Tuesday, 30 July 2013

ALLUSONDRUGS - SINGLE REVIEW

Allusondrugs - Plasters (Clue Records) 
Allusondrugs - Plasters

Release Date: 19th August

There have been times in my life when I've seen a girl in a record shop wearing a t-shirt of an obscure band that I thought only I loved and buying the back catalogue of a band that I assumed I'd imagined (the example I can remember being a girl in a Veruca Salt t-shirt buying two Shihad CDs). At those times, my innate shyness has prevented me from proposing marriage there and then but I feel it would have gone badly anyhow. Allusondrugs are the musical equivalent of those girls - a band that I instantly and inexplicably love even though most of my friends won't get it at all and I'll have to go to the gigs alone just because I have to be there. This debut single from the Castleford quintet is, on first listen, utterly perplexing. On one level it's straight up rock, on another level it's shoegaze indie, between those two levels it's a grunge ballad and every now and again there are some experimental, almost Jazz like temptations peeking through. The fact that this music that can't be easily pigeon holed is hugely welcome and refreshing but, like I said, makes me a little wary of being a overly affectionate at first glance (keep your cool Monger) but then the song ends with just a few, ponderous guitar notes and the girl is gone, the moment has passed, the doors have slid (slided? slidded? the doors have moved, OK? Like in that film?! Yeah, that one). B-side 'Chemical On' is a huge, doomy sounding slice of riff-rock that builds and builds in to a crescendo of biblical proportions before breaking in to a funky, tight little guitar riff that Biffy Clyro would kill for and Reuben used to excel in. For anyone interested in the darker, heavier and more intricate areas of music then I urge you to check out Allusondrugs - you have plenty of chances, just check out that gig list below. For those of you who were girls in the late 90s with a penchant for Veruca Salt and Shihad then don't get in touch, the moment's passed and I've moved on. You had your chance......bitch.


Live Dates:
9th August - The Hop, Wakefield w/ Hawk Eyes, Blacklisters and These Monsters
16th August - The Black Bull, Castleford
17th August - Secret Location, Leeds
30th August - The Black Bull, Castleford
31st August - The Packhorse, Leeds w/NARCS
6th September - The Hop, Wakefield w/ That Fucking Tank
7th September - Bullfest, Castleford
13th September - The Black Bull, Castleford
23rd September - The Library, Leeds
11th October - The Black Bull, Castleford
26th October - OXJAM FESTIVAL @ Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds
1st November - The Black Bull, Castleford

30th November - Escobar, Leeds

THE VERY MOST - EP REVIEW

The Very Most - Just A Pup EP (Manic Pop Records) 
The Very Most - Just A Pup

Blogging, I find, Is a little bit like beachcombing. You can scan the coastline for months and get nothing but drift wood and broken condoms but then, the day after a big storm, you hit pay dirt. At the moment, it seems a larger transporter of Twee American Indie Pop has capsized off the coast of Cornwall and I'm going to have to start selling some if it down the pub on a Friday if it keeps coming at this rate! The Very Most are the latest beach find and, I'm pleased to say, one of the best so far. Imagine Ben Folds singing over a Brian Wilson piano melody with synths and layered up vocal harmonies and, well, that's essentially title track 'Just A Pup' in all its saccharine sweet glory. The gloriously quirky 'Idaho, America in 2049' is like Grandaddy after a heady night on cocktails, prescription drugs and karaoke before taking a turn for the frantic and slightly panicked about half way through. Sure, this is pop and this is sugary sweet stuff, but it also has substance and stands up to a few repeat listens in a row which is surely the sign of a song that was worth writing.

On 'We Don't Have Any Cuts To Waste' The Very Most sound for all the world like they should have three identically attired backing vocalists - the leader of which can only be determined by her tambourine work. The irony, of course, is that the Very Most is essentially the brain/love child of one man, Mr Jeremy Jensen (JJ to his friends I imagine although I do not count myself among such people). For a band of people to have this many ideas is truly beautiful, for one man to pull it all together is, well, just super. The icing on the already overwhelmingly sweet cake, is the coquettish and, let's face it, damn sexy cover of Tom Jones' 'It's Not Unusual' with guest vocals from the sultry Liz Hunt. Now I know Sir Thomas of Jones-shire is a damn sexy pillar of a man but the reworking of this old classic with shimmering percussion, reverb heavy guitars and the aforementioned dusky vocals of Ms Hunt takes this to a new level of sexy. A level I haven't even reached yet so I find myself entirely unqualified to continue this review. Back to the beach I go for more treasures...

More information: http://theverymost.com/


THE ROSA RIOT - EP REVIEW

The Rosa Riot - Three Chord Casanovas 
The Rosa Riot - Three Chord Casanovas

A feature of my teenage voyage of musical discovery was the steady flow of constantly excellent Scandinavian and Nordic indie bands. From the Wannadies, the Cardigans and Grass Show to the Sugarcubes and the Hives, there was always someone singing curious lyrics with a captivatingly exotic accent and, invariably, piercing eyes. I can't comment on the eyes, but for me the Rosa Riot could fit in with the aforementioned imports in terms of quality. Having said that, these songs are much garage rock influenced than indie-pop so that do stand alone in that sense. The opening track to this EP is a scratchy, swaggering number by the name of 'Anytime, Anywhere' that switches from the Liverpool's beat scene to a U2 sized moody chorus. We've all been to 'Hangover Square' but I doubt many of us have experienced it with the wall of noise and sheer defiance that the Rosa Riot manage it. Most impressive, gentlemen.

The stand out track for me on this collection is 'She's Got The Goods' which gives a nod to the Hives but has a more melodic 70s tinge to it as well as a proper floor stompin, fist pumping, head banging chorus. This Danish-Icelandic combination of musicians could, if you close your eyes and ignore some of the accents on show, be playing as warm up for Iggy and the Stooges in a sweaty club with anxious New York cops waiting by the doors - not sure whether this is illegal or just inspirational. The EP ends on something of a downer with the organ-heavy 'Flowers For Your Grave' but it's a charming, film credits soundtrack of a song that should only ever be listened to in monochrome and, preferably, on vinyl. This EP has been out for a little while so I would grab a copy and get yourself warmed up for the new album which is being worked on with none other than the legendary Mark Kramer of Sonic Youth and Lou Reed fame. Yes, him.

More information: www.therosariot.com

Live Dates:

3rd August - Spirefestival, Holbaek, Denmark

IS TROPICAL - SINGLE REVIEW

Is Tropical - Lover's Cave ([Pias]/Kitsune)
Release Date: 26th August 2013
I'm always a little sceptical of bands that are more known for their 'outrageous' videos  than their music (check them out on Vimeo as Youtube banned them for being too saucy). I'm even more sceptical of bands whose members are all known by symbols ( & ∞ according to facebook,  is the drummer). But let's not judge, eh? Prince was a bit mental and we all love him, right? Londoners Is Tropical, are a trio of indie noizeniks that inhabit the same circle of the Venn diagram as Swim Deep or the bit where pop and Dinosaur Jr crossover. 'Lover's Cave' is the second single taken from their latest album 'I'm Leaving' and it has a dream like quality to it with buzzsaw guitars, minimalist drums and a melody that wrestles to be heard but it is definitely there. There is a summery charm to the song that is undeniable but the recorded version doesn't quite hit the heights you might hope for. Then again, maybe that was intentional as it was apparently inspired by a story of a young couple who went for a roll around in the sand in a beach cave only to be swept out to sea and killed. Not the petit mort they would have been hoping for I'd warant.
Live Dates:
1st August - Arenal Sound, Burriana, Spain
23rd August - Reading Festival
24th August - Leeds Festival
25th August - Rock en Seine, Paris  
6th September - Bestival, Isle of Wight
7th September - Berlin Festival

Thursday, 25 July 2013

THE STEINBECKS - SINGLE REVIEW

The Steinbecks - At Arkaroo Rock (Matinee Recordings) 
The Steinbecks - At Arkaroo Rock

Release Date: 6th August 2013

I don't like cricket. I'm not bothered about Rugby. I've met some genuinely awesome Australians during my travels across the planet. Put all that together and I really don't get the rivalry that's supposed to exist between the English and the Australian people. Needless to say, The Steinbecks are an antipodean bunch and, apparently, this is their first release in over 6 years so what took them so long? Well, 'At Arkaroo Rock' is a gentle, lilting, meandering song with dreamy, Chris Isaak guitars and bass line that waitresses will simply have to wiggle their bums to. There is a sunset feeling to this song that could only have been conceived on a warm summer's evening after a few beers by a band of good friends who are either in love or just goddamn happy. Which is kinda sickening but then the melancholy undertones save the song and everything is alright again.   

More information: thesteinbecks.net.au


Download Now: matineerecordings.com/

KING KOOL - SINGLE REVIEW

King Kool - Rocket Roll (Oilbug Music) 
King Kool - Rocket Roll

Release Date: 26th August 2013

There are a lot of rock'n'roll duos out there at the moment but none of them are quite like King Kool. These two dirty gents have the lip curl of Elvis, the rock'n'roll sexuality of Queens of the Stone Age and the vocal tendencies of someone between Adam Ant and Joe Strummer. This latest single, 'Rocket Roll', is a furious slab of diesel fuelled excess with no frills, no fat and not one wasted second. Heavy riffing, pounding drums and the kind of chorus that will have crowds raising their arms in fevered support are all you need for storming single and these guys have it in spades. Chuck on some dark shades, light up a cigar and turn this one up to eleven and a half.

