Half Formed Things – To Live In The Flicker | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS

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We owe a lot of credit to our good pals in L-Space for this one, helping us be introduced to Edinburgh experimental pop four-piece Half Formed Things, a band whose name we’ve seen floating around lately, particularly as members of the bill for Flying Moon 2019, but we hadn’t listened to them previously.

That was until they slipped into our inbox with a copy of their debut full-length album – To Live In A Flicker – leaving us with no choice but to finally check them out, and we are glad we did, because this is a superb record.

Entering with the sounds of distant church bells, they quickly grabbed us with the opener The Flicker which has this compellingly haunting edge to it, and that’s a tone that remains pretty recurrent throughout as they focus on pretty dark subject matters and tackle them through the tremendous, fiercely fixating writing.

Another key aspect that helps this album to is the extensive variety of it. Whether obviously or subtly, the quartet consistently evolve. You never get the same kind of song back-to-back, it’s always changing, it’s always different.

The tracks can be grand, luxurious and almost abrasive at times, otherwise they’re much calmer, at a low-tempo and lay heavy on the atmosphere side of things. Out of the many highlights, the personal stand outs for us were the dazzling fully instrumental The One You Hate, the blow away Among Men and the immensely spine-tingling Pendulum…like, seriously spine-tingling.

Also, in a way we can’t fully put into words, there’s this sense of timelessness too, mixing elements from both artists of years gone by, and those more current, and it wasn’t until we listened to this that we came to realise just how rare a quality that is in music.

As for the performances, each member devotes a hell of an effort here. The guitars are great, the drumming makes a focal impact, the unified harmonies are just stunning – the fact they keep mixing up who takes the lead on the vocals also adds to the diversity – and the pianos are utterly gorgeous; it’s been so, so long since we’ve heard piano work to this high a standard, and off the top of our heads, it’s very difficult to think of anything recently that comes anywhere close to matching it.

So in conclusion, we adore this. To Live In A Flicker is one of the most majestic, breath-taking records we’ve indulged in as of late, and as a debut, you couldn’t have asked for a better initial impression.

The first listen alone captured our imaginations, but on the second, it only improved and struck this indescribable chord with us, where all the facets become more fleshed out and fully realised. It’s a pure work of art.

Half Formed Things in one fell swoop have delivered one of the ultimate highlights of the year, whilst firmly establishing themselves as the future of Scottish music.

***OUT NOW***

#30 | Pandacar – Cathouse Rock Club (17.05.19)

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We were no strangers to Heavy Smoke, but it had been ages since we last caught them live. Luckily, it didn’t take long for the boys to refresh our memories as to why we became fans.

You couldn’t question Stevie’s work ethic here, for the dude was always into it. If he wasn’t belting out the sharp lyrics that defined their writing, he was bouncing about around the plentiful amount of free space he had, his hair a whirling dervish all the while.

It helped spawn an energy that was elevated by his fellow band mates, as they busted out with rugged riffs taken up a notch through the slick solos, and brawn, energised rhythms equally dynamic as they were raw.

Junkatron is still a certified banger, with other highlights from their arsenal including DIY and their namesake number. The room was a little on the empty side at first, but gradually they got a sizeable group of curious folk bravely stepping forth closer to the barrier.

They survived a handful of gear malfunctions and a few off spots to bring what was, for the most part, a tasty set that nicely got the show on the road.


It was a troublesome start for Ambivist, being delayed by umpteen tech problems before they could get going, and honestly speaking, it did look like it had an effect on them.

They seemed shaken in places and didn’t always appear confident, and there were a few subtle awkward slips. They were also up against the fact that their music was a less hectic, more restrained style compared to the previous act, so it did take a while for us to get invested.

But on the brighter side of things, there were flashes of cool guitar work, the bass lines were good and the drumming was on constantly firm form, plus we got a damn decent cover of Rag N Bone Man’s Human, so that was certainly a positive to take away from this.

