Bandwagon Selects: Recent Record Reviews Edition #15

With the weekend looming, we have a bunch of new music to put on play! Closer to home this week, we check out some releases by our very own bands. We take wyd:syd, Navire Creux and SparkleDrivenFairytale a-spinning and also latched on the new album by White Lies and Bon Iver's other side project, Volcano Choir. Enjoy your listening party! 

wyd:syd | Oval East

Simply put, wyd:syd is one among the many recent local bands to pop out of the woodwork with an already polished sound and the chops to back up their ideas. Think of them as sounding like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but instead of being noisy and a straight-up rock band, they've decided to run the other way altogether, relying instead of big epic choruses and more atmospheric instrumentation. Lead track "Foolish Hunger" sets the tone for the rest of the 4-track EP, leading right out of the gate with a steady delayed guitar riff, allowing the space to fill up with the repeated notes before the drummer enters, giving rhythm to the piece and setting the groundwork for the singer to arrive. From there, it builds up, crescendo-like, into a chorus that seems big enough to fill a stadium. The other three tracks seem to follow the same progression - from small to big and back again, the quiet verses complementary to the loud choruses.

Listening to Oval East repeatedly, it's very evident that for their confidence on record, they are still a very young band. The Pains influence is obvious throughout the record, whether or not they intend it to be or not. there's also a little bit of the Temper Trap in there, the lyrics striving to be more of the Temper Trap's heavy-handedness than of Pains' teenage relationships, even if the vocalist's voice seems more suited to youthfulness of the latter than the rusticity of the former. Also, the instrumentation doesn't change very much, nor do the dynamics of the pieces - I would have loved to have heard some more overdriven guitars to give them some strength, or even the drummer to be more adventurous with his kit. However, it has to be said that they know what they want to achieve, and they prove to be doing it very well indeed. 

All in all, this is a strong showing from a band who, despite their youth, have made a record that tells everybody exactly who they are and what to expect next. Their EP is available on their bandcamp page for free, but I assure you it'll be worth however much you decide to pay them.

Stream/purchase Oval East

SparkleDrivenFairytale | Coming Out Of Tragedy EP

We've been looking forward to the SparkleDrivenFairytale release ever since we've watched them live in Identite 7.3, combining post-rock aesthetics with post-hardcore convictions. Listening to their debut EP Coming Out Of Tragedy, we're glad that they held on to that concept, a heavily emotional mix of screaming vocals and soaring post-rock riffs. "Barely Breathing" is them at their best. Melodic leads, passionate vocals and loud riffs - it's a superb example of modern post-hardcore done right. The vocals however are inconsistent - sounding somewhat weak in "Last Lullaby" and "Coming Out Of Tragedy" but sounding confidently pleasing in "Barely Breathing" and "Addiction To Its Scent". At times, the music also sounds almost generic; nothing much stands out.   

The thing that sits out like a sore thumb in Coming Out Of Tragedy is that the production quality is unsatisfactory, so much that the EP feels unfulfilled. Throughout the five songs, the mix sounds flat and uninspired. So much potential went to waste; more could have been done to make the instruments stand out from each other. SparkleDrivenFairytale put up a commendable effort, but they have plenty of room to improve in their compositions and will need a little more power to perk up our ears. 

Stream/purchase Coming Out Of Tragedy EP

Navire Creux | Reprobate

One thing's for sure, Axel Ante does not f*ck around when it comes to his brand of post-metal. Reprobate, the third release from his instru-metal project Navire Creux, opens with the groovy, bass-heavy track "Concealed", a booming industrial-esque cage of sound that cuts straight to the chase. Sonic buildups and peaceful passages be damned; Axel tightly spaces his tracks to the point where each heavily distorted guitar riff hits hard in repetitive blasts - rarely stopping for more than a few seconds to rest. The pattern repeats throughout the four tracks, where line after line of glorious tone and pounding rhythm is laid down in turbulent form. The industrial metal influence shows, and it's especially prominent in the middle of "Nihilism" with a short electronic sequence thrown in for good measure.

In terms of production quality, Reprobate is an absolute stunner. Basslines have that thundering, massive crunch; guitar riffs sound perfectly crisp; the drumwork coalesces all that immense sound together. The only complaint that can be made is that the album cuts too short - around 16 minutes in total. We want more metal dude. But it's 16 minutes of intensely satisfying post-metal, and it's definitely one of our favourite EPs so far this year. 

Stream/purchase Reprobrate

White Lies | Big TV

At the heart of it, Big TV is a dedicated pop album. Synth heavy and rousing anthems, Harry McVeigh's tenor is commanding in a gloomy, sulky way. From first impressions, you get that this is an ambitious album; grandiose in sound, heavy in content. With concept albums such as this one, what stands out the most is the songwriting. In Big TV, listen through it and you find yourself following a twisty tale of a young woman who journeys to new unfamiliar lands and the problems and pressures it puts on her relationship peppered with themes of love, betrayal, change, and isolation. Whoa #deep. 

Or not. Sure, it is full of very tasteful and intelligent songwriting but it is a pretty big-sounding album but some of its shortcomings are the lack of conviction and formidable tunes. It is probably a curse to fall in the post-punk genre and being constantly up against bands like Joy Division, Editors and Interpol. And with the decision to load up on the synth and reverb has made them comparable to The Killers, the purveyors of stadium synth-rock/pop. Still there are a couple of solid songs in this album. 'Change' is a standout from the rest of the bravado on the album. Showcasing his vocals at its best and vulnerable and fragile, McVeigh mourns "I've been lonely when I'm with you/But now I'm lonely all the same" on the track, adding a bit of intrigue and realness in the album, but then it ends too quickly and the pounding begins again. 

Something worth mentioning is the album art and packaging of Big TV. Impeccable in presentation, they used artist Michael Kagan's texture-heavy paintings that suited the direction of the album. Just one look at the spaceman on the cover and you've already been roped in to Big TV's plot. 

Standout tracks:

There Goes Our Love Again, First Time Caller, Change

Volcano Choir | Repave

Our favourite sad man, Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver has released a second full length album with his side project, Volcano Choir. To be honest, that peg is a little unfair. In Repave, he transcends the 'cabin in the woods' persona to create something more embracing and less solitary. If Bon Iver is an unaccompanied man in the woods, Volcano Choir is a band of friends on an adult camping trip, making it a well cohesive and panoramic album. 

A lot of his influences are there, the beautiful and sparsely spaced arrangements and crisp, sonorous sound. What Repave did well is that it has meshed Bon Iver's brand of opulent folk with a fuller ambient and cinematic sound. As a result, it is a well curated album full of decent songs that sit well on the sonic palette. 'Comrade' plays around with some auto-tune and glitchy electronic effects but remains grounded with the lush guitars. 'Byegone' and 'Alaskans' are more muscular and confronting, but nothing too abrasive to knock you off the ride. 'Dancepack' starts off low-key but the building up of percussions and Vernon shouting "Take note, there's still a hole in your heart" has got to be one of the best moments of the album. 

Repave is an album less about ruffling feathers and demanding to be noticed . In the end, it is an exquisitely crafted album, an introspective one at heart, one that is more about the poetry than the 'big sound'. It is a triumph and definitely a benchmark in Vernon's career. 

Standout tracks:

Keel, Comrade, Dancepack

Words by: Jowell Tan, Ilyas Sholihyn & Delfina Utomo