Monday, 24 February 2014

DZ DEATHRAYS - SINGLE REVIEW

DZ Deathrays - Gina Works At Hearts (I Oh You) 
DZ Deathrays - Gina Works At Hearts

Good loooooooord another duo. Ah well, at least this is a duo that was formed in Brisbane, that's slightly different. DZ Deathrays (formerly just DZ) have got a new album coming soon but in the meantime they've provided us with a hearty snack to feed on in the form of 'Gina Works At Hearts'. And boy what a snack!? Furious, in your face drums that don't quit combine with fuzzed up, beefy guitar riffs that you can chew on - they're just that meaty. You kinda need to take a pinch of Andrew W.K., a sprinkle of The Black Keys, a splash of Foo Fighters in a good mood and a soupcon of one of my favourite new duos, Cassels, and then you would be close to the energy and ferocity with which these guys play. Great stuff, can't wait for the album and the mid-sized tour!

More information: https://www.facebook.com/dzdeathrays?fref=ts

Live Dates:

20th April - Crawford Arms, Milton Keynes
21st April - Boiler Room, Guildford
22nd April - Bodega, Nottingham
23rd April - Trifinity, Bristol
24th April - Academy 2, Birmingham
25th April - Concord 2, Brighton
26th April - Brickyard, Carlisle
27th April - Oran Mor, Glasgow
28th April - Club Academy, Manchester
29th April - Waterfront, Norwich
30th April - Electric Ballroom, London
1st May - Sound City, Liverpool
2nd May - The Cockpit, Leeds
3rd May - Old Blue Last, London

4th May - The Rafters, Maidstone

UMMAGMA - SINGLE REVIEW

Ummagma - Rotation/Live & Let Die (Emerald & Doreen Recordings) 
Ummagma - Rotation/Live & Let Die

Right, try to keep up with this: Ummagma is a duo formed in Moscow, by a lady from Whitehorse (that's in Canada) and a gent from Kremenets (in troubled Ukraine) who make delightfully dark and seductive dream pop. This single has been sent to me with a request to help spread the word that, despite the recent difficulties experienced in Ukraine, the country still has a lot to offer including great new music as one half of this double act. 'Rotation' is a triumph made of synthesizers that come in ever increasing waves and drums that just get bigger, louder, better and harder. That doesn't even take in to consideration the subdued but oh-so-cool vocals that impart the words "Your head is full of noise that can't be drowned out by your radio". The other half of this double-A side release is 'Live & Let Die' which, surprisingly, is not a cover of the McCartney staple. Instead it is a beat driven piece of chaos-pop held together by the dulcet tones of the Canadian half of the act, Shauna McLarnon. On this evidence, not only is Ukraine producing some great music whatever is going on politically and socially but also it is further evidence that Canada's musical stock is on the rise. Satisfying stuff.


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

BROKEN RECORDS - EP REVIEW

Broken Records - Toska EP (JSharp) 
Broken Records - Toska EP

Release Date: 24th March 2014

Time for the Scots to make a return to my ears in the shape of Edinburgh collective Broken Records and their new EP Toska - coincidentally of an old friends blind cat who was constantly walking in to walls with a mix of hilarity and sadness. Anyhoo...this four track collection kicks off with title track 'Toska', a brooding, slow burning piece of darkly seductive music with rolling drums, soulful vocals and a very real sense of anguish. 'See You On The Way Down' has a mournful tone to it, like a lament as sung by a lonely sea faring man when he is at the furthest point from shore. Broken Records have a great sense of morose grandeur in a way that Marmaduke Dando, Nick Drake or Editors have with luxuriant baritone vocals wrapping around you to form a warm, knitted scarf (or is it a noose?).

The sleepy, overheard speech that heralds the beginning of 'Ward' harks back to a memory you never had before the simple piano melody seeps in to being and the warm, rich strings creep up the walls to envelope you entirely. 'Revival' is the closing track and there is a more rocking, heavy and, strangely, optimistic tone to this parting shot. Pitched somewhere between Bruce Springsteen, Frank Turner and Joshua Tree era U2, 'Revival' would make a great set closer to leave crowds with a sense of sadness and hope separated only by a blurred charcoal line. This is music for fans of bands with big sounds, big minds and huge, aching hearts like the National or Arcade Fire and I can see these guys on a stage at an uber cool American festival in the not too distant future. In the meantime, see if you can catch them on their mini tour in April.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/brokenrecords?fref=ts

Live Dates:

14th April - King Tut's, Glasgow
15th April - The Sebright Arms, London

16th April - The Wardrobe, Leeds

DROWNED SESSION - EP REVIEW

Drowned Session - Horses EP 
Drowned Session - Horses EP

Release Date: 24th March 2014

Ready for a bit of dark folk rock music all the way from Copenhagen? I thought so. Four piece Drowned Session are ready to present their new EP and proceedings get underway with the optimistically named 'Everything Slowly Disappears', a late night, cigarette smoke infused piece of piano focused music that even Nick Drake or Leonard Cohen might baulk at for being a little on the morose side of things. 'Stalingrad' is up next and could easily be the follow up to Aqua's 'Barbie Girl'....if Aqua had spent the period following their success reading bleak, historical literature and deciding on a change of direction to create the kind of music you would expect to hear as the apocalypse inevitably approaches along the horizon.

Continuing the upbeat theme, 'Horses, Despair' makes use of some subtle instrumentation and an almost military rhythm mixed with a wild west feel to create the perfect foil for the dead eyed, cold blooded vocals that snarl out of the speakers. 'Evening Waltz' should, on the face of it, be a more chirpy sounding tune, but the subdued opening melody and sparse instrumentation make this more of a death dance in Hell's ballroom. This five track EP finishes up with 'The Goddess', an epic of over five minutes that appeals to my love of the darker side of music and takes its time to reveal its true self like a demonic creature slowly emerging from the shadows. The fact that Drowned Session can make a banjo sound like an approaching axe murderer and every drum beat sound like the footsteps of a mass murderer is a talent, undeniably, but if I was one of their parents I might encourage them to take up Tennis or Badminton as well just to balance that personality out a bit.....just in case.

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


GOODBYE CHANEL - SINGLE REVIEW

Goodbye Chanel - Foreva (Dead Young Records) 
Goodbye Chanel - Foreva

I had to give this one a couple of listens before I got it but I think I've finally sussed Leeds quintet Goodbye Chanel out. This lead track off their forthcoming EP has a cacophony of guitars running throughout it, chiming against each other and battling with their identity as either ever-so-indie, dream pop or 80s guitar pop as being played through a knackered walkman with no bass. I can see what the guys are going for but they've almost over-egged it on 'Foreva' as the effects on vocals, guitars and drums make the sound just that little bit too muddy and washed out. Imagine eating a meal with, say, a strong flavour of cinnamon which on first taste is quite refreshing but four spoons in and your utterly sick of cinnamon - it's a little along those lines. Nevertheless, I'm intrigued to hear the rest of the EP when it comes out and hope the blend of ingredients is a touch more subtle.  

