Posted in Album Reviews

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Back The Way We Came Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition) (2021)

The first release as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds came in 2011, two years after the break-up of Oasis. While it is a near impossible task to follow up the legendary band, the new Noel Gallagher solo act has released three albums that have all gone to #1 in the UK and he continues to be a large concert draw.  Chart wise, the singles have been less successful with the highest charting single for the middle Gallagher brother being the first one, “The Death of You and Me” that peaked at #15 in the UK. However, 10 years into his solo project and with a fairly extensive list of singles and EPs behind him, it was time for the Chief to release a double Best Of set plus a third disc of remixes/rarities.

His first two albums provide the bulk of disc one that starts with early highlight, “Everybody’s On The Run”.  The James Bond sounding theme is a mini epic with choir and strings. The David Essex influenced “Lock the Doors” reportedly took 23 years to finally complete. “AKA…What a Life” is a harder rocking single from the self-titled debut and later Johnny Marr adds guitars to the driving “Ballad of the Mighty I”. Both discs are close with new songs, the first of these “We’re On Our Way Now” is an adult oriented symphonic ballad.

Disc two opens with the throbbing electronic beat of “Black Star Dancing” but is bettered a few tracks later with 2020’s “Blue Moon Rising” that rides a more subtle groove but with lyrics no less ridiculous. “A Dream is All you Need to Get By” adds a 60s inflected dreamy quality.  “It’s a Beautiful World” is lifted by its celestial chorus and adds a French spoken section. Second new track, “Flying On the Water” is an upbeat guitar song that sounds refreshing after several electronic songs.

The double disc hits a high point early on disc two with “Holy Mountain”, the first single from 2017’s Who Built The Moon.  The glam rock stomper features Paul Weller on organ and is based around a tin whistle sample.  It’s impossible not to get caught up in the giddy excitement of the playground lyrics of “she fell right under my spell/she danced right into my hands”.  This may be the happiest Gallagher has sounded in years. The tracks that make up Back The Way We Came Vol 1 are all very slick but see Noel exploring his musical boundaries, as narrow as they may be, to make up a consistent batch of songs that have made his second act one well worth exploring.

The enjoyment of the third disc of rarities depends on your feelings on “Black Star Dancing” that appears three times in various remix forms. Several acoustic versions of songs appear that don’t sound like much of a departure from their originals.  Better is “International Magic (demo)” that could be a lost 90s Chemical Brothers’ track and several instrumental versions of songs including “It’s a Beautiful World”. Disc closer “Be Careful What You Wish For” adds a funky groove to what otherwise sounds like high level studio noodling.

Back the Way We Came Vol 1. – 8.5/10

Bonus Disc – 6/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Lana Del Rey – Blue Banisters (2021)

Blue Banisters (2LP)

The second Lana Del Rey release of 2021, comes seven months after Chemtrails Over the Country Club. Blue Banisters is a lowkey affair with spare instrumentation, many tracks with just a piano and some strings. The album was preceded by a trio of singles including first track “Text Book”. Del Rey sings “And there we were/screamin’ black lives matter in the crowd” over a slow tempo that gets amped in the chorus as she remembers her Dad. “Blue Banisters” its slightly surreal lyrics of being with friends and painting her banisters blue.

Several of the tracks date back several years including both “Thunder” and “Dealer” that were recorded with the Last Shadow Puppets in 2017. The latter features Miles Kane on the verses and adds a funky drum/bass to the affair while Del Rey screams the chorus. Relationship stories appear regularly – an ex gets told “Don’t say you’re over me/When they all know you ain’t” before adding bit of horns on “If you Lie Down With Me”.  She sings of finding her life again after a break-up on the sweeping drama of “Violets For Roses”.

Like a lot of her work, Blue Banisters is a mood piece, a vibe. Her hazy torch songs evoke hanging out beneath the neon lights of a 7-11 but in black and white, while she wears a white dress and cars bumping hip hop slowly drive by.  It’s an album to listen to and not study, with occasional moments appearing to grab your attention like the Ennio Morricone interlude that adds a modern beat. Lana Del Rey keeps her steady work pace going and Blue Banisters is another fine collection of her particular style of pop song.