- Album Reviews
A sweet third album from The Little Kicks. A dreamy indie soundtrack as we start to come out of winter and think of the summer sun
Ten tracks that flow nicely, the opening ‘Theme’ is wide screen reverb guitars. ‘Sing About Something Real’ that follows, has punchy indie guitar and keyboard and flows beautifully,
‘Don’t Get Mad, Get Even’ goes into Keane/Coldplay territory, a sweet song and just like ‘Let’s Get Lost Together’ festival fields this summer could do worse than ring out to this band. At the moment their website does not show any dates outside of Scotland .... So festival promoters, look up these guys!
The band hail from Aberdeen but wrote the songs for this album in a lodge by Loch Ness then recorded in Edinburgh and then mastered at Abbey Road.
Lead singer Steven Milne said “This new album is a collection of songs that means a lot to me and I feel it reflects a massive increase in both my own and the band’s confidence and abilities. There have been ups and downs personally since we last released music but I’m happy to say that on the whole we have grown to be more proud of what we do and to be less reticent to shout about it and our music. The themes of the record would be a feeling of happiness, gratitude and to be thankful with what you have and not take things for granted”.
The record is a joy, it is a pure, no worries, indie joy to be precise. A roof down on the car type of record.
- Album Reviews
There are some bands that can just maintain a high level of quality output, lyrically and musicianship wise even with, lengthly gaps between albums. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are one of these bands with vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alec Ounsworth as the lynchpin of the band, they have released their fifth album, 'The Tourist'.
Alec was apparently doing a lot of soul-searching as the songs came together for the album. “The album was a type of purge,” he says. “A purge of certain emotional confusion that manifested itself in the last several years. It was not an easy album to make, by virtue of the fact that it was an emotional time for me.”
It’s an album that sinks into you consciousness quickly, like a Steely Dan album, you know it is going to be a superb and quality listen all the way through.
Alec spent about a week recording The Tourist at Dr. Dog’s Philadelphia studio with a drummer and bassist. After that, he and engineer Nick Krill spent a few months “tidying things up” and recording additional material, backup vocals, keyboards, guitars and more percussion.
‘The Pilot’ opens the record, with a dreamy rhythm and sharp vocals. ‘A Chance to Cure’ follows within a hair’s width of the finish of the opener and, you find yourself surrendered to the rhythm of this album at the end of just the second song.
Alec prides himself on honesty across all aspects of the band, from live performances to the studio. “I am a relatively solitary person and seem to work best alone,” he says. “I do count on others to help the project as the process of making and releasing an album moves forward, but if it doesn’t match what I have in mind, it’s hard for me to really be there for it. I guess this is one reason why the project has been independent all this time. Trust me, I understand that thinking this way is both an asset and a liability.”
Live the band play lengthy shows and the addition of songs from the Tourist will make the upcoming live gigs something not to be missed. The songs are well paced, ‘Down (is where I want to be) picks out a funky pace, ‘Unfolding Above Celibate Moon’ is a song about life in LA. It's a record full of variations.
Ten songs, great musicianship and Alec’s trembling voice adds another fine album to the CYHSY collection.
1. The Pilot
2. A Chance To Cure
3. Down (is Where I Want To Be)
4. Unfolding Above Celibate Moon (Los Angeles Nursery Rhyme)
5. Better Off
7. The Vanity Of Trying
8. Loose Ends
9. Ambulance Chaser
10. Visiting Hours
- Album Reviews
The day started a sunny and bright, spring like day in winter. Then the clouds grew darker and there was a chill in the air, we head indoors in need of some warmth. Easiest fix for that and some indoor sunshine is Jen Lekman’s latest album ‘Life Will See you Now’.
Like a solo version of Belle and Sebastian, he is able to create vital personal songs full of stories about life, love, and youthful insecurities with something to jar the memories for the older listener.
Musically sweet as syrup, disco, samba, bosa nova this record is a joy, front to back. It’s the the fourth full-length studio release from this Gothenburg based singer-songwriter. How is it the Scandinavian race seems to have such joyful pop sensibilities?
The album opens with ‘To Know your Mission’ which contains the lyrics:
"To have a dream
A GPS in your heart
A path to follow
Through the dark
Well, Jens says, "I write songs sometimes
But they're kinda bad"
Those bad songs didn’t hit this record for sure.