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

Live Dates:


3rd May - Live @ Leeds Festival, Leeds

AZTEC CORMORANT - ALBUM REVIEW

Aztec Cormorant - Aztec Cormorant 
Aztec Cormorant - Aztec Cormorant

Back the day (the day being around four years ago) I was fortunate enough to become aware of the twisted and skewed musical view on the world that was present by the enigmatic Gilbert - a collective spearheaded by a gifted musician, Gilbert Linley. A few years later and a new project sees the return of that particular talent under the guise of Aztec Cormorant, a name that gives you an idea of how unique and off-kilter this musical adventure is. This album opens with 'Alight!', an airy, whimsical and floaty piece of loveliness that would fit with the likes of Zero 7 or Lemon Jelly were it not for the medieval, almost madrigal-esque keys and layer upon layer of undulating melodies. 'You Always Left' picks up the theme but takes the pace down a notch as the breathy vocals drift over what is an undeniably English landscape of indiscriminate age.

The opening seconds of 'Cormorant Flying' are a delightful moment of peace and tranquillity crafted from electronic sounds and organic beats blended together with those wonderfully light vocals of Maud Waret. 'And Lo' has a bit more of a modern, driving feel about it with the likes of Goldfrapp springing to mind as the seductive beats and teasing electro melodies snake from the speakers and in to my ears. What Aztec Cormorant succeeds in doing is creating a wonderfully hopeful, positive and almost elemental sound despite the use of electronic sounds that, on 'In Serenades' for example, creates an otherworldly feel with the use of trickling melodies that sound like a waterfall of sound juxtaposed with the mournfully heraldic horn solo in the middle of the track. And then, just when you think you've got a handle on things, they go and spring 'Ritornello' on you and suddenly your at a pre-French Revolution ball as hosted by Baz Luhrmann with opulent arrangements and sense of grandeur so rarely experienced in music these days.

The misleadingly entitled 'Interlude' is actually a two and a half minute electro melody which is somewhere between yoga background music and Japanese influenced wedding march. There is a woozy, 80s rom-com feel to 'A Lock Of Your Hair' and Waret's vocals are once again soothing and seductive in equal measure - worryingly like a siren from an old nautical tale. 'Novus Ordo Mundi' is just mental. To describe it would be a tricky task but if you imagine some lost incidental music from the original Star Wars trilogy (including R2-D2 on Theremin) as performed by a classical quartet, a drummer and a choir of monks and you're getting close. Oh, and throw in a ridiculously English spoken word section about wiring accompanied by some urgent harpsichord playing just for good measure. The album finishes up with 'Reprise' which makes more use of that harpsichord (a gloriously evocative instrument that is hugely underused these days) in a tune that is sparse but opulent, morose but optimistic and glorious but disappointing in that this is the end of a fantastic journey. The musical mind of Gilbert Linley is akin to a national treasure that hasn't been discovered yet and this album is like watching a complex and multi-layered film for the first time - you enjoy it and feel enriched by it but you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you've missed big chunks so you'll need to revisit this work repeatedly.

More information: https://soundcloud.com/azteccormorant?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter


More information on Gilbert: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gilbert/191641350889625?ref=profile

Saturday, 22 February 2014

VAULTSFEST @ WHITSAND BAY FORT, CORNWALL

Day 1 - Friday 21st February 2014 

Due to my remote geographical location and my naturally lazy disposition, I don't get out to as many gigs as I would like these days. So, when an event offering two days of live music popped up just a couple of miles down the road it seemed churlish to ignore it. So, once work commitments had been met, I rocked up at the Whistand Bay Fort and strolled in to the old Vaults Bar which is part of a holiday park just in time to catch Vince Freeman taking to the stage with his band. Musically speaking, the trio were tight, accomplished and clearly enjoying themselves on stage. However, for me, the style was a little bland and the kind of songs you'd imagine on an X-Factor rejects album. Vince and the boys threw in a couple of covers including 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.' by Noah and the Whale and Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire' which peaked the crowd's interest but all in all it was a relatively forgettable set not helped by a distinctly washed out and subdued sound mix.

After a top up of the cloudy cider (yes, my head is hurting today) it was time to check out the Blues Rock covers band Nine Lives from Cornwall who started off sounding like a Thin Lizzy tribute band with a Roger Daltrey wannabe on vocals. Again, though, the sound let them down as you couldn't hear the vocalist or the lead guitarist above the rest of the band for the first half of the set. Nevertheless, the quintet ploughed enthusiastically through a set that featured songs like AC/DC's  'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be', Guns'n'Roses' 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and ZZ Top's 'Gimme All Your Lovin'' and the lead guitarist (the youngest of the bunch by a long way) played some great licks when you could hear him. As the sound improved towards the end of the set, plenty of air guitar was played along with set closer 'Highway To Hell' by AC/DC.

The main attraction for the evening could be seen preparing behind the stage with the slightly incongruous sight of seven men in 1940s American GI garb. These are the seven men of Company B, a troupe of Westcountry musicians who play Swing and Jive music that cannot fail to get your head bobbing and your leg twitching. With a mixture of their own compositions and covers like Louis Prima's 'Jump Jive & Wail' and 'Just A Gigolo', they got the crowd going without much effort and the whole joint jumping in no time at all. Their horn heavy version of 'King Of The Swingers' got all ages happily swinging along and I'm a sucker for big ol' double bass being thwacked live on stage.

As warm ups go, this was a pretty good for a first night and things certainly improved as the evening went on. I'll be back up for day 2 later, who's in?

More information:

Vince Freeman - https://www.facebook.com/Vincefreemanofficial?fref=ts
Nine Lives - http://www.ninelivesrock.co.uk/

Company B - http://www.companyb.org.uk/index.htm

Friday, 21 February 2014

THE VOLUNTARY BUTLER SCHEME - SINGLE REVIEW

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Honey In The Gravel Mixture (Split Records) 
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Honey In The Gravel Mixture

Release Date: 17th March 2014

Normally solo artists go for a title that is shorter than their full name like Prince or Shakira or Beyonce or Pele. Technically one of those is a footballer but what the hey. My point is that the monosyllabically named Rob Jones has inexplicably gone for The Voluntary Butler Scheme as his stage name which makes nobody's life any easier and means I have to type more than if he'd just stuck with Rob Jones. Or I could just stop bitching and get on with the review. 'Honey In The Gravel Mixture' is the next single from the soloist and it is an absolutely wondrous piece of jaunty, brass based indie-pop fun. This is like Badly Drawn Boy singing on a Divine Comedy penned tune that is based on some incidental music from one of the original Herbie films - not the Lohan abominations. A teenage me would have absolutely lapped this up in the mid 90s purely for the sense of fun and obscurity, much the same as I swooned over Out Of My Hair for a couple of years. I'm intrigued to hear the album but The Voluntary Butler Scheme as, based on the two singles I have heard so far, it could well be a masterpiece of English pop songwriting .


