I’m Too Old To Die Young | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS: ISSUE #3

NAZ

NAZNEEN RAHMANI’m Too Old To Die Young

It truly is one of the best feelings in the world when discovering an artist that you’ve never heard of before, and in the process unearthing an absolute treasure. This is exactly what happened when presented with London native Nazneen Rahman and her recently issued third major release – I’m Too Old To Die Young.

It is so rare to come across a songwriter whose content is as powerfully magnetic as it is here, the majority – if not all, for that matter – of the tracks on this LP have me locked in, listening with the highest intention and taking in her intelligently penned lyrics.

The opener Split Second has me contemplating just how much a choice can change everything in a snap, while the sublime Midlife Musings has a positive message about shaking off all your worries, to go out and make the most of your life.

The endearing Ain’t No Love Like This focuses on the joys of parenthood, Can I Be Saved touches upon the desire to step up and strive in the face of a negative situation, and it’s safe to say that Fake News speaks for itself.

The range of styles explored are really broad. You get a share of radiant pop, lavish lo-fi electronic music, beautifully easy-going lounge-esque soul, and in the case of the superb titular finale, a glorious big brass band direction.

Between the topics and the multiple genres that are covered, there is such a wide diversity to be had, with no two pieces sounding exactly alike, each offering their own values that make a positive dent, and it helps that not only are the production standards nothing short of luxurious, but Nazneen’s vocal capacity is tremendous and she is so pure, vivid and authentic in everything she sings.

This record is spectacular, hands down a key landmark of 2019. The first time I experienced it, I was left in gleaming awe, and the more that I dig deep, tear it apart and examining it attentively piece by piece, the more that I admire everything it has to offer.

Nazneen Rahman is the definition of a hidden gem, and it would only be appropriate for to start making her presence felt in the charts, because it would be nice to see some depth-laden content on there for a change, plus she thoroughly deserves to be spotlighted for her supreme talents.

 

 

 

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vre

VAGRANT REAL ESTATESWEETHEARTGRIPS        

Last week, the folk at Resonate helped introduce us to Aberdeen producer Vagrant Real Estate with plenty of positive things to say about him, and after checking out his freshly released Sweetheartgrips album, those sentiments are warranted.

On the first spin, it’s like a magical mystery tour, and he delivers something effectively complementing that idea, exploring a diverse range of styles and genres – hip hop, rap, grime and the like – and constantly changing it up, constantly keeping it fresh and leaving you curious as to what else is to come on the agenda.

The vast majority of the tracks are short and snappy; he comes in, presents them, they’re wrapped up in a flash and it is on to the next, with nothing ever overstaying its welcome.

There’s a natural flow between the pieces, never being a point where the pace is broken. They’re linked together and fluently so with seamless transitions to boot, and for a compilation that lasts nearly a whole hour, it doesn’t feel it, with all the prior elements aiding in that.

Weirdly to say but this is almost meditative, a perfect listen for a bus journey, or even if you’re sitting back for a wee lounge and need to give your head a break and block out the world, then this is handy for exactly that.

The production level is of a high standard, with nothing cheap about it whatsoever, the choice of beats and samples are practical, and he brings in a variety of special guests from across the nationwide underground community, who make their mark even despite the minimal length of the cuts.

Well, it’s no surprise as to why VRE has been and still is garnering a respectable reputation, he’s clearly got a fair knack for what he does. A versatile artist who is more than capable of creating cool, divergent content that goes in multiple directions yet remains interesting, and the sooner that he’s presented with bigger opportunities that could help to expose his talents on a wider scale, the better.

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LAC

LONDON AFROBEAT COLLECTIVEHumans

 London has been a hotspot for a lot of amazing bands putting out equally amazing records over the last few weeks, and here I find myself with yet another falling into my radar, and weirdly enough, it’s one with the city in their name – the internationally flavoured, globe-trotting London Afrobeat Collective, who are fresh off putting out their new record, Humans, which immediately grabs attention with Ben Hito’s dazzling, vibrant front cover alone.

Tolembi is a nice mid-tempo track to start on, serving as an ideal sampler platter of the group’s sound. It’s not a ground-shaker, but effective in warming the listener up and preparing them for the better stuff coming ahead, which doesn’t take long at all, because next is lead single Power To The Women; not only the highlight of this collection, but perhaps one of the best songs in all of 2019.

It is immensely vivid and carrying heaps of contagious energy, and at the forefront is Juanita’s wildly passionate vocal performance which brings it to a zealous life, not only sonically but in a way that draws you in to the powerful feminist lyrical content, and backing her up further is the impeccable brass trio of Andy, Edmund and Klibens, the two Alex’s titilating dual riffs and Giuliano’s furiously swift drumming.

With barely a moment to take a breath after that rush, Prime Resources continues to deliver very potent writing tackling mankind’s greedy desire to steal from other people and nature itself, plus sticking out from the crowd are the smooth basslines from John. Tokomona conspicuously calls back to the tribal Nigerian roots that their music is based around, running at a calmer pace than before while the lyrics are given space to breathe and be ingrained into the head.