'Wedding in Finistère" has the waiting bridge bride saying;
"She said, "Like a five-year-old watching the ten-year-olds shoplifting
Ten-year-old watching the fifteen-year-olds French kissing
Fifteen-year-old watching the twenty-year-olds chain-smoking
Twenty-year-old watching the thirty-year-olds vanishing"
Every song has that depth of a tale to tell, Just a lovely record for anyday.
- Album Reviews
British rock & roll at it's grungy, gritty best, The Godfathers kick off their 2017 with a new studio album - 'A Big Bad Beautiful Noise' and soon to be completed UK tour.
The London based band recorded the album last summer in Birmingham with a revitalised line-up of Peter Coyne - Lead Vocals, Steve Crittall - Guitar & Vocals, Mauro Venegas - Guitar & Vocals,Tim James - Drums & Vocals and Darren Birch - Bass & Vocals.
Even though this album sounds like a 'backs against the wall' sonic debut, the band was actually formed in 1985 with brothers Peter and Chris Coyne at the helm.
Bands like Spoon and The Mars Volta have both cited the Godfathers' influence and following live shows last year the band found themselves heading to the studio to turn out this a rock n’ roll cracker.
Guitars and a rumbling bass line open the album for the title track. A menacing vocal adds to the intensity. Then it's full steam ahead for the Stooges like ‘Till my Heart Stops Beating’ . ‘You Don’t Love Me’ has a jangly start and indie vibe throughout, here's the video. Then it’s back to the grunge with ‘Poor Boy’s Son’.
The album is well paced and has a varied feel. ‘One Good Reason’ has a Lou Reed vibe whilst, ‘Miss America is a widescreen road song. “Black White, Stars & Stripes” reflects on a changing America.
It’s not until track eight that the paces eases with the Doors like ‘She’s Mine’. A few more tight rockers and the album is pretty much done. The finale is a big stadium sized ‘You and Me Against the World’ which, is a bit out of sync with rest of the album but that's a minor quibble on a very solid record.
- Album Reviews
A dark debut album from a powerful metal band. Formed in 2014, this first full album for The Darkhorse’s foursome follows on from their earlier e.p. A Badge of Dishonor and Discomfort.
Like the grand physical presence of the band this is a huge wall of metalcore doom sludge and fury pulled from the pig sheds and muddy fields of their Northamptonshire homeland into a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland, an improvement some may say. Claiming influences from the likes of Sabbath, Superjoint Ritual, The Chariot and Crowbar you know this will be a marmite covered decibel busting assault on the ears that you have no option but to love or hate, certainly no middle ground here.
With tracks depicting the messy demise of life as we know it there is pathos and fear vibe rather than a joy of redemption. With Trump and Brexit scare stories abounding this album could almost be the metaphor that strikes a chord with the politically astute Metal fan. Recorded at Neil Hudson's (Krysthla) Initiate Audio and Media studio, and released on Attic Records.
Having played Bloodstock in 2014, Mammothfest in 2015 and supported the likes of Raging Speedhorn, Heart of a Coward, Mage, Stormringer, Garganjua, and Brutai the band is a tight and exciting prospect for 2017 with a great album to tour with. Already announced for Hop Fest at The Prince Of Wales, Kettering on July 7th, I am assured more dates are to follow.
- Album Reviews
If you like to listen to jangly pop music you’re in for a treat with this selection of tunes. Former Bullies are not a band I was previously familiar with and was surprised to read they are from Manchester rather than somewhere in the USA. With their new album Stranger, they give us eleven songs to lift your spirits and generally make you feel good.
Since coalescing around singer Nick Ainsworth in 2003, Former Bullies have been a regular presence in Greater Manchester’s pop underground, becoming spiritual godfathers to more recently emerged gems such as Kiran Leonard, Irma Vep, and Pins. Though prolific performers, this new release “Stranger” is only their fourth long-player in all that time.
As soon as I heard the opening chords of the opening track, Oh World Of Love, I immediately had thoughts of 60’s pop/surf music and times past. And as the songs continued I was happily sucked into feeling this more and more.
The 60’s feel continues all through this album. Listening to the individual tracks, you get the feeling you’ve heard these songs before, now happily rediscovered from what were previously lost and forgotten. The second track 'Rose Of Destiny' has a slightly more haunting sound and feel, but then continues to bounce along. 'Little Tear' is where we start to hear the Former Bullies singer Nick Ainsworth sounding like a younger Michael Stripe. It’s easy to imagine REM playing these tunes in their formative years, and before they became just a little too polished and clever. 'Little Tear' has some slower but very good guitar going on which might be initially overlooked by the Michael Stripe type vocals. Well worth repeated listening.