Live Dates:


27th March - The Islington, London

DEUX FURIEUSES - SINGLE REVIEW

Deux Furieuses - Can We Talk About This? 
Deux Ferieuses - Can We Talk About This?

Duos. Two pieces. Duets. Company. Whatever you want to call it, there has been a swing towards two person bands recently but the two people behind Deux Furieuses are more trail blazers than herd followers. You see, Ros and Vas have already been trading under the moniker We Rock Like Girls Don't until recently trading up for a less wordy and more continental sounding name. Despite the name change, though, these two sirens of rock'n'roll have maintained their passion, uncompromising nature and sense of rock'n'roll intensity that made them such a bittersweet pill all along. 'Can We Talk About This?' is chugging, relentless and almost mechanic piece of rock'n'roll that you really don't want to get in to an argument with. Politicized, impassioned and as tight as a Yorkshireman the day before pay day, Deux Furieuses are able to rock harder as a duo than most stadium sized bands with backing singers, gongs and brass sections ever manage. The drumming and percussive is worth a mention here as well as many two piece drummers stick to maintaining the rhythm but on this track Vas manages to turn the rhythm in to another melody with which to harmonise the guitars. There's more to come from these two, no doubt about it, but this is a damn fine start and a beautiful relaunch to their career.   


More information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/deux-furieuses/528199423861403?fref=ts

Thursday, 20 February 2014

DAVIDGE - SINGLE REVIEW

Davidge feat. Cate Le Bon - Gallant Foxes (7Hz Productions) 
Davidge - Gallant Foxes

Release Date: 31st March 2014

Davidge, or Neil Davidge as his mum calls him, has been the man behind Massive Attack's production for over 15 years but this is his first venture out on his own and this is the first single taken from recent album 'Slo Light'. The Euro beats of 'Gallant Foxes' could feature on an Air track and this feeling is only intensified by the sultry and seductive tones of guest vocalist Cate Le Bon. Weirdly, after one listen, I couldn't remember a melody to speak of so I went back for a second listen only to find that apart from a pulsating bass line and sporadic guitar notes, the real melody is carried by Le Bon's lighter-than-air vocals drifting across the airwaves. For any Massive Attack fans out there I would say come and have a listen but don't expect this to be as dark as the Bristolian collective's work as 'Gallant Foxes' has a certain breeziness and mystique about it that you might only otherwise expect to experience in a forest clearing at dawn on a crisp spring morning.


THUS OWLS - SINGLE REVIEW

Thus Owls - As Long As We Try A Little (Secret City Records) 
Thus Owls - As Long As We Try A Little

I feel like there are more and more bands coming out who are made up of members from Sweden and Canada, as is the case with duo Thus Owls. The confusing thing is that the only things I can think of that link the countries are an abundance of snow, a good safety record and the Winter Olympics Women's Curling final. Surely you can't build a scene on these coincidences? Well, whatever the reason behind this international collaboration (marriage in the case of Thus Owls) I'm all for it if it keeps producing dramatic, atmospheric and occasionally sparse masterpieces like 'As Long As We Try A Little'. Over nearly five minutes, the duo take us from a Tori Amos-esque piano and vocal landscape of simple beauty to a full on, Kate Bush style wig out with crashing cymbals and feedback from a previously unheard guitar. This is sonic landscaping rather than songwriting and although those landscapes may be bleak they sure are breathtakingly beautiful.

More information: http://thusowls.com/

Watch the Video Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IzpBPH_lH8

Live Dates:

4th March - Ace Hotel, London
5th March - Paradiso, Amsterdam
8th March - La Loge, Paris
13th March - St David's Bethell Hall, Austin
2nd April - Rockwood Music Hall, New York
5th April - Maison des Arts de Laval, Laval
8th April - Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
9th April - Cabaret La Tulipe, Montreal
11th April - Theatre du Petit Champlain, Quebec

17th April - Les 7 Collines, Tulle

MIRACULOUS MULE - SINGLE REVIEW

Miraculous Mule - Evil On My Mind (Bronze Records) 
Miraculous Mule - Evil On My Mind

Release Date: 31st March 2014

Now this, this right here, this is a bit special. Miraculous Mule are trio from London trading in dark, murky and sinister Blues Rock which makes for some of the cooler music around if you ask me. 'Evil On My Mind' starts out with the nightmarish sounds of a broken toy before that booming, tremulous guitar comes in and the vocals creep under the door like a mysterious fog ready to envelop each one of your senses, one by one. Part Grinderman, part Black Keys and part Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Miraculous Mule have that authentic tone about them that suggests they live and breathe this music rather than being accountants and Geography teachers who also happen to be in a band. This is music from the soul but my God what a black and damaged soul it is!? That said, the best music comes from those who have lived, seen and experienced things that most of us couldn't and perhaps shouldn't even dream of.

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

Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/bronze-rat/miraculous-mule-evil-on-my

Live Dates:

27th February - De Nodige Deudg, Moorslede
28th February - Kaffe t'Hof, Middleburg
1st March - Patronaat, Haarlem
2nd March - Gigant, Apeldoorn
3rd March - Subrosa, Dortmund
5th March - Milla, Munich
6th March - KOHI, Karlsruhe
7th March - Cafe Kairo, Bern
8th March - El Lokal, Zurich
10th March - Beatpol, Dresden
11th March - Ponyhof Club, Frankfurt
12th March - Molotow Club, Hamburg
13th March - Privatclub, Berlin

14th March - Cafe Glocksee, Hannover

N-I-A-V-E-S - SINGLE REVIEW

N-I-A-V-E-S - W.I.G.O. (When I Grow Old) (Conflict Of Interests/Lottarox Records) 
N-I-A-V-E-S - W.I.G.O (When I Grow Old)

Release Date: 24th March 2014

Jesus, what's with all the punctuation? That took me ages to type out. Bloody youngsters and their kooky ways of writing. Luckily for them, the Anglo-French London based trio make an intriguing racket on 'W.I.G.O.' with some satisfying bass squelches, rippling synths and driving drums. There are also some serious 80s breakdowns at random intervals throughout this song that make me feel as though Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are about to appear and do a really bad dance routine in front of my disbelieving eyes. This tune also begs the question, is this the kind of music that we're going to be sitting around listening to in care homes in 2074 while we suck Pot Noodles through our dentures and ask the nurse for another cheeky Vimto? What a brave new world it will be...

