SMS | The Martial Arts – Getting Stranger By The Month

A wave of far-out sonic tones and we’re off with Guilt By Association, which has a cool mixture of overwhelming 60’s grooves and a touch of the modern. It’s bright and colourful, the chorus is insanely good, and Paul is incredible avid in his singing. With basically only a split second of reprieve in between, he and his troupe immediately carry on into Bethany, which is even more wonderfully cheery and jubilant than its predecessor, especially with the fruity synths, and it’s pretty much certain to get you smiling like an unapologetic fool.

Getting Stranger enters in with a nifty bassline, and continues to impress with the likes of nice writing, a noticeably pumping beat and damn fine, fancy guitar solos. Nicechap is the most relaxed of the bunch to this point but still delivers the pleasantries, with the highlight undoubtedly being the amazing collective vocals which spark an infectious hook. The concluding number The Wild Humdrum starts off with a good showing on the piano at a stable pace before picking it up to a dazzling degree complete with one last riveting displays of riffs, keys and harmonies.

Paul Kelly, one of the Scottish masters of alt-pop, made a favourable return under The Martial Arts banner in 2019 with a short and sweet EP, but this is a big step up. Getting Stranger By The Month is a fiercely entertaining record that makes the most of the entire 20 minute runtime, packing every positive element imaginable into each of the deliciously entertaining, electric songs that have you engaged, gushing, dancing along and craving for even more once the party is over.


SMS | The Canarys – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Sweat gives us our savoury first taste of the New Orleans duo in action, mounting a buzz with an entertaining chorus, engaging harmonies and real nifty riffs, but then Open Up suddenly breaks out into a barrage of intense noise, shaking the senses with loud distorted chords and great drumming. Snake is a smooth going, blues rock-style ditty where the enthralling writing has your full attention.

The madly infectious Lois And Sam makes you wanna get up and dance like an eejit without a care in the world, while Love is more low-key and awfully pleasant, highlighted by the super slick singing, but it’s a return to the livelier material with the catchy back-to-back coupling of Let Me Shine Your Shoes and Preacher.

Gigantic delivers a beautifully rad solo in the middle, and How To Age Gracefully is another one of the most notable songs lyrically speaking; a factor continuing on into Gemini, a neatly polished delight, and that leads into the nice stripped back final tune, Winnie-The-Pooh.

I’m thoroughly impressed by The Canarys’ debut effort. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is a great showing in terms of the performances, the written content, and the bountiful sonic variety where the pair consistently mix it up in style, keeping it fresh as they effectively venture in various directions. A humble band that I implore everybody to give some attention.


SMS | Comrad – Restiamo Vicini

The Italian-English punk combo batter the doors down with Che Bello E, firing out hooks left, right and centre in-between a fiery, dynamic rhythm and spirited vocals, and the latter of those qualities is put further in display in the short and sharp Disfatta.

Grande Salto showcases some cracking guitar work, and there’s plenty of thrills to go around with the abundance of energy featured here. They pump up the pace with distinctly forceful, agile drumming in Il Primo Sbaglio, and maintain the fever closing out with the titular number.

Brief as all hell but nonetheless achieving what was set out to be done, COMRAD’s new Restiamo Vicini EP is a brisk and banging record that will give any dedicated listeners of the genre a quick dose of what they love.



SMS | Chaser – Dreamers

Fight Of Our Lives sets the theme for the album; a call to arms for everybody to take a stand and make their voices heard. From there, they’re off to the races, next tackling the current manic state of the planet, in more ways than one, through the fittingly rampant 2020, but in contrast, there’s a greater sense of positivity vibing from Good Times, which especially comes through the sanguine vocal performances and the spirited rhythm.

Signs Of Life is an immensely catchy banger guaranteed to get any sensible person in an intoxicated frenzy, and the riffs have a notable oomph behind them in A New Direction. The Ripper is another rocking beast that flies at a scorching tempo with an unbridled stout strength, further elevated by a couple of brief yet juicy guitar solos and the tight bassline/drumming combo; the latter element being the focal point of the similarly thrilling Echoes.

The title number features inspiring writing that gets you feeling good and buzzing to pursue something you desire to define your life. Yet another pairing of palpable cuts emitting heaps of zest come next in the form of Break The Chain and Always With You. The relatable (and mighty energetic) Only Human digs well into how we’re all bound to make mistakes, and in such an event, we should just learn to move on and not wallow in the past.