More information: http://www.kingkool.co.uk/

Live Dates:

25th August - Greenbelt Festival w/ Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

BUBBLEGUM LEMONADE - SINGLE REVIEW

Bubblegum Lemonade - Have You Seen Faith? (Matinee Recordings) 
Bubblegum Lemonade - Have You Seen Faith?

Release Date: 23rd July 2013

It's been a while since I've heard from our Scottish cousins and I always like to hear what they've been up to. Glasgow's Bubblegum Lemonade (pretty high up on the band name-ometer) are more at the Belle & Sebastian end of the spectrum than the Biffy Clyro end but opening track 'Have You Seen Faith?' is a little too lifeless for me. There are some jangly guitars and breathy vocals but all I can picture is a bored looking bassist trying desperately to keep the tempo slow enough for the song and I never like to think of a musician being bored when playing their own songs. 'Cool Guitar Girl' is a much more uptempo and perky number and, despite the McFly-esque title, it has a certain Teenage Fanclubish innocence to it which is appealing its own right. As if they weren't already going for the youth market, the final track is actually called 'Angry Birds'. However, it's not about flinging our feathered friends at sick pigs but rather about women beating up their blokes...I think. Once again, the oh-so-indie guitars are present and the jaunty melody but there's nothing really to catch the attention or peak my interest beyond some inoffensive indie tuneage and some forgettable lyrics. Tis a shame as well because with a name like Bubblegum Lemonade I was hoping for something a little more sugary and bubbly.



Download now: matineerecordings.com/

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

IONS IN THE ETHER - EP REVIEW

Ions In The Ether - When We Were EP 
Ions In The Ether - When We Were

Now, I'm mainly a guitars and drums kinda guy but every now and again I like to go back to my electronic roots. You see, growing up in rural Devon in the 1980s my main points of reference where my older siblings who were obsessed, in turn, with Peter Gabriel, Jean Michel Jarre (that was my brother) and the Eurythmics (that was my sister). I was a good 9 years younger but desperate to join in so I decided to make the Pet Shop Boys my own. We've all moved on but every now and again at Christmas these early obsessions creep out in the most glorious ways. Ions In The Ether is (for it is just one man, one man from Norwich) exactly what I love from my electronic beats; fun, bouncy, catchy and great beats/bass combos. Opening up with the hugely Jarre influenced 'Daydreamer', Ions In the Ether scatter about like an overactive screensaver but always holding your attention long enough to keep you enthralled - essentially, this is the music humming birds would make if they stop flapping their sodding wings long enough to learn how to use Protools. '1988', apart from being a classic year (Junior School was ace for me), is also an absurdly bouncy number that I'm sure Will.I.Am would love to rap uselessly all over but, refreshingly, all of Ions In the Ether's stuff is entirely instrumental. In many ways, this is reminiscent of the glorious music you used to hear under the credits of a computer game that, after months of trying and permanent damage to your wrists/eyes/thumbs,  you have finally completed.

As we move up to the half way point of this EP, we are greeted with 'Six Weeks' which is a much mellower, electric dawn of a tune. If Tokyo ever went to sleep, this would be the soundtrack to the sun rising with heavily processed keys and synthetic insects giving way to a simple but effective trance-ish melody and slow but insistent beat. There is a moment where this tune goes to a place that I'm a little cautious of but that's not a bad thing (that place being a basement where DJ Otzi and Napoleon Dynamite are collaborating with Gary Numan to come up with the perfect music for a kid's TV show based in a Japanese amusement arcade - listen to the tune, that will make perfect sense....I hope). Final track, 'Young(er)', takes the kid's TV music to another level but also manages to create the closest thing I've heard to an electro-lullaby. There are moments throughout this EP when, if you stand back from the funny noises and bouncy melodies, you can't help but marvel at the complexity of the music and its almost classical structures and movements. It will come as no surprise these days to hear that Ions In The Ether is just a side project, a play thing if you will, and that's probably what's kept this music so light but I want more. Just plug it in to my veins!

More information: https://www.facebook.com/ionsintheether

Monday, 22 July 2013

MATH AND PHYSICS CLUB - SINGLE REVIEW

Math And Physics Club - Long Drag (Matinee Recordings) 
Math And Physics Club - Long Drag

Release Date: 30th July

I've been doing this ol' blog thing for a while now I've started to notice a few trends. One of those trends is that things tend to come in batches; first it was Bristol based bands, then it was the turn of the North-East of England, I then received a small gaggle of Scandinavian new music and now, well, now I splashing around in a gentle tidal wave of American bands playing beautiful indie-pop of various guises. The latest ripple on the water has been caused by Seattle's Math and Physics Club and what a ripple it is?! This is the band's first release in over 3 years but 'Long Drag' is well worth the wait and for those who don't already know the band, this is a great point to dive straight in. A punchy bassline, B52s guitars, crisp handclaps and a subdued vocal performance make for a wonderfully understated yet superbly poppy indie smash in the making. This has Teenage Fanclub or Belle & Sebastian written all over it but with the added punch that the American's seem to be able to give this kind of music, a la Pavement or Grandaddy. Not only that, you can get this slice of aural beauty on a coke bottle green 7" for just $5. You'd be a fool not to!