More information: https://www.facebook.com/naives.london

Live Dates:

14th March - Apolo 2, Barcelona
21st March - Combo Club, Florence w/Public Service Broadcasting
22nd March - Covo Club, Bologna w/Public Service Broadcasting
28th March - Le International, Paris
29th March - Truskel, Paris

4th April - The Shaklewell Arms, London w/Reptile Youth

LOVESTARRS - SINGLE REVIEW

Lovestarrs - Get Your Sexy On 
Lovestarrs - Get Your Sexy On

Release Date: 31st March 2014

Well this is one of those good news stories that we don't hear enough of in the music industry these days. The Good Natured were a fantastic trio making awesome indie-pop songs but they got chewed up by the music biz and went dark for a while. However, they didn't let that beat them and they're back under the new name Lovestarrs (better name I think) and this is their debut single under that new identity. With a name like Lovestarrs and a song called 'Get Your Sexy On' you can bet your bottom dollar that this ain't gonna be some introspective, moody folk music for navel gazers and, sure enough, it ain't. 'Get Your Sexy On' is Dubstar meets Ellie Goulding with a rousing Katy Perry-esque chorus that has a little more British grit about it than the former Mrs Brand could ever muster. The big, big beats drive this beauty forward while Sarah's vocals implore you to "Get your sexy on" in a way that most English singers would be too reserved to even approach. More than a single, this is a statement of intent and defiant return from the wilderness - both of which I wholeheartedly applaud.


More information: https://www.facebook.com/planetlovestarr?fref=ts 

COASTS - SINGLE REVIEW

Coasts - A Rush Of Blood (Tidal Recordings) 
Coasts - A Rush Of Blood

Release Date: 31st March 2014

OK, I'm not going to claim to have discovered these guys as they've already got a serious following on Twitter but I am happily going to lay claim to announcing this as the sound of the summer. Coasts are an upbeat Bristol based quintet and this latest single, 'A Rush Of Blood', is surely destined to be played on every E4 montage, behind World Cup trailers and will be all over Radio 1 like a suspicious rash on the nether regions of a horny teenager. The club beats mixed with the sunny guitar melodies make the perfect bed for Chris Caines' smooth, pop-star vocals. This is the kind of thing One Direction want to be making if they thought it wouldn't melt their fans' brains and, based on my glance at the Brit Awards last night, you could very easily imagine Coasts doing a Bastille within the next 12 months. Not my favourite tune in the world but a band that might just be in the right place at the right time with the right combination of hooks and looks.

More information: http://coastsband.com/

Live Dates:

25th March - Arts Centre, Norwich
26th March - Sound Control, Manchester
27th March - Shipping Forecast, Liverpool
28th March - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
29th March - Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough
31st March - The Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
1st April - Barfly, London
2nd April - The Art Bar, Oxford
3rd April - Louisiana, Bristol
4th April - The Portland Arms, Cambridge
5th April - La Maroquinerie, Paris
6th April - La Peniche, Lille
9th April - Tivoli, Utrecht
10th April - Hedon, Zwolle
11th April - Asteriks, Leeuwarden
12th April - Supermarkt, The Hague
13th April - W2, Den Bosch
15th April - Kulturhaus 73, Hamburg

16th April - MONARCH, Berlin

THE MISPERS - SINGLE REVIEW

The Mispers - Brother 
The Mispers - Brother

Release Date: 3rd March 2014

London collective The Mispers are a folk-rock troupe that blend some of the best bits of recent folk successes like Mumford & Sons or Gogol Bordello with more traditional indie references from the likes of the Macabees or Foals. Forthcoming single 'Brother' is an impassioned song full of agitated guitars, soothing violin and a shaky vocal style that suggests the singer is either freezing cold or recorded this whilst standing on one of those contraptions that purport to shake the fat off you. I can imagine this being played to a loyal crowd of fans in a dark and sweaty Camden club to great effect which is lucky as these guys are playing at the legendary Dingwalls on Friday 28th February. So that's folk, indie, passion and a unique vocal style - sounds like a pretty winning combination to me!

More information: https://www.facebook.com/TheMispers?fref=ts

Live Dates:

24th February - Hoxton Bar & Grill, London w/Brody Dalle
28th February - Dingwalls, London
6th March - Rotown, Rotterdam
7th March - Where The Wild Things Are Festival, Zeewolde

25th April - Le Printemps De Bourges Festival, Bourges

DARK MEAN - EP REVIEW

Dark Mean - Samuel The Phoenix 
Dark Mean - Samuel The Phoenix

Release Date: 25th February 2014

Well here's something a bit different. Straight out of the blocks, these guys declared that they're not looking for a label, they won't be going on tour and they're not even sure if they can be bothered to have a launch gig for this new 4 track EP. I'm almost impressed by this level of commitment to just making music for the love of making music - it all falls down if that music turns out to be covers of Vanilla Ice B-sides though.
Thankfully there is no sub-par rap on display here as the Canadian trio launch in to title track, 'Samuel The Phoenix', a country tinged stroll through golden fields of straw with a fine woman by your side that sounds more than a little like Midlake. 'Albatross' is not a great leap in styles from the previous track but there is something ridiculously comforting about the shuffling drums and understated organ sound supplemented beautifully by some well placed horns. 'High Heaven' is masterful in its subdued beauty with every note delicately placed after the one before like dominoes crafted from fine bone china. The appropriately named 'Last One' finishes up the EP and, much like the rest of this collection, it could easily soundtrack a heartrending hospital scene in some long running American TV drama. I can see why Dark Mean are not overly concerned with the trappings of rock'n'roll success but it's a shame because their mellow tones and attention to melodic detail could be enjoyed by many, many more people if they were so inclined.


More information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dark-Mean/72929262711 

QUIET MARAUDER - ALBUM REVIEW

Quiet Marauder - Men Volumes 1-4 (Bubblewrap Records) 
Quiet Marauder - Men Volumes 1-4

Right people. Everyone take a deep breath. Stretch out those calf muscles and make sure your hips are nice and loose. All good? Excellent. You're going to need all your energy for this one as Welsh anti-folk collective Quiet Marauder are coming straight at you with, get this, a four volume album that totals 111 songs and 5 hours in length. Think you can handle this? Well pace yourselves, this is a marathon not a sprint.....or a Snickers.

Now, the thing is, I've only got a sample of the album to go on but at least we'll get a flavour of things eh? From Volume One, we first come across 'Man' which is, as far as I can tell, the theme tune to the Magic Roundabout that was rejected for being too mental and swirly. And that sets the tone for the album as, despite describing themselves as anti-folk, Quiet Marauder are more in the vein of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band writing child-like songs with adult themes. 'The Internal Monologue Date (featuring John Mouse)', for example, is a melodically simple tune but the thought process behind the lyrics is particularly adult if not grotesque. 'Accidental Voyeur' follows in the same theme while 'Pretty Girls Are (Pretty) (featuring My Name Is Ian)' may not be particularly politically correct but it's great fun in the way that Flight of the Conchords is great fun. Our snapshot of Volume 1 finishes up with 'It Wasn't Me It Was The Moon', seemingly an ode to the love life problems of the Werewolf.

Volume 2 features the spoken word story of 'Goodbye Martin' which is as funny as it is tragic followed by the nightmarish nursery rhyme that is 'Prime Ministers (1952-Present)' which finishes up with somebody ghoulishly speaking the words "David Cameron" while a musical box plays in the distance. Shudder. The gorgeously acoustic strum of 'I Want A Moustache, Dammit' name checks Burt Reynolds and should be featured on a Radio 4 comedy show at the very least. 'If We Were Playas (featuring Houdini Dax)' is the most middle class ode to the gangsta lifestyle you've ever heard and 'Eggs!' displays an unhealthy obsession with eggs, need I say more?

