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Album of the year: The English Riviera

Words by Scenewave Oz - Published on July 13, 2011

In what seems like the blink of an eye we’ve reached the half way point of 2011.

Tents are being dug out from the depths of forgotten storage compartments, dusted off and readied for the trek to Woodford. Parklife edges in to sight, providing a glimmer of music satisfaction among a barren Spring schedule while serving as a welcome precursor to the sound of Summer.

Though we may well be only six months through the year, I’ve got a feeling that we’re already staring point blank at a couple of worthy album of the year contenders. A big call, I know, but a call I’m willing to make.

For me, it’s a two horse race.

Albums have come and gone, arriving with as much hype and fanfare as four young boys from Sheffield and the fastest selling debut album in history, only to slump down the pecking order.

The Wombats stuck to the formula and produced another album for all occasions. The Strokes lived up to their reputation by delivering a solid LP with enough Is This It-esque tracks to secure another number one. And those scumbags from the UK, The Arctic Monkeys, returned with an offering which left many proclaiming them the greatest British band of the last decade while others barely raised an eye-lid.

The two albums I’m referring to are Wild Beast’s Smother and Metronomy’s The English Riviera.

Smother is a complex and layered arrangement of erotic tales accompanied by electronic undertones and atmospheric music. It’s not an album taken to with great ease, but given time Smother reveals an extraordinary beauty which is near impossible to shake.

Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming’s other worldly vocals are so inversely distinct to one another, it is almost surprising to hear them intertwine with such grace and effect. With Smother, the cult following the band has formed will only entrench further into the collective consciousness of their devotees, however the cross-over into mainstream is but a glimmer on the horizon.

For what appears to be a perfect union of two vocalists and an incredible ability to craft unique ‘pop’ tracks, the vocals and lyrics could sound quite un-easy to some.

Metronomy have once again re-invented themselves around Joseph Mount, or more to the point Joseph Mount has re-invented Metronomy.

After the overwhelming success of Nights Out, the hyper-active electronic love-child of Mount, the band has taken the foot off the gas, detouring away from the hectic motorway and into the resplendent sea-side bay known affectionately as The English Riviera.

On first listen The English Riviera appears to take the band in an entirely new direction, however the similarities soon begin to emerge.

The probing electronic stabs which highlighted the relentless Nights Out may have been replaced with sea-side sound effects, however Mount maintains an acute grasp of musical genres and specifically the emotions attached.

The task of choosing a favourite track on the album is almost impossible. As the sonic layers are stripped back with each listen, a new hook surfaces, lodging itself in that part of your brain you just can’t shake. In no time, you’ll be singing “Cus’ this isn’t Paris, and this isn’t London, and it’s not Berlin, and it’s not Hong Kong, not Tokyo…” over and over and over and over again.

It’s a rewarding experience: An experience which keeps you coming back again and again.

Like Nights Out, both Smother and The English Riviera are growers, and in a few months time we might just see them mature to the masses.

Two worthy contenders for the title, but I’m going with The English Riviera as my half-time album of the year!

What’s yours?

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