Order online: matineerecordings.com/

MILO'S PLANES - SINGLE REVIEW

Milo's Planes - Told You Twice/New Tricks AA Side 
Milo's Planes - Told You Twice/New Tricks

Release Date: 26th July

Such is the healthy state of the undiscovered music scene in the UK (I hate to use unsigned now, everyone's unsigned aren't they?), that so many bands I come across are sharing members with other bands and often in a completely musical sphere. Such is the case with Bristol sibling duo Milo's Planes whose drummer, Joe Sherrin, already performs with previous Listen With Monger favourites Me, You and Thomas. The beauty in doing this, though, is the opportunity to express your different musical leanings while you decide what it is that turns you on the most. In the case of Milo's Planes, brothers Joe and Harry are exploring their lo-fi indie-punk side channelling the Fall and the Sex Pistols mixed with We Are Scientists and A in A-side number one, 'Told You Twice'. There's simplicity, a rough'n'readiness that has a huge appeal and an urgency that suggests they were running low on the electricity meter whilst recording this in their bedrooms surrounded by bottles of half drunk cheap red wine and the fading posters of their musical idols. 'New Tricks' is an altogether more mature sounding song which suggests real talent in the construction of an anthemic melody and some sneering but perfectly pitched vocal harmonies. In fact, the only frustrating thing about this duo is that you feel like they are spending too much time sampling the buffet when, with a little patience and work, they could easily dining at a banquet - such is the quality of their potential. Still, they've only got 34 likes on Facebook so why not pop over and give them a boost, might make them stick at something longer than five minutes.....kids today eh?


DEAD STARS - EP REVIEW

Dead Stars - High Gain EP 
Dead Stars - High Gain

Come the summer time, everyone has their preferred soundtrack for cruising the streets on foot or with your car windows rolled down. Some like banging dance tunes, some prefer reggae and others like to blast out a bit of Ska. Personally, I can't think of anything better than cruising through the country lanes where I live, catching glimpses of the sea and letting some lo-fi, scuzzed up, indie tunes drift out of the car stereo - preferably with a drawly American accent. For this very reason, residents of South East Cornwall should listen out for Dead Star this weekend when I head off in my little car. The Brooklyn trio, you see, make me feel 17 again - an age at which I was discovering a whole host of bands from Weezer and Dinosaur Jr through to Feeder and Sebadoh. This five track EP kicks off with some up-tempo, choppy guitars and rumbling drums that draw you in instantaneously as 'Waste Away', an immediate slacker's anthem, sets the mood for the next 20 minutes or so. 'Let It Go' has a more dirgy, laboured feel to it but that's just the way I like it (as will my local farmer, no doubt). Third track, 'Fractured', though is where these guys really hit their stride with a great guitar hook that Feeder would kill for right now and the kind of sentiment (broken hearts, small ambitions) that my inner teenager is desperate to identify with if only he was allowed. The fuzzy guitars, the throbbing bass, the muddy drums nice and low in the mix and the We Are Scientists-esque vocal melodies are all I need to be convinced but there are still two tracks to go!

The pace gets slower with 'Staring At The Sun' with a circular riff that has you nodding rhythmically along without realising and an arrangement that is so simple, so pure that I can't help but dive right in. EP closer, 'No Sympathy', is an optimistic but grungy little number with some gorgeous chords that mirror the chugging bass to create a perfect soundtrack for a good wallow. The only problem I have is that for this to be an Indie Disco smash it needs a huuuuge ending and it doesn't quite  manage it but hey-ho, they can't hit every nail head on, can they? Dead Stars are probably never going to play stadiums but you'd offered a 17 year old me the opportunity to be in an awesome indie-grunge-pop band that lives in Brooklyn I would literally have snapped your arm off. Clean off, no blood or nothing. Come to think of it, offer me that now and I would be tempted. Go on, I dare you....