The Volume 3 taster session begins with the very British a capella fun of 'Let The Crisis Commence!' followed by the anti-bull fighting anthem of 'Sad Spanish Eyes, Rodrigo'. I'm sure 'Wake Up Bono' makes sense in somebody's head but to me it's unhinged musical madness and all the better for it. There's a dirty, 1950s feel to 'The Business Deal (featuring Jimmy Watkins)' while 'The Day The Animals Went Fuckin Crazy' is Cliff Richards' 'Summer Holiday' for the Ketamin generation.

Finally, on to Volume 4 and we have the delightful chug of 'A Gay Guy And A Dog' followed by the 1960s chic cool of 'A Certain Girl'. 'Caged (featuring Jemma Roper)' is a bit of a musical departure from the rest of the collection with big beats and a drone that Massive Attack and Portishead would be proud of. The gently sombre acoustic delight of 'Every Time We Think Of One Another (featuring Francesca's World Salad)' puts me in mind of the wonderful Marmaduke Dando such is it's morose tone. The final track of this sample is 'Welcome Home Quiet Marauder' which has a certain subdued wild west charm about it.

I have to admit, this collection held my attention longer than I thought it would but I must remind you that this is merely just a sample - 20 tracks out of 111, 45 minutes out of 5 hours. Nevertheless, there aren't many other acts out there writing such witty and well observed ditties. I just wished they'd released one collection at a time as it's a little like being faced with a 4 course gourmet meal when all you wanted was a yoghurt. And maybe a Twix.

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

Live Dates:

3rd May - Troyfest @ Baskerville Hall, Hay-On-Wye

17th May - Anti-Folk Festival, London

SOFT SCIENCE - ALBUM REVIEW

Soft Science - Detour (Test Pattern Recordings) 
Soft Science - Detour

There seems to be a divide between British and American bands at a certain point in life. In the USofA, bands can exist and have perfectly good careers who, in the UK, would otherwise end up being accountants, architects or financial advisors. Maybe it's something in that American dream ethos or the over-willingness of the English to give up on their dreams of rock stardom. Either way, Soft Science is one of those bands that would probably have ceased to exist in the UK years ago so I'm glad they're American!

You'll notice a trend as we go through this album that Soft Science like one word titles and so things start with 'Nothing', a dreamy shoegazing number that introduces us to the angelic vocal stylings of Katie Haley. As we move through 'Light', 'Feel' and 'Matter' you very quickly get the feeling that somewhere along the line these guys sat down and said "we want to make an album that sounds like St Etienne, Dubstar, Belly, the Cranberries and the Magic Numbers" because that's exactly what they've done and it's mighty, mighty fine. 'Gone' has a more gentle feel to it as the guitars are liberally coated in layers of synths and Haley's vocals drift like a fluffy white cloud over a small rural campsite. Then again, 'Blue' is a rambunctious little indie-pop upstart that would have been entirely at home on any kind of Britpop compilation from the mid-90s. 'Please' has a an electro ballad feel to it while 'Falling' is a full on indie-disco anthem in the making - people just need to hear it to fall in love with it first. As the album approaches the end we are treated to 'Cold', a delicately defiant piece of whimsy, and 'Daydream' which starts with a swathe of distortion before continuing in exactly that vein for 90 seconds for no good reason at all. This is a dreamy album of indie-shoegazing-pop and that will appeal hugely to certain demographic. I am in that demographic. Yay me!


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

THE DIAMOND AGE - SINGLE REVIEW

The Diamond Age - I Might Just Be 
The Diamond Age - I Might Just Be

Southampton duo Matt and Bilu, for they are The Diamond Age, are like a blue sky after weeks and weeks of grey, damp weather. There is a lightness and airiness to their music that is instantly appealing and uplifting to anyone who cares to listen. 'I Might Just Be' is no exception to this rule as the synths bounce along rubber balls on a particularly long staircase and the guitars dart and soar like swallows on a spring breeze. The duo lose nothing from not having a drummer as the programmed beats are necessarily light to keep things floating along nicely. The Diamond Age are the sound of an early summer sunset and that moment when you decide that going to the pub without a coat to have your first Pimm's of the year is a good decision. I recommend you download this single and keep it in your back pocket for another few months and then break it out for the perfect early summer experience.


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

FAILURE MACHINE - EP REVIEW

Failure Machine - Failure Machine EP 
Failure Machine - EP

If there are phrases that are sure to peak my interest in a band then "two piece garage soul band from Reno" are surely high up on that particular list. Failure Machine are such a band and boy do they make a sexy racket. The soulful, grunge-garage tinged fun kicks off with 'Bottomless Pit' which is somewhere along the lines of James Brown's bastard off spring playing Lenny Kravitz covers in their garage on beaten up equipment. 'Beautiful Scene' continues the theme with a little more attitude along the lines of Blackstreet with distortion while 'Just A Little Bit' features a sassy horn section atop the scuzzed up guitars and punchy beats. Then, as if to cement their soul credentials, Failure Machine take on the Temptations classic 'I Wish It Would Rain' and despite the rough recording and sparse instrumentation, the soulfulness just shines through like a break in the clouds on a relentlessly grey day. Finishing up with the ballad that is 'I Found You', these Reno boys prove they've got the chops and you can almost hear them mopping the sweat from their brow with a monogrammed handkerchief. These guys take things on another level from the likes of the Black Keys (big fan by the way) and I would dearly love to hear them live as I can only imagine the shows to be impassioned, sweaty and semi-religious experiences. Sadly, Cornwall to Reno is one hell of a journey and I'm all outta gas right now...

More information: www.facebook.com/failuremachine

Listen/Download Here: http://failuremachine.bandcamp.com/releases

Live Dates:


27th February - Smiley's Schooner Saloon, Bolinas

HARTEBEEST - SINGLE REVIEW

Hartebeest - Drums 
Hartebeest - Drums

London duo Hartebeest are back with new single 'Drums' and if you like your music atmospheric, electronic and sparse then you're in for a treat. 'Drums' follows the likes of Delphic or Everything Everything in to the realms of squelchy bass lines, big beats and sweeping landscapes of digital melodies that stretch as far as the eye can see. The near-falsetto vocal is a tool that is being used by a lot of electronic acts these days is but Hartebeest seem to have pitched it just right (pun entirely intended) where the lyrics are audible but the tone fits in with the music. The filmic qualities of the music Hartebeest churn out is appealing but I feel it loses something as a single tune so I'm intrigued to hear what a whole album sounds like.