Stop Talking knocks the rhythm back up a few notches, headed by Lee’s rapid bongo beats and the tenor section in full force again, also treating us to an insanely catchy chorus, and They Come And They Go keeps the fire going with an irresistible head-bobbing swing throughout. Likewise, All You Need Is Air satisfies with an awesomely captivating hook to chime along to, and finally Walk Alone makes for a strong climax where we get a fine display of Juanita busting out the poignant words at a spitfire speed.

London Afrobeat Collective have numerous vital messages that they want to broadcast to the people, they are eager for their voices to be heard, and I think they do so here in the most astonishingly entertaining fashion that they possibly could.

Humans is a sensational blast from bell to bell, and it proves that the above doesn’t need to be necessarily executed in a super serious, cynical manner. Through the power of positive, awe-inspiring music like this, the faction still manages to make a forceful statement while giving the audience something fun and engrossing in return.

 

 

 

 

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InTheCards

IN THE CARDSThe Path

Stoke alt-rockers In The Cards first came to my attention last year when they released their Eyes Beyond Reflection EP, which was solid enough but didn’t quite leave the lasting impact I was hoping for, but they recently returned with a follow-up – The Path – and I’m happy to say that it’s a different story here, because this is seriously good stuff.

You couldn’t have asked for a better opener than lead single Disguise, with the four charging in like bats out of hell and throwing everything they’ve got straight away, and as a result giving us an awesome, high-octane track with a damn fine chorus. They successfully keep the pace in check with the next offering Define Me, featuring a great, dynamic rhythm where towards the end Nathan batters out these crunchy bass chords and Danny shreds some stellar riffs.

Amy had already proved to be a sublime vocalist by this point, but it’s with Thoughts Colliding where she really gets to shine, particularly bringing a fiery passion in her singing and exhibiting the lyrical content in an effective manner, and soon they decide to tune it down for Hope Not Wisdom, a warm and melodic number to finish on that is carried by a top-notch drum beat courtesy of Conor.

The quartet have significantly stepped up their talents to another degree in order to produce a short but juicy record that without a doubt makes a staggering effect, flaunting a sound that is worthy of gracing large venues.

 

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ChrisGreig

CHRIS GREIG & THE MERCHANTSLipstick

 I first became aware of Glaswegian indie pop-rock quartet Chris Greig & The Merchants this past summer when they released their Lipstick EP, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and not long after I took the opportunity to catch the outfit live at King Tuts, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

But after being handed a business card from Chris himself via impromptu personal messenger Craig Russell-Horne at this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards event, I felt it was time to give them their due with a revisit and review of their aforementioned record.

The title number starts off with a swell bass line before properly getting going and becoming quickly ingrained in the head with the most addictive of choruses possible that gives the listener a sudden burning desire to shake their hips, also establishing a tropical-esque sound that reminds me of fellow contemporaries on the scene such as Indigo Velvet and Go To Girl.

The tempo is then stepped up with the bouncy StopGo, which is highlighted by nifty riffs and riveting drum work. They keep that ball rolling into Colours, spoiling us with more exuberant hooks while Chris’ vocal game remains at an ace standard, and Talking Aloud makes for a ravishing, involved finish with memorable lyrics tailor-made to be sung along to at gigs.

Lipstick is a very appealing EP that keeps at a constant satisfying high from top to bottom, and only getting better every time. Chris Greig & The Merchants muster plenty of promise, and come recommended to anybody who fancies some music that sticks a smile on their face.

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Montagues

THE MONTAGUESCalibrate

The Welsh scene has been absolutely killing it in 2019, and here we have yet another worthy act making a statement: The Montagues, who a couple of months dropped their debut EP – Calibrate.

The guys dash in totally guns blazing with You Got It All, being quick to spark a high energy that is on full throttle through the blinding chorus. Side To Side doesn’t quite have that same fire to it, but it’s another good track regardless, where the rhythm section get a chance to shine with slick basslines and catchy drum beats.

Devils proceeds at a breezy pace while entertaining the audience with cool guitar licks. The title track finally recaptures the measure of the opening belter, lighting up with an infectiously buoyant melody, spirited harmonies and a series of great riffs.

Lastly is Nothing To Everything, which keeps the momentum on a roll as the group amplify their sound further yet, pushing themselves to their limits and making their exit with a dynamic bang.

Overall, this is a fantastic rock record which does a top-rate job in bringing the excitement, also featuring this pop substance that gives their content a mainstream appeal that an audience who fancy their share of radio-friendly stuff will surely get a kick out of.

Admittedly, it would have been nice to see them expand their sound a little bit more, as they do notably play it safe, but I’m free to let it slide as this is a first effort after all, and an enjoyable one at that which is likely only a snippet of what The Montagues could potentially explore and execute in future releases.

 

 

 

 

 

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FAULTRESS_10FEB19_ANA_LEMOS_079_redish

FAULTRESS – 5 Myths

It’s a sensational feeling when an artist comes along and is able to take on a journey through their music that completely blocks the world around you and has you stuck in and utterly captivated. That very feat was achieved by London native Faultress courtesy of her forthcoming EP – 5 Myths.