Live dates:

31st July - Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn (w/ The Hairs, The Teen Age, Honduras)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

ARTS & LEISURE - ALBUM REVIEW

Arts & Leisure - Choose Your Adventure (Test Pattern Records) 
Arts & Leisure - Choose Your Adventure

Sometimes, just sometimes, you throw the chips in the air and they all come down the right side up. For instance, when a band comes along with an album named after your favourite childhood series of books, songs more summery than an ice cream melting on a beach and that classic boy-girl-boy-girl line up then you just know that everything is going to be alright. Sacramento quartet Arts & Leisure have come up with an album which expertly walks that fine line between sweet and sour, dark and light, soft and jagged. The  album opens up with the dreamy 'Seconds From Flight' that has a little Arcade Fire about it but, weirdly, that is mixed with some Best Coast and some Belly to make it a less jagged pill to swallow. 'Wolf Pack', however, is a much more lively and jaunty indie-pop number and has the qualities that would see it sit comfortably on the soundtrack to any 80s movie about teenage romance and kids with more money and gadgets than sense or good looks. Then, with 'The River', the tempo drops again and suddenly we're walking hand-in-hand with the Thrills or the Magic Numbers down by the river as the summer sun sets and somewhere, not too far away, a heart is being broken.

Now it may seem like I'm rattling through these tracks but this is an 11 track album that's over in less than half an hour and, when the songs are this well crafted, that is a fact worth noting. So, on to track 4, the hand-clap laden 'Toria' with its Veruca Salt-esque charms and subtle but furious guitar work. 'Rescue Me' has a more acoustic feel to it but the pace is relentless and twee-ness is unavoidable (why would you want to) before giving way to the beautifully lackadaisical 'Upside Down'. This is a song performed through the haze of a first summer experimenting with hash, cheap booze and the first stirrings of love but all with a backdrop of solid friends and a sense that these days should be remembered if not chronicled for future reminiscing. Skip forward a few years and we're at College singing 'Hello' with friends in the student union whilst trying to look awesome on the dance floor and, just maybe, catch the eye of that gorgeous guy/girl who always sits at the back in your class on a Thursday. The twin vocals of Gerri White and Becky Cale, dripping in sweetness and the ability to turn on you at the drop of a hat, would make the most mundane of songs stand out but as the songs are succinct little nuggets of melodious joy that theory is yet to be proven. 'City Life', for example, starts off like it could be disappointing but by the end I'm flicking my imaginary pig tails to the beat.

As we approach the end of this album, an album you could fall in love with twice during your lunch break, 'Bridge' gives those harmonies a chance to really explore and it's like a twee-pop choir in my head. Penultimate tack, 'Once', is a genuinely beautiful and superbly uncomplicated song that you feel might have been performed twice, recorded once and just left at that. Such is the purity of sentiment in both lyric and music that you can't imagine this has been over thought but it has come straight from the heart and in to our ears. As the album closes, those hints of the Arcade Fire are back on 'Enjoy Your Flight' but the saccharine sweet vocals overlayed on buzzsaw guitars and a hypnotic rhythm make for an enthralling song. Add in the lyric "It's just a story but you can write the end, choose your adventure or opt to start again" and I am sold. Sadly, due to my overflowing inbox of submissions, I seem to have missed Arts & Leisure's recent UK shows but on this evidence I'm sure they'll be back soon enough.


Live Dates:

25th July - Patine Wijn Bistro, Antwerp, Belgium
26th July - Rock Cafe, Leuven, Belgium
27th July - Posthuis, Wuustwezel, Belgium
24th August - Old Ironsides, Sacramento, California

Thursday, 18 July 2013

CROOKED HANDS - SINGLE REVIEW

Crooked Hands - The Stream 
Crooked Hands - The Stream

Release Date: 1st July

I have to admit, when this one started my immediate reaction was "well this is going to be another piss-weak attempt to be Turin Brakes" which shows a lack of ambition or imagination in my book. Twenty seven seconds in, however, and this Newcastle combo go all Jeff Buckley on our asses with soaring, dramatic guitars and undulating drums. 'The Stream' is a slice of epic indie-rock that takes itself pretty seriously but in a very good way and takes you from folky finger picking and almost whispered lyrics to mountain conquering crescendos via some tantalising piano work and impressive vocal ranges. This is the first track to be released from an EP that will be coming out later in the year and on this evidence I am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for it.



Live Dates: August 4th – Bernicia Festival, w/ Little Comets

SPRING OFFENSIVE - SINGLE REVIEW

Spring Offensive - Speak 
Spring Offensive - Speak

I'm not a fan of 'scenes' in music as it all just seems like an easy way to group bands together for the sake of selling t-shirts and posters. However, there definitely seems to be a movement of articulate, intricate and carefully crafted indie bands haunting the airwaves at the moment. From the Maccabees and Foals to Dutch Uncles and Everything Everything, there are some great bands at various stages of their careers which, inevitably brings more in their wake as people try to copy the blueprint for success. I'm not suggesting for one moment that Spring Offensive have been this calculating but they certainly fit in to that 'scene'. 'Speak' is all angles and off-kilter beats with lyrics about that oft-cited problem of man's inability to communicate his feelings. The danger with genre, whatever it's called, is that it walks a fine line between being genuinely captivating and being, well, Coldplay. Spring Offensive are aware of this danger and despite a few wobbles they stay on the right side of the balance beam....just. There is also a remix of this single available from Tyde which is, well, let's just say it sounds like it's been done by a 12 year old who has discovered the Chipmunks and the pitch bend function on his laptop. The remix does nothing to improve the song - surely the point of a remix - but even without hearing the original I can't imagine thinking this would be worth listening to in its own right.