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

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

APPLE & PARROT PRESENTS ACOUSTIC SESSIONS VOL. ONE - ALBUM REVIEW

Apple & Parrot Presents - Acoustic Sessions Vol. One in Aid of Oxjam 
Apple & Parrot - Acoustic Sessions Volume 1

So, this is a bit different. When I was invited on to BBC Radio Devon recently to be an 'expert' and critique some new local artists, I was delighted to have this CD thrust in to my greasy mits as this is a compilation of some of the best acoustic artists around. These recordings have been gathered together by the Apple & Parrot in Torquay, a venue that goes way beyond just supporting live music through its Apple & Parrot Academy which helps musicians with everything from recording to video production. What's even better is that this CD has been produced with the additional purpose of supporting the wonderfully worthy Oxjam charity so it literally couldn't be better intentioned. Anyway, there are 11 artists to get through so let's crack on...

The collection opens with new LWM favourites Sound Of the Sirens and a cracking version of 'Who We Are' from the recent debut album and it is incredibly pleasing to hear that their vocal harmonies and layered lyrics stand up so well in a live forum. Andy Quick of Plymouth band Land Of The Giants is up next with a subdued but beautifully performed version of 'Jackpot Dave', complete with some luscious female backing vocals to add another layer of richness. Poster Child are up next with 'Crazy' which sounds like an a capella version of an r'n'b, funk smash from the likes of Justin Timberlake which is not only refreshing but also incredibly engaging on a compilation of this kind.

Next up is AJ Chapman featuring some guest work by Rich Cottell and Lawrence Giles as they perform 'Had Your Chance' which is in the James Morrison vein of acoustic funk and is perfectly well performed but doesn't really last long in my memory. Jack Tucker's 'Rocket Science' is akin to a modern take on the blues with a feel of Aloe Blacc and a little of the Parov Stelar's of this world about it - atmospheric and groovy in equal measure. The horribly named Babysnakes follow with 'Fireflies' which is a gentle, meandering piece of loveliness with shuffling drums and some gorgeous lap steel work that I have to admit I am a bit of a sucker for. The Summertides have, in 'Rotterdam', created a piece of travelling folk-pop that should only be listened to while driving a knackered old campervan to an unknown destination. They put me in mind of the Beautiful South, Fairground Attraction or the Bluebells and that may not be good news to them but that's what my ears tell me and the day I stop trusting my ears is the day I stop listening to music!

Cydney Brown
So far, this collection has been suprisingly dominated by male musicians so I was pleased when Sophie Dewoody popped up with 'Jump With You', a soulful and funky acoustic tune that shows off Ms Dewoody's undeniable vocal talents perfectly despite the brevity of the tune. The pace is taken down quite a few notches when Cydney Brown comes along with 'The Fog' and her dreamy, dulcet tones drift from the speakers like a comforting blanket of sound on a cold night. Brown's power and range is impressive as is her ability to switch from understated and delicate to strident and defiant at the flick of a wrist. Matthew Porosa has a gravelly tone that would go down extremely well in America or on Radio 2 as songs like 'Soak' will appeal to the romance starved demographic who will swoon and sigh at his every 'ugh' and 'ooh'. Finally, we finish up with Owen Penrice and the unimaginatively titled 'Slow Song' which has a great sense of humour and rawness about it that reminds me of early Paolo Nutini in a good way.

On this showing, you have to say there is a great smattering of talent out there and big props should go to all the artists and the Apple & Parrot for pulling this together to support a great charity and show off the talent on offer. One thing I feel the South West has always lacked is some kind of 'scene' in the way that Manchester, Liverpool, Camden and Glasgow - among others - seem to manage with such ease. Maybe this can be the start of something approaching a scene - I am encouraged that this is tantalisingly entitled 'Volume 1' and look forward to the follow up.
  
More information:

Apple & Parrot - http://www.appleandparrot.co.uk/
Sound Of The Sirens - https://www.facebook.com/SoundoftheSirens?fref=ts
Andy Quick (Land Of The Giants) - https://www.facebook.com/landofthegiantsuk
Poster Child - https://www.facebook.com/posterchildmusic
AJ Chapman - https://www.facebook.com/4thFloorStudios?fref=ts
Jack Tucker - https://www.facebook.com/jacktuckertunes?fref=ts
Babysnakes - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Babysnakes/355489599595?fref=ts
The Summertides - https://www.facebook.com/thesummertides?fref=ts
Sophie Dewoody - https://www.facebook.com/sophiedewoodymusic?ref=ts&fref=ts
Cydney Brown - https://www.facebook.com/CydneyBrownMusic?fref=ts
Matthew Porosa - https://myspace.com/matthewporosa

Owen Penrice - https://www.facebook.com/owenpenricemusic?fref=ts 

BERNACCIA - SINGLE REVIEW

Bernaccia - Armada (Cinema trilogy) 
Bernaccia - Armada (Cinema trilogy)

Release Date: 24th February 2014

There are a few bands that seem to crop up in the LWM inbox more and more frequently these days and Newcastle quartet Bernaccia are, thankfully, one such band. This latest release, 'Armada', is a three track delight for those who like their music with atmosphere, attitude and a sense that there is more to making music than getting your logo right and having matching haircuts. 'Armada' opens affairs but sounds like the end of the world with a very Apocalypse Now feel to it as the distorted bass of Kieran Healy keeps things chugging along and the guitars swirl all around you like debris in a sand storm. Never fear, though, the four horsemen of the anti-apocalypse come riding in on 'Circuit Ryder (Oh My)' with a wild west feel and some serious tub thumping from drummer Chris Cox. These guys are here to save the day, save the world and all they ask for in payment is your soul which you will gladly give once you see the alternatives. The final track of the three is 'No Home For The Buffalo', a five minute epic of blues infused atmospheric rock'n'roll with a sense of purpose that could soundtrack footage of a chain gang working away under a blistering sun and the watch of a remorseless guard. This is the first part of a trilogy of releases under the Cinema title that will see the band release a single a month, each one accompanied by an exclusive piece of artwork. Listen up young pups, this is how you do music and this is how you release it to keep people interested. Superb stuff.

More information: www.facebook.com/bernacciamusic

Live Dates:


26th April - Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

PARADISE CIRCUS - SINGLE REVIEW

Paradise Circus - Drunk 
Paradise Circus - Drunk

Release Date: 17th March 2014

It's been a while since I've received anything from the Midlands to review so I was pleased to receive this debut single from Birmingham trio Paradise Circus. 'Drunk' is an unashamedly honest anthem for the generation that puts getting drunk at the top of its list of priorities. Lines like "I just wanna drive my Ford Fiesta in to a paddling pool" and "I wanna set fire to things, destroy everything I know" suggests an understanding that trying to live a rock'n'roll lifestyle on a budget is slightly depressing but fun if you just live in the moment. Oddly, though, you'd expect the music to be a bit more lad rock whereas the melodies that Paradise Circus create are more stadium sized in the vein of Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Keane (if they had guitars). There is a sadness to this song that comes from the melodies as well as the lyrical subject matter which sees it fail in being a proper boozy anthem but it certainly shows potential. I'll wait for the next release before I pass judgement on these guys I think.


