Weekend' re-frames its New Jack feel with beeps and bleeps, giving it the authentic je né sais quoi of the week's best two days.

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Various Artists - House Couture Mixed By Terence:Terry Album Review


Anyone can do mixtape, right? All sounds so easy: a few audio files, your free trial software, combine it with the sweet vibes only your bedroom can produce and, hey presto, suddenly you're Paul Oakenfold. Well, maybe, but not quite. Those who've ever tried to cross-fade Little Mix into Block Rockin' Beats will tell you that the DJ's art is actually rooted in something far more complex than just manipulating software. Even though some of the tactile skills so fondly cherished by the first generations of booth maestros are no longer needed, the things that can't be taught (feel, progression, when to hit the accelerator) remain the difference between the people at the top of their profession and the bozos with Christmas tree lights forever playing wedding receptions.

Various Artists - House Couture mixed by Terence:Terry Album Review

Terence:Terry is of the old school, vinyl era, caught up in the rush of the first Parisian raves and riding the acid house wave between his home city and London ever since, gathering a reputation for traversing genres whilst ducking the obvious plays. Now running his own fashion press agency and part of the underground furniture as an artist and producer, he set up his own label La Vie En Rose in 2012, and it's from his own impressive stable of ingénues that roughly a third of this mix is crafted.

Despite his pedigree, the project suffers initially from some of the same unpredictable dynamics of how a set can be consumed live: without familiarity (much of his own label output featured here is as yet unreleased) the crowd need to go with their instincts. This means that for the first 40 minutes plus, up for it punters are left with nothing much to get excited about. Effortlessly uniform and refined, up until the hazy warmth and Balearic washes of Carlos Sanchez's 'Touch Wood', it's hard to tell whether TT is trying too hard or not enough, before he begins to pull some familiar rabbits out of his chapeau. Suddenly, what had been more home than club is wickedly inverted, The Mole's 'MMD' acid house tinged remix of Gary Todd's '24 Hour Party Sausage' taking us to places weird and wonderful, whilst Chicago veteran Mickey Oliver's ancient gem 'Anticipate' revives Speak & Spell voice processing and bonkers DIY minimalism to great effect.

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