SMS #8: Under The Influence


FINNIANUnder The Influence

Born and bred in Dundalk, Ireland, Finnian Kelleher (better known simply as Finnian) has had an incredibly fruitful past year, with a trio of singles already earning him mountains of attention not only in his native home country, but across the UK and USA.

Hot off the heels of this success, he has now stepped it up a notch with the release of his debut album – Under The Influence – where his full potential is put on the map, clear for all to witness.

Newcomers will immediately be impressed as he saunters nicely into Where We Go, a seriously smooth number headed by Finnian’s mannerly, mellow voice, and extra dashes of other minor elements like brief spots of trumpets only further enhance the experience.

Stay maintains the immensely mild mood, complete with subtle chords and drum taps, while the pleasant lyrics grip your interest and the additional female harmonies complement Finnian exquisitely. The writing is even more wonderful and immersive in Even Flow. The partnered singing brings it to a legitimate life, and the various guitar styles throughout are real sweet too.

The blues influences are flooding through in the tender Don’t Want To See You Go, after which is Out Of Sight, an unbelievably magnetic, gentle ballad surrounded within a lush, super thick atmosphere.

From there, he lightens up the mood and reignites the energy with the dazzling Fly; the riffs and piano keys making for a tight combination that gives it a multi-layered tone overall, and the buzz strives on in the melodically upbeat and considerably rockier Lifted Up.

But now we truly have a party going with The Devil In The Flashing Lights, a track that is so infectiously funky that’s it’s not even funny. Not only madly entertaining, but it shows that Finnian’s ability to diversify and branch out from a singular sound, and then he finishes ravishingly with the joyfully swinging I Don’t Want To Fall In Love.

As my personal introduction to the artist, I am thoroughly impressed and can totally dig where the hype is coming from. Under The Influence is a consistently fun, addictive, sensitive and varied record that confirms Finnian as a hot commodity that can easily break out into one of Ireland’s top musical stars in the coming years, and that’s sooner than later for sure.




Over the past 6 years, Glasgow quartet Static Union have been considered by many including myself to be feisty young guns with a tonne of potential. However, it has felt they have come and gone quite often without being able to push a consistent forward momentum. But hopefully that all changes now that their self-titled debut album has hit the shelves from practically out of nowhere.

The opening track Turn Out The Lights is a simple one that does well in sparking a buzzing mood as they create a sound blending obvious indie rock influences with various touches of post punk, not to mention a blatant Scottish edge surrounding it.

They continue to make waves in the energetic Why Do You Feel So Restrained, hitting out with cool riffs and a fervent rhythm which reaches mental levels in the smashing chorus. New Found Way definitely drives in a softer, radiantly aired direction, and that element is bumped up twofold in Can I Be Loved, drizzling in an overwhelmingly 80’s style vibe.

Writing-wise, there’s not been much sticking out, but Wonderful Stay is for sure an exception; an absolutely loving, heartstring-ripping tribute with so much thought and affection behind it, emphasised by the excellent vocal performance. The excitement comes roaring back in The Wanderer, defined by firm bass tones, starry synths and memorable hooks towards the end.

They saunter through the verses of Accelerator at a chilled pace, helmed by a catchy drum beat, then at the right moment switch it around for something bright and lucid, and they take off to mighty heights with the thrilling and intoxicating Finally, which is tailor made for gigs; listening to this, I can just visualise an ocean of punters going bonkers, shouting along at the top of their lungs.

The mania thunders on in the equally electric A Distant Memory, then they mix it up for the subsequent batch of songs, starting with the smooth-progressing ballad Last Resort, next delivering some quality toe-tapping goodness with You Wish.

It’s back to a mild pitch through the engaging Higher Ground, and it’s fitting that they finish on the track which originally brought them to the dance: the cracking, consistently diverging The City We Once Knew.

Static Union putting out a record has been an overdue event, but despite the wait for it, the results speak volumes and reminds me exactly why I came to be a fan of them a few years ago.

The boys have clearly compiled everything that they’ve built upon and developed over the course of their run, stepping up their games to churn out a tight album that goes about in every which way imaginable, displaying a multitude of differing styles to stimulate the listener without ever coming close to stale or boring.




The Isle Of Wight: home to not only one of the nation’s most noteworthy festivals, but a selection of rather fine musical talents residing there, and few have made as big of an impact over the last year than the colourful indie pop outfit Coach Party, and their Party Food EP is a top notch starting point for fresh newbies.

They explode out of the gates with their outstanding debut single Oh Lola, which they blast through at an insanely energetic, breath-taking pace, including the amazingly intoxicating chorus, before suddenly settling down for a restrained conclusion.

Bleach kicks off a lot more held back and steady, inducing this pleasing dreamy inflection, as they sway along to a fresh melody made up of succulent guitar chords and nippy, swishing drums.

The stabbing lyrics of Puke make a real mark and assisting in that impact are the multiple harmonies which are only not lovely and polished, but in this particular case effective in conveying the surly tone of the content.

The group return to a dynamic tempo similarly to how they started in Breakdown, with most of that being owned to the swift, nifty rhythm section, but they still throw in a variety of key changes during the course of it to keep you guessing and provide something excitingly unpredictable.

Space is another catchy ditty and the singing is noticeably more raw and reinforced here, and to wrap up, they roll it down for Red Jumper Boy, at first slower and enchanting before building the power back up for one final wave of satisfying elation.

Party Food is a tight-knit package featuring an assemblage of cracking, feverish numbers that have been produced in various shapes and sizes, with no two songs ever sounding alike.

And with that, Coach Party have proved to be a valuable asset, and it surely won’t be long before they rise up to graceful heights, because at this early stage in the game, they’re already damn good at what they do.




There are few electronic acts in the Scottish scene who have made an impression as promising than the duo of Dale and Harry, collectively BETA WAVES, over the last couple of years, dishing out single after banging single, and now they’ve finally taken the plunge and came out with a debut EP.