More information: www.facebook.com/paradisecircusmusic 

NIX NOUGHT NOTHING - ALBUM REVIEW

Nix Nought Nothing - The Storm 
Nix Nought Nothing - The Storm

Release Date: 28th February 2014

Nix Nought Nothing (or NNN as I shall call him from now on) is a native Londoner holed up in Brooklyn creating complex, layered and lush musical stories interwoven with beautiful melodies and an attention to detail that is so rare these days. The nu-folk lilt of 'Return From The Storm' opens the album and rattles along like a pony and trap on cobbles - not very London or Brooklyn. 'I'm In Trouble' is a piano lead show tune that Aloe Blacc would have been happy to sing while 'In The Winter' has a more delicate feel to it, building to a Mumford-esque conclusion as NNN sings of nautical themes atop a dancing piano melody and burgeoning percussion. The first single from this debut album is 'Sticks & Stones' which is striking in its original arrangement which is almost Brother & Bones-esque but you can feel the single-mindedness of a solo artist bleeding out of the music. Interestingly, 'The Boy' has some beautifully subtle guitar work that Brother & Bones what be proud of as well but a much lighter feel that is almost child-like in its approach to melodic structures.

There is a delightful feeling of Spring lightness to 'Symphomatic' with Jake Morley-esque guitars and a real sense that the sun has just risen on a frosty morning somewhere near the coast. 'But Bring Me Love' is a swooning, crooning song that would be perfect for a candle lit evening with your new beau but 'Icarus' starts off like some incidental music from Titanic before becoming a sea shanty style ballad warning the winged-one not to soar too high. This is music that I could see going down extremely well in my adopted home of Cornwall, such is the elemental and aquatic tone to many of the songs. Nevertheless, there are songs that fly in the face of this overall feel such as 'When I'm Alive' which is an almost jazz influenced, off-kilter piece of piano lead music that is more intriguing than it is instantly gratifying.

NNN returns to that child-like melodic pattern on 'We Need To Know' which could easily be a Broadway musical song with its big horn section and "la-la-la" sing along chorus. Ironically, 'I Could've Been Anything' has a title that suggests it has come from a musical (Bugsy Malone for the uninitiated amongst you) but is actually more of a lament for opportunities missed and chances passed. The final track on this debut is the chest beating bravado of 'All I Have' which returns to the sea faring themes and employs the sea shanty style all male backing vocals to great effect. Nix Nought Nothing has genuinely stumped me on this one as I would see him fitting in more with the likes of Seth Lakemen than the uber-cool types you expect to find in Brooklyn. Genuinely stumped is a good thing though, I want to know and hear more...


More information: www.nixnoughtnothing.com 

KARL CULLEY - ALBUM REVIEW

Karl Culley - Phosphor (Sound Of Jura) 
Karl Culley - Phosphor

What is it with musicians relocating these days? Karl Culley is a North Yorkshire lad by birth but has seen fit to relocate to Krakow. I mean, it's one thing to be a hugely talented indie-folk singer-songwriter but what on earth gives him the right to go off jet-setting as well? The bloody cheek of it. I mean, my Gran was born in Scarborough and the furthest she ever moved was London. Sigh. Anyway, let's give this music a listen shall we? 'Bag Of Tricks' kicks off proceedings with a pleasingly rambunctious folk lilt before giving way to the more subdued 'Dragon Kite' which sees Mr Culley making the most of the rich tones that come from his 1930s guitar. The wonderfully titled 'Icarus and Whisky' is furious paced piece of finger pickery while 'Silver Set Of Bones' is a more lilting tune that shows off more of Culley's soulful vocal and his penchant for the atmospheric.

The press release for this album quotes the Sunday Express as saying Culley is akin to Newton Faulkner and Jose Gonzalez which I can understand but I think that's fairly lazy journalism in all honesty. Culley operates at a more elemental, organic and soulful level than those contemporaries which is all to evident in the likes of 'Be Beloved', 'Runes', 'Spell' and 'Qualifier'. Then again, there is a more commercial and poppy side to this album such as on 'Alcohol' which is a groove and hook laden ode to inebriation. 'Trebuchet' (one of my favourite words from school days, along with osmosis) is a low slung, country and western funeral march while 'In Another Life' is a much lighter, bouncing affair that flits around like an indecisive dragon fly. Final song, 'Blood Spot Constellations', is a brooding but lush piece of blues folk that rumbles and groans with the best of them. I'll forgive Karl Culley his wanderlust as long as he keeps producing music of this calibre. I guess that's the beauty of the internet age - you can produce great music wherever you lay your hat and it won't hamper your career in ways that geography would have done in the past.  

More information: www.karlculley.co.uk

Live Dates:

25th February - Lizard King, Krakow
16th March - Old School Bar, Nowy Sacz
23rd March - Piekny Pies, Krakow
10th April - Folk Rising @ Cecil Sharp House, London
11th April - Loves Cafe, Western-super-Mare
12th April - Pindrop @ The Fisherman's Arms, Hartlepool
15th April - The Blues Bar, Harrogate
17th April - The Met, Bury
18th April - The Basement, York

19th April - The Railway, Cottingham

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

HEATERS - EP REVIEW

Heaters - Heaters EP 
Heaters - Heaters EP

They used to be Partisans but they lost a guitarist and suddenly became Heaters...as you do. Nevertheless, the trio from Grand Rapids, Michigan, are ready to make an almighty racket for you so you'd better listen up and listen good. The EP starts with a wall of noise followed by the lizard tongued, snake hipped spirit of 'Draggin' Feet' and straight away you know these guys mean business. 'Steve's Boots' starts with the sound of a paranoid walk home through a poorly lit subway before breaking in to a sweaty, distortion vs delay guitar battle with music being the only real winner. The lyrics to 'Chili Cheese' are, in their entirety, "Do you remember how to dance, better keep moving all of your nerves are winning" and around these words swirls a world of swarthy guitars, lazy beats and melodies that are so fluid they probably change with every listen.

'Salt Lick' is a two and a half minute romp through lava lamps and go-go dancers as seen through the eyes of someone who believes the hype and has taken the blue pill rather than the red one. Final track, 'Levitate Thigh' has a fuzzy, scuzzy, garage pop charm about it that weaves between controlled melody and released chaos that is as tempting as a water slide on a hot day. Overall, Heaters are producing fine music as part of what appears to be a burgeoning underground psyche revival and long may it continue to bear fruit.

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

Live Dates: 

1st March - House Of Pancakes, Grand Rapids

21st March - Hunters Ale House, Mount Pleasant 

EL BORN - EP REVIEW

El Born - Kangaroo EP (Strata Entertainment Ltd) 
El Born - Kangaroo EP

Si Connelly, the 'talent' behind El Born, is one of those guys that is not so much driven to be a musician as he is just resigned to the fact. There are those people who will gig wherever they get the opportunity, take studio time at 4.00 in the morning and who will sleep in their car rather than pay rent just to be able to buy that all important new guitar (semi-true story). Anyhoo, the music: this EP starts off with the single edit of 'Kangaroo' which is an uplifting, foot stomping piece of indie-rock with some slightly less positive lyrics. 'Catch The Sun' is a much more subdued indie ballad that will surely appear in a Richard Curtis film at some point as the guitars are a little on the cheesy side from time to time. '1982' is the song that's propelled El Born in to the public eye with Coldplay picking up on the video and championing the song which in itself is an inoffensive, heartfelt piece of music but without the video it all sounds a bit  James Morrison to me. The EP finishes up with the album version of 'Kangaroo' which is a slightly elongated, expansive version of the title track. I can see that El Born have got talent but I would hope that they have a little more bite and punch about them by the time the next release comes around as this release is all a little AOR/MOR for me.

