Keywest-Joyland Album Review

Ireland’s own Alternative/Indie/Pop band, Keywest, are known for their indie pop sound that is reflected in their music. Their most recent record, Joyland, takes a turn towards indie more so than their previous, The Message. This is where the band finds their sound and it’s because of this sound that the instrumentals add so much more to this record than their debut. Joyland was released in 2015 and explores different themes but all centered around love in its many forms.

The record kicks off with “All My Mistakes,” which sounds like a happy-go-lucky song paired with soft vocals and an acoustic guitar. The lyrics suggest that the vocalist, Andrew Kavanagh, is talking about is someone who he considers a mistake. Despite the melancholy lyrics: “I saw it coming/Way down the line/I knew it the end you/Would never be mine/But of all my mistakes/You’ll be my favorite one” the upbeat instrumentals put the sound of the song in a new direction.

Another track that features a similar theme as “All My Mistakes” is “Carousel.” It is about someone the vocalist can’t be/isn’t with. The vocals sound more emotional, especially when paired with the guitar that gives it a somber feeling. There is yet again another contrast between the melancholy lyrics and an upbeat chorus. “I’ll only love you from afar/My love will last a lifetime/I love you with a heavy heart.” “Cold Comfort” and “Gypsy Rose” are two songs that sound more alternative and indie, compared to the pop sound that is on other tracks of Joyland. “Cold Comfort” has strong electric guitars, which adds diversity to the record since it doesn’t only rely on the acoustic guitar. When these instrumentals are paired with vocals that give off the rock vibe even more, it creates a new dimension to the band. All that is said about “Cold Comfort” can be said about “Gypsy Rose,” as well. In addition, Kavanagh’s vocal power is shown off the most in this track. He hits high notes that are not heard in any other song on the record, which show what he’s truly capable of. As for the themes in the record, love is highlighted on in most of the tracks. It’s one word that helps sum up the ideas that the lyrics were written about. “Apple Tree Hill” and “Always Been You” are two love songs that show off what romance is about.

“Apple Tree Hill” is about two lovers growing old together and about their relationship at its current time and how it will be in the future. The place mentioned, Apple Tree Hill, clearly has some significance to the couple, as it is their destination after the both pass away.

“Always Been You” is another romantic song talking about his love and despite everything that happens it always was her. The piano/drum combo creates a steady beat, which backs up Kavanagh’s soft and controlled voice. The simplicity of the instrumentals make way for the lyrics since they are a key part of the song and what should be focused on in this track. At one point the vocals are isolated, which give it more of an emotional feel.

“This Is Heartbreak” is a track that transitions the record to heartbreak, another subset in the theme of love that Joyland follows so well. The emotion in the vocals are so prominent and combined with the instrumentals to get across the tale of heartbreak that is expressed through the whole song.

Overall, this record is put together well and explores themes that can be related to at many ages and situations. Love is a universal feeling and one that can be understood the easiest when put in a song. Keywest showed off their skills in their sophomore release and refined their sound as they lean towards the indie/pop side of the genre. This suits them well and something they should continue with in the future.

Rating: 8/10

The xx-I See You Album Review

An album filled with a variety of tracks, while holding onto similarities to make the piece more cohesive is what best describes The xx’s newest and third release, I See You. It puts together tracks that go hand and hand with another, while each song still remains unique and its own. This prevents most of the tracks from being lost and forgotten in the whole feeling of the album. The xx are considered an indie/electronic pop group from London, England made up of three members: Oliver Sim, vocalist and bassist, Jamie Smith, drummer and producer and Romy Madley Croft, vocalist and guitarist.

I See You begins with the funky and upbeat first track, “Dangerous.” The band mixes a trumpet with the alternative instrumentals and even electronic effects to create a sound like no other. These effects last during the majority of the song and when combined with Sim’s and Croft’s vocals, sound wonderful. Their voices blend well during the whole track, but especially in the chorus. Both their vocals are mellow, which show off a contrast with the effects that turn the song upbeat.

There are other songs similar to “Dangerous” that take the upbeat effects and instrumentals to create a song with enough balance between the relaxing indie sound and a funky rock one. These songs are “A Violent Noise” and “On Hold.” Both contain similar elements, but each stand out with their own sound while blending with the overall feeling of the record. “A Violent Noise” has parts where there are softer vocals and effects, while in others faster and more intense ones. The instrumentals and vocals equally speed up and gain intensity to match some lyrics in the chorus: “Every beat is a violent noise.”

“On Hold” is the most upbeat and rock sounding song on the record. This makes it stand out but the way the instrumentals are used allows it to fit into the sound of the album as a whole. What makes it unique is the use of the electronic effects. All the other songs on the record utilize them, but this is the one where they are the most prominent. They also sound different compared to the relaxing effects that make this album overall sound calm. These effects sound like they belong in a pop-electronic track instead.

The remainder of the album follows a calm sound, especially in tracks: “Performance” and “Replica.” Each one has a similar feel to them because of features like they each doesn’t have many complex electronic effects like another track, “Lips.” “Replica” is instrumentally driven, as the effects and instrumentals overpower the vocals at times and tend to lead the song in the correct direction. However, overpower is not meant negatively in this case. Somehow, this element works in these parts of the song since its focused on the relationship between the instrumentals, effects, and vocals.

The album concludes with “Test Me,” the most mellow song and one that does its job of wrapping I See You up completely. The vocals only last until about two minutes before the song ends and the rest is a combination of electronical effects and instrumentals. They sound dark and dramatic, which creates a somber feeling. Similarly, to when something good comes to an end. It closes out this record in a way that is truly unique. The length of pure instrumentals give the listener time to reflect and think about the album and the lyrics.

I See You is a great listen for anyone looking for a relaxing record to chill to and especially for fans of the indie genre. It does not contain as many rock elements as other bands considered part of the indie rock genre and the use of electronic effects makes them unique when compared to other artists. This record is one that is cohesive and at the same time blends different elements together that wouldn’t seem to make any sense. The xx makes them work in a way that wouldn’t be expected.

Rating: 8/10