More of the best from last year’s rockers
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2014 - 12:00am

Before I retire my sounds cache for the year just passed, I decided to take time to listen and comment on some of the noteworthy releases from last year’s batch that I missed. I am so glad I did. Not only is the latest album by Kings of Leon something to celebrate about, I also came across some really exciting music from other bands.

Mechanical Bull by Kings of Leon. Ten years and five albums later and I am so glad to find out that Kings of Leon still has to disappoint. These guys, brothers and cousins Caleb on vocals, Matthew on guitars, Nathan on drums and Jared on bass, all surnamed Followills, comprise one of today’s most talented bands. Proof is all here in the new album, a varied collection of rockers with a strong commercial bent. Here are songs radio will love, that will sell, but which will in no way compromise the band’s integrity as musicians.

The first single Supersoaker gets everything off to an excellent start. Then with Caleb’s expressive vocals at the forefront, the album chugs seamlessly along. The sounds are sometimes young and edgy, Rock City, classic arena pleasers, Beautiful War or soaring lyrical ballads, Comeback Story. Not once though does the band lose its footing. The writing flows naturally, the melodies are easy on the ears and the playing, most especially Matthew’s deadsure guitar, is faultless. 

My only complaint with Mechanical Bull is it seems so short. It is over too soon. But then that is what usually happens with good things. One cannot help but want more. Wonder what Kings of Leon will do with their next one. For now though you can also enjoy the other great cuts. Don’t Matter, Temple, Wait For Me, Family Tree, Tonight, Coming Back Again and On The Chin.

Bad Blood by Bastille. Among last year’s best was Bad Blood by Bastille, the hot new band from the UK. More pop than rock, this is a freewheeling collection of originals that combines alternative rock, emo with hints of dance and other sounds. The music reminds me of last year’s sensational group, fun. This is not really because of the songs but because of the band’s refusal to also be boxed by convention. Bastille goes with the flow of the music and if the song is asking for dramatic strings or an echoey piano, then Bastille is ready with it. 

Bad Blood has already produced five hit singles in the UK. Overjoyed, Bad Blood, Flaws, Pompeii and Laura Palmer.  I expect Icarus to be a sixth but I do not see any need for that anymore. Anybody who has heard Bastille’s early releases will surely want to have the whole album. It is another example of how solid songwriting and powerful arrangements result in a great sound experience.

Bastille is made up of William Farquarson on bass, keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocals; Kyle Simmons on percussion, keyboards, bass and backing vocals; Chris Wood on drums and backing vocals; and Dan Smith on vocals, keyboards and percussion. Smith, who was born on Bastille Day, July 14, and named his band after the French holiday, not only supplies the group with the charismatic singing required of rock stars, he is also the album producer and chief songwriter. Watch this guy go places soon. 

Take note, too, of Smith’s topics of choice for his songs. I have a feeling that his success will send other songwriters reading up on literature, history and even the Bible. Also included are Things We Lost In The Fire, These Streets, Weight Of Living Pt. II, Oblivion, Daniel In The Den, and Get Home.

Delta Machine by Depeche Mode. Does an ’80s synth band like Depeche Mode still have what it takes to remain big alongside the new rockers? I say yes. The likes of Kings of Leon and Bastille do music the basic, organic way. Depeche Mode works and experiments most of the time with synthesizers, which are actually machines capable of creating every kind of musical sound. What the players get out of these electronic machines is what can make or break a band. Depeche Mode has proven long ago that they have what it takes to produce the music with songs like the iconic People Are People, Somebody, Enjoy The Silence and others. 

Now 30 years later and on their 13th album, Dave Gahan, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore are still at it and doing very well. Delta Machine retains the trance-like, David Bowie quality of the old days but the cuts are more melodic. I like the surprising addition of strange sounds, which brings an amusing, childlike quality to the songs. Listen to Broken. They are just boys playing with the synth. Amazingly, the random pickings result in great, affecting tunes as in The Child Inside.

 Other songs included are Welcome To My World, Angel, Heaven, Secret To The End, My Little Universe, Slow, Soft Touch/ Raw Nerve, Should Be Higher, Alone, Soothe My Soul and Goodbye on Disc 1. Disc 2 has Long Time Lie, Happens All The Time, Always and All That’s Mine. The album comes inside a 28-page booklet with arresting photographs by Anton Corbijn.

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