Show Your Hand | SMALL MUSIC SCENE

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KATEE KROSS – Show Your Hand

Katee Kross is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and hardest grafting musicians in Scotland at the moment, with a trio of albums, countless gigs and a regular web series to her name, among a multitude of other things, and now she is set to release what has to be her most anticipated work to date – Show Your Hand.

If you’re not immediately hooked in by the opening titular lead single, then you might just have a brain cell or two loose, for this is a dazzling, stimulating track just full of life and everything clearly thrown into it, making for something unforgettable and easily Katee’s most perfect song to date.

In contrast, Two Outlaws is a very pleasant, easy-going piece that bobs along at a sleek comfortable pace, and Diamonds In The Dust has a notable beat to it, plus Ross’ work on the electric guitar is seriously slick.

Dancing With My Past is a definitive highlight of the record, where Katee is at the top of her game on the singing front, her voice beautiful and crisp, and the lyrics making the impact that they should. Bumblebee is enjoyably melodic, while Still The People Talk is another catchy, fired up addition.

The writing continues to hold attention throughout the piano-driven Please Stay and the smooth Never Meant To Be Forever, the energy is running on all cylinders through the rollicking What Will Be and only escalating further into the outstanding final number Keep On Keepin’ On.

Given all her past material, expectations were high here, but Katee has exceeded beyond notions with an album that is simply magnificent, with every song clicking in one way or another and exposing the Bishopbriggs native’s pure talents to a broad extent.

I’ve toyed with the idea over the last couple of years, but after listening to Show Your Hand, Katee Kross is now without a doubt in my mind the brightest, most promising prospect that the Scottish country scene has to offer, and she has truly earned the right to achieve greater things.

*AVAILABLE ON SATURDAY 22nd FEBRUARY*


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THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE ZUGLYAlgorithm & Blues

There are few acts who have made a greater impact in the Norwegian punk field than The Good The Bad And The Zugly, and their list of achievements has only been expanded with the release of their fourth album – Algorithm & Blues – and if this isn’t a bona fide validation of the earlier statement, then I couldn’t tell you what is.

Commencing with the most Thunderstruck sounding of intros, Welcome To The Great Indoors is a phenomenal banger that wastes little time in delivering all the stacked goods in one fresh combo.

But that is only just the beginning, as they afterwards dive headfirst into Fake Noose, short, sharp and featuring both hefty vocals and an outstanding chorus, and that fierce energy continues to be carried over into Staying With The Trouble.

The on-surface inspirational interlude Follow Your Dreams quickly flips over into the amusingly harsh Kings Of Inconvenience, and that bluntness stays fresh through the catchy, riff-tastic (Oxygen) Mask.

F*** Life is another major focal point with it’s awesome, humorous writing and brain-gluing hooks. That also rings true for Corporate Rock, and What Have You Done For Me Lately whacks up the tempo to a berserk pace controlled by the tight rhythm section.

The Kids Are Alt-Right is the best in terms of content, as it takes a sharp look at the uncomfortable reality of the world’s ongoing political turmoil. F*** The Police is about as punk as you could possibly get and it’s a blast, and there’s one last quick breather before the guy wrap things up in exhilarant fashion with Requiem.

Jesus H Christ…if you want the proper fundamental example of how to make the perfect punk rock record, then no look further than this.

Algorithm & Blues is from start to finish a clear-cut, flawless product that swiftly establishes and limitlessly runs off a crazy momentum that gets your pulse racing to uncontrollable levels, and it helps that the performances are superb and the writing is unbelievably good, especially given how it can delve in both comedic and darker tones.

Ratings aren’t my forte, but in this situation, I feel like I need to break tradition and award this the full shebang of five stars. This album has set a considerable standard to be followed in 2020.

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH VIRAL PROPAGANDA


quiche

QUICHECardboard Sunset

A few years ago, a humble little outfit named Quiche burst onto the Glasgow music scene, and in the short time since their debut, they have swiftly rose up the ranks and established themselves as one of the country’s definitive underground psych-rock acts, and they have totally certified that claim with their recently released new EP – Cardboard Sunset.

Their latest single Dazed makes for a satisfying opener, being quite bright and jazzy and coming through with striking lyrics and a brief but damn sweet overdub-based hook. Grey Matter is even more entertaining, bustling along to a boogieing rhythm complete with a neat mixture of slick basslines, catchy drum beats and the addition of faint claps, plus the vocals are on really great form and the guitars are top notch.

They improve further yet with Silhouette, a sublime number that begins virtually stripped back to not much more than light, radiant keys and magnetic singing, before other elements are thrown in to build it up and it caps off on an astonishingly loaded note.  And then we come to the last of the bunch, Reality’s Not Fun, which also starts off placid and calm, but gradually comes more to life and presents itself as a splendid conclusion highlighted by devilishly cool guitar work.

Quiche have compiled the best of their music in order to produce what is a quick but ultimately impressive dazzler of a record that displays plenty of promise. It certainly gives me hope that this group are en route to a prosperous future, which could very well be achieved if they continue to deliver material of this standard and then some.

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THE WARHAWKS – STARDUST DISCO

Following on from the release of their 2019 full-length debut Never Felt So Good, New Jersey alt-indie rock group The Warhawks seek to keep that momentum alive with their next EP release – Stardust Disco.

Deliver is quite a snappy opener with a semi-punk tone surrounding it, and they keep the pace running hot with the insanely catchy and electric I Can’t Wait, which is topped off by a banging chorus. Dire is similarly supreme, moving along to an addictive, flowing groove and hitting out with memorable lyrics.

A hell of a cool, zippy drum beat racks up the energy levels in Other Side Of Life, and the basslines are more vivid than ever. The sharp guitars are the key factor in Hang Around, and last but certainly not least, the bloody good and intoxicating Don’t Give Up Your Heart finishes things off in storming fashion.

I’m thoroughly impressed with this one. Some hearty, layered and infectious quality content over the span of six strong songs make for an absolutely fantastic result that should not be flying under anyone’s radar.

*AVAILABLE ON SATURDAY 1st FEBRUARY*

IN ASSOCIATION WITH PART TIME PR


ChrisSmall

CHRIS SMALL – Something In The Water

Based in Perth, Scotland, Chris Small has been producing music for the better part of the last decade, and his upcoming latest creation Something In The Water is an ideal introductory platter for newcomers such as myself.

Something In The Water itself begins the record on a very lively, chipper note, particularly with the enthusiasm-infused harmonies and glorious brass section on hand. Time is a total diversion from that though, Chris instead opting to go in a more tranquil, jazzy direction, complete with a silky drum beat and stylish work on the piano.

Roses sticks with that mood, slithering at a chilled pace, enticing with tender guitar and bass chords, and delivering some nice, impressionable writing, and following on from that, Lay With Me makes for a pleasing, easy on the ears track to wrap it up.

A professionally crafted and juicy EP from who is for sure one of the country’s most underappreciated composers.

It would have been nice to see a touch more variety thrown in (more of the same like the titular number, to be specific), but pesky nitpick aside, this is one that deserves plenty of exposure once out on the digital streets of the web.

*AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 28th FEBRUARY*


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CHINESE WHISPERSAbout Time

Chinese Whispers of Clydebank originally came to fruition back in 1984 and eventually breaking up, before reuniting 35 years later through a uni project, and in the process they crafted the full-length album About Time.

King Of The Night is such a vibrant opener that grabs you in an instant, and they only step it up another notch with Breathe, which is insanely addictive. It bobs along to a sweet beat, the tender acoustic chords are a delight and the Phil Collins-esque vocals are utterly superb. They then suddenly go in a radical dance-oriented direction with the title track, and it is a spectacular blast, after which is Rico’s Theme, a top notch instrumental piece.

Never Been A Better Time is defined by great riffs and a tasty hook that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. The guitars remain a strong element in Midnight Movies, but it’s the glorious synths that steal the show, and while Au Revoir is a bit more straight-forward, the chorus is fantastic.

Take This Heart Of Mine is awfully catchy, Hammer It Home is drenched in this overwhelming 80’s vibe and the riffs are astounding, and lastly is You Can’t Turn Around, a decent one to finish on featuring some of the best writing of the lot as well.