The next track 'They Were Waiting', starts off with a great and catchy rocking and jangling guitar ...”Shining like a star that you are” There are no long songs or guitar solos on this album. You could easily listen to any of the individual tracks fully during the ad breaks of your favourite TV programs. But it’s much more worthwhile to listen to the entire album at once and catch up on your TV viewing later!!
All eleven tracks stand up on their own merits and at times made me wonder what the Yardbirds or Them might have done, without the rough edges or blues and with cleaner recording. The Former Bullies sound much more mature and if they are rebels they don’t seem mind not having a cause.
The Former Bullies have an excellent and very tight sound all the way through this album. Although it’s a short set of tunes there so much to go back to time and time again. 'She' is a great track that has a good kick along that could easily be extended and rock out more. The Former Bullies manage to resist this as a temptation and I can only assume this is a deliberate. Same goes for the next couple of tracks, 'Under Your Nose', and the title track 'Stranger'. The closing track 'Head & Shoulders'..”Come for your soul tomorrow”....
Clever catchy songs, well played and sounding fab. I will put this on my Ipod and when the songs come up on random play, I won’t be pressing the skip button.
- Album Reviews
Catching Mark Eitzel at St. Pancras Old Church last year, just him and acoustic guitar, running through songs old and new, I much expected the new album to be just that, the man and his guitar.
The ten songs on 'Hey Mr Ferryman', are full band, orchestra and backing singers mode. It’s an absolute gem. A wordsmith for now quite a few generations (if they listen), these are songs of love, relationships and the pain and anguish that goes with all that, as you would expect.
Side A starts with ‘The Last Ten Years’ with it’s uptempo rhythms and a soaring Bernard Butler guitar solo “The Ferryman who takes me to my rest, don’t give a damm who’s cursed or blessed”. The wordsmith is on song!
‘An Answer’ “I Can’t leave you behind, makes me want to stick around and find, if there’s an answer". Soaring vocals and strings.
Mark’s trademark rich vocals, like coated sugar just pull you in. A rainy day outside just enhances the warmth of the record and the pain and darkness of the lyrics enclose you. ‘Nothing and Everything’ is a wonderfully prime example.
There are many stories to soak up in the songs, so give the album your concentration and the rewards come. The record was recorded in London, I guess at the time of our church gig and was produced by Bernard Butler.
Side B starts with ‘In My Role As Professional Singer And Ham’, a despairing view “in the faded glory USA” “ When you look at me, I look away”.
Second track ‘Mr Humphries’ is epic both musically and lyrically. By this time your eyes are closed and you are drifting into the sound of the album, then arrives the rocker, ‘La llorona’ which concludes “Love was all she ever found, the faggot, the junkie, the runaround” plus a scorching guitar solo that ends too soon.
Then it’s back to the heartbreak on ‘Just Because’ “Just because someone loves you, doesn’t mean you can treat them bad”
The gentle acoustic ‘Sleep from my Eyes’ concludes this fine album. With so many musical souls being lost these days, the next in line can really fill the void as really, they always have.
- Album Reviews
From being an original member of the “manufactured pop” Brighton based group The Pipettes to part of Mark Ronson's recording and touring band Rose Elinor Dougall brings over a decade of experience of the indie end of pop to her second solo album 'Stellular'.
First track 'Colour of Water' opens with jangling guitars which morph into a shoegazzy-pop delight wrapping itself around Rose's distinctive chiming vocals. The minimalistic drum beats and jangling, angular guitars combine in the danceable 'Strange Warnings' and the title track, the chorus of which reminds me of St. Etienne at their most danceable. The majority of tracks were co-written and played by Rose and Oli Bayston of Boxed In and this collaboration adds a dance element to the alt-pop of the first four tracks.
The pace slows for the sophisticated pop of standout track 'Take Yourself With You' with its beautiful melody and breathy vocals. 'All at Once' contains OMD/ Human League-esque keyboards and more breathy vocals in the chorus “Everything at Once, Everything Tonight, Everything Tomorrow , Everything at Once, All at Once” and was written in collaboration with Sean Nicholas Savage.
Rose spoke to Rough Trade about working in collaborations “I've always looked for a partner in crime when it comes to recording my music, and I wanted to try and write a slightly less insular album this time around.”
