Sunday, 29 September 2013

FEET FOR WINGS - EP REVIEW

Feet For Wings - Homes EP 
Feet For Wings - Homes

It's a Sunday night, the days are getting shorter, I have a belly full of beef stew and German beer and all is well with the world in a cosy, autumnal kind of way. What is this picture missing? The perfect soundtrack of course; enter Belfast quartet Feed For Wings. The band's Homes EP is sold by their press people as Indie Folk Pop and I'll take that as a starting point but their music is so much more wholesome than that. EP opener and title track, 'Homes', has an understated beauty about its gently strummed melody - like the difference between an audacious bunch of exotic flowers or some humble wild flowers that have been handpicked for your loved one (the latter will always go down better if you're with the right person). 'Cathedral Street' has a little more ambition as a song but it is still firmly rooted in a folky, almost country-esque style that is so appealing at this time of year. It may sound like an easy comparison to make but by the third track, 'Hold Your Tongue', you start to remember why people loved the Thrills so much for a brief period as the lilting, smooth melodies wash warmly over your tired bones and wrap you up in an blanket of sounds.

On 'Cutting My Teeth' Feet For Wings work through country, lounge, sombre indie and Jazz whilst maintaining a rock theme which is no mean feat. As the EP comes to a close with the gentle, warm acoustic tones of 'Winding Sheets', I feel utterly content with the world, the place that I'm in and the season that is developing around me. Now that might not be the most exciting thing to say but there is a place and a time for this music and when they collide at the right time then I'm as happy as a pig in muck with a fresh trough of swill.



Listen/Download Here: http://feetforwings.bandcamp.com/

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

BROTHER & BONES - EP REVIEW

Brother & Bones - To Be Alive EP (Last Step Records) 
Brother & Bones - To Be Alive

Release Date: 14th October 2013

I'm a soppy git at times but I'll never apologise for blubbing like a child when the right/wrong song is playing. After what has been an emotionally draining few weeks, I have finally sat down to give this new Brother and Bones EP a listen, knowing full well that these five lads are usually guaranteed to evoke an emotional response from even the hardiest listener. Sure enough, by about half way through opening track 'To Be Alive' I am moist of eye as the combination of Rich Thomas' intimate vocal, the softly but determinedly strummed acoustic guitar and shuffling percussion draws you in to the band's world. The early promise of safety and intimacy is soon blown apart by a huge, festival sized chorus as the rest of the band chime in with their trade mark passion and precision. And there are four more tracks to come, this could be tough going....

The darkly urgent acoustic openings of 'Raining Stone' conjures images of some inexplicable mix of the Memphis swamps and a cold Victorian London doorway but in either scenario nothing good is lurking around the bend. The sheer size and power of 'Raining Stone' is something to behold as well as admire, there aren't many British rock bands with cajones or ambition this size around at the moment. The haunting piano opening of 'Lost As One' should only ever be played by candle light to allow the listener to focus in on every key stroke and lip smack as Thomas sings a gentle, heart rending lament full of regret and remorse. Needless to say, by the time the slide guitars, gentle percussion and plodding bass notes come in I am a wreck but, and I can't stress this enough, if music doesn't make you feel something - good or bad - then it is utterly, utterly pointless.

The hypnotic opening bass riff of 'Long Way To Go' is like a boat being gently tossed on the waves, not far from shore in the dead of night but as the waves grow in intensity so the song builds and the tempest is in full flow by the time Thomas leaves you with the words "Did you cry just to make yourself be heard?" The final track on this EP, 'Gold and Silver', is a treat for long time fans of Brother and Bones as this is a live favourite that sees this swirling, snarling beast of a band pause to regain composure and gently implore the sweating, heaving throng to look within themselves to find the real riches of life. "Gold and Silver means nothing to the blind" might sound like a trite line to some but in this context it is the most direct and honest way of making the point that a generation seems to have missed on an alarming scale - it's the "money can't buy you love" message repackaged and not before time.

With a packed live schedule coming up over the autumn following on from another successful festival season, things are still moving in the right direction for the quintet but I hope someone starts giving these guys some serious airplay soon or I'll be forced to write a strongly worded letter. Especially if they keep playing Robin Cocking Thicke instead of music with a soul and a heart. Right, hand me a tissue, that's enough emoting for now!

More information: www.brotherandbones.co.uk
Live Dates:
5th October - Fleche D'Or, Paris (supporting Boxer Rebellion)
11th October - The Forum, London (supporting Boxer Rebellion)
12th October - Portland Arms, Cambridge
13th October - Brudenell Games Room, Leeds
14th October - The Deaf Institute, Manchester
16th October - The Temple, Birmingham
18th October - Louisiana, Bristol
19th October - The Haunt, Brighton
20th October - Joiners, Southampton
21st October - Cellars Portsmouth
23rd October - Winchester, Bournemouth
24th October - The Acorn, Penzance
25th October - The White Rabbit, Plymouth
26th October - Kings Arms, Georgham (Acoustic Show)
27th October - The Live Room, Taunton
29th October - Mama Stones, Exeter
30th October - The Arts Centre, Bridgewater
1st November - Moles, bath
2nd November - Moon Club, Cardiff
3rd November - Sin City, Swansea
9th November - Boileroom, Guildford
10th November - The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford
11th November - Crauford Arms, Milton Keynes
15th November - Mello Mello, Liverpool
16th November - Think Tank, Newcastle
18th November - Fruit, Hull
19th November - The Duchess, York
20th November - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
22nd November - Broadcast, Glasgow
23rd November - Cafe Drummond, Aberdeen
24th November - 20 Rocks, Dundee
25th November - The Bodega, Nottingham
27th November - The Musician, Leicester
28th November - Bucks Uni, High Wycombe

29th November - Open, Norwich

THE PERSIAN LEAPS - EP REVIEW

The Persian Leaps - Praise Elephants 
The Persian Leaps - Praise Elephants

When a band lists influences like Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine  and Guided By Voices you know you're in for something that at least comes from a good place, even if it doesn't go anywhere good. Luckily for Persian Leaps (and their listeners), this EP goes to a number of good places, starting off with the fuzzy, noise-pop of 'Hard Feelings' that morphs in to a jangly, Britpop sounding number that is somewhere between Teenage Fanclub and Gene. 'Not That Brave' has a beat era charm to it as well as hints of Redd Kross and some delightful vocal harmonies to act as a counterpoint to the crunchy guitars. For me, 'Silent Treatment' is the standout track on this collection with its off-kilter arrangements, indie anthem melody and thumping, Glasvegas drums.

