Lockdown gave musicians a chance to get A Bit Weird, and countless bands – including The Killers – took advantage of it. Unable to head out to showcase the bang-bang 2020 Imploding The Mirage, they got nostalgic and conceptual with a strange new album.
Pressure Machine is a document of life in the small town of Utah, a reflection on how our experiences shape us. To be honest, it’s a strange hearing.
As singer Brandon Flowers relates, he returned to Nephi, the tiny Utah town where he lived until he was eight, and could not leave it behind.
The album is frequently (perhaps too often) interrupted by snippets of interviews with the city’s residents who explain their relationship with the city, good or bad. They say things like “bum at dawn” and tell stories of local rituals and legends and the deaths of horses at the city rodeo.
Flowers slip into different characters as he sings their problems, presumably inspired by these clips. It is sometimes beautiful and haunting, but also very often clichéd and condescending; You could read it as a millionaire who says, “Look at these normal people with their normal lives! How quaint! ”
It definitely has a Springsteen touch, on purpose and occasionally in sound. There isn’t much of anthemic choruses, but there are moments of real beauty, like the resonant “The Getting By” with its awesome chorus or the haunting, opioid-influenced “West Hills”.
At other points it’s frustrating: “Cody” has a chorus that never really dissolves, while Flower’s voice disappears in the echoes on “Desperate Things”, as a mix of different tempos lets you hit the skip button.
And it’s 2021, so of course Phoebe Bridgers can be heard on the saddest song. Pressure Machine feels like a good attempt at doing something useful, but it lands somewhere between beautiful and pretentious. Be a band or be a podcaster: The combination of both is too annoying.
Stream: Runaway Horses, Sleepwalker, West Hills
Will Young: “The British suggested I kiss George Michael. Can I just act like that? ‘
Different types of light
★★★ ★ ☆
In 2019, then 21-year-old Jade Bird released her debut album and I wasn’t convinced – it felt like another young woman was writing story songs with her acoustic guitar and being picked up by the A & Rs YouTube trawlers.
But when I saw her live this year, everything fit more tightly: Her voice is strong and full of fire, you could feel that she was already going beyond the boundaries of these youthful tracks.
She keeps this promise on her second album. Packed with thunderous riffs and vocals that take turns growling and purring, Different Kinds of Light has lightning bolts from friend and mentor Sheryl Crow in his rolling Americana and country-bordering twang.
Bird worked on the album in Nashville, but it’s nowhere near a country album (she’s British, by the way). Rather, it is a self-confident exploration of all the possibilities that love can convey to a person: sunspots of contentment, mitigated by the twilight gloom of lovesickness.
Stream: Honeymoon, I’m Getting Lost, 1994
Love in stereo
Jungle’s first two albums, the Mercury-nominated self-titled album and 2018 album For Ever, both suffered the same ailment. They all sounded like a single long song that barely strayed from the lively Jamiroquai-lite funk that you probably recognize best by their frequent ad syncs.
There’s nothing wrong with making hard-earned money, but you have to ask yourself whether you’re just making music that implies a certain taste rather than adding something particularly deep or enduring. The point is, your songs all sounded the same.
However, they have branched out to Loving in Stereo. This is an album that exudes energy and good vibes, like a Saturday afternoon on a sunny festival weekend. From the Hollywood strings that open the album to the wonderful “Goodbye My Love” (which Priya Ragus offers soft tones as a welcome change from the strenuous falsetto of the jungle boys).
They’re still a little bogged down: you might easily find yourself singing “too busy earin ‘” to the hook of “Keep Movin”, but hey, old habits die hard. My impression is that they took every song apart, tinkered with it and then put it all back together: it’s not necessarily the most emotional album they could have made, but it’s a really good time.
Stream: All of Time, Goodbye My Love, Romeo