Marilyn has barely begun by the time it has already hooked me in with its magnetically gorgeous aura, amplified by the polished bells dotted around. The artist is also quick to establish her greatest asset: a supremely divine voice that just latches on with a fierce effect.

Sanctuary is more muted, resetting the mood with a thick atmosphere bass tone which is eventually accompanied by low-note synths, and the writing starts to truly make an impact as I find myself being totally entranced by what is being said.

A key recurring theme throughout the content is the battle against mental health, and that is especially apparent with Beating Heart, in this case highlighting how it can subtly change and break down a person in the eyes of a loved one.

Icarus is another dazzling piece with a hooking chorus, and last but certainly not least, Hood&Wolf gets the hairs standing on end with a deeply haunting atmosphere while Faultress serenades and ropes in the listener once more as she caustically and effectively dives into the of female sexuality in society.

5 Myths thoroughly impresses on an instrumental level alone, but it’s the fantastic singing and reeling, thought-provoking lyrics that elevate this into an outstanding EP that serves as the perfect display of what this obviously gifted woman is capable of. Faultress is a name that cannot afford to be skipped on.

 

 

***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 8TH NOVEMBER***

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Scunner

SCUNNERWitches

 Self-proclaimed “cabarock” outfit Scunner are a Glasgow band I’ve admired for a few years now, but feel like I’ve not given them the attention that they deserve. Luckily, I have an excuse to do so now, because they have a new EP out titled Witches, covering the subject of…well, witches, and the group present it in their usual delightful manner.

The banjo and jaw harp combo of the first song, Paisley Witches, help to form this addictive rhythm with an overpowering hillbilly quality which, when partnered with Paul’s enticing vocals and the amusing lyrics, helps to give the track a fittingly surreal essence and make this the defining highlight of the package.

 Dead Buzzed is certainly a lot more melodic and hooks you in with its bouncy pulse coming courtesy of the catchy beat and sweet guitar work, and finally, Doric Witches is even simpler sound-wise, but nonetheless entertains with a nimble pace, good riffs and solid harmonies.

While visibly finishing on a weaker degree compared to how they started, this is still, as expected, a peculiarly charming record where Scunner deliver their trademark kookiness through a short yet entertaining trio of eccentric numbers.

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Lamas1

MANDALAI LAMAS – Here Come The Mandalai Lamas

I can always rely on Norway to provide some of the most interesting music to come out of Europe, and today’s subject is no different: the charmingly named Mandalai Lamas from Halden, with their upcoming debut album simply titled Here Come The Mandalai Lamas.

The band claim to be primarily influenced by 1960’s psychedelic rock, and that is certainly clear here – even the mixing and mastering has that old-school tinge to it – but honestly it goes further than that, as they (consciously or not) manage to pull in elements of modern indie, prime era Britpop and even a light dash of blues in a few spots.

We’re treated to these straightforward yet still effective, catchy rhythms featuring some cool beats, top-notch keys and a triad of cracking riffs each making a damn fine contribution, not to mention we get some pretty good dual vocals.

Among the bunch of numbers, the most notable highlights include the hip-shaking All Night, the smooth grooving China Girl and the radically rollicking I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life.

Being frank, there isn’t much in the way of anything particularly deep or even that original, especially on the lyrical side of things, but the well-executed surface level content is more than enough for me, so on the whole, The Mandalai Lamas’ first full-length effort earns a solid recommendation.

***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 1ST NOVEMBER***

IN ASSOCIATION WITH HITO PRIMO & BIG DAY RECORDS


TUS

THE UNAWAKE STATEFuture Shock

In 2018, Midlands group The Unawake State came to my attention with their State Of Heart EP which left a decent impression, but earlier this year, they returned with a full-length album titled Future Shock, and it was clear that they had stepped up their game.

Light Of Day gets a bounce on the go with a zestful melody and mix of sweet keys and guitar chords. Likewise, OOBR has a great beat to it and features humbly toned vocal work, swell keys and a pretty good solo thrown in the middle, but Lowlifes In High Places is where their sound is at its juiciest, forming the ideal pop-rock balance by splicing the best elements of either side, giving us something light and catchy yet rugged and aggressive at the same time.

Instantly standing out in Retrospect are the thick basslines and tubular synths, and the chorus is something to die for. Tell The Kids Destroy keeps the excitement going, before making way for a surprisingly enjoyable rendition of I’ll Make A Man Out Of You from Disney’s Mulan

While a couple of songs aren’t quite up to scratch and sort of fall by the wayside to a point where I can’t really comment on them, the rest of the record comes together nicely as quite the entertaining collection of tracks with plenty of elements that click and providing a solid amount of substance for listeners to sink their teeth into.

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Earthquaker | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS: ISSUE #2

KingHiss

KING HISSEarthquaker

Sludge quartet King Hiss have over the years cemented themselves as one of the top dogs in the Belgian rock scene, and if their forthcoming third album – Earthquaker – is anything to go by, there are set to climb even further up the ranks, because this is an absolute blinder we’ve got on our hands here.