The Minnesotan (yeah, that's a word Microsoft) combo clearly have a penchant for matching noise with melodies and I can only propose that this would make their live shows an awful lot of fun. The sombre jangle of 'Exponentially Devoted' has hints of the better moments of the Smiths about it (which are few and far between in my opinion) and final track 'Sleepless' is a slow builder but an undeniably epic indie tune that bands like The Las, The Verve or The Lightning Seeds would have been applauded for in the early part of their careers. In fact, apart from some of the more summery vibes that shine out of this EP, there is a distinct flavour of northern English and Scottish guitar music here and that can only be a good thing (as long as they don't start listening to anything Oasis put out after Definitely Maybe).

More information: http://thepersianleaps.com/


Live Dates: 
27th September - Cause Spirits & Soundbar, Minneapolis (w/Flavor Crystals + The Bombay Sweets)
29th October - Cause Spirits & Soundbar, Minneapolis

23rd October - Cause Spirits & Soundbar, Minneapolis

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

RADIO RADIO - DEMO REVIEW

Radio Radio - Weird Alice 
Radio Radio - Weird Alice

Kids eh? They just keep getting younger and more precocious don't they? But then again, some of them pick up guitars and start doing something worthwhile with all that free time that comes from not having to have jobs or pay council tax or look for places to live. Radio Radio are four lads making the most of their spare time by writing blues infused, shambly indie rock like the charming 'Weird Alice'. Apart from the fact that I can't help but feel there's a girl called Alice in a 6th Form College somewhere who is developing a bit of a complex from hearing this wafting out of the music rooms at lunch time, I quite like this song. There is an early Subways or Libertines charm about it but I would cut at least 30 seconds of the song to retain a bit more of a punk urgency.


SUPAKID + GO - SINGLE REVIEW

Supakid + Go feat. Ana Santos - You Get Me 
Supakid + Go - You Get Me

Release Date: 17th November 2013

It always makes me slightly nervous when you get a press release chock full of impressive facts about the act your about to listen to, it's a lot to live up to. Supakid + Go (aka brothers Rafael and Greg Harley) have been session musicians for the likes of Rhianna (as well as the less impressive Chris Brown and Pixie Lott) so the guys have obviously got chops and know their stuff. Latest single, 'You Get Me', is an intense and bass heavy experience with sultry, dreamy vocals courtesy of Ana Santos. My only beef with it is that it doesn't really go anywhere; there aren't the peaks or troughs you might hope for and, despite the deep, deep bass line, it doesn't quite do enough to get my head bobbing or my ribs shaking.


MYLYRICALMIND - SINGLE REVIEW

MyLyricalMind - Promises 
MyLyricalMind - Promises

Release Date: 30th September 2013

Mancunian singer songwriters are ten-a-penny these days so MyLyricalMind (known to his ma as Matt Wood) is up against it from the word go. Then again, the half glass full approach is to think that he's grown up with a rich musical heritage all around him so surely that will help him perform better - like an average footballer playing in a team of superstars. 'Promises' is a mix of styles that is intriguing enough to keep your attention and maintain interests. Elements of Ed Sheeran, Elbow, Snow Patrol and a hint of how Jeff Buckley might have sounded had he lived long enough to embrace new technologies and new ways of song writing. I wouldn't call this groundbreaking stuff necessarily but I like it and I'm pretty sure my friend Bearded Wit would like it a bit too.


Live Dates:
26th September - The Thirsty Scholar, Manchester
28th September - Salford Music Festival @ The Black Lion, Manchester
30th September - Retro Bar, Manchester (Single Launch)
6th October - Oxjam, Manchester
15th October - Nexus Art Cafe, Manchester (with Ben Montague)
18th October - Oxjam @ The Old Millstone, Macclesfield

27th October - Oxjam, Leeds

KITROCKET - SINGLE REVIEW

Kitrocket - She's French (Godmonkey Records) 
Kitrocket - She's French

Release Date: 7th October

Some things are inevitable. Your car will break down when you are in a hurry, you will run out of money at exactly the moment you get a dead cert tip for the winning horse you will meet your perfect girl the day after agreeing to go out with her best friend and some rhyming couplets are writ largeon the wall by the time the first bar is over. Kitrocket's single, 'She's French', is slice of 90s indie pop, the kind Let Loose would come up with, about a girl....who is French. The trouble is, the second the words "She's French, she's insane" are uttered, anyone with a GCSE in French and English Language can spot that the next six words are going to be something along the lines of "She's French, as in la Seine". It's not a bad song and there is a catchy enough melody to it but I just can't see it troubling either the pop, indie or alternative markets in any serious way.


More information:  Facebook.com/Kitrocketmusic

Sunday, 22 September 2013

INHERIT THE STARS - SINGLE REVIEW

Inherit The Stars - Ground Zero (Ambicon Records) 
Inherit The Stars - Ground Zero

If you want big, fast, distorted riffs with driving bass, pounding drums and vocals that range from the shouted to the melodic you usually have to go to America to find Fall Out Boy or Linkin Park. Now you go to Sheffield, take Inherit The Stars a homemade cake and I'm sure they'll be glad to oblige. 'Ground Zero' is the ambitious new single from the Yorkshire lads and you can call it metalcore, alt rock or anything you like but all you need to know is that it's loud, it's driven, it's melodic and it's got huge, hairy metal balls. Give these guys enough coverage and I can disaffected teens all over the country covering their suburban bedroom walls in posters of these guys, writing the name of the lead singer in their college note books and sending the band weird, coded messages on Twitter.



