Lucid by Scarlett Taylor

Lucid by Scarlett Taylor is a very strong footing from which her career seems to be growing well from. Her unique, almost-derelict sounding aesthetic is something to be enjoyed, with Scarlett never afraid to lay her voice bare against these haunting soundscapes. “Monster Movie” from this debut album is a perfect example of this.

Although she is relatively new, in terms of her music’s exposure to the world, she has already managed to carve a unique niche for herself. It is clear that not only did she find her footing with this album, but she dug both heels in and continues to push forwards into new and interesting musical avenues.

I got mommy issues
Daddy issues
Money Issues
Holes in my shoes

Mommy Issues by Scarlett Taylor

If you are new to Scarlett’s music then this will be a great introduction to what she’s all about. If, like me, you are listening to this album after “Churches“, then you’re already a fan and are in for a treat.

Stand out songs

If you go by SoundCloud listens alone, then “Purple Bones” is clearly the most popular song from this album. I do like that song, however my personal favourite from “Lucid” is the fifth song, “Mommy Issues”. It’s one of the album’s heaviest with its distorted guitar filling this song’s larger-sounding atmosphere. It’s one of the heaviest I remember hearing from Scarlett, which is always welcome.

“Monster Movie” is another favourite, and is closer to the style I think of with Scarlett’s music. Her voice filling the stage while only a very small arrangement accompanies her. This song’s arrangement comes in the form of a melody played on a slightly over-driven electric guitar.

As with “Churches”, this album is music to get lost in and experience. It shouldn’t be put on with the kids yelling or as a communal office affair. This music is a personal statement and deserves to be experienced as such.

You should buy Lucid here.

Virginia Soundtrack by Lyndon Holland

In Virginia the soundtrack is a first-class citizen. It’s not simply just a well-written collection of pieces made for each scene, but additionally is a living, breathing creature itself. It weaves its way through you when listening, conjuring images either from the rural Virginia of the game’s setting, or any other place you care to find your mind wandering through.

Even playing the demo, the title screen alone has such a beautiful score that I was instantly hooked.

Virginia – A brief description of the game

Just to give you some context, the game has absolutely no talking in it whatsoever. You progress the story by investigating the current area, essentially playing through an interactive film. All conversations between characters are handled by well designed scenes; expertly-timed reactions and shows of emotions; and the score which seamlessly takes you by the hand.

The story is about an investigation into a boy’s disappearance, which soon leads to a bigger conspiracy overall. The two protagonists find themselves in a town very similar to Twin Peaks. In fact the aesthetic that the developers went for was Twin Peaks / X-Files / Outer Limits. And they nailed it with both setting and characters. The soundtrack for me however, is the real main character in Virginia.

Also worth mentioning is that this was recorded live by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It was recorded in the same location as both the ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’ film soundtracks were. ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’, in case you didn’t know, where both made by David Lynch, as was Twin Peaks.

Soundtrack as a character

Like any great character, the soundtrack to Virginia is consistent whilst remaining varied enough to stay interesting throughout. Even though the soundtrack blends seamlessly together, much of it is still distinctive enough to be able to pinpoint the scene of the game I remember it from.

A number of key pieces stand out for me as being particularly memorable. The first piece I remember loving, I actually heard from the demo I played before. This is called “In Dreams” and, as the title suggests, accompanies a dream sequence had by our heroine. It ends in a unique, abrupt way that brings back the feelings of its creepy scene instantly.

“Little Thugs” is different in that it’s probably the most frantic sounding, which fits its scene very well. It’s also one of the few pieces to be diegetic, meaning it is music whose source is actually shown in the film (in this case from a portable stereo owned by some thugs).

One other stand out piece, also seen within the game, is called “Sojourner’s Truth”. I truly don’t know how to emphasise the power of this song within the scene, and indeed in its own right. This piece of music is absolutely dripping with that ‘Twin Peaks Vibe’. If you hadn’t seen Twin Peaks for a few years you could be forgiven for thinking that this is from it. But please don’t think that it’s a poor-person’s Twin Peaks. This song, and indeed the whole soundtrack, comes from a place of huge admiration and respect for those influences, and stands high as the best homage to the previously-mentioned shows I have ever seen or heard.

