ALBUM REVIEW: Sticky Fingers – “Caress Your Soul”

Sticky Fingers - Caress Your Soul Album Art

Sticky Fingers 

Caress Your Soul 

(MGM)

Some sounds are made for warm afternoons spent lying on grass, chewing on a stem of wheat, watching clouds roll across the big blue. Rage Against The Machine and Pendulum don’t fit this bill, but Sticky Fingers sure do.

Having firmly established themselves as one of the hardest-touring acts in the country, the question remained of whether the Sydney band could translate their brand of supple psyche reggae into studio magic.

With production overseen by Dann Hume (the go-to indie guy behind Lisa Mitchell, Alpine and Gossling), Caress Your Soul is a mellow fusion of lo-fi reggae jams with killer hooks hidden beneath its loping gait. The bouncing, interlocking rhythms supplied by the drums and bass skilfully avoid any downtempo quagmires that dub music often becomes ensnared in.

There are handy flashes of experimentation too – opener “How To Fly” stretches out some washy keyboard drones before the bass thumps in and everything is hosed down with reverb. “Freddy Crabs” goes one further with shimmering synths, looped vocals and a hefty psychedelic bent.

Most of the time though, Caress Your Soul deals in warm, languid reggae. Standout cut “Bootleg Rascal” sways heavily atop a thick bassline and delivers a sleek, liquidy guitar solo. The title track (which snagged number 61 in the Hottest 100), comes straight after and goes for the pop jugular, upping the beat and abandoning the laid back pulse for a frenzied jam. Likewise, “Clouds And Cream” seems ready made for the stoner dance floor. “Australia Street” and “These Girls” come off a little half-baked, lacking the vibrant array of colours of the surrounding tracks.

Light and dreamy but with considerable depth, Caress Your Soul reads like a Sunday afternoon – full of warmth and soul.

Caress Your Soul is out now.

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Band of Horses- Mirage Rock

Band of Horses

Mirage Rock

(Columbia Records)

On the opening track on Band of Horses fourth record, Ben Bridwell rides above the clanging guitars and sings of a ‘Ramshackle crew with something to prove’.

After the mixed reactions to their last release (2010’s Infinite Arms- their first release on a major label), it’s a fairly true statement for the Seattle band, who this time teamed up with mega producer Glyn Jones (The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) to craft their fourth record.

Mirage Rock is BoH at their most refined- big slabs of riffs and ringing cymbals rub shoulders with pedal steel ballads, commanded by Bridwells earnest nasal twang. Lead single “Knock Knock” races towards a big finish of crashing drums and harmonies, and is Mirage Rock‘s biggest moment.

In their quieter moments, on tracks like “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” and “Long Vows”, BoH trade chanting harmonies over spindles of guitar and organ. Jones’ influence also shines through on “Electric Music”, which plays like an homage to the Stones mid seventies.

At times ringing with Americana (“Everything’s Gonna Be Undone”), before falling into dreamy rock (“Feud”),the sound is unmistakably Band of Horses, distilled to a single malt.

It may lack a big, defining track of previous albums (“Is There A Ghost” of 2007’s Cease To Begin) but Mirage Rock is Bridwell and his crew at their fullest and finest.

Key Tunes: “Knock Knock”, “Slow Cruel Hands of Time”, “A Little Biblical”

If you like this, check out: My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes

The Temper Trap- Album Review

The Temper Trap

2012

The heavy, driving synths and powerful vocals of Dougy Mandagi open The Temper Trap’s self-titled second record. After selling nearly half a million copies of their debut, Conditions, the Melbourne band regrouped and have turned out an album of broad musical vision.

Turning away from the soft rock of Sweet Disposition, the opening track, Need Your Love, is a festival geared, sing-a-long rock number with heavy drums and a huge chorus. They may have abandoned the sound of their smash hit, but the radio-feel remains.

We’re then steered through a curious post punk number with London’s Burning, which opens with news reel interviews taken during the course of the London riots last August. The chorus harmonies are spat out above clangy guitar and and pitch bent synth notes. The punk revival party ends abruptly with the next track Trembling Hands, which resurrects their love of sweeping, epic choruses and echoed vocals. It’s a standout track, with an insatiable hook and a spaced, soaring backing.

The reverb remains on The Sea is Calling, a bittersweet soft rock that weaves intricate guitar patterns around the waves of Mendagi’s vocals. Likewise on later track Rabbit Hole, a creepy, acoustic song that evolves into a heavy guitar jam.

There are smatterings of influences all over this album, such as the odd eighties feel of Miracle, and the U2 sounding This Isn’t Happiness. The spectre of Radiohead is ever present, particularly on the softer, slower tracks. Where Do We Go From Here sounds like what would happen if Prince and R.EM decided to collaborate on a sci-fi film.

The griping hooks return with Never Again, but retract quickly with the surprisingly weak tracks of Dreams and I’m Gonna Wait.

The finishing song, Leaving the Heartbreak Hotel, is a splutter of piano and electro beats under an Anthony Kiedis inspired vocal. It spaces out toward the end in an ocean of guitar noise before falling back to earth with the sharp piano chords.

Perhaps because they’ve trodden the boards and proved themselves, The Temper Trap is a comfortable record, not spreading beyond the indie/rock/electronic world that they’ve wound themselves in. That being said, it’s a much more expansive record than their first, chucking in influences from all over the place. At it’s core though, it’s pure and distilled Temper Trap.

 

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