SPIRITWO - EP REVIEW

Spiritwo - Primitive Township EP 
Spiritwo - Primitive Township EP

Release Date: 18th November 2013

There seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the rock genre at the moment which is no bad thing but, as with all genres, some is good and some is, well, not so good. Spiritwo are a London based quartet fronted by renowned visual artist Yael Claire Shahmoon, a woman with a compelling and enthrallingly dramatic vocal style. Opening track 'Soul Mate' starts with a playful keyboard melody and delicate syncopated rhythm before a chunky, bass heavy riff takes the song to a darker place. This is dramatic, serious stuff with an almost theatrical bent to it which will appeal to fans of Muse's more far-out ideas. 'Sometimes' sees Shahmoon exploring a greater range of vocal styles from the operatic to the downright aggressive via the likes of Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and Regina Spektor but, for me, this is the kind of music I'd expect to hear in a sequel to the Phantom of the Opera, such is it's over the top performance and, again, theatrical nature. Third and final track, 'Dive Down', is a doomy, overblown piece of drama that features the odd, almost childlike repeated refrain of "bare with me" followed by the more sinister "I'll be your friend forever" and I'm just not sure what these guys are going for. They clearly have talent and ideas in abundance but they might do better not to try and cram them all in to every song so that there is some space to let the songs breathe and be more subtle in their delivery.



SNAKADAKTAL - SINGLE REVIEW

Snakadaktal  - Fall Underneath 
Snakadaktal - Fall Underneath

Sometimes you hear a tune under a trailer for the new series of Skins or the BBC's latest attempt at being cool and for 20 seconds you thing "this is nice, is this Sigur Ros?" and then the Big Bang Theory comes on and you forget all about it. 'Fall Underneath' by Aussie collective Snakadaktal is one such tune but this time you get to hear the whole thing...which is nice. The gentle groove, plucked guitars and pulsing bassline are all wrapped up in a swathe of synths and topped off with a sultry, seductive yet somnambulant vocal that drifts through the air and in to your subconscious. For those discovering Chic through Daft Punk but want something more relaxed or for those who love Sleigh Bells but just wish they weren't so intense, Snakadaktal are surely for you. Surely.


TDEL2 - SINGLE REVIEW

TDeL2 - Fearless Youth (Monkey Records) 
TDeL2 - Fearless Youth

TDeL2 is the pseudonym of Nebraskan solo act Tony De Luca who is plying a fairly unique trade in what I'm going to call emo-electro. 'Fearless Youth' is a subtle, gentle song that wouldn't stand out a million miles if played on an acoustic guitar but the fact that the whole melody is played out on thick, rich, velvety synthesizers with dub-step beats slowed down to a relaxed heart beat gives this a different feel. Think Royksopp duetting with Jose Gonzalez with some vocoder heavy but subdued vocals and a wistful, almost tender vibe and you're pretty much there. This is genuinely intriguing stuff and I'm looking forward to seeing if the album is more of the same or if TDeL2 has a broader range for us to enjoy.



STEREO ELECTRIC MISTRESS - SINGLE REVIEW

Stereo Electric Mistress - Generally...She's Fine (The Animal Farm) 
Stereo Electric Mistress - Generally... She's Fine

Release Date: 7th October 2013

A rare missive from Liverpool today, a city with such rich musical heritage but whose recent output has been a little bit below par. Stereo Electric Mistress create 80s inspired electro pop with Flight of the Conchords meet the Beach Boys style vocals and a penchant for the humorous. 'Generally...She's Fine'  is the kind of song LMFAO or Daft Punk would come up with if they'd grown up on a diet of British comedy and low expectations. You could easily imagine this turning up under the closing credits of a new episode of Armstrong and Miller or as part of a new, underfunded West End Musical loosely based on the early career struggles of Rick Astley. If I was involved in booking acts for radio comedy music sessions then I'd give these guys a punt for sure.


Live Dates:

27th September - Baa Bar, Liverpool (DJ Set) 

Monday, 16 September 2013

CRAZY ARM - ALBUM REVIEW

Crazy Arm - The Southern Wild (Xtra Mile Recordings) 
Crazy Arm - The Southern Wild

Release Date: 23rd September 2013

What do you when your band's line up is more changeable than a politician's ethics and you're best known for your blistering anarcho punk live sets? You gather a gaggle of musicians around a campfire and record an acoustic album dripping in musical, political and ideological influences from the past, ooh, 200 years or so. Plymouth's finest sons and daughters, Crazy Arm, are back with album number three which has been touted as 'the acoustic one' but I'd rather see it as a natural step in the bands evolution, allowing them to explore a more delicate, thoughtful and considered approach to music making whilst retaining the raw power and emotion that has made them so popular thus far.

The album opens with Vicky Butterfield showing off her soulful side with a lung busting a cappella rendition of 'Oh Death' which slides effortlessly in to the mournful country'n'western twang of 'Hell To Pay' which really ought to have featured on the Django Unchained soundtrack had there been any justice in the world. The gentle picking and pitch perfect vocal harmonies that welcome in 'Remembrance' feel distinctly un-Crazy Arm but, fear not, it's not before the acoustic strumming takes a menacing turn and the lyrics show their true, ideological colours; "There is a war but only one side has all the anger, has all the motive to rise and conquer". And then comes the intense Banjo twang of 'Don't Be Cruel' that transports you back to a rowdy Westcountry tavern where a fierce wind whips at the door and the horses huddle for warmth but inside stories are told, reputations are made and a good time is had by one and all. It is Crazy Arm's ability, nay, courage to cherry pick the best in organic music and ideas from throughout the centuries whilst still applying their own wax seal that makes them such a compelling outfit on many levels.

