Sunday, January 02, 2011

White Lies 'Ritual' - My Review

Let's begin by saying I am no music expert but I do love music! My review here is strictly my inexperienced opinion and through this posting, I hope to share my support for the White Lies and their next venture.

I am fortunate to have heard the new album but my intention is not to leak any new info that you cannot already find on the Internet or through live performances posted on YouTube :)

Please support the band by buying the album when it is released on January 17th, 2011.

Also, those in London, HVV 150 Oxford street is hosting White Lies at 6pm on January 17th for a short live performance followed by an album signing :)

Track-by-Track Review:

1. Is Love (4:52)

"She says the only thing I've ever found that's greater than it always sounds, Is Love"

Immediately you sense a darker undertone or as quoted from The Fly's interview back in July, "a lot more morbid and depressing than the first one [album]". The build-up to the breakout chorus is intense, as the stomp of the drums open up into a synth-heavy groove not present in their first album, To Lose My Life. 

The magic of this song is in the underlying guitar and bass riffs. They will surely induce a rhythmic bobbing of heads in the crowd. The song's placement is ideal as it serves as a warm-up to the rest of the album. Strong, paced and sure, Is Love invites listeners old and new alike to the growth of their sound. Initially I was a bit alienated by this new synthy sound but now I see it as a welcome evolution. There is enough space in this song to hint at the bigger stadium sound of this album.

The storytelling in the bridge is reminiscent of the bridge in Death, which in my opinion, was the best set of lyrics in the entire To Lose My Life.

2. Streetlights (5:00)

"Hold tight for heartbreak, buckle up for loneliness..."
"Can anybody hear me, is anybody out there, not a soul in the streetlight, this might be love"

The chorus is a catchy one and I remember singing along to it when they played it at their gig at Shoreditch Town Hall. Harry's voice reaches an almost uncomfortable low as he sings the verses but it is a strong indicator of his range. By the time he gets to the chorus, the slower pace of the song emphasizes the exasperation in his voice. The song is dark but full of emotion. Jack's hard hitting drums in the chorus only adds to the desperation and heartbreak of the words.

This song asks for a bit of patience and repeat listening for you to fall in love with it. Maybe it's my impatience to get to the chorus everytime so that I can sing along at the top of my lungs! Clocking in at 5 minutes, it's a touch longer than the tracks we're used to from the first album and if it wasn't for the catchy loops, I would most likely skip to the next song ...

3. Bigger Than Us (4:43)

"I don't need your tears, I don't want your love, I just gotta get home ..."

I'm still trying to find out the meaning behind the dumbfounding (at least for me!) video. Hopefully I can get some details and report back!

If you wanted a song to fill a stadium, here it is! The Fly called the "hook catchy enough to headline Glasto by itself" and I have no doubts this is true. Maybe someone tell Jay Z to take a break next year ad give these lads a go!

Sonically, there are loads of elements to this song. The layers intermix to create a seamless story which takes a breather at the bridge only to build back up to full head-bobbing, foot stomping sound again. Bigger Than Us fully involves the audience from the head to the feet, from the heart-strings to the gut. It was a great choice for the lead single. The large soundscape continues from where Farewell to the Fairground left us off.

4. Peace and Quiet (5:57)

"Your head on my heart, anchored the storm in my eyes. I lay like a carcass, your lips never letting the blood dry. And so I pray for tomorrow and wait listening out for the reply."

It's lyrics like this that set the White Lies apart from many mainstream bands on the market right now...

After the quick pace of Bigger Than Us, this song continues the large sound with slower, heavily stated synth and drums. There is more jamming than lyrics and as a result, the listener is taken for a sonic ride. It also introduces strings which I loved so much in Price of Love. The guitar does get the spotlight just before the song erupts into the final bout of instrumental greatness.

By the time this track rolls around, you are accustomed to the more mature sound. The beauty of this song is the clean control and close attention to details. The layered harmonies of the chorus is the standout and makes you want to figure out just how many voices were recorded. On the live version, Harry's voice reaches the high notes with such rawness and power. Peace and Quiet it ain't ... instead this understated song puts the exclamation point on the White Lies' arrival into the new decade.

Here is a fantastic quality video of this song live:

5. Holy Ghost (4:22)

"You were writhing on the floor like a moth in molasses. Who ever taught you to move your body like that?"

There are many things to like about this song. I can't stop listening to the way Harry releases the word "ghost" in the chorus. It shows control and an understanding of restraint in an otherwise up-tempo song. The bass digs a into a deep note of darkness while the harmonies in the chorus contrast. You can hear the bass more in the live version below than the version on the album.

A mid-album pickup, the cyclical backing vocals on the chorus can't help but make you sing along. I did, however, mistakenly thought the guys were singing "wonderwall" repeatedly but I was rightfully corrected. I believe they are singing "one of us, one of us, you can be one of us". In the live version I posted below, this bit is missing and the backing vocals are slightly different.

This song has become a slow favourite of mine. With a sound that The Fly describes as 'industrial', Holy Ghost is a hit sure to gain the lads new followers as well as keep the old ones happy. After warming up everyone's dancing shoes though, the White Lies take the energy a notch back down with the next song.

6. Turn the Bells (5:18)

"The marketplace has nothing to sell, left alone its awnings shiver ..."
"You find some best friends, we'll hold each other, and I'll turn the bells ..."