As is, and especially taking into account the issues out of their power, it was overall solid. While being considerate, we do feel they need to step their game up, because in such a crowded scene, labels and PRs need a reason to believe that this group can stand out from the pack. If there is potential there, they need to flesh it out more.


Journeying down from far up in Inverness were King Kobalt, who caught our attention last year with their cracking EP, The Faithful, and we were happy to be seeing them live at last.

All five of them were quick to click and reignite the sort of fiery energy we expect from this type of bill, swaggering a naturally large presence on stage that was legit. Not at any given moment did we feel that they weren’t working a proper shift or wasting an ounce of breath as they battered through from tune to tune with a lasting, intense flow.

The vocals from Craig were punchy, Dylan and Kenneth’s dual riffs were freaking sweet, and the pairing of James and Finn cranked out these turbulent, hard knocking rhythms that were quite infectious and served as the base for the whopping choruses. The momentum just rolled on as the band got the audience sucked in with ease, with a line of headbanging, clapping and yelling going on at the barrier where applicable.

This is a quintet who know the score on how to deliver a show. A superb display from one of the Highlands’ finest metal acts that have earned their constantly thriving following.


And now for a trio that we’ve been eager to watch in the flesh since they burst onto the scene – Pandacar – and they didn’t let us down.

They came equipped with a delightful set of dynamic indie punk tracks with rollicking, fast and furious tempos that didn’t die down, with bitter-toned writing centred around politics, mental health and the like, cunningly hidden under the guise of Adventure Time.

Eddy, dressed in the most gloriously dapper, eye blinding outfit from Primark that money could buy, was oozing charisma and had some exquisite skills on the bass, an instrument that perfectly matched his Brian Blessed-calibre voice.

Complimenting him was Nick, donning a snazzy as hell top in his own right. He had an intense look in his eyes which carried through into his singing, not to mention he was a great guitarist. And finishing off the dandy package was Nathan on the drums, driving the thumping beats which were oh so catchy.

The crowd were visibly enjoying the madness unfold as much as we were, and just like us, plenty were sprightly dancing along.

Airing cynical content in a wildly fun and entertaining fashion, Pandacar have an intriguing quality to them that, in our mind, definitively breaks them away from the rest, and that element we feel could help take them to a higher plane. Personally, we can’t see how anybody could fail to be amused by what they have to offer.

On the whole, a very ruddy good show, indeed. Perhaps the best ten month anniversary event we’ve ever attended. #NoMoreBiscuits

#29 | Be Charlotte – The Attic (16.05.19)

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EMIAH was a name completely new to ourselves, so there were no expectations to have from her beforehand, although a place on this particularly bill was a good sign.

Plenty of highlights stuck out from her set; Lovin’ Me shining with vibes of positivity, More Love had such a sweet pulse to it, and Adios Amigo honestly wouldn’t be out of place as a dance anthem heard in any club, featuring a chorus so damn catchy it still lingered in our heads the next morning…we’re not joking.

Emiah herself was kind and appreciative to those attending and, on stage she showcased a great voice and nice style, although we feel she was holding back a touch and not fully loosening herself, but that may be owed to nerves; nothing major that hurt her performance anyway.

Stuart served as the ideal wingman, with a smooth showing on the keys and giving us some excellently produced pieces with infectious beats to them.

A satisfying way to start off the night, and we believe Emiah is only going to grow and improve over time because she definitely has something to offer.


Megan D was next, another act we can admit to not having listened to prior, but we did know folk who were well aware of her, and based on their opinions, she came highly recommended.

There was a change in tone here with Megan being acoustic based, separating from her fellow, more traditional pop musicians, and in an instant, the noise in the venue died down as she began her first song.

A chillingly palpable atmosphere was sparked, as virtually everyone in the now teeming room stood in total hushed silence and listened real intently. A clear connection had been made that was never lost throughout.

As for Megan, she was all smiles and displayed a heartwarming, down to earth personality as she gave us stunning, emotionally ripe harmonies and played fluently on the guitar, while we – like the rest of the people – were rooted to the spot, unable to take our eyes off her and falling so hard in love with the writing which had us fiercely consumed.