Album Launch Party
Butterfield's soothing vocals are back on 'Fossils', a lament that has a sense of pleading or begging about it despite possibly the simplest arrangement on the album as a strummed guitar and gently plucked Banjo are the only bed for the implored words to lie on. There is a definite darkness to this album, a sense of foreboding and frustration runs through the melodies which is pierced only occasionally by the more uplifting tunes such as 'County Jaws' but even then the urgency of the song doesn't allow much relief from the intensity. Indeed, the Manzarek-ish organ onslaught is so unrelenting that it feels a little like trying to run through shallow water and in to a head wind - you know you're moving forward but you're not sure how or why. As you might expect from the title, 'The Wild Cats of Denbury', has an almost medieval melody and you can imagine such tunes ringing out on a dark winter's night round at Chaucer's place. More to the point I can't imagine many other bands around these days being brave enough to attempt such a tune, and none of them would follow it up with the rambunctious folk punk stomp of 'Roasting River'.

Now, I defy anyone with a soul not to fall in love 'A Pocket Full Of Gold' within moments. The rich, warm guitar work accompanied by the brutally honest words of self reflection will surely chime with most of us. Darren Johns' gravelly yet smooth vocal delivery is so perfectly raw and honest for this kind of song that it brings to mind the likes of Billy Bragg (but with more melody) or Elvis Costello (but with more passion). 'We Don't Go There Anymore' shows off the folky leanings of the collective and Patrick James Pearson's fiddle playing is as smooth and warming as a fine dram of whiskey on the first cold day of winter. If there was ever any doubt of Crazy Arm's roots, the sea shanty-esque vocals of Johns on 'The Valley Of Weeping' sung over a solitary, sweeping drone could only ever have ever come from the South Western corner of this island. Album closer, 'Black Canyon', is wondrously layered and shows how Crazy Arm have grown as musicians. The thumping Piano in the distance is perfect counterweight to the plucked guitar of unsung hero Jon Dailey and harmonious vocals that flirt and tease with each other as the song undulates like the grey sea off the Cornish coast. The Piano coda from Pearson is, again, dripping in melancholy and regret which is a hugely brave way to end any album.

For me, this is an intriguing, challenging and engaging collection of songs that will not only stand the test of time but which will also compliment the ferocity of the rest of the band's back catalogue. More importantly though, this album feels like it should be played in the camp the night before a big battle where many men know they are preparing to meet their maker or face their destiny; a calm before the storm if you will. A band like Crazy Arm will always be carrying the fight to the rest of the world but in this case you feel like they are reflecting the mood of world and mirroring the fact we should all be preparing to stand up to fight for what we believe in.  


More information:  www.facebook.com/thecrazyarm

Live Dates:
17 Sept – The Corner House, Cambridge (with Sam Russo)
18 Sept – Santiagos, Leeds (w/regional support)
19 Sept – The Lounge Bar, Warrington (w/regional support)
21 Sept – The Stanley Arms, Norwich (w/Crowns)
22 Sept – Fighting Cocks, Kingston (w/Smith Street Band + Great Cynics)

27 Sept – White Rabbit, Plymouth (w/The PJP Band + Dammerels + Big Fin)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

SEABIRDS - SINGLE REVIEW

Seabirds - Real Tears (Matinee Recordings) 
Seabirds - Real Tears

Release Date: 24th September 2013

There's not a lot of information out there about Nottingham quintet Seabirds but there are a few facts that we can be sure of. Firstly, they sure do know how to craft an indie pop ditty with melody and heart string tugging lyrics that Belle & Sebastian would kill for (alright, maybe not kill, but they would get all sulky about life. Secondly, 'Real Tears' could be a future indie disco smash as it has just the right kind of rhythm for shuffling about awkwardly to before failing to make a move on anyone at all. Thirdly, Seabirds have got that male/female vocal harmony thing down to a fine art which makes an already bitter-sweet song all the more enjoyable. And with a 7" release coming up on U.S. label Matinee Records, you can safely say that there are good things on the horizon for our very own Seabirds. Cheesy? Yeah. It's Sunday, I don't care.



Saturday, 14 September 2013

DOWN THE MACHINE - SINGLE REVIEW

Down The Review - Everything I Am Not (Ambicon Records) 
Down The Machine - Everything I Am Not

Stop the search, we've found Britain's answer to Audioslave. Now, whether you take that as good news or bad news is entirely up to you but the dark moods, the epic songs and the throat bleedingly intense vocals of Down The Machine's 'Everything I Am Not' are only missing the batshit crazy guitar solos of Mr Morello otherwise they'd be the spit of Rage Against The Machine #2. There's nothing unlikeable about this song for any fan of a good riff, such as myself, and the combination of rumbling drums and rolling bass line is as good as anything I've heard coming out of the rock scene in a very long time. An album's worth of material would be interesting to hear and, potentially, very good news for the UK rock scene.


Live Dates:
21st September - Gasworks, Bradford
22nd September - South Sea, Sheffield

23rd September - O'Rileys,  Kingston Upon Hull

EURIELLE - SINGLE REVIEW

Eurielle - Gold 
Eurielle - Gold

I'm really not sure what to make of this one - never a good position for a reviewer to be in. On the one hand, 'Gold' has some great dark dance beats and sequences while Eurielle clearly has excellence vocal ability. One the other hand, however, the video that accompanies the song is essentially soft porn, the poor woman's vocals have been so overproduced that it's hard to fully appreciate her talent and the over repeated line of "I feel like gold" leaves you somehow crazing a box of Terry's All Gold choccies. The whole package just feels like somebody with no musical integrity has got hold of an extremely talented singer and given her a corporate make over, sucking all the life and passion out of her in the process. I want to hear more from Eurielle but I hope she can think less Cadbury's Flake advert and be a little more true to an inner voice which I suspect will reveal something a little more stirring and a little less contrived.


