Tuesday, 31 January 2017

RJ THOMPSON – SINGLE REVIEW

RJ Thompson – The Times They Are A-Changin’ 
RJ Thompson - The Times They Are A-Changin'


Release Date: Out Now

It takes a brave man (or woman) to tackle the classics and there are two approaches – a straight up cover in the style of the original or a complete reworking with very little attention paid to the original. Geordie boy RJ Thompson (I’m going to guess at Rupert Julian) has taken on the Dylan protest classic ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’ and opted for the first option of a fairly respectful cover. Sure, Thompson’s voice is smooth and accomplished so lacks some of Bobby’s crackle and edge but this never quite falls in to the X-Factor realm of not really feeling the lyrics. The use of piano instead of guitar works well and you could imagine an arrangement like this being used as some sort of Live Aid style protest charity single to raise enough money to build a wall around Trump, May and their right-wing capitalist cronies….and put a lid on. Still, there’s never been a greater need to sing protest songs and if RJ Thompson can bring this one to the attention of a new audience then that’s alright by me.



JAMES MACLAINE – SINGLE REVIEW

James MacLaine – Burnt 
James MacLaine - Burnt


Release Date: 10th February 2017

London dweller James MacLaine has a humble approach to things, understated if you will, which is deeply refreshing in these times of overblown bombast. The singer-songwriter-producer’s debut single, ‘Burnt’, continues that theme of humility with a steady acoustic strum’n’pick building in to a campfire ballad with Wild West ambitions. MacLaine’s voice is smooth and almost of the pop-soul genre with its ability to slide up an octave in a very Ed Sheeran style but there’s more substance and more thought behind this. Electronic ripples appear in the background to accompany the organic guitar while a beat that feels somewhere between human and robot keeps things flowing. By the time this tune stutters to an end, you can be left in no doubt that MacLaine has chops and a flair for song crafting so expect more from this talented gent.


Live Dates:


7th February – Servant Jazz Quarters, London w/Malka

THE VELVET HANDS – SINGLE REVIEW

The Velvet Hands – I Don’t Mind (Easy Action Records)
The Velvet Hands - I Don't Mind

Release Date: 3rd February 2017

Two things I love about a single these days – a vinyl release and a B-side. ‘I Don’t Mind’ by the Velvet Hands has both of things so it’s already off to a flyer in my mind. The Cornish combo have perfectly embraced that shambolic indie gang mentality and sound that the likes of the Libertines and Stages of Dan encompassed so well with scratchy guitars, more cymbals than is healthy for any one band and a good line in charity shop coats. “I don’t mind if you stay the night” they sing in unison from the back of the night bus swigging from cans of Red Stripe and flirting with any girls the see through the window. B-side ‘The End’ is not a cover of the Doors classic but actually it’s a rambling, morning-after-the-night-before acoustic strum that has all the energy of a hangover but all the stories to tell as well. Finishing up for all the world like the Arctic Monkeys and Richard Hawley, this song shows a certain swagger and joie-de-vivre that feels almost wasted on a B-side. Glorious.


Live Dates:

8th March – the Monarch, Camden w/Mark Beaumont

Watch The Video: 


Monday, 30 January 2017

RINA MUSHONGA – SINGLE REVIEW

Rina Mushonga – Atalanta ([PIAS]) 
Rina Mushonga - Atalanta


Release Date: Out Now

Quick introduction; Rina Mushonga is a Dutch-Zimbabwean artist who has recently relocated to London and has been working with an esteemed producer as well as writing some truly engaging music. ‘Atalanta’ is one such engaging song which the press sheet describes as wonky Afro-pop and, although I can see what they’re getting at, there’s a little more to this. Take a pinch of Laura Mvula, a slice of Florence + The Machine’s dramatic tendencies and mix it with some 80s pop instrumentation and you’re getting close to this one. Mushonga is an intriguing and fresh artist with more to say in one song than most achieve in an album so I urge you to give this some time and savour the flavours.



WORRY DOLLS – SINGLE REVIEW

Worry Dolls – Miss You Already
Worry Dolls - Miss You Already 

Release Date: Out Now

London duo Worry Dolls have done two things for me tonight. Firstly, they have reaffirmed my long held assertion that you don’t need to be edgy, overtly sexy or have some kind of gimmick to create good music in 2017. Secondly, they have confirmed that there is a live music scene out there if you step off the beaten track from time to time (just look at the at gig list if you don’t believe me). ‘Miss You Already’ is a gloriously country infused tune with silk smooth vocal harmonies and delicately plucked strings that give this a real Johnny and June feel. People will have a little difficulty in looking any further than First Aid Kit for comparisons but I think this belongs way over in the bars of Nashville being played to afternoon drunks and country aficionados.


Watch The Video:



Live Dates:
3rd February – West Heaton Tennis Club, Stockport
4th February – The Independent, Sunderland
5th February – Plug N Play, Penrith
8th February – Stamford Arts Centre, Stamford
9th February – The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock
12th February – The Hawrth, Crawley
17th February – Cult Café, Ipswich
19th February – The Zanzibar, Liverpool
21st February – The Musician, Leicester
22nd February – KGC, Birmingham
23rd February – Black Swan, York
24th February – All Acoustic Club, Bellingham
25th February – The Stables, Milton Keynes
26th February – Norden Farm, Maidenhead
1st March – St Pancras Old Church, London
2nd March – The Marwood, Brighton
3rd March – The Beehive, Swindon
4th March – Wight Rock Bar, Isle Of Wight
24th March – Square & Compass, Swanage
26th March – Twickenham Folk Club, Twickenham
28th April – Westview House, Gainsborough
29th April – Old Cinema Launderette, Durham

30th April – The Live Room, Saltaire

SAM JORDAN & THE DEAD BUOYS – SINGLE REVIEW

Sam Jordan & The Dead Buoys – Favourite Messenger
Sam Jordan & The Dead Buoys - Favourite Messenger

Release Date: Out Now

It may be because I’ve been mainlining Twin Peaks from the very beginning for the past week but there’s something about the video for this latest release from Brighton’s Sam Jordan & The Dead Buoys that really appeals. ‘Favourite Messenger’, as a song, has a slightly Jeff Buckley-esque opening which fits in with the visuals before Jordan’s near-falsetto vocal offers a gentle invitation. The skiffle percussion and country melody creates aural images of Fleet Foxes or the Treetop Flyers – neither of which are bad things in my opinion. Jordan has a voice that stands out in a crowd for all the right reason and, as a band, they create a sound that is crafted with time, love and care – much like a well-aged whisky.


Live Dates:

10th February – Hope & Ruin, Brighton w/Big Thief


Watch The Video: 


Sunday, 29 January 2017

MERCY WEISS – SINGLE REVIEW

Mercy Weiss – Evil Baby 
Mercy Weiss - Evil Baby


Release Date: Out Now

New Yorkers Mercy Weiss and accomplice Christopher Pellnat are, like most of the right-thinking world, pissed off about the new ‘man’ in charge at the White House. Unlike most of the right-thinking world, they’ve combined a beautifully lo-fi indie track with some news footage to make a fantastically endearing protest song. ‘Evil Baby’ combines the lo-fi appeal of the Lovely Eggs with the sultry vocals of Monroe and Piaf to create something that is both enticing and unnerving which is no easy balance. A pulsing bass and simple beat are accompanied by some sleazy guitar and Weiss’ smooth, seductive vocal. This isn’t pure anger but it’s a nod and a wink of “I’m watching you” to the President. We’re all watching, intently.



THE SHERLOCKS – SINGLE REVIEW

The Sherlocks – Was It Really Worth It? 
The Sherlocks - Was It Really Worth It?


Release Date: Out Now

If you’ve got a spare tenner knocking around and you fancy a flutter on which band is likely to go big in 2017 then you could do a lot worse than putting it all on The Sherlocks. The four young lads from Bolton On Dearne are touring their asses off (see below) and simultaneously churning out consistently strong tunes, the latest being ‘Was It Really Worth It?’. A subdued start soon gives way to a blistering drum beat and Harley Davidson melody that just begs to be set to a road trip video. Think ‘Dakota’ era Stereophonics meets the Killers at their best and you’ve got a fix on the Sherlocks perfect blend of melodies and powerful indie guitars. Throw in a classic Britpop middle eight and the aforementioned admirable work ethic and you’d have to be brave to bet against these boys. They have to be coming to a town near you at some point so do yourselves a favour and get in while they’re playing mid-sized but packed venues with sweat dripping from the walls.


Live Dates:

1st February – Mad Hatters, Iverness
2nd February – Busker, Dundee
3rd February – Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
4th February – PJ Molloys, Dunfermline
5th February – Electric Circus, Edinburgh
7th February – O2 Academy 2, Newcastle
8th February – The Empire, Middlesborough
10th February – Albert Hall, Manchester
11th February – O2 Academy, Liverpool
12th February – The Grand Social, Dublin
14th February – Voodoo, Belfast
15th February – The Sugarmill, Stoke
16th February – O2 Institute 3, Birmingham
17th February – Thekla, Bristol
18th February – Sin City, Swansea
19th February – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
21st February – The Hub, Plymouth w/ Jordan Allen
22nd February - Talking Heads, Southampton
23rd February – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
24th February – Sub89, Reading
25th February – The Horn, St Albans
27th February – Chinnerys, Southend
28th February – Waterfront Studio, Norwich
1st March – Met Lounge, Peterboroguh
3rd March – The Foundry, Sheffield
4th March – Welly, Hull
6th March – Fibbers, York
7th March – 53 Degrees, Preston
8th March – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
9th March – Junction2, Cambridge
10th March – Crauford Arms, Milton Keynes
12th March – The Bullingdon, Oxford
13th March – The Wheatsheaf, Frome
14th March – The Boiler Room, Guildford
15th March – Tunbridge Wells Forum, Tunbridge Wells
20th April – ABC, Glasgow
21st April – Heaven, London
22nd April – Church, Leeds

HAUNT THE WOODS – SINGLE REVIEW

Haunt The Woods – Beautiful Catastrophe 
Haunt The Woods - Beautiful Catastrophe


Release Date: 31st January 2017

Cornish quartet Haunt The Woods has been on my radar for quite some time now but I’ve never managed to make the time to hear their music, which is a huge shame. ‘Beautiful Catastrophe’ is the lead track on a forthcoming EP and it is, well, beautiful without a hint of catastrophe. The soft, country-esque guitars build until the song establishes a steady rhythm and by the 3 minute mark we’re in a full blown indie romp that the likes of Mumford & Sons or Brother & Bones would be proud to add their blood, sweat and tears to. But there’s something more here, something on another level that makes this stand out like a shining beacon of hope. If you strip the urban vibe out of Elbows music and put Jeff Buckley on vocals then you’re getting close but that wouldn’t quite cover the tightness and the fraternity that you can hear coursing through each chord, each beat and each powerfully delivered vocal line. Simply superb.


Thursday, 26 January 2017

LAURA JEAN ANDERSON - SINGLE REVIEW

Laura Jean Anderson – Won’t Give Up On You
Laura Jean Anderson - Won't Give Up On You

I feel like the ideas of protest and women’s voices are high on the global agenda right now and that’s a very good thing but I’m still trying to build up a sound track – I just don’t think Little Mix’s dance routines or Fifth Harmony singing about having sex with their nightshift hubby is going to bring about any meaningful change. So, when an artist like Laura Jean Anderson steps up to the microphone it’s imperative that we not only pay attention but that we recognise something special has just arrived. Anderson’s new single, ‘Won’t Give Up On You’, feels like the spirit of Janis Joplin or a young Patti Smith is coursing through it’s veins as her powerful but oh-so-smooth vocals carry the song for the most part with just some idly strummer electric guitar notes for company. Only as the song reaches it’s climax do the rest of the band join in, giving Anderson’s voice room to wail and soar like Joplin would have in her hey day. This isn’t necessarily a protest song but it feels like one of the strongest female voices I’ve heard in a while and one that I’m glad to have heard at a time like this. 

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

Watch the Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYlj_DskXAY

Live Dates:

30th January - Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles
7th February - Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles

BIANCA ROSE FEAT. AYANNA WITTER-JOHNSON - SINGLE REVIEW

Bianca Rose feat. Ayanna Witter-Johnson – Because of Love
Bianco Rose - Because of Love

Now this song is a great example of why it’s always important to listen to a track all the through (at least once) before making up your mind. You see, this single from British/Jamaican/Nigerian singer-songwriter Bianca Rose was, at first, doing very little for me. ‘Because of Love’ sounded like a straight Des’Ree copy played out on soft acoustic guitar which was pleasant enough but not exactly making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then, during this song at about the 2 minute mark, the acoustic guitar is joined by the plucked strings and hammered woodwork of a Cello being expertly played by Ayanna Witter-Johnson and suddenly we have an alt-jazz tune that is slowly evolving in front of our ears. The mistake I made in listening to this track was in rushing to come to conclusions when all you need to do is let this wash over you and enjoy two superbly talented vocalists taking their time with a sweet and simple love song. One to savour. 

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

Watch the Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O5tJ1aVPEg&feature=youtu.be

PIP HALL - TURN OVER

Pip Hall – Turn Over (My Little Empire Records)
Pip Hall - Turn Over

Pip Hall is 16. This fact is touted by all her press and media and it’s great that someone of such tender years is making music but it does tend to colour your judgement a little. If my 2 year old son presents me with a multi-coloured smudge on a piece of paper I tend to go overboard with the praise in a way that I would never do if this was presented to me at an art gallery with a £6k price tag. So, I’ve tried to listen to this song and not follow any comment or thought up with “….not bad for a teenager”. Once you get beyond that piece of unconscious bias, ‘Turn Over’ can be enjoyed as a genuinely gorgeous piece if lo-fi indie with sophistication about it. The sludgy guitars and loose drums provide space for Hall’s slacker drawl to spread luxuriously across the song without a care in the world. Assuming I was organising my CDs by genre, I would probably slot this in alongside Belly, Throwing Muses, Echobelly and Elastica but just after Laura Marling and PJ Harvey. I also love the fact that this song feels so relaxed and as though it takes it’s time but still comes in at just under three minutes. Not bad for…….whoa there, nearly. Nearly…..


FRIDA SUNDEMO - SINGLE REVIEW

Frida Sundemo – We Are Dreamers
Frida Sundemo - We Are Dreamers

Another one off the Swedish pop conveyor belt as Frida Sundemo presents her new single ‘We Are Dreamers’ for judgement. In terms of genres, this needs to be filed under optimistic pop as the song bubbles just under the surface for large parts of the song, waiting for a generation to wake up and respond to a rallying call of no specific nature. Musically, this is essentially Sia and Coldplay collaborating on the opening song for a Winter Olympics and the video suggests Sundemo has already worked out the dance routine. I feel like there’s more to come from Frida Sundemo as this leans more to the Robyn end of pop (no bad thing) when I get the sense that, given the space and time, something more akin to Bjork might come out of this Swedish mind. Either way, she seems to be amassing an impressive army of fans so I’m not about to start any kind of online row. 

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

Watch The Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOT0wacIJbA&feature=youtu.be

KORIA KITTEN RIOT - SINGLE REVIEW

Koria Kitten Riot – The Earth Will Spin Around (VILD Recordings) 
Koria Kitten Riot - The Earth Will Spin Around

If you’re after some chilled and blissed out indie from a bygone era but with a thoroughly modern, Finnish vibe then a) you’re very demanding but b) you’ve come to the right place. Helsinki outfit Koria Kitten Riot have borrowed heavily from the past on ‘The Earth Will Spin Around’ with Sgt. Peppers era Beatles in evidence but the languid guitars and summery haze vocals are pure Wilco, Midlake, Grandaddy, Grasshow and Elliot Smith which are all very good things. I’m all for protest songs – in fact I actively encourage them – but sometimes what you actually need is a song that says “fuck it, let’s climb that hill, lie in the long grass, roll a fat one and stare at the clouds until the sun goes down or somebody presses a big red button and kills us all….whichever comes first”. And don’t forget the Doritos.






CODE WALK FEAT. SMERZ - SINGLE REVIEW

Code Walk feat. Smerz – Guess What (F12 Records) 
Code Walk feat. Smerz - Guess What

This track is one of those that makes you stop what you’re doing and pay attention but not in an overly aggressive way - like spotting a cool looking bar down an alley way that you’ve walked past a hundred times before without ever noticing. On ‘Guess What’ Code Walk create minimalist, sparse electro dance for those more spaced out moments of the night while Smerz add some sultry vocals that don’t force the issue in any way but take you back to those pioneering days of EDM in the 90s when the likes of Josh Wink and Underworld were too hot to handle. A Danish duo writing sparse songs in Norway has resulted in this track and it’s just perfect for late night/early morning chilled vibes which, I suspect, was the very intention. 

THE KLARES - SINGLE REVIEW

The Klares – Black Huarache 
The Klares - Black Huarache

Ferocious. That’s the word that immediately springs to mind when Irish lads The Klares kick this track off at 100 mph. Imagine Keith Moon drumming for the Arctic Monkeys while Iggy Pop demands more, more, more from the production booth and that’s something like the energy you can expect from new single ‘Black Huarache’ (NB I had to look up huarache – it’s a Mexican sandal by all accounts). The effervescence of youth runs through this track like letters through a stick of rock but those letters would spell out F.U.C.K.Y.O.U. as the bands punkish attitude is only tamed by their own ability to bring the song back to a point of melody when it suits them. Three minutes, ten seconds and a whole of exuberance makes this a great track and one that no doubt kicks things off when these boys play live. Today Dublin, tomorrow – your daughter’s bedroom window. Fair warning.



Live Dates: 

16th February - The Academy, Dublin

JOHNOSSI - SINGLE REVIEW

Johnossi – Hands (Polydor) 
Johnossi - Hands

Well this is euphoric stuff on a very personal level. Swedish duo Johnossi offer ‘Hands’ for your delectation which is essentially an uplifting dance track played out on a couple of guitars and a bit of percussion so you can dance in slow motion around a fire on a beach somewhere on the Mediterranean. Think Passengers and Avicii or Calvin Harris having a jam with his mates because nobody takes a laptop to a BBQ on a beach, right? Strangely, it’s also the kind of tune that could wake the judges up from their slumber and be, you know, pretty good on Eurovision but I’m fairly sure Sweden don’t want the hassle of hosting the competition again. My only beef with this track is the press shot that looks like the mum of the one of the left has said “boys, just let me take a picture of you in your band, you’re so adorable!”. Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum, ugh. So embarrassing.



Live Dates: 

15th February - Oslo, Hackney
1st March - Werk 2, Leipzig
2nd March - FLEX, Vienna
3rd March - Muffathalle, Munich
4th March - Volkhaus, Zurich



NATALIE LAIN – EP REVIEW

Natalie Lain – Natalie Lain EP 
Natalie Lain - Natalie Lain EP 



Release Date: Out Now

There is something wonderful about a person who opens their heart up to a world of music, regardless of style, genre or era. So when Pennsylvania resident Natalie Lain comes shuffling in to view citing Nirvana, Joplin and Patti Smith as influences you’ve got to give her stuff a listen, right? This new EP opens with ‘Bruises’, a tune so subtle and subdued it sounds initially like the kind of tune that’s played at the end of a party when everyone is so wasted that they can barely lift a glass/roll-up to their mouth. But listen and closer and the embers are still glowing – there’s a fire in the belly as Lain’s vocals come through gritted teeth and the Quentin Tarantino guitars give this a slightly sinister, feisty edge. ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ comes on like a Bond theme, such are the smoky, sultry vocals from Ms Lain and sense of danger about the jazz influenced musicianship delivered with real pop style and confidence.

That slightly sinister theme continues on ‘Murder is Forever’ (not just for Christmas, presumably) as the distant guitars jangle in from the shadows as Lain sings “I remember our first kiss and through the blood I tasted on your lips” sounding for all the world like Feist’s younger sister who has been dabbling in the occult whilst listening to Taylor Swift. The EP closes out on ‘No Turning Back’ which is a bona fide pop track with quick-fire vocals and minor notes that suggest the kind of sadness that comes just before defiance and resolution kick in and you come back fighting. Natalie Lain sings “I think that this is my turning point and there’s no turning back” which is an incredible piece of self-reflection. You see, right now Lain is at a fork in the road where she can pursue the pop songwriting path and go for the big bucks or she can opt to be her own artist and explore that darker side that intrigues and excites so much. The great thing is that she has no pressure to choose just yet and the talent to make a success of both paths if she wants to.

Listen Here: 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

LEON OF ATHENS – SINGLE REVIEW

Leon of Athens – Xenos 
Leon Of Athens - Xenos


Release Date: Out Now

As a list of influences go, Talking Heads, Fugazi, Nick Drake, Brian Eno, Velvet Underground and Diego Maradona is a pretty eclectic and eccentric list. It’s also a list that could never have been compiled by an Englishman – no Englishman would cite Maradona as an influence when trying to describe the music they create. Anyway, that’s all by the by, Leon of Athens (the compiler of said list) has a new single out by the name of ‘Xenos’ and, well, it starts as a lo-fi piece of alt-pop based on a lone pulse and some subdued vocals. Then comes the sexy guitar riff and shuffling beat that is as itchy as it is urgent. There’s some light relief in the floaty chorus but in general this song exists on nervous energy and a sense of unease that is hard to shake off even when the time runs out and this four-minute beast builds to an abrupt crescendo. Intriguing, for sure, like a mysterious figure in the shadows – intriguing but unnerving.


SARAH BEATTY – SINGLE REVIEW

Sarah Beatty – Bandit Queen 
Sarah Beatty - Bandit Queen


Release Date: Out Now

This is a feisty little tune befitting its subject matter, a story about a 19th century horse rustler and bank robber of the female persuasion. ‘Bandit Queen’ has a bluesy groove on the acoustic but Beatty’s voice skips and soars with a style that is somewhere between pop and jazz (pazz perhaps). Lyrically, this is pure Laura Marling meets Joan Baez story telling at it’s very best – “I’m the baddest bandit queen you did ever see” and “I’ve got a brain between these legs”. Sarah Beatty hails from Hamilton in Canada but the dry, dusty swagger behind this tune is pure mid-west America if ever I heard it. Now chew the cork out of a bottle of sarsaparilla and strap this on to your ears.


MAYA KILLTRON – SINGLE REVIEW

Maya Killtron – Bad Decisions 
Maya Killtron - Bad Decisions


Release Date: Out Now

Killtron is a pretty bad ass name to be born with so I’m assuming this is a stage name but I could be misguided on that one. The Toronto singer’s new single, ‘Bad Decisions’, is mighty funky, might sexy and a whole heap of infectious. Think Chic, 80s funk and Daft Punk bass lines with oh-so-soulful vocals that would fit on a bill with Donna Summer, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston during her younger, more lively days. Maya Killtron has a classy voice that fits this kind of genre perfectly whilst bringing it bang up to date with a 21st Century vibe at the same time. Classy, funky, talented and contemporary – what more could you ask for?



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

LIFE – SINGLE REVIEW

Life – Euromillions 
Life - Euromillions


Release Date: Out Now

There’s definitely something stirring up in Hull at the moment with a steady stream of new artists nudging their way out of the City of Culture. Life (seriously, no other band has used that before?) are the latest and they are pretty pissed off which is just what I’ve been looking for in 2017. This track, ‘Euromillions’, see the brothers Mez and Mick present a double fronted attack over the top of a sinister bass line and sneering guitars – this song is all about the lyrics. “I could have screamed bloody murder, don’t believe the buses”, “Dragon slayer bulldog wrapped in a red cross”, “Redneck racist eagle, draped in delusion built a wall across his borders”. Life are seeing and hearing what we’re all hearing and seeing but they’re using their voice to say something about it whilst sounding like the Fall and NARCS. This is abrasive and, for some, uncomfortable but for me this is the tip of the ice-berg. If 2017 isn’t full of protest songs and instead all we hear is songs about sex and dancing in clubs then there really is no hope for our world.


Live Dates:

1st April – The Welly Club, Hull
2nd April – King Tuts, Glasgow
3rd April – Gullivers, Manchester
5th April – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
6th April – Camden Assembly, London
7th April – Crofters Rights, Bristol

8th April – Café Indiependent, Scunthorpe 

FAST ROMANTICS – SINGLE REVIEW

Fast Romantics – Why We Fight (Light Organ/Postwar Records) 
Fast Romantics - Why We Fight


Release Date: 27th January 2017

Look at this bunch of smooth criminals. This looks like the cast photo for a new inner-city drama about six friends trying to make it against all the odds – kinda like friends but with more grit. Now, you know I’d never judge a book by its cover or a band by their press shot which is lucky because Canadian Sextet Fast Romantics just might have created the anthem for liberal rebellion against all the right wing hatred pervading our society right now. ‘Why We Fight’ (great title by the way) is the perfect blend of Arcade Fire at their most pissed off, Bruce Springsteen at his most accessible and the Killers at their stadium filling best. The beautifully placed lyrics of “Every morning when I wake up, I put another bullet in my coffee cup” and “Deep in the guts of me, I love you violently until the dawn’s early light” seem to capture something of the right here, right now and stir a little something in my soul that makes me want to rebel. I want to march, I want to shout, I want to let the people in power know that I’m not cool with what they’re doing and now I have a soundtrack. Thanks Fast Romantics, you’re alright by me.



Watch The Video: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/fast_romantics-why_we_fight_video

Monday, 23 January 2017

MOSLEY BAR – SINGLE REVIEW

Mosley Bar – Two Apart 
Mosley Bar - Two Apart


Release Date: 30th January 2017

Skelmersdale. It’s a great name for a place is Skelmersdale. It just rolls off the tongue and round the teeth. The town has spawned fresh young band ‘Mosley Bar’ who, in turn, are about to share their new single ‘Two Apart’ and it’s got a great and instant energy about it that I haven’t heard since the Arctic Monkeys first burst on to the scene. The guitars just about get away with being 80s influenced and jangly because there’s a stuttering, jutting feel to this track that gives it a truly contemporary feel. The impatient snare and high hat work well to get heads nodding while the smoothly delivered vocal sings from a place of frustration and desperation, only satisfied when the chorus moves that energy to a higher level. The song comes to an impetuous and triumphant crescendo that moves this in to the realms of genuine indie floor filler which is not something I say lightly. Give me 3 pints of basic lager and a dance floor and I’d be spinning to this and that’s high praise.


ARCADE FIRE FEAT. MAVIS STAPLES – SINGLE REVIEW

Arcade Fire Feat. Mavis Staples – I Give You Power 
Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples - I Give You Power


Release Date: Out Now

I will always associate Arcade Fire with dark times for some very personal reasons linked to the 7/7 bombings in London but this new single fuses the bands ability to make social commentary with their love for pushing musical boundaries. ‘I Give You Power’ has a low down, dirty, 70s disco meets evangelical soul feel but all played out on the most lo-fi equipment. The blues structure works so well with the refrain “I give you power over me; I give you power but I gotta be free” as the tune works through some processed beats and that funky disco pulse played on synths with Mavis Staples’ vocals adding that authentic soul vibe. Give this a spin and revel in the funky side of rebellion.



Live Dates:

3rd June – Primavera Sound, Barcelona
10th June - Isle of Wight Festival, Isle of Wight
17th June – Best Kept Secret Festival, Hilvarenbeek
19th June – Inmusic festival, Zagreb
24th June – Roskilde Festival, Denmark
29th June – Rock Werchter Festival, Werchter
9th July – Eurockeenes Festival, Sermamagny
11th July – Ahoi! The Full Hit of Summer, Linz

15th July – Vieilles Charres Festival, Carhaix-Plouguer

INTERVIEW WITH THE MALTHUSIAN TRAP

Interview with the Malthusian Trap @ The Bread & Roses, Plymouth

Walking in to a bar and asking three strangers “are you guys a band?” is possibly one of the less cool things I have done in my life but it panned out nicely. The three be-bearded gents were a band and the band in question are Plymouth’s The Malthusian Trap – although I was taking a punt as the general clientele of the Bread & Roses look like the green room for the BBC area at Glastonbury. Doug, Rob and Damon are the three men that make up the Malthusian Trap and after being charged five pounds (FIVE) for a beer we retired to the courtyard so that we could hear ourselves thinking and hear each other talking. The result of that thinking and talking can be found below.
The Malthusian Trap - no puppets

Huddled around a small, low table with me are Doug (Bassist and Programmer) and Rob (Guitarist) while self-confessed ‘frontman’ Damon prowls the small space like a man born to the role. One thing that is instantly noticeable is that these three men speak the same language with three distinct accents; Mancunian, Midlands and Plymouthian. So, naturally, my first question is why or how have these three ended up in Plymouth music together and shaking up the scene with said music. “Well, it was just uni I suppose, I did plan to leave but it’s like a pleasant purgatory isn’t it?”, is the opening salvo from Doug, the resident Midlander.

“I was born here so I’m double shafted”, offers Rob before Damon chimes in with “I like it here, it’s alright. It’s a world of opportunity for everything other than music, it’s just hard to do music here. I’m originally from Stockport which is effectively in the shadows Manchester which is easier and has more opportunities but it’s also a bigger pond with bigger fish which makes it harder. We gig all over the place so we’re not hindered by the fact that there’s not much going on in Plymouth. It can be frustrating though, like we played London last week but instead of staying over and all the typical rock’n’roll dangers or pitfalls that involves we decided to drive up and back in one day with a gig in the middle. That’s nearly 500 miles in a day. It’s not easy”.

Aside from the location issue then, how difficult is it for the band to generate an audience, whether that be physical or virtual. “Anyone who claps is a bonus”, chips in Doug and then explains more seriously, “we struggle with not having friends here. That’s your normal starting point and we used to do that with my mate DJing, we all used to pile down. We can command a bigger crowd almost anywhere else but we’re in Plymouth for a reason, we like it here, we’re settled here and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the UK but we do hit problems when we turn up without a drummer so we just get pigeon holed as something different. When we play in London, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds we’re not seen as different, we’re not the only band without a drummer. The style down here tends to be for over stimulated music and that’s not us. I want some dirt, y’know?”

The Malthusian Trap - better than Steps
Damon steps in to qualify that last comment, “We do have a reputation for being a bit ‘up ourselves’ but we do like other bands down here and we do respect other musicians but on the whole it’s just harder down here cos the scene is dead fragmented. There’s the metallers, the Oasis mod kids, the big acoustic coastal scene and then there’s just us…..there”. “Or” says Doug “our music’s just shit and everyone hates it”. This pretty much sums up the Malthusian Trap; they take their music seriously as an art form but they don’t themselves too seriously and that’s a refreshing mix these days. “It’s lucky we’ve moved around and played in different places because if we’d just played in Plymouth I genuinely would have thought our music was crap! Everywhere else people clap and dance and enjoy it but the lack of venues down here means it’s hard to get much diversity going in the scene. We had that one guy at the uni that time but he was lashed. Like proper hammered”.

And then Damon comes out with the kind of response a Footballer would give that tells you everything and nothing at the same time so I need to be careful to quote accurately; “We’re in a really good space at the minute, we’re just concentrating on what we’re doing, where we wanna go to and just trying to put everything on the table so that we know when we get to wherever we’re at that we’ve given it the best chance to do what we want to do with it”. It’s a bit rambling but this says everything you need to know about the band’s drive and musical ambition rather than personal ambition.

The trouble with ambition is that you have to back it up with some actions so the natural question is to ask what the band have lined up for 2017….and beyond. Damon’s got this one, “we have got loads going on but some of it isn’t quite there yet, if you know what I mean. We’re booked on for five dates in Germany, 3 in April and 2 in Autumn. We’re playing London again in February at the Amersham Arms and we’ve been offered a venue in Manchester for later on in the year as well as something in Birmingham. There’s a new music video, festivals and all sorts but we’re getting offered stuff that we’re not able to do which is frustrating. We’re also writing new material too but I don’t think we’ll be recording anything until the end of the year. This year is all about gigs but because we’re big headed and we think we’re great, we’re trying to amass enough footage to put together a documentary…..but that’s all dependent on the story and whether there is a story other than three reprobates trying to make it. Maybe that’s the story!”, the three amigos collapse in laughter again – ambition but humility in evidence again.

The Malthusian Trap - Techno-colour
So, the ambition is there, the plan of action is there but is there an audience for what they’re doing?
Surely, in a university city, there is a captive audience? Damon’s on form again, “I don’t think the students are arsed. All they want is for Mark Wright to come down and chuck alcopops at them, don’t they? The thing is, I used to be a DJ and there is a decent subculture of DJs and House music but I don’t think anyone’s that bothered about bands. It’s a national thing as well, lots of venues are shutting and I do think we’re in the darkest of days in terms of being in a band. Like, in the early 90s there were people in bands who admitted they were absolutely terrible but they got signed to an independent label, toured Europe, spent their advance and they were happy as pigs in shit. But now everything is dead calculated and in a box. You’ve got to do one thing with your social media and another thing with your video, manufacturing your sound and your image just to get to where you want to go. I keep looking at these new bands that are making it and I just can’t see it. This music wouldn’t even touch the radio when we were kids so I think it’s going to eat itself to a point. Vinyl’s come back in because people want something substantial and organic, people are shying away from shit and showing an interest in real, proper music again but whether it happens in time for us is anyone’s guess”.

This whole conversation is being played out to a soundtrack of muffled organ playing and the occasional stream of piss being dispensed in the men’s toilets which we are sat outside. It’s not glamorous but these guys are not doing this for the glamour. We talk more about the death of politically charged protest music – Doug “I think it died in the 90s. That whole Britpop thing was contrived, they put a label on it as it was happening rather than after the event” – social media – Damon “we’ve only got about 320 followers but some bands have amassed 20,000 followers and still nobody goes to their gigs” – and the disconnect between people and music – Damon “people have forgotten how to interact with music”.

Importantly though, we get to the point that sparks a fire in Damon’s belly – the idea that music is becoming the preserve of the rich. “Now, we can talk about this. It happens all the time. When we were playing in London a friend of mine came to see us who used to be in a band that nearly got signed but they basically ran out of two things; energy and money. All the arts seem to be taken over by people who have parents who are able to support their quest to be an actor or a musician or whatever which is fine but the biggest problem we have isn’t our geography, it’s the resources available to us. You need to pay for PR, we have to buy tickets off promoters to sell for our gigs and it’s all driven by money. The situation with Slaves getting that PRS grant money when they’re already signed and established is genuinely disgusting”. Doug agrees “loads of these artists say nothing to me and to loads of people. You’ve got a good voice? So fucking what? Loads of people have terrible voices but they’ve got something to say and that’s important, y’know?”

The Malthusian Trap - Arty types
We discuss the issue of cover bands versus originals but this raises an ugly issue from the band’s recent past that spiralled way out of control and proportion so it’s probably best not to fan those particular flames. It occurs to me that we haven’t talked much about the band’s music so we open the floor for a bit of chat about influences, musical or otherwise. When offered the chance to go first with a rare foray in to the conversation Rob assumes this is because his tastes are considered to be worst, “I’m your classic Britpop fan. It started with the Beatles and the Kinks then I became a massive Oasis fan and that’s what got me in to guitar playing. Ocean Colour Scene are my favourite band of all time but since I’ve been in this band I don’t listen to music anymore; it does my head in to listen to anyone else”.

Doug’s up next, “It was my parents’ record collection that kicked me off really; Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and loads of shit as well but then when Acid House came along I just thought ‘what the fuck is that?’ but I loved it. Then I went back to the Stone Roses and I got it but I hadn’t got it before”. For Damon it’s more straightforward, “I don’t really like music to be honest. My dad used to go to the Hacienda so I heard all of that, I love Manchester music (apart from Morrissey), I got in to Grime and Garage when I used to DJ so my ears are still tuned towards more urban sounds than anything else. We’re quite politically minded too which has an impact on the music as well as art, TV and, well, our lives”. Doug agrees but also doesn’t, “Art and music go hand in hand and art is shit at the moment. In the 90s the art was good and there was good music and the artists and musicians all hung out together but then money got involved with art and it all went wrong”.

At this point our sanctuary is invaded by a man who heard Damon’s voice from his position at the urinal and wanted to catch up with the charismatic singer. Then there was a girl who wanted to get a gig because we were talking about music and then the band needed a round and some pork scratchings. All of this kind of brought the interview to a natural end but I got what I came for – the reputation of the Malthusian Trap is of a band ready for a verbal scrap and looking for trouble. While some of that is true, these three gents are also extremely talented, highly motivated, impressively ambitious and focused on honing their art regardless of whether fame, fortune and a bevy of half-naked lovers come their way. I can dig that, you’ve gotta dig that too, right?


Live Dates:


25th February – The Amersham Arms, London

Saturday, 21 January 2017

TEN TOMBS – SINGLE REVIEW

Ten Tombs – Saccharine 
Ten Tombs - Saccharine


Release Date: Out Now

Now, I know what you’re thinking; Cheltenham isn’t your traditional hot bed of musical talent but nevertheless that’s where feisty quartet Ten Tombs are based so we’ve got to believe there’s something happening there. The band’s new single ‘Saccharine’ is an instantly lively indie-rock romp that would work on mainstream radio but has a dark underside that gives this artistic kudos. The smooth, almost funky guitars blend with a grumbling bass and grungy vocal to create a slacker vibe with enough nous to remember the importance of melody. Ten Tombs could be lumped in with the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen but for me there’s something more edgy, more youthful here that suggests they could come up with something really vital if they just get drunk enough. Youth, energy, a smattering of talent and a singing bassist – now that’s a combination that could light up any town, even Cheltenham.



FUFANU – SINGLE REVIEW

Fufanu – Liability (One Little Indian Records) 
Fufanu - Liability 


Release Date: Out Now

Reykjavik trio Fufanu used to be a techno duo so we can safely assume that what we have here is some sort of musical evolution. This latest single from the Icelandic bunch, ‘Liability’, is a lively romp through post-punk and 70s French electro-disco in to a world that exists somewhere between LCD Soundsystem, the Go Team and Jona Lewie’s dead pan delivery. They synths are as organic as they come while the drums kick hard with a determination to make you move your sorry feet. At nearly four minutes long this is as ambitious as it is primal and the fuzzy tones that lead to the crescendo are a real thing of beauty to revel in.



Live Dates:

14th February – Gulliver’s, Manchester
15th February – Oporto, Leeds
17th February – Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow
20th February – The Flapper, Birmingham
21st February – The Lousiana, Bristol
22nd February – Kamio, London

23rd February – Green Door Store, Brighton