Debriefing

In short, the soundtrack to Virginia is one of the best I’ve ever heard – and I mean out of all soundtracks; not just games. I have included my favourite scene from the game below, with “Sojourner’s Truth”, but I highly recommend actually playing the game through yourself to experience the whole package first-hand. It’s a short game, clocking in at about and hour and a half for me, but it is one of the best games I’ve ever played.

Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless

“Who You Selling For” by The Pretty Reckless sounds to me to be their most ambitious album to date. Their third full album release sees them stepping up their game, incorporating fresh sounding elements while still holding on to that signature “Reckless” sound. Each Pretty Reckless album has been longer than the last, with this one maintaining that tradition, clocking in at just over 50 minutes.

Who You Selling For

This album didn’t quite open like I expected it too. In place of a thumping rock jaunt, there was a calm, soothing piano piece accompanied by Taylor Momsen’s softly-sang words. This soon gave way for the fading in of a, dare i say it, Tool-esque riff. This opening song on the whole felt like they were experimenting with their sound; pushing their boundaries stylistically. On this song alone, I felt the next 11 songs were going to be a new experience; different from what I was used to hearing from them.

Taylor Momsen
Taylor Momsen

The following 2 songs, “Oh My God” and “Take Me Down” take me back to that recognisable ‘Reckless sound’. The latter of the two was the album’s first single, and a great choice it was too. The drums are accompanied by an almost tribal-like bongo sound with a cool guitar rhythm lick. “Take Me Down” got me back on the familiar ground with their signature sound that I’ve come to love.

Momsen’s voice is just as great as it always was too – if anything she sounds stronger vocally. Listening to the song “Already Dead” reminded me why Taylor’s vocals put her up in the top end of her league.

Upping their game

The rest of “Who You Selling For” continues to peak my interest throughout. They could have released another “Light Me Up” and I’d have been happy, but this release shows that they aren’t afraid to try new things and aren’t using their great sound in a cookie-cutter fashion. From the blues-infused “Prisoner”; to the heavy belters “Wild City” and my favourite off the album “Living In The Storm”; to the 3 minutes of breathing space that comes with the titular song. This album has much variety and forces me to pay closer attention to each song – pulling me further into the music.

As surprising as the opening to this album was, the closing was more so. Again, based on previous albums, I was expecting a certain style in the closing song – instead they gave me the super-funky finishing song “Mad Love”, whose opening could have easily have lead into an awesome cover of The Beegees’ “Stayin’ Alive”.

“Who You Selling For” demonstrates The Pretty Reckless at their strongest. A band not content with remaining in known safety, they are stepping up their game whilst still holding on to that signature ‘Reckless aesthetic’.

Lady Wood by Tove Lo

Tove Lo is an artist unafraid to use sexuality in her work. Whether that be in her lyrics; album title; or the album’s accompanying short film, “Fairy Dust“. That sexuality isn’t used for shock or as an empty attempt to gain followers, but is instead part of the deep rooted feelings behind her music.

Lady Wood” came across to me as Tove Lo’s most consistent piece of work to date. Don’t get me wrong – I love “Queen of the Clouds” – but something about her latest release seemed more consistent; more conceptual. These songs are tied together really well, with every single one of them being an absolute killer that grow with every listen.

A confident, more focused, second album

With the lighting of a single candle, experimental effects and a beautiful-sounding synth, “Fairy Dust (Chapter 1)” ushers us into the world of Tove Lo’s “Lady Wood”. It’s definitely one of my favourite intros to an album this year, and leads really well into the first full-length song, “Influence”.

“Influence” is an infectious steady build for the album and peaks brilliantly at it’s chorus’ awesome deep bass line. I remember the synthesizer’s sound in particular stood out to me, and fit in perfectly with my recent obsession with synthwave music.

