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

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Ed Sheeran-Divide Album Review

The long-awaited Ed Sheeran record has finally been released on March 3 and his third record follows the same mathematical titles as his previous two: Plus and Multiply. This time, it’s Divide and the album has a variety of tracks from his usual heartbreak tunes and those about love. He adds fun, upbeat songs that sound like the same Ed with a new flair listeners haven’t heard on his previous works. The majority of these tracks use personal experiences, which is a popular tactic for Sheeran, and it still works just as well as it had in the past.

What makes this album so unique is the use of different cultural sounding songs; he takes inspiration from countries like Spain, Ireland, and Ghana. These add a whole new feel and takes Sheeran’s talent to the next level.

Divide opens up with the track, “Eraser” which starts with his spoken word tactic that makes an appearance on his previous albums along with his favorite instrument of choice, his acoustic guitar. This record already begins with a personal experience about Sheeran’s career. “Age twelve telling me I’ve gotta chase those dreams/Now I’m playing for the people, dad, and they know me/With my small beaten guitar…” These lyrics demonstrate this perfectly and he even mentions his guitar, which he never fails to produce a song without.

“Castle On The Hill” is the second track and one of the singles released when this record was announced. It doesn’t have a stereotypical Sheeran feel to it, but that makes it even more unique. It’s a tribute to his childhood, teenage years, and close friends who he grew up with. He starts the story at age six, to 15 and finally 19. He describes what that time period was like for him and his friends. Even though they all went separate ways he will never forget the times they shared and how they shaped who he is now. “And I’m on my way/I still remember these old country lanes/When we did not know the answers.”

“Perfect” and “How Would You Feel” are both love songs that sound as if they could be about the same girl. In “Perfect,” the instrumentals are dialed down to put an emphasis on the vocals. This is a different approach because in this song his vocals are strong, not soft like his other love songs. “How Would You Feel” is clearly about personal experiences as well because of the imagery he uses. He takes simple moments they’ve shared and turns them into a beautiful love story.

The tracks switch gears to heartbreak with “Happier” and “New Man.” “Happier” is about how this girl is happier with her new relationship and how Sheeran was happier with her. “New Man” is the opposite instrumentally, it’s upbeat and describes with the imagery and detail that Sheeran excels in the new man his ex is with.

There are four tracks that take a cultural influence to them, which diversifies this album even more. “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan” have Irish influences, “Bibia Be Ye Ye:” Ghana influences, and “Barcelona:” Spanish ones.

In “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan,” Sheeran shows off his upbeat side with of course the appearance of his famous acoustic guitar. “Galway Girl” doesn’t have too much of a personal feel to it, especially when compared to “Nancy Mulligan.” Since the latter is a story about his grandparents falling in love as told from the point of view of his grandfather. This style proves to be an effective tactic, since he even uses it on another track: “Supermarket Flowers.”

“Barcelona” is the Spanish style track that demonstrates Sheeran even can sing in Spanish. “Mamacita, rica, si tú, te adoro señorita.” Something as simple as this, combined with the instrumentals gives an authentic feel that the listener is in Spain.

Listening to this record from front to back is the most effective way to listening to it, because of the story Sheeran tells with each song. The songs fit together and create a well-written narrative, which is what to be expected by Sheeran’s songwriting skills. Divide is a must listen.

Rating: 9/10