Album Review: PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell

2014’s White Noise ranks amongst my favourite albums of all time. The the mixture of dark pop and rock music was intoxicatingly beautiful coupled with refreshingly honest writing by lead singer Lynn Gunn. Now PVRIS are back with their second album, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, promising a more stripped back sound and more honest lyrics than ever. When I heard about the personal hell Gunn seemed to have gone through in order to create this album, I was at first a little sceptical – would it all be worth it just for the sake of an album? But thankfully, she seems to be out the other side of that difficult time, and has created one of her most honest pieces of work to date, a hard task considering that she’s known for her brutally honest lyrics.

While White Noise had a beautifully full sound, swathed in metaphor, this album most definitely has a colder, more direct approach. In the chorus of second single, ‘What’s Wrong’, Gunn sings ‘don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable’, forgoing the imagery created in the previous album and just saying exactly what she’s thinking. And if that sounds critical, trust me, it isn’t. While the sound is different, it is no less beautiful in it’s own way, creating a completely different atmosphere. If anything, that just shows the bands’ versatility. The brutal honesty continues in another of the records best songs, ‘Half’. The song contains the chorus: ‘Never wanted to be here now/One foot in the grave, other on the ground/I can’t process what I’m feeling now/This skin I can do without’, yet more lyrics that paint an honest picture of how difficult the creation of this album was.

But I have one main problem with this album; the lack of variety. Other than the aforementioned two songs, this album never really changes things up all that much. Don’t get me wrong, the sound and overall mood that this album creates is beautiful, but there is too much that just sounds the same, or seems to lack inspiration. I love this band, and by no means is this a bad album, I was just expecting more. However, whether you’re a fan of this band or not, there’ll be things to take from this album.

Best songs: What’s Wrong, Half, No Mercy

Score: 6/10


Album Review: Sleeptalk – Sleeptalk

You don’t just listen to the 1975 as a musician without picking up any sort of inspiration. A catchy vocal phrase here, a nice bit of guitar there – it may not always be obvious, but it’ll be there. A band that shows this a lot are Sleeptalk; the influences are clearly there, perhaps even more than your average band. There is a line though, between being influenced by something and copying. So is this album just a shameless copy, or something more? Let’s find out.

The most listened track on the album, ‘Strange Nights’, already provides evidence to the contrary. A catchy melody accompanies some great guitar and an incredible bassline to make a song that i’ll be listening to for a long time. The chorus is by far one of the best I’ve heard this year so far, and has a certain way of getting into your head. In the same way, ‘Indio, California’ has an absolutely infectious bassline and a soaring chorus. But they’re just the most played songs on the album, is there anything else to find below the surface.

The answer to that is a resounding yes. ‘February’ is a great tune, containing some of the best vocal work on the album, showing the band’s ability at creating something emotional yet atmospheric. The guitar throughout drives the song along, building up to a wonderful chorus. The ‘you’re not alone but I can’t control you/you’re not alone but I can’t change your mind’ refrain was something that I found myself humming for a whole day after I listened to the album. In complete contrast, something more atmospheric is ‘What A Shame’ which is full of swirling synths and little sound effects that make it almost a dreamlike experience.

So, to address the idea that this might be too similar to the 1975’s work, it’s simply not. The influences are there, sure, but whenever anyone takes influence from someone else, they will likely be compared. The important thing is that this album is completely a fantastic piece of work on it’s own. The ideas are all the bands own, and while they were influenced by the 1975, they were probably influenced by loads of other bands at the same time. Now let’s stop comparing bands and enjoy what a fantastic album this is.

Best song: February

Score: 8/10

Breaking Down Musical Stereotypes

In the same vein as my piece two weeks ago, I’m going to address something else I think is ruining music: musical stereotypes. I covered these briefly last time, but this time I’ll be looking at five individual stereotypes, and proving them wrong (or irrelevant) once and for all.

1. Pop music is meaningless.

First of all, this is maybe one of the most common stereotypes I’ve heard, particularly among rock fans. Lots of ‘fans’ and music elitists want to prove that their own music taste is the best, and will resort to cheap shots such as this to prove their point. The thing is, a lot of pop music is not meaningless. There’s so much pop music that has tonnes of meaning packed into it, discussing issues from politics all the way to gender and sexuality. Not only this, but what is the problem with music being meaningless anyway? Some people just listen to music to wind down and relax, and don’t want to bother themselves with any deep-seated meaning. So not only is this statement false, it’s irrelevant too.

2. Rap music is misogynistic.

Again, false. No music is misogynistic by design, and to claim a whole genre as such is just ridiculous. Sure, misogyny is present within the genre, but it is present within most genres of music too. The point is, if you’re angry at misogyny within music, it should be aimed at artists and songs, rather than the genre itself. Not only this, but a lot of rappers put on a persona in their music, so anything like this present within their music is almost akin to a comedian playing a character. Finally, there has been a rise of female rappers recently, who are not only creating great music in their own right, but creating great music on their own. Being angry about misogyny is good – it is completely unacceptable and has no place in society, but direct your anger towards songs and artists rather than the genre itself.

3. Metal/electronic music is ‘just noise’.

So, yeah, it’s true that technically all music is just noise. But that’s not the point of this criticism. The people that direct this criticism towards various types of music mean that it is just a mess of sound – incoherent and unlistenable. And yet again, it’s just not true. The fact that it’s ‘unlistenable’ is proven wrong by the sheer number of people that listen to metal and electronic music. The problem is that the people who claim this don’t really connect with this type of music. And that’s fine, everyone has different tastes. The problem with this is that they’re claiming music that they don’t like is ‘not good music’. This is clearly false.

4. Classical music is for old people.

This one is just wrong. While a large portion of the listenership of classical music is old people, a lot of young people listen to it too. There is so much variety in classical music that there is something there for everyone, be it for listening to while you’re studying, to putting it on while you’re in the car. And there’s a lot to learn from it too. The musical composers of the past were sheer geniuses, and used a range of techniques to make their music. These techniques have been used many times, from jazz music to metal music, and you never know, there might be something you could learn too.

5. Jazz music all sounds the same.

It’s a bad sign when a music fan claims all of a genre of music sounds the same. Of course, lots of music within a genre will sound similar, because the genre is built on similar sounds and instruments, but to claim a genre is all the same? Ridiculous. Within jazz music pretty much anything can be changed – the instruments, the time signature, the key – everything! The only reason for claiming all of a genre is the same is ignorance.

So there, that’s five different music stereotypes that are just wrong. But it doesn’t just stop there, there are so many stereotypes out there within the music world, and it’s our job as music fans to stop these views from spreading. A world without stereotypes is a better one, so why should the music world be any different?