More information: http://eurielle.com/

ANNE BRUGIERE - EP REVIEW

Anne Brugiere - The French Pop Dream EP (Allez Allez Records) 
Anne Brugiere - The French Pop Dream  EP

OK, so I'm going to save some of you a little time here; this is the first English language release by 60s inspired French singer Anne Brugiere and the opening track is called 'Eurostar, the Musical'. Some of you will be absolutely captivated by these scant facts and others will have switched off already. For those of you still around, let's go on a little summer trip together where we can all fall in love, try some new food, buy some berets and drink far too much coffee. 'Eurostar, the Musical' is a whimsical and, at times, melancholy pop ditty that takes us on a European jaunt, coaxed along at all times but a coquettish and slightly perky French girl called Anne.

The other two tracks on this taster of the forthcoming album are in a similar vein, starting with the marvellously titled 'Tell Me Something You Never Told Anyone' which features the incredibly seductive line "I've waited so long to be the girl that brings you coffee in the morning". There is a grandiose feeling to the music despite it being firmly rooted in the world of indie which brings to mind the sadly missed My Life Story and Mansun. Neverhteless, the general vibe is entirely drenched in 60s French style and all the sultry, pouty, huge-eyed loveliness that this suggests. The third track, 'It's The Middle Of Winter But It Will Be Summer Soon' (that must surely sound sexier in French), has a forlorn, heartbroken feel to it with the production qualities of a tear jerking 80s ballad; in a word it's luscious. So if you like your music a little stylish but with substance to match and you daydream in black and white cine film then Anne Brugiere is the girl for you.

More information: www.frenchpopdream.com

JUNGLE - SINGLE REVIEW

Jungle - The Heat (Chess Club Records/B3SCI Records) 
Jungle - The Heat

Release Date: 21st October 2013

"Right on time, back by the beach, still gonna bring the heat". So starts the latest offering from the allusively aloof collective, Jungle. 'The Heat' has a blissed out summer vibe with a pulsing bass line that almost harks back to the 90s which, along with the higher pitched yet soulful male vocals plus occasional police siren, means you could be forgiven that this is Will Smith having another stab at a music career (when really he should be concentrating on working on that Fresh Prince movie). This is such a chilled out and relaxed song that it deserves to be listened to while drinking Mojitos on a Miami beach with nowhere to go other than where the music wants to take you as the sun goes down and the doors to the clubs open up.

More information: www.junglejunglejungle.com

Live Dates:
10th October - The Roadhouse, Manchester
17th October - Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, Brighton
24th October - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

30th October - The Harley, Sheffield

Monday, 9 September 2013

POLAR NIGHTS - DEMO REVIEW

Polar Nights - Two Moons Demo 
Polar Nights - Two Moons

I have to admit, for the first fifty four seconds of this tune I was getting ready to write another "don't put music on the web until it's any good" ranty review. The bizarre electric piano introduction is ill advised at best and out of time at worst but after that things get a tad better. 'Two Moons' is basically Polar Nights doing their best Biffy Clyro impression but with cleaner vocals and some more metal leanings that are, again, slightly ill advised. The Neath trio are obviously just at thin thinnest end of their career wedge so there is a long way to and they obviously have plenty of ideas (more than can be said for so many established acts these days) but they just need to learn which ones are good ideas and which ones should be kept for their ears only. Promising stuff though and I'd love to hear if they can retain such clarity of sound in the live arena or whether they've just got really good sound engineers at their local studio.



TOP LESS - ALBUM REVIEW

Top Less - Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party 
Top Less - Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party

Release Date: 2nd September

OK, in case you hadn't got this from the album title, this is a fun album. This is big bouncy pop tunes, Scissor Sisters style lyrics and thumping beats that make your ear drums dance. But there is thought and care behind the fun, this isn't just throw away stuff. Opening and album track, 'Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party' could be passed off as a slightly risqué Europop hit from the early naughties but in the context of this album it is more like the theme tune for another episode of the Top Less Popumentary following their 'antics' and 'shenanigans'.  'Colleen Harpe' is definitely a Scissor Sisters track, complete with pop melodies tinged with sadness and mental lyrics ("skinny legs and a black beret" is mentioned too many times) and 'Robin' is either a children's TV theme tune or a slightly mad ode to the late, great Robin Gibb. However, as I said, there is depth here and 'Polar Bears' is a slowed down, morning sex kind of tune that genuinely features the line "Let's put on bath robes, pretend we're polar bears" and "hold me close so I don't get frost bite". It's a bit like watching a farfetched Sci-Fi film, if you expect too much or start to point out the plot holes (or in this case look for the political statement in the lyrics) then you won't get anything out of this album but if you just take your shirt off and dance around the kitchen to it then it's awesome - your cats may give you strange looks though.

For a track called 'Club Banger', there is a certain lack of punch but we're back on track with 'Diamond', a track that starts of like an 80s electro ballad before becoming a song that any number of 'kooky' singer songwriters would kill to get their hands on (I'm looking at you Kate Nash and Lily Allen). And then we have 'Sexy Sexy'. 'Sexy Sexy' is a song that probably uses the word 'sexy' more than any other song in existence and is somewhere between a Flight of the Conchords pastiche, Prince and LMFAO which, well, it works. Don't ask me why or how but it just does. 'Danger Love', the single that brought these nutters to my attention, is actually one of the more sombre tracks on this album as Top Less veer more towards a more Bat For Lashes style that is like the cool night air on your skin as you tumble from a sweaty club in a messy, sloppy grapple with the latest focus of your lust. On 'My 5', we are presented with the kind of indie-dance-pop that so many London bands are trying to get the hang of at the moment but the difference is that Top Less have understood that the pop element needs to be as important (if not more so) as the indie and dance elements.

