Mixtapes & Cellmates - Rox
There have been a few shake-ups at the ranch since 2007's debut album, when Mixtapes & Cellmates were firmly encased in the electronica scene, along with the World and his synthesiser, trying to make the cut. Close to breaking up since then, the Swedes decided to wipe the slate clean and to set about regeneration, with a new sound; a sound that involves guitars, lots of guitars!
The result is a splendid record, with drive, energy and a whole lot of boisterous enthusiasm. Think of The Raveonettes but with a deeper foundation in sound. For it isn't just about guitars here, the keyboards play a significant part in welding the overall sounds together. It's via the organ chimes that the songs are giving a poppier bounce and the Scandinavian pop sensibilities ooze through, sounding a good deal like fellow Stockholm residents Shout Out Louds, particularly where the drive eases back, on songs like 'Soon'. The backbone protocol though is searing guitars and driving rhythm section and 'Rain Letters' serves as perhaps the finest example. I hesitate to make such a comparison here, but there are elements of understated shoegaze that remind this writer of The Joy Formidable, particularly on the single 'Soon' and opening track 'Never'. The clever interplay between guitar and keyboards is hugely infectious and, although the general formula is similar throughout, when the pace is dropped on All The Lights, there's strangely a greater degree of musical prominence, creating a highly emotive piece. The alternating of male and female vocalist also works well and makes for an easy flow to the album.
Whilst it's early days to be holding up records for annual listings, if I find ten others that sound more vibrant, exciting and committed than Rox, then it will have been a stonker of a year!
Release Date: 19/04/