Hot Tracks: Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand

Five years after their last album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the band return with a new line-up.
Five years after their last album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the band return with a new line-up.PHOTO: DOMINO

ROCK

ALWAYS ASCENDING

Franz Ferdinand Domino

3 stars

While contemporaneous acts such as Bloc Party and The Fratellis have faded away, Scotland's Franz Ferdinand are still serving up their brand of hook-laden dance rock.

Five years after their last album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the band return with a new line-up and a record that dips a toe into the neon glow waters of Eurodance-tinged tunes.

Perhaps it is an after-effect of the departure of guitarist and founding member Nick McCarthy. The addition of Julian Corrie - better known as electronic producer Miaoux Miaoux - brings a heavier influence of synthesizers on their sound.

Jaunty organ synths envelop Finally like something straight out of the late 1960s, a la The Doors' Touch Me, while Lazy Boy is as sleek as a track out of 1980s television series Knight Rider.

It is an unexpected but welcome addition to their repertoire.

The indie rock group's observations are as razorsharp as ever and tracks such as The Academy Award are a commentary on the voyeuristic culture of social media, where "we're starring in the movies of our lives".

"There's a camera held in every hand, the clamour of applause in every mind/But the Academy Award for good times goes to you," lead singer Alex Kapranos croons theatrically over gentle guitar strumming.

The album title might suggest moving upwards, but one cannot help feeling - that other than a few tweaks to the formula - the band are quite comfortable remaining where they started off.

Anjali Raguraman


CLASSICAL

ENCORES AFTER BEETHOVEN

Andras Schiff, piano

ECM New Series 4814474

5 stars

Anyone who has attended a recital by Hungary-born pianist Sir Andras Schiff knows that he loves performing encores. The choice of encore is a very personal thing and he never fails to include works that complement and sometimes even enhance the musical experience that has come before. This disc is filled with live performances of encores played after his all-Beethoven recitals in Zurich's Tonhalle from 2004 to 2006.

There is a whole sonata by Haydn, his contemplative No. 44 In G Minor in two movements that come after Beethoven's Op. 49 set, which closes in a jolly G major. Notice the change in mood and relative tonalities.

Schubert features prominently with his Impromptu In E Flat Minor (the first of Three Pieces D.946), Allegretto In C Minor and Hungarian Melody. He was well-known for being in awe of Beethoven and placing these Schubert pieces in juxtaposition is the best tribute possible.

Beethoven's own Andante Favori followed the Waldstein Sonata. That was the discarded movement from that sonata, but is now heard in its proper context.

Bach gets his due with dance movements from Partita No. 1 and the glorious Prelude & Fugue In B Flat Minor, which is one of very few pieces that do not diminish the mighty fugue from the Hammerklavier Sonata. Nothing is left to chance, whim or fancy and that is truly the genius of programming.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe