Friday, 30 September 2016

A BAND ON HOPE – ALBUM REVIEW

A Band On Hope – A Band On Hope 
A Band On Hope - A Band On Hope


Release Date: Out Now

The words Westcountry and Hip-Hop don’t always sit together comfortably without imagining some sort of pimped up Wurzels but shame on you for your lazy musical reference points. Frontman for near legendary combo The Scribes, Ill Literate, and producer Kristian Sharpe have created a side project under the name A Band On Hope and then gone on to spawn an absolute beast of an album. From the word go, ‘Che Lives’ is an attack on modern day apathy and ‘Dead Angels’ is a slick, groove heavy piece of Jurassic 5-esque Hip Hop that pervades like the thickest, sweetest smoke. ‘Furgh Que’ shows the duo humour off with bleeps liberally scattered around over the stuttering acoustic and rippling lyrics. Gideon Conn is the closest comparison I can make to tunes like ‘God Knows’ and ‘Low Budget High Life’ as the duo mix humour, imaginative melodies and rapid fire vocals that swing between mockery and insight like a monkey easing through the high branches of a jungle canopy.  

There’s a wonderfully woozy quality to ‘Mindfields’ that was born in the music of the Beatles and grew up via the likes Jim Noir and Badly Drawn Boy in all their lo-fi beauty. I love a comedy title so ‘Phantom of Hipopera’ is right up my street and musically it tickles my fancy too with a gorgeously squelchy synth sound and the smooth lyrical flow present yet again. ‘Russian Doll’ has a real West Coast feel (US West Coast, not Weston Super Mare) while ‘So Far’ is one of the more spaced out tracks albeit with a menacing, slightly threatening edge. That darkness continues in to ‘Upsides Down’ as the tempo is taken down a notch and the duo piss all over the likes of Professor Green who would do well to listen to this album and take some notes.

On ‘Trapped Inside Escape’ the pair move in to a space more usually occupied by late 90s boy bands with its jerky melody and vocals style before ‘Standstill’ shuffles in to view with its Stone Roses vibe and day-job bashing lyrics. The album closes out with ‘Spaced Out Break Out’ which has a jazzy, almost Latin vibe and is yet more proof that these guys know how to work a groove. I hope this becomes more than a side-project as there is clearly a wealth of creativity which can be exploited here and I can only imagine that their live shows would an awful lot of fun. A hugely impressive album, then, and one that ought to be gaining a lot of attention if it isn’t already.


Live Dates (The Scribes):

1st October – The Energy Rooms, Torpoint
14th October – The Apple & Parrot, Torquay
9th December – The Social, Southampton w/Talib Kweli

16th December – The Hub, Plymouth w/Land of The Giants

ELLE EXXE – ALBUM REVIEW

Elle Exxe – Love Fuelled Hate 
Elle Exxe - Love Fuelled Hate


Release Date: 7th October 2016

There’s hype, there’s hyperbole and then there’s superhype. Scottish star in the making Elle Exxe fits in to that latter category but, I think you’ll agree, it’s deserved. I mean, how many fresh pop stars start their debut album with the sound of a Frenchman (I think) muttering uncomfortably close in to a microphone? Well Elle Exxe does on ‘Your Love…’ which segues in to the stomping pop rouser ‘Lately’ full of brattish attitude, slinky guitars and the kind of chorus that works in a ball gown as much as it does in jeans and a vest. On ‘Lost in L.A.’ our heroine uses that Shampoo-esque stomp of a beat and semi-robotic vocal to counterpoint those choppy, snarling guitars to create something akin to Sleigh Bells which is a very, very good thing. By the time ‘Home with You’ rolls around with its more laid back vibe, you are left in no doubt that Elle Exxe not only means business but has the chops to back it up with an album already brimming with great pop tunes.

Album Launch Show
The slick, multi-tracked vocals on ‘I Do’ are reminiscent of Lady Gaga or Rhianna in terms of production values but the bravery of hanging the whole song on her vocal ability with very sparse instrumentation is admirable to say the least. ‘Sick’ is a smart, sassy piece of indie-pop while ‘White Lies’ has a slightly more sparse, 80s pop ballad vibe but with 21st century beats. ‘…Your Hate’ continues the mumbling from the opening track before the Lady Hawke-esque ‘Lie to Me’ kicks in with its dancing synth notes and Elle Exxe letting her voice flex its muscles with confidence and a little swagger. The dramatic synth and beats intro to ‘The Hammer’ mixed with the affected vocal style reminds me a little of Cameo’s classic ‘Word Up’ but soon enough this tune becomes a huge 80s inspired indie-dance anthem with perfect hand-clappable rhythms going on. The attitude continues on ‘W.T.F.’ as Elle and her posse chant “Who the fuck do you think you are?” at anyone who gets in their way or tries it on without an invitation. Be warned.


In to the home straight and ‘Hating On You’ is the girl power anthem that the likes of Girls Aloud would kill for as a comeback tune but far too grown up for the likes of Little Mix (Katy Perry might just be able to carry it off but it’s got too much snarl for the likes of Meghan Trainor). ‘Shoot’ is sumptuous in its bile driven fury as Elle Exxe nearly raps the verses before singing “Your jealousy won’t bring me down” in the chorus. Closing track ‘Understand’ shows the artist off under a more delicate light as the scattered, processed vocals are akin to Ellie Goulding but the beats that carry the tune are far more industrial, not letting up on the energy until the very end of this 14 track beast. So, that’s a whole album of original material coupled with one hell of a voice and enough imagination and innovation to keep the listener’s attention for 14 whole tracks. Not bad for a first effort, that second album is going to be a bit of a challenge though. Never mind that though, Elle Exxe is surely about to break through so get on board now and get to a show before she’s touring arenas and killing it at awards ceremonies.


Live Dates:

3rd October – Zandari 2016, Seoul
6th October – Unknown Venue, Seoul
7th October – Mu:Con 2016, Seoul
12th October – Album Launch @ 229 Venue, London

27th October – Troxy, London

Thursday, 29 September 2016

WEEKEND RECOVERY – SINGLE REVIEW

Weekend Recovery – Focus 
Weekend Recovery - Focus


Release Date: Out Now

The idea of a bunch of kids from Kent writing songs in the style of Paramore and Green Day might not seem like the kind of thing to rouse you from your pre-Autumnal slumber but that is the prospect being presented by Weekend Recovery and their new single, ‘Focus’. From the get go, there’s a surging energy and sweet British pop-punk vibe going but I can’t help but feel like this is a little sanitised. The guitars purr rather than growl and the drums keep time fine but the belly of the beast is missing as your rib cage is left unbothered by the beat. The vocals of front woman Lorin are powerful and saccharine sweet in equal measure which just about saves this song but I think Weekend Recovery need to spend a little more time enjoying the weekend and less time worrying about the recovery in order to give their music that missing edge.



Live Dates:

29th September – The Dublin Castle, London
14th October – 93 Feet East, London
15th October – Poco Loco, Chatham
16th October – Oxford Tattoo Convention, Oxford
29th October – Halloween Special @ The Alley Cat, London
5th November – The Bedford, Tunbridge Wells

VICTORIA LANE – SINGLE REVIEW

Victoria Lane – Don’t Regret It 
Victoria Lane - Don't Regret It


Release Date: Out Now

Despite sounding like a quaint little side street in suburban England, Victoria Lane is actually a pop starlet in development down in Miami (probably riding around in shiny convertible as I type). Lane’s new single, ‘Don’t Regret It’, is a strange mix of visual and aural differences. If you close your eyes and listen, you’d expect Victoria to be a sassy, leather clad pop strumpet pushing everything her mamma gave her in to the camera. The tight guitar and smooth vocals are perfect for the electro beats to surge in to during the chorus, creating an uplifting break up tune. Then you open your eyes and see Victoria in her video appearing like something between the innocent girl next door or your friend’s mum who might just be your first fantasy. This is a moving on song and could stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Katy Perry or Meghan Trainor in the pop parade so let’s put looks to one side and focus on the music for once, eh?



Wednesday, 28 September 2016

MARLON BRANDO ISLAND – DEMO REVIEW

Marlon Brando Island – Demo 
Marlon Brando Island - Demo EP 


Release Date: Out Now

Having lived in the DMZ on the edge of East London for a while, I know full well that it dances a fine line between creative hotpot and a hamlet of pretentious wankers. So it’s with a mixture of excitement and nervousness that I unwrap the debut EP by East London troupe Marlon Brando Island. Opening with ‘A Troubled Past’, the EP gets off to jangling, ramshackle start mixing punk, garage and art-house straight away with the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Pixies, the Fall and the Stooges coming to mind immediately and that’s no bad thing. On ‘True Heroes’, MBI start with a more considered beginning as the guitars strum and the luscious vocals swoon before the drums come thumping in and suddenly there’s a triumphant feel to this tune, one that lifts the band on to a new platform.

‘Fear Of The Winter’ is the halfway mark of the EP and shows another string to the bow of Marlon Brando Island as they morph in to something akin to Arcade Fire with those deep, velvety vocals, urgent drums and guitars that pick out notes in a night sky with majesty. There is something of the Libertines about ‘Drunk Driving’ as a real gang mentality takes over the steering wheel, careering through clashing guitars and scattered drums. The EP closes out with ‘Circle of Throats’ which sounds like it should be a Biffy Clyro song from the title but actually has a more considered, dramatic approach which would sit most naturally with the likes of the National and that’s no bad thing. So, fortunately for us, Marlon Brando Island have taken on board the creativity of East London rather than the wankyness and, as debuts go, this is pretty smashing. Bloody smashing actually.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

ZOHARA – SINGLE REVIEW

Zohara – Play 
Zohara - Play


Release Date: Out Now

Ahead of the release of her debut album, Tel Aviv chanteuse Zohara is treating us to a new single ‘Play’ and I implore you to immerse yourself in its sheer loveliness. Woven together by Zohara’s distinctive vocal, ‘Play’ combines the airy lightness of Tennis, the melodies of LadyHawke, the lo-fi pop of Belle & Sebastian and the slickness of Metronomy. A wonderful mish-mash of instrumentation to create the most jazz infused approach to pop I’ve heard in a long time and that’s got to be an exciting thing these days when pop has become so frightfully predictable. On this evidence the album should be a hoot but with a November release date I can’t help but feel this it better suited to the summer. Then again, it’s always summer somewhere, right?


LULU JAMES – SINGLE REVIEW

Lulu James – Falling 
Lulu James - Falling


Release Date: Out Now

Southshields star Lulu James is fast becoming one of my favourite young British artists to emerge in 2016 and that is no mean feat. New single ‘Falling’ fits nicely in to James’ self-professed genre of 21st Century Soul as the opening bars throb and pulse with organic feeling electro beats. Lulu James has a voice that is part Motown and part Laura Mvula but absolutely dripping in soul as her dusky tones glide from the almost shy verses in to the more confident and proud chorus vocals. There is a sparse element to this single that may seem like a missed opportunity but to me this is just giving one of the UK’s most talented voices the room to swoop and soar without bumping in to anything else. Classy, real classy.


Live Dates:


24th October – Blogtober @ The Finsbury, London