Something In The Water gets stuck in your head with its ridiculously addictive hooks, and finally See You At The Show looks ahead to the future with the impending return of live music now on the horizon after such a long and draining year, and just how much it means to the guys, and everyone else for that matter.

This is Chaser’s 5th rodeo and they charge on full steam ahead with another lofty addition to their discography. From bell to bell, Dreamers is a tremendous, electrifying album that ranks as a major highlight of the skatepunk genre in 2021.



SMS | DreamKids – DreamKids

DreamKids get an infectious pulse glowing from the moment they kick off with Only God Knows If My God Is Real, a catchy rocker that has a consistent energy, a hell of a catchy chorus, and plenty of sweet hooks to spare throughout. Stay Safe With Me rolls the pace down a touch, this time gratifying with an incredibly smooth and glossy melody while Dawn, as is her wont, draws us with her lovely harmonies that bring to life the sentimental lyrics.

ICU is pushed by a nice rhythm and solid riffs while the emotional status remains alive and well in the writing, then Child serves as both an effective instrumental interlude; going all out in the guitars and drumming; and a tight gateway into the finale, Mother, an outstanding number that is gloomy, invigorating and beautiful all at once, undoubtedly a case of saving the best for last.

Given their lucrative and illustrious history under the Mechanical Smile and Twin Heart guises, it was a secure assumption that the debut DreamKids record would be another noteworthy notch, and lo and behold, it is, heralding the duo’s next evolution with an engrossing collection of touching songs brimming with hefty feelings behind them.


SMS | Rachel Jack – Magazine Girls

From practically the first second, Rachel dives straight into the optimal material with the title track, a stellar pop number that features some excellent writing discussing how the manipulative media tend to wrongly enforce a very specific image that women should adhere to in order to achieve success and popularity in life.

From there, she continues to go from strength to strength starting with Warrior, which has such a delicious beat with amplified bass tones under the surface, and the lyrics contain an affirmed sense of independence and self-respect.

The heavily topical, and tragically relatable for many, Stop is where Rachel takes a stand against men who don’t care much for observing boundaries and are too hungry to get their own way, and this is well reflected in the sharp and poignant vocals, and the loving For You is another catchy banger that ends the EP with a lofty slam.

When I was introduced to Rachel Jack through her debut The Calgary Tapes last year, I realised this was somebody special, but holy moly, leading to and after the release of Magazine Girls, she has upped her game like crazy.

This is a premium record where every song hits the mark on all accounts; great performances, a slick production, and above everything, impactful content; that has truly established Rachel as one of the top-tier artists currently hailing from the Aberdeen area.


SMS | Courting – Grand National

The boys get going with the blitzing title track that is firing on all cylinders right from the off, featuring a mix of candid lyrics, blunt vocals and a raw, buzzing rhythm that gets you properly bouncing with excitement, especially with the whirlwind smack dab in the middle.

Seamlessly, they saunter along into the next number, Popshop, where the drumming gets a simple yet addictive beat on the go, and while lighter by nature, it still keeps the energy running nicely, with much of that owing to, again, the frankness of the singing.

More of that plain cheekiness radiates through Crass, which is equipped with cracking riffs and cool basslines, and the intensity levels are constantly rising towards a strong finish, and then we come to Slow Burner, which fittingly enough lives up to its namesake, grooving at a stable pace to start with, then as expected unleashing into a flurry of bloody berserk chaos.

A job well done from Courting; the Grand National EP kills it with a series of belters that are short and to the point but damn entertaining and memorable, pretty much cementing the reason why the Liverpool punk lads are being put on the map as of late in the midst of a bustling national scene.



SMS | Flinch – Enough Is Enough

Staring At The Broken Cornicing breaks the ice awfully nicely, majorly due to Beth’s lovely, velvety vocals that are just so tranquil to the senses. Now with you sitting comfortably, she proceeds on with Escape From Rupture Farms, a wonderful single with an addictive beat accompanying it.

February spawns goosebumps with its dreamy environment and sincere, nostalgia-itching lyrics, and that tiny little addition of the glockenspiel does wonders. Michael Scott and Sorry I Puked On You stay on course with that fixating mood of being caught up in the past, the latter making such a mighty emotional impression as Beth speaks freely and self-reflects.

After keeping you stuck in that trance, the energy comes back in How Do You Do It and its delightful riffs, and A Type features such a memorable, pleasing chorus with lyrics that get left wedged in your head. Thanks Ophelia is another appetizing lo-fi punk bop, and then we return to the truly hypnotic material through Just Because and especially Your Skin, soon easing out gently with the melancholy I Said You Could Have This.