Following “Influence” comes the album’s titular song “Lady Wood”, which is also a favourite of mine. Another steady build up with soft, minimal percussion lead to one of my favourite lyrics from the whole album:

I know what people say about you
They say the same about me
I don’t care if it’s all true
I want you hanging with me

Lady Wood by Tove Lo

“Lady Wood”, the song, also comes across as a slightly reined-in club dance hit, which is a nice breather before the absolute belter that comes next, in the shape of “True Disaster”.

As I mentioned earlier there is an accompanying short film to this album called “Fairy Dust”. One of the stand out parts of that film was in the performance of “True Disaster” – all in one continuous take by the look of it. It was seeing that performance that made this song in particular stand out the more as being one of my favourites. Like many of the songs here, it builds up really well and peaks with an absolutely banging chorus.

Featured Artists

“Lady Wood” includes some interesting featured artists across a couple of the songs, none of which I’d heard of before. In particular the album’s mid-way song, “Vibes”, features a chap called Joe Janiak and has one of the most interesting chorus deliveries of the album. “Vibes” almost comes out of left field, in that its opening is performed on an acoustic finger-picked guitar. It gives the album a stylistic change to the music contained up till this point.

No, let’s not put a label on it
Let’s keep it fun
We don’t put a label on it
So we can run free, yeah
I wanna be free like you

Cool Girl by Tove Lo

The rest of the album’s second half follows suit by blasting out great song after great song. There is a great use of electronic samples and synthesizers throughout this album that just serve to increase my addiction to it.

Not one of the songs made me want to skip forward – if you’re going to listen to this album, then you will listen to it. Just listen through the first minute of “Keep it Simple” and tell me the synth drop doesn’t kick ass.

A Sprinkling of Fairy Dust

As well as listening to “Lady Wood”, I also strongly urge you to take half an hour to watch Tove’s film “Fairy Dust” – and probably not at work either. Watching this film really gave me an extra depth when listening to the album after. I’m not going to pretend I understood the story 100% or that I got all the metaphors etc, but as a piece of art and an album accompaniment, it’s first class. Just watch Tove Lo’s performance in the opening scene and you’re sure to be pulled in immediately.

You can buy Tove Lo’s “Lady Wood” on Amazon today.

Border Lord by Kris Kristofferson

Border Lord by Kris Kristofferson was my first taste of country music. In fact I think when I bought this album it was the first time I had stepped out of my musical bubble of that time. It has a slightly darker flavour than what I thought country was till then.

As I remember it I was on my way home from my early shift in a local warehouse when I passed by a charity shop in the town. In the window I saw a bunch of albums and Border Lord was one of them. I think it was the cover that initially drew me to it and at only about £1.50, how could I say no?

When I first listened to this album I was immediately drawn in – I hadn’t heard anything like it before. I had been brought up on a healthy diet of Fleetwood Mac, Meat Loaf and Supertramp; so it was a refreshing addition to my music range. In retrospect I think this was the album that made me start actively searching out different types of music.

Border Lord

The album opens with the song “Josie” which, as best as I can work out from the lyrics, is a song about a man finding himself experiencing his first love with a woman of the night. When I say “as best as I can work out”, I just mean that most of the album’s lyrics are open to interpretation. I tend to see the literal meanings first, as opposed to any metaphor attached. I think it speaks volumes for the album that I can hear it ten years later and still find new things within it.

The next song, “Burden of Freedom”, is a song directed to God by the singer, about either adjusting to life outside of a prison and what it has done to him, or about him taking his own life. This, along with the third song, “Stagger Mountain Tragedy”, are brilliant examples of the fully formed worlds within Kris’ songs that are expertly crafted with these sometimes-cryptic lyrics.