One listen through later, and I have so much regret for having not found out about this group sooner, because About Time is a simply terrific record. I admire that Chinese Whispers stuck with the sound that was hot when they formed all those years ago, but have successfully brought it forward with a modern sensibility.

Admittedly, it does start to wean a little towards the end, but on the whole, especially when clogged together by a lush, high quality production standard, this is an album that deserves far more attention, content like this can’t afford to stay under the radar.

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Fall Better | SMALL MUSIC SCENE

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VUKOVIFall Better

After making massive waves with their self-titled debut album back in 2017, Ayrshire rock troupe Vukovi have struggled through a journey complete with trials and tribulations, but they have fought tooth and nail to rise from the ashes, and they are finally back in the limelight with their wildly anticipated follow-up – Fall Better.

Unlike their previous offering, they open with a mounting intro which grows and grows before being used as a launching pad into first real track, the great Violent Minds, which immediately hits it out the park with magnetic lyrical content as well as more synth-based influences built upon their already established sound, and a mammoth drop towards the end is the icing on the cake.

Aura adds an extra dose of power, especially through the shattering drum thumps and Hamish’s aggressive riffs. CLAUDIA is a certified whammy, being breath-takingly dynamic, catchy as hell and a platform for Janine to display her phenomenal vocal talents, and Behave continues to show off the great writing while maintaining that wild pulse from before.

Play With Me is the most favourable candidate for the highlight here, hands down Vukovi’s most thrilling, bloody insane song ever, with a mammoth size, infectious energy, captivating hooks and electrifying guitars defining it, it’s such a blitz that you genuinely feel out of breath by the time the unsettling interlude comes around.

Janine takes full control in All That Candy, at the helm driving the tune with her magnetic drawing power and sucking you in to the powerful themes. I’m Sorry is where things start to freshen up a little, as they finally bring the pace down and we get some properly gushing emotions.

The pairing of Where Are You and White Lies are stronger yet. Janine has never been more genuine than she is here, upholding the raw lyrics perfectly and cementing herself as the gifted performer that many claim her to be, and in conjunction with continuously good rhythms and stellar guitar chords, these two cuts are what push this album to an awesome one, and lastly Run/Hide makes for a solid conclusion to finally bring this to a close.

After the most turbulent series of experiences in the creation of Fall Better, it brings me the highest of joys to say that the final result is spectacular. Across the board, Vukovi have evidently evolved their know-hows on every level imaginable – writing, performances, technicals, the lot – while still retaining at the core what brought them to the dance. It’s such a rollicking blast throughout, but along the way, they spill their guts and leave a meaningful imprint, and the latter surely has to be more important in the long term.

Janine and Hamish are two of the hardest working folks in the Scottish scene, and I’m thoroughly proud of what they have been able to accomplish. The fact that they’ve successfully battled through hell countless times and their efforts have pay off in dividends should be an inspiration to anybody with the same sort of goals and aspirations.

Vukovi are just about ready to take on the world, methinks.

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Johnedge

JOHN EDGE & THE KINGS OF NOWHEREOnly Fear Dies

Edinburgh folk-rock maestro John Edge and his merry band came to my attention late last year, and they have kicked off 2020 in laudable fashion with their debut full-length album, Only Fear Dies.

A stunning celtic intro eases us in to the semi-eponymous opener Kings Of Nowhere, and from there we get a beautifully warm number that is pure and investing. They get more of a catchy rhythm involved in Mayans, being curated from the slick guitars and good drum beats, becoming prominently bulkier in the second half, and the chorus is especially nice too.

Forest In My Mind totally sucks you in with the fantastic writing, and it feels like a joke to have not even mentioned John’s vocal work by this point, for it is excellent and really brings the words to life in an empathic way, and those aspects continue to stay constant in Sannyasin.

Emerald City is perhaps the most captivating selection, commencing with pleasant acoustics and elevating in size as it progresses, all the while the lyrics hit a bullseye and the harmonies are insanely great. It Calls is the very reason I came to discover John and company, and an ideal introduction too, being quite a memorable, easy-going piece with a stellar hook.

Four Islands is very lively, and the passion is at an all-time high over the course of All Became Clear, leading up to a hair-raising breaking point. The beginning of Why provides a breather for what preceded it, but eventually that energy comes back full force and the result is an outstanding, guitar-driven belter of a final track.

