Album Reviews

London alternative indie 3 piece Happyness release their sophomore album 'Write In' on 7th April, following on from 2014’s well received 'Weird Little Birthday'.

Clearly the band have evolved and matured over the 3 year gap, as where the debut was a fuzzy, hazy pop release, this follow up is strikingly more confident and not afraid of a melody along with the fuzz.

Opening track Falling Down sets the scene with it’s confident guitar loop, and deliciously takes its time to get going and build into the gorgeous start to the album it is. Originally the 2 minute guitar opening was going to be at the end of the song, but a change of heart resulted in this grand statement of a song.

Piano leads the listener into next track, the curiously titled The Reel Starts Again (Man As Ostrich), and again what grabs you is the melody and layered approach to the song.

Anytime is a real driving, propulsive track which will go down well live, especially at a summer festival with a few pints on board.

Jon EE’s vocals remain an almost whisper/singing affair, reminiscent of Neil Halstead, but it would be difficult to imagine this music accompanied by anything different.

The beautiful 6 minute Tunnel Vision On Your Part closes the album - stylistically, somewhere between Slowdive and Mojave 3, and leaves me wanting to put the whole album on again, which I’ve done many times.

Whilst it’s common for a review to pick out individual tracks, this could also have been easier to say that this is an album that genuinely benefits from listening as a whole, from start to finish, on good headphones or stereo.

Letting the songs wash over you, it’s difficult to not be affected by the lovely melodies and kinetic energy of each track, and the result is genuinely uplifting. The band are touring extensively this Summer, and I can only imagine what they will do with the songs live. Don’t miss them.

9/11

Keith

Website

 

Oh Susanna is Canadian singer/songwriter Suzie Ungerleider, who has been releasing music since 1997, has won a Genie Award (Canadian Oscar) for her song 'River Blue' and has several Juno nominations to her name. 'A Girl In Teen City' is her seventh full length album.

This is a concept album of sorts. Encouraged by her friend and producer Jim Bryson, Suzie wrote about her teenage self, growing up in 80's Vancouver. Listening to these songs you get into her world, learn about the people she hung out with, the times she had her heart broken, the mischief they got up to and the bands they listened to. It is very much a looking back album, comparable perhaps to Patti Scialfa's '23rd Street Lullaby', though that contained memories of a woman in her thirties.

This brings me to 'A Girl In Teen City's limitations. The subject matter is very specific and after a while the very detailed descriptions of clothes and hairstyles in particular become wearisome. They do provide some good lines (the "made to measure skin tight leather Mexican pants" in 'My Boyfriend' being particularly catchy), but towards the end of the album the nostalgia got a bit saccharine for me and I longed to escape to the present.

Suzie has a strong and clear voice, which is the standout ingredient of this album. On 'Puget Sound' especially she sounds exactly like Nanci Griffith, which is not a bad thing at all. For me this is the best song on the album, alongside 'Walked All The Way Home', which has a very lovely melody. The instrumentation has been kept very mellow, even on the more up tempo songs. The vibe is folk (one reviewer used the term Canadiana) and this illustrates that Suzie has been on quite a journey, as the songs list the teenage girl's favourites: The Clash and D.O.A. In 'My Old Vancouver' she describes "the Ballroom above the arcade, where X and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys played" (nice!).

There are mentions of Gastown, Chinatown, Hastings and Main, trips to America - mostly fond memories. There is also a little bit of trouble with the police, some troublesome boys and lots of ripped up jeans, spiked up hair, a jacket with the sleeves cut away - many clothes references. The difficulty with a concept album is that it is almost inevitable that the subject matter becomes quite samey after a while. Yet it equally interesting to get a look into this teenage girl's life and to realize that she has come a long way. She is now a wife and mother, a cancer survivor and a musician with a loyal following, enabling to make this her second Kickstarter-funded album.

'A Girl In Teen City' was my first introduction to Oh Susanna. I like her voice and her melodies and am therefore curious to seek out some of her earlier albums now.

Oh Susanna will be touring the Netherlands from 6 to 16 April, followed by a UK tour starting 19 April (some dates co-headlining with Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage).
Full details on her website

8/11

Helen

It is a testament to this great band that after 40 years since they formed, they can still produced a fire of creativity in their new music. 'Silver/Lead' is the 15th studio album from Wire and it’s about as far from nostalgia as you could get.

Ten songs on a record that couldn’t be more alive and vibrant. The musicianship is first class. Opener ‘Playing Harp For The Fishes’ is dark as are Graham Lewis’s menacing lyrics.