I was born on Stagger Mountain in the sunshine and the snow.
And leavin’ was the first mistake I made;
But I hungered for the shadows in the valley down below.
And the girl that danced the tune the devil played.
Her smile was like the blindin’ light of sunshine on the snow
And the flashin’ of her hair was black as sin.
And her body set the smokes of hell a-boilin’ in my skull.
When the fiddle of the devil made her spin.

opening lyrics from “Stagger Mountain Tragedy”

The rest of the song takes a dark turn that I will let you discover for yourself.

The stand-out song on “Border Lord” for me, is the start of the album’s second half, “Little Girl Lost”. This, like some previous songs, comes across as being from a darker side of love. The song also has one of my favourite tempo changes I’ve ever heard.

“Smokey put the sweat on me” is a great driving song and gives “Border Lord” greater variety. Not that the album gets boring at all, it just gives it a breeze of cool air. It sounds like it would be a great live concert closer too. If you can listen to this song through without either bobbing your head or your feet, or both, then you’re in much more control of your body than I am.

I have shook Kris Kristofferson’s hand

Every album of Kris Kristofferson’s I’ve heard since “Border Lord” I’ve loved. I think my favourite is actually his eponymous debut, but this will always have a special place on my shelf.

Also, on the strength of this album, I travelled up to Edinburgh, from Birmingham, to see him live. He still knows how to command a stage, twang them strings and I even got to shake his hand.

You Know What It’s Like by Carla dal Forno

Since I first heard the song “Fast Moving Cars“, the album “You Know What It’s Like” by Carla Dal Forno has been on my radar ever since. When the album was released on October 15th, it both was and wasn’t what I was expecting.

It was, insofar as it being rooted in a consistent feeling of ambience that I came to expect from “Fast Moving Cars”, and the second single “What You Gonna Do Now”.

It wasn’t, in that I had half-expected the album to be samey throughout. However I am happy to say that the album had enough variety within, without becoming disjointed.

One thing is certain; with “You Know What It’s Like” you will be taken on a journey around some of the darker reaches of music.

You can buy “You Know What It’s Like” from Bandcamp.

Carla walks us into the void

Carla brings an eeriness to music that for me, has many distant echos back to albums like “The Marble Index” by Nico.

The opening song, an instrumental called “Italian Cinema” is possibly the strangest album intro I’ve heard in a long time. The title “Italian Cinema” is apt, being that it made me conjure up images of old Italian Giallo films. It starts with a strange warbling effect and merges into what I could only imagine as a demonic playground melody.

Four flies on grey velvet

Following “Italian Cinema” was the now-familiar crack of thunder, ushering in one of my favourite songs of the year, “Fast Moving Cars”. The song doesn’t seem to really go anywhere as such. It’s almost like a Wican chant set to a repeated base tone and minimal synthesizer. But that is precisely what I love about Carla Dal Forno’s music – her ethereal, often haunting, aesthetics.

“DB Rip” steps in as the third song on the album and brings a slightly more aggressive edge. With its punchier beat and sharper synths, it will either shake you free from the album’s trace-inducing charm, or take you deeper. I was taken deeper, so it was only fitting that the next song’s lyrics opened with the following:

What you gonna do now,
that the night’s come and it surrounds you?
What you gonna do now,
that the night’s come and it surrounds you?
You could wait for the day,
Though I don’t think it’ll make a difference

What you gonna do now by Carla Dal Forno

Seduced by the darkness

This album has a darkness to it that is inviting, not off-putting. I can only liken it to the feelings I got during the end of this years film “The Witch”. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but let me just say it involves an inevitable pull into the comforting arms of darkness.

Out of the album’s eight songs, the division of instrumental and vocal-led songs is evenly spilt. At first seeing that the album clocked in at only 29 minutes, I can’t pretend that I wasn’t disappointed. However, now that I have listened to “You Know What It’s Like” a few times, this now actually seems like a perfect length. And the fact that half of the album is instrumental – and experimentally so – gives the album a diversity that stops you getting bored from it’s surreal soundscapes.

This is an album I will be listening to either in bed or on the train when I want to zone out for my morning commute.