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

Live Dates:

20th February - Bannerman's Rock & Whiskey Bar, Edinburgh
21st February - Mad Hatters/Hootananny's, Inverness
22nd February - The Admiral Club, Glasgow (7.00pm)
22nd February - Live At The Box, Glasgow (10.00pm)
23rd February - Green Room, Perth
28th February - Kasbah, Coventry
1st March - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
2nd March - Firebug, Leicester
6th March - Cellars @ Chaplins, Boscombe
14th March - The New Adelphi, Hull (supporting City Of Lights)
15th March - The Cockpit, Leeds (supporting City Of Lights)
20th March - South Sea Live, Sheffield (supporting City Of Lights)
26th March - Jazz Cafe, London
27th March - Vaults, Rugby
28th March - Sound Music Venue, Cheltenham
6th April - Mercury Lounge, New York
8th April - Rockwood Music Hall, New York
10th April - Saltlands, Brooklyn
14th April - Venue, Washington DC
15th April - Venue, Boston
23rd April - The Borderline, London

4th July - Haslemere Festival, Haslemere

THOM CROSS - SINGLE REVIEW

Thom Cross - Heavy Sea 
Thom Cross - Heavy Sea

It's always slightly disconcerting these days when somebody refers to themselves as being a bit like Bono or Bowie. It may be a very British thing but comparing yourself to Rock Royalty when you're just starting out is a hugely brave thing to do and not something we always applaud as such, preferring to see it as misplaced arrogance. However, the Bono comparisons levelled at Mr Thom Cross are entirely reasonable based on the evidence within 'Heavy Sea' as he channels the latter day Bono Vox's vocal style and emotive singing. The Bowie comparison is a little harder to see but there is a certain groove to the music that you could image Mr Stardust busting some serious moves to in a powder blue suit with ridiculous lapels. I say we should applaud the ambition shown by Thom Cross and hope that he goes on to reach the heights of his heroes - lord knows we need some new, real superstars.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/ThomCrossMusic?fref=ts

Live Dates:

25th February - The Bedford, London
26th March - Death2Disco @ Notting Hill Arts Club, London

25th April - Jubilee Club @ Barfly, London

SEA STACKS - FREE DOWNLOAD REVIEW

Sea Stacks - Brutal Concrete/Scottish Wilderness 
Sea Stacks - Brutal Concrete/Scottish Wilderness

When I lived in London I mixed in a few social groups and every now and again I would spend the evening drinking with a chap of such wit and intellect that I was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. I only met him once or twice but I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations on everything from the theatre to architecture to homemade cocktails from our younger days. Sea Stacks are a bit like that chap in that I never seek them out for one-on-one time but every time I encounter their music I feel better for the experience. This free download, 'Brutal Concrete/Scottish Wilderness', is in advance of their forthcoming new single and is a bleak but strangely warming piece of understated orchestral indie. If ATP still existed, these guys would be a shoe in but at the very least they should be appearing at something in the Royal Festival Hall curated by Edwyn Collins within the next 18 months.

More information: www.facebook.com/seastacks


Listen/Download: http://seastacks.bandcamp.com/ 

SCRAPS OF TAPE - SINGLE REVIEW

Scraps Of Tape - Hands In Hands (A Tendervision Recording) 
Scraps Of Tape - Hands In Hands

Release Date: 26th February 2014

As a novel approach to marketing their band, these guys have developed their very own guitar pedal that you can buy to sound just like them - well, those of the band that play guitar anyway. This is just the kind of ker-azy tactic that is bound to get you noticed in the muso world but will it get you invited to duet with Rhianna at the MTV VMAs? Does anyone really care? Probably not. Anyway, Scraps of Tape are a Swedish quintet who make dramatic and epic sounding indie tunes like 'Hands In Hands' with overlaying guitars, big pounding drums and subtle, almost whispered vocals that making you lean in close. Again, this music will probably go down extremely well with the Mogwai supporting muso community and I hope it will gain support further afield as it is both lush and sparse in equal measure - much like the Scandinavian wilderness...I imagine.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/scrapsoftape?fref=ts

Live Dates:

26th February - Slappfest, Babel Malmo
27th February - KB18, Copenhagen
28th February - Debaser Strand, Stockholm
15th March - Chemiefabrik, Dresden
18th March - Stadtgarten, Erfurt
19th March - Grabenhalle, St. Gallen
20th March - Immerhin, Wurzburg
21st March AJZ, Chemnitz
22nd March - Schokoladen, Berlin


THE DIRTY NIL - EP REVIEW

The Dirty Nil - Smite EP 
The Dirty Nil - Smite EP

I've been looking forward to this one as Canadian trio The Dirty Nil combine two of my favourite things in music; brevity and melody. The longest song of this collection of five is two minutes and forty-six seconds long but every one of the songs has a hook and not an ounce of fat. Kicking off with the incendiary early single 'Nicotine', the Dirty Nil show off their Ramones-esque drums and 40-a-day gravel throated vocals with aplomb. 104 seconds later and we're on to the second song in the shape of 'Beat', a leather clad, in your face, punk'n'roll beast that sweats Jack Daniels and snorts crushed up drums for breakfast. Hidden in the middle of this EP is the absolute pearl of a song that is 'New Flesh', a lumbering, jerking and relentless Frankenstein's monster of a tune that will take hit after hit before even starting to consider giving up its mindless pursuit.

Recent single 'Wrestle Yu To Husker Du' still sounds fresh and perky in the same way the Pixies and early Nirvana do - fresh and perky through a stinking hangover that starts off with you waking up face down in an ashtray. Final track, 'Pale Blue', doesn't let up the pace of this EP as the vocals are forced out and the beats'n'riffs chug remorselessly onward like a super-fuelled Queens Of The Stone Age with more raw energy and attitude. It's always gratifying that, after one or two promising tracks, a band like the Dirty Nil go on to make an almighty racket over a prolonged period which proves your instincts right. Raw, powerful, focused, melodic and fierce - get some.


Live Dates:

20th February - Shea Stadium, Brooklyn
21st February - Anna Liffey's Pub, New Haven
22nd February - Tasty Burger, Cambridge
28th February - Jimmy Jazz, Guelph
2nd March - Grace Hall, Sudbury
6th March - Call The Office, London ON
14th March - Pressed, Ottawa
21st March - Silver Dollar, Toronto
28th March - Detour Music Hall, Saint Catharines

29th March - The Spice Factory, Hamilton ON