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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.