For starters, Jan’s voice is a thing of beauty, covering a broad range and donning a firm, assertive power. While he keeps himself occupied, Josh bashes out these heaving, aggressive guitar tones that are so freaking scuzzy, adding an effectively resonating punch to each track, while the hard-edged bass lines from Visioene are oozing with dankness and Jason’s drums hit with a potent weight behind them.

Throughout, it never feels like they stick to the one format. Whether subtly or noticeably, they are constantly changing it up and as a result, I’m never bored and stay hot on the hype train.

You get a ripe selection of strong mid-tempo pieces like Kilmister, Black Wolf and the titular number, intermixed with these all-out assaults where they blast through with full intensity at a ridiculously high speed, including Revolt and the damn catchy Desertsurfer.

And you know what, the music itself is so glorious that the writing could be taken for granted, but the lyrics are genuinely good and worth paying attention to, being at their best in the likes of Vomit, Sum Of All Nightmares and the monumental Butcher.

End to end, this is a supreme effort, with the four easily crafting together a candidate for the single best heavy record I’ve heard to have come out of mainland Europe in the entirety of 2019. The negatives are at a bare minimum while the positives excel at an optimum. How in the hell are these guys not bigger?

***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 1ST NOVEMBER***

IN ASSOCIATION WITH VIRAL PROPAGANDA


Cherry

THE CHERRY WAVESolasta

It’s been a fair while since I’ve come across a properly worthwhile shoegaze record, but luckily, Glasgow quintet The Cherry Wave were on hand to treat me to their recently released third album – Solasta.

The boys hit out hard with a batch of noisy, fuzzy tracks such as Superdruid, Rotter and the catchy Ostara Dawn, which are high on the bass crunch and thumping drum blows, complemented by the solid, distorted guitar tones.

They do also offer something a little more poppy and energetic with the likes of Ache For The Glow, Cianalas Breeze and Reverse Hisako, featuring memorably hooking choruses to boot.

The band regularly go back and forth between these styles to keep things fresh enough to hold interest, notably stepping up their games in the later tracks, with OOZE and Bloodshot Suns wrapping things up in a wild, intoxicating manner.

A couple of underwhelming, repetitious spots here and there, I’m not going to lie, but these are rare and do little to detract from what is otherwise a tidy record from a group whose years of grafting and refining their abilities has done them wonders.

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AWS

ASSUMING WE SURVIVEThe Enemy Within

LA four-piece Assuming We Survive have been on the grind for over a decade, put out multiple records, served as support for mighty big names and have clocked up a sizeable fanbase, so it would only be safe to predict that their latest EP – The Enemy Within – would make a positive impression, and not shockingly, it did.

The verses of the opener Too Close are good enough, but the gear is well and truly cranked up as they charge into the blowaway chorus, in the processing getting across their infectious sound which is heavy while featuring visible pop-punk influences that will click with fans of the genre.

Their most recent single Prisoner is even heavier yet, with that being mainly attributed to the hefty twin guitars from Phil and Johnny in combination with Kris’ pounding drum fills, and at the forefront is vocalist Adrian whose voice is not only quite sturdy but superbly conveys the great writing that defines this track.

In a similar light, the quartet lower the pace and allow for the emotions to be unleashed and ride high in the captivating Lost, but it’s not long before they switch the tempo back around to an insane degree for the final number, Smile Sometime, a jam-packed song that is dynamic and has me reeling on the way out.

Assuming We Survive had a simple job: come in armed with music, make an impact, and leave, and by god, did they accomplish that in the most glorious way possible. The Enemy Within may be a short ride, but it’s a seriously entertaining one both new and long-time listeners will find easy to fall in love with.

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH EARSHOT MEDIA & INVOGUE RECORDS


Dreamhouse

DREAMHOUSEReverberating Silence

Out of all the bands hailing from the other side of the Atlantic that I’ve had the pleasure of discovering recently, Milwaukee alternative rock quartet Dreamhouse have stood out to be one of the most promising of the lot, and this stems from their freshly released debut album – Reverberating Silence.

From bell to bell, the record is loaded with these larger than life tracks that have heaps of energy riding behind them to invigorate the senses.

Taking lead is frontwoman Brianna who comes equipped with a tremendous voice that is sweeping with pure passion, and when at full strength, she adds a considerable size to each of the already hefty songs. Elsewhere, Derek’s riffs are pretty good and contribute to the stimulating melodies, while Jared and Michael produce these thumping, pack-a-punch rhythms on the bass and kit.

If there was one element holding them back, however, it would be that the majority of the numbers are quite formulaic, with the four doing very little on the surface to mix things up, and it’s not until the last couple of pieces that they take a visibly different direction and finally provide something more fresh before it starts wearing thin.

But with that said, what does carry them through are the next-level performances in their respective areas, as a result treating us to enjoyably memorable bangers such as Losing Myself, Tie Me Down and Closer To Comfort that can be spun time and time again without getting old.

So despite a couple of drawbacks, Dreamhouse have made a substantial effort to produce a great record that is consistently running at an exciting scale which is so infectious and able to hook in new fans real easily.