The strength of the drums in the intro can easily belong in a dark scene of an action movie. Imagine the camera panning across a metropolitan city at night, residents in a deep slumber as the darkness of the night maliciously plays. The melancholic harmonies in the chorus adds mystery to the story.

This song thus far has not shown up on any recent setlists. From the first listen, I identified this as a powerful song although it could test a crowd's patience if it was played live. Do you know those songs in an artist's set that seems to drag just a touch too long before the next song picks everyone up again? This could be that culprit.

Nonetheless, the sad serenity of this song is the best ally for a rainy day. And everyone knows there are many of those in the UK ...

7. The Power and the Glory (5:14)

"What if I were to disobey, give you back the power."

None of you better make a Killers reference here! Just because there are droning synths and a catchy clap-inducing chorus does not make one The Killers! (Side note: to be fair, Alan Moulder and Flood did co-produce Sams Town along with The Killers ...)

Due to the repetitive nature of the chorus, this is the point when Harry turns the microphone over to the audience for the obligatory crowd involvement (I kid, I kid!) This song could turn out to be the anthem of 'Ritual' and therefore be a prime candidate for a club mix. The ingredients are all there: heavy synth, fluttering beats to fill the spaces and drums building to a climax.

For me, this song is the largest departure from the hits of To Lose My Life. Harry barely plays the guitar and there is a strong reliance on synths like never before. I like the song, don't get me wrong, but after listening to this track, I'm ready for the guys to break it down again with a strong rock track.

8. Come Down (5:12)

"Felt love last night for the first time in a long time, feels like coming home to stay."
"I know you said you'll miss me, but I know that you won't. Cuz time is like a wave that washes all the pain away, when you come down ..."
"I've buried my pride, I've buried the key"

This is a fantastic song that belongs in a live show. Easily one of the standouts on Ritual for me. So far, I haven't seen it on a setlist like Turn the Bells. The tempo is slow and dragging but the lyrics standout against this steady beat. Coming in at just over five minutes, it feels like only three minutes have elapsed and leaves me wanting more.

Teasing with each chord, each note of the synth, the song slowly climbs to the breathtaking bridge. The layering of falsettos in the bridge is beautiful and mysterious. It shows the craft involved in the making of this record. Recorded 30x and layered one on top of each other, this technique is not lost. And just like the song built itself layer upon layer, it is deconstructed element by element as it creeps to an end.

9. Bad Love (3:59)

"I bought a tuxedo and I bought a gun, gonna roam around this town. No one dares to lift a finger, they can see my heart is down and injured."
"If i'm guilty of anything, is loving you too much, and sometimes love means getting a little hurt."

Every lyric is quotable in this song, the shortest of the whole album. If written down on paper, it reads of a seamless story of hurt and love. The guitar parts tying the verses and choruses together are also singable and punctuates the story.

A synth break revolves and revolves until the band breaks through a boiling point and spills into a dark and dirty finale. Each hit of the drum emphasizes that THIS.IS.NOT.BAD.LOVE. You can't help but feel the exasperation of the words.

I love the placement of this track right before Strangers. This song has so much grit and anger contrasting against Strangers which is lighter in comparison. It  leaves the listener remembering both perspectives of this band and leaves them guessing which direction the third album will embark upon.

10. Strangers (5:25)

"Is this how your heart treats all strangers, with love and affection?"
"I heard the water beat at your skin, a shower of discipline ..."

Agreed. There is nothing stranger than to love someone ...

A danceable track of epic proportions, it leaves you high on adrenaline and disappointed the album is over. Really? Only 10 songs? Give us 5 more! To be fair, To Lose My Life also only had ten tracks and the average length of each song on Ritual is longer. But because each song is a distinct concept, I am left wanting to uncover more of the story ... what stories of sadness and love will their next song tell?


And there you have it! My little review of the album. I love this album and I hope everyone goes out and BUYS it. As with any musician out there, they deserve your support and not your thievery :)

A big thank-you to the fellow YouTubers who have posted the live videos. I suggest you visit their individual channels/pages as they have uploaded more fabulous music videos!


Anonymous said...

love your review
i just wanted to ask
how did you listen to it ?
did it leak or smth ?
that would be really bad for them DDDDDDDDD: ( event ho i'm welling to die so i can lsn to it :P )

Katherine said...

No leaks! I know someone who is involved in the project I'm sure everyone involved has never thought of leaking it. It's not too many days now. There's lots of live videos online to keep everyone excited :)

Anonymous said...

tell your friends to leak the album. i m going to buy it anyway but i cant wait anymore......

Anonymous said...

i agree with #3

Davi said...

I just wanna be the only visitor that is not asking for the album leak.

That's all, Thank you!
Oh, and nice review by the way!

Katherine said...

For the record, I don't have the album, so don't ask me for leaks. I'd never think of such a thing! I hope it gets guarded, even by those who have review copies ... I'd feel terrible if I was a band and worked so hard on a record, only to have it leaked :(

Anonymous said...

i bet you're talking shit. you have found a leak havent you

Unknown said...

Great review! I love this album and I'm dumbfounded by all of the negative reviews from the usual review sites. I'm curious as what classifies as good music to some of these people.

I crank this album at home, at work, in the car from start to finish and enjoy every minute of it. I wonder what their next release will bring to the table. I'll be enjoying this one until then.

Oh, WTF was that Bigger Than Us video about? A girl in a candy bar? LOL