The beginning of 'Go Go Spaceman' is a like a hard hitting Lemon Jelly tune before the lyric of "take off your silver jacket, don't be shy now, I want to see your package, I'm gonna make you say meow" takes music to an entirely new level of camp. Seriously, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, George Michael and Scissor Sisters seem like a Conservative AGM compared to these guys. Final track, 'Slovakia', is another nod to the more indie influences of the band but you can still dance to it and it has a freakin' steel drum solo in it which is AOK in my book - although I don't know how big steel drums are on the Slovakian music scene. All in all, this isn't one for the music purists but if you like your pop, you like to dance and you recognise that it's OK for music to be a bit of fun with a sense of humour in the lyrics then I can't recommend Top Less highly enough. It's your call.


DOTT - SINGLE REVIEW

Dott - Day That I Found You/Start All Over (Graveface Records) 
Dott - Day That I Found You/Start All Over

Do you like any of these bands: Best Coast, Breeders, Belly, Nature Set, Sleigh Bells, the Ronettes, Souvenir? Yes? Then you'll love Galway quartet Dott just as much as I do (and I haven't even finished listening to this yet). 'Day That I Found You' is the musical equivalent of love at first sight, the aural version of a blind date gone very right and sonic twin of that moment when someone tells you to open your previously closed eyes to reveal exactly what you were hoping for (and more) right in front of your eyes. Punchy drums, dreamy riffs and a fuzzy bassline all make the perfect platform for the three part vocals harmonies of Anna, Laura and Miriam and I defy you not to bob your head from side to side before this song is done with you. B-side 'Start All Over' has a bit more heartbreak about it and a dirtier bassline but those honey sweet vocals are still present and the drumming of token bloke(n) Tony is perfectly balanced between Motown and West Coast surf-pop. My only grievance, Dott have now made it difficult for me to pick my favourite Irish band of the year which was previously a one horse race featuring Dublin's September Girls. Who will I pick? Will it be a tie? Does anyone care? Probably Not. Anyway, it's a free download so go to the link below and make your life better. Trust me, I'm a Doctor (Who fan).



Listen/Download Free Here: http://dottmusic.bandcamp.com/

KOBADELTA - SINGLE REVIEW

Kobadelta - Ritual (Time Flies) 
Kobadelta - Ritual (Time Flies)

Newcastle's favourite groove riders are back with their organ smothered, Doors on a down day rock and I, for one, am pretty chuffed about that. 'Ritual' sees the quintet marry the thunderous inevitability of Muse at their heaviest, Jim Morrison at his preachiest and the Black Keys at their sexiest. The result is a relentless, insistent tumult of riffs, bone rattling drums and the lingering sensation that if you let any young female listen to this they might just find themselves, 9 months later, giving birth to a black hearted baby. The B-side to this single, the wonderfully titled 'Underestimation', starts with a bass riff soaked in distortion before the shuffle of the Stone Roses-esque drums enter the room and the guitars buzzsaw in to join that fat ol' bassline. All this is then liberally slathered in Dom Noble's treacly and seductive vocals to provide what must surely be the soundtrack to a seedy bar scene in the next Tarantino film - this time starring Sam Rockwell, seriously the guy needs a starring role. As the song builds to a frenetic crescendo, I have to remind myself that this is just the B-side and question why this single was not considered a AA-side. Either way, these guys are proving their consistency so a full album must surely be the next logical step. Yes? Good. I thought so.


Listen/Download Free Here: https://soundcloud.com/kobadelta

Live Dates:

18th October - Heart Attack & Vine, Newcastle

SWIM - SINGLE REVIEW

Swim - Let It Go (Little Red Records) 
Swim - Let It Go

Release Date: 16th September 2013

For a long time, let's call it ten years for the sake of argument, the London unsigned or undiscovered music scene was my bread and butter. I've seen more bands 'starting out' than I've had kebabs and if you've ever seen you'll know I like a kebab or two. For the most part, it was a case of having to wade through earnest, worthy acts lacking in inspiration, passion or basic social skills but every now and again you would come across a gem that would make it all worthwhile. There is a third category though and this, I feel, is where Swim come in. New single 'Let It Go' is an intriguing record and it is this category of intrigue that I am compelled to list the London boys in. Sure, the drums are perky, the guitars are sunnier than a trough of Sunny D and the bass pops like a mouthful of space dust. And,  yeah, the vocals are nicely layered with well worked harmonies and some genuinely interesting lyrics - but it's not enough. This song suggests that there are more ideas to come from Swim and more directions that they can go in which is exciting and frustrating in equal measure. Essentially, if this had been the first time I had seen Swim live I'd leave feeling like I wanted more (always leave the audience wanting more though, right?) and that there are exciting things to come but that gig wasn't quite it. I'd also get a kebab.



Sunday, 8 September 2013

RICHARD LOMAX - DEMO REVIEW

Richard Lomax - [mk i] demo (Dog Face Records) 
Richard Lomax = [mk i] demo

Come here. Come closer. I've got a little treat for you. This is something you won't find in your glossy magazines or advertisement smattered commercial websites. Mancunian singer-songwriter Richard Lomax has sent forth 3 tracks for our amusement and entertainment which are works in progress as he builds towards an album's worth of material on Dog Face Records. This is a new experience on me and it kind of feels like popping in to kitchen at a top restaurant to taste the sauce for you main course a few hours before it's ready. All a little bit out of the comfort zone but what are comfort zones for if not the getting out of?

