Review from John McEvoy
Single released 7th May
New single from Manchester band Hollows out on the 7th May is a perfect slice of loud indie rock.
Their bio suggest that their influences range from The Cure through to 00’s indie and this first single of the year reminded me very much of The Arctic Monkeys in their pomp.
Snarling vocals, screeching guitars and crashing drums blend together to deliver a rather nifty 2:30 secs of great music and delivered live, I can see this being a highlight of the gig.
There’s certainly enough here for the single to stand out in a what is a busy genre, and this suggests that you should make every effort to catch them on their UK tour later this year.
It’s worth noting that ‘Advice’ whilst being their first release of the year, is only the first of 4 singles they have planned for release.
Review by John McEvoy
Single released 7th May
Four-piece band Alternative Default from Nottingham release their first single of the year ‘Static’ on the 7th May.
They describe their sound a kind of Nu Jazz, Alt Rock mash up, and it has to be said that “Static’ certainly falls within both those categories.
From the opening noodling style guitar work, underpinned by raspy snare drums, it’s when the high vocals from Duncan Gallagher kick in that this track really begins to take off.
The jazzy feel continues throughout with nice guitar and bass work. Harmonised vocals are a real feature of this track, and it quickly becomes clear that this band know a thing or two about good tunes.
I for one will be interested in seeing what this band do next, and look forward to further releases, and just maybe a tour once we get back to our normal lives.
Alternative Default are Duncan Gallagher Vocal and guitars, Glenn Hick on Bass. Drummer Owen Barrett and Joseph Hogg on guitar.
Reviewed by John Seales
EP released 7th May
A four-piece band of brothers based in London; The Skinner Brothers EP “Iconic” is hitting the streets on the 7th May.
“Iconic”, the first track has an understated introduction, building into a bass and drum driven rocky beat with spoken lead vocals and a support of multi layered catchy backing vocals. The distorted guitar adds massively to the mix and we are presented with rock that you can dance to.
“More” continues the theme, and “Low” does also. There is a real post-punk energy and rawness about the EP that is compelling.
“Away Days” shows a different side of the Skinner Brothers with a more laid back, gentler yet still catchy number, including a lovely reverb laden springy Stratocaster style guitar break.
“Gonna get to the top – we’re never gonna stop” they sing, and I think they may well be right. This EP left me wanting more. Not because what they provided wasn’t good enough, but because it was, and I wanted to hear what else they can do.
This band are bubbling under and have all the ingredients to break through and soar.
Buy the EP by all means, but if you get the chance to hear them live, go for it – I have a feeling the live raw energy will be magnificent and it’ll be a performance you won’t forget.
4) Away Days
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 14th May
If you need to de-stress and get away from the world for an hour or so you’ve come to the right place.
The latest album from Australian singer songwriter RY X (otherwise known as Ry Cumming) is a live offering from his 2019 World Tour recorded at The Royal Albert Hall. The venue clearly inspired everyone concerned to produce a magical soothing record that is balm for the soul.
The album was originally released earlier this year to much acclaim and vinyl edition will be released on 14 May. There is also a limited-edition maroon smoke-effect double vinyl in gatefold sleeve. The packaging really does justice to the recorded output and makes this offering very special indeed.
Immerse yourself in his ethereal vocals and the lush arrangements of the London Contemporary Orchestra which perfectly complement the original recorded version of the songs on RY X’s two previous studio albums. The strings add a textural layer that elevates the songs to a heavenly plane and carries the listener on a cushioned bed to somewhere far away.
Reminiscent of The Cinematic Orchestra the album is an atmospheric delight and would provide the perfect soundtrack to a wellness spa or the soothing mood music to a reflective evening at home.
My personal favourite track, and clearly the audiences too from their reaction to the opening chords, is Howling. Driven by a simple mesmeric guitar hook, the song lends a more upbeat mood to proceedings that has the audience clapping along.
The opening bars of Shortline have a touch of the intro to Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The haunting fragile vocals give way to piano and strings which provide a perfect backdrop to the song.
The Water has a hypnotic rhythm that is both restrained and perfectly melodic and catchy.
However rather than single out individual tracks the record works best as one immersive experience and is an ambient delight. It’s the vinyl equivalent of a cashmere sweater, grab this sensory treat now!
· Body Sun
· The Water
Reviewed by John McEvoy
Album released 14th May
Let's be honest, if anyone deserves to sit back and rest on their laurels, Paul Weller would be that man.
Being the front man and songwriter for The Jam and The Style Council would look pretty impressive on a CV, but Weller isn’t a man for laurel resting.
Before I go on, I have to say that those of you yearning for Weller to return to the sound of The Jam (and I know that there are lot of you out there) will be waiting a long time. That boat has long since sailed, Weller is still a man at the very top of his game, and without doubt this album is very much a contender for album of the year.
Fat Pop out on the 14th May, is his second album released in less than a year, quickly following the release of his critically acclaimed ‘On Sunset’ that came out in June 20.
Covid put paid to any plans to tour that album, so Weller decided to look at ideas he had stored away for new tracks, and with not much else to do, work began on Fat Pop (Vol 1).
Albeit in in a slightly different manner due to lockdown.
Paul Weller recorded the piano and vocal parts, and then sent them onto the rest of the band for them to add their contributions to each track. Subsequently when restrictions were eased a little in the summer of 2020, they all got together to add the finishing touches to what is now his 16th solo album and finds a performer, possibly in the most prolific part of his long career.
First thing that strikes you about this album is that all the tracks (seriously) could stand on their own merit as singles, all 3 minutes plus. As a result, this 12-track outing is short at coming in just a touch over 30 minutes, but at no point does the listener feel cheated. These are high quality tunes that demand to be listened to.
Proceedings kick off with an electronic synth thumper in the style of ‘Cosmic Fringes’ with hints of Ian Dury vocals and The Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’ thrown in. Steve Craddocks distinctive guitar work is very much to the front as is the case throughout the whole album.
From there, it’s straight into ‘True’ which features guest vocals from Lia Metcalfe. ‘Fat Pop’ is a nice slippery funk track with great bass work from Andy Crofts, and it’s this wonderful eclectic mix of styles throughout this album which are a genuine highlight, with each track being a nicely wrapped gift for your listening pleasure.
Weller’s daughter Leah co-wrote and did guest vocals on ‘Shades Of Blue’ and it’s easy to see why this one has already been chosen as the first single from the album.
I especially liked the slowed down ‘Glad Times’ which finds Weller in reflective mood and features some nice string work as well.
Funky ‘Testify’ puts you in mind of a 70’s Shaft style sound and features the one and Andy Fairweather Low on vocals.
Elsewhere ‘Moving Canvas’ is a tribute to Iggy Pop, one of his heroes and is a rather fab soul workout, complete with Hammond organ, and who doesn’t love the sound of a Hammond Organ!
Proceedings slow down with ‘In Better Time, and album closer brings things to a perfect close with a sumptuous strings arrangement contributed by Hannah Peel which perfectly compliment Paul Wellers soaring vocals.
And that’s it. Album over in just over 30 minutes, but what a 30 minutes.
It seems that Paul Weller still has a lot to say and the moniker of ‘The Changing Man’ is still a perfect description of a man who remains at the very top of his game.
At this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me if vol. 2 comes out before Christmas, and I for one certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.
In the meantime, make sure you get yourself a copy of one of the best releases of 2021 so far.
Oh, and don’t forget he’s doing a massive UK tour later this year, coming to a town near you!
Tickets are on sale now.
- Cosmic Fringes
- Fat Pop
- Shades Of Blue
- Glad Times
- Cobweb Connections
- The Pleasure
- Moving Canvas
- In Better Time
- Still Glides The Stream
Reviewed by Andi Bridges
Album released 21st May
It seems hard to believe now but when Replicas was released just over 42 years ago (April 1979), the Musicians Union tried to have Gary Numan banned for taking away musician’s jobs. It is testament to his tenacity that here we are with the release of his 20th studio album. I reconnected with Gary Numan, in 2017 after two unrelated events.
Firstly, I finally tracked down a copy of his autobiography – Praying To The Aliens, in which I discovered he had been making music continuously since I had jumped ship sometime around 1985 and secondly, seeing the video for My Name Is Ruin on TV and then buying Savage (Images From A Broken World) on the strength of that performance.
Savage dealt with human survival in a barren, post-apocalyptic world because of the effects of global warming on the planet. Intruder takes the concept and flips it through 180 degrees and is written from Earth’s point of view. The planet is dying, and it knows it and the only way it can survive is to purge the virus killing it – humans.
Where Savage was very Industrial in its sounds and presentation, Intruder is much more sweeping, cinematic if you will, in its composition and this fits very neatly into the concept being offered. So, what do you get for your money? Intruder comes in multiple formats: CD, Deluxe CD with a bonus track (When You Fall) and Vinyl & Digital which add a second bonus track (The End Of Dragons [alt piano]). It is worth noting that twelve of the thirteen songs across all formats are all over four minutes in length.
The regular CD kicks off with:
Betrayed: a very atmospheric opening including some almost religious chanting and Gary’s voice low in the mix until then around the one-minute mark when that voice kicks in. The song is propelled by an underlying busy drum pattern almost drum and bass like in its complexity.
The Gift: This track continues the theme set on Savage in bringing Eastern and Western sounds together. There is a longing in his voice as the track ebbs and flows. At 6.07 minutes long at no point does it feel it has outstayed its welcome.
I Am Screaming: An almost poppy keyboard hook, mirrors the vocal line “You will come to die with me”. On first listen this is where the album came alive for me. This is the shortest track clocking in at 3.53.
Intruder: As befitting for the lead single and the title track, there is much going on in this track. A stop/start riff plays over a thumping rhythm whilst swirling synths provide atmosphere.
Is the World Not Enough: This is perhaps my least favourite track on the album, although there are some good ideas going on, I found it dragged over the 5 minutes and 27 seconds.
Black Sun: Built around a piano motif that lulls you into a false sense of security until the big chorus kicks in. In fact, the use of soft for the verses and loud for the chorus is a classic musical ploy and works really well here. The song departs the way it entered with the piano leading from the front.
The Chosen: This is the most up-tempo so far, built upon an urgent rhythm. There is a definite feeling of venom. This one will keep the masses in the mosh pit happy.
And It Breaks Again: After the maelstrom of the previous track, here we find Numan in reflective mood and bringing the pace down.
Saints And Liars: A 16th note hi-hat pattern underpins a groovy rhythm. This is also going to transfer to the live arena very well.
Now And Forever: As Numan sings “It’s my life to give. I’ve been taught all things must end” the synths add extra poignancy
The End Of Dragons: It starts with a minute of pounding music before dropping away to a fairly simple voice, piano and strings arrangement, before bringing back the rest of the band. If I’m not mistaken, Gary’s daughter adds backing vocals.
Normally I’m a great lover of bonus songs, remixes and alternative versions, however that said I fail to see the point of these added extras.
When You Fall: This is the most industrial sounding of all the tracks, and it seems a little out of place amongst the other songs. It could nestle at number 3, 4 or 5 in the running order where it wouldn’t seem so out of place, however if it is tacked on at the end it doesn’t bring anything to the party.
The End Of Dragons (Alt Piano): I much prefer this stripped back version of the last song on the regular CD and it would appear that Numan must have also liked this version to include it as an extra. I think he went with the wrong one. The lyrics seem far more chilling with the sparser arrangement.
Intruder does provide a Yin to Savage’s Yang. It is a slow burner and certainly an album I will keep returning to.
· The Gift
· I Am Screaming
· Is This World Not Enough
· Black Sun
· The Chosen
· And It Breaks Again
· Saints And Liars
· Now And Forever
· The End Of Dragons
· When You Fall
- The End Of Dragons (Alt Piano)
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 28th May
Matt McManamon is the former front man of the Dead 60’s and touring member of The Specials playing lead guitar, so he has a fair bit of experience under his belt, bringing it together with his life experiences and roots from Merseyside to create his debut album – Scally Folk.
Opening the album, ‘Gaslighting’, is crisp and clean, smoother and more refined than I expected it to be, the ska upstroke is there but it’s no longer the big power driving force, a lot more reminiscent of the libertines but with a catchy pop twist.
Tracks like ‘Mulranny Smile’ and ‘Here comes the fear’ the Ska sound is completely dropped, in favour of a relaxed folk fear, especially on ‘Mulranny’ dropping back onto his Irish roots blending Celtic strings and lead guitar, giving his voice a workout bringing it front and centre. It’s a moving intimate song that makes you feel like a local in a village Irish pub, watching him play on a small stage.
‘Jumping the gun’, The first single off the album, and ‘Every time I close my eyes’ are planted firmly in Merseyside. You could be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to the La’s or Cast, at the birth of Britpop, poppy bright guitars, balanced against mellow vocals reminiscing about his young sons sleepless nights, waking him every time he closes his eyes, continuing the albums personal retrospective writing.
The album really is brought to a close with ‘I ran away’, a slower darker track, singing “got no feelings any more as I’ve killed my insides” “I made my mistakes it was my speciality” feels like someone at the end of their life looking back on their mistakes. Reflecting on what could have been done different, but starting to turn around at the end, bringing in brighter sounds here and there singing “coming home today”, it is both lyrically and musically superb. The often more forgotten last track of the album is just as important as the opening track, and this closes it off so well it’s a shame you have to wait to the end to hear what I think it the best song.
This isn’t what I was expecting when I put the album on, where are the Ska guitars? The high energy?
Has the music softened and mellowed with Matt’s age? It could put some Dead 60’s fans off, but as it moves from ska influenced indie rock, through a more mellow Mersey sound to Celtic folk, you’re never left feeling let down, I might have picked a different lead single, but that can be put down to personal taste as it’s still a great song.
My standout tracks are:
· ‘Mulranny’ smile – it takes you to a physical place you might not have even been to before.
· ‘Everytime I close my eyes’ – captures both his home town influences and personal life in a neat packaged song.
· And personal favourite, ‘I ran away’- different and darker than the rest of the album but it’s so well written in every way.
2. What About You?
3. Mulranny Smile
4. Out Of Time
5. Here Comes The Fear
6. Jumpin The Gun
7. Every Time I Close My Eyes
8. Meet Me By The River
9. Liberty Shore
10.I Ran Away
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 4th June
Following up on their critically acclaimed third album ‘Bleeding Magenta’, New Candys return with their fourth studio album ‘Vyvyd’ and they’ve produced a swirling sonic experience that develops and evolves the sound of the band in new and exciting ways.
The album kicks off with ‘Twin Mime’ a track that with its driving drumbeat, sonic sounding guitars and echoing vocals, sets the tone from the off. This is followed by ‘Zyko’, a thundering punk inspired track that moves monotonously along before descending into a sonic cacophony of sound.
With 'Vyvyd' New Candys have expanded and developed their sound. ‘Begin Again’ is a fantastic example of this, incorporating some whirring electronic synthesiser elements to the track give it an expansive feeling.
The Electronic element is seen throughout this album and ‘Evil Evil’ opens with a pounding drumbeat accompanied by a heavy synthesiser, which leads into a fantastically anthemic track that will sound phenomenal played live. ‘Q_K’ is another track with a beautifully echoing sound throughout which gives this a fantastically dreamy sound.
Out on the 4th June 2021, this is an album that expands and develops their sound in an exciting way, whilst retaining what made New Candys one of the most successful independent bands of the last few years, and is a bold new experience that should not be missed.
1. Twin Mime
4. Begin Again
5. Evil Evil
6. Vyvyan Rising
7. Helluva Zoo
8. The Clockmaker
10. Snake Eat Snake
Album reviewed by Andi Bridges
Released 4th June
I have a confession to make, despite most of my mates raving over Frank Turner, he has completely evaded my radar, so when presented with this 10th anniversary edition of England Keep My Bones I had no idea what to expect. A little research led to the discovery that this was Frank’s 4th album and the one that broke him to a much wider audience; he even played two of the tunes at the Olympics in 2012.
This anniversary release, customised with bespoke new artwork, is a double set, only available on 180g vinyl and in a variety of different colours - I have found online traditional black, transparent yellow and transparent and opaque green - which are exclusive to indie retailers across the world. The first disc has the original album, which doesn’t appear to have been remastered, and the second one made up of unheard demo recordings from the El Paso Sessions from the period. A download card with the release also offers an additional 15 solo b-sides recorded at Old Blacksmiths Studios which are also being made available for the first time.
The album starts with a brass band which conjures up images of pastoral landscapes and an England from days gone by before Frank sings “Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut. Not everyone was born to be a king. Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury but everyone can raise a glass and sing”. Then a power chord and some machine-gun like snare drum brings in the Sleeping Souls for the rest of the brief track.
As an opener it sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album, which is a lot more folkie than I was expecting, that's not a criticism. There are plenty of pop sensibilities sprinkled across the album. The voice is to the fore and nice and clear at the front of the mix seemingly designed so you can hear the importance of the lyrics. The album ebbs and flows and there are a lot of references to the sea and water in general. I found myself writing the words jaunty and bouncy a lot during my first listen.
Stand out moments for me are I Still Believe and I Am Disappeared, a full on toe-tapping, head-nodding tune. As someone who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I have nothing but admiration for anyone who commits to tape a song using only voice as Frank does on English Curse. A number of songs sound like traditional folk songs that we should all know but words and music for all 12 songs were written by Frank.
Wessex Boy is a lighter, or rather phone light in the air moment as Frank conveys what it means to belong somewhere, a feeling most of us can relate to. Ending the album is Glory Hallelujah, it starts with a Church Organ and is a celebrationof the fact there is no God.
The second disc has demo versions of seven of the album tracks plus three other tracks, Song For Eva Mae, Wanderlust and Balthazar, Impresario. There is quite a drop in volume on the copy I reviewed. The vocals are deeper in the mix and during If I Ever Stray there is
a moment Frank sings da da da where he has either forgotten or not yet written the words. It is only after hearing these versions you realised just how much the guest musicians add to the songs on the final version. This is one for collectors only.
Of much more interest are the 15 solo versions only available with the download card. There is a marked jump in volume back to the original album level. I believe that if a song is good, it will stand up in a guitar and voice environment and these fifteen don’t disappoint, in fact it would easily stand as an album in its own right.
What is apparent that stripped of the rest of the instrumentation Frank’s voice becomes a thing of beauty filling in the spaces, equal parts soaring and soothing. Only English Curse doesn’t get the acoustic treatment. The three extra demo tracks do appear and a new acapella song Barbara Allen.
Can I ask that you spare a thought for my wallet as it is about to take a hammering. It turns out my friends were right and I have a lot of catching up to do.
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album out now...
It’s been a strange old year, and phrases just like this always seem to pop up in conversations these days, because let’s face it, it’s been a strange one!
The pandemic has hit the big popular music industry hard, tours are cancelled, massive albums that have had millions spent on them can’t be promoted the same way. But it seems that smaller artists and independent labels have been rising either through inspiration or necessity of the lockdown as is the case with this ‘Quarentina’, that “comes accompanied by an episodic film series, documenting modern quarantine life in Los Angeles. A black and white modern noir that’s based on real-life events, as well as surreal life events”
Opening the album, ‘Laws’ is as far from a typical album intro as you can, modulating electronic sounds weaving in and out of each other with a few sporadic words that’s over before it feels its begun. Moving into ‘Dead Sky’, the second track, building on the same theme, the music becomes fuller with more lyrics, asking “Love me until I die, Love me until I cant see” more uplifting and optimistic its touched with some dark undertones.
‘Nine Of Swords’ breaks the smooth electronic sounds, angry harsh strings, the sudden use of attack transients with angry and painful lyrics, as though the isolation of lockdown is suddenly getting to him. Then were taken back to the smother electronic calm in ‘Lisbon’, but this time new harder instruments are used in places, you feel the return to calm isn’t as it was before, and that it’s never going to be quite like that again.
At times it feels like you’re spiralling out of control, with the anxious desperation of ‘Count In Sevens’, and the raw distorted anger of ‘Crushed Skull’, but even throughout this you get odd high spots like ‘Yeshua’ which sounds eerily like prince conducting a Sunday Sermon.
Out of the blue towards the end of the album is ‘Baby Blue’, although just as dark as everything before it, it’s almost an 80’s electronic pop number, very reflective of his past and relationships. It’s such a contradiction to everything else, structured more as a song that a soundscape, as though from a different album, but the same themes are there through out, the sombre storytelling and optimistic hopelessness.
‘USA’ really does sum up the album, almost slurred, with lyrics like “I’m outa love” and the repetitive “I’m trapped inside” with references to capitalism and the BLM movement. The summation of the album is used to summon up the past year, but with all optimism removed, distilling the emotions of the quarantine into a few minutes.
Coming across like Nick Cave with all joy removed, I’d be more tempted to call this a soundscape instead of an album. It was written to go with a series of short films, and I’m not sure you’ll get the full impact without watching the films. Having watched a couple of them with the tracks they really work together, while the music stands on its own, I’d recommend trying them with the visuals too.
2. Dead Sky
4. Nine Of Swords
6. New Moon
7. Nite Theme
8. Count In Sevens
9. Crushed Skull
12. Cluster B
13. Day Six
14. Red Flag
15. Dec Piano
17. The Tower
18. Baby Blue
19. Ur So Cool 2
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 11th June
Imagine the scene, Beth Orton is putting the finishing touches to Daybreaker and nips out to the pub where she meets Laura Marling. The pair are served by Britt Ekland in her role as Willow from the Wicker Man fresh from serenading Sergeant Howie.
The three decide to record, and the resulting output sounds something like the debut long player from the very talented Gloucestershire singer/songwriter Chloe Foy. Her work is the culmination of many years of writing, performing and touring which has enabled Chloe to produce a mature album of rare quality.
The record has its roots in folk music and showcases Chloe’s beautiful ethereal voice which possesses something of a hypnotic quality.
The album was completed early in 2020 but its release was delayed until now due to COVID.
Opening with the title track ‘Where Shall We Begin’ which exudes a lullaby quality and introduces the listener to Chloe’s clear pure voice.
A number of the tracks focus on personal events that Chloe has experienced including the loss of her Father at an early age. The track ‘Shining Star’ chronicles her father’s struggle with depression and shines a light on an area that is often neglected.
The standout track from the ten on the album is ‘Asylum’ which has already clocked up over 8 million plays on Spotify and this album is poised to cement her reputation and add to her existing sizeable fanbase.
All the songs are finely crafted and really showcase Chloe’s voice which exhibits a dreamy quality and remains with the listener long after hearing the record.
Scheduled events already in the pipeline include a listening party with Tim Burgess on 16 June in addition to a UK tour commencing in the Autumn, and Chloe is currently writing her second album which will be highly anticipated on the evidence of her initial offering.
I’m sure that Chloe’s Father would be impressed and rightly proud of this accomplished piece of work.
01 Where Shall We Begin
03 Work Of Art
07 Shining Star
08 Left Centred Weight
09 And It Goes
10 Square Face
LIVE ALBUM CELEBRATES JOHN LENNON ON HIS 80th BIRTHDAY
FEATURING… MAXI JAZZ (Faithless) || KT TUNSTALL || JOHN ILLSLEY (Dire Straits) || GRAHAM GOULDMAN (10CC) | NICK VAN EEDE (Cutting Crew) || GOWAN (Styx) || BLURRED VISION + MORE...
Reviewed by John Seales
Released 11th June
In 2019, a career-long dream to bring together a variety of artists to celebrate the music, the legacy, and the birthday of Beatle legend John Lennon came true for Sepp Osley and his up-and-coming band Blurred Vision.
Hosted virtually mid-lockdown, the event would not only be a celebration of the iconic cultural figure, but also a fundraiser for the charity War Child, an organisation personally and deeply very close to Osley’s heart. The purpose of the charity is to protect, educate and stand up for the rights of children caught up in war.
Now in 2021, the 2nd Annual concert event which took place in 2020, on what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday, is being turned into a digital charity album release.
I hope that there’s no need to introduce you to the music of John Lennon – I reckon this is pretty much in the public consciousness. Such a major figure in British and worldwide popular music deserves a quality performance from all involved, and I am glad to be able to report that this is indeed the case.
Most of the tracks (with the notable exception of “Power to The People”) closely follow the original John Lennon score, but with some flavour of the performing artist(s). Although there is flavour there - for instance, the Blurred Vision performances are rockier than John Lennon’s originals – there is a notable absence of egos stamping all over the great man, simply a respect for his music.
“Power To The People” is a bit of an oddity as it does not follow the original musical phraseology, but is more like a spoken poem. It sits a trifle awkwardly here but is in no way disrespectful.
There are in fact some great tracks here. I whisper it, but I like Blurred Vision’s version of “A Day In The Life” more than I like Lennnon’s.
This is a great homage to a great man.
If you like the music of Lennon, like any of the artists represented here, or can empathise with the aims of the charity, to whom all proceeds go, I cannot think of a single good reason why you should not buy this album.
1. STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER - BLURRED VISION
2. REAL LOVE - BLURRED VISION feat LAURA JEAN ANDERSON
3. DON’T LET ME DOWN - BLURRED VISION feat MOLLIE MARRIOTT
4. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE - GRAHAM GOULDMAN of 10CC
5. NORWEGIAN WOOD - NICK VAN EEDE of CUTTING CREW
6. POWER TO THE PEOPLE - MAXI JAZZ of FAITHLESS
7. TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS - GOWAN of STYX
8. DEAR JOHN - BLURRED VISION feat NICK VAN EEDE
9. A DAY IN THE LIFE - BLURRED VISION
10. GIMME SOME TRUTH - KT TUNSTALL
11. I’M ONLY SLEEPING - JOHN ILLSLEY of DIRE STRAITS
12. INSTANT KARMA - BLURRED VISION feat MOLLIE MARRIOTT
Reviewed by John Seales
EP released 18th June
When does an EP become an album? And vice-versa? Is seven tracks an album or an EP? In the olden days, it was simpler, as you could look at the size of the piece of flat plastic and if it was 7 inches in diameter it was a single or EP; if 12 inches then it was an album/LP. Oh, hang on a moment, though, there used be be 12 inch singles too. This is all getting too complicated, so let’s just agree that it doesn’t matter what you label it as, what matters is if the music is to your liking.
The promo material accompanying the review version of this piece of work advises us that Monograms is the alias of NYC-based solo artist Ian Jacobs, and that all of the material on this EP was entirely written, recorded and produced entirely by Monograms at his home studio in Brooklyn. Which seems to be the norm in these times (the writing and recording at home, not the Brooklyn bit). That said, “Cruel Summer” is at least 20 years old, so maybe not everything here is new.
Enough preamble, let’s give it a listen (we can no longer say “let’s spin that platter”, which is probably a good thing...)
“For Safety” leads us in with a synth foreground, backed up with drum and bass, vocals in the mid-range and then a compulsive guitar. The rhythm is not aggressive, but pulls you along with it, stopping abruptly, taking us into the next track.
“Speak And Spell” continues the theme of compulsive rhythm. The vocals are held deliberately not in the foreground, and have some distortion added to them. It’s as if Monograms is slightly ashamed of his voice, which he has no reason to be. I’d like to have seen it allowed more presence.
“Overflowing” has a more American music feel with a prominent acoustic guitar strumming away, and is a dreamlike gentle song, but with a fluidity and swell that feels totally modern.
“Cruel Summer” reprises the synth/bass theme and is a likeable enough interpretation, though I struggle to get the Banararama ladies out of my mind when I hear this one. Let’s move swiftly on…
“Lines” surprises us with a female vocal. It’s a laid-back number that restrains itself, promising to explode at some point but never quite getting there.
“American Dreamz” takes us back into a playful instrumental and a mournful vocal, again driving us with rhythm but not aggressively so. “How To Sleep With Your Eyes Open” has a fantastic intro and gives us an upbeat ending to this intriguing EP.
All in all, then, there is some good stuff here. Some of the instrumental placement is very clever. It certainly deserves a listen.
1. For Safety
2. Speak And Spell
4. Cruel Summer
6. American Dreamz
7. How To Sleep With Your Eyes Open
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 18th June
The Isle of Lewis native Colin Macleod is set to follow up his critically acclaimed 2018 debut album ‘Bloodlines’ with his newest offering ‘Hold Fast’. Set for release on the 18th June 21.
‘Hold Fast is a vast sprawling album that encompasses everything from rock and roll and country through to folk and Americana.
This album tells the story of a man returning to the island he is from after trying to make it in the world. This is a story that closely mirrors Macleod’s own, so it is no surprise that the album is both introspective and full of life. Album opener ‘Queen of The Highlands’ starts the album with a beautifully vast strings laden track that swells and grow into a fantastic folk/americana track that opens the album is some style.
‘The Long Road’ and ‘Warning Signs’ shift the tone of the album slightly with ‘The Long Road’ having a classic country feel whilst ‘Warning Signs’ introduces an element of rock and roll to the album. The rock and roll feel is felt again with ‘Sleep’ which opens with a grungy electric guitar rift that is repeated throughout the track.
‘Old Soul’ is a dreamy folk track that tells the familiar tale of a man that feels he was born in the wrong time. This track also sees Macleod team up with Sheryl Crow whose vocals contrast beautifully with Macleod's. The pair team up again on ‘33’, a stunning acoustic folk track about how people’s ideas and perceptions of how their life should be change and warp over time.
Macleod rounds the album off with ‘Looking for God’ and This Old Place’. ‘Looking for God’ is another fantastic acoustic folk track about the search for a higher purpose without any signs as to what that should be. Throughout ‘Hold Fast’ Macleod tells the story of a man returning home. ‘This Old Place’ brings the story full circle and is all about the joy and comfort of being home surrounded by familiar people and places.
With ‘Hold Fast’ Macleod has told a story that mirrors his own life, and in doing so has produced a poignant, sprawling album that is full of life.
Set for release on 18th June, Macleod has produced a stunning follow up album that is definitely one to add to your collection.
1. Queen of the Highlands
2. The Long Road
3. Warning Signs
4. Old Soul feat. Sheryl Crow
6. Made of Stone
7. 33 feat. Sheryl Crow
9. Looking for God
10. This Old Place
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 25th June
The Pocket Gods have been playing their unique catchy indie sounds for over 20 years, finding fame and popularity after being discovered by the late John Peel, who phoned the band personally to have them send him more material, a band with his stamp of approval has to be worth a listen! The album features tracks from their 22 year career from fan favourites to a few new song.
Opening with ‘Perfect Blue’, a lo-fi indie number with an Only Ones new wave feel, its easy to see why it’s a favourite. With the fuzzy vocals low in the mix under the dominant lead guitar it doesn’t quite follow the standard song structure, by a band that themselves don’t follow a common structure.
Despite low level vocals being very popular with the band, frontman Mark Christopher Lee is a word smith as he shows with songs like ‘The Ballad of Dave Insepso’ and ‘Kimmy Loadletter’, an almost spoken word piece, more poetry infused with music than a song, with some inspiration taken from the cult movie Office Space and the printers load letter error.
At times the vocals are too indistinct, ‘Going to Asda in my Mazda’ makes it almost impossible to hear what’s being said apart from the title of the song, but the almost cheeky way he rhymes Asda and Mazda helps redeem the slow sleazy number that fits, all be it a little uncomfortably in the album.
Its not all spoken word and strange effects, ‘Weekend Revulers’, is a catchy toe tapping summer song, a tale of a rakish weekend out, it feels like Bez should be dancing along, with a driving funky beat and bright keys its uplifting and needed to provide some balance.
They’re also not a band to stick to boring generic names with tales about love or use the word Girl when Gurl will work instead. ‘If You See A UFO Who Ya Gonna Call? Nick Pope!’ And ‘Telstar Gurl’ are high energy punk explosions, a little over 4 minutes long combined, they’re quick loud and brash, with Telstar Gurl not looking out of place in the late 70’s punk peak.
Its strange to review a compilation album, as bands constantly change, so each release has a similar feel throughout, whereas this is spread across decades, but even though the band’s evolved, the core sound is still there. The Lo-Fi indie music is a constant, even if sometimes its a guitar lead, then others electronica and keys, with the fuzzy low vocals, its nice to hear their evolution without losing who they are.
It’s a good album, every track deserves to be there and its interesting throughout, if they’re a band you’re not familiar with I recommend this as a good place to start.
1. Perfect Blue
2. The Ballad of Dave Insepso and Kimmy Loadletter
3. Superman’s Head
4. Indie Pop Verses The World
5. Going To Asda In My Mazda
6. Devestation Duvet
7. Weekend Revulers
8. If You See A UFO Who Ya Gonna Call? Nick Pope!
9. Telstar Gurl
10. Survival Of The Shittest
11. Someone Else Is On Our Moon
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 25th June
Imagine Scritti Politti recruiting Rick Wakeman to record an album of Euro disco and you’re halfway to describing this album.
There’s a lot going on across the 18 tracks on this the second offering from Robbing Millions, which is the moniker of Belgian Avant-pop musician Lucien Fraipont. The album which is the first outside release on MGMT records is a cornucopia of musical ideas covering several different styles including pop, prog and even a sprinkling of folk for good measure.
The ideas shouldn’t work but repeat plays reveal the complex multi layered arrangements which are catchy and retain accessibility.
I imagine that Monsieur Fraipont possesses a laboratory of pop located somewhere inside a hollowed-out volcano from which his abundance of creative ideas spew forth.
The album majors on quirky fun electro pop or so it appears at first listen as several songs then head off in the direction of proggy noodling.
Opening track Family Dinner kicks off proceedings with a catchy driving disco-based beat and is a worthy single. Other highlights include Have Tea which has a real Scritti Politti vibe going on and Holidays Inside which is a light breezy pop tune that culminates in organ like keyboards and a guitar solo.
There are 4 instrumental tracks on the album which vary in style from Mont de Piete’s dreamy introspection to the Sci-fi soundtrack of Overdry and the jazz influences evident in P10.
This album is not for everyone but well worth a listen for the ambitious pop stylings on show.
Mont De Piete
Season Of The Rain
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 25th June
Out on the 25th June, with this album Maple Glider has produced a debut album that is incredibly captivating from the first moment to the last and is a great demonstration of how less can sometimes mean much more.
The announcement of ‘To Enjoy is the Only Thing’ came at the same time as the release of the single ‘Swimming’. The minimalist nature of this track is maintained throughout the album, and this is definitely for the better as it allows Gliders stunning vocals to soar and be the main focus of the album.
‘Be Mean, Its Kinder Than Crying’ is another beautiful example of the less is more approach taken by Glider. With her vocals, which on this track in particular are reminiscent of Lana Del Ray, accompanied by the muted strumming of an acoustic guitar, it again allows Gliders voice to be the main focus of the track.
There are moments however on the album where Glider does become slightly more expansive. ‘Friend’ is a good example of this with its steady drum beat and acoustic guitar, and this feels like a dreamy county track. ‘Good Thing’ also gives a different dimension to the album. The track starts with Glider accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, but then builds up becoming almost orchestral in parts. The addition of a Billi Eilish style echo on her vocals on this track again adds another dimension to the album.
With her debut album, Maple Glider has produced a stunningly captivating album that shows less can absolutely mean more.
This is certainly a debut album not to be missed.
1. As Tradition
3. View From This Side
5. Be Mean, It’s Kinder Than Crying
6. Good Thing
7. Baby Tiger
9. Mama It’s Christmas
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 25th June
The nine-piece urban dance collective The Moods return with their highly anticipated third studio album ‘Somebody's Hero Nobody's Soldier’. Out on the 25th June 2021 this is a storming album that is unafraid of tackling complex social issues.
The Manchester based group have drawn influence from a vast array of musical genres and it really shows on this the album. Opening track ‘Somebody's Hero’ opens with fantastic soul style vocals before descending into a pounding drum and bass track. ‘Old School Sounds’ is a fantastic mash up of R&B, rap and drum and bass which is sure to get you up and dancing.
‘Blessings’ is a bouncing dance track that has some rap thrown in for good measure and begs to be played loud. The Moods have even drawn inspiration from classical music with the choral sample used on ‘Strong’ and the strings opening of ‘The War’.
With their third album, The Moods are not afraid to tackle some complex social issues. ‘The Rise and Fall of America’ tackles some issues facing American society such as gun control with lyrics such as “Selling ammunition with a six pack”. ‘Instagram Influenza’ deals with issues around social media such as online abuse and the search for gratification from the things we post online.
‘Fault In Our Stars’ deals with the chase for fame and the seeming rise in people becoming famous despite having no discernible talent. The final track ‘Nobody's Soldier’ deals with the issues surrounding gangs and gang violence with another storming drum and bass track.
The Moods have produced an album that is an incredible blend of genres and is unafraid of tackling difficult social issues. ‘Somebody's Hero Nobody's Soldier’ is an album that is sure to get you moving and is one not to be missed.
1. Somebody's Hero
2. Fault In Our Stars
3. Rise And Fall Of America
4. Old School Sound
5. The War
7. True Revolution
8. Blessings ft. Yoko Pwno
9. Human Again
10. Same Hell
11. Instagram Influenza ft. Scorzayzee
12. Nobody's Soldier
Reviewed by Andi Bridges
Album released 9th June
Trying to track down information about the Brand New Zeros is akin to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Links to their website are broken, A trawl of discogs throws up a 3 CD compilation called Music Minds Supporting Mental Health, where they have a track amongst such luminaries as Tom Robinson, Chris Difford, Nik Kershaw and Glenn Tilbrook.
They do have a presence on all the usual social media channels - Instagram, YouTube, Spotify et al, advising on upcoming releases and live streams and links to radio programmes that they have been played on, but actual background information, nada.
So what did I discover? They are London based and have 1.8k followers on Facebook. The band revolves around the axis of Ronan MacManus (vocals/guitar) and Luke James Dolan (guitar). They seem to get a lot of airplay on Country Radio shows alongside heavy hitters like Ryan Adams, Leanne Rimes and Danny Vaughn. Their live streams regularly attract a couple of thousand views when being broadcast and end up around 5000 views over time. This is their second album and the first to be released on Fretsore Records and it is a follow up to their debut released in 2015. It was originally due to be released in 2020.
This album is available on vinyl and as a download. A quick look at their bandcamp page and I can see that of the eleven tracks, five have been released as singles. Described as Alternative Rock, the album starts with three up-tempo rock songs all built on a tight rhythm section of crisp drumming and thumping bass, overlaid with some driving guitar riffs. I found myself singing along to the vocal refrain - I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it, on track three. Track four then takes the listener in a completely different direction, all mellow piano and americana(ish) until Luke stretches out his guitar chops with a great solo and I find myself thinking that the label Alternative Rock really doesn’t do the Brand New Zeros justice.
This Love has a tale attached to it, as explained by Luke in a touching video on Facebook posted on the 11th June. Ronan, Luke and drummer Carlton (I never discovered his last name) were in the studio, the bass player couldn’t be there. Luke started playing a riff which Carlton joined in. Ronan liked what he was hearing and started bellowing some lyrics over the top. They played for just under three minutes. They tried it again, recording it but it wasn’t as good as the initial jam. They never had a chance to revisit it because Carlton passed away before they could play it again. So the drums you hear are from the only time the song was ever played together and recorded.
Human Kindness, a centerpiece of the album could well be an anthem for these times - As MacManus says of the song: “I wrote ‘Human Kindness’ some time ago from personal experiences, but the current global situation has elevated how the song resonates with me, adding a new dimension of relevance. We had recorded this with the full band for our upcoming album, and thought now would be the right time to send it out into the world. As my wife is a nurse, I think we have all seen how the human experience is at its best when we work together, thus inspiring the message of the song.”
I had a nagging feeling throughout that the vocal stylings reminded me of someone and then I discovered this nugget - They landed a breakthrough tour in support of Ronan’s big brother Declan MacManus, perhaps better known to you and me as Elvis Costello.
So who will enjoy this release? There are a myriad of influences across the tracks although there is a strong celtic feel. I found myself thinking of acts as diverse as U2 and The Vaccines. That said they are no hipster kids in skinny jeans, these are muso’s who have lived a bit and know their craft. I can definitely imagine hearing these tunes whilst standing in a field, drinking cider, surrounded by mates all singing along.
Album reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Released 2nd July
Drug Store Romeos debut album ‘The World Within Our Bedrooms’ and it is out now, and the Hampshire based trio have produced a fantastic synth-pop record that has a stunningly haunting feeling.
The feel throughout Drug Store Romeos debut album is an incredibly ethereal one, and this is perhaps felt most strongly on the newest single from the album ‘What's On Your Mind’. With its swirling synths, echoing vocals and galloping bass this track encompasses everything that is good about Drug Store Romeos.
This is by no means the only highlight on the album. ‘Bow Wow’ is a great bass driven track that again beautifully encapsulates the ethereal feeling of the album. ‘Put Me On The Finish Line’ takes a classic fairground tune and morphs it into stunning track that almost has the feel of a lullaby. ‘Adult Glamour’ with its dreamy Americana style guitars and its ample use of echo is a track that has an incredibly expansive feel.
Out now Drug Store Romeos debut album ‘The World Within Our Bedrooms’ is an outstanding debut album that has an incredible otherworldly feel and is well worth your time and attention.
1. Building Song
2. Secret Plan
3. Bow Wow
5. Walking Talking Marathon
6. Frame Of Reference
7. Feedback Loop
8. What’s On Your Mind
9. No Placing
11. Electric Silence
13. Put Me On The Finish Line
14. Cycle Of Life
15. Adult Glamour