I’ve never doubted Beth Black’s talents in the past, as demonstrated in her excellent contributions to the likes of Slowlight and 10AM, but under the Flinch banner, my respect for her as grown tenfold.

Enough Is Enough surpassed my expectations and I’ve only gotten fonder of it with every listen, it’s such a beautiful album that frequently tugs at the heartstrings and on more than one occasion toes the line of turning on the waterworks. I simply love it.


SMS | Quiet Marauder – The Gift

Intro piece The Fire effectively establishes both the stripped back sonic direction and the gripping narrative set to define this record. Now settled in, the group proceed on with Will I Remember To Remember, and it’s here that we truly get to see long-time backing vocalist Kadesha take centre stage with flying colours, donning the role of the story’s key figure Willow through her stunningly luscious voice.

The lyrics continue to gain strength in the brief My New Foster Parents, where the multi-layered instrumentals form a sensationally infusing sound, but suddenly they venture into a different path with No Friends Just Visions, opting for a mood less warm and graceful and more jazzy through a smooth and juicy rhythm tagged by splendid bass chords, light guitar grooves and spurts of sax.

Her Love Interest hops along cheerfully, and serves as a firm contrast to the more low-key sibling track His Love Interest. The Future has a terrific blend of acoustics, piano keys and pure-quality accompanying harmonies, and those qualities bleed over into I, Robot, albeit at a solemn pitch with a nice extra furnishing of brass.

The writing of The Ballad Of Loss And Self-Doubt is amongst the most engaging yet, with Kadesha undoubtedly enforcing that element, then cleverly implementing various themes relating to technology in Domestic Appliances, most notably, of all things, the Whirlpool Corporation’s notorious history of faulty white goods; something I never ever thought would make it into a song, but that’s Quiet Marauder for you.

Mastering My Powers has a pleasing flowing melody, Infinite Versions makes a big splash within a miniature timeframe, Let’s Run Into The Flames Together emanates a bittersweet tone in the content in-between the upbeat nature of the music, and the curtain call Extinguished ends things on a firmly thoughtful and powerful note that has you sitting hypnotically as you absorb the record’s final moments.

The Cardiff troupe made a huge first impression on myself when I was introduced to them via their supreme and humorous Tiny Men Parts EP, which subsequently made my best of 2020 list. So when given the opportunity to look at this album, I was admittedly expecting more of the same, but oh my, was I taken aback here.

The Gift is a fantastic release on two accounts; of course, as a collection of top-notch tunes with lasting entertainment value, but more importantly, as a ravishing, fixating tale that sucks you in and doesn’t let go, getting you contemplating and thinking and opening yourself up to the deep meanings behind the words and the overarching plot.

Quiet Marauder are more than just another fabulous act in the Welsh scene, they have proven to be a heck of a fresh and creative tour de force who stand head and shoulders above the crowd.



SMS | Seas, Starry – Anatomy

Skull / Tone / Skull kicks off on a faint note, patiently building and building up with further additions of several instruments as it goes, from a consistent looping riff, to ringing effects, to glockenspiel clinks and the like. In the latter third, we get our first taste of the decent harmonies as the intensity is continuously cranked up.

Now we really get into the swing of things with Stabbed In The Eyes, initially with an engaging, murmuring rhythm that suddenly develops into something coarser and more energised while the group fire out some bloody good, grooving guitar sequences, resounding bass chords and booming drum beats.

Nun The Wiser sticks to a more traditional format, for lack of a better description, but the buzz sure as hell hasn’t died down. In fact, this is straight up the best of the lot. The lead singing is sound, with the backing vocals ranging between dry, robotic tones and mighty yelling. Meanwhile, the melody comes alive in a frenzied carnage that is so fricking infectious and breath-taking.

Lastly we come to the extensive finale, New Ruins, which begins at ease with an ominous, reverberating rumble that is sustained for a fair amount of time while other elements are thrown in along the way comparably to the opener, and a nice sense of atmosphere is spawned and steadily expanded upon.

Seas, Starry have popped up in my radar once or twice in the past, although never with much in the way of lasting results. However, the Anatomy EP is a different story. The Aberdeen ambient-punk outfit have put together an enthralling package of tracks that nail a broad variety of moods and directions within a short duration. Whether steady and engrossing, or blitzing at a mental pace, it’s damn fine stuff.