Talk about making a mighty impression. John Edge has delivered a legitimately special record that is tightly produced, tightly performed, and should be making the case for this gentleman to perhaps soon become a major force in Scottish music, and deservedly so.

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NICOL & ELLIOTTMy Heart Will Wait

One of the most notable newcomers to the Scottish americana/country sphere last year, the Glasgow-based partnership Nicol & Elliott finally have an EP to present to the world – My Heart Will Wait.

The title number is a pleasingly melodic way to start, where Rachel really shines with her rich harmonies, plus the bass tones, drum beat and chord plucks are various qualities that make it all the better. The strings are particularly lavish in The Long Way Down, and Andrew gets the opportunity to display his vocal flairs this time around and effectively so in conjunction with Rachel; the pair being a perfect match up in that regard.

So Long Ago is a really splendid, steadier tune where all the pieces click together and the lyrics are excellent, and finally is Letting You Go, the sure highlight with everything stripped back to produce a bewitching track that is just oozing with this spine-chilling atmosphere, and the beautiful singing only helps to considerably elevate that.

The purpose of a debut record is to provide a platform for music acts to showcase to everybody what they are capable of, and Nicol & Elliott have made the most of this opportunity by creating a wonderful EP which proves that they can tackle a variety of different styles in great fashion.

I’m excited for what lies in store in the future for this duo, and you should all be too.

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CAPTAIN HANDSOME – I Am Not An Animal

Already a part of the established Fightmilk, Lily Rae from London also runs her own wee solo venture under the guise of Captain Handsome, and her forthcoming debut EP – I am Not An Animal – is certainly worthy of being laid into everyone’s ears.

With the first selection I Wish I Had A Dog, Lily quickly grasps attention with intriguingly quirky lyrics, a simple yet tantalising hook and an overall cool, even slightly odd sound.

Annalise falls into something more traditional, but that’s certainly not a negative, as it shines bright with an engaging melody and flowing acoustics. In contrast, Dolly Porton is way more stripped back, with Lily’s mellow harmonies and great writing taking the forefront with accompaniment from calm guitar strums and subtle cymbal ripples.

Halloween is even stronger yet, just swelling with emotions and captivating the listener, while throwing in a couple of unpredictable elements, such as a sudden flurry of swift, unsettling strings in the middle, and then she concludes with the wonderful title number which is relatively catchy and builds into a pretty packed second half.

Lily Rae has crafted a fantastic record here that is not only well produced and vividly diverse in style, but elevated by a pure, no-nonsense legitimacy that allows her to make a lasting impression on the audience.

*AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 31st JANUARY*

IN ASSOCIATION WITH RECKLESS YES


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HAVOC FACTIONWelcome To The Fight

Kyle Rutchland,otherwise known as Backdraft, from sunny LA has got his solo post-hardcore project Havoc Faction off to a hot start in 2020 with the reissue of his Welcome To The Fight EP.

The title track greets with the blaring of sirens before hitting us with a monumental drop and turning into something flat out huge and bursting with truckloads of energy. You couldn’t ask for a more awesome opener, and it transitions real smoothly into the lead single Dark Passenger, another belter of a tune showing supreme vocals that draw you into the writing with ease, whilst keeping the dynamic buzz churning along thanks to the strident riffs.

My Human Condition dilutes the intensity a little, but for sure not the quality of the music, presenting some purely magnetic and mature lyrics that firmly make an impact, and eventually ascending to a fierce final third with chunky bass chords and slicing drum shots.

He fittingly really lays into the aggression during Keyboard Warriors, the rhythms and singing in particular donning a considerably darker, danker tone in the deliveries, and a couple of brief but cool guitar solos stand out too, and the final song Homewrecked is another thrilling whopper with an intoxicating drive to it as well as a strong and catchy chorus to send the audience out happy and on a high.

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH A LITTLE BIT LOUDER MUSIC

Novella | SMALL MUSIC SCENE

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VERIDIANNovella

I’ve been intently following Reading rocking quartet Veridian since rising from the ashes of We Caught The Castle, and they’ve consistently delivered across their existence, but their fresh new Novella EP has proven them to be an entirely different beast altogether.

