If these releases from September and October are anything to go by, we’re in for a bounty of fortune in the final chunk of 2017. Whilst Foo Fighters and Marilyn Manson (understandably) continue to create the sound which made them famous, Enter Shikari and The Front Bottoms are unafraid to try something drastically new, and St Vincent manages to expand her frighteningly brilliant sound.
Elsewhere Liam Gallagher and The Darkness, artists you’d probably forgotten about, make their triumphant return to the charts. Only time will tell what the rest of Q4 has to offer, but these hot new albums of September and October have certainly set the bar very high
Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
Even the biggest of Foo Fighters haters can’t deny that the band have reached god-tier status. When a band achieves that level of popularity – short of a huge scandal – there’s very little chance of their popularity declining significantly. Because of this obsessive level of fandom, it must be tempting for a band to rest on their laurels and not push any boundaries.
On Concrete and Gold the band don’t make any significant changes to their sound, but when it’s as established and popular as their’s, it’s easy to understand why. The album’s only attempt at doing something different is its opener, T-Shirt, which begins with a sincere Ed Sheeren-esque acoustic section before detonating into a melodic explosion, the type of thing usually reserved for more avant-garde rock bands.
This euphoric combustion contrasts the frantic screams on Run (easily the band’s most infectious chorus for some time) and the crunchy, funky bass of La Dee Da. Dave Grohl is one of the biggest names in modern rock, and the album sees him show off his impressive pull with an A to Z of collaborators; The Kills’ Alison Mosshart (The Sky Is a Neighbourhood), Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman (the title track) and even Paul McCartney (Sunday Rain). Justin Timberlake also features on the album, though thankfully he isn’t audible.
Concrete and Gold may be just more of the same from Foo Fighters, but when has that ever been a bad thing?
Enter Shikari – The Spark
Enter Shikari have always been at the intersection between post-hardcore, punk and electronic, but their previous release had a harsher edge than anything they’d release before. Rather than pursue this heavier sound, the band’s new album – The Spark – is their most accessible to date.
Whilst hardcore fans might wince at the band’s attempt at being radio-friendly, in many ways it was inevitable for a band like Enter Shikari to pursue this path. They’ve always been on the cusp of massive mainstream appeal, and the band’s countercultural lyrics are more relevant now than they’ve ever been. It makes sense for them to finally make this move.
The album’s lead single, Live Outside, is, without doubt, the poppiest thing the band have ever made. Meanwhile, Shinrin-Yoku features dreamy synths, and Undercover Agent soars with falsetto vocals and delightful rolling drum beats. There are even some tracks which play out (almost) like traditional rock ballads. Don’t think for a second that the band have lost their edge, though, they’re simply (and cannily) shifting their sound to account for their growing fanbase. The band you know and love is still there (especially on the grime-infused Rabble Rouser) but now there’s a chance for their political lyrics to reach the biggest audience yet. Now more than ever, the world needs a band like Enter Shikari.
The Horror’s – V
The Horrors are one of few bands from the back-combed indie explosion of the mid-noughties to still be finding success a decade later. Their fifth album, appropriately named V sheds some light onto why the English five-piece are still going strong.
The band have never lived up to their name, and V strays even further from what those not in the know might imagine The Horrors to sound like. Opening track Hologram sets the agenda for the album; pulsing, psychedelic and dream-like, bursting with swaying synths, slurred lyrics and a beautifully soporific soundscape. Machine brings in some buzzing, crushed-up elements which will really excite industrial rock fans and seems destined to appear on the soundtrack of a retro-futuristic film. Meanwhile, Something to Remember Me’slayered sound sounds custom-built to appease label heads and radio executives, but this is no bad thing, it’s a sweet, danceable number which is sure to generate interest from casual listeners.
V is a confident and effortlessly cool album, which certainly improves upon its 2014 predecessor, Luminous. A decade since their debut, The Horrors are finally living up to the blog-lead hype train from 2007. Hopefully, VI will continue this legacy.
The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
It’s been five years since The Killers last album, and, despite the decent success of Battle Born, not even their biggest fan could pretend that album was as vital or memorable as Sam’s Town or their magnum opus Hot Fuss.
Thankfully, The Killers seem to be back on track with Wonderful Wonderful, a (vaguely) concept album which explores modern masculinity. Lead single, The Man acts as suitable induction to the album’s sound, all glossy and glittery, sounding like a Scissor Sisters track in places. This gorgeous indie pop/new wave/alternative rock combination sounds exactly how you’d hope The Killers would sound in 2017, with Run for Cover bursting with the type of brilliance unique to the band.
Brandon Flowers is understandably key to the band’s success, and he sounds as transcendent as ever on this album, particularly on the understated brilliance of Rut and the theatrical opening track. Extraordinary as the album sounds on record, you can’t help but imagine it will truly shine in a live setting, this new material slotting in easily with the rest of the band’s impressive back catalog.
With My Chemical Romance still absent, it’s been left to Flowers and co to fly the flag for over-the-top concept-rock, and, clearly, it’s in the safest of hands.
Liam Gallagher – As You Were
Though traditionally seen as the bigger trouble-maker of the two Gallagher brothers, there has been a lot of public goodwill towards Liam this year, mainly thanks to his appearance at Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert, which his brother Noel was unable to attend.