The lovely chorus of 'Space To Be', “I want a love to lift me up high, To wreak havoc on this heart of mine, Tear me limb from limb until I find, Some kind of space to be free.”, will be ear-worming around your brain long after the album has finished.
The final track 'The Wanderer' which starts with a simple piano part and Rose's lush vocals, she has described as one of her favourite moments, “.... I feel there's a simplicity to it that gets somewhere near to the essential, things I was looking for while making the album.”
In the same interview with Rough Trade Rose gave her thoughts about the album “ .. it's a reflection of the instability of my life at the time, emotionally and otherwise, and then beyond that, what I was witnessing amongst the people I knew and the life of the city....... the harshness of living in a unforgiving city like London...... Although this sounds rather bleak, I tried to a inject a bit of hopefulness and expansiveness to it.”
If you need an album to serve as an antidote to the bleak wintery weather and life in an unforgiving, cold city I prescribe a shot of the sophisticated pop of 'Stellular'.
'Stellular' is Rough Trade's album of the month for January 2017
- Album Reviews
I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the Norwegian music scene is not that great, but a little research reveals that Thom Hell is a long established Norwegian singer-songwriter, a three times winner of the Norwegian version of the Grammys (who knew, apart from the Norwegians), who has released multiple albums ('Happy Rabbit' is his eighth) and is much in demand as a producer.
The first track on 'Happy Rabbit' is the instrumental 'Grow Up' with its pulsing synths and string flourishes, the pulsing synth continues into the intro of the lovely pop melodies of '1985'. Thom's vocal style reminds you of a warmer, more organic version of C Duncan particularly on the lilting melodies of 'Blues In A'.
Throughout the whole album there's a strong use of well written melodies often built into layers of lush instrumentation, in fact Thom has said about the album that “ Most of the songs were made instantly as played, with me, continuously, laying overdubs on bass, guitars, piano and vocals, not having a clear thought or structure or what the end product would sound like.”. There's certainly strong elements of The Beatles, ELO, John Grant and Midlake (many of whom are mentioned in a long 'Thanks To' list in the album credits) you can pick out in many of these tracks. The multi-tracked vocals so characteristic of Queen are used in the first part of 'The Voyage Home'.
Thom has said that the style of song-writing and recording used on 'Happy Rabbit' has “..resulted in a lot of the songs getting a sort of naïve expression both lyrically and musically”, which is most obviously heard in the repeating piano pattern and sound of children in the instrumental 'Play' and 'When I Was A Child' which starts with a lovely melody about simple pleasures in life with children and then bursts into an unexpected squealing guitar solo.
So not subtle as Thom and the band throw everything and the kitchen sink at many of these tracks, but an hour spent in the company of the sweet melodies of Thom Hell's 'Happy Rabbit' is certainly a long way from hell.
- Album Reviews
So here it is ! At last ,The Blue Aeroplanes hit us with their new studio album Welcome, Stranger!, a mere six years since previous album 'Anti Gravity'. 'Welcome, Stranger!' is album number 12 for the Bristol art rock heroes, and never more keenly anticipated by their fiercely loyal fans.
Over the years, the Aeroplanes have been somewhat a revolving door band, think The Fall or The Wedding present for ex members, and the list of alumni even inspired a t-shirt, however things have changed recently with their most stable line up ever actually. Always centred around chief pilot Gerard Langley, the band boasts 3 talented and energetic guitarists in Bec Jevons, Mike Youe and Gerard Starkie. The rhythm section co-pilots are drummer John Langley bassist Chris Sharp, and of course, on dance, the inimitable Wojtek Dmochowski.
The album opens with what has already become a live favourite over the last year or so 'Looking For X’s On A Map'. A portentous opening, all drums and chiming guitars, makes way after a minute for the cue to go nuts in front of the stage. Aeroplanes albums have always been a mixture of guitar driven chorus singalong, and sublime poetry spoken/sung over a backing track. This opener falls into the former category and is the perfect start to the 40 odd minutes.
Another song in the same category and surely to become another firm live favourite is 'Dead Tree! Dead Tree!', with chant-along chorus and typically enigmatic lyrics.
'Standing on the cusp of getting it right', it probably won’t work out, but it might” If there was ever a more pertinent or indeed typical Aeroplanes rhyming cuplet, then I’ve yet to hear it, and this welcomes in the wonderful Nothing Will Ever Happen in the Future, with its gorgeous surprise of added strings into the mix.
Bec gets her own song three quarters of the way through the album, the more straightforward rocker 'Skin' (Rodney Allen’s Fun is the obvious comparison), and it acts as a pallet cleanser for the final two tracks.
The sublime 'Here Is The Heart of All Wild Things' is the penultimate track, and the song that has got under my skin the most since absorbing the album. Based around a warm and muted guitar riff, the mid paced track descends into a full on rock out of slaying guitars.
Finally, 'Cat-Scan Hist’ry' has now got a rival for best Aeroplanes album closer in the beautiful 'Poetland'. Yes, its Gerard reciting a poem over the band with added piano - another lovely surprise. And what is Poetland ? Well, its like Poundland...only weirder.
It’s easy to be nostalgic with the Aeroplanes, especially during the heady years of the mid 90’s, but its now time to talk about the present and the surely bright future of the band. This is a magnificent album, closest in tone to 'Beatsongs', yet quietly evolving their sound and direction too. Its fresh, its dynamic, its layered and most of all, it’s a new Blue Aeroplanes album. Everyone rejoice.
You can pre-order the album via PledgeMusic HERE
- Album Reviews
'Broken Jagged Edges' consists of 4 tracks, the first of which is the earth shattering (if you turn up the volume) ‘Tadpole’. The EP has a slight ‘Rush’ feel particularly on the next song, ‘Champion Of The Universe’.
The EP was recorded, mixed and mastered by Kyle Martin at The Garage Studios in South Shields. Elephant Memoirs are made up of John Aspinall (Guitar & Vocals), Barry Drew (Drums) and Carl Aspinall (Bass), proving yet again that, mighty sounds come from power trios.
Third track ‘Dirt’ echoes Marillion in places and has a widescreen sound, whist the final track, ‘Focus/Release’ featuring some sonic guitar play rounds off a very solid EP indeed.
The EP is available to download or listen to via the band's Bandcamp page and is also available on Soundcloud, itunes and Spotify.
- Album Reviews
This is not just a record, not just a piece of music or, a literary monologue. Then comes the question, when do you play it?, when you are happy? No not really. When you are sad? It could tip you over the edge. When you are ready for a challenge, enlightenment or a plain ‘hairs standing up on the back of your neck’ moment, then that’s the time to place this record on your turntable.
The album starts with ‘Ritual Awakening’; “I clutch my phone with my sweaty palm in my hand. I clutch my heart, and the coffin for my heart, in my hand. It’s so loud, and I get so afraid, so I start speaking”. That all happens in the first 1 min 44 seconds of side 1.
Jenny herself says;
“Blood Bitch is an investigation of blood. Blood that is shed naturally. The purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.
Blood Bitch is also a fictitious story, fed by characters and images from horror and exploitation films of the '70s. With that language, rather than smart, modern social commentary, I found I could tell a different story about myself and my own time: a poetic diary of modern transience and transcendence.
There is a character in this story that is a vampire Orlando, traveling through time and space. But there is also a story here of a 35-year old artist stuck in a touring loop, and wearing a black wig. She is always up at night, jet lagged, playing late night shows - and by day she is quietly resting over an Arp Odyssey synthesizer while a black van drives her around Europe and America.
So this is my most fictional and most personal album. It’s also the first album where I’ve started reconnecting with the goth and metal scene I started out playing in many years ago, by remembering the drony qualities of Norwegian Black Metal. It’s an album of vampires, lunar cycles, sticky choruses, and the smell of warm leaves and winter.”
Jenny’s voice throughout goes from dreamy cloud gazing on a cold bright autumn day to the dark narration of a gritty honest truthfulness, that is a wonder to behold. The record is mainly electronic musically which as a consequence, opens up the listening experience to a whole flowing stream of sounds and sights, in the mind’s eye.
‘Period Piece’ brings in a raft of sharp instrumentation and oh, those lyrics again, “Dreaming was too lonely. I chose keeping it together and its IKEA white walls of my post-war Nordic silence, but only desire is real. I must find some kind of art form where I can call my tongue back from the underground.”
As a new record, it’s a fascinating achievement, and grows Jenny's catalogue in fine style, just how hard it will be to follow up in eighteen months times, will be interesting to follow.
A real star in the making, following in the footsteps of other Scandinavian artists who bring thoughtful music into our lives.