The opening track, 'Glamour', is a gently picked and smoothly crooned number reminiscent of Badly Drawn Boy and I Am Kloot at their very best. Obvious comparisons, you may say, but the fact is that Lomax has matched their style and wit with a bare acoustic guitar and vocal recording so imagine what heights he could reach with a full band of musicians behind his songs. 'Windmills' leans a little more towards the Richard Hawley end of the spectrum but this is still firmly rooted in the Northern Singer Songwriter with a guitar and a dry sense of humour camp. Lomax has an uncanny ability to switch from the confessional, almost whispered lyric to the more bombastic, throat rasping rantings of a desperate man. Finally, we come to 'Wellness' which doesn't deviate in style necessarily but does take a turn for the more sombre and mournful. It's an unusual situation to be in, that of reviewing the unfinished product of somebody's creative labours. However, I can safely and confidently say that if this was the finished product then it would already be well above the quality of many Singer Songwriters out there. So, Lomax just has to retain the raw, unfiltered emotion that is presented with such wit and worldly wisdom whilst simultaneously giving the songs a little more power and depth in the right places. Easier said than done...



Live Dates:
12th September - Mad Ferret, Preston
14th September - The Square, St Anne's (12.00pm)
26th September - Artbeat @ The Amersham Arms, London
27th September - Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham
28th September - Kingsdown Wine Vaults, Bristol
29th September - Free Love at The Sun, Birmingham
4th October - Mad Ferret, Preston
5th October - Black Lion, Manchester
11th October - Yorkshire House, Lancaster
12th October - Illustrate & Unplugged at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, Manchester

24th October - Mad Ferret, Preston

Saturday, 7 September 2013

BLANK MAPS - SINGLE REVIEW

Blank Maps - Lucky Dip (Tiny Lights Recordings) 
Blank Maps - Lucky Dip

Release Date: 14th October

I like this. I don't love it but I definitely like it. There's something about it though that makes me think I could learn to love it. The subtle openings of 'Lucky Dip' are like a dew filled field on a sun splashed morning full of potential and hope. The sparse guitars, gentle bass, wistful strings and sleepy yet determined drum beat are like a giant awakening in the morning and when that giant wakes up, well, it all goes a little bit Coldplay. There are elements of the XX and Bastille in the mix as well as a hint of Foals and Maccabees to give 'Lucky Dip' a more edgy feel but, as much as it smoulders, the song never really ignites for me despite the promising start. The drums don't boom enough, the vocals don't soar to high enough heights and the guitars don't scythe through the air in the way you might hope. On the basis of the few songs I've heard, Blank Maps obviously have talent and ideas but I feel like handing this back to them and telling them to go away until they have made it epic, unmissable and essential listening because I think they have it in them to achieve that.

More information:  http://blankmaps.co.uk/

Live Dates:

10th October - Heart Attack & Vine, Newcastle Upon Tyne
17th October - Heart Attack & Vine, Newcastle Upon Tyne
18th October - The Washington,  Sheffield
19th October - Fibbers, York

26th October - The Independent, Sunderland

Monday, 2 September 2013

CASSELS - DEMO REVIEW

Cassels - Our Faces On A Screen/Seasick 
Cassels - Our Faces On A Screen/Seasick

Every now and again, some band I've never heard of emails me to say how great they think the blog is and how they loved the latest review I wrote and would I write a review of their band's demo. Whilst this is good for swelling certain parts of my body, it is usually followed by listening to some piss weak attempt at being Foals or a group of Sales Managers trying to be the Kaiser Chiefs. Then, sometimes, a band like Cassels come along. Sure, they flattered my l'il ol' blog but hey, I kinda like it so why shouldn't other people, right? The demo this brotherly duo sent me, however, gives me the unusual opportunity to get all gushy in return - largely because it's face slappingly good. First track, 'Our Faces On A Screen' starts with 7 seconds of tightly plucked electric guitar that could one of two ways; awesome or Babyshambles. Luckily for everyone it goes in the direction of awesome as a riff the size of a bear thunders through the living room window propelled by the powerful drums for an assault on your senses. And then they start to sing; "If only empathy could strike, like a dagger like a knife, to the hearts of those that dream, solely of opulence and greed". So within the first 30 seconds Cassels have proven that they have brawn, brains, idealistic tendencies and musical talent. I'm sold. Seriously, where do I sign up. I don't even need to carry on listening, but I will... The Rage Against The Machine sized riffs continue along with Incubus meets Rueben phrasing and, lest we forget, this is all being done by a couple of brothers from Chipping Norton.

'Seasick' is a less immediate track but the delicacy of the song with its fuzzy guitars and almost Jazz style drumming bring to mind some of the greats such as Pavement or Sebadoh. Hang on though, this is actually anthem. Close your eyes and imagine you're at the back of a packed tent at a festival and that hundreds are repeating the word "sick" along with the band. This is an anthem for the meek as much as 'The Outdoor Type' or 'Loser' ever were. I hear so much music these days and I wouldn't change that for the world but the reason I write this blog is to find bands or artists at the beginning of their careers with genuine talent that I can help introduce to a wider audience. Cassels are a band like that so scroll down, click on the link and fall in love. Oh, and their surname? Beck. Musical greatness surely awaits.



Live Dates:


14th September - Nambucca, London

DEATHLINE - SINGLE REVIEW

Deathline - Every Dying Breath (Rock Noir Recordings) 
Deathlines - Every Dying Breath

Release Date: 7th October

There are a lot of duos around at the moment and Deathline are another band using the 'three's a crowd' rule of recruitment. Forthcoming single 'Every Dying Breath' is a love song with the darkest of edges, dripping in thick tar and covered in electrically charged barbed wire. Undulating synths swoop over a rolling, pulsing bass line with intermittent guitars and vocals that fluctuate between bored and aggressive in the most wonderfully disturbing way. Essentially, this is a musical crank call to an American cheerleader on a dark night intended to initially arouse before frightening the life out of her.....right up until the phone line goes dead, the lights go out and the front door slowly swings open. Music this simultaneously seductive and sinister almost makes me wonder what these musicians are like down the pub - are they known to their friends as 'creepy Jeff' or are they the life and soul of party until there's only one other person left.....