The boys fade in with a series of drum shots that lead into the first track, UDH2, and they hold a nice, catchy beat while showcasing really polished vocals and a flawless pairing up of bright synths and engineered guitars.

Come On Over is twice as juicy, being so bright and buoyant, featuring a stellar, fluorescent chorus while also throwing in some great, eloquent lyrics. The dazzlingly fresh vibes remain prominent in the groovy Ad Lib, again defined by writing underlined with plenty of heart.

Hideaway has a cool ambience to it that is calm and floaty in the verses, before shifting up the energy a touch for another round of memorable choruses, and they end stylishly with the infectiously bopping I Had You Wrong.

Beta Waves have been swift in establishing their abilities since they burst onto the picture, and their hard work has evidently paid off here with a smashing record that is entertaining across the board and not looking to get old anytime soon. A sign of even better things to come, I’d imagine.




Okay, so as a newcomer to Kent rock four-piece Dohny Jep, what do the guys have to offer me beside an amusingly punny name? Well, it turns out they have a lot to offer as a matter of fact, and it’s all nicely packaged up in their debut LP – L.U.S.T.

You know the quartet mean business as soon as they make the lofty drop into Time On Reflection, and even more so when they skyrocket to a blistering, sizable chorus which shakes you up and has you totally buzzing.

The title number commences lightly with a tinge of modern pop and engages you with solid lyrics, but god damn, they fire back into the thrill ride with these awesome electronic-fused bursts guaranteed to get any live crowd jumping.

Ambushed is delightfully heavy, with emphasis especially put on the forceful riffs, and the vocals are at their heartiest, most enthralling level yet, including some rough yells in the closing moments.

But the singing goes beyond being simply strong, as demonstrated in Normal Reality where Stuart spills waves of emotions and accentuates the pretty emphatic and credible writing.

The band continue to maintain a grand scale in the glorious Fictions, which is so freaking invigorating that it flows right through you and ignites this feeling deep down inside to punch the air and belt out the words with passion.

And if that wasn’t enough, they rack up the pace to an indescribable speed in Relevance, and if you claim to not be exhilarated by this particular song, then I think you’re a filthy liar to be honest.

Dreamer sticks to a more formulaic standard by this point, but nonetheless, it’s another energetic banger that sends the album off on a graceful high note.

If you’re the type of person that likes the sort of music that is epic and breath-taking, then Dohny Jep definitely have you covered there, with L.U.S.T hands down being one of the dynamic, off-the-charts rollercoasters to have spawned from the UK this year, and I’m eager to see what they in store next.




So this is a somewhat interesting story. I stumbled across LA pop queen Jessica Perry, aka Vanilla Sugar, earlier in the year through her album She, and very much enjoyed it, even giving it a shout out on my social feeds.

Then as fate would have it, she would submit said record as part of Small Music Scene’s ongoing campaign over on ReverbNation, so now I had no excuse not to review it. But does it still hold up after all these months? Oh yes!

 ThisDarkPlace is where the basis of the general sound is formed, one that is vivid and vibrant comprised of screeching electronics, potent guitar chords and other various effects, while Jessica puts herself in the spotlight with lavish low-pitch harmonies.

All of these aspects are amplified in the darker themed BeautifulMess, being considerably sharper and strident, especially when it comes to the vocals, and the chorus is a heavy hitter. MakeUpUrMind has a sweet lo-fi flow, which rolls into GoodVibes, albeit with a swift pulsing beat pumping throughout.

HappySad is livelier and Jessica doesn’t hold back in spouting her honest thoughts and going in depth about her mental turmoil. That stout openness remains clear as day in the infectiously transcendent, synth-fixated HeyBoi, and KeepASecret is a lush and excessively catchy banger perfectly suited for any local nightclub.

SoPretty further cranks up the energy to a sensational scale. The writing is incredibly strong in Take, grasping and sucking you into the deep cuts spawning from an unhealthy relationship, and then we’re treated to one last storming track in the shape of the bouncy, battering WarStories.

She is a stellar product that only improves with every listen. It begins quite humble and atmospheric, but as Jessica proceeds, she unravels her music and continuously ups the ante, eventually dishing out a range of high-octane songs sure to appease any crowd within listening distance who will be left remembering the name Vanilla Sugar, a very promising potential asset to America’s thriving mainstream market.





Miles away in Malaysia, a young chap is currently on a history-making course. He is Alextbh, and he is en route to becoming the country’s first ever major queer superstar, in a place that is, to put it probably far too lightly, set in its ways and not too fond of traits such as this.

But regardless, he has been courageously taking a stand against the hatred and the bigotry of old and is committing to his craft, and in the latest chapter of his journey, he has delivered a new EP titled The Chase.

A thick resonant atmosphere is generated from the offset of Moments, oozing with airy waves of trap pop, and Alex himself has a magnetically warm and chilling voice. Between further elevates the ravishing mood with a luscious groove comprised of sweet clicks and beats, and the writing really captures the bliss that comes with the intimacy of love.

Painted Skies is yet another step up sonically, racking up these tingles that have you floating, plus Alex’s singing remains at an excellent standard, and the overdubs only help accentuate that, and Numb is a strong cut effectively covering the potential results of letting your emotions get the best of you, while Superstore, backed by delicately sweet guitars and centred around a cool chorus, displays an abundance of care and compassion.

Closing out with the positivity-flexing title track, The Chase is a wonderous trip that sounds beautiful but also hits the soul with such pure, feverous feelings that tackles multiple elements of a close romantic relationship.

Alextbh is as inspiring as a talent as he is a revolutionary game-changer, and he has the potential to go far beyond his borders. If allowed the right platform, his name might be one that soon has a global awareness.




Mudflower are relative newcomers to the Chicago music scene, but the rock quartet have been quick to display their potential with their debut record, Sleep Tight.

They dig right into a tasty groove with Fuss And Fight, which is showered in a range of influences spanning the likes of blue, southern and alternative, coming through in the rugged guitar riffs and smooth and stable drum beats, and the energy is notched up in the stylish, memorable chorus.