More information: www.springoffensive.co.uk 


HAUNTED LEATHER - ALBUM REVIEW

Haunted Leather - In Her Golden Room (Stolen Body Records) 
Haunted Leather - In Her Golden Room

Release Date: 10th July

We need to get these rules sorted out. It may only be a minor thing but does 5 tracks really constitute an album? An EP yes, a single no, but an album? Not for me. Anyway, never judge a book by its cover or a collection of songs by its collective title, as the saying goes... Michigan boys Haunted Leather are a spaced out, psych rock beast of a band with a taste for layers of distortion, slabs of sustain and slices of delay. This is real wall of sound stuff and this is particularly evident on opening track 'Come And Join Us' which has a Doors-esque rumble to it but not quite the vocal personality of Mr Mojo Risin'. 'Midnight Women' has a lazy, Vegas lounge bar at sun-rise vibe to it with loose drum fills in the background like the onset of a hangover that only another whiskey will cure. The trouble is, there is no whiskey left in the bar and that hangover is only going to get louder, more pounding and heavier in your head. Title track, 'In Her Gold Room', is the sexiest song in this collection and again features that ultra laid back but supremely sunny vibe that makes you want to pour yourself a drink, roll a fat one and just turn this up to 11 while the sun streams in through the window.

This isn't the world's most ground breaking or forward thinking music but there is a wonderfully nostalgic appeal about and it feels like these guys live this music. 'The Heat Sits' has an uncomfortable frustration about it, as though the band are waiting for the air to cool enough to make it out of their den and on to the strip to look for hard liquor and loose women. Finally, as the swathes of guitars clear, the simple, pure Beach Boys on a come down melody of 'Sophie's Song' emerges from the haze. This bass driven love song has an almost optimistic feel about it and finally sees vocalist Dusty (I know, perfect right?) emerge cautiously from behind the wall of guitars and organ before being slowly dragged back in by the sheer weight of the music. Haunted Leather is maybe an appropriate name for these guys as it feels as though they've slipped in to the inexplicably snug clothing of psych-rock heroes of yore before channelling their spirits through their fingers and voices. Perfect stuff for a the end of an all nighter as the sun comes up and the world starts to makes sense once again. Or does it....?


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

GENNA MARABESE - EP REVIEW

Genna Marabese - The Birthday Party EP 
Genna Marabese - The Birthday Party EP

Release Date: 5th August 2013

What do you get if you mix Kate Bush at her most sultry, Muse doing a piano based song (let's say 'Survival' for the sake of argument) and the children's song 'Run Rabbit Run'? Essentially, what you get is the opening track to this EP, 'Deal With The Devil'. It's a curious mix that stands up to a few listens and has a great piano hook going on but I feel like it never quite kicks in to top gear which is always slightly annoying. Genna Marabese has one of those voices that is full of personality and gives you the impression that she's lived some life rather than just doing her vocal exercises every day. Don't get me wrong, I love a voice with personality and nothing shows off her personality better than the sneering, Patti Smith-esque 'The Birthday Party'. 'Geli Raubal' is dripping with Bowie-like melodies and all the pomp-pop of Ziggy et al with stomping piano, rolling bass and a wailing guitar that just won't quit. Final track, the dubiously titled 'Date Rape' is perhaps the most direct tune on this collection with the energy of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Goldfrapp as the dark, dancy beats drive the incessant bass line and relentless piano forward, ever forward in to oblivion. Marabese's voice is full of emotion, attitude and raw power - a combination that only serves to convince me that she must be a sight to behold on stage (nobody sings with that much passion without having the performance to back it up).


Live Dates:

1st August - The Water Rats, London

YOUR FAVORITE ENEMIES - EP REVIEW

Your Favorite Enemies - Youthful Dreams of an Old Empire (Hopeful Tragedy Records) 
Your Favorite Enemies - Youthful Dreams Of An Old Empire

Release Date: 8th July 2013

From time to time, I come across bands that I have never heard of (never mind heard) who have seemingly amassed a huge following and an intensely loyal fanbase. Canadian rockers Your Favorite Enemies are one such band and, despite the fact that they do that annoying thing of dropping the 'u' from favourite, I can completely understand why this sextet have attracted such attention. Opening track, 'A View From Within', is a dark, brooding rock behemoth that builds so gradually you hardly even notice. Fusing Depeche Mode at the most energetic, Garbage at their most mischievous and take a lead from anything Trent Reznor has touched, 'A View From Within' would be perfect for the soundtrack of the next Bond film or any of the Lisbeth Salander outings. The outrageously Emo-titled 'Empire of Sorrows' is up next and  it entirely lives up to its title. Atmospheric guitars, semi-spoken word vocals and a wonderfully dirgy riff make for a Placebo vs Perfect Circle mash up that is hard to resist wallowing in. Final track, 'Satsuki Yami', is an instrumental affair full of distortion and delay that is pleasing enough but feels more like an album filler than anything you would think is important enough to make up a third of a release. All in all, though, the first two tracks make this well worth your time so try immersing yourself in some Canadian dark rock, it'll make you want to wear black leather and walk through crowded city streets at night with big headphones on and a sense of purpose.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

