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

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
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
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