The cool mood continues to flow into the fiercely rhythmic Burn Down Reality, sucking you in with exuberantly infectious chords, funky basslines, an excellent combo of vocals and a ridiculously addictive hook.

And to send us out, they deliver My Desire, which is a flat out sweet track that harkens back to the classic days of prime American rock and roll, and doing so give you an urge to get down and headbang to your heart’s content.

Man, talk about being left craving an encore. For as short as it is, Sleep Tight is a superb debut EP that, despite the sometimes raw and rough production quality, fills you up with a feeling of joyous excitement while the band efficiently test the waters as much as they can to diversify their skills and know-hows.




SMS #7: Pure Luxury


NZCA LinesPure Luxury

Marketing is a lucrative facet for music promotion that not enough acts in this industry utilise to its full potential. Michael Lovett, the key wiz behind the London-based NZCA Lines project, clearly has an eye for that sort of thing.

One day, I was scrolling through my social feeds, then suddenly my focus is drawn towards this glamorously well-dressed man within a colourful void without a bottom half, instead various bits of rubbish flowing out from the middle of him.

That was my first encounter with Michael, and it certainly worked, for soon thereafter, I checked him out and discovered his freshly released debut full-length album – Pure Luxury – and I was set for life.

The title track greets us, and holy moly, talk about making an impression. Bursting through the speakers, Michael radiates an insane amount of shining confidence and charisma in his stellar voice pretty reminiscent of a certain Prince fellow. His partner in crime Sarah’s infectiously groovy drum beats are amazing, further adding a catchiness and energy to the music, and she undoubtedly remains a major positive factor throughout this record.

The joy intensifies as they smoothly slide into Real Good Time, emanating the coolest sound imaginable, linking drips and drabs of modern pop with the least subtle influences of prime funk, and the assemble of various vocals are unbelievably good. Prisoner Of Love is up next, taking it calm in the tender, low-bass verses before the brilliant chorus takes over which features juicy profuse synths, and the lyrics are easy to be fold of.

For Your Love is utterly pleasant, mainly owed to the lovely strings and neat pianos, and Michael is formidably magnetic in his performance, simply having you in the palm of his hand from start to finish. VIAA makes a guest appearance here and her input is great, further boosting an already high-quality song. The style shifts again in Take This Apart, stripping back the majority of the instrumentation and going down an ambient road while the writing ranks at its best yet, maintaining a tight grip on you.

The exotic dance-inducing sensibilities made a grand return in Opening Night, peaking with a bloody extraordinary keyboard solo that is worthy of the gods. Larsen is a real solid addition with a glowing pulse, Primp & Shine has such a beautifully thick, electronic-soaked air, and unfortunately we reach the end, but they go out with a bang courtesy of the suave and wavy Tonight Is All That Really Matters.

Pure Luxury, as far as I’m concerned, is perfect. It’s a rich, abundant treasure trove full to the brim with these awesome pieces that are flawlessly crafted and plentiful in their variety, and it’s nigh impossible to come out of it not smiling like an absolute fool. NCZA Lines is the future of British pop music, simple as that.



WRESTA World That Has Left You Unspoken

When discussing Scottish bands who are considered small yet harness a major, dedicated following, Edinburgh folk-rock quartet Wrest are one of the most notable in that category.

Despite not being around long, the guys are welcomed with love and affection from all corners whenever a new release hits the market, but somehow they have still to break through the ceiling into mainstream attention.

Frankly, that distinction needs to change, and it’s about time they become weaved into the public conscious, starting with extra focus on their latest EP – A World That Has Left You Unspoken.

They make their satisfying entrance with Waiting For Poetry; very warm and smooth, forceful in its atmosphere, clutching you with the firmest grip, and they slowly build up and up, elevating the scope as they continue and get you even more entranced.

Without as much of a break of pace, they wander into the first of the singles, A Perfectly Spherical World, outlined by really wonderful, sensitive writing brought alive by a supreme vocal performance; the sound meanwhile concocted by a series of sharp notes and a silky fine rhythm.

The second of the singles follows, Blood, and it is the most magnificent number thus far, displaying this pure, cinematic essence that gives it this wonderous, graceful size which ignites a dazzling fire within the minds and bodies of the audience, fuelling them with an intoxicating sense of passion

The dial is turned in the opposite direction for Hello Indigo, which is a lot more reserved and sophisticated, connecting on a raw emotional level with another swell lyrical exhibition, and one last wholly coordinated transition later, we come to the closer, Universe Around You, which retains the previous effective qualities to provide a pleasant finale.

Wrest have done it again with another outstanding musical creation that has you soaring and shifting through a plethora of feelings in the midst of these broad soundscapes, before leaving you with total contentment after it finishes.



DEFENCESThoughts That Keep You Awake

In 2014, Hertfordshire alternative metal outfit Defences burst onto the scene with the Stitches In Sanity EP, and I felt they had made a solid first impression, and I became aware of a hidden potential lurking underneath. 2017, they brought out the With Might And Main album, and stepped it up a gear.

Now we come to 2020, the group dish out another EP entitled Thoughts That Keep You Awake – compiling the singles they released across the prior year – and it’s with this one I believe that they realised their potential, producing something out of this world.

The intro piece Upon Waking draws you in with little effort, utilising magnetic ambience drones, faint string sounds, and a mixture of light harmony chimes and deep breaths; eventually, and smoothly so, transitioning into the beginning of Shatter, before breaking down into the satisfying heaviness.

We see William trading his gruff, formidable screams with Cherry’s fantastic singing, both of whom are equally putting in a fervent effort, and they do amazingly in conveying the gripping, inspiring lyrics detailing the war against self-doubt, urging yourself to stand up from mental defeat, and to get back and fight with a greater extra-strengthened inner desire than ever before. Oh, and it must be said that the last of the many breakdowns is a stormer.