As touched upon in the intro, I really do feel this group hold a tonne of potential, as demonstrated in what they bring to the table here, and if able to dig down and broaden their horizons sound-wise, you can bet on this outfit climbing the charts and playing to bigger audiences in the near future.

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH EARSHOT MEDIA & INVOGUE RECORDS


DETOXI

DETOXIFirst Flesh

The post punk genre has been real healthy over the last couple of years, with multiple acts around my neck of the woods such as The Ninth Wave, Walt Disco and Gravelle making a stamp in one form or another as of late, so when presented with Californian band Detoxi and their brand new album First Flesh, I was happy to oblige and was definitely not let down.

Within moments of Grey Lines kicking off, that’s me hooked, and one aspect instantly standing out is Derek’s vocals. The man boasts an excellent voice that is sharp and has you forced into hearing and hanging onto every word he spouts out.

Defining the general sound is a combination of cracking riffs, ringing bass chords, great drumming and awesome keys that help to produce these superb, blistering rhythms that, at the majority of the time, charge through at an insane pace, resulting in a batch of wild, breath-sapping thrillers such as Modus Operandi, Crooked Smile, Nonsense and the immensely catchy lead single Death Of A Nation.

But as if the music wasn’t enough, they take it to yet another level with resolute writing, where they are not afraid to speak their minds on the current social climate, their observations usually serving as a perfect reflection to ongoing situations in the country; cases in point: Cult Culture, Shape Shifter and Black Square, to name a few.

First Flesh is a masterwork; a frantic, unyielding blitz that refuses to simmer down at any given moment, instead opting to grab the listener and take them on a ride that is joyously crazy yet isn’t without a fair share of substance, filling the brain with some meaningful, poignant content along the way.

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BernieL

BERNIE LEROUXEmpty Sounds

Today’s record is an interesting case, created by keen poet Bernie Leroux from Deer Lake, who over the years has put lyrics to paper, but in all this time hadn’t done much with them. That is until now, when he finally picked up the guitar, locked himself away into the studio and starting piecing together what would eventually become his debut album – Empty Sounds.

From his words spawn these nice primarily acoustic songs that are for the most part straightforward, simply accessible to listeners from any walk of life. Some of them are upbeat and entertain with catchy melodies – Dark Side Of The City and Ice & Snow spring to mind, for example – while others roll at a slower pace, allowed to breathe and let the audience take in the content, as displayed in Fire & Wind and Empty Sounds itself.

It should come as no surprise, but given his background, the strongest element that is consistent throughout is the writing, being often sentimental and quite easy to connect with; the highlights in this regard including Talk To Me, Backroads and especially the emotionally gripping Momma’s Blue Eyes, which is the definitive highlight from this package, and enhancing this factor is Bernie’s country rock-inspired vocal deliveries.

Truthfully speaking, not everything clicks here, but when it does, Empty Sounds proves to be a solid sleeper product that shines with a refreshing humble quality not usually seen to this degree in music these days.

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STADIUM

STADIUM* – Some People Are Inconvenient

Stadium* is a name that has been cropping around my feeds quite often as of late, before the Glaswegian rock trio found their way into my inbox with their debut EP handy – Some People Are Inconvenient – so what better time than now to give them some attention.

Voodoo treats us to a cracking drum intro to kick things off, and once they let loose, we get a lot of energy coming through the brisk riffs. A Moment Of Clarity unfortunately falls a little on the weaker side though, not offering much to latch on to

But they recover with the short and sharp Bonesaw, where the rhythm packs way more of a considerable punch, and finally we get Safe Space, which serves as a pretty strong finale with it’s sleek melody, nice chords and indisputably the best, most mature writing of the lot.

So while there is noticeable hitches and the mixing could have been better, the band’s first record is a solid result nonetheless, where the good stuff outweighs the negatives and shows off the potential that this outfit possibly muster.

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Cloth | SMALL RECORD REVIEWS: ISSUE #1

Cloth

CLOTH – Cloth

Last year, Huw Stephens claimed Glaswegian group Cloth to be ones to watch in 2019, and having been given the opportunity to check out their upcoming self-titled debut album for myself, he has proven to be a man of quality taste who can see obvious talent.

The opening instrumental Other impeccably sets the mood, before forthcoming new single Felt follows up on it and makes a fierce impact with so little; the minimal instruments and brief vocal segments sending chills all over.

As they progress, we see the trio’s sound becomes more involved and fleshed out, and what we get is a style mixing mild-tempo, toe-tapping rock with a fluorescent atmosphere, as a result being able to provide tracks either cool and catchy or pure eloquent and dreamy; often with more focus on one side of the field than the other, especially the latter, but they can capably tackle both at once where required; noteworthy highlights including Demo Love, the gorgeous Curiosity Door and the goosebump-spawning Tripp.

The three do a well done job keeping me thoroughly hooked, accomplished via a slew of ways, the first being the good writing that has a magnetic touch to it, displayed most noticeably in the likes of Sleep and Taxi.

The other important key element is the strong performances from the members themselves, bringing forth sweet tender guitars, faint bass notes, steady drum beats and, as hinted upon earlier, dazzling soft harmonies. But other qualities such as clicks, claps and electronic beats dotted about the songs are extra little touches that, while not necessarily needed, do help add to a greater whole.

