Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 12th Nov
Nic Cester is renowned for his debut solo album ‘Sugar Rush’ as well as being part of the all-star rock ‘n’ roll collective The Jaded Hearts Club and for his success with Jet. But now the singer-songwriter reveals a very different side to his creativity as he announces the release of his debut children’s book and companion album ‘Skipping Girl’.
Although the book is aimed at children, the companion album is not, as, according to the release blurb which we get sent with every release review, “The companion album works on two levels. On one hand, they offer chapters of where the Skipping Girl’s future adventures may have taken her. But they also allow the adult emotions behind the story, which are too nuanced to be conveyed in a children’s book, to come to life.”
Now I haven’t had the chance to read the book so this review will consider the album on its own merit.
The title of the first track, “Goodnight Beautiful” suggests a warm and emotion laden cuddle of a track, and we are not disappointed. A lullaby waltz with gentle string sounds wraps around us, holds us in its arms, and quietly dances us with happy tears of contentment for a wonderful three and a half minutes. Sublime.
“Forever” is a pleasant enough couple of minutes, a more traditional four beats to the bar, but to be honest I’m still enraptured by the first track.
“Emily” gives us a toe-tapping one way conversation with the eponymous Emily. Spacious and well-constructed in instrumentation. “We all make mistakes, but you don’t have to make the same” sings Nic, and before we know it the track is at an end when we were just getting to know Emily. Probably concentrating on the instrumental to the detriment of the lyrics (one of my many weaknesses). One to listen to again.
In “Cry Baby” we hear Nic’s voice being used to its best effect, taking for the first time on this album front of stage. At three minutes and forty seconds, this is the longest track on the album. But it doesn’t seem long, and the poppy little number draws us in to swaying on our seats in time with its comfortable rhythm.
“Don’t Lean On Me” takes us back to three beats to the bar. Vocal harmonies add to the string sounds, and the percussion and bass play a strong part in holding everything together, adding up to a strong track. “I don’t pretend that I know what to say, to have all the answers, to show you the way” sings Nic. In the context of the song, he’s spot on, but he’s certainly not singing about the quality of this track. It’s great. Not loud, not in your face, but very much the opposite. Quietly masterful.
“Love isn’t sober, it’s fragile and scared” sings Nic in the opening of “The Way That We Are”, and it’s a reminder to this reviewer that the lyrics in this album are certainly worth listening to.
“All In Your Head” has a strong Sergeant Pepper vibe going on. Another track constructed with love.
An album to accompany a book is an unusual concept, and I fear that this album may be overlooked as a result. But this would be criminal; the album stands rock solid on its own. It has an intimacy that is missing from so many releases and is unafraid to be true to itself.
It deserves to sell in bucketloads.
1. ‘Goodnight Beautiful’ (intro)
4. ‘Cry Baby’
5. ‘Don’t Lean On Me’
6. ‘Ordinary Love’
7. ‘The Way That We Are’
8. ‘All In Your Head’
9. ‘Goodnight Beautiful’ (outro)
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 19th Nov
Hailing from Lowestoft, The Darkness exploded into the lime light in 2002 with their massive hit I Believe In A Thing Called Love. Not ones to shy in corners, with skin tight sequined jump suits and falsetto vocals they pushed their 70’s rock influences out front and ran with it! Then almost as quickly as they came, with a little Christmas hit and a second album, they fell from the spotlight, with rehab and line-up changes, truly following their glam rock influences, the band to a lot of the public, myself included were no more despite putting out 7 albums, maybe it’s time to give them another try?
Opening the album, Welcome Tae Glasgae, distorted guitars, heavy rolling drums and bagpipes, it’s a powerful Celtic rock intro, but as soon as the vocals come in you can see they’ve lost none of their cheek. Singing about the M47 motorway and how the women are gorgeous and the food’s ok, and the legendary King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, this tale of tour life up north pays tribute to the city so far from their home is a fantastic catchy wall of sound.
Its Love Jim is a love song given the Darkness twist, solid crunching ACDC-esque simple rhythm guitars and drums, peppered with ever higher screeches of love love love, they slip between going heavier and then poppy, its easy to forget that he tells you that the woman in question is an alien, this is The Darkness after all.
Motorheart, the albums title, is hard to pin down, you can hear their influences in this more than any other, with intro riffs that could have been written by Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden fame, with a big chunks of Queen dropped in the middle. All while double bass drums driving everything forwards, slipping into Johnny cash takes on Ministry, almost like they decided to go big but didn’t quite decide on a direction first.
The middle of the album is more stripped back, settling back on their core of catchy guitar riffs and vocals, The Power And the Glory, Jussys Girl and Sticky Situations, are true rock songs, stepping away from their more cheesy lyrical style, layering on backing vocals and guitar solos, you get the feeling it’s the band just showing everyone that they really are good at what they do, a group of tight talented musicians that can write really good songs not just one hit wonders.
Speed Of The Night Time really stands out, a very different new wave tinged track, darker than the rest of the album, with 80’s synth sounds and sampled screams and processed vocals, it perfectly conjures up a specific time.
Straight back to the bright fun sounds of You Don’t Have To Be Crazy, and It’s A Love Thang, after the pallet cleanser, and they pour it on thick. The guitars are never quiet and still, little riffs all over, full of fun and energy. With some cracking bass guitar, giving a bit of funk whilst Justin’s vocals break through.
What other way is there to close a rock album than with acoustic guitars, strings and vocals, while not as full of energy as the 11 tracks before it, it’s beautiful in its simplicity. They could very easily release an acoustic album if that’s anything to go by.
I started by saying maybe it’s time to give them another try and this album has shown me that I’ve been wrong to not try sooner. It’s catchy, fun and energetic, its well written and performed. I couldn’t help but love it, it’s a review full of cliché’s and name dropping of other bands because they love a cliché and their music name drops throughout. They don’t steal, rather they flatter, proudly showing off their influences,
I’m gutted to not see them on this tour but I’m definitely getting a copy of this album, its superb and has to be one of the best I’ve heard this year.
I can’t praise it highly enough.
1. Welcome Tae Glasgae
2. It’s Love, Jim
4. The Power And The Glory Of Love
5. Jussy’s Girl
6. Sticky Situations
7. Nobody Can See Me Cry
9. Speed Of The Nite Time
10. You Don’t Have To Be Crazy About Me… But It Helps *
11. It’s A Love Thang (You Wouldn’t Understand) *
12. So Long *
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 14th Jan 22
Blood Red Shoes cordially welcome you to their nightmare.
The Brighton duo of Laura Mary Carter and Steven Ansell serve up their sixth album and it’s all (serial) killer no filler. The pair explore the spirit and mind of those on the outermost fringes of existence namely the aforementioned multiple murderers.
Anyone of a nervous disposition should look away now.
However in the hands of these two skilled operators the listener is introduced to a dark and uneasy world by virtue of a synth heavy goth soundtrack interspersed with minimal sinister guitar riffs and vocals dripping with menace and intent.
The music and often catchy choruses can belie the sinister undertones lurking in the lyrics and there is plenty here to enjoy despite the bleak subject matter.
The opening track Comply begins with a slow haunting piano melody which sets the tone that all is not well. A sense of foreboding is present and the tension builds as the distorted lyric give us the defiant refrain of ‘I will not comply.’ The journey has begun.
Morbid Fascination is dominated by a sweeping synth riff and cool aloof vocals from Laura. A confident stand out song which was the first single to be taken from the album.
Her icy vocals take us into the next track, Murder Me and it’s catchy chorus of ‘I know what you want,I know what you feel’ hints at an unhealthy interest that we know isn’t going to end well.
Sucker is delivered in a Shirley Manson style vocal but the refrain is accompanied by sinister guitar accompaniment in the background.
Begging slows things down with languid pleading voice to the fore. The insistent penetrating guitar remains in the background so the edginess is maintained.
My favourite track on the album is I Lose Whatever I Own which possesses an almost Kasabian style swagger in it’s powerful electronic riff.
Interspersed throughout the album are three 30 second or so snippets of distortion which maintain the overall edginess to proceedings.
Elsewhere Steve supplies vocal lead on the remaining tracks that compliment the unsettling mood.
If you feel like living dangerously and being challenged I urge you to enter the dark gothic world of Ghosts on Tape .
2. MORBID FASCINATION
3. MURDER ME
4. (i’ve been watching you)
5. GIVE UP
8. (you claim to understand)
9. I AM NOT YOU
10. DIG A HOLE
11. I LOSE WHATEVER I OWN
12. (what have you been waiting for?)
13. FOUR TWO SEVEN
Reviewed By John Seales
Album released 17th Dec
When rock and roll pioneer and legend Chuck Berry tired of playing to massive crowds, he would seek out more intimate venues. Blueberry Hill in his hometown of St Louis was where he played most often, particularly in his final years.
This album is a collection of tracks recorded there between July 2005 and January 2006
Berry, in case you don’t know, was an old school rock and roller. Before the days of autotunes and synthesisers, he would strut his stuff on stage with Lucille, his trusty Gibson 335 semi acoustic guitar, bashing out compositions which became rock and roll standards.
With live albums, you’re looking to get the atmosphere of the gig rather than musical perfection. However, it’s also important that the sound recording is up to scratch.
About three bars into the first track, it’s obvious that the boxes have been ticked. The crowd applaud, the band launch into raw rock and roll and each of the instruments is clear to hear.
It’s easy to imagine you are a part of the crowd and not some distant listener, both geographically and in time.
If you love rock and roll in its purest form you’ll love this.
Top class musicians playing the music they love. There is a real energy here, and it’s obvious why Berry was such a star; in his prime he must have been unstoppable. This was recorded when he was in his late seventies, and the passion is still very much there.
There’s little point in looking at each track separately here; each is either a mid or up tempo blues based rock number, most of which have been covered many times by other artists. Even The Beatles’ earlier numbers include covers of the music of this man.
This album is a fantastic reminder of the raw energy of early rock and roll and of the impact the pioneers still have on modern music.
If you already love Berry, this is naturally a must-have. If you’re not familiar, then it’s well worth a listen.
You may be surprised just how well a septuagenarian can hammer out a tune.
1) Roll Over Beethoven
2) Rock And Roll Music
3) Let It Rock
4) Carol / Little Queenie
5) Sweet Little Sixteen
6) Around And Around
9) Mean Old World
10) Johnny B. Goode
Reviewed By John Seales
Album released 3rd Dec
“Written early-on in 2021, ‘Survival of the Friendliest’ is a direct reaction to the dreariness of those hard Winter months. Sidelining the endless negativity of social media, Beans turned back to nature and began to focus squarely on the brighter-sides and silver-linings of life, from a time when they seemed few and far between. The result is a record that finds the long-established protest singer changing his tune to one of eternal hope and optimism, peace and possibilities.“
So at least says the blurb that accompanied the review copy of this album. It suggests a remorselessly up-tempo happy little poppy number that is a trifle one dimensional. But the proof of the pudding is, to confusingly mix my metaphors, in the ear of the beholder, so let’s do that and withhold judgement until we’ve done so….
By the way, Beans On Toast has a tradition of releasing an album on his birthday, December 1st,. This is his 14th release. His real name is Jay McAllister and he hails from Braintree, Essex.
The album opens with “A Beautiful Place”. Well, yes, we have an up tempo happy little poppy number but it’s far from mindless. “History is lots of different peoples’ point of view. What matters now is how you live the life it’s given you” sings Beans, and we can’t argue with that.
“Stones” gives us a slower, more introspective singer with his acoustic guitar for accompaniment. The meditative lyrics are well worth a listen, and – happily for me – it disabuses me of my fear that this would be an album lacking any kind of depth.
“Blow Volcano Blow” is something that would sit very happily on an Ian Dury and the Blockheads recording. Toe tapping and happy.
