New Music Through Old Ears: Eagles, Wombats, Hart & Son

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It’s new music time as entertainment editor John Turnbull takes a listen to new discs from London folkies Mumford & Sons, Southern chanteuse Beth Hart, Melbourne lads Raised by Eagles and Liverpool popsters The Wombats.

New Album from a New Artist

Raised by Eagles: Diamonds in the Bloodstream

Melbourne band Raised by Eagles released their debut album back in 2013 — a self-titled effort that drew critical acclaim and received a nomination for Best Country Album at The Age Music Victoria Awards. Led by the dual vocal/guitar lead of Luke Sinclair and Nick O’Mara, supported by bassist Luke Richardson and drummer Johnny Gibson, Raised by Eagles are definitely a band to watch.

With a contemporary sound that is often shoehorned into the "alt-country" genre, Raised by Eagles have built a strong following through their blistering live shows, typified by a spectacular performance at the Out On the Weekend Festival headlined by Justin Townes Earle.

While still primarily an acoustic band, new album Diamonds in the Bloodstream reveals a grittier side of Raised by Eagles, with crunchy guitars adding layers of depth and a hint of funk to the mix. Sinclair and O’Mara’s voices complement each other well, and the rhythm section of Gibson and Richardson lay down a solid base without showing off.

With the ability to turn a phrase reminiscent of Paul Kelly, Raised by Eagles represent an exciting future for Australian music. If you’re a fan of bands like Whiskeytown or early Bruce Springsteen, I highly recommend checking out Diamonds in the Bloodstream.

Best tracks: Jackie, Falling Through, Window Seat

Sample Lyric: ‘There’s so much space to fill when you live in between the lines.’ (Falling Through)

Verdict: 8/10 — get on board now for an Australian band on the rise.

New Album from an Oldish Artist

The Wombats: Glitterbug

Formed in Liverpool, England back in 2003, The Wombats are made up of British singer/guitarist Matthew Murphy and drummer Dan Haggis, joined by Norwegian Tord Overland Knudsen on bass, keyboards and backing vocals. After meeting at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the trio built a reputation on the independent circuit before releasing debut UK album A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation in October 2007.

Containing the hit single Let’s Dance to Joy Division, the album sold well enough in Europe to warrant the release of The Wombats EP internationally, which in turn led to offers of international tours and even a guest spot on Neighbours!

After releasing "anti-Christmas" song Is This Christmas in 2008, the band started working on album This Modern Glitch. Headlined by the hit Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves), the album was released in 2010 and sold well internationally, but promoted a minor fan backlash when they sold the song Techno Fan to budget airline EasyJet for use in their ads.

Producing literate, post-punk  pop, The Wombats share common ground with bands like Pulp and Blur, although with a more dance oriented sound.

Inspired by a trip to Los Angeles and with a heavier reliance on synthesizers than previous albums, there is an inherently disposable quality to the songs on Glitterbug, however repeat listens reveal layers of depth beneath the superficial pop exterior.

Best tracks: The English Summer, Headspace

Sample Lyric: ‘Wrap your hands around my throat, I won’t mind.’ (Be Your Shadow)

Verdict: 6/10 — not going to change the world, but a fun listen all the same.

Album I Expect to Suck

Mumford & Sons: Wilder Mind

Mumford & Sons are one of those bands who broke big on the back of a massive single, then struggled to replicate the feat as their signature sound almost immediately became a cliché. The song in question was the megahit Little Lion Man, which dominated the airwaves around the world for most of 2010.

In 2011, album Sigh No More won British Album of the Year at the Brit Awards and sold over 4 million copies, although none of the follow up singles had the success of the first…

Wasting no time, the band recorded sophomore album Babel and released it in 2012, led by the single I Will Wait. The album broke sales records in both the UK and the U.S., selling over a million copies in the first week of release. The band toured and did media appearances relentlessly for the next year and a half, leading to tensions within the band.

In September 2013, the band announced they were going on "indefinite hiatus", only to announce three months later that they were in the planning stages for their next album. Taking time off their touring schedule to write and record, Wilder Mind was released in May 2015.   

The biggest difference you notice when listening to Wilder Mind is that Mumford has dumped his signature banjo and upright bass for electric instruments, a decision which has changed the band’s sound significantly. Somewhat jarring on the initial listen, the new sound does grow on subsequent spins, even if it sounds like some of the guitar tracks are stolen directly from The Strokes.

It will be interesting to see how this album sells without the "novelty" sound of previous singles, but fans of folk rock could do worse than check out Wilder Mind.

Best tracks: The Wolf, Believe, Only Love

Sample Lyric: ‘Leave behind your wanton ways.’ (The Wolf)

Verdict: 7/10 — a grown up sound marks a new era for Mumford & Sons

Ch-check It Out…

Beth Hart: Better Than Home

For those unfamiliar with Beth Hart, she has been writing and playing music for more than 20 years after getting her start on Ed McMahon’s Star Search. When her 1999 album Screamin’ For My Supper broke big she was playing Janis Joplin in an off-Broadway musical, which is a pretty damn good bit of casting in my opinion. Beth has performed in front of the Obamas, collaborated with artists from Joe Bonamassa to Slash and covered one of the most moving songs of all time, the Etta James track I’d Rather Go Blind.

Beth also holds the dubious honour of being the very first ‘rock star’ that I interviewed when I decided to do this music writing thing. Charming and gracious, Beth was happy to discuss how her big break came via classic teen soapie Beverly Hills 90210, her struggles with drug addiction and her approach to making music. If you can ignore the somewhat inane questions from yours truly, it’s an interesting interview that you can check out here.

Better Than Home is Beth’s seventh studio album, a collection of soulful tracks with the overarching theme of making peace with the past. With a slightly more subdued vibe compared to previous album Bang Bang Boom Boom, Better Than Home still includes foot-stompers like Trouble and the upbeat Might As Well Smile.

With a depth of songwriting talent and an amazing voice, Beth Hart takes a troubled life and turns it into beautiful music. Highly recommended.

Best tracks: Mechanical Heart, Trouble, Better Than Home

Sample Lyric: ‘I am not chasing the ghosts of the past.’ (Better Than Home)

Verdict: 9/10 — another exceptional album from one of the best voices of a generation.

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