They blast through What You Know with an intoxicating sense of energy, and in the middle of it we have an absolutely outstanding chorus which is so powerful and full of life, meshing in stellar-level performances from everybody; lusty dual vocals, really good guitars from Calum, sweet electronic effects and a forcible, gut-smashing rhythm forged by Ian and Kyle.

The massive scale and buzz only remain scalding hot as they dive into Over, opting to go in a more melodic direction this time around. Among the best qualities, the lyrics again make a mark, and it must be said that William is on insane form here, especially in one sequence where he spits words at a brisk pace.

The final number In Eclipse commences on a considerably settled note – a nice opportunity to catch your breath – initially quiet before they continue to rock the joint in their regular manner, and throughout Cherry reels you in with a loving message to spark much needed hope “in the darkest hour”.

An unreal collection of superb tracks that manages the rare feat of blowing you away on a sonic level as much as it identifies with you on a pure emotional level. It’s been a pleasure to witness Defences consistently rise up the ranks, year by year, and surely it can’t be long before they break through the ceiling towards mainstream success.




Recently, ReverbNation approached me with the proposition to run a campaign for Small Music Scene in order to help give some of the acts on their brimming platform an opportunity for exposure.

Always eager to discover new talent – being the entire point of this website – I said yes, and the response has been overwhelming to say the least, and the very first to grab my attention was Nashville artist Jacob Melton via his self-titled album.

Straight off the bat, the lead single 90 Proof And Smooth radiates with this cool, stylish vibe – the backing “oooh’s” elevating that fact – and as for Jacob himself, he has a clear air of confidence coming through a fantastic voice that any major label would be smart enough to gush over, and the chorus is just plain excellent.

Anymore is a nice romantic tune defined by an appealing sound where neat acoustics are mixed in with dashing electric chords. The riffs are even sweeter in Concrete Rodeo, and the energy is utterly lively and infectious; I defy anybody who listens to this one without being enveloped by dancing fever in some shape or form.

From a lyrical standpoint, Live This Lie is certainly among the most engaging, where Jacob is brutally honest and willing to acknowledge the harsh truth, and you even get a hint of shameful regret lingering in his voice.

Keepin’ On is very compelling in its own right, which has him examining his faults and mistakes, but he is grateful for his partner for accepting those downfalls and still devotedly loving him, even encouraging him to stand tall and, as the title suggests, keep on running.

Capping off with the proudly spirited How I’m Made, Jacob Melton’s record is a well compiled one that is fresh enough in its variety, serves as an ideal display of the musician’s multiple talents, and has a broad mainstream appeal to it with the ability to easily draw in a large audience from far and wide.



YARD ARMSSanctuary Lines

Bristol “melancholic pop” duo Yard Arms are quite an overlooked act in my eyes. Last year, the Glossary Of Broken Humans & Beating Hearts EP served as a satisfactory gateway, and now they’re already back with an even more fulfilling follow-up contained in Sanctuary Lines.

A sleek guitar riff welcomes us into Mantra, and that continues through what is a pretty beautiful number that is incredibly nice and serene in its sonic tone. On top of that, the harmonies are fresh and sublime, and help get you attached with little problem.

Those same feelings carry over into the symphonically tinged Silicone Crowd, donning more of an engaging energy this time around through a lively melody as well as a couple of sequences where the singing is stepped up to another zestful notch.

These Four Walls is a pure dazzler, with the overall scope being expanded and the passion coming through in waves – the chorus showcasing this in delightful fashion – plus the riveting guitar work and good drum beats help add to the rush, and the lyrics are great.

And lastly is Fables, which is undeniably the most emotionally provoking selection of the lot, with a humble vibe to it, captivating writing, gutsy singing, and a tremendous final sequence.

If you fancy getting yourself acquainted with Yard Arms, then this is a worthy starting point. The two guys evidently have a musically tight bond, with the result of their chemistry being splendid, attentively-produced content that is entertaining and, more importantly, wholesomely invigorating.



HALF PAST TWOSomething Blue

After nearly a decade and a half together on the circuit, Orange Country ensemble Half Past Two have rightfully carved out a distinction as one of the most respectable, reliable genre-bending ska groups still on the go, and the Something Blue EP is yet another notch in their extensive arsenal.

Triumphantly coming in to a spunky sax solo, the first of the originals Lyin’ Eyes is an elegantly paced tune that they ease through at a relaxed groove, and while sonically simple, the singing is wonderful, and the lyrics are pretty memorable.

See You Again is definitely the peppier of the tracks, hopping along to an exuberant rhythm underneath a fun melody hoisted by the pairing of sweet guitars and brass, and the singing is even more lively than before, and as an added bonus, they perform a lovely, tight rendition of The Beatles’ I Will.

It might only be a brief distraction, but it’s a quenching record nonetheless that leaves a smile on your face, and given this act’s veteran expertise, does that really come as a surprise?



LOST LIKE LIONSThe Devil That You Know

So it recently came to my attention that a humble alternative rock quartet named Lost Like Lions were making a solid killing in the New York scene at the moment – well…as much as they can, given the current circumstances – and The Devil That You Know EP validates exactly why.

They arrive into Something Else nice and easy, after which they burst out into a colourful, extremely hooking chorus made better by fine writing and great vocals. Run Away has more of a melodic kick to it, with the addition of slick guitar skills and a great rhythm, and they cap off with the sweet and lyrically riveting Enemies.

It’s short, but it’s a pretty tidy record on hand here. It does suffer from a lack of variety and the guys maybe playing it too safe, with very little in the way of branching out here. But saying that, there’s nothing inherently wrong here, as the guys showcase their very capable abilities through a trio of entertaining numbers, and if willing to extend their reach, they could develop into an even greater band.



BLACK LESION – Mindless Feeding Device

Although lurking in the Scottish scene for a couple of years, Edinburgh hard rock trio Black Lesion are only now starting to come out of the woodwork to make themselves known, and a respectable debut EP is always helpful in creating a worthwhile impression; in this case, Mindless Feeding Device.