“Not Everybody Thinks We’re Doomed” is another happy little number that reinforces Bean’s philosophy of making the most of what you have. “For every day that you survive, you get a free sunset”. As with the rest of the album, the musicianship is good and it’s well produced, but the lyrics are the drivers. A nice little musical joke has Beans singing the hookline “Not everybody thinks we’re doomed”, followed by the backing singers singing “We’re doomed”. (Works better in the song than on paper).
“Tree Of The Year” returns us to a more folksy reflective mode, and “Humans” nicely captures the humour in the paradox of the human condition.
“The Commons” is a return to Bean’s roots as a gentle protest singer, regarding the amount of rural land that is not accessible to the common man. But “Let’s Get Married Again” is back to the predominant happy mood, celebrating long term successful relationships.
“Apples” celebrates the circle of life, specifically the magic of growth of wood and fruit from a small insignificant seed.
“Ready For Action” surprises us with an electronic snare and an overall electronic musical support for Bean’s vocals. It’s followed by the last track, “Love Yourself”. This is all about being true to who you are and making the small individual differences that cumulatively make a big difference. “If you want to be happy, you’re going to have to learn to be kind”. It’s a positive message, a fitting end to the album, and accompanied by a soaring guitar solo.
This is an album that celebrates the good things in life rather than focussing on the negative. It does not pretend that there is no negative – indeed some tracks do focus on this - but the overall message is that we should never forget to celebrate the good things too. We could all do with some positivity given the past year or two, and this album provides it in an intelligent yet humble way.
1. A Beautiful Place
3. Blow Volcano Blow
4. Not Everybody Thinks We’re Doomed
5. Tree Of The Year
7. The Commons
8. Let’s Get Married Again
10. Ready For Action
11. Love Yourself
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 21st Jan 22
This is British-born Canadian actor’s third album; previous ones being released in 2016 and 2019.
Although best known as an actor, this fact is really of no relevance to how good the music is (or is not), so let’s ignore the whole acting thing and consider the album as a stand-alone entity.
“Bloor Street” is the first track, and within a couple of bars we are into a nicely produced American Adult Oriented Rock number. Kiefer’s vocals stand up well. An easy listening and toe-tapping three and a half minutes.
“Going Down” is a similar number with the de rigeur electric bass, electric guitar and drums supplemented by an acoustic guitar.
“Two Stepping In Time” has some nice vocal harmonies adding to the mix. Upbeat and happy, this would be great live. The toe continues to tap for another three and a half minutes, but I’m starting to wonder whether there will be more on this album than inoffensive four beats to the bar AOR.
“So Full Of Love” gives us (you guessed it) three and a half minutes of well put together AOR.
Um, tracks 5, 6, 7 follow the same pattern.
“Chasing The Rain” has lyrics that sum it up for me “The songs that I sing all start to feel the same” sings Kiefer. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The final track introduces a pleasant mix of male and female lead vocals which provides some relief, but it’s too little too late.
Have you ever had a meal that you’ve really enjoyed, then had it again and again and again? After the first few times the pleasure starts to wear off and you find you’re yearning for something different.
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and without it things lose their pleasure. It’s like that with this album. A great start followed by something similar then repeating with more of the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against American style AOR, and this music is really well produced and well done, it’s easy to listen to and won’t offend anyone. If that’s what you’re after, then I can thoroughly recommend this album. But if you’re after something with real emotion, something to make you think or something that shows great breadth then this ain’t it.
Horses for courses.
1) Bloor Street
2) Going Down
3) Two Stepping In Time
4) So Full Of Love
5) County Jail Gate
7) Lean Into Me
8) Chasing The Rain
9) Nothing Left To Say
10) Set Me Free
11) Down The Line
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 21st Jan 22
Despite only being 35, Miles has been signed, either solo or in a band for almost 20 years, supporting the Artic Mondays at 21 with The Rascals, on to working with Alex Turner and then a collection or solo albums and super groups brings us to the 2022 Change the Show
Opening the album with a some simple keys on Tears are falling, it’s a gentle introduction, and then those vocals come in! You could be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to early Marc Bolan, the vocals are eerily similar, while almost crying out in places they never sound forced, full of real feeling, nicely complimented by the drums which are really brought to the forefront.
Don’t Let It get You Down is the first single off the album with frantic bongos for the first 15 seconds you’re not quite sure where its going after the chilled start of the album, to a Lily Savage sample of course! And while it sounds a little weird it fits. A very 60’s sound, full of soulful Motown vibes, the brass percussion and backing vocals could have come from a Bond movie. It’s so packed and full of life and sound it deserves to be the first single, but I wonder if it should have been first on the album too?
Miles is joined by Corinne Bailey Rae on Nothings ever gonna be good enough, a piano led duet where their vocals really compliment each other in their back-and-forth conversation, coming together for a few lines here and there, with gorgeous lively music and then its gone. Sadly at 2 minutes 30 you’re left wanting more, but every good song should want to leave you wanting more from the artist.
Never Get Tired Of Dancing moves away from the more soulful feel and into a loud toe tapping rock pop sound, A screeching intro to wake you up powered along with an incredibly catchy groove from the Brass Drums and Bass working as one, with thick layers of backing vocals bringing us an upbeat wall of sound.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the album is very retro, its base firmly in the 60’s and 70’s, but Miles isn’t afraid of taking his creativity even further back, toying around with 1950’s Doo-Wop on tracks like Coming Of Age and Constantly, with tremolo heavy guitars and soft backing vocals almost sickly sweet, a beautiful evocative sound that’s started to make a comeback recently.
There’s no denying the quality of his voice and his writing talent, and he uses it solidly through out this album, managing to make the last track, Adios Ta-Ra Ta-Ra somehow sound like the outro to a song from start to finish, closing the album nicely.
If you like music with a more vintage sound, not just in vocals but instrumentation and mixing, you’ll love this album, you’re going to find yourself tapping along from start to finish, rewinding parts because you need to know what was that sound? Or how many vocal parts did he have then? It would be interesting to see how he recreates all this on the stage.
Standout tracks for me:
2. Don’t let it get you down - fast up beat with bongos and Lily Savage, I’m sold!
5. Never Get Tired Of Dancing – The crazy scream, quick bright tempo and catch riffs, it makes the middle of the album hard not to like.
7. Coming Of Age – I found myself listening to this track the most, its not the loudest, quirkiest or fastest, it’s just well written in a style I love, sometimes all you need is good song writing.
1. Tears are Falling
2. Don't Let It Get You Down
3. Nothing's Ever Gonna Be Good Enough (Ft. Corinne Bailey Rae)
4. See Ya When I See Ya
5. Never Get Tired Of Dancing
6. Tell Me What You're Feeling
7. Coming Of Age
8. Change The Show
11. Adios Ta-Ra Ta-Ra
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 11th Feb 22
Indi darlings Alt-J return with their fourth studio album The Dream. Set for release on the 11th February 2022, the album is a triumphant return for the band and will surely garner much critical acclaim.
With the announcement of a world-wide tour in support of the new album there is a lot for fans of Alt-J to be excited about. Having already released several singles from the album, fans have already had a taste of what is to come from Alt-J.
The latest single ‘Hard Drive Gold’, the third track from the album is a great example of what this album is about. With its driving bass and undeniable funk, it is a track that oozes attitude and energy. Add into the mix the undeniable vocals of Joe Newman repeating the refrain “don’t be afraid to make money, boy” with increasing urgency throughout the track this is a taster of what fans can expect from The Dream.
‘Hard Drive Gold’ was preceded by ‘U&ME’ and the moving ‘Get Better’. ‘U&ME’ is a track that with its swirling guitars and echoing almost choral vocals creates a palpable sense of atmosphere. ‘Get Better ‘ is an incredibly moving acoustic track. This gives Newman’s distinctive vocals a chance to shine and tell the story of loss and trying to deal with and overcome it.
Aside from the tracks that have already been released, there is plenty for fans to be excited about. ‘Philadelphia’ is a beautifully anthemic track that swells and crackles with energy.
Opening track ‘Bane’ kicks the album off with a sound that could come from any western film before developing into a track, that with its thumping drumbeat, is full of attitude. ‘Powders’ is a great tune that with its Americana style guitar provides a dreamy close to the album.
The Dream is a triumphant return for Alt-J. With the critical acclaim this band enjoyed with their previous albums,
The Dream will surely be no different. With the announcement also of a worldwide tour in support of the new album, there is plenty for fans of Alt-J to be excited about right now.
3. Hard Drive Gold
4. Happier When You're Gone
5. The Actor
6. Get Better
9. Walk A Mile
11. Losing My Mind
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 11th Feb 22
A well known internet information source advises that Frank Turner is an English punk and folk singer-songwriter. An intriguing combination indeed and FTHC is his ninth solo album.
The opener, “Non Serviam”, is a mix between punk and metal. Non-stop loud drums, bass and distorted guitar provide two minutes of bleeding ears. “The Gathering” is a tad more melodic but the energy is still there in spades. “Pissed off and perilously close to the precipice” sings Turner.
The strength of feeling is certainly apparent. “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” deserves to be the title track to some popular television entertainment show. It’s a catchy fast paced number with some wonderful lyrics that fly by at such a fast pace that you almost miss them.
One phrase that raised a wry smile with me was “I can sting like a butterfly and sink like a bee” It’s too easy to get caught up in the energy in the music and not pay attention to the lyrics, but this would be a mistake. Turner is apparently friends with Billy Bragg, and it shows. Bragg’s lyrics are always cleverly crafted and heartfelt; Turner’s likewise, though oft delivered with more rawness and rage. “Miranda” provides a slightly softer interlude; a song about having a transgender father. It’s a beautiful song about acceptance and caring, and flies in the face of the political approach you may stereotypically expect from this kind of music.
“A Wave Across A Bay” is another gentler track, and raised a tear in this reviewer as Turner gives us a sad and heart rending farewell soliloquy to a suicide. “Little Life”, later in the album, is also a quieter number, but one that encapsulates the album’s concentration on life experiences of ordinary people.
It’s clear that Frank Turner is indeed a talented artist. Often (particularly in the first half of the album) his music may be too heavy for some tastes, but it seems that this is in fact an expression of the strength of his emotion. He is certainly no empty-headed bloke that needs lots of noise to fill his cranium; the opposite is in fact the case. To be fair, the music, though often raucous, is well crafted and considered too. It is a rare and unexpected combination.
There are a significant fourteen tracks on this album: each one worth listening to and several worth keeping for repeated listens. Don’t make the mistake of hearing the first few bars of Non-Serviam and discounting this work as mindless heaviness; it’s a strong and powerful piece of accessible poetry about life, love, sorrow frustration and contentment, wrapped up in a rage of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards.
1) Non Serviam
2) The Gathering
3) Haven’t Been Doing So Well
4) Untainted Love
6) My Bad
8) A Wave Across A Bay
9) The Resurrectionists
11) Perfect Score
12) The Work
13) Little Life
14) Farewell To My City
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Released 18th March
Sea Girls, the London based indi rock four piece are set to release their second studio album Homesick on Friday the 18th March 2022.
The follow up to their critically acclaimed debut album Open Up Your Head, Homesick is a spectacular release that takes everything good about the first album and elevates it to new heights.
With their first album Sea Girls were no strangers to an indi anthem and Homesick is no different. Album opener ‘Hometown’ is a raucous celebration of the joys of growing up in your hometown.
‘Sleeping With You’, the newest single from the album, is a fantastically moving anthem about not getting over that one person. ‘Again Again’ is another of the incredible anthems on the album that will be a phenomenal track when heard live.
Whilst Sea Girls are able to produce some great anthems, Homesick is full of beautifully introspective moments. With ‘Lucky’ frontman Henry Camamile ruminates on how lucky we are to be alive in this time and place.
‘Friends’ is a storming track that delves into the beauty of wasting time with your friends, and the importance of enjoying every moment you can. ‘Sick’ again gives a powerful message of being tired of the commercialised and disposable nature of society.
With this album Sea Girls have produced a worthy successor to ‘Open Up Your Head’.
It’s a release that continues Sea Girls staggering ability to produce absolute indi anthems whilst still delivering a heartfelt message.
Set for release on Friday 18th March, Homesick is an album not to be missed.
4. Someone’s Daughter
5. Sleeping With You
6. Paracetamol Blues
7. Again Again
10. Cute Guys
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 25th March 22
The Hanging Stars first album, “Over The Silver Lake” was released in 2016, “blending folk pastoralism with swampy ‘60s Americana”, according to their website.
A five-piece band, “Hollow Heart” is their new album. “Ava” opens with dreamy slide guitar wandering about from channel to channel inside our headphones, and then the beat kicks in with guitar, bass, drums and a laid-back vocal with a distinctly stateside feel. Somewhere between The Carpenters and Boston, this is squeaky clean easy listening feel good stuff.
“Black Light Night” continues with the excellent production values. Strummed steel-strung acoustics do their best to dominate over the electrics and bass, and the vocal harmonies nicely add to the layers of depth.
“Weep and Whisper” has the pedal steel guitar bouncing around in my head again (listen with headphones if you can) Gentler and more folky, it’s a lovely listen, but there is no particular hook.
So far there’s no real stand out element that has you singing any of the tracks after they’ve finished, and I do wonder whether that will affect the commercial success of this album.
Yet I can’t help but like this music…
It’s clearly put together with skill and love – a powerful combination.
“Ballad of Whatever May Be”, although slightly heavy on the arpeggios, is a delightful sweeping piece of apple pie and cream, topped with angel dust. “You’re So Free” has a Beach Boys harmony vocalisation going on, following on from “Hollow Eyes, Hollow Heart”, which had, to this reviewer, echoes of early concept albums.
“I Don’t Want to Feel So Bad Anymore” at last has a bit of a hook, and a few small musical surprises along the way.
For me, the strongest track on the album. This album is a gentle and affectionate nod to times past yet continues to stand well.
It is cleverly put together and deserves to do well.
2) Black Light Night
3) Weep and Whisper
4) Radio On
5) Ballad of Whatever May Be
6) Hollow Eyes, Hollow Heart
7) You’re So Free
8) Rainbows In Windows
9) I Don’t Want To Feel So Bad Anymore
10) Red Autumn Leaf
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 25th March 22
Yova the two-piece outfit consisting of Macedonian vocalist Jova Radevska and multi-instrumentalist Mark Vernon released their captivating debut album Nine Lives on the 25th March 2022.
With Nine Lives Yova have produced a debut album that is an incredible melting pot of musical styles that will capture any listener from beginning to end.
It’s clear that when crafting their debut album Radevska and Vernon have not been hamstrung by the confines of typical genres. ‘You're The Mirror’ on the surface seems like a classic indi-pop track but there are clear funk undertones that elevates the track to an even greater level.
‘Where There is Fire’ is a stunning acoustic track that allows Radevska’s beautifully haunting vocals to shine. The track however is given an extra edge by the inflection of a dreamy Americana style guitar that gives the song a unique and memorable sound.
‘Would I change It? (If I Could)’ is a brilliant punk inspired track that exudes attitude and arrogance from start to finish. The last track and latest single from the album ‘Haunted’ is perhaps the best example of this. The track opens with a beautiful strings melody that feels as though it could be taken from an ancient Irish folk song.
This then develops into a stunning ballad that never loses the almost mystical feeling strings.
Nine Lives is out now and is a melting pot of musical influences and the mix of genres is used to great effect as each of the nine tracks feels like its own self-contained universe.
This is an album that demands to be heard and delivers incredible results.
2. You're The Mirror
4. Where There Is Smoke
6. Would I Change It? (If I Could)
7. An Innocent Man
8. Make It Better
Reviewed by Martin Murray
Album released 1st April 22
Walt Disco’s long awaited debut album is a bold and confident mix of glam rock, electro pop, the New Romantic movement, industrial rock, and much, much more. It’s an exploration of love, sex, gender identity, family, friendship and tolerance in the modern age. Inspired by the melodramatics of musical theatre, it even incorporates an interval midway through the two ‘acts’, appropriately called The Costume Change.
Opening song Weightless starts with a brief snatch of strings before electronic beats kick in. Singer James Potter encapsulates poetically their feelings of “arriving late to your own gender identity”. The lyrics detail their feelings of gender dysphoria “for all of my life I was in the dark, was I never my type”. It’s a brooding and beautiful song.
While musically Sparks may be one of the most obvious reference points on the album and early singles, the band are not afraid to wear their myriad of influences on their sleeves. Freely picking from all eras and genres of music, mixing together until they make something uniquely their own.
Selfish Lover includes Prince like keyboard swirls amidst the Bowie vocals, 90’s Europop beats and Franz Ferdinand guitars. It’s insanely catchy and danceable.
How Cool Are You? is what LCD Soundsystem would likely sound like if they covered early Sparks or Roxy Music. A chorus of twisted 50’s doo wop vocals top of the mix.
Cut Your Hair, from the Young Hard and Handsome EP, sounds like early Simple Minds, if Billy Mackenzie was the vocalist. It’s an anthem to being proud in yourself and standing strong in the face of others judgements. It’s a fabulous song that will get stuck in your head for days and get your hips twitching.
Be An Actor could easily slip onto Japan’s Tin Drum album. While Hold Yourself As High As Her, about how acknowledging being non binary helps find inner peace, sounds like a Robyn track before it morphs into New Order about midway through.
There is a touch of Depeche Mode to My Dear. Even down to the vocals sounding suspiciously like Dave Gahan.
Macilent has a heavy industrial sound and was written in response to a brutal attack on 3 trans women in Hollywood and the abuse that so many have to endure on a daily basis. It’s a heavy sound for a dark subject matter, but there is hope and defiance in the song as they declare “we should be together, we’ve been around forever”.
The lovely Those Kept Close reminds me musically of Peter Gabriel, but the vocals are pure David Bowie. Written during lockdown, it’s about the fear of losing your loved ones. It slowly builds to a beautiful conclusion repeating the lines “oh I’ll be with you soon, I promise to come home and I’ll get better at saying I love you”. It’s one of the best tracks on the album.
But the best track may be the last, If I Had A Perfect Life. A gorgeous mix of jittering electronics and swirling keyboard sounds that builds to an electronic crescendo that brings the curtain down.
A beautiful, brash and daring album that demands and deserves your attention.
How Cool Are You
Be An Actor
The Costume Change
Those Kept Close
Hold Yourself As High As Her
If I Had a Perfect Life
Reviewed by Stuart Condie
Album released 8th April 22
What’s in a name? Well in this case, pretty much all you need to know. The follow up to Now, Solo sees Jesse Mac Cormack write, perform and produce all 10 tracks. If that conjures up thoughts of Tubular Bells and puts you off, there are plenty more recent examples of very strong albums made this way (see Demians and the ever excellent Cosmograf). While many of us will have spent more time than we’d like on our own over the last two years, I’d guess that few will have emerged with anything quite like this.
A bedroom project Solo most certainly is not. This is slickly professional, contemporary, and commercial stuff and if synths and electronic percussion predominate, there’s some decent guitar work on show as well. It’s fair to say that this is also not a party album and there are some pretty heavy and serious themes covered.
Lockdowns have prompted the artist to look back, take stock and do some heavy-duty soul searching. Memories and sentiments long locked up and suppressed are aired, evaluated, and sometimes liberated. Mentions of dreams and dreaming abound, albeit typically with a reminder that they didn’t come true.
Blue World kicks off the album. If this might have provided the album's title, given the overall mood, it also sets the scene for much of what follows. A simple initial synth figure, electronic percussion and a vocal line doubled with an almost spoken version are built up with extra layers to create a sense of urgency before the muted play out.
Let It Go is probably the most obvious single here. If the tempo is more upbeat and the hook more obvious, the lyrics pick up the notion of feelings being in a prison of the artist's own construction. In one of numerous clever touches on this album the positive lyrical message is accompanied by decaying and de-tuned synth patterns which serve to suggest some doubt or at least inconsistency in what is being said.
NHFN (Nothing Happens for Nothing) has the vocal curiously low in the mix, reinforcing the repeated references to dreaming. Although stating that he was "living the dream" he confirms that his "dreams got stuck in the present". A&E starts with a picked guitar raising the prospect that we might be heading for traditional singer-songwriter territory, but the long synth sweeps are soon layered in on top of a drum pattern which wouldn't be out of place in a drum and bass track.
Untitled is stripped right back and almost has the feel of a demo about it. Clearly a conscious decision, it really underlines just how well produced the rest of the album is. L A Sky sees the vocal doubling a sustained guitar line. For my money the standout track on this album is LBTA. The chorus, "I wish you were my runaway, my spark in the dark" captures a yearning regret for missed opportunity. All of that is underpinned however by a positively sinister bass line supporting a four chord progression which builds the tension in the track.
All At Once has the percussion more prominent and unsettles the listener with chords arriving just off the beat. The Hills captures a profound sense of isolation, "no one can touch me" and pessimism, “tomorrow never happens". The final track Pattern has some trademark long synth chords over an insistent drum... pattern. Almost detached vocals and subtle changes of rhythm hint at the whole album-long exercise having been inconclusive.
It took me a few listens to warm to this album, but I'm glad I made the effort, finding more to admire each time through.
There is a restricted sound palette across the ten tracks which certainly gives cohesion to the set but suggests that Jesse Mac Cormack has plenty more places to go.
I will admit though to having ached for the occasional drum fill or, for variety, ironically enough, a screaming guitar... solo.
Let It Go
L A Sky
All At Once
Reviewed by Stuart Condie
Album released 22nd April 22
In an age where music often seems depressingly and digitally formulaic and every other drum pattern is familiar or a particular synth voice reminds you of something else, Patrick Watson' s Better in the Shade ploughs a different furrow. At a little under 22 minutes of music over seven songs, I'm not sure that we can call this an album but equally it seems dismissive to call it an EP. Since this is his 16th official release and he has some 600 million streams worldwide not to mention many film and TV credits to his name, I have to assume that the brevity of this release is entirely deliberate. There is certainly no hint that ideas were running out.
Although this has a distinctly analogue, and in places lo-fi, feel to it there is no obvious sense of reaching back to any specific musical era or long bygone genre. The vocals are sometimes breathless, sometimes distant but typically feature gorgeous two-part harmonies. At no point are they forced or histrionic; there is a considered, almost mannered style to these songs and it really feels as though these lyrics mattered enough not to be rushed.
The title track sets the mood. A gentle piano figure introduces what feels initially like a tale of reminiscence tinged with regret, a change of mood to something more unsettling ("whatever follows you in the dark...") is accompanied by a string section first marking the rhythm and then underpinning the vocals with long extended chords. Height of the Feeling is driven along on increasingly prominent percussion while layered vocal lines sweep across the middle section in an ever more insistent and dramatic fashion until the instrumental playout.
Ode to Vivian is the shortest track here and an instrumental but I found it quite haunting. It begins with a piano line which wouldn't sound out of place as one of Satie's Gymnopedies. The track sounds as though it's been recovered on an old piece of tape. Individual notes are shrill or slightly distorted, clearly deliberately so, and there are odd noises sounding like unintended artefacts from the recording process. The overall impression is of something chanced upon. I've had this track on a loop. It leads straight into Little Moments, which keeps the dreamlike mood going on with a reference back to Ode to Vivian's piano figure over a pulsing synth riff building to some real tension before an instrumental fade.
Blue has some of the the most obviously memorable lyrical touches. Who hasn't thought about what lies "somewhere in-between the words and what they mean"? The chorus has the the biggest hook on the album with the line, "I'm addicted to the colour of you". The whole thing driven along with interweaving vocal lines and no percussion at all. La La La La La captures (wordlessly) all the langour and wistfulness of a shared summer's day. It's the only track giving any prominence to the guitar. Patrick Watson comments that it came together over a found chord sequence but it's so much better crafted than that description of the creative process would suggest.
The final track Star rounds off the album with more of the same; a mid-paced piano driven confection with long drawn-out synth chords over insistent but never intrusive percussion.
I would wager we will hear tracks from this release on the soundtrack of future TV series or films. I'd even suggest a few of them for scenes where characters are shown, perhaps on a journey, probably reflecting, with suitable flashbacks or scenes of rolling countryside, on the sequence of events which delivered them to wherever they happen to find themselves.
In other words this is richly evocative music to which you can readily attach your own personal movie. Producing music which can trigger that visual response so readily is no small feat.
I have no doubt another 100 million streams are on their way.
Better in the Shade
Height of the Feeling
Ode to Vivian
Blue La La La La La
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 22nd April 22
Any listeners to Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music of a Sunday morning will most likely find similar appeal in Paint This Town, the latest offering from Old Crow Medicine Show- seemingly on a full band quest to ensure the heart & soul roots of their music will not be forgotten across five albums thus far.
Part of its charm lies in their embrace of the belt & braces approach, crafting a story in the best American folk tradition even if it doesn't always read as though the country's often talked about dream has been reached quite yet....
But this is not to say there isn't a shred of hope. After all as is rightly pointed out on Honey Chile, good lovin' is a hard habit to break. Or at least it should be. Even with so many reasons to run, it would seem they can't quite work out whether to run from or towards what's coming- a sense of Dylanish mystery abounds throughout, fairly visible under any leopardskin pillbox hats the Medicine Show may care to sport.
And Bob may well doff his own after a listen. The title track is as you might expect a raucous introduction to proceedings, a useful outlier in setting out a mix of pride & pathos which continues throughout. Bombs Away & Gloryland adding a little Bruce (Springsteen) into the overall commentary for a little more bite.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. And absolutely don't pull your punches. When it works it really works, but of course there must be a little sweet to balance out the justifiably sour. In which regard the abovementioned Honey Chile would have most licking their lips.
Perhaps inevitably though it can't last. Used To Be A Mountain & Painkiller suggest more lamentation for an America that was, not unlike the collective vision here for a better modern equivalent. Like Deford it may ride again, a new flag planted in Stateside soil more in keeping with the dreams of the likes of John Brown.
It may not be here yet, but if its this earnest its worth waiting for & wedging a few coppers into the Old Crow guitar case.
Paint This Town
Lord Willing And The Creek Don't Rise
Used To Be a Mountain
DeFord Rides Again
New Mississippi Flag
John Browns Dream
Reviewed by Stuart Condie
Album released 22nd April
"Skinty Fia", the band has explained, comes from an Irish phrase meaning "the damnation of the deer" and that certainly goes some way to explaining the cover art which has just such an animal bathed in red light standing, and looking suitably out of place, in a domestic hallway.
The setting looks dilapidated though; plaster has come off and exposed the underlying frame of the staircase. There's almost legible graffiti in the background while the deer is turned towards a crucifix on the wall and the somewhat incongruous framed print of a ballerina below. It's seriously tempting to read lots into this image.
The band has relocated from Ireland (the "DC" in the name is for Dublin City) to London, so perhaps they too feel out of place. Is the "damnation" a reflection of some guilt or regret over the move? Does the state of the surroundings suggest that everything wasn't quite as shiny in their new surroundings as the band might have hoped? Should we be looking at the close juxtaposition of religious symbolism and something typically associated with grace? I think it's enough to say that this is clearly intended to work on numerous levels and that's true of the songs as well.
Stripping away the search for deeper meaning (for a while at least) this is an album full of big guitar-driven songs with soaring choruses, huge hooks and an impressive range of vocal approaches from tender through dispassionate and disconnected to outright blistering rage and condemnation. If there are moments where the harmonies suggest a fondness for the traditional, the layering of the guitars and bass will conjure up all sorts of comparisons with heavy hints of the best of Britpop and everything from the Cure to Echo and the Bunnymen.
There's an acute awareness of the risk of a monolithic style though with guitar lines falling away for short passages allowing the bare bones of the track to be glimpsed before a new riff or pattern kicks in.
There have been three singles already from this album and while other tracks could easily have taken their place, Jackie Down The Line, I Love You and Skinty Fia are destined to be major crowd pleasers when this set is toured in the UK and Ireland later this year.
The first of these is just huge. If the reference to "my friend Sally" has an immediate resonance for listeners of a certain age, the song develops quickly into a dire warning to keep your distance. The list of bad behaviours, "I will hate ye, I'll debase ye... I will chew ye, I'll go through ye" stand as an obvious counterpoint to the encouragement to good citizenship in A Hero's Death from the 2020 album of that name with its instruction to "look forward to a brighter future".
I Love You is a masterpiece. It contrasts an apparently obsessive romantic fixation,"Its only ever you, I only think of you" with a raging but supremely peotic rant about the state of modern Ireland. There are some really striking lines and images in there. From the political, "this island's run by sharks with children's bones stuck in their jaws" or "the gall of Fine Gael to the fail of Fianna Fail" to something more personal and disillusioned, "And I loved ye like a penny loves the pocket of a priest". The song perectly captures the love / hate / angst for the homeland of the (voluntary) exile.
Skinty Fia is the most obviously percussion-driven song on the album with the drums higher in the mix and complex patterns sitting alongside samples used as untuned rhythm devices. As the instruments layer on the vocal moves from a detached monotone to an angry climax.
By way of contrast to the chiming, booming and even surf guitar sounds which dominate, The Couple Across The Way sees the vocal accompanied only by an accordion. This is a sad little tale of a relationship where the magic has gone to be replaced by routine and repetition. I like the comparison of the inward-looking, "You use voices on the phone, that once were spent on me" with the wider perspective, "The world has changed beyond our doorstep" . There's also a wonderful twist in the tale, but in the interest of avoiding spoliers, I'll leave that for you to find for yourself.
It says much about the state of play for rock in the UK at present that none of the singles from this album have dented the charts. Perhaps that's not the point. I'd guess the album will outsell its predecessors by some way.
I have no doubt that the tour will be hugely successful - several dates in the US for this month are sold out - and that these gigs will be memorable. There is a confidence about this release and the air of a band with ever larger venues to fill in the future.
In ar gCoithe go deo
How Cold Love Is
Jackie Down The Line
The Couple Across The Way
I Love You
Reviewed by Martin Murray
Album released 8th April 22
Tucker Pillsbury, known professionally as Role Model, started off making music in his college dorm after his roommates left some recording equipment laying around. He was a film student and had no prior musical experience. A fan of hip hop, he first experimented in rap music, the recordings of which he states have been wiped from the internet. But after discovering his singing voice, those first bedroom recordings eventually led to his 2017 self released EP, Arizona In The Summer.
With no interest initially from any major record labels he thought his musical career had come to an end. However, the EP had come to the attention of the rapper Mac Miller, whose management reached out to him, leading to a record deal with Interscope Records. He’s subsequently released 2 further EP’s and several singles. With his fan base growing with each release.
He has stated he is not interested in the notion of writing traditional love songs, but most of his debut album is actually taken up with songs dedicated to his girlfriend. But, with titles like Die For My Bitch, If Jesus Saves Then She’s My Type and Masturbation Song he has definitely stayed true to his intention. These are not your typical love songs.
Die For My Bitch is a delicate, catchy, electronic pop song, the type that Years & Years excel at. If Jesus Saves, is a jittery pop song with a bouncy rhythm, which could fit seamlessly onto The 1975’s last album. Both are declarations of love featuring risqué lyrics that push the envelope.
Masturbation Song is a lovely, gentle ballad built on acoustic guitars that build to a climax of flowing keyboards and vocals. Lyrically it’s a frank, honest and explicit ode to how he can’t control himself at the thought of the one he loves. I hope she finds it flattering.
Save A Seat takes it lead musically from another writer not famed for traditional love songs. It sounds like a modern R&B take on Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay.
Who Are You and forever&more are slightly emo influenced indie rock. A little bit like Wallows. neverletyougo has elements of Frank Ocean and James Blake. All chilled beats and auto tuned vocals. Can You Say The Same also has a chilled, downtempo R&B feel. This time more like if Mac Miller had collaborated with The Weeknd.
The last song Rx is another simple and predominately acoustic folk track, with electronic elements. A pretty track, it feels inspired by the sound of Bright Eyes or Death Cab For Cutie at their most gentle.
There is a clear progression from his original recordings and this can be attributed to his collaboration with producer Spencer Stewart, who has previously worked with Alessa Caria and Lauv.
Their work together seems to have pushed Tucker musically and lyrically to new heights. With the release of this album, it feels as if Role Model is finally ready to graduate.
Die For My Bitch
Who Hurt You
Save A Set
If Jesus Saves, She’s Not My Type
Life Is Funny
Can You Say The Name
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 29th April 22
“It's good to talk” is one of those mantras which often feels like a cliché, but given the many & varied personal & indeed collective issues floating around at the present moment, as well as the state of the world they shape it seems oddly reassuring.
And who better to have on the end of the line should it all get too much than Blue Violet, in a bold move by the husband & wife duo of Sam & Sarah Gotley, delving into the relationships which should underpin everything- ups & downs included.
So where better to start than poor bedraggled Mother Nature, cracking under the strain of supporting her children through the strains of a pandemic? Nevertheless White Beaches does a good job of rousing both the listener & those in a bit more of a position to press ahead with the necessary change to hopefully start on a path towards a better & indeed cleaner future.
From a touch of Attenborough to Harvest- era Neil Young on Undercover before things get a little more personal with Rabbit Hole, everything turned down for a look at both the needle & the damage done- although with a little imagination & indeed empathy you could easily interpret it as a sensitive look at any pressing personal issue you might care to name.
It's that sensitivity that stops things getting too bleak, the message perhaps being that there is hope somewhere even when you least expect to find it however long your struggle. Which brings us nicely to the loaded Asylum- an acknowledgement that there will always be work to do around mental health, however much progress it may feel has been made. For all those who've ever felt they don't quite belong, this is your song......
Suffer, by contrast, feels like the sort of thing we shouldn't even be having to hear too much more of in the current day & age ( but probably will), the abusive relationship still far too rich fodder.
See also Poster Girl, which is a sort of dystopian Factory tale- imagine Edie Sedgwick deciding she's had enough & going off with some sailors to God knows where backed by the Velvet Underground- The Gift with a bit of a nod & a wink.
All that feels like a brief interlude by the time we're back to life with prison drama Hard Rain, second chances after mistakes something we all chase once in a while. Mama feels like another of these vignettes, this time addressing the difficulties of young womanhood, a theme built upon in Halo as perhaps the same girl now grown-up struggles against a world imposed upon her by a man who all to evidently doesn't care.
Enough to make anyone reach for the remote & take out the CD, unwilling or plain unable to take any more, you'd think? And a song about lost faith may not be the little crack of optimism we'd be hoping for to round off proceedings, however easy it may seem to just give up, but at least the return to noise suggests there's fight in the old black dog yet by the end of Vanished In The Night.
As difficult a listen as keeping that flame of hope burning in places, but if you can stomach it you just might take something from stories both personal & collective, quiet & loud.
Vanished In The Night
Review by John McEvoy
EP Released 27th April 22
Midlands based band Big Image have just released their debut EP ‘Human Touch is Forever’ and what a great slice of Indi dance this is.
On an initial listen you could be forgiven for thinking that what we have here is a band straight out of Manchester. (Well that's how it sounded to me anyway!)
Their infectious driving beats immediately put me in mind of a rockier ‘Happy Mondays’ but clearly their influences come from far and wide.
Throughout the 4 tracks there are dashes of Kasabian, and Primal Scream, but this isn’t to say that they could be described as a ‘copy cat’ band. With this EP, Big Image have to their credit managed to successfully create a sound which is uniquely their own, in what is a busy musical genre,
Based on this infectiously entertaining debut EP, I will certainly be looking out for their live dates as they will be well worth catching.
Parallel Love Affair