Artist: Snow Patrol
Album: Wildness ***1/2
After a lengthy hiatus during which frontman Gary Lightbody struggled with various personal issues, Snow Patrol make a triumphant return with Wildness, their first new album in seven years.
Johnny McDaid officially joins the group as a full member on the record that was produced by long-time collaborator Jacknife Lee and written by Lightbody himself.
Melancholy and hope tussle on the album as the band wade through darkness and make their way towards the light. Songs like ‘Don’t Give In’ – on which the vocalist seems to be channelling his inner Springsteen – and the standout ‘Heal Me’ are uplifting, while the aching ballads ‘What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?’ and ‘Soon’ (the latter of which tackle’s Lightbody’s father’s struggle with dementia) are something that fans of the Northern Irish band’s earlier output are likely to appreciate.
Lightbody’s delivery remains smooth and the group clearly hasn’t lost its ability to compose beautiful soft rock tunes. The record seems to come from a place of healing, both for the person at its centre and the band that has come back together to create these songs. There is substance behind the words, depth to the sentiments. Islands doesn’t offer a massive departure from the band’s established sound, nor is this a ground-breaking collection, but it’s a solid, intimate – albeit safe – comeback for the band, one that their fans must have been eagerly waiting for.
Highlights: ‘Heal Me’, ‘What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Wild Horses’.
Ash may never have made it nearly as big as their contemporaries like Weezer, but that certainly hasn’t been for a lack of talent. And on their seventh album, the Northern Ireland trio prove yet again that they can make music just as effervescent as Rivers Cuomo and co. have ever done.
Written and produced primarily by frontman Tim Wheeler, Islands offers a contagious dose of power pop that may not be very inventive but is well crafted and refreshingly unconcerned with chart trends.
Islands is sonically upbeat despite being thematically rooted in Wheeler’s breakup blues. With the catchiness of pop and the energy of punk, tracks like the contagious ‘Buzzkill’ and ‘Confessions in the Pool’ will instantly burrow their way into your mind and refuse to leave.
Ash may not be trying anything different here, but even their straightforward pop rock songs like ‘True Story’ and ‘All That I Have Left’ come with a charming melody and the underlying conviction of a band that is confident in its sound and continuing to do what they do best instead of chasing trends to stay relevant. Fans of the band will not be disappointed with this 12 song set, and anyone yearning for a slice of the ‘90s melodious, guitar-driven pop rock will relish this easily enjoyable record.
Highlights: ‘Buzzkill’, ‘Confessions in the Pool’, ‘Somersault’ and ‘Silver Suit’.
Album: Speak Your Mind**1/2
There’s a whole lot of sass and not much originality on Anne-Marie’s debut album, Speak Your Mind. Created by the British singer with the help of an army of co-writers and producers, this is (yet another) set of R&B-influenced radio-ready pop tunes – complete with catchy hooks and insipid lyrics – the kind that are engineered to climb charts, not make creative statements with their artistic merit.
If seen for nothing but its transparently commercial aims, this 12-track album has certainly proven to be a success. Singles like the kiss-off anthem ‘Ciao Adios’ and the Marshmello-assisted friend-zone jam ‘Friends’ have received considerable airplay.
But between the clichéd self-acceptance ballad ‘Perfect’ and the patently Ed Sheeran-y ‘2002’ (co-written, unsurprisingly, by Ed Sheeran) with all its corny millennial nostalgia, there isn’t any original thought accompanying these tunes, and if it weren’t for all the swearing, you’d think you were listening to the laments of a teenager, not a 27-year-old. And for a young woman from Essex, Anne-Marie sure has a jarring cadence, like someone who spent a weekend vacationing in the Caribbean and decided to bring the tropical accent home with her as a souvenir, just in case it might come in handy someday for creating pop music with shades of cultural appropriation.
Highlights: ‘Ciao Adios’, ‘Bad Girlfriend’ and ‘Heavy’.