Anomaly is a nice starter for ten, being relatively straight forward with solid riffs, a decent chorus, and a fair amount of power riding behind it, with the focal point being a rushing drum solo towards the end.

The force and energy starts to slowly but surely ramp up in Lesion, complete with hardened bass tones throughout, and the writing of Sins has plenty of intrigue to it, and the second half dissolves into a rollicking, high-octane riot.

Straight off the bat, Formless kindles a buzz, particularly with the smashing guitar work which remains on consistently fantastic form, and the impetus stays very much alive as they deliver an awesome, jam-packed climax with The Cause.

Although it begins at a so-so degree, Mindless Feeding Device improves with each respective track. There’s a natural evolving progress with it getting better as they step up their performances, and by the end, you’re fulfilled. A commendable first effort from Black Lesion, and if able to expand upon their talents as they go along, we could be on to something special here.




SMS #6: New Ways Of Living



Big Scary Monsters are undoubtedly one of the most bountifully diverse labels in terms of showcasing some of the coolest up and coming acts, with such notable examples including Jamie Lenman, Cultdreams and Gender Roles.

Dublin indie pop ensemble The Winter Passing are my most recent discovery from the loaded roster, and having checked out their freshly released sophomore album – New Ways Of Living – I knew I had stumbled upon something special.

Without a second to spare, they dive straight into Ghost Thing, which fires you up with this large, utterly dashing chorus, and just like that, you’re infected with The Winter Passing bug, leaving you keen to stick around for the rest of the ride.

So with you now sat comfortably, they proceed onto The Street And The Stranger, and it’s here that we get a fabulous showcase of the spot-on vocal combo, where Rob’s hearty singing blends so nicely with Kate’s lovely, velvety harmonies. They launch the tempo upwards and reclaim the energy with the persistently fiery Melt, then blaze through New York with these rushing riffs.

The writing is top notch in Crybaby, taking a stab at those unwilling to take accountability for their negative actions, instead complaining about facing the consequences, plus the bubbly hook is just amazing. Greetings From Tipperary floats forward in a calm drift, and Resist is another catchy number that’s also furnished with great drum beats.

Something To Come Home To is a super sweet piece about finding that one person who changes your life and maintains your will to live in even the darkest times, knowing that they will be there for you. The minimalistic and chilling I Want You covers a similar theme, and they close out with the equally enveloping Mind Yourself.

So as I said at the beginning, The Winter Passing are something special, and this album is solid proof of that. New Ways Of Living engages you with a little of everything – jubilant numbers, creative lyrics and emotionally pulling storytelling – spawned from a quintet of very talented performers, linked together to form one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.




There are few acts in the British hardcore/metalcore scene at the moment who are displaying as much future promise as The Human Veil. Within the span of 2 years, the Manchester quintet have consistently dished out music of a high standard, only getting better with each single.

They’ve especially been gaining a lot of steam over the unpredictable course of 2020, with people swarming towards them in flocks, and I have a sneaky feeling their growing popularity is going to hit a new peak with the release of their forthcoming Fractures EP.

After commencing with unsettling tones, they make the quick switch into Faceless God, a hell of an opener that resonates with this manic, relentless force. Matt’s expansive vocals are crazily strong, and the Hannibal Lecter-inspired themes tackled are twisted and demented but stick with you as a result.

The titular lead single is how I came to discover the band in the first place, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. It’s a perfect package – mighty, heartfelt singing once again, Jack and Adam’s dual sweeping riffs, Jordon and Sam’s packing rhythm, a stampeding breakdown, an unforgettable chorus, and connectable writing concerning the internal war of mental health struggles.

8612 is also phenomenally potent, throwing up a scathing middle finger to the societal system trying to oppress the public and manipulate them under a strict vision, and this song encourages people to rise up and take control of their own lives; as they should, of course. The guitars have an extra technical flair, and the basslines crush it at a fissuring degree.

A Thousand Crows is another effectively uneasy cut that dives into the disturbing psychology of those who lose all sense of self-control and “become a monster”, an element well conveyed through the roaring, guttural screams.

But they reverse that vibe for the great climatic track, Lone Wolf, with an affirmed, awe-inspiring message of hope and positivity that we should all strive for in order to kick the arse of darkness and negativity.

At the risk of sounding unprofessional but not caring so, Fractures f***ing blew my socks off. On the surface, it’s an astoundingly immense, shattering record that is heavy, gut-punching and beyond exciting.

But it’s the lyrics, complete with genuine emotional input, stirring metaphors and an attention to detail that elevate The Human Veil from being another statistic in the crowd, to a refreshingly legitimate act capable of many amazing things. And mark my words, they will be successful because of that.



FOOTThe Balance of Nature Shifted

The Melbourne quartet of Foot have been doing a bang-up job establishing themselves as one of Australia’s essential desert rock bands, and after already impressing with their first two albums, the guys step it up again with their third release – The Balance Of Nature Shifted – fronted by one of the coolest, most vivid covers I’ve seen in a while.

Despair On Hope Street starts us off, and the group do well in forming a deliciously rugged, grungy sound that many will find deliciously reeks of the 90’s, and mixed in with that are these cool, swell vocals, and the chorus is great too.

The pace is accelerated a little in the somewhat darker E-Sports, grooving to a nifty drum beat and featuring some sweet guitar skills in the middle, and Green Embers glimmers with this mystical sensation that sparks your curiosity further, and the reverbed harmonies really help accentuate this, almost putting you into a trance of sorts.

Ride It Out is a belter of a single, charging forth with an intoxicating energy and showcasing magnetic writing which I take as a reflection of the current generation being suppressed by the system driven by the elite of the previous generation who are in charge.

That dynamic power keeps firing on into Investment, complete with persistent guitar chords, great echoic hooks, and a grand scale to it overall, then the lyrics are again a focal point in the primordial Break The Altar, nihilistically questioning the reason of our existence and if we serve a purpose in the whole scheme of things.