GROOM - EP REVIEW

Groom - Sons & Daughters EP (Popical Island) 
Groom - Brothers & Sisters

Release Date: 27th July 2013

I used to be in a band. I'm not saying that to make myself sound big or clever but it's to pre-empt any "you try and do better " comments in reaction to this review - I've tried and, in some cases, we did do better. I'm not saying Groom is necessarily one of those cases but it comes pretty darn close. This Dublin four piece are ploughing an indie-pop furrow that flirts with the lackadaisical (Lemonheads), the whimsical (Divine Comedy) and indie-lite (The Thrills). The problem for me is that this EP seems rushed, under rehearsed, poorly recorded and just generally poorly thought out. As a song, 'Brothers & Sisters' just doesn't feel like it can be arsed and 'Fishing' has some more life about it but sounds like the Zutons suffering from writers block and a particularly bad hangover. 'Wet Thursday' has one of those annoying melodies that feels like it was written by a 12 year old while 'Love, Death and Bandaged Heads' would love to be Belle & Sebastian but just hasn't got the balls - which is saying something. I was going to write that these guys have some good ideas that a bit more gigging and rehearsing would help to improve but then I read that they have already released 3 albums so I just don't know where they ought to go from here. Hey, if they're enjoying themselves and not doing anyone any harm then they can carry on as far as I'm concerned but I won't be coming be for any more. I'm sure they're not that bothered.


Live dates:

27th July - Siteation, Dublin

NARCS - SINGLE REVIEW

NARCS - 19 (Clue Records) 
NARCS - 19

Release Date: 20th July 2013

Well this is an enigma and a half. I would have put money on Leeds quartet NARCS being your average, run of the mill, indie rock band with fewer ideas than the BNP and about as much creativity as an accountant. In my defence, the first four seconds of '19' sounds like the opening of a thinly disguised Bluetones rip-off but then, well, then they let rip. '19' has all the youthful but articulate angst of early Arctic Monkeys material mixed with the rock'n'roll cool of Queens of the Stone Age and the sneery swagger of Oasis at their very best. However, despite these comparisons, NARCS have definitely carved a niche of their own with huge riffs (bloody sexy riffs actually), engaging lyrics and an enigmatically named singer, Wilko, who can switch from rasping rock god to crooning indie-pop charmer. It's so rare these days to come across a band with talent, ideas and confidence but it's even more rare to find all of these within a two and a half minute belter of a tune so I can only hope these guys can follow up with an equally strong album later in the year. Don't let me down, boys.


Live Dates:
11th July - Carpe Diem, Leeds
12th July - Pure, Sunderland
14th July - Oporto, Leeds
9th August - Warehouse 23, Wakefield

17th November - Blues Bar, Harrogate

Monday, 1 July 2013

ATHLETES IN PARIS - SINGLE REVIEW

Athletes In Paris - S U Z I E (The Animal Farm) 
Athletes In Paris - Suzie

Release Date: 8th July 2013

I really, really, really want to find fault with these guys. It's nothing personal, they seem like decent lads but they're just so impossibly chipper all the time. I mean, the only other acts out there at the moment making happy music are either too young to notice what a shocking state the world is in or have just received a big fat check from Simon Cowell's private bank. They're a bit like that friend that we all have who thinks everything is amazing and is always fantastic. Ugh....Anyway, needless to say, 'S U Z I E' is a superb piece of lyrical indie pop that has an infectious melody, a great chorus and, as if you needed any more, a video featuring lady zombies with killer dance moves. There are elements of the Police, a smidgen of early Blink 182 and a nod to the poppier end of Britpop as well as killer vocal harmonies and guitar hooks that any X Factor reject who 'wants to be taken seriously' would actually kill for. With a hammer. Athletes In Paris would probably be happy about that too. Bastards.


