Tag Archives: Pop

Kodaline // Coming Up For Air – Review

Irish 4-piece Kodaline release their all important second album ‘Coming Up For Air’, which brings with it the unenviable task of bettering their breakthrough record ‘In A Perfect World’, an album that saw them gain widespread popularity in an increasingly difficult musical climate.

The opening track and lead single from the album ‘Honest’, gets things off to a prompt start, and immediately introduces us to the echoing synth sounds and “wooaah’s” that play a vital role in the composition of this record. Huge synth bass carries the poignant chorus, with Steve Garrigan asking “Is it in you to be honest?” Switching between relatively intense sounds and more solemn vocal parts makes this opening track an engaging and effortlessly catchy start. ‘The One’ follows on pleasantly with a gentle introduction featuring piano and Garrigan’s reflective vocals. This shamelessly gushing love song is made all the more enjoyable by well controlled strings and inventive synth sounds skulking behind the echoing guitars.

‘Auto Pilot’ begins with gentle percussion, followed by subtle guitar, smooth vocals and some sensitive harmonies. The percussive backing remains throughout, while the vocals build and the backing choir adds satisfying depth to what is instrumentally a relatively simple song. The alarming guitar and synth sounds wake us up promptly in ‘Human Again’. “I got a pain in my heart and a pain in my chest, I wanna be human again” rings out over a contrastingly upbeat sound, powered by a stamping snare drum. Raising the vocals an octave further emphasises the desire for positive change that screams from this track. ‘Unclear’ almost sounds like it’s been recorded underwater, with only whispering vocals and bass guiding us initially, before the ever present ‘wooaah’s’ again come into play. The choir of young voices is brilliantly used to once again hammer us into an unavoidably positive mood.

The sixth track, which bares an immense resemblance to Coldplay’s ‘Hurts Like Heaven’, features yet more wooing along with simple but hugely effective guitar riffs that explode into Garrigan’s “coming alive!”. Altering the riffs slightly each time keeps the track fresh and interesting, and staunchly maintains the records obdurately optimistic feel. ‘Lost’ is a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a recent ‘Muse’ album, with futuristic sounds fluctuating behind the rest of the track, in a similar vein to the heavily adjusted guitars that play a key role in the following track ‘Ready’. Very simple structurally, but effortlessly catchy, the piercing high notes towards the end of the song work surprisingly well and make up for the regrettably lazy lyrics of the chorus.

Acoustic guitar is used prominently for the first time on track nine ‘Better’, which is a turning point in the album, moving from relentless positivity to inconsolable sorrow in the blink of an eye. “It doesn’t feel right” saps the good feeling that has been built up for the duration of the album thus far, but gloriously delivered vocals in the chorus rouse this impossibly beautiful track into something of a show piece, with building strings accompanying the vocals superbly. “Cause it’s making me worse” aptly brings the song to an end, and leaves the listener wondering what an earth happened between tracks eight and nine to warrant such pristine melancholia. Mercifully though, spotting the title of the next track will settle the bottom lip of any potentially blubbering listeners. ‘Everything Works Out In The End’ is a contemplative track which returns to a positive tone, with soothing vocal accompaniment and prominent piano helping to build us back up again.

The penultimate track cracks off suddenly, with some ‘ooing’, and what may well be a kazoo in the mix. “Nobody’s gonna carry you” is a fitting lyric in this uplifting and motivating song that utilises a huge array of different instruments. ‘Love Will Set You Free’ closes out the record perfectly, persevering with the reflective tone “This ain’t no sad song, life has to go on”. The piano, drums and acoustic guitar are fortified with brass and a large choir of woah-ers, all while Garrigan majestically serenades us into a delightfully happy place.

‘Coming Up For Air’ then is a record that will likely satisfy those listeners who have wanted something new from the alt-rock/pop scene. It’s hugely accessible lyrics, uplifting and – for the most part – positive tone, combined with the modern feel of the album make it difficult to dislike, and with heavenly tracks like ‘Better’, I can see them outdoing their first release with ease.

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Rock? Pop? Does it matter? Not at all, but I’m going to say it anyway

Last week I read this article on the BBC website claiming rock music had overtaken pop music in the UK album chart. My immediate thought was that this seems unlikely, but I’ll read it and see if this bold and broad statement has any weight.

“Rod Stewart’s ‘Time’ was the best-selling album to be classified as rock by the Official Charts Company, followed by Arctic Monkeys and Bastille”

Got to be classified as something right? Just makes things a bit easier. But where do you draw the line? And who gets to draw it? Is it fair for Rod Stewart to be in the same classification as Behemoth, who are the current number 37 in the Rock & Metal album chart? I’d argue that Rod Stewart’s music is far more similar to the likes of James Blunt, who finds himself in the top 20 of the pop album charts. My point is, I think, that genres are so crazily difficult to categorise accurately that statements such as “rock overtakes pop” are drastically too broad and vague to be considered accurate, and are frankly better off just being ignored.

The charts are something I struggle to take seriously, as you probably know, and I’m somewhat out of touch, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the music in the charts doesn’t even come CLOSE to covering the illimitable array of music that is out there that doesn’t receive the same publicity, and perhaps as a result does not appeal to as many people.

“Woolly definition”

It would appear Mark Savage, a BBC news entertainment reporter, agrees with me to an extent, as he claims that “Rock’s resurgence is helped by the Chart Company’s rather woolly definition – which includes Mumford and Sons (surely a folk-pop band) and Rod Stewart (better suited to the MOR category)”. Woolly is an interesting term, but I’d take it a step further and just describe their whole definition process as irrelevant and meaningless. If you’re going to cram anything with even a faint murmur of a guitar sound into the ‘rock’ genre, I say don’t bother. It’s as useful as a marine biologist comparing red fish to blue fish, when there are 35 million different sub-types of each.

I’m not saying “oh that’s not rock music, that’s just shitty old pop”; as easy as that would be, I certainly don’t have the right to make such a spunky claim, but I also don’t feel anyone else really does, apart from the artists themselves. But even then, if Katy Perry decided to claim she was a pig metal artist, well that would just be outrageous and fantastic, but she clearly isn’t, so there has to be a line somewhere. Either way genres exist, whether they can be categorically defined or not, and are an unavoidable aspect of music.

Both the BBC article, and the Chart Company’s genre’s are in my opinion complacent and inattentive. If I was in a self proclaimed metal band, and found myself sandwiched in the ‘rock’ charts between Rod Stewart and some other has-been with a marriage repertoire comparable to Henry VIII, I’d be pretty pissed off.

Should these two be classified as the same genre? Listen for yourself

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