Jungle-style bops are the gateway to the riveting, infectious and thematically investing Neighbours, and Manic Progression empathetically speaks out against certain folk with detrimental viewpoints who believe that they are right and oppress anybody who they consider to be weak and not match up to this very specific, narrow-minded criteria.

Concluding with the jam-packed High, Foot have demonstrated this worldly awareness (and wariness) on such a high level that I can’t recall another rock act living up to, and it never ever feels shoved down your throat, as they deliver their messages in such a carefully calculated and mindful manner.





I’ve spoken many a time about Edinburgh electropop duo Chuchoter, and for good reason. Since discovering them live at King Tuts at the start of 2019, they have quickly become one of my favourite acts in the Scottish scene, with their Pieces and Crush EP’s being regarded highly in my eyes.

So of course, when they announced a new record called I’m Good, I was thoroughly buzzing, and lo and behold, once it hit the shelves, I found myself loving it.

Never before have they been so quick to spark a buzz in an opener as they have with Not With You, dashing through at a rapid pace with sharp, bass-thick beats that then give way to these luminous high-pitched notes in the damn catchy chorus.

I consider Emily to be one of the best writers in the country, and she lives up to that distinction in Skindeep, being unafraid to flip off thirsty guys hitting on girls purely based on their looks and not caring about any other quality, as perfectly captured in lines such as “my personality is not a bonus”.

And lastly, we have Good On My Own, which nicely blends the strongest elements of the previous two tracks, complete with engaging instrumentals, great vocals, and more effective lyrics about taking a stand and rightfully being proud of your independence.

If you’ve had a positive past experience with Chuchoter, then you’ll be glad to know that this will also be worth your time and money. Another cracking addition to the pair’s brimming library, and it seems like it is becoming an impossibility for them to produce bad music at this point.




In terms of acts who are able to bring the party and take you on an exciting ride, Faversham band Karobela have been one of the most successful to leave that effect on me as of late, and you too can experience that glow if you take the time to check out their self-titled EP.

The electric feeling comes alive as soon as they get rolling with Candy, emitting such an infectious energy, and a big factor in that is the performances, whether it’d be Lauren’s shining voice, Rob’s slick riffs or the enticing rhythm Ben and Katie drive forth.

But they really get down and dirty with Skin & Bone, which has a much heavier, more rugged tone to it; the guitar chords and basslines sounding grittier and the drums maintaining an extra vibrance to them, plus the turned up tempo helps to excel the buzz.

Liquor Heart enters with a sequence of primal claps and proceeds at a steadier groove, but it’s still riveting nonetheless, particularly as Lauren steps up her vocal chops, and the writing is quite good as well; likewise in the case of Good Luck Trying.

Then to finish off, they give it everything in No Mercy, an outstanding finale that is dynamic on all fronts, each member displaying their full potential and not holding back as they dish out the ravishing thrills.

Karobela’s record is a wonderfully rollicking romp that is barrels of fun, and it only gets better every time that you chose to stick your headphones in and give it another whirl.




Growing up in New Brunswick, Canada and currently based in Edinburgh, Jane Blanchard only fell into my radar quite recently, having been featured in the Scottish Alternative Music Awards’ monthly single showcase.

Her contribution was a worthwhile one, so I sat patiently for her eventually released third EP – Still, Again – and I had settled as a fan there and then.

The aforementioned contribution Missing Me is the track that opens this up, which reels you in and embraces you with these lovely hypnotic, swirly vibes, amplifying your attention with a thick and fuzzy chorus.

Then it’s the title number, which bounces along to this tasty rhythm formed from amazingly infectious drum shots and nice, delicate touches of bass, and Jane really begins to show off her wide-spanning vocal capabilities, and with Settle, she particularly displays a subtle yet firm assertiveness in both her singing and her lyrics.

Care begins lightly with an easy-swaying melody, but gradually picks up in power with a somewhat rampant charge, before pulling it back again; subsequently switching between the two styles, and she finishes quite fashionably with the engaging, well-written stripped back piece, Take Me Home.

Following on from a favourable first impression, my second impression of Jane Blanchard has been even greater. She is such a dazzling artist who produces music with a sound part raw, part fancy, pretty sleek in the smoother sequences, while pumping in the meatier moments, and combined with her nice writing, you can’t help but fully immerse yourself in it.




On a recent surf through the Lost Map label, my attention was drawn towards an intriguing figure by the name of AR Pinewood. I didn’t know much beforehand aside from him residing in an undisclosed part of Scotland, but I would soon get acquainted with his talents as he had just released his debut album – No Life.

As he starts off with the title number, he sings through a manipulated, robotic voice, which catches you off guard, but you quickly latch on to him and provide your attention as he engages you with pleasing acoustics.

Publicly Shamed sucks you in further, and you find out that he’s a compelling writer who keeps you gripped through every sentence. You also find that he’s constantly mixing up his sound and keeps it fresh, which is showcased as early as the electronic pop-infused Faux Misery, made more infectious by the shakers in the background.

Best Self demonstrates that he’s quite efficient in drawing a lot of emotional power; the lyrics being both clever and heartfelt, and that trend continues in the affectionate, kind-hearted I’m Okay, which legitimately had me smiling, it was just that sweet.

The gears are shifted in Other Side, which is a lot bouncier and catchier, with a hootenanny vibe of sorts, and Where Did You Go is similarly lively and melodic, topped off with the delightful bonus of harmonicas.

But for all the happier tunes dripping with positivity, Pinewood is also capable of conveying a pessimistic sense of sadness, and he proves that so effectively in Hyperbolic through his naturally-written words. The straight-forward Hotel has an absorbing air to it, and he fashionably makes his exit with the dazzling Write Home About.

Many uncertain people would probably take a glance at AR Pinewood for the mysterious masked character that he is and see it as a mere gimmick, but trust me, there’s a lot more to him than that, and this record solidifies that fact.

The computerised vocals are likeable, but when you get past that, he really is a great, pure harmonic singer. He’s an enrapturing storyteller who can cover a range of themes, and as already touched upon, his sound is awfully diverse and never at any point feels rehashed.