This was simply flawless. We do try our hardest to be objective and make note of any negative issues, but the fact of the matter is that we struggle to properly think of any; we were just enamoured by it all and this would have easily stolen the show elsewhere.

On a night centred around a certain Dundee lass, Megan made an astounding impact in her own right, and there’s no mistake that she warrants far more widespread recognition for her outstanding abilities.


A prime buzz was hanging in the air as we painfully waited a while for Be Charlotte to emerge, but eventually she made her entrance to a wave of cheers as she got the ball rolling with Hype.

Donning an utterly snazzy attire, she illuminated this unreal confidence and joyous spirit that had us gripped, asserting this vibrant, larger than life presence perfectly suited for the grander stages of arenas and major festivals.

Her voice was superb and on sturdy form from end to end, plus she was an insanely good dancer, particularly the robotic stuff; we weren’t aware that was a skill that she had mastered.

She already proved to be talented alone, but it was her band that truly elevated it to another degree; the team of Dan mixing in bright synths and top notch riffs, Kieran with tight bass lines, and Davie rattling out some awesome, walloping drumming; all the while, clicking with each other without any hassle.

As for the tunes themselves, Dreamers, Lights Off and especially Ego Wash were electric ballads with juicy melodies and bouncy rhythms highlighted by memorable choruses which had people happily moving and dancing about.

Fake Up and Never Gonna Grow were impressive on the lyrical front, the new single Brighter Without You was great, and of course the place went nuts and reacted in a rousing way for Do Not Disturb. Folk were also led on a singing session as they chimed along to the decent acoustic tune, Burning.

Overall, it was an entertaining, empathetic display from Charlotte, who only betters herself as the days go by, developing into a tremendous – and more importantly, legitimate – artist who, if it wasn’t clear by her successes as of late, is destined for bigger things.

It would be unfair otherwise, because she is slaying every opportunity being presented to her, and it would be a safe bet that in a few years from now, those in attendance will be looking back on this night and bragging “I was there, I got to see her before she was famous”.

Be Charlotte is the future of Scottish music, and it’ll be any day now that she finally breaks into the national charts and rises to a level she belongs at.

#28 | Iona Fyfe – Star Folk Club (14.05.19)

We’re widely known for covering a diverse range of genres on this site, but truthfully speaking, folk is one we don’t delve in enough, which we find shocking given the prestigious history of that kind of music in Scotland.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have been exposed to a number of great talents under the category, but none have shined brighter than Iona Fyfe from Huntly. Since being introduced to her in 2017, she’s treated us to a pair of EPs and a full length album, the latter of which made a major impression on us and we’ll say without a hint of sarcasm that it is our favourite folk record.

So if it wasn’t abundantly clear, we’re big fans of Iona, but in all this time, we’ve never had the opportunity to see her live on stage. However, and thankfully so, the team at the Star Folk Club booked her to come on down to play The Admiral Bar in Glasgow, so as you’d expect, we marked the date on our calendar, and fast forward to the day, we arrived at the venue for the show.

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But beforehand, we would be first treated to the duo of Jason Smith & John McNamara. John’s vocals were in really fine form, and he also contributed nicely with a variety of instruments such as a shaker, bongos, and most notably a snare drum intertwined with brush sticks, and in doing so creating catchy beats that had us tapping our toes, and in our peripheral vision, we could see we were not alone on that front.

We couldn’t have asked for a more ideal partner than Jason, who proved himself to be a very proficient guitarist, especially impressing in the sections more focused towards him, incorporating a fluent control and being able to switch chords in a flash with such ease.

They gave us a handful of covers, our favourites being those with a blues essence to them, but undoubtedly the highlight of the set was with Stay Young, where a chorus of singing gradually formed from the audience.

Capping off with an original composition, we had enjoyed the two of them, being a much welcome bonus to simultaneously warm us up and add more value to the money we spent for the night.


