Music reviews: The Vaccines, UMO, The Helio Sequence
Since their formation in 2011, everyone and their mum have been heralding The Vaccines as the darling saviours of indie guitar rock.
Whether Britain’s “best new band” actually needed to save indie rock is debatable, but the London foursome’s first two albums of timeless rock’n’roll were hardly groundbreaking stuff. Even diehard fans would admit that 2012’s Come of Age was a pretty lacklustre followup to their brash debut What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?
English Graffiti was co-produced by Cole M.G.N (Beck, Ariel Pink) and David Fridmann (chosen mainly for his work on Weezer’s Pinkerton) in an effort, frontman Justin Hayward- Young says, “to make something that sounds amazing next year and then terrible in 10 years!”.
With Dream Lover, their best song to date, English Graffiti certainly arrives with an air of confidence, the boys also now comfortable to slow the pace at times, as on the lustrous Want You So Bad. However, The Vaccines sound best when they stick to their frenetic bubblegum pop, as on zippy opener Handsome and the infectious 20/20.
The Vaccines English Graffiti (Sony Music)
Recorded during all-night sessions in his basement studio, bandleader and UMO mastermind Ruban Nielson found inspiration for the band's third album from the pleasures and pain of a year-long polyamorous love affair. After two albums of lo-fi bedroom psychedelia with more than a gaze towards loneliness and isolation, it was this "crazy awesome dream" that guided the cathartic Multi-Love.
Nielson certainly sounds in a bullish mood as he handles the writing, engineering and production duties, expanding the band's sound into high-gloss super-textured disco-pop. From the opening title track the hip-shaking groove begins as Nielson's soulful vocals get right to the point, "Multi love got me on my knee/ We were one, then become three". The retro R&B funk continues with Can't Keep Checking My Phone, a stand-out disco track, with Nielson channelling the spirit of Prince (as he does throughout) as he laments over a distant love.
It may have taken an unorthodox love triangle to propel UMO in this brave new direction but the end result is a vibrant, emotional and unflinching pop record.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar)
For their eponymously titled sixth album, Portland Oregon duo The Helio Sequence decided to revamp their long-established recording process and take on a self-imposed challenge: to record as much music as they could in just one month.
Wanting the record "to be momentum, in and of itself", the alternative indie rock duo, comprising vocalist and guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel, then sent the 21 tracks to their friends and family, asking them to choose their favourites.
The 10 winners all incorporate a fresh looseness and sumptuous boldness to their well-honed style. On the lush shoe-gazing Battle Lines, Weikel even sings about "looking for a new direction/ I'm looking for another way". It's quickly followed by the playful psychedelic synth pop of lead single Stoic Resemblance, revealing the first of the album's many harmonious earworms. Even the multicoloured sunburst cover art seems to reflect the pair's new musical dawn. Nearly two decades into an acclaimed career it seems that it's all just led to a brand new beginning for The Helio Sequence.
The Helio Sequence The Helio Sequence (Sub Pop)