So while curious and cryptic on the surface, underneath you have yourself an immensely talented and entertaining fella.


trade secrets

TRADE SECRETSThese Other Lives Part One

Fronted by industry veteran FJ DeSanto, the proclaimed future synth rock group Trade Secrets have been one of my most striking finds to come out of Los Angeles, and it turns out I came across them at the perfect time, just as they were putting out a new EP entitled These Other Lives Part One.

As Out The Picture kicks off, I’ve immediately fallen in love with the indescribably pure and pristine calibre of the production, and what we get is a pretty nice instrumental piece that is fiercely radiant, dotted with bright, fresh keys and cool chords.

In a different light, Frequency has more of a rad dance essence to it, especially with the thick, vibrant beats at the base of it, and the singing isn’t too shabby either, and the following tune Immersed keeps that established dazzling sensation running strong throughout.

But the best is certainly saved for last – Burning Daylight – an awesome, excitement-sparking track that is insanely catchy and infectious, and good luck trying to keep your body still listening to this.

A terrific, fully satisfying record that fans of electronic music should not be hesitant to pick up.


Trade Secrets · Burning Daylight



SMS #5: White Noise


HAXANWhite Noise

Stating the obvious here, but Cardiff rock trio Haxan have achieved a mighty list of achievements across the decade of their existence, from major festival slots, to performing alongside the likes of Electric Six and bleeding Status Quo, to hot acclaim between radio and publications.

So with such an insane amount of hype riding behind the three, it’s natural to expect a whopper of a product in the form of their long overdue debut album – White Noise – and with plenty riding against them, they’ve come out the other end glorious and victorious.

In a matter of moments, they invigorate all the senses with the wildly intoxicating Damned If You Do, seizing you with a red-hot energy and a simple yet latching hook.

Sam performs double duty, and efficiently well, bashing out brisk, insane tight riffs whilst impressing with a damn good voice which is consistently fresh and sleek, yet in her singing, she’s also able to command a yielding presence.

But this sure isn’t a one person job, and luckily the pairing of Harriet and Jess commit their talents at equal strength, combining fissuring basslines and boisterous, clobbering drum beats to further amplify the size of their ultimately epic sound.

Because of the aforementioned elements, you’ll find that every track, without fail, has this forceful drive propelling them, each coming to a head with these grand, hard-hitting choruses that are just as powerful as they are infectious, sparking streaks of headbanging; the highlights in this area that immediately spring to mind include Killing Time, Grave Digger and Black Sheep.

Elsewhere, the likes of Nine Lives and Skeletons are notable for some engaging writing, with interesting and sometimes straight up amusing lyrics that you won’t be forgetting, Louder Than Words rouses with dazzling solos, and the finale Living Dead is catchy as all heck.

So unless you’re too nit witted to gather by this point, the fruit of Haxan’s painstaking labour has proved to be a valuable result. White Noise is freaking supreme, a monumental masterwork from top to bottom, with no considerable ill words to describe it.

It’s obvious that rock is nowhere near dead. If anything, these ladies have been inspiring in ensuring the genre remains alive and healthy, also proving that they rank synonymous with it, and they’ve definitely earned that distinction.

Veterans will love this, young folk will love this, basically anybody with a functioning brain and common sense will love this. Selfishly speaking, I can’t see how people could treat their ears to this and not gush over it.



RACHEL JACKThe Calgary Tapes

If you’re involved in the Scottish scene, you’ve probably heard the name Rachel Jack pop up a lot as of late, and that’s because over the last couple of years, since committing to a full-time career and earning a scholarship, she has built herself to become one of the most promising singer-songwriters that the country has to offer.

Step by step throughout 2020, the Aberdeen native has consistently unveiled new songs on a monthly basis from her upcoming debut release – The Calgary Tapes – and when tied together, what you get is ravishing results.

She immediately connects through the early seconds of Nowhere with very nice, charming words broadcasted through her crisp and stunning voice, and she holds interest through a bouncy acoustic melody

But while that song had a lightness about it, she flips the switch in The Hardest Part, and as you would assume from the title, it’s quite sorrowful as she dives into the dealings of a fallen romance and the effects to spawn from that in herself.

Bring Me Down is a wonderfully mature piece, which not only inspires you to stand your ground in the face of animosity, but also be willing to take the empathetic, grown-up route and try to find human quality in those that shower you with that aforementioned pessimism.

Rachel’s harmonies are especially lush and astounding in Equalised, which features quite a hooking chorus, and she finishes in a soft and gentle manner with Guided, defined by these lovely, benign subtle howls.

Rachel Jack’s EP is simply a bundle of joy, with music that is as pure and from the heart as it gets. Whether the songs aim to leave you smiling or put you into a thoughtful trance, all are effective, but you wouldn’t expect less from the work of a fantastic talent.



PAPER RIFLESTraitor’s Hill

Paper Rifles, hailing from Edinburgh and undoubtedly one of the most definitive acts of the Scottish DIY punk community. They’ve been going for a while now and have still to lose their step, continuously churning out excellent results such as their new album – Traitor’s Hill.

They patiently enter into The Greatest Change, softly forming a magnetic sound with a sustained synth, in time increasing the power with a repeating, pounding blow, before suddenly exploding into a barrage of fervor. And with that, they get the show on the road with the amazingly dynamic Sleeping Dogs, accompanied by the head-sticking hook “can I get a witness?”

The lyrics of It Started As A Joke really radiate out of the speakers and enthrall you, Blood On The Wind accelerates as it builds upon layer upon layer of outspoken passion, and Sea Legs is simple but still great.

Hearts And Minds is another cut where the vocals hit an outstanding peak, brimming with heaps of legitimate feelings that in turn have you absorbed, then we have Judas, which is a thoroughly intoxicating blast.