To start off the second half , Steve Wilson from down south stepped onto the stage and belted out a couple of unassisted pieces, possessing a tremendous baritone voice that was loud and large like nothing else, resoundingly ringing throughout the venue.

Brief, but what an impression made. Quite a shame we didn’t get any more, as we would have happily listened to him for at least another half hour or so.


And now for the star of the show – Iona Fyfe herself. The place came alive very quickly as she got the ball rolling with Guise Of Tough, where the majority of those in the room chimed along with the chief hook, and this was not the only instance, for anytime Iona signalled as such, everybody would join in as a unified troop.

In fact, participation was thoroughly encouraged in the dazzling Swing and Turn, and her request was answered in earnest, displaying just how strong of a grasp she held on the paying public. We loved both of her acapellas, the first of which was both charming and genuinely funny, achieving plenty of hearty laughs, while the latter was hauntingly eerie, and we found ourselves glued on the spot, totally fixated.

We can confirm that her voice is just as brilliant as it is on tape. It was something astonishing to behold, and she cracked every single solitary note with very little hassle, spanning a far wide pitch and being sung with a blend of sincere emotion and graceful passion that personally had us locked onto the lyrics and engrossed by the stories being told. It was also beneficial that she was expressive and spirited, doing wonders to further heighten our interest.

She did a good job picking a talented pair to accompany her. Charlie on the fiddle was concentrated and in the zone, and the degree-qualified Aidan was capable with the guitar in tow, whilst having a clear spring in his step, and together they provided pleasant harmonies in their own rights.

Over the course of two halves, Iona delivered an impeccably beautiful performance, chock full to the brim with amazing harmonies, sweet ditties and an irresistible personality, and we walked out completely satisfied and then some. It was blatantly evident that she has a loving dedication to her craft, and that definitely rubbed off on us.

Across the space of three record reviews, we’ve went into detail about how wonderful it is to listen to Iona and her material, but we must emphasise that after tonight, and trust us on this, it became obvious that until you witness her in her full glory live and in person, you haven’t experienced anything yet. A one-of-a-kind bonnie lass who is pure and gifted in every sense, and we will proudly continue to advocate her until the day she can’t go no more.

#27 | Love Couple – The 13th Note (13.05.19)

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The first act of the night were one that we weren’t meant to see for another month or so – Lemon Drink – but no harm in getting acquainted before Flying Moon 2019, and boy did we get something special.

Unfazed by the chattier, less respectful members of the crowd, they indulged us with a line of sublime indie pop numbers of all shapes and sizes, with a variety so broad that there was literally not one piece that sounded alike.

A Song For You, Ghosts and Mercury were gentler in tone, while Manic and Paper Heart booted up the tempo to an exciting level, and Pull Your House Down fell somewhere in the middle.

Leading ladies Sophie and Kirstie were naturally talented, showcasing tender riffs and delightful vocals, and they were accompanied by the tightest of supreme rhythm sections who were equally giving it 110%.

We were thoroughly impressed by the group, who just clicked with us in an instant and kept us hooked. For those who are attending Flying Moon but are unaware of what this lot have to offer, then you’re in for a treat.


Up next was one of the most talked about young acts around the local scene at the moment, Claire Doc, who we got the best of introductions to as a featured act at the King Tuts Sunday Song Club, where she completely caught us off guard, and seeing her again a few months on, not much was different. Nah, you know what, she was even better here. A hundred times better.

Her voice is something on another level. Her cords are clearly fueled by chemicals not of this world, because her harmonies blew everybody, whether friends or strangers, away with a massive volume and insane range that battered out of the speakers and rang through our ears.

Were there any nerves? Absolutely no idea. She radiated such an unreal confidence, even going as far as to berate the audience for being boring; in jest obviously…we think. In the same vein, she flaunted this very vivid, glamourous style heavily inspired by her legendary heroes, and utilised her guitar as the ultimate weapon, strumming the strings with all her strength and thumping it like a drum to the point of her hand bleeding.

