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ALBUM REVIEW: Arctic Monkeys, AM

arcticmonkeysamTITLE: AM
BAND: Arctic Monkeys
LABEL: Domino
RELEASED: September 10th 2013

Being the girlfriend of a huge Arctic Monkeys fan, I’ve been hearing snippets of this album for a long time. The first instalment came in the form of R U Mine? way back in February last year in honour of Record Store Day and since then, we’ve been treated to singles Do I Wanna Know? and the most recent Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? All three singles have hinted at a new age of the Sheffield band who have fast become one of the most highly regarded British indie bands ever.

AM, whose name was inspired by the Velvet Underground album VU, also features Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, as Alex Turner also featured on their latest album …Like Clockwork. Alex says of Josh’s contribution on One For The Road and Knee Socks:

“He came down and got us out of a little rut. It’s just fun, it’s friends, extended family now – they came round, had a fun night. His contribution to our record is really exciting -it’s probably my favourite. The 30 seconds that he’s in there is just like something that I’ve never heard before. Not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but you know what I’m saying.”

arcticmonkeysKicking off the album with Do I Wanna Know?, no time is wasted in getting the dark riffs off the ground. Deep smoky vocals emanate over the smooth funky beat as the bass plays an abridged version of the main riff. The mysterious air surrounding the powerful chorus is something that Arctics have always had and it certainly doesn’t fade away on the new record. Recent single Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? revives the funky bass which acts like a heartbeat through the catchy rhythm and stealthy style. It seems to creep through the vocals adding a real character to the song.

One For The Road features Josh Homme’s ethereal voice providing a retro choral background to Alex’s dulcet northern tone. There are points where Alex’s vocal changes pace and we get hints of a rap influence. There are some really pure sounding harmonies on this track with a rippling guitar leading the breakdown. Ending on an atmospheric guitar, it certainly makes an impression. Knee Socks sees Josh return, bringing an old school soul element to the otherwise smooth indie track. Again, there is a lot of retro funk in the bass and the clashing of Alex’s soft whispery voice with Josh’s spiritual licks creates a pretty mesmerising effect.

Clues about AM told us of a hip hop influence and it’s most obvious on Arabella. A deep bass with a giggling intermittent riff join a bouncing rhythm which we haven’t really heard from Arctics before. The vocals seem to yo-yo over heavy guitars and it becomes a pretty sexy, quirky song. Contrast it with the classic rock track that is I Want It All and Arctics true diversity is on display. I Want It All has trippy resonating vocals and a space-age feel which is pierced through with a screaming guitar and rounded off with retro shoo-wops.

Yet another different approach is taken on Fireside. Tribal drums combine with a disco sound in the backing with ghostly choral voices rising from the melee. There is a magical eastern influence running through the track which is another new venture for them. It’s a very atmospheric track that seems to have a lot of history behind it. Another different sound is seen on Snap Out Of It, which has a marching rhythm and crooning vocals. A piano jumps along to the catchy hook which is built up with suspense by the instruments.

My favourite tracks on the album are the stripped back, whimsical additions such as No.1 Party Anthem, Mad Sounds and closing track I Wanna Be Yours. No.1 Party Anthem is a calming retro pop song centred around a piano. Swaying between soft mellow vocals, it has an Americana twang which creates a pretty candlelit atmosphere. Mad Sounds is a soft rippling affair with smooth lilting vocals and a magical, surreal theme. It seems to drift in and out relaxing you and treating you to some truly beautiful vocal licks. Ending track I Wanna Be Yours is a dream-like song based around an atmospheric soundscape which is quite hypnotising. Resonating synths fade it out while slow ripples filter through until the very end.

It’s an album that will no doubt be a huge hit with existing Arctic Monkeys fans. They seem to have toned down their dirty indie image on this record and there are a lot more “grown-up” songs on AM. There are songs on this album that you’ll be humming for weeks and others that will stay with you forever. It’s the perfect introduction to their upcoming tour next month, so be prepared for some truly awesome shows. Luckily, the album is currently available to stream on iTunes, so go give it a listen!

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