Gemma Cockrell, Maia Gibbs and Myron Winter-Brownhill
As 2020 comes to a wrap, Impact has come together to share our reviews of the big albums that were released this year. In this article, we look at albums that were released in August and September.
August – PVRIS, Glass Animals and Stand Atlantic
PVRIS – Use Me
Vocalist Lynn Gunn leaves all modesty, fear, anxiety and doubt in the past on Use Me. With the recent controversial departure of guitarist Alex Babinski, much narrative was generated surrounding the release. Bassist/keyboardist Brian MacDonald still remains an integral element of PVRIS’ live shows, but Gunn produced all of the beats, wrote all of the lyrics, and played guitar, drums and bass on the record.
Gunn confidently steps into the spotlight, claiming her role as the project’s sole creative lead. She really comes into her own, no longer hiding in the shadows, and no longer shy. Her talent, story and truth shine at the forefront.
Whilst Use Me seems to be the end of an old chapter for PVRIS, it is logical to see it more as a new beginning, with Gunn taking ownership and sole credit of the PVRIS name, expanding and building on everything that PVRIS have released up until this point in time. Use Me is irrefutably a true PVRIS album.
Merging catchy, ear-worming mainstream pop beats and twinkling synths with grooving basslines and gritty guitars
It follows on logically from their debut White Noise and sophomore All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, merging catchy, ear-worming mainstream pop beats and twinkling synths with grooving basslines and gritty guitars, combining the genres of pop and rock, whilst also bending these genres by simultaneously experimenting with soulful R&B sounds, and electric dance beats.
“It’s not a band, but it’s not a solo project,” Gunn says. “I don’t know what it is—but it doesn’t matter what it is. This is what it is.” She has always been the singular creative mind behind PVRIS, and she is finally, bravely, leaving her guilt behind and accepting the role in the spotlight that she deserves, and taking true credit for her work.
Glass Animals – Dreamland
Glass Animals are the personification of modern indie success – both ubiquitous yet unknown. Although arguably their third LP ‘Dreamland’ stands apart from both their previous works and their psychedelic contemporaries. Dave Bayley, now self-named “Wavey Davey”, takes audiences through a tale of his own personal history, combined flavourfully with art pop and trip hop. Wavey’s coming-of-age story was truly global – a son of Welsh and Israeli parents he was raised in Massachusetts and Texas and moving to the UK at 14 ‘Dreamland’ perfectly reflects this with the concoction of musical influences.
Glass Animals masterfully combines the voice of the British indie electronic scene with the musical notes of California – straight out of a Coachella tent. With songs with riffs nodding to The Beach Boys, electronic ethereal hums and squelchy synths, Bayley takes us through a genre-splicing tale of his youth.
Bayley takes us through stories of love, loss, excitement, and joy, with tracks often divided by home videos and the voices of young Bayley, his family, and friends. The album is wholly reminiscent and reflective and depending on your 2020 mood can evoke warm memories of the past or sad, angry damnation at the not so warm present. Listen at your own digression.
It’s a sun-kissed album of summer tunes that we all will one day listen to at a festival
‘Dreamland’ is bloated with nuggets of feel-good pop gold. It’s a sun-kissed album of summer tunes that we all will one day listen to at a festival with a stale and slightly gross drink in our hands. We may even drunkenly cry (and not even in a sad lockdown) when the effervescent, glossy cocoons of pop melodies fade away to reveal Bayley’s hugely personal stories. Maybe this is album could be our ‘Dreamland’ a summer of indie pop and past memories, family videos of better times and falling in love with someone new.
Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant
Pink Elephant is an impressively adventurous sophomore record, pushing genre boundaries and creatively thinking outside the box, whilst never straying dangerously far from Stand Atlantic’s pop-punk roots.
The album is modern and innovative whilst also capturing the early 2000’s roots
Lead single Jurassic Park perfectly captures Stand Atlantic’s ability to write high-adrenaline, catchy, explosive pop-punk hooks, with their forward-thinking approach to song-writing transforming the genre to prevent it from feeling outdated and stale, whilst also simultaneously remaining true to the traditional high-octane pop-punk energy and spirit, ensuring that the album is modern and innovative whilst also capturing the early 2000’s roots of the genre.
However, the moments of Pink Elephant that truly shine are its more experimental tracks, most remarkably Silk and Satin. It is a significantly slower-paced track, one of quiet reflection, with glitchy beats and quirky water droplet-esque electronic sound effects throughout.
Another notable moment is Drink to Drown, a soulful, emotional, slow-burning and heartfelt piano and string driven ballad, depicting vocalist Bonnie Fraser’s admittedly unhealthy coping mechanisms and her earnest confessions of addiction. It is a raw and tender track, contrasting entirely to the upbeat, high-energy and found on the rest of the track-list, enabling the listener to witness a new, vulnerable and emotionally reflective side to the band.
Paving the pathway for the future of pop-punk, Stand Atlantic’s progressive, innovative and experimental interpretation of the nostalgic, well-loved genre ensures it remains modern, current and relevant to 2020, whilst simultaneously succeeding in capturing the energy and essence of the early 2000’s.
September – Joji
Joji – Nectar
For a sophomore project, ‘Nectar’ hits many of the right points; Joji has continued to develop his identity as an RnB artist, cultivating a sleepy, dreamlike sound with a broader sonic range.
Joji flexes his falsetto vocals on top melancholy, echoing guitar
‘Gimme Love’ might be the best example of this sleepiness. What starts with upbeat snares soon sends you into a trance as Joji pleads for love, but the second half of the track ditches the electronic sound for a rising, hopeful outro. Immediately following this is the emotional highlight of the album: ‘Run’. Joji flexes his falsetto vocals on top melancholy, echoing guitar that eventually expands into a surprising classic-rock inspired solo. It’s certainly one of Nectar’s more unique moments, but it fits with the theme he is aiming for.
Though the first half of the album is filled with an interesting range of tracks – standouts being the Diplo produced ‘Daylight’, and the anxious ‘MODUS’ – Nectar suffers from a couple of songs that feel indistinct, and serve only to bloat out the 18-track runtime. ‘Normal People’ has a beat straight from a lo-fi beats stream, ‘Like You Do’ is a generic piano ballad (sorry), and ‘777’ can feel a little close to the retro synth sound used elsewhere by a certain RnB titan.
‘Nectar’ is clearly the product of sizeable ambition from Joji. His second album showcases some atmospheric RnB that benefits from equal parts trap beat and orchestral strings. As the album progresses, some tracks start to feel superfluous (though inoffensive), dampening the album’s otherwise impressive heights.
Gemma Cockrell, Maia Gibbs and Myron Winter-Brownhill
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