This was immense. At only 16 years old, Claire is already at the forefront of the next generation in Scottish music, with all the tools to make her a rock and roll superstar with that cynical punk edge, blending raw talent and a ravishing character to such a scale that would have Simon Cowell chomping at the bit to sign her, but anyone with common sense will ensure that he is nowhere near her vicinity.


Truth be told, we didn’t listen to Love Couple prior to the show, but a mixture of faith and instinct suggested that they would be good, plus the hype from trusted sources helped in that.

It didn’t take long for the quartet to get us sucked in. Their material shone with this alluring radiance that was almost atmospheric in spots, and the melodies were for the most part pleasantly lucid and easygoing, but then they could suddenly switch it into something peppier and rocking a lot of energy to the point of getting us subtly shaking our hips, and sometimes they were even able to combine both stylings.

Each of the members brought something to the table, and together they worked as a solid, well-matched unit. The singer was in her own, mysterious other world as she displayed her lovely vocal talents, and she only came more out of her shell as they progressed. The drummer not only led the charge rhythm-wise with explosively catchy beats, but was just as capable on the mic, and their sound was finished off by good synths and neat basslines.

They didn’t mess about much, jumping from one song to another to keep the pace constantly flowing, although they did take a brief moment to acknowledge their hostel pals. Admittedly, there were stretches where we were starting to lose interest, but they would keep pulling us back in, and eventually they managed to win over and cement us as fans with the final pair of mental, off the wall tunes.

While not always perfect, the Dutch team did plenty to give us our money’s worth, and we honestly wouldn’t mind having them back here in Glasgow again.

#26 | Tenements – The Ice Box (11.05.19)

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Before getting to the headliners and main support who we were both familiar with, we would be treated to a batch of acts we had never heard of beforehand.

First to take the stage were relative newcomers Slow Renewal from Perth, making their live debut here at The Ice Box, who wanted to keep it short and, in their own words, cut the sh*te, opting to stick to just 3 originals plus a cover. Their post-hardcore material had a nice progressive style with constantly changing tempos highlighted by some pretty sweet, forcible choruses.

The nerves were clear to see – totally understandable as to why – and it did sneak up on them causing a couple of minor slips and their eyes shifting about anxiously,  but when able to maintain focused on their performing, the vocals were great, the dual guitars were on fine form and the rhythm section solid.

As far as debuts go, the quartet did well in making an impression and satisfying the already loaded crowd who responded warmly. They’ll need to work to break out of their shells, but we’re confident that will come as a given to them. Overall, a decent start to the night.


The trio of Lazer Eye were up next and quick to ceremoniously flip the dial. The majority of their tracks were catchy and rode off an energy that was real infectious, spurring us and many others to bobs our heads along, and they kept mixing up their style to keep it fresh.

For one song, they took it down for something slower, almost psychedelic like, and effectively so, plus we got a stoner rock rendition of Lullaby by The Scissor Sisters, and it was just plain awesome.

The frontman Ryan, cold ridden and all, showed quite a peachy personality before they even played a note, and he busted out some fast, tasty riffs while being backed up by the chilled out Chris and his groovy basslines, as well as Jordan’s high-octane drumming.

The audience enjoyed them, as did we. A really fun, cracking set from an underrated band who we’ll be keeping a close eye on from here on out, because there is clear potential lurking there…


We were hyped moving into the last of the newbies to us, Gulls, who kept the momentum of the night rolling in glorious fashion.

Upping the heaviness, they delivered some hard hitting numbers, where the vocals packed an avid punch, we got delightfully grungy bass tones and the riffs were efficiently dispatched.

The most notable takeaway from their set was that they had definitive control of those who crammed the room, and just to prove how much of a grip they had on the crowd, a significant chunk happily moved to the front at their request without the slightest hesitation, which is a rarer sight than you would think at a local gig.

It was impressive stuff from another worthwhile discovery for us.


Our bodies were ripe and ready for Ikari, fresh off releasing their Shapes & Sound record, and they lived up to their usual promise.

A botched intro cut the buzz for a moment, but they laughed it off and properly got going in style, and despite the fact they had a long drive earlier in the day, they didn’t come across as knackered in the slightest.

In fact, the four shined with this hardy enthusiasm and put in an obvious effort between them, while being united by a chemistry that elevated their performances.

It helped that their songs were driven by tight, energetic rhythms and boosted by top notch choruses, and as a result of this and the other aforementioned elements, both we and the dedicated audience members were engaged and liking the ride.

A job well done by a quartet who had an established wherewithal to meet expectations by this point, and it could be best described in one word: “yeaaaaaaaaaah!”


For the third time in just a few months, we were in the presence of post-hardcore quintet Tenements, and if their sensational sellout back in January indicated anything, it’s that these boys have what it takes to deliver something mighty nice.

They kicked off with new single I Felt Invincible, the band’s strongest tune to date from a lyrical standpoint, before suddenly cranking up the ante with the ruthless The Fear. From there, they banged out a stream of more favourites such as Silhouettes, Permanent and Standing On The Backs Of Angels, plus another couple of fresh tracks that were superb.

Darren spilled all his passionate guts into his vocals and worked hard to get all within the venue involved. Chris guzzled lager, got in among the folk, and belted out chords on his guitar as he stood dominantly atop the pool table. Jamie pulled a monster of a shift at the kit, while Callum and Liam quietly manned the rear of the ship, aptly holding their end of the bargain with their great riffs and basslines respectively.

The crowd were in plentiful in number and visibly invested, with the loving loyalists in particular singing loud, clapping, and dancing about like rabid maniacs. One fella even pulled a Harris and happily surfed high above the masses.

Appreciative of the attendees and the rich local music community that they were proud to be a part of, it was yet another resounding, well-earned success for the outfit who continuously up their game and have proven they have little bother shining under pressure when the spotlight is firmly on them.

 

Desensitised – Sister Psychosis | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS

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Doing what we do, we naturally have to listen to a multitude of records on a weekly basis; a lot that are good, a lot on the weaker side and a few great ones.

But we’re always longing for those that come by and make an everlasting impact on us, and we’ve been blessed (for lack of a better, less-hyperbole term) to have been introduced to a fine example of this – Sister Psychosis, the debut full-length effort of Nottingham trio, Desensitised.

The album is front-loaded with a selection of immense, bombastic tracks that are formed courtesy of the three efficient performers. Charlotte, on top of handling bass duties, takes centre stage with some superb vocal work that is raw, broad-ranged and packing genuinely boundless emotion behind the singing that has you listening intently.

Libby is on fire with the guitar in her grasp, as she busts out these vigorous streaks of riff progressions that add to the excitement levels tenfold, while Claire helps to forcefully drive the thumping, high-octane rhythms with her potent drumming.

Not only is there a bountiful supply of awesome, hooking choruses on hand – the highlights in that area being Wasted and I See Red – but the writing is fantastic, and we find it impossible to not pay attention to the sharp content, with the likes of Emily and All Eyes On Her grabbing us with an unyielding grip.

And just as it feels like they might be going through the motions sound-wise and perhaps beginning to slip in terms of variety, they quickly turn that around before it becomes an issue with the final two songs – the phenomenal ballad-esque Burn The Witch and the low-tempo, lyrically strong He Loves Me Not – to close things out on an astonishing high.

We have to say a big kudos to the team on the production side of things, who helped elevate this record even further with a supreme standard of quality in the recording, mixing, mastering, basically everything. The folk in the background don’t often get enough credit for assisting in bringing people’s visions to life, especially to this degree, so we wanted to make sure that they know that their graft was so, so worth it.

Is there anything else that we can say that hasn’t already? Sister Psychosis is, to put it nice and tidily, a f***ing masterpiece that is near enough flawlessly executed, and for our money, Desensitised have what it takes to be the next big thing in British rock music.

***AVAILABLE ON SATURDAY 18TH APRIL***