Almost Free

The LA Punk band’s latest effort, Almost Free, marks a huge break from their old lifestyle, with frontman Zac Carpenter now sober, and very few traces left of the trashy LA party band from their self-titled LP.

2015’s follow-up to their debut, Too, dealt heavily with frontman Zac Carpenter’s problems with drugs, and his struggle to get clean. Understandably, they have turned their backs on their drug-fuelled days that gave us tracks such as ‘Cheap Beer’ and have opted for a more polished, restrained approach. However, despite their best efforts to move in a new direction, it still feels like the band is struggling to find an identity outside of their party vibes.

It’s worth noting that the production on this album is stellar. Every instrument sounds crisp and perfectly placed, with a lot of rich instrumentation. This more radio-friendly approach could be irksome to hardcore fans of FIDLAR’s rawer, more visceral work, who might equate all this to self-indulgence. They might not be entirely wrong. There are times when the music can sag under the weight of their ambition and feel rather overproduced. ‘Scam Likely’ is one such example, with a big brass section and piano parts all starting to feel a bit too sugary and polite. There are times when these poppier leanings come across better, though, such as the high-energy ‘Thought. Mouth.’

It seems at times that FIDLAR are drawing very heavily on their rather disparate influences, aping the Beastie Boys one moment and Sum 41 the next. Perhaps torn between their punkier inclinations and their desires to cross over into broader, more mainstream territory, it can feel as if they’re trying to cover too much ground.

Adam Browne

Leafcutter John

Yes! Come Parade With Us

Leafcutter John’s latest, Yes! Come Parade With Us, is just that - a parade and a celebration that has dropped perfectly in time for spring.

It’s full of found sounds from a summer holiday which involved walking 60 miles along the Norfolk coast and as a result it feels like nature has covertly snuck into your home and wrapped itself around the stereo. It conjures up scenes of summer solstice, cast through an orange lens and soaked in tie dye and acid wash.

The album kicks off with the motorific ‘Doing The Beeston Bump’, which builds up a frenetic pace with organic samples that catch you unaware and throw you off balance, but only gently. The title track is a euphoric, psychedelic and cheeky song played through discordant modular synths. Easterly waves wash over the beats for that wall of sound effect. ‘Pillar’ maintains the momentum, sounding like a cross between The Emperor Machine and Radiophonic Workshop as it builds up the tension with what sounds like seabirds in the background. ‘Elephant Bones’ falls halfway, a hectic, percussive number that gets under your skin with an avant-garde sensibility.

The second half of the record is a much calmer, thoughtful affair, the aftermath of a rough coastal storm. The final tracks are rich, vibrant, melodic and at times stormy.

The sounds John heard as he walked from Hunstanton to Overstrand with his trusty device have shaped this record. If you close your eyes you might just hear water lapping onto Norfolk beaches.

Andy Tattersall