Whilst his first post-Oasis project, Beady Eye, made surprisingly little impact, Gallagher’s first solo record is very much a return to form. As well as making headlines for becoming the highest selling vinyl record for twenty years, the album is being discussed as the best thing Gallagher has produced for some time, and it’s not hard to see why. China Town is a delicate psychedelic rock track, with a video paying homage to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, whilst the harmonica on Wall of Glass is something to behold.
Of course, there are unmistakable elements of Britpop (Come Back to Me sounds a little too like an Oasis track) but also clear influences from The Beatles, The Stones and Primal Scream. Saying that, there is something incredibly current about the record, and not just because the 90’s have come back into fashion.
As You Were is a genuinely impressive album, and it’s a delight to see Liam back at the top of the charts.
Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down
It’s been over twenty years since Marilyn Manson slithered onto the scene, causing genuine moral panic with their infectious blend of glamorous and industrial gothic rock. Now on their tenth album, the shock factor has all but disappeared, but thankfully this has done nothing to stem their flow of banging tracks. The band recently had to cancel some tour dates after the main man was hospitalized when some stage-props fell on him. This caused fans to miss the chance to see this great new material performed live.
Originally called Say10, Heaven Upside Down is an eclectic record full of atmosphere. We Know Where You F****** Live confirms the band to be exactly what your parents worried they were, with Manson bellowing the explicit title over deafeningly grinding guitar. Elsewhere, Tattooed In Reverse is the kind of glittery funk-metal the band have always done so well, and Kill4Me sounds almost like the Arctic Monkeys, all smooth and stripped back.
As you might have guessed, there’s nothing revolutionary on this album, but it absolutely deserves your attention. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the record, it’s a consistently entertaining LP, never afraid to add (and drop) elements to keep momentum going. Marilyn Manson may have lost their ability to shock, but they’ve certainly still got their ability to rock.
The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
Back in 2003, a glam-rock quartet burst onto the British charts with I Believe in a Thing Called Love, their falsetto vocals and catsuits being like nothing (contemporary) rock fans had ever seen before. Despite achieving massive success, as the novelty wore off, the band went from flavor of the month, to guilty pleasure, to joke.
Of course, in a time when nostalgia seems to have more power than ever before, it was only a matter of time until the band reformed. They released albums in 2012 and 2015, which got little attention, peaking outside of the UK top ten, but, for some reason Pinewood Smile has managed to outdo its predecessors, landing at number 8.
It’s always been difficult to gauge just how serious a band like The Darkness actually are. Their detractors will label them as ironic pastiches of classic rock but, whilst there is absolutely a certain amount of knowingness, the music on this new record is actually rather good. All the Pretty Girls is a non-stop assault of delightful riffs and rolls, and Buccaneers of Hispaniola, eerily familiar though it may sound, is a frenetic three minutes of rock which is hard to shake off.
With titles like Japanese Prisoner of Love and Seagulls (Losing My Virginity), it’s obvious that the band are up for a laugh, but this is never at the listener’s expense. You have may have forgotten they existed, but this new Darkness album is sure to put a smile on your face.
The Front Bottoms – Going Grey
The album begins with the sounds of the sea and some ominous synths chords, and it’s not long until a drum beat begins and sweeps you into a lush electro-tinged indie masterpiece. Full of swirling guitar riffs and catchy hooks, it’s actually Brian Sella’s vocals which will first strike you about the album. Famous for his dead-pan half-spoken delivery, the singer has finally found the confidence to attempt proper singing, and the album is all the richer for it.
The record’s blend of 80’s synths and guitar marks The Front Bottoms as just as unique and experimental as Fueled By Ramen label mates like Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Indeed, tracks like Grande Finale, Peace Sign and Trampoline dazzle with their innovative elements, with unusual drum beats and bouncy synth chords.
Going Grey is the band’s second release on a major label, and its production suggests that they’ve finally become comfortable in this setting. The band has previously had a rather scrappy sound, but this follow up to 2015’s Back on Top sounds both cleaner and tighter. Old school fans will need to do some adjusting to accept this new sound, but it seems obvious that the future is bright for The Front Bottoms.
St Vincent – MASSEDUCATION
Very much the indie darling of the moment, Annie Clark aka St Vincent has made a name for herself with her unique mix of genres, becoming the first woman in twenty years to win the Grammy for Best Alternative Album.
MASSEDUCATION is just as brilliantly bonkers as we’ve come to expect from the artist. Pills, one of the highlights of the album, sounds like a nightmarish drug-addled nursery rhyme, featuring some exotic guitar riffs which even Sleigh Bells would be envious of. Similarly, the Jack Antonoff produced Los Ageless is a dance-y, new wave bop which you’ll find yourself unable to resist moving your body like an idiot to.
New York sees St Vincent display her vulnerable side, which really underlines how personal this album is. Indeed, the artist has stated that whilst her previous albums have seen her adopt different characters, her new record is the first to come from a truly first-person perspective.
St Vincent has always been utterly impossible to pigeonhole, and this is where her genius lies. Instead of trying to label her output we should embrace the impossibly diverse range of influences which forge the sound of her magnificent body of work. The brilliance of MASSEDUCATION shows that other artists still have an awful lot to learn.