Halo is exactly how an opener should be, a high calibre track that gets you hooked instantly, and in this case that is owed to a sweeping energy, a dynamic sense of scale and a blistering, catchy chorus.

As they settle into a smooth groove with Easier, it’s here we truly get to see Simon’s vocal talents in ripe form, not only technically strong but able to carry forth the emotions of the great writing.

Curtains amps up the power game to a ridiculous degree through Rob’s excellent riffs and the forceful rhythms courtesy of Zak and Jonny, plus the tight-knit blended harmonies and James’ zesty keys again help give the song an extra depth and more extensive size.

Friends is considerably sharper and has a more strident weight to it, also hitting out with memorable hooks, and finally is Pavement, an expertly constructed conclusion that starts off at a lower pace than before; the boys taking their time in building it up and up until hitting a breaking point and firing into a rush while once more impressing with top notch lyrics.

Veridian have well and truly smashed it out the park here with an insanely stellar EP that has taken them to a new level and set them en route for a healthy 2020 in the best way imaginable.

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MarkSharp

MARK SHARP & THE BICYCLE THIEVESMS&TBT

If you’re even a tiny bit involved within Scotland’s music scene, you’ve at the very least probably seen the name Mark Sharp & The Bicycle Thieves floating around, and for good reason: they’re killing it right now, and that statement was only verified with the release of the MS&TBT EP last month.

Tippy Toes gets rolling on a light note; quite gentle to begin with and warming in the listener at an easy pace, before unleashing into a blinding chorus highlighted by Mark’s firm harmonies and seriously exuberant synths.

Now we get to something properly juicy with latest single Moonshine, a damn near perfect track with a tidy bass line and tribal drums producing the catchiest of beats, as well as conspicuous lyrics and a wonderful hook that anybody and everybody should be latched in by.

We get quite the tone switch with Liquid Gold, opting to present a more emotional piece, and delivering really well, the sleek guitars and awfully nice keys on hand to create a sweet melody which still keeps that bubbly life from earlier alive and healthy.

The finale Amorous starts off in a stripped back fashion, driven primarily by great piano work and Mark’s continuously fantastic vocals, the heartfelt writing prominently displayed as it goes, all leading up to a pleasing, fuzzy finish.

Mark Sharp’s sophomore release is exactly what I wanted from the man and his company: a tightly produced collection of sublime, dazzling tunes each sporting their own elements that individually give them a worthy identity, but when put together such as the case here, you get one hell of a special product.

The group have been really hitting a stride as of late and are only growing in popularity, and it shouldn’t be too long before they go from that cool band who supported Lewis Capaldi to becoming one of Scottish music’s principal acts.

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TITANSTransparent

Prior to 2020, I had absolutely no knowledge of Belgium hardcore unit Titans, but it didn’t take much for me to get invested after being given their sophomore record Transparent to have a looksie at.

The guys set a nice, furious pace from the offset with The Stoic, and the intensity is bumped up formidably through In Recognition, the main contributing factors here being the thumping drum shots and rowdy vocals, plus the regular drops throughout are rather tasty.

They remain on a similar course with the belting None For All; the cracking guitar and bass given more of an opportunity to shine through, and everything ties together in Forbearance, an immensely tight package that clicks in every imaginable way, from the lyrics to the performances.

We get a decent interlude loaded with crunchy bass tones, then next is the title track, which starts off surprisingly light, but in no time flat, they return to the status quo and charge full steam ahead at a crazy tempo; maintaining that power riding into the great climatic tune In Pulses.

As far as first impressions go, this is a superb one. From bell to bell, Transparent is a heavy, turbulent listen choc-a-bloc with a mad energy that couldn’t possibly not get you fired up.

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Here Lies Ordinary | SMALL MUSIC SCENE

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LAUGHING IN THE FACE OFHere Lies Ordinary

It took them a whole decade, but Birmingham skatepunk lads Laughing In The Face Of are finally back in the fray with their second full-length entitled Here Lies Ordinary, and man, this right here is the epitome of a return to form.

A brooding building intro paves way for jolting opener The Regression Session, and ensuing songs like Projectile Dysfunction and Bulls*** With A Smile explode with this relentless volatility, reflected perfectly through the no holds barred rhythm sections, blistering riffs and scarily thundering vocals.