Live Dates:

6th July - AAA, Archangel Kensington, London (Single Launch supported by Amy Holford) 

TRIGGERFINGER - SINGLE REVIEW

Triggerfinger - I Follow Rivers
Triggerfinger - I Follow Rivers

Release Date: 8th July 2013

A Belgian rock trio covering a Lykke Li worldwide smash on guitar, bass and, erm, mugs ahead of supporting the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. I don't really need to write anything else do I? I will though. Because, you see, this is actually a peach of a tune. Yes, it's a cover and yes, it's already been an internet sensation and yes, it has been in the top 10 in Belgium but that doesn't mean it's not worth listening to. Triggerfinger's treatment of 'I Follow Rivers', an undisputed pop smash, has turned it in to a soulful, bluesy, lounge bar tune that you can imagine popping up in a Tarantino film with some previously unnoticed Hollywood beauty seductively stripping to the beat. Frontman Ruben Block's gravely yet smooth vocals and strong whistling skills find new depths in the lyrics and the rawness of the music make it all the more haunting. I'm always sceptical when a band releases a cover as a single but when it gets the results that this one has after the band have already released 3 albums and built up a good following I say go for it! And they're still younger than Mick, Keith and the rest....but then who isn't?


Live Dates:
5th July - The Borderline, London

6th July - Hyde Park, London (supporting the Rolling Stones)

SNAKADAKTAL - SINGLE REVIEW

Snakadaktal - Ghost (I Oh You/Liberation) 
Snakadaktal - Ghost

Just as the sun has dipped below the house across the street and that early evening cool spreads across the street, I press play on the single, 'Ghost', from Australian quintet Snakadaktal and the world stops. It just stops for about 4 minutes. The uber-mellow keys just wash over you until the dreamily delivered vocals speak softly in your ear, complete with lip-smacks and quick breaths. The subtle guitars and lazy beats serve only to remind you that this is actually a pop song and not some David Lynchian dream sequence brought on by a long day at work and an out of date quiche. The quietly implored refrain of "Ghost, Ghost" could be sung by Bjork at her most delicate or a Scandinavian imp like Stina Nordenstam, making it utterly seductive and wholly pure at the same time. 'Ghost' flies in the face of almost everything else I'm being sent at the moment and makes a strong case for the power of subtlety and sparseness in place of walls of noise and egos turned up to 11. Snakadaktal describe their music as Dream Pop and on this evidence I don't want to wake up. Like, ever.

More information: http://www.snakadaktal.com/

Live Dates:
28th July - Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay NSW
30th July - Festival Hall, Melbourne (with Alt-J)
31st July - Hordern Pavilion, Sydney NSW (with Alt-J)
2nd August - Spin Off Festival, Adelaide SA
16th August - Flinders Social, Townsville QLD

17th August - Kuranda Amphitheatre QLD (with Bernard Fanning)

RAYNE - SINGLE REVIEW

Rayne - Raise The Alarm (Ambicon Music Group) 
Rayne - Raise The Alarm

Everyone has a period of music that they will look back on as the soundtrack to their musical puberty. For me it was the Britpop vs Grunge era. For others it might be Madchester or 90s rave culture. For Rayne, that period seems to have been the more earnest end of the Nu-metal era with the likes of Linkin Park, Evanescence and Hoobastank. We're talking heavy beats, neo-classical guitar work, soul rending vocals and a smattering of synths. 'Raise The Alarm' sees the Sunderland trio take these influences and give them the full Muse bombast treatment to do something that I haven't heard a band do in a long time - be unashamedly confident about wanting to make stadium sized rock anthems that crowds will wave mobile phones to and girls will cry cheap mascara over. There are only two things that bug me about this song:

1) I just can't imagine listening to this in a half empty venue and not feeling slightly embarrassed (but that's probably more to do with my own issues than the music).

2) The chorus of "Raise the alarm" is pronounced with a flat "the" when a more pronounce "thee", to me, would sound much better. Again, probably my own issues but what am I sitting on my own in this room for if not to pick holes in things that nobody else has even noticed. Eh?


Live Dates:
4th July - Bakers Vaults, Stockport

6th July - The Park Inn, Hartlepool

CHARITY CHILDREN - SINGLE REVIEW

Charity Children - Empty Vicious Nights (Monkey Records) 
Charity Children - Empty Vicious Nights

A pair of Kiwi buskers rock up in Berlin to make a name for themselves on the German Indie scene. You're thinking what I'm thinking aren't you? Flight of Das Conchords? Ja? Nein. It is, in fact, Charity Children - a pair of indie-folk musicians who have built up a huge reputation on the busking circuit before graduating to the live scene. This new single, 'Empty Vicious Nights', is a slice of up-tempo, minor key folk-pop that could easily be PJ Harvey singing with Van Morrison orchestrating the music. The tune builds so gently that you don't even notice it but, by the end, the layers combine to create a sense of spirit, attitude and sneer that I find infectious. My only criticism is that the vocal melody can get a bit repetitive but it's a catchy melody with engaging lyrics so it's a minor criticism at most. This is proof positive, however, that artists that spend days, weeks and months just playing their music will undoubtedly come up with good quality songs that have something original shining in the middle of them.


Live Dates:


11th July - Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin