Friday, 2 December 2011

Everything Burns - Ghosts & Angels

Ghosts & Angels, the first single from their forthcoming second album, marks Cornish metallers Everything Burns return to the British music scene. Full of anthemic vocals, crushing rhythms and melodic lead guitar, Ghosts & Angels sounds very much like any of the tracks heard on debut album ‘Home’.

While this is not necessarily a bad thing, ‘Home’ was a great debut after all, it would have be fantastic to hear the Cornish favourites grow on their follow up album. Instead, Ghosts & Angels sounds very much like it’s from an American metal/emo-light band that are ten-a-penny on music channels such as Scuzz.

This feeling of déjà vu can sometimes help a band gain fans from their contemporaries, but in the case of Everything Burns, I think I’ll listen to Finch or Funeral For A Friend instead.


2 / 5

http://www.everythingburns.co.uk

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Top Albums of 2011

2011 promised to be a fantastic year for music lovers with the return of Coldplay (giving shareholders at EMI a sigh of relief), a new album from we’re on hiatus, oh no we’re not, American rockers Foo Fighters, as well as new albums from previous NME heavyweights Kasabian and Florence and the Machine, fan favourites Elbow and albums from ‘the next big thing’ like Ed Sheeran. Yet somehow, for me at least, this year fell flat on its face. Here is my list of top five albums that were worth checking out from this year.


Adele – 21
General sexual crushes aside, 21 proved everything about Adele’s talent that 19 perhaps failed to do. With soulful vocals, heartbreak lyrics, fantastic production and a brilliant selection of songs that saw Adele move from ballads to putting her on spin on The Cure, this album had it all and it’s easy to see why it’s sold so many units this year.



Alex Clare – Lateness of the Hour
I’m not hot on dub step, or drum and bass, or any music you seemingly have to be completed wasted to tap your foot to. Alex Clare’s debut album however, had dub step moments littered throughout it but mixed nicely with soul, funk, dance and pop influences making it without a doubt, the most interesting and captivating listen for me in 2011.



Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
Humbug brought me around to the band I had previously loved to hate with its wonderfully raw bass sound that was reminiscent of old Queens of the Stone Age. On first listen, Suck It And See seemed to be a step in the wrong direction, but after copious listens it’s clear that this was the intelligent direction for the band, mixing the rawness of Humbug with the lyrical prowess of the previous albums and wrapping them around some gloriously poppy hooks. Great stuff.



Ben Howard – Every Kingdom
Blending perhaps Iron & Wine with Jose Gonzalez and the laidback feel of Newton Faulkner, with his debut album Ben Howard created a beautiful summer album of soon-to-be folk classics. Every song is brilliant in its own right and there is no reason why Ben Howard can’t span a career as wide as Bob Dylan’s if this is anything to go by.



Bon Iver – Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago skyrocketed Bon Iver to the top, making him a poster boy for the nu-folk invasion of British music and despite his non-Bon Iver offerings being weak at best, the pressure was on for his follow up album. This second album didn’t disappoint, seeing Bon Iver return bigger, more innovative and emotional than ever with a selection of grandiose multi-textured songs that have seen Bon Iver break further into the mainstream.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Every local music scene has hundreds of musical acts plugging away to try and break it out nationally. Few, if any though, demand for you to almost will them out of the country because you know they are that good. I caught up with Andrew Bate, a fantastic singer-songwriter from Cornwall, on the release of his latest EP Fainting In Coils to ask him about the new music and just how does it really feel to be compared to an iconic figure such as Jeff Buckley.

Hello Andrew, Your new EP Fainting In Coils is out soon. Can you tell us about the record, what the title means, how you came about creating it and when it will be released?
“Fainting in Coils” is a line in a great piece of fiction which I won’t tell you because I don’t want it to influence people’s take on the record. It was originally pitched by Paul Reeve in response to one of the songs that made reference to the book. The song didn’t make it onto the record but the title just stuck around, I liked the shape of it, the way it sounded and the way it looked and the images that it brought up in my mind. It’s better than “Nightmare at the Opera” anyway.

You recorded at the legendary Sawmills with Paul Reeve of Muse fame. How do you feel that helped you to create the sound that you wanted on this record?
I remember being about 13 and my Dad and I were sat in the car and he put on a CD that he’d bought which was Muse’s single for “Unintended” which Paul produced and I remember thinking that it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. My favourite thing about Paul’s work is the fact that somehow he injects an undercurrent into everything he does, he makes it sound like it’s alive! It’s quite weird working with the man who essentially formed your musical tastes, everything he does was just right for what I’d imagined. I’d think of something and he’d have already made a note of it. He helped me realise my ideas for the songs and how to put them together more effectively. And the man is an octopus, he managed to find a time to be engineer, producer, mixer and still managed to talk to each of us privately and discreetly and give us notes on how to enhance our performances without being in any way intrusive. I may have written the record but Paul brought it to life.


You now have a backing band, whereas before you often played solo. What was the decision behind this and did that have a bearing on the songs on the record?

The songs have always been written with these musical arrangements in mind, I’ve just been too stubborn or controlling to put a band together to showcase them in such a way. I get frustrated when I deal with others in that way, it’s hard to stay consistent, by the time of my second band gig I was on my second drummer and bass player. So in the past performing solo has more been an act of convenience, I never intentionally set out to become a “solo singer songwriter” it’s just one of those things. I love working with The Lost. One of the reasons I think I enjoy the recording process so much is fact that you can take your time and experiment with things, you don’t have to be over rehearsed. We had two recording blocks for the record, the first we were really well rehearsed for and somehow it took a long time. The second block, the band and I were separated so we had no rehearsal time and were going into record songs we’d never played together, but it was all finished so much quicker. The first song we recorded in that second batch, we’d never played together before and we were recording it live, we got it in about three takes.

Having heard the EP, it feels quite eclectic, Lay Me Down comes across as a grandiose rock number, Deliverance has a theatrical element to it while Fire Rose and Ghosts are stripped bare orchestral numbers. How did you choose the tracks to go onto the record?
That’s just the display of a restless brain, I mean who would ever want to settle down with just one style of music forever? It’s not like a marriage you’re not bound to it forever, and if you want to be you’re a moron. If you’re not constantly trying your hand to work out different styles, then you are taking up too much room in this trade. When Paul and I first started talking about working together I sent him some demos of a concept record I was writing. He said it would be a good idea but thought it would be good to record a few specific songs at first to showcase the range of my writing to get people interested and would possibly give us some funding for a full record. There were songs that we recorded that I didn’t want to have on the EP just because they didn’t sit well with the others and I was very adamant that even if we were showcasing different styles, I wanted all the pieces to sound like they were of the same bloodline. To showcase that we could be a sound without being a genre.

All of your press compared you to Jeff Buckley. Do you find this comparison disheartening in anyway and do feel your new material will help to quash any comparisons?
I’m not sure what those comparisons are for. If they’re for flattery that’s fine to a point but if it’s for the public to get an idea of you it starts to be damaging as people come to your shows thinking you’ll be one thing and when you end up not being what people think, there’s a violent backlash. I know that I for one have been on the receiving end of that backlash and it’s pretty unpleasant when you’re trying to carve out your own place as a writer. If anything I think the record owes more to PJ Harvey than to Buckley, but I’m not a woman so the press don’t see it that way. There is a certain standard by which most press seems to reference what they see. Does my music sound like Buckley’s? No. Am I a solo performer? Yes. There is a common ground that someone like Buckley and I tread on which is picked up on a lot and even though I am a huge admirer of the man, I don’t see any similarities between us other than superficial ones. Maybe I just look like the kind of person who’ll die young I don’t know.


The industry is a strange place these days, so what are your plans for this release, do you have a label for it or will you be distributing it independently and what formats will it be available in?

You say industry like there is one. The stage we’re at now it’s going out independently which is kind of ideal for what we want to do. My wife is working on the artwork for the record and she’s really come up with a special and innovative design which hopefully should make for a rather stand out physical copy. We’ve got a kind of cottage industry going in putting all that together which feels like the best way to be when you’re an independent. And I like physical releases, I’m not big with the Ipod generation as there seems to be a pick and choose type scenario going on and nobody is listening to albums, complete albums in the order and pacing that artists and producers work really hard on putting together. If you put your ipod on shuffle around me I’ll choke you.

What are your plans of touring in support of this release?
At the moment touring is all relative to the response we get to the record. My daughter’s only just been born and I don’t want to be away from her touring unless I feel like it’s really going to make an impact. I love touring and I love playing live and as soon as we have a plan in place I will be out playing every place that’ll have me. Tom Waits goes years without touring and he seems to be doing pretty good.

And finally, when can we all expect a full-length release from you?
I’ve been speaking to Paul some more, throwing songs at him and I think we’ve got a few we would like to explore. We’ll see what ground we can make with this record, it’d be nice to be able to pay Paul something other than biscuits you know? I guess it’s all just a matter of money. You got any?

You can find out more about Andrew Bate and the release of his new ep, Fainting In Coils by visiting http://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Bate/12492001071
Andrew Bate - Fainting In Coils

In art, comparisons can be a hideous thing. When Andrew Bate first came to the forefront of the Cornish music scene, all the local papers picked up on him as this theatrical piano driven Jeff Buckley-like artist. This sort of comparison, while flattering I'm sure (I'd be flattered at least), does take away from the talent of many artists and this comparison seemed to overshadow Andrew Bate at times and more and more he seemed to become detached from the local scene (either that, or I did) concentrating on other artistic pursuits other than just music.

Latest EP, Fainting In Coils, see’s Bate back with a backing band pushing him to audible heights that we’ve never heard from him before. Opening track ‘Deliverance’ is a slow brooding and haunting track pinned sparingly by an anthemic and tribal set of drumming while an electronic bass-line not dissimilar to one you may have heard on Gorillaz fantastic Demon Days adds an almost hip-hop feel before Bates (as we expect) Buckley-esque vocals come into the fore, more aggressive than before with almost pre-apocalyptic lyrics. ‘Lay Me Down’, possibly a personal favourite of mine from the EP, has almost a Daniel Johns from Silverchair vocal vibe from it, while musically Bate flirts with that rock but radio friendly sound, happy to do the Nirvana made popular quiet verse before erupting into a distortion and groove heavy chorus, it’s songs like this that truly get your feet tapping. After this it becomes more morose and down-beat, leading to the final track ‘Ghosts’, a beautiful classical piano led song (with the noises of children in the background) that cascades in and around your ears creating this daunting atmospheric yet at the same time utterly gorgeous instrumental of a track.

While I can understand the Buckley comparisons, especially in the rockier tracks with Bate emphasis clearly on writing songs that have this soulful funk ability of getting into the groove, Bate clearly has a slight split personality on show here able to fall into the more theatrical solemn side of music, and while it is on his rockier my Buckley-esque numbers that I prefer his sound, it is the ability to combine so many different eclectic influences that sets Bate apart from the legends that he is compared to.

4 / 5

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Evanescence - Evanescence

The multi-million success of Evanescence’s debut album Fallen came high on the crest of nu-metals mainstream popularity (with bands like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach breaking into the UK’s top ten) and sparked a movement of female led rock/metal bands. The new Evanescence album (which is self-titled) comes many years after their sophomore release and for most is labelled a comeback release (much like Limp Bizkit’s Gold Cobra album also released this year).

First track and lead single for the album, What You Want, shows Evanescence’s sound from the outset, the usual driven distorted rock rift, stomping drum beats and dabbles of bright piano while Amy Lee’s vocals sound less orchestrated and more mainstream pop than ever with the band more eager for mainstream popularity than the grandiose style of much of Fallen which makes for those big chorus’.

Sadly for Evanescence though, this description tends to fit for every track on the rest of the album and while Fallen seemed to swoon from feelings of defiance to emotional uncertainty, it’s clear that here, Evanescence and especially Amy Lee, have nothing more left to prove (or write about). What You Want contains the lyric “Hello hello, remember me?”, many of us will be wishing we could remember the Evanescence of old rather than this dross.

2 / 5

www.evanescence.com

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dry The River - Weights and Measures

Dry The River have for a long time felt like Britain’s best kept folk secret, but a busy schedule that has seen them on tour with indie favourites Bombay Bicycle Club more recently means that it won’t be too long before this truly is a thing of the past.

The latest in a long line of singles (but still no debut album release as of yet), Weights and Measures continues where Dry The River left off on previous release No Rest with a quaint and timeless organic sound that belies both their age and also their time in the business. Weights and Measures makes Dry The River sound like they have been around forever but in a good way like perhaps Bob Dylan or Neil Diamond, with a country-esque sound relying heavily on a harmonised vocal delivery as well as a beefy (almost) walking bass line and best of all, a chorus to die for with its sing-a-long lyric “I was prepared to love you” and dramatic musical pauses showing just how emphatic silence can be when used intelligently in a song.

If Dry The River continue to tour as incessantly as they are now as well as craft music as brilliant as this then it surely won’t be long until they find themselves mentioned alongside the likes of Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, Fleet Foxes and maybe in the future, legends like Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Neil Young and Johnny Cash.

4 / 5

www.drytheriver.net

Friday, 16 September 2011

You Me At Six - Sinners Never Sleep

You Me At Six have steadily grown in popularity since the release of debut album Take Off Your Colours and then further more with its follow up, 2010’s Hold Me Down, as well as the in-between albums single, “Rescue Me”, featuring uh...Chiddy Bang (whoever that is?!).

There were rumours that Sinners Never Sleep was to be a heavier affair than the previous two record that had seen You Me At Six lumped in some pop-punk, emo category, unfairly the band had said. Sinners Never Sleep isn’t heavier though, in fact, it is probably softer and almost more ballad(y) than previous effort Hold Me Down. Lead single “Loverboy” is You Me At Six by numbers, with hints of a rock attitude in the guitar but with singer Josh Franceschi predictably drawing his female fans to sing-a-long with the type of anthemic chorus that the band have tried and tested so often that they have it down to a tea now. “This Is The First Thing” and “Crash” are your stereotypical slow dredges of American soft rock, we’ve heard this all before, boy is emotionally hurt, so boy writes song about it and musically it is so middle ground, so Wind-up Records meets well, Simple Plan, how very unimaginative and contrived.

There are sparks when you think “Yes, this is it, they've got it”. There is a cracking guitar riff on “Time Is Money” that recalls the southern blues sound of perhaps Every Time I Die, but even that is spoilt by a From Autumn To Ashes (or A Day To Remember if you are looking for a more recent reference) breakdown that shows clearly that at this point in their careers, You Me At Six don’t know who they want to be.

To put it simply, if you liked the first two albums, you will probably love this. If you expect more from music, avoid because this is nothing new.

2.5 / 5

www.youmeatsix.co.uk
Remember Remember - The Quickening

From the record label of Mogwai, Rock Action Records (A label that I thought was only for the distribution of Mogwai’s albums until now) come Remember Remember and their second album “The Quickening”.

Very much like Mogwai, Remember Remember have their feet firmly dipped in the post-rock side of music remaining on this release at least, vocal-less. Focusing on one melody, they entwine others, throwing in every instrument including the kitchen sink at times building a wall of sound, but unlike their contemporaries (Explosions In The Sky, etc), they do not build to predictable crescendo’s nor do they achieve this through the use of meandering beautiful guitar lines. Tracks like “Hey Zeus” and “One Happier” achieve this sense of originality with classical sensabilities, more eager to rely on violins and pianos rather than drums and guitar, while songs like “Ocean Potion” are drenched in an Asian influence with sweet xylophone-like sounds recalling Brian Eno and Mike Oldfield.

It would be easy to lump Remember Remember with a whole host of bands, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, maybe Sigúr Rós and even Battles in part but that is where Remember Remember seem to be ahead of the game, using a whole host of the mainstays of a strange genre and mixing them with a more classical use of music to create something not only original and worth listening to, but at the same time, a wonderful collection of inspiring songs.

4 / 5

www.myspace.com/rememberremember

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mogwai - Earth Division EP

The days of Mogwai being a fully fledged post-rock band have been long dead, probably since the release of glorious Mr Beast with its follow ups The Hawk Is Howling and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, soaked in so many influences that Mogwai grew into a sound that fit their name only, a culmination of experience and talent.

The Earth Division EP continues on the ground that Mogwai have treaded lately. Opener ‘Get To France’ is a piano based track with underlying violin orchestration that nods towards operatic geniuses like Beethoven, rather than the rock and soundtrack influences that Mogwai wore on their sleeves previously. ‘Hound Of Winter’ is a slow melodic plucked guitar focused track with almost sighed vocals that plays its hand at some form of laidback folk. ‘Drunk and Crazy’ is the Mogwai that we would more expect today, a quick upbeat electronic bass line, with the band are at the height of their soundtrack prowess here, mixing rock sensibilities with an almost dance music feel before cutting back the swell to show off their orchestral talents once more. ‘Does This Always Happen’ is almost post-rock by numbers, a basic guitar melody repeated and repeated while clever instrumental touches are added behind and around it, and while it doesn’t reach a predictable crescendo, it does so to its benefit recalling the fantastic work that Mogwai created for The Fountain soundtrack.

The Earth Division EP shows why bands should be allowed to create their fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth album with Mogwai continuing to craft their own sound, a portrait of a mixture of genres. Post-rock bands watch out, these are the dizzying heights that you should all want to reach and with this EP, Mogwai are once again raising the bar higher.

4 / 5

www.mogwai.co.uk

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Fionn Regan - 100 Acres of Sycamore

Given the success of The End of History, the mercury award nominated album that saw Fionn Regan rise from the shadow of obscurity and into the limelight with the media spouting the usual "next Dylan" nonsense, it was almost inevitable that Regan would drop the ball on its follow up The Shadow of an Empire, and he did just that creating an album that marked a swift change, more electric and quicker in pace but losing Regans uncanny ability to pen a fantastically memorable lyric in the process. Regan's third album 100 Acres of Sycamore therefore is the perfect place for the record to be put straight and for Regan to get his foot back in the doorway of a room filled with the fantastic singer-songwriters around today.

100 Acres of Sycamore is a return to the sound that made Fionn such an unstoppable force from 2006 onwards. The album titled opener is full of atmosphere, a slow burner that broods with orchestration taking the forefront rather than the single bright guitar we would have seen from The End of History and while it isn't perhaps the horse out of the gate start to an album we would want, it is wonderful to listen to. Dogwood Blossom meanwhile harks back to the simple production that served Fionn well in the past with a beautifully contemplative acoustic guitar melody while vocally, there is just a slight hint of reverb that creates that spine tingling feeling that few can create these days. But they are just rare moments in an album that is too eager to just stay in first gear, while The End of History and even despite its flawed The Shadow of an Empire had personality, 100 Acres of Sycamore comes across as a dross, droney uninspired set of twelve songs that you would not expect from such a talent. Let us all hope for Fionn Regan's sake that his fans forgive such a dire excuse of a record.

1/5

www.fionnregan.com

Monday, 18 July 2011

Fight The Bear - Dead Sea Fruit

Many bands forget the importance of local media, hedging their bets on getting mainstream acceptance from the likes of Radio One. This is where many bands go wrong. I first heard Fight The Bear on Shropshire Radio, who were celebrating the fact that their hometown band had gained inclusion into the T In The Park festival line-up, who wouldn't be proud of that, local boys done good.

'Dead Sea Fruit', the terribly named full length record is the home of many of the tracks those who went to T In The Park would have heard. 'No Soldier', the radio friendly single from the record is the biggest stand-out track here, a laid-back ska track (think more The Police on a downer than Less Than Jake here). A brilliantly penned track about not understanding the war and the reasons to fight, it's you're usual punk "why can't we just get along" sort of song, but with a more sombre attitude than we would hear from our American counterparts. It also has some lovely musical touches on the chorus that really make it a delight to listen to, little vocal melodies overdubbed later with a lead guitar melody that works fantastically - definitely one to be listened to rathered than described.
'Moon' treads on the ground cover by the much missed (in my mind anyway) Farse, mixing that bright fun stereotypical ska guitar riff but mixing it with a hard, heavy, I'm going to rip off your face type of distorted guitar riff.
While 'We've Got It All' does exactly what every final song on an album should do, bringing the tone right back down into the sombre mood that 'No Soldier' create before bringing out the big guns and proving (if they hadn't already) that Fight The Bear are a band that can pen a chorus.

'Dead Sea Fruit' isn't without it's flaws though, and they tend to be heavy one's. Vocally, the band work better when they are on the more downbeat section of their sound but it just so happens that the majority of this album is upbeat. Musically at times, they tend to fall into a cliché ska sound confused with mainstream rock aspirations, which brings you to the assumption that they are just a band by numbers with a desperate need for a great producer - a very wrong assumption and one that they need to address themselves because it is clear with the likes of 'No Soldier' that Fight The Bear could really be onto something. One's to watch, definitely.

3 / 5

www.myspace.com/fightthebear

Monday, 4 July 2011

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm

Television. Bloody fantastic idea, but then what’s the point when there’s nothing decent on, and more especially, when there is nothing informative on. That’s how I used to feel, but television does have its uses, and it’s shown its uses through my discovery of Benjamin Francis Leftwich late one night on channel four talking about his forthcoming album, ‘Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm’, but is his album really worth harping about on the old rubbish box, will television and its constant useless misinformation let me down again?

I think I need to get this straight right away, ‘Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm’ is hardly a mainstream music media monster, to this day I am confused as to why such a program focused solely on this one release was aired over perhaps I don’t know, some bollocks release by The Wanted or if we are going down the folk roots which Leftwich implies with his music, the massively popular Mumford & Sons, but there we go.

Opening track ‘Pictures’ focuses very much around Leftwich’s vocals, deep, reverb friendly, think M Ward but more radio friendly and you pretty much get it. The song is simple in its structure, a quietly picked guitar melody while Leftwich hauntingly sings such lines as, “If you find faith in your parents God, don’t be afraid to point flaws in it”. It’s only in the chorus that things pick up, and even that is only ever so slightly, with hushed ooooh’s soothing their way into your ears. It’s perhaps song writing at its best, with Leftwich not needing to scream in your face to get your attention, the sparseness of his style draws you in, convincing you to keep hushed and listen intently to every lyric sung and every guitar string plucked, brilliant.

Box of Stones’, the main single from the album, is very much a change of aesthetic from ‘Pictures’. The bright, summery guitar melody creating a lush counter balance to Leftwich’s at times, dreary voice (I say this in a complimentary way). The song itself has a fuller sound; violins lightly tickle their way into the backing track swelling at the correct times for a spine tingling sensation. For the first time, female vocals are prevalent mimicking Leftwich has he sings through his first real catchy chorus lyrically, “I am young, I am yours, I am free”, if this doesn’t attract the attention of those young heart-broken folky kids, then I don’t know what will.

Atlas Hands’ is yet another stand-out track (and there are a whole lot more that I won't mention in fear of boring you), a tale of travel and of remembered love. Once again, fitting with Leftwich’s sound, it’s quietly done. A simple almost country-esque strummed guitar maintains the base of the track – no drums are ever found here – with the occasional picked lead guitar coloured over the top to bring out the beautiful melody on display here. Female vocals make another appearance here but late on mimicking Leftwich again as he sings, “I’ve got a plan, I’ve got an atlas in my hands”, if you were dumb enough to ignore the rest of the track, this is the part that will prick your ears up, the high female vocals working in complete order with Leftwich’s deep vocals, complimenting them.

I can imagine my mother listening to ‘Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm’ and telling me that it’s suicide music, such is the downbeat nature of it. I can also imagine one specific friend telling me that it’s pretentious and that it’s middle class music. That’s the great thing about music though, it’s all opinion, and for me, ‘Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm’ has everything I want in a modern album with no real skip-able tracks (which is very rare, most albums have tracks that we can take or leave). Leftwich clearly wears his heart on his sleeve lyrically and vocally, emotion pours out of him, this makes it difficult not to find this release endearing. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifMusically, perhaps it isn’t adventurous, he’s hardly going to be compared to virtuoso bands like Battles but it does the job it was no doubt written to do, underpinning the emotion shown in the vocals, with music that is slow, spacious, but above all, moving for his listeners.

Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm’ paints a bleak picture, but it’s an absolutely stunning one. Don’t download this album, buy it, Leftwich deserves that much for this masterpiece and I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

5 / 5

www.benjaminfrancisleftwich.com

Friday, 17 June 2011

Dry The River - No Rest

There aren't many bands that I follow intently to see where they are playing and if they have a new release out yet, in fact, I can count those bands on one hand but Dry The River are one of those bands which given their output, so far a couple of self-released EPs as well as free EPs for those on their mailing list, is pretty impressive, at least in my eyes (having said that, being a fan of the band, that's probably expected).

Their latest single 'No Rest' is released via download or, if you're a bit of a collector like me, a 7" vinyl complete with a postcard signed by the band. 'No Rest' is effectively relatively different from the Dry The River we've heard up until this point. Firstly, the production has been upped considerably and they sound fantastic because of it. Musically, while their previous tracks had a folk maturity to them, 'No Rest' has this alongside a mainstream maturity which see's the band almost taking a leaf from the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro with an epic orchestral chorus complete with repeated lyrics; "I loved you in the best way possible" giving it grandiose sensabilities in abundance. I can already imagine hearing on some sports advert for the BBC.

Dry The River's previous material, while fantastic, could be criticised for being somewhat downbeat, meandering along Bob Dylan-esque depressed history inspired story telling, almost alienating themselves to one type of fan but 'No Rest' see's the band up the ante with a brilliant pop take on modern folk and it isn't going to be long before Radio One pick this song up and the band go far.

With the release of this single, Dry The River have just become my official tip for a band who are going to become bigger than massive.

5 / 5

http://www.drytheriver.net/

http://www.townsend-records.co.uk/Dry+The+River

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Howard James Kenny - Shelter Songs

Howard James Kenny's debut album 'Shelter Songs' is the culmination of one man being holed away for two years in a cattle barn, such is Kenny's love for music. The album itself, more of a mini-album at a total of seven tracks (but with many totalling at over seven minutes each), showcases exactly what a person can do when they understand technology. Built from samples and loop pedals to underpin warm guitar melodies and soulful vocals, Kenny has wowed audiences across the world leading many to coin him as a 'one man Sigur Rós', but is he really worth such hype?

'Shelter Songs' not only is a clear example of such a huge talent technically, it also shows Kenny's ability to pen good songs. His musical and vocal style has this uncanny ability to somehow be spine chillingly haunting while at the same time, warm and friendly, something that I have yet to actually experience from a musical artist before. While his quickly picked guitar style reminiscent of Nick Drake sounds folky at heart, it is more than often soothingly embraced with the soft whisper of synths and other instruments that I'm sure Kenny has at his disposal, creating a progressive soundtrack feel to it that you'd come to expect from Scandinavian acts, making the basis of the tracks on offer here sound worldly and even childishly innocent.

On the whole, this is a fairly diverse record and I could understand why more mainstream fans wouldn't like it (to be honest, I wouldn't like it if I was so bollocked out of my face that I thought that Take That were the best musical act of my life!) but if you appreciate Sigur Rós, Nick Drake, Porcupine Tree (becaue vocally I can hear similarities), The Album Leaf or in fact anything remotely folk, post-rock or ambient-experimental, then this will blow your head back so hard that your neck will become a mouth.

So is Howard James Kenny really worth the hype that he is getting?

Two words: Fuck yes.

4.5 / 5

http://www.howardjameskenny.com/
Puzzle Muteson - En Garde

The Bedroom Community label are perhaps one of my favourite labels in the music industry at this present point with their rosters take on folk both enigmatically beautiful as well as completely different and original to anything else that is currently being sucked off by the NME right now (you know the ones; Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons, Noah & the Whale).

Puzzle Muteson's debut album 'En Garde' being released through this label seems to fit. Not only do his labelmates help with the arrangement and production of the record (which seems to be the case with all albums released through the Bedroom Community Label) but 'En Garde' is a record that like all the other records released on the label, speaks Scandinavian sounds.

It would be almost impossible and even unfair to pick out tracks sigually and describe them because 'En Garde' isn't about the single track but more about the album as a whole and the journey on which it takes you. Vocally, 'En Garde' is as fragile an album as they come, with sparse almost shaky falsetto vocals that recalls Jeff Buckley and tells tales of lost love and nostalgia amongst many other topics. Musically, it is based around finger picked guitars while orchestral and synth backdrops of sound come in waves, in and out. It's subtle, it's an ambient floating cloud drifting from your viewpoint ever so slowly, it is understatingly beautiful and it swells around you until the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. At times it's very Sigur Rós, in fact, I would go as far as saying, if Sigur Rós and Nick Drake were to have a love child, Puzzle Muteson would be that love child and who can really argue with how amazing that child would be?

I am so massively in love with this record right now, it's actually hard for me to say anything negative about it. My only negative comment is this, if you don't get it, then you'll think it's utter tosh. But me, I get it, and I this is the perfect soundtrack to an evening spent in a dark room, a couple of candles for light and a massive set of headphones. In my mind, right now; this album is perfect, so excuse me, but I'll be in a dark room for the summer listening to 'En Garde' on repeat.

5 / 5

www.puzzlemuteson.com
Dukes of Marmalade - Say It Like You Mean It

With the state of the music industry today, you'd forgive bands for tip-toeing initially with their audience but Dukes Of Marmalade, a band of four upstarts from Milton Keynes do no such thing.

'Say It Like You Mean It' is their debut EP, consisting of four tracks and from the off it oozes with a confident swagger that is very rare from artists, especially these days. 'Lemonade Pockets' kicks you in the face with a wah-wah seventies rock lead guitar line before fitting in with a pre-chorus that echoes the importance of a ska-dance beat in an indie song and a chorus that stamps its foot, screaming at you to chant along with it. 'Screaming Sirens Sound' is easily the stand out track on the EP with a punky urgency to it but with almost old British ska tendency to it vocally and lyrically, to add to this, it has a cracking bridge that you just won't be expecting at all but it sounds fantastic all the same. 'Everywhere I Go' on the other hand, starts off in a melancholy manner unlike the previous songs on this record and despite losing the beauty of the subtle strummed guitar sound, Dukes Of Marmalade possess the talent to bring out a Placebo-esque chorus which will (I promise you this) get you singing "everywhere I go" along with them.

At times on this EP it feels like vocally, things don't fit, but by the final two tracks it's clear that it works and does so to great effect with the band vocally sounding like that dark haired geezer from Mcfly (no offense intended there) and musically a mix between perhaps The Automatic and Arctic Monkeys with some old-school balls out British punk and ska thrown in for good measure. The production on the EP is pretty much perfect not taking anything away from the much needed raw sound of the band.

It's still early days for Dukes Of Marmalade and yes, 'Say It Like You Mean It' is by no means flawless, but what a cracking way of showing the country that you exist.

3.5 / 5

www.dukesofmarmalade.co.uk

Friday, 20 May 2011

Ben Howard - Old Pine

I heard Ben Howard, the South Devon singer songwriter, sometime last year with the chance hearing of his EP at that time; 'These Waters'. From that point onwards, I was desperately hounding his PR agent to review the EP that I had been told was in the pipeline. Months after and finally that EP is sat right before me in the form of 'Old Pine' a four track EP released via Island Records.

Opening track 'Old Pine' nestles perfectly with a vocal melody seemingly telling a tale of the outdoor lifestyle that I'm sure Ben has experienced to such a high degree given his place of residence. This entwines with the quirky jaunty acoustic guitar, that is suitably backed up with the soothing sound of cello, while the spare drumming (think less is more and you have it) builds the track to a finale that see's Ben using his voice to create soulful howls reminiscent of Ray Lamontagne. 'Follaton Wood' has a country-esque guitar style with hints of steel guitar being played in the distance, the vocals sounding very much like that of my favourite Damien Rice track 'Coconut Skin', while finishing track 'Three Tree Town' works around a simple low key plucked guitar sound, enhanced by Ben Howard's single voice, sounding very similar to that of Angus Stone.

At the young age of twenty three, Ben Howard is creating folk music that belies his age showing that the song is more important than anything else, often making this release seem low key, but beautifully so. This in turn creates links to the greats, the likes of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan while adding a clear south west influence, a laidback summer sound that fans of Jack Johnson may appreciate. 'Old Pine' is hardly an album that will blow you away for its virtuoso talent, but I'm glad that Island Records have picked up Ben Howard because it's clear he has an ear for penning a great song and that aside, he has a fantastic voice to back it up. 'Old Pine' is clearly the chill out CD for a hot summer of lounging around and hopefully this summer can live up to it.

4/5

http://www.myspace.com/benhoward

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Antlers - Burst Apart

The first time I was tuned into The Antlers was at the release of their last album ‘Hospice‘. It’s songs, a story of an emotionally abusive relationship told through the analogy of a hospice worker and a terminally ill patient, were quiet, emotionally heart wrenching pieces of art understated in the musical delivery that often lay quietly soothing behind the haunting high key vocals of the man behind the formation of the band, Peter Silberman. It came as no surprise to me that not only was ‘Hospice‘ heavily praised and listed on many album of the year lists, but also that they were picked up by a label (‘Hospice‘ was self-released while they now come under Transgressive Records as well). This month see’s the release of their latest album ‘Burst Apart‘, but given the critical success of ‘Hospice‘ is it too much to expect the same quality of output from the band?

‘Burst Apart’ is very different from the bands last release but yet at the same time, very similar. It sounds like one of the strangest things for a writer to perhaps say about a band but in this case it’s nothing but the truth. With ‘Burst Apart’ we see the band writing songs that will perhaps appeal in a more widespread fashion. Yes, perhaps on this record there isn’t the cool kid indie appeal of songs like ‘Two’ but they still have some unashamedly indie style songs, they just seem more appealing to a wider range of people. That isn’t to say that The Antlers have lost the understated beauty to their music though, it’s still there, perhaps in more abundance that ever with the band happily layering keyboard samples, brass sections and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, but it’s done in such a way that it is only ever to compliment the song which showcases the musicianship within the band. On ‘Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out’ the band move into territory that has made Deathcab For Cutie so popular, Silberman’s vocal delivery sounding frail and vulnerable behind entwined picked guitar melodies but still working to an immediency that perhaps was never really evident on ‘Hospice’. On ‘Parentheses’ the band sound very much like a nineties baggy Manchester band letting the drums take centre stage before a dance bassline comes in, finally making way to a fantastically jagged guitar riff. This is The Antlers as we’ve never heard them before, with ‘Parentheses’ in many ways an infectious pop song. ‘Corsicana’ on the other hand is The Antlers that many have grown to love, based around lightly strummed guitar chords with atmospheric keyboard work behind, Silberman gives a fantastically passionately sad performance here singing “We should hold our breath with mouths together now”. It’s simple song writing, but The Antlers have shown that unlike many, they can make it work.

‘Burst Apart’ perhaps isn’t as lyrically inspiring or affecting as its predecessor but musically it comes across as far more accomplished with the band wearing their eighties influences on their sleeve and yet still creating a sound that they can call theirs and only theirs. ‘Hospice’ racked up a space on many critics top ten albums of the year lists, I have no doubt in my mind that ‘Burst Apart‘ will achieve the same, if not more.

If you do anything this year, buy this album.

5/5

http://www.antlersmusic.com

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Jeniferever

It is rare that I am so involved with a band that I continuously await their next release and patiently comb through their gig dates in the hope that they are playing near me, but Jeniferever ever have been one of the select few bands I’ve heard that I deem important enough to place in such high esteem. Debut album ‘Choose a Bright Morning' was seeped in Scandanavian tinged psychadelic ambience and heartfelt emotion that unsurprisingly won them fans from the post-rock genre leading them to gain a comparison to Sigur Rós. It’s long awaited follow up (long awaited to me anyway) ‘Spring Tides' saw the band create a darker, more aggressive and immediate sound that while still had hints of their trademark sound, was a world away from what I had come to expect from the band (and thus, it gained a very impressive review from myself on this website). I met up with Martin Sandström on the cusp of the release of their latest album ‘Silesia’ and an extensive tour to ask where the inspiration for the album came from, how they feel it holds up in competition to their previous efforts and most importantly, why are there so many fantastic Swedish acts.

Your new album will shortly hit the shelves, any hint of nerves creeping in, how do you think people will react to the record?
I think the reactions so far have been good. Mostly. I think we hopefully once and for all can wash away that post- rock tag people always tend to put on us. I mean I like some of the bands people refer to as post- rock, but some of them really suck in my opinion. Not that my opinion matters that much, but I just feels stupid to be compared to for example instrumental bands that have 10 minute tracks consisting of one long build- up. That’s not what we do or try to do. We’re a rock band. So basically I think a lot of people will enjoy this album for what it is, and sadly a lot of people want us to be something we’re not (and never were).

Can you tell us about the album, what inspired the album, how did you go about the creation of it, etc?
This time we wrote pretty much all the album, b- sides and stuff in about six months, which is faster than we’ve ever worked before. After coming off touring last album we figured we should only have a few weeks break and then start working hard on the new album. We had our ups and downs and doubts about being able to do it this fast, but I think it turned out good. We the recorded basic tracks live together in the great Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg. Everything was recorded on tape and through an old mixing desk that has been used by David Bowie and Queen etc. So i guess you could say we got to use a lot of really good recording equipment. It was quite rewarding to go back home after four or five days of recording and have all your basic tracks recorded. Of course we spent a lot of time in our own studio doing overdubs and stuff later, but it all came together a lot quicker and easier this time to everyone´s liking.

If you could describe and sell the album to listeners in one sentence, what would it be?
I’m afraid I can’t do that. It would have to depend on who I was selling it to I guess. What references that person or that group of persons have. I mean describing music depends totally on what references you have. I mostly say we play some sort of epic rock whatever that means. I think we’re a rock band, but not conventional and not stupid. At the same time we’re not this very arty or experimental band that we’ve been tagged as quite a lot before. There are a of instrumental so called ‘post-rock’ bands that we’ve been compared to. Apart from the fact that we have vocals and that we sound nothing like most of them it’s ok. I just think that we in general move more and more towards something else than this playing the same riff for ten minutes and just changing the dynamics. Not that we ever really did that. But some of the bands we get compared to do.

I’ve been a huge fan since the release of your debut album, how do you feel you have grown as a band since that album?
I think we’ve moved in many directions. I think Spring Tides was more of the lengthy rich sounding album. I mean the first two albums were both just about one hour long and the new one is about ten minutes shorter. But I think Spring Tides feels like a lengthy album whereas this new one feels a bit shorter and more direct. There are a lot of layers of sound on this one too, but there’s more space than before in general. With this album I think we just wrote the songs without thinking too much. We just more let the songs happen maybe.

Sweden seems to be somehow massively successful in its breeding of successful musicians, why do you think this is and what other Swedish artists would you recommend?
I think it’s partly because the government helps with a little bit of money for rehearsal spaces and also the ‘communal music school’ is cheap so that pretty much anyone can have their kids go and learn an instrument when they’re quite young. Also I guess because of the lack of fun things to do and the depressing autumn and winter when it’s easy to lock yourself up in the rehearsal room. I think people in Sweden generally are very unhappy and that produces good music.

You seem to forever be on tour around Europe and often play England, London imparticular, where are your favourite places to tour and is there anything you enjoy about playing England at all?I think the UK is special to us since this is where we first started touring. Germany, especially the eastern parts, is also good. I mean we enjoy playing anywhere but I have to say Spain is also very nice. Just recently we did our first shows in Ukraine and Russia and it was great. I loved Moscow.

You’ve changed record labels since your early days, how has your relationship with Monotreme helped you not only creatively but also in terms of touring and selling records?Working with Kim who runs Monotreme is so easy and good. She’s so very hard working and so are we and we’re all in it for the right reasons. We are music fans who plays in a band and runs a record label.

The music industry is a strange place these days, obviously you have a tour to support this album but what comes after that, are there ever thoughts on giving up music and getting a general job?We all have to work when we’re home. We’ve never been able to live off the band. It’s hard but somehow it works. But mostly we work quite shitty jobs to be able to do this.

Back to the album, it is more immediate and perhaps mainstream friendly than previous releases, was it a conscious idea to do this or just a natural progression?I’m not sure. I think it’s more just what happened. But maybe we thought it’d be good to have a few songs that could attract more people. And if it is like that it’s ok. I really hate when people talk about bands selling out and stuff, I mean sometimes I can understand it, but mostly it’s just a band changing direction and if they do that to get more listeners that’s totally fine. I want us to sell millions of records haha.
In terms of the tour, I see that you have some dates from April onwards, can you tell us about the tour, what can fans expect from your shows, how many tracks from the new record can we expect to hear live?We started touring mid march and we keep going until a week into june. So far we’ve basically played the same set but with a few songs swapped from day to day. We play a lot of the new albums as we think people should get to hear it live, but of course we do at least some songs from the older albums. In general we’re quite loud, but I guess the vibe of the set varies depending on the venue and maybe the audience.

Thanks a lot Martin, and good luck with the new album…
Thank you!

Jeniferever are touring Europe right now and their new album ‘Silesia’ can be purchased via their website at http://www.jeniferever.com/

Friday, 15 April 2011

Thursday - No Devolucion

Thursday, the five piece band from New Jersey, America, have been a permanent footnote in the brief history of what fan boys have coined post hardcore, with their emotional music striking a chord with people since the release of their (official) debut album ‘Full Collapse‘. I myself have been a fan since that album and they have maintained their place as one of my favourite bands til this day (which is what, ten years on?).



Their latest album ‘No Devolucion‘ is Thursday‘s second for their new label Epitaph and the follow up to what I deemed to be the highly disappointing ‘Common Existence‘, an album full of anti-Bush political punk sensabilities that to myself, sounded like a band desperately trying to fit in with their label buddies and also a middle aged band going through that typical crisis of trying to win back the fans of the debut album after the brilliant, but poorly received by die-hard fans, experimental album that was ‘A City By The Light Divided‘.

I’m happy to say that with Dave Fridmann at the helm of production for the third time running, that ‘No Devolucion‘ sounds absolutely fantastic and unlike ‘Common Existence‘ which at times felt like it was continuously punching you in the face (aside from the fantastic indie sounding ‘Love Has Led Us Astray‘), ‘No Devolucion‘ sounds like it was made by a band who are comfortable with the fact that despite being lumped in a scene, they are very much alone in it, don’t fit in and are ready to embrace that by just being different.

‘No Answers‘ is Thursday‘s answer to everything on ‘A City By The Light Divided‘. The first single from the album is soaked in deep eighties style synths, low key lead guitar work that is bright and spacious, a glorious explosive chorus making for a great lead single. On ‘No Answers‘ Geoff Rickly is in a introspective mood with calm haunting vocals showing that he has definitely upped his game since the off key stylings of their debut album.

‘Millimeter‘ shows why Tim Payne is so important to Thursday, his dirty bass sound clicking perfect with the toms of the drums to create something original and off-beat, an upbeat dirty rock feel that we haven’t witnessed from Thursday before and perhaps won’t again.

‘Empty Glass‘ see’s Thursday slow it right down, the focus on Geoff Rickly new found focused vocals as well as his as always harrowing thoughts on politics and stories of pain with Rickly softly howling “We’ll trade all our memories for forgetting”, it is here that you really understand why Thursday have maintained a fan base, with Rickly’s emotional pain felt clearly throughout.

Anyone that knows how much I love Thursday will probably just say that I am foaming at the mouth for this record simply because it is Thursday but to put it bluntly ‘Common Existence‘ didn’t even get to half of what I expect from the band. ‘No Devolucion‘ works because its a mature honest album, Rickly is still being unashamedly political but it’s more subtle than before, less preachy. ‘No Devolucion‘ also has somehow found a good combination between tempo’s and musical styles, often straying away from post-hardcore for a post-rock and even indie synth sound. It sounds like everyone has upped their game and from a song writing perspective Thursday have definitely managed to hone their craft and start writing some real competent chorus’.

No Thursday record is complete without drawbacks and for the unitiated Rickly’s voice will still be strange, if not bordering on unpleasant to listen to (even though I think it definitely works for Thursday), while many hardcore fans will start baiting the band saying that it’s no ‘Full Collapse‘ etc, but that’s the point, it isn’t meant to be. ‘No Devolucion‘ is a record made by a band that have grown vastly in the years they’ve been a band ande if this record is anything to go by, Thursday are here to stay for a lot longer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Alt Track - The Banana King

What started as a Muse-lite band, Alt Track have steadily used their influences and work ethic to carve out a sound that is not only original but inspiring also. Their debut full length album was an eclectic collection of political punk, folk, hip-hop, trip-hop, post-rock, drum and bass, whilst also keeping a rock alternative edge which saw them gain favourable reviews by myself amongst others, alongside some fantastic press for their ongoing live shows.
The two-piece have grown and matured some what since then and their upcoming european tour marks the release of a new three track EP, 'The Banana King' available either on tour or free via their soundcloud (which I will link you to later).
'Speakers' has an electronic Radiohead mixed with a piano pop ballad feel to it musically as it builds up to showcase the somewhat expected spoken word rap before relenting to allow the more mainstream friendly singing to come to the fold. It's by the fifth minute where Alt Track really show you why they are such a promising band though, it is here where everything ups itself an extra notch and the vocals combined with the infused electronic drum and bass feel alongside some beautiful piano work really brings out everything that you should love about this band, it's Radiohead in their Kid A era, mixed with65daysofstatic, mixed with Muse and lets say Public Enemy for good measure. It sounds like a mad hash of influences, but the band make it work for themselves somehow.
'Slave Song' is a more straight up affair than 'Speakers' and is my favourite on the EP. The reggae influence is clear from the straight up drumming alongside the ska friendly bass-line, while a clangy country-esque guitar cuts in and out of the track brilliantly as Pete Williams once again politically tells us whats what in his politically infused lyrics. Again, it is towards the end of the track where Alt Track really mix it up, bringing the tempo up considerably to work some almost dubstep style drumming and samples along the clangy guitar, and it is this that really marks the track up to make it fantastic. A lesson once again, that all songs should be listened to until the very end.
'White Nights' is perhaps the black sheep of this release. Brilliantly melodic, a keyboard melody creates a lullaby while Micky Dey (that's the singer rather than the rapper for all you not in the know) creates a haunting soundscape behind, with your standard low key electronic elements to boot, and the occassional reggae guitar line. It is all very low key and understated, which, while quite awkward on this EP, does show a side to the band that while perhaps wouldn't work in a live setting, really would make a nice addition perhaps in the middle of an album (rather than on the end of an EP making it feel somewhat like a singles b-side).
This is definitely a release for those already familiar with the bands music, or fans of the bands I've mentioned about. Alt Track don't ever seem prepared to become poppier or more indie to be more commercially popular, and that to me is always a good thing, whether it is to you is a complete different story, but check out the EP, it's free, and I highly recommend it.

4 / 5

Alt Track Myspace
Listen To The Banana King For Free

Friday, 25 March 2011

Funeral For A Friend's career has now spanned ten years, with the band gaining more and more credability from media and becoming fan favourites. 'Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation' brought them into the spotlight, while its follow up 'Hours' was an assured and matured release that not only kept them there but cemented them as one of the more important UK bands of our time. Their third album 'Tales Don't Tell Themselves' showed the world that the band weren't just one trick ponies, with every song a potential radio hit, whilst fourth album 'Memory and Humanity' showed old fans that the band hadn't lost their edge.
Members have come and gone of late and the band find themselves on the brink of new release, their fifth album, 'Welcome Home Armageddon'. I met up with Gavin Burrough of the band to discuss their plans for the album and what motivates the Welsh five piece to continue making music after ten long years in the industry.


As a band, you have been together a long time, what motivates you to continue making music, especially considering the way the industry is going?
This is pretty much all I have ever wanted to do so the alternative of doing something else doesn’t really exist. We still have the same enthusiasm towards music as we did 10 years ago, trends come and go but FFAF are here to stay! There is such a positive vibe in camp FFAF at the moment, we are really proud of Welcome home Armageddon.

In more recent times, you have lost not one but now two of what seemed to be important band members, how do you feel this as affected the band dynamic and the music you have continued to create, and what do you feel your new members bring to the band?
If anything, the dynamic has been strengthened. The majority of the previous material was written by Kris, Matt, and Ryan. Having the two new guys in the band has added yet more depth as we all contribute to the writing process.


You last released The Young And The Defenceless to fans who pledged themselves to you through pledgemusic.com, what was the thought process behind this, was it a way of rewarding die-hard fans, or a way of testing the waters with a new music marketing scheme?
A bit of both really. We are always looking at new and innovative ways of presenting ourselves and our music. We were approached by the Pledge team and it seemed quite different to the normal avenue of releasing the CD online or in shops. Pledge offers a unique experience in which fans can really interact with the band and feel part of the recording process.

New album, Welcome Home Armageddon, will be hitting shelves before we know it, what can Funeral For A Friend and general music fans expect from this release, and why did you decide to once again work with the same team that helped you to release your debut album?
It’s a return to the heavier side of things. We really wanted to bring the aggression and raw energy back to the band that was perhaps missing from the last 2 releases. It’s like a punch to the face followed by a kiss to the cheek.


Your rise in the industry has been nothing short of breath taking, when you recorded your first EP did you expect to be as popular as you have become, and how do you feel you have grown with such success? Has it impacted on the music you have created - making it somewhat more mainstream?
I suppose we never really predicted the success we were going to achieve, it has been above and beyond. We have always tried to stick to our guns and explore directions that we wanted to.

Having seen you live several times, I can easily say you are fantastic in a live setting, how do you prepare to play live and do you feel that being a good live act is something that has to be practiced continuously?
We normally practice the week going into a tour. We are pretty democratic with the setlist. We hammer it out between us to come up with what songs, the order they are played and the links between them. It’s important for us to be prepared going into a tour but we don’t overdo it. I know some bands who practice all the time. That doesn’t really work for us.

The release of your new album will no doubt spawn a relentless tour not only around the UK but in Europe also. Previously you have played Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation in its entirety, with the latest tours will you be offering anymore surprises?
We have put together a beast of a set so expect some old classics and some new gems!

You can catch Funeral For A Friend on their UK tour now, for details visit www.myspace.com/funeralforafriend

Friday, 11 March 2011

Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth

Noah and the Whale's break through album, the sombre and down-beat folk of 'The First Days of Spring' catalogued the break-up of vocalist Charlie Fink and former band member Laura Marling, and it was the fragile honesty on this record, both in sadness and hope, that not only helped me when I was going through a similar situation, but also found its way into the hearts of fans and media alike.

'Last Night on Earth' is a huge departure from 'The First Days of Spring' and shows a band that are not only prepared to take chances musically, but are also ready to divide their fans in the hope of gaining even more commercial success, mainly radio play. First lets comment on the sound, the minimal at times and orchestrated at others of the former album have been replaced by an all over more electronic influence with samples, synths and keyboards often at the forefront rather than ukelele's, guitars and violins. To add to this Fink's vocals have started to sound slightly like Bono and his lyrics have taken a new direction with him exclaming on opener 'Life is Life', "...and it feels like his new life can start, and it feels like heaven", while on first single 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N', Fink is happy to spell out life goes on, while stating that as long as you have heart, you'll get by, which many will know is a huge change from some of the depressing but image inspired lyrics shown on 'The First Days of Spring'. This is backed up by the sort of production that seems to be ten a penny in modern chart music, the type of production where everything has been glossed over so it is absolutely perfect but somehow, in doing this, you lose any form of emotion and this album suffers greatly because of this.

Evolution happens with bands, and I'm happy with it, I'd be more upset if a band didn't evolve but 'The First Days of Spring' summed up a snapshot of my life and for that, it was always going to be a difficult record to follow up. It isn't that 'Last Night on Earth' is bad, it will still be one of the better albums released this year, but I just don't feel it has anything to say emotionally or musically that Noah and the Whale haven't said better with previous releases.

3 / 5

Noah and the Whale Myspace
Francis Neve - Winterbury

'Winterbury' is a lo-fi minimalist indie song built on a simple guitar melody, a hip-hop drum beat, and male/female vocal interplay. Lyrically 'Winterbury' is a perfect reflection on a relationship that is slowly going down the drain with Francis Neve singing in a highly accented way on first verse "Whatever happened to us and them and all those days we spent wrapped up in your bed". The chorus moves over to guest vocalist Lucy Randell and her sweet higher pitched vocal commenting on the thoughts from the other side of the relationship singing "I don't like the way you suffer for all the things you never did". It's hardly the most complicated of songs lyrically or musically but it works because of emotion captured vocally, how we can all relate to the subject topic and because of Francis Neve's clear knowledge of how to work on a melody from the inclusion of keyboard melodies to the female vocal over-dubs towards the end of track giving it a cute pop edge, 'Winterbury' is well thought out, pleasant and quite simply, brilliant to listen to.

4 / 5

Francis Neve Myspace
Nicole Atkins - Mondo Amore

I had so much hope for Nicole Atkins' 'Mondo Amore' after seeing the front cover which to me implied a dark country sound. Opening song 'Vultures' starts slow and solumly with the brooding bass melody providing the rhythm alongside the simple kick drum melody before the vocal drenched na na's of the chorus kick in wonderfully with Nicole Atkins providing a Florence And The Machine-esque vocal performance, if only Florence had more balls and rock in her, 'Vultures' is full of attitude and a lesson to any musician as to how to start an album. 'Hotel Plaster' slows things down in a Dolly Parton country way based on a simple piano melody and Nicole Atkins warm and soulful voice which often could be confused to sound slightly like Katie Melua but in a good way. Lyrically the song tackles the usual subject of love but it is so well written that I can't use that as an excuse to dislike the song, especially when it contains the line "My pain could learn to play the violin but it might not bring you back....at least we'd have a pretty soundtrack". Sadly aside from these two tracks, the soul sound of 'Cry Cry Cry' and the rebel rousing sound of blues number 'My Baby Don't Lie', it is all very much by the numbers, concentating too often towards the end of the album on the slower and more contemplative sound of Nicole Atkins which is a massive shame because this album is really at its best when its unashamedly foot to the pedal, all out drunken southern pub sounding and had it been more like this I would have been awarding a four rather than a two point five.

2.5 / 5

Nicole Atkins Myspace
Jud Vandy - Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two

Jud Vandy, a talented musician from Cornwall could easily be seen as the musical version of Marmite, I myself could happily see why someone wouldn't understand his musical exploits while at the same time I could happily nod my head towards anyone who called him a genius. His first album 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part One' wowed me into acclaim from the first moment I heard it, but follow up 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' has taken many weeks of continuous listens just for me to write a review that I feel does both me and the album justice.

Opening track 'Through Walls' starts brilliantly with a dark daunting guitar melody before moving into avant indie guitar territory that we may have come to expect from Minus The Bear which creates the fast paced vocal tempo for the verse encouraging you lyrically to break free of your restraints before the slow, mysterious and haunting feel of the chorus, 'Through Walls' works the pop song structure brilliantly keeping you on your toes with clever changes in tempo's and a flux of ideas. Other stand out track 'A Heaven Spared' is built around a screeching and almost unlistenable distorted guitar tone made tolerable by guitar hooks and an electronic sound driven by programmed drumming while Jud Vandy's vocals resemble that of Kele from Bloc Party. 'Rendition' begins with some glorious lead guitar work that instantly makes it like-able in my ears and sets it apart from most tracks on the record by forcing its way into my skull and staying there, forcing me to want to listen to it, if there is one track that I would use to attempt to get people to buy this record then 'Rendition' would be that, I just can't describe my feelings towards how fantastic this track is. 'Scarecrow' almost made it onto my list of tracks that really shouldn't have made it onto the album but the song, sounding like an out of tune The Beatles on acid has some really nice touches on it, especially the vocal over-dubs towards the middle of the track making it well worth a listen.

The problem with 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' ultimately is that there are too many songs on the record. It is quantity over quality to a degree and some tracks feel like they don't belong on the record and their inclusion stops the album from flowing progressively. 'Arrival' is a pointless thirty second interval that just doesn't work, 'Misery Of The Dull Opportuniy' has this distorted almost punk feel to it that while is great, especially lyrically, it just doesn't sit well with the dark, twisted electronic sound of the rest of the record, while final track 'The Saint' is a lo-fi minimal guitar and vocals track that doesn't click with the production of the rest of the album (which is fantastic by the way) and once again, doesn't sit well with the musical direction of the album, and these are three of maybe five or six examples I could have mentioned which would have brought the album to a twelve or thirteen track release which would have made reviewing this album at least, a less daunting experience.

The talent of Jud Vandy is clear to hear, who beside the odd few guest appearances by local musicians, wrote and recorded this record all by himself but sometimes I wish that rather than being hugely original, he would take the more mainstream elements of his music and mix them with some of the nicer touches on this record to create a huge product that is listenable on a larger scale rather than just from a niche audience. 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' is definitely worth a listen if you are into the darker side of guitar or electronic music.

3.5 / 5

Jud Vandy Myspace

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Genuine Freakshow - Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness

After a fairly successful few years releasing singles, EP's and touring across the UK almost constantly it seemed, A Genuine Freakshow finally released their debut album 'Oftentimes' late last year on their own record label. 'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is the second single from the band that media moguls have described as a thrilling mixture of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Sigur Rós.

Since the demise of the brilliantly under-rated Youthmovies many of us have been searching for their replacement and it looks like they are here gloriously. 'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is immediate, bright and hopeful, working on the vocal interplay between vocalist Timothy Sutcliffe and guest vocalist Hatty Taylor to create a stop-start verse underpinned by some clever brass instrumentation before the guitar and drum driven chorus that sees the vocalists working together to create a wonderfully sickly sweet chorus that will have you eating out of the palm of its hand until you spend the rest of the evening throwing your guts up.

'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is hardly groundbreaking, but its little touches are original and inspiring all the same, and to see such mature and intelligent song writing from a band so early in their music careers shows that Britain might just have a bright musical future after all.

4 / 5

A Genuine Freakshow Official Website

Friday, 25 February 2011

Maybeshewill - Critical Distance

It is always inspiring to hear of bands that even in the current climate of the music industry of today, ignore the usual templates set up and do everything themselves. Maybeshewill manage themselves, book their own tours, produce their own records and design their own merchandise and have been doing so since their formation in 2005, which has seen them steadily grow into a band that gain favourable reviews in the likes of Kerrang, which is no mean feat for an instrumental band.

During my instrumental binge phase, I distinctly remember hearing this bands first record and thinking that it was okay but there was something missing, and since then, I disappeared off the instrumental radar (rather than the band). The release of their latest single 'Critical Distance' from their forthcoming third album puts the band well and truly back onto my radar. The single oozes an electronic atmosphere that made early 65daysofstatic so popular, while mixing this with the grandiose beauty of an older and more refined Mogwai sound. Unlike most instrumental bands, Maybeshewill don't seem resigned to writing in the typical structure that involves slowly layering sounds up until you reach a climatic crescendo, instead they approach this single at least with their conventional mainstream heads on, creating a gloriously bright distorted guitar, piano and percussion interplay that is a breath of fresh air for the genre. The b-side to 'Critical Distance', 'I'm In Awe Amadeus' is also thoroughly refreshing, built on acoustic guitar interplays between strummed and jagged picked folk melodies while piano, xylophone and organ sounds soothe themselves in and out. 'I'm In Awe Amadeus' doesn't really go anywhere musically, but it doesn't seem to have to explode into a wall of distortion for me to fall in love with it and this is perhaps what makes it the surprise plus to this single (because I never thought I'd ever rate a b-side higher than an a-side).

All in all, fantastic stuff, if their new album is completely like this I can see no reason why the band can't continue their climb in the instrumental genre because they definitely have grabbed it by the balls, now let’s hope they can kick it until it coughs up blood and changes its ways.

4 / 5

Maybeshewill Official Myspace