“Chop Chop” by Bell X1

Bell X1, the rock outlet from Ireland, changed up their sound on their sixth studio release, Chop Chop. Backed by Peter Katis, a producer for The National, the album plays off a very similar sound to High Violet but also goes in its own creative direction that you would not typically expect from Bell X1.

The open track, “Starlings Over Brighton Pier,” carries a soothing piano riff accompanied by horns, and Paul Noonan’s amazing vocals. The song still holds a dark tone to it, but definitely sets up what the musical capabilities of this band are for this album.

The song “A Thousand Little Downers” is juxtaposed by an upbeat piano melody and drum line. Then Peter Katis’ sound really picks up on this track with amazing reverb. Noonan sounds like he is singing at the bottom of a well. The horns are also a pleasant feature for this tune.

This album has a lot of atmosphere going for it, which certainly appears on “I Will Follow You”. This track breaths, it’s something you can chill out to but also get lost in the emotional complexity of the lyrics if you really want to think about it.

Most of the songs are piano-driven, but perhaps the best riff is on the track “Careful What You Wish For.” The keys carry the entire song and set up a beautiful harmony. “Feint Praise” is the one track that is way different than the others on this album, which has a much more rustic, folky feel to it. It escapes the serious side of the band and provides a much more entertaining listening experience. It’s the perfect song to drive around to or dance to in the summertime.

“The End is Nigh” is where the band really comes together and puts together an ultimate finale. The drums are incredible and Noonan’s vocals are perfect. It reminds me of the perfect ending track to a film, where everything is tied up. If you want to give this album a try, this song will not disappoint.

While the album does provide a lot of emotional energy, it does not tie down the listener, the instrumentals are stilly relatively upbeat and the lyrics aren’t drowning in emotional intensity. It’s almost how Coldplay’s music is–it can be a great, engaging listening experience or it can just be plain good music to zone out to. Katis hits another home run with this record and his production abilities from meticulous horn riffs to reverb effects continue to impress. While he did use a National-style production style, he also ventured off into other unique territories which come out on this album. It was definitely another learning experience for him.

Bell X1 has always had a big presence in the UK and their popularity in the states continues to grow. This is a must-listen for any fan of indie rock. While the group’s sound was a little too exhausting and complicated on older albums, this new release is a lot more clean and tightly wound album. Bell X1 will be touring throughout the states this fall and will make an appearance at the Sinclair in Cambridge on October 11th.

By Matthew McEwan

If you liked this, check out:
“American Kid” by Patty Griffin
“All People” by Michael Franti & Spearhead

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