Cloth have made a stamp with undeniably one of the most irresistibly beautiful experiences put onto a record this year; something maturely handled with care and delivered in a neat little package that will reach out and firmly grip anybody within listening distance, taking them on a splendid journey that will seemingly transport them into another state of mind entirely.

***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 15TH NOVEMBER***

IN ASSOCIATION WITH LAST NIGHT FROM GLASGOW


AJR-The-Rain-Dance-Cover-Web

A JOKER’S RAGEThe Rain Dance

2019 was the year where my attention was brought to Northern English rockers A Joker’s Rage, and at the perfect time too with them hitting a real stride as of late, courtesy of a couple of singles that have been making the rounds far and wide, all leading up to the forthcoming release of their overdue debut album – The Rain Dance.

The band are running on all cylinders from the offset, immediately getting the boogie on with the rousing Temptress, and from there onwards, there’s a perpetual energy that they manage to keep in motion for nearly 50 full minutes without letting it slip.

The frontman Zakk has clearly stepped in with his A-game here, armed with a blinding voice packing a hearty power, smashing notes left, right and centre with such ease.

There are deliciously sweet guitar tones throughout, brought to life by Adam’s consistently high-calibre performances, and their arena-sized sound is completed by the resolute rhythm pairing of Matt and Geordie.

Naturally, we get a collection of exciting tracks, with an abundance of awesome choruses spread out between them, as featured in the likes of Shylock, the dead catchy Bounce and the rampant Screaming With The Lights Out, but what’s also likeable about this record is their willingness to suddenly go in a different direction off the beaten path.

For example, Secrets is treated like an epic, operatic-style piece, and it’s so cool in how grand it is, This Dance has an amusing nod to Whitney Houston of all people, and in that same vein, we get Ballet To The Masses, an all-out tribute to Freddie Mercury, and the four pull it off in an impressively glorious manner, with charming lyrical throwbacks to some notable Queen hits for nice measure.

I’m impressed with this. Very, very impressed. I was blown away on the first listen, and there was this deep-rooted fear that this wouldn’t hold up on respective listens afterwards, but that isn’t the case whatsoever, it never fails to captivate and make a storming impression. It helps that the production standards are supreme too.

All in all, there’s very little reason to argue that this ranks among the best rock releases of the year, being a resounding, continual senses-heightening rush from beginning to end.

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH RAGE PR


TinyMurder

TINY MURDERProblem Patterns

It was a year ago this month that my buddy Kyle from GRAVELLE introduced me to a lovely lady by the name of Lisanne Jacob, aka TINY MURDER.

Earlier this year, the Glasgow-based Galway lass embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to fund her debut record, which proved to be quite the success. The final result, an EP titled Problem Patterns, was dropped from out of the blue very recently, and it turns out that my money had contributed towards a worthwhile cause, because this is absolutely stunning.

Sign Of A Storm greets us with some poppy keyboard notes, and as it unravels, it grows in scale, eventually transforming into something harsher and harder-hitting. A solid opener, but she’s only getting started. Dead Romantic quickly makes an impression, sucking in and encapsulating the listener with this gorgeous, dark electronica sound that sparks a fiercely chilling atmosphere.

Things only get better as she delivers a similarly magnetic experience with Wolf, featuring a cool wee drum beat and a memorable chorus littered with, fittingly enough, delicate howls. She tones it down again for Daisy Chain, where the lush melodies and beautiful vocals create this dense, haunting effect that has you rooted to the spot, soaking in the surrounding elements with each passing second, leaving goosebumps all over in the process.

Lisanne goes in a more upbeat direction with the title track, a delightfully catchy song that is easily to bob your head to, and the great lyrics won’t take long to make a permanent mark in the brain with just how infectious they are, and a breath is barely wasted as she dives head first into the closing number, Yellow Label, which raises the bar further with a glamorous high-octane energy that could fill any dance floor, capping off the record in intoxicating fashion.

Well, well, I was certainly expecting good things here, but Lisanne has went above and beyond to produce an utterly strong EP which is enchanting from start to finish, leading the audience on this magical journey that is really diverse and chock-full of provoking content which couldn’t possibly fail to make an impact on any sensible living, breathing soul.

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Earthbound

EARTHBOUNDDesolate

Hertfordshire melodic death metal outfit Earthbound came into existence back in the early goings of 2017, and if the PR is believed to be correct, I’ve seemingly hopped onto the bandwagon at the perfect time.

Swiftly and firmly establishing themselves as an essential act in the British scene, the guys are fresh off releasing their second EP – Desolate – and if the results are to go by, then it’s no wonder why the hype is real.

Of Suffering is right up there as one of the best openers I’ve heard to any metal record from this entire year; the five members just powering through the verses at a relentless pace, carrying this face-melting insanity – asserted by the supreme scream work – which relays well into the top-notch chorus that will be stuck in the head after only a couple of listens, plus the guitar solos, electronics and bell tolls all add an extra spice.

Solitude serves as an extended interlude of sorts, calming things down to allow a breather before returning to the regular heavy duty stuff courtesy of Worlds Apart. Admittedly, it takes a little while for them to properly settle into the groove, but after a minute or two, they’ve regained their footing and have myself locked into prime head-bang mode once again, particularly with the rocking synth-focused rhythm and a good hook to boot.

But it’s with Remnants where they truly recapture the drive set into motion by the beginning number, cranking the elements into the highest gear to produce another blistering beauty featuring some standout bass lines and off-the-charts drumming.

Good lord, what a hell of a ride that was. Earthbound have thoroughly impressed with a mighty EP that, while maybe a little lacking in a few brief spots, slams with a whopping force for the other 95% of the duration.

The quintet pack as much meat as they possibly can into each of the tracks; not too much to the point of over-saturation, but just the ideal amount to provide something that is properly awesome.

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FlyingPeng1

FLYING PENGUINSBodies And Artefacts

It appears that Glasgow indie folk-pop outfit Flying Penguins have mostly been keeping to themselves over the past year or so, and there’s a good reason for that: the creation of an EP by the name of Bodies And Artefacts, and they were so eager to unleash it to the world that they were kind enough to drop it earlier than planned.

The tender lead vocals are ridiculously warm and welcoming in Glacier, and mixed with the occasionally featured delicate backing harmonies, they are quite pleasing to the ears, while the addition of the flute and the fiddle provide a sublime Celtic dose. The solid Leave Of Absinthe has a enjoyable melody to it – definitively boosted by the great piano work – the writing catches on, and the song as a whole has this Fleetwood Mac essence about it.

The Fatalist is decent too, delivering some more joy courtesy of the string and woodwind section, but Manic Street truly stands out from the pack with a slow, engaging rhythm and a haunting atmospheric overtone which personally has me totally entranced, and they emerge from that in a smooth and steady fashion proceeding into the final number Marie, another purely magnetic piece that wraps up the record supremely well.

While some tracks certainly hit the mark better than others, this is nonetheless a charming little result we’ve got here where I’m easily convinced that each of the members made an equally substantial effort to produce something worthwhile, plus the bridging of several genres will surely satisfy a broad range of newcomers lucky enough to come across this.

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BadBees

THE BAD BEESThe Time It Takes

Indie rock quartet The Bad Bees have become quite a mainstay in the Philadelphia music scene, already boasting a couple of EPs under their belt, and they’re back to treat keen fans to even more of their music via their third record, The Time It Takes.

Immediately sticking out in the warm opening piece are the distinctly high-pitch harmonies, but it’s the lead single Always Restart where the group’s sound is expanded upon and truly comes to life, with the aforementioned voice being showcased in full, in the process pulling my attention to both the lyrics and the music as a whole. With guitar chords that are nice and easy-going while being carried by a light subtle rhythm, there’s just this pleasing, leisurely tone to the song, with layers being constantly added with each passing minute.

These tropes remain constant with Frog Song, which has more of a sweet bounce to it, particularly emphasised by the cool bass work on display, and it only gets catchier and more infectious as it hops along. The energy is punched up once more for the finishing number It’s All New, where the riffs and drum beats have an extra power to them and hooks are littered across the board, making for a pretty engaging conclusion overall.

As a newcomer, the quartet have done a fine job getting me invested, having provided a really satisfying collage of tracks that, while brief and often simple, sucks in the listener with a wholly embracing essence that clicks and draws them in through ways that cannot be fully explained, but give it a shot and you’ll find out for yourselves.

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QC1

QUEEQUEG’S COFFINDaddy

A couple of key things quickly drew my attention to Dundee duo Queequeg’s Coffin when I involuntarily came across them online. One was their name, but more importantly, the second was their sound, which is apparently hard to pinpoint.

The band label themselves as “electro fuzz rock”, whilst Make-That-A-Take Records’ description was “goth-soul dance punks”. Both considerably different, but either way, my heightened curiosity led me to their recently released Daddy EP, which proved to be something awfully good.

The title number is the perfect example of how to start off a record in bloody superb fashion, being an addictive track that quickly establishes an energy and entertains with a damn fine distorted rhythm, tenacious vocals and a catchy as hell chorus.

While not quite reaching the same hefty standard here, there’s still plenty to love about the remaining songs. For example, These Clouds goes at a steadier pace, tagging along with a cool beat before unleashing into more aggressive tones elevated by the raw, intense basslines.

They charge full steam ahead with Poltergeist, belting up the tempo to a wild degree whilst showering down with the hookiest of lyrics, soon returning to a leisurely pace for the amusingly titled G’beh, once again drawing you in with the sincerely delivered writing and a great melody.

A cracking debut effort from a pair who efficiently display their musicianship through a set of vivid, diverse numbers that make a stamp in one way or another, leaving a positive impression in no time flat. Cannot recommend enough.

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SMS | STADIUM* – Some People Are Inconvenient

STADIUM


STADIUM* is a name that has been cropping around my feeds quite often as of late, before the Glaswegian rock trio found their way into my inbox with their debut EP handy – Some People Are Inconvenient – so what better time than now to give them some attention.

Voodoo treats us to a cracking drum intro to kick things off, and once they let loose, we get a lot of energy coming through the brisk riffs. A Moment Of Clarity unfortunately falls a little on the weaker side though, not offering much to latch on to

But they recover with the short and sharp Bonesaw, where the rhythm packs way more of a considerable punch, and finally we get Safe Space, which serves as a pretty strong finale with it’s sleek melody, nice chords and indisputably the best, most mature writing of the lot.

So while there is noticeable hitches and the mixing could have been better, the band’s first record is a solid result nonetheless, where the good stuff outweighs the negatives and shows off the potential that this outfit possibly muster.



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SMS | KING HISS – Earthquaker

KingHiss


Sludge quartet KING HISS have over the years cemented themselves as one of the top dogs in the Belgian rock scene, and if their forthcoming third album – Earthquaker – is anything to go by, there are set to climb even further up the ranks, because this is an absolute blinder we’ve got on our hands here.

For starters, Jan’s voice is a thing of beauty, covering a broad range and donning a firm, assertive power. While he keeps himself occupied, Josh bashes out these heaving, aggressive guitar tones that are so freaking scuzzy, adding an effectively resonating punch to each track, while the hard-edged bass lines from Visioene are oozing with dankness and Jason’s drums hit with a potent weight behind them.

Throughout, it never feels like they stick to the one format. Whether subtly or noticeably, they are constantly changing it up and as a result, I’m never bored and stay hot on the hype train.

You get a ripe selection of strong mid-tempo pieces like Kilmister, Black Wolf and the titular number, intermixed with these all-out assaults where they blast through with full intensity at a ridiculously high speed, including Revolt and the damn catchy Desertsurfer.

And you know what, the music itself is so glorious that the writing could be taken for granted, but the lyrics are genuinely good and worth paying attention to, being at their best in the likes of Vomit, Sum Of All Nightmares and the monumental Butcher.

End to end, this is a supreme effort, with the four easily crafting together a candidate for the single best heavy record I’ve heard to have come out of mainland Europe in the entirety of 2019. The negatives are at a bare minimum while the positives excel at an optimum. How in the hell are these guys not bigger?



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SMS | DREAMHOUSE – Reverberating Silence

Dreamhouse


Out of all the bands hailing from the other side of the Atlantic that I’ve had the pleasure of discovering recently, Milwaukee alternative rock quartet DREAMHOUSE have stood out to be one of the most promising of the lot, and this stems from their freshly released debut album – Reverberating Silence.

From bell to bell, the record is loaded with these larger than life tracks that have heaps of energy riding behind them to invigorate the senses.

Taking lead is frontwoman Brianna who comes equipped with a tremendous voice that is sweeping with pure passion, and when at full strength, she adds a considerable size to each of the already hefty songs. Elsewhere, Derek’s riffs are pretty good and contribute to the stimulating melodies, while Jared and Michael produce these thumping, pack-a-punch rhythms on the bass and kit.

If there was one element holding them back, however, it would be that the majority of the numbers are quite formulaic, with the four doing very little on the surface to mix things up, and it’s not until the last couple of pieces that they take a visibly different direction and finally provide something more fresh before it starts wearing thin.

But with that said, what does carry them through are the next-level performances in their respective areas, as a result treating us to enjoyably memorable bangers such as Losing Myself, Tie Me Down and Closer To Comfort that can be spun time and time again without getting old.

So despite a couple of drawbacks, Dreamhouse have made a substantial effort to produce a great record that is consistently running at an exciting scale which is so infectious and able to hook in new fans real easily.

As touched upon in the intro, I really do feel this group hold a tonne of potential, as demonstrated in what they bring to the table here, and if able to dig down and broaden their horizons sound-wise, you can bet on this outfit climbing the charts and playing to bigger audiences in the near future.



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SMS | BERNIE LEROUX – Empty Sounds

BernieL


Today’s record is an interesting case, created by keen poet BERNIE LEROUX from Deer Lake, who over the years has put lyrics to paper, but in all this time hadn’t done much with them. That is until now, when he finally picked up the guitar, locked himself away into the studio and starting piecing together what would eventually become his debut album – Empty Sounds.

From his words spawn these nice primarily acoustic songs that are for the most part straightforward, simply accessible to listeners from any walk of life. Some of them are upbeat and entertain with catchy melodies – Dark Side Of The City and Ice & Snow spring to mind, for example – while others roll at a slower pace, allowed to breathe and let the audience take in the content, as displayed in Fire & Wind and Empty Sounds itself.

It should come as no surprise, but given his background, the strongest element that is consistent throughout is the writing, being often sentimental and quite easy to connect with; the highlights in this regard including Talk To Me, Backroads and especially the emotionally gripping Momma’s Blue Eyes, which is the definitive highlight from this package, and enhancing this factor is Bernie’s country rock-inspired vocal deliveries.

Truthfully speaking, not everything clicks here, but when it does, Empty Sounds proves to be a solid sleeper product that shines with a refreshing humble quality not usually seen to this degree in music these days.



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