HANA PIRANHA - SINGLE REVIEW

Hana Piranha - Blue Skies (The Animal Farm) 
Hana Piranha - Blue Skies

Release Date: 2nd September

This is the third single I've been sent by New Zealand born, London residing, Violin toting rock queen Hana Piranha and I'm glad to hear that a full album is being recorded this autumn. You see, Ms Piranha, has a knack for writing songs with the drawling rock affectations of Patty Smith but the precision and poise of Regina Spektor or sadly underrated Rosie & The Gold Bug. 'Blue Skies' lifts a well known classical Violin melody (my Mum will kill me for not knowing it, I'm sure) and beefs it out with a punchy rhythm, big chords  and Piranhas vocal style which sits smack bang between sexy and aggressive which is the perfect combination for any front man or woman. I'm looking forward to hearing the album but I hope there isn't too much reliance on the Violin as Piranha risks becoming known as 'that chick with the Violin' when she has some very real and unique talent.


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

SAWSOUND - SINGLE REVIEW

Sawsound - Dreamcatcher 
Sawsound - Dreamcatcher

Release Date: 2nd September

The possibility of parallel universes is a wonderful thing to ponder of a Monday evening after a busy day at the day job. This particular Monday, I find myself wondering what would have happened if Tony Wright, erstwhile Terrorvision frontman of 90s fame, had moved to the West Coast of America in the early 90s and fallen in with the scene that was burgeoning there alongside Grunge. The complexities and intricacies of 'Dreamcatcher' suggest a more expansive way of looking at music than we usually experience in the UK but the vocals of Simon Whitton are gloriously rooted in the Northern half of Blighty (Leeds to be precise) which creates a gorgeous juxtaposition. I feel like I want to turn the music up a notch in terms of volume and tempo, maybe undo the leashes a little and let things fly a bit more, but otherwise this is an interesting, almost Fleetwood Mac-esque number that has a bewitching quality about.


Live Dates:


14th September - Carpe Diem, Leeds

POETICAT - SINGLE RELEASE

Poeticat - Kind Words Soft Kill/Centre Of The Concrete Square' 
Poeticat - Kind Words Soft Kill/Centre Of The Concrete Square

Release Date: 28th October

Don't ask me why but when I read that a band is being supported by the Arts Council it always makes me a little nervous. It's a similar feeling to when your parents recommend a band or your school teacher introduces a 'special assembly' with some 'musicians'. Then, when you read in the press release that this a fusion of spoken word and music, the death knell of quality is surely upon us. No good can be found here, surely? Well, as always, I'm willing to give the music a chance to speak for itself so I plunge in to first track 'Kind Words Soft Kill' which initially sounds like Kate Nash doing a travel report over some mood music that Tricky knocked up in one of his calmer moments. As the song progresses the atmosphere becomes increasingly tense and operatic vocals along with some sinister guitar work all adds to the building layers of sounds and noises the creep towards a reluctant crescendo. 'Centre Of The Concrete Square' is more recognisable 'song' if you like that sort of thing with a mood that is somewhere between System Of A Down and Atoms For Peace with those distinctive Nash-esque lyrics/prose waging an ironic class war on the listener. There is nothing that I hate about this music and I applaud the general originality of the compositions but I just can't imagine a scenario on any day throughout the year when I might think to myself "What do I want to listen to right now? I know, I fancy a bit of Poeticat". Having said that, I can see myself hanging around a tent at a mid-sized festival with a pint of cider and listening to what they have to say or play so it's not a total waste of time...


FROM KID - SINGLE REVIEW

From Kid - Sun 
From Kid - Sun

Swiss duo From Kid are a bit of a conundrum for me, I must admit. There is something appealing about the understated, almost muted keyboard melody of new single 'Sun' but somehow the music doesn't manage to achieve heights any higher than a combination of Keane and Savage Garden. Add to that the fact that the video seems to depict the gents of From Kid auditioning for a Next autumn season fashion advert, and this isn't a release that grabs you by any interesting part of the body. It's perfectly pleasant, gentle in a way but it's neither blissfully relaxing and dreamy nor is it exciting or enticing enough to be a sexy little number that you might hope for. So, good intentions but not enough action, methinks.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

IONS IN THE ETHER - EP REVIEW

Ions In the Ether - (UN)titled 
Ions In The Ether - (Un)Titled

Here's some more wonderful bleepy-bloopery from our favourite East Anglian squelch maker. Ions In the Ether (Adam White to his mum and the government) has a knack for making uplifting but fun dance tunes that don't try too hard or pretend to be something they're not - basically, in a night club, these tunes would be the group of friends dancing like loons and having a good time without trying to impress members of the opposite sex with how sexy they look. Apparently this collection of tunes was written during a serious cluster headache which I can kind of understand as the direction of the melodies is quite soothing but at the same time the additional noises and beats swirl around as if they were leaves caught on a breeze at the end of an alley way. 'Wake Up' has the feel of a tune that would adorn the closing credits of a Studio Ghibli film while 'Brainstorm' has the feel of music from the menu screen of an awesome 80s arcade game (think Road Rash combined with Streetfighter - cool and a bit violent). The almost moodiness of 'Hypothalamus' is again akin to a darker edged console game, even more so when the strong but distorted melody kicks in, but this is not novelty music by any means. '2AM' (presumably the time that Mr White was up creating tunes owing to his crippling headaches) is a much mellower affair which again reminds me of a Studio Ghibli moment where, after a long and frenetic fight scene, the two timid lovers finally meet in a field of dandelions and the world spins around them as they stare in to each other's carefully animated eyes. Ions In The Ether is a vehicle for Adam White's undeniable talents but I don't think standard music releases is where the future of his music lies. Rather, computer game or film scoring might be a world that would strongly benefit from his presence and that is an exciting prospect whichever way you look at it.


More information/Listen Here: http://ionsintheether.bandcamp.com/