“A mute undertaker had something to tell
I stand at the threshold; I’m ringing the bell
I was hoping for heaven, I’d settle for hell”

it’s a stunning opener.

‘Short Elevated Period’ is an danceable jump around the room rocker whilst ‘’ Diamonds in Cups' changes the pace again with a cinemascope widescreen song. ‘Sonic Lens’ is a brilliantly crafted jagged song,

"Compass, phones, and gps
have all produced, the same address
Tomorrow is another day
We place our goodness on display"

This is just a selection of the enthralling songs and lyrics on this record.

The band put the hours in touring as well as playing at and curating the Drill Festival around the world. LA this weekend, Leeds, Berlin and Brussels are imminent.

All the way through to the tenth and title track, this record holds your focus through it’s 36 minutes..... Long may this band continue to reign over their kingdom!

Pete

10/11

Website

Dates

30th -1st April LOS ANGELES (USA) DRILL : LA

April
3rd SAN FRANCISCO (USA) Slims
7th VANCOUVER (CANADA) Imperial Theatre
8th SEATTLE (USA) Crocodile
21-22nd LEEDS (UK) DRILL : LEEDS

May
4th LONDON (UK) The Garage
5th LONDON (UK) The Garage
7th BERLIN (DE) DRILL : BERLIN
9th COPENHAGEN (DK) Loppen
11th UTRECHT (NL) De Helling
12th PARIS (F) La Moroquinerie
13th BRUSSELS (B) DRILL: BXL

William Hut is a Norwegian indie/rock musician , formerly lead vocalist of Norwegian Grammy award winning Poor Rich Ones and solo since 2001.His most successful solo album was 2007's Nightfall which included the single Take It Easy. William released his most recent album Hafnir Games at the end of 2016 recorded in Norway and Iceland ; a little research reveals that Hafnir is a small village and the location of the earliest evidence of settlement in Iceland.

First track 'Two Different Ways' has a bright guitar melody and William's distinctive vocals which are reminiscent of Avi Buffalo or Death Cab's Ben Gibbard. The relaxed groove and big choruses continue through the first half of the album, special mention must go to 'Bliss' with it's ear-worm chorus “Show me where the wind will blow, The water flow and the crops will grow.”

The album's mood changes halfway through on 'What If I', with its simple stripped- back guitar, percussion and vocals. There's another abrupt mood change in the more electronic dash of 80's drums sounds of 'The Racetrack'. William delivers a credible impression of Michael Stipe on my personal favourite 'Balcony View' which would sit comfortably on any of the good late period REM albums.

An album of lovely, relaxed grooves for a perfect lazy Sunday morning listening treat.

Alisdair Whyte

8/11

Website

I don’t suppose many of us have a great amount of Norwegian rock music in our collections - maybe A-Ha or Kings of Convenience ? Well, I’m pleased therefore to introduce you to Torgeir Waldemar who is to release his second album called 'No Offending Borders' on 17th March.

The eponymous debut album dropped in 2014, and was labeled an acoustic masterpiece on it’s release, however the press release promises a more diverse sound on the follow up.

This doesn’t seem quite true when track one starts - a gorgeous acoustic little number with added harmonica called 'Falling Rain' (Link Wray), and thoughts turn to a Norwegian Bob Dylan.

Track two however, is where the first surprise hits, the eight minute rocker called 'Summer in Toulouse', channelling Neil Young with it’s crunching guitars and pounding rhythm section. This is the definition of exhilarating, and the song is up there with one of my tracks of the year so far.

Waldemar states that "the album exists as a statement of the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives, from relationships breaking down to the global refugee crisis, and all points in between", so it’s fair to expect this to be a solemn album, but despite the subject matter, this is a deeply musical and dynamic album, beautifully produced and highly resonant.

'Island Bliss' and 'Souls On A String' are further delicate, acoustic folk songs that sit comfortably between the rock and roll, and just add to the albums appeal.

Album highlight is 'Sylvia (Southern People)', in which Waldemar again leans on classic Neil Young for style and rhythm, but who cares when this is the result. Stunning track.

Vocally, Waldemar is reminiscent of Father John Misty, his electric guitar playing is Neil Young like, and there are moments of Bob Dylan on his quieter acoustic moments, yet the sound is all his own. I’ve played this album (loud) indoors, on headphones, and whilst driving, and it seems to fit all occasions, it’s that good.

I hope this proves to be a breakout album for Waldemar, and he becomes recognised beyond his native Norway because this is a serious talent that deserves the kind of audience the aforementioned artists get.

10/11

Keith

Website

Page 5 of 83