Ok so just a warning first…I do NOT typically listen to Taylor Swift nor have I ever thought she was an artist I would like to see perform one day. Not because I have an elitist taste in musical genres or a tendency to favour obscure artists from indie labels. I just never listened to her much because I never gravitated towards the modernized country, quirky bubble-gum pop sound she tends to embody. However, I always thought she possessed a unique, and impressive vocal range with just a little more depth and integrity to offer than other typical Pop princesses. Still, despite believing she had slightly more substance than Katy Perry et al. I never felt the urge to purchase any of her albums.
So that being said, I thought maybe I should try listening to something I had never given a fair try before. It’s important to keep an open mind and I admit I was curious to see why she’s so prominently featured on the cover of Rolling Stone’s October issue. After much consideration I must say her fourth studio album, Red wasn’t all bad. Much more good, than bad in fact. The opening track State of Grace is one of the albums best, with soaring vocals and an upbeat melody that makes you feel as if life is one big wonderful experience, full of surprises you can never see coming. It’s inspiring and uplifting all at once. The next track Red is very predictable and full of cheesy metaphors and one-liners that lack any real emotion such as the one about how “loving him is like driving a maserati down a dead end street.” But it’s hook is still catchy enough to become a hit I bet. Each song is fairly different and Swift proves she isn’t afraid to experiment with this album. Her confessional songwriting style has a way of captivating your attention as you contemplate which celebrity she dated was capable of making her feel as if “a new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be.”
Her track, I knew you were trouble even leans towards dub-step, which I can’t say she entirely pulls off but she gets points for bravery. Ever since I heard her track, Safe and Sound performed along with The Civil Wars for the Hunger Games soundtrack, there was no denying that Swift really does have talent instead of just being another marketed pretty face. On heavier songs like All too well, I almost Do and The Last Time I remember what separates Taylor from the rest, she maintains some country subtleties amongst the collection of Pop songs on this album. Not a horrible mixture, instead it’s a refreshing change. Her voice has an indescribable quality that changes from sweet to angry and raw in an instant. All too well contains real emotion that carries a heavy impact when you realize you can connect as a listener to all her past relationship turmoil and unanswered questions. This album is full of memories and experiences that seem incredibly honest and authentic and I think that’s why Swift is so appreciated and admired. But just in case you feel the floodgates opening the arrangement sets up a perky, boisterous diddy like 22 and Holy Ground to follow every serious tune to remind you life isn’t all sorrow and heartache. These songs serve as a reminder that you will smile again after all the hurt and pain of a breakup. You might even be able to laugh about how dramatic and stupid it all was, which Swift definitely does on her catchy overplayed single, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.
So before you judge me for actually liking this album, (Yes, I do like it) just try listening to Holy Ground a fast paced, feel-good tune. Or Everything has Changed, a hopeful simplistic ballad about wanting to know someone better. Or Begin Again, a melancholic yet sweet tune. I know how annoying it can be to hear one of Swift’s hits played repeatedly in stores, on the radio and everywhere else in the public, but it is merited because she does have talent, as well as a wholesome image. And she did recover from an angry, indignant, pompous, drunken Kanye West in her face with measured grace and class. So would I be appalled if my nieces decided they wanted to go to a concert of hers? Not quite as appalled as I would be if they decided to emulate Katy Perry. Honestly, at least Taylor acts her age.
As a songwriter and lead vocalist, there’s no question Alex Turner is well known for his acute observations and poetic phrases that make it easy for fans to quote favourite lines to express exactly how they feel about their personal infatuations, insecurities and disillusionment. And although some may claim the fourth album Suck it and See lacks the witty wordplay and piercing metaphors of past albums, I believe the melodies and arrangements more than make up for any absence of wit. It also seems next to impossible to listen to these addictive tracks while sitting still. NME rated the album a 9 out of 10 and calls it intelligent, love-steeped songcraft. An album in love with language, that sounds unique, sophisticated and strangely timeless.
She’s Thunderstorms is the perfect choice for the opening track, setting a melodic, romantic tone for the rest of the album. She came and substituted the peace and quiet for acrobatic blood flow concertina, is adulation at its best for an unattainable muse. When you’re feeling far away, she does what the night does to day, this love Turner sings about is all encompassing and reminds me of a time when love was all consuming and empty promises. Brick by Brick is an intense, gritty garage rock and roll tune that slows down and speeds up with perfect precision. Simple and fun this single once released seemed like a calculated move to throw fans off of what they expected for the fourth album. But there was no need to fear, this track is quite a detour from the majority of songs on the album, apart from Don’t Sit down Because I’ve moved your Chair. So all the uppity, Indie rock fans who hate the new Arctic Monkey’s style won’t have too much to complain about. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala is an upbeat, pop ditty that will have you singing along to the chorus all day long. My favourite lines are…Did you ever get the feeling, that these are things she’s said before? Her steady hands may well have done the devil’s pedicure what you waiting for? Sing another Fucking Shalalala!!! I just cant get that one out of my head, it’s too infectious.
Their sound had once been described as lumbering, stoner rock heavily influenced by Josh Hommes on the Humbug album. Although Suck it and See isn’t quite a return to their original sound, it is a solid collection of mid-tempo rhythms and guitar riffs as beautifully demonstrated on Library Pictures. Jamie Cook shows off his evolution on guitar with this album, and even received a comparison to Johnny Marr, guitarist for The Smiths by one reviewer. If I had to describe the sounds of Suck It and See, I’d summarize it as wistful, nostalgic, Indie rock. Reckless Serenade is another favourite of mine that captures that sense of clumsy carefree abandon as, the type of kisses where teeth collide. The ideal little ditty about the constant need for someone who illuminates your life and becomes your obsession, so that you loose all your wits and sing a reckless serenade.
Turner’s lyrics have a tendency to portray exactly what it feels like to be young, clever and in love. His depictions of love and alienation make their songs easy to relate to. Don’t take it so personally, You’re not the only one that time has got it in for… wise words from closing track That’s where you’re wrong.
Despite unrestrained criticism from Uncut, they still had this to say about the album “Even the biggest Arctics fan wouldn’t have suggested beauty among the band’s key qualities. But Suck It And See is full of beautiful tunes, beautifully played and beautifully produced. It’s a record that goes a long way toward breathing new life into the busted flush of English indie with a romantic Britpop sound that stands comparison with The Smiths, The La’s and New Order.” Seems like a good bit of praise for an album that was burdened by so many expectations and a diffused fan base after the release of Humbug. From what I’ve heard I like the off beat path the Arctic Monkeys have taken, they seem to be leaving a trail of admirers behind. They did warn us they are not what people say they are, so why not discover this record for yourself and form your own conclusions. In my opinion they are quite simply Brilliant.
1. She’s Thunderstorms
2. Black Treacle
3. Brick by Brick
4. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
5. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
6. Library Pictures
7. All My Own Stunts
8. Reckless Serenade
9. Piledriver Waltz
10. Love is a Laserquest
11. Suck It and See
12. That’s Where You’re Wrong