Becoming vividly clear with Running With Coffee, the quartet prove to be able in maintaining this ridiculously tight impulse at full power right from the get-go all the way up to the end without ever letting the pace even slightly slip, making for something that is as purely breath-taking as it is heavy.

Truthfully speaking, despite the awesome performances, they don’t bring much particularly new to the table sound-wise, but they more than make up for that with the other outstanding quality going for them – the writing, which is as stinging and unforgiving as it gets, hitting real close to home all the while, as per Modus Operandi.

This aspect only becomes more prominent as they settle into a groove and batter through track after belting track such as The Insane Continue, Rationalisation Of Stupidity and Helldweller.

In addition to amusingly punny titles (Looks Can Be This Evening, tee-hee) they continue to impress in spades as they approach the finish line, such as the swift guitars in Penguins or the unbelievably juicy bass flurries in Reasons & Reminders, culminating in the banging From The Ground Up.

The initial reaction to Here Lies Ordinary: “holy bejesus!” And even with multiple listens in the tank, that sentiment still rings true. Laughing In The Face Of have delivered what is already a potential candidate for best punk record of the year.

This is a tremendous album that is perpetually insane over the entire half hour, leaving the listener not only exhausted and short of breath afterwards, but with a desire to immediately give it another spin, and then another, and another, and so forth, because it’s just that damn bloody good.

*AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 7th FEBRUARY*

IN ASSOCIATION WITH LOCKJAW RECORDS

FallenMafia

FALLEN MAFIAAwaken

Months after exclusively being available on physical form – an excellent and genius strategy that more in this industry should abide by, in my humble opinion – one of Newcastle’s finest acts Fallen Mafia recently made their debut album Awaken finally available to the public in full glory.

Following the uneasy War intro with its brutal dose of reality, we get treated to a selection of pretty good energetic tunes built around some great and memorable choruses like the high-octane Breathe and the title track, whilst others showcase these cool, distinctly rugged rhythms such as Burn, Heads Up and How The Story Ends.

In certain cases, there are often elements shining through that add a little extra meat. For example, Don’t Look Back has a cracking acoustic intro, and Asylum is particularly captivating on a lyrical level.

But the irrefutable stand out has to be Life’s A Dance, which rolls the pace down for something with an underlying sense of aggression that hits the frontline through the rigid guitars and Hannah’s ferocious vocal capacity.

The production could have benefited from a freshen up in spots where it can be noticeably a bit rough around the edges, and admittedly this is a slow burner, for it takes a few songs to get to the tastier material.

While not quite reaching full potential, Awaken is nevertheless a satisfying collection with more than enough sweet qualities that will have not much bother drawing in dedicated rock fans of all kinds, and it does exactly what a debut album should do: put the band’s capable talents on display and let them flourish.

It’s just a case of stepping it up another notch for the next round, and ideally answering the important question of what makes Fallen Mafia different from everyone else on the scene.

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BANDAID BRIGADE – I’m Separate

Previously making the most of their talents in PEARS and Scorpios respectively, Zach Quinn and Brian Wahlstrom have come together for the Bandaid Brigade project, in the processing churning out an exquisite album by the name of I’m Separate.

There’s plenty of tunes on hand here that impress with fluent harmonies, delightfully melodic mixture of riffs and pianos, and pretty nice beats to them – Everything, Christmas Tree – while others up the ante, being super vibrant and catchy – Travel Light, Holding Steady and especially Losing Light.

But even beyond those choices, they continue in displaying solid variety. Attila has a notably darker tone to it, especially visible through the writing and the aggressive-sounding guitars, and Break The Grid has this off-the-charts energy amplified by the bright and bouncy synths and fervent yells.

The powerful, hard-hitting Going To Rain Today has to be the undisputed highlight here, and other songs including the hooking Stay Busy and Nothing Matters ride off strong emotions; the latter leading into a surreal, cool conclusion.

This lucrative collaboration has spawned a superbly diverse record that openly indulges in various styles, proving to be a really entertaining ride with minimal flat spots in the process.

*AVAILABLE ON TUESDAY 21st JANUARY*

IN ASSOCIATION WITH EARSHOT MEDIA