That intensity rides into what is the highlight of the entire record, Headstrong, thanks to not only a hell of a chorus, but brilliant writing that will surely make a mark on anybody who has experienced a case of being expected to “man up” when stuck in a mental rut, and after dishing out a belter of a cover of Curators’ Cemetery Sea, they culminate in excellent style with the engrossing Atlas.

Once again, Paper Rifles have proved their worth as one of the Scottish punk leaders through another formidable album, with the tight assortment of songs featured on here showcasing an impressive combo of performing ability, lyrical fortitude, and a sheer commitment to presenting the subject matters in the most effective manner possible.



BE MY ENEMYAll That I Love, I Destroy

Be My Enemy, a long-running outfit from London who have justified their continued existence by being very good at what they do, and their latest record – All That I Love, I Destroy – makes for a great introductory package for newbies such as myself.

The title track creeps in at a deliberate pace with insipidly spoken words that spark intrigue, and then they unleash into a wave of abrasive noise partnered with an effective hook. They hold onto that intensity stepping into Bad Blood, featuring a regular firm pulse and sharp, caustic lyrics, and the gritty riff/keys combo is cool as well.

If, for whatever reason, those two songs haven’t quite convinced you yet, then  Wardance sure as hell will, an incredibly intoxicating techno-based dance banger that will get your body shaking and your head banging. The riff-laden Caesar Antichrist isn’t too different in that retrospect, particularly with the unbelievably catchy drumming pushing it forward throughout, and kudos for the solid scream work.

Disintegrate With Me unfortunately doesn’t live up to the previous material’s standards, however it does succeed in creating this dark, brooding tone, so credit given where it’s due, and that element carries through into the atmospheric, semi-haunting The Angel Of Anarchy.

The original energy comes roaring right back in the off-the-wall Cheating, Lying, Stealing, and Be Careful What You Wish For is another decent yet middle of the road effort. While admittedly suffering from being way too long, Ray’s Hallucination capably generates this trippy, unsettling vibe, and they exit with Destroyer, doing what they do best in an electric fashion.

Despite the album not ranking as perfect exactly, being dragged down a few pegs by various minor flaws that kill the flow, Be My Enemy still manage to accomplish a lot with this album, experimenting with a range of styles, and when at its peak, it is a fantastic, adrenaline-racing endeavour to behold.



BARBARA BLACKLove, Death & Flies

Born, bred, and residing in Spain, one woman has been cementing her name across the mainland European rock industry as a force to be reckoned with. She is Barbara Black, and with her eponymous band by her side, she has continued to build her stature with the release of her third full-length record – Love, Death & Flies.

Damnified gets the energy firing on all cylinders in a hefty manner, while Barbara is quick to show off her superbly strengthened vocal chops, and the frenzy is madly ramped up for Tiger Tamer, crowned with a blazing guitar solo and an epic chorus.

Similarly, No Bullets is heightened by a really cool hook, but before all the excitement becomes overly exhausting, Barbara tunes it down a little for Desert’s Last Drop, which is calmer for sure but still keeps you fixated with an engaging rhythm as well as sweet harmonies.

Kissed By Flames mixes it up a little with the likes of rugged screams and acoustic chords being thrown into the ring, and the drumming has been elevated, packing a harder hitting brunt behind it.

In terms of writing, Heroes Above The Stars is the most gripping, with a lot of heart resonating in the words, and as for Twister Girl? A total heart-racing thrill ride with a manic pace and an addictive as hell beat, hands down the highlight of this package.

After that hysteria, they settle down again for Don’t Play With Fire, a solid enough song, although not bringing that much new to the table at this stage, but there’s more meat involved in the great two-part closing sage, Vampire Love.

So it’s evident that Barbara Black is indeed a talented woman, piecing together an action-packed album that chucks a tonne of bangers at you, one after the other, most of them effortlessly quenching the thirst for sensational, stimulating thrills.



COCKTAILSCatastrophic Entertainment

San Francisco group Cocktails have been considered by many to be outsiders, who can’t quite be pigeonholed into one certain category; too poppy to be rock, too rocky to be pop, that sort of basic deal.

But in my opinion, not being able to be narrowed down is a blessing, for it allows the band to stand out as something different and not be so easily comparable. And besides, if their music is good – and their new album Catastrophic Entertainment is certainly good – then that should be a priority over everything else.

That cool style clash becomes evident as soon as the opening number Bun E Carlos, which has a sweet, lucid melody to it while being driven by these great, hard riffs. That dual essence spills over into the catchy Nobody’s Going To The Movies, gleaming with obvious indie influences that gives it that smooth feeling, but there’s a vivid energy running hot in the back, particularly with the rhythm section upping their games.

The harmonies in Janeland are pretty lively and passionate, and they’re improved twofold in Love Is Gone, an awesome dazzler that is bright, addictive and thrilling, topped off by an invigorating chorus.

The joyous buzz remains alive in the short and sweet Washoe Country, the well-written Never Be Alone and the solid Oversaturated, but then they hit the brakes to simmer down for the laid-back and engaging Buried Alive.

Waiting On The Summer has a vague touch of punk in the midst of the sound, and then the tempo is bumped up further for the zestful Those Changes and the eventual last track Take It Back, another piece with strong, sensitive lyrics.

So for those who couldn’t give two donkeys about specific genres and just want some quality content, Cocktails has it here with Catastrophic Entertainment, an appealing record that dives, twists and turns through a multitude of trends to provide an experience that is fresh and captivating.



MACATIER – Native Noise

After a fine intro in the form of Warsaw, the ball gets properly rolling with Hiding In Plain Sight, where Dan is on form in all three necessary areas – his singing, his work on the guitar, and the writing – to keep the audience easily convinced to stick around for the rest of the album.

While the sound quality of Lacerations is a little iffy and somewhat lingering in demo territory, this is made up for by the potent lyrics, solid electric riffs and a pretty catchy chorus which is fun to join in to.

Sink Or Swim is comprised of meaningful words, and even more so in Henry Chinaski, detailing the addiction to alcohol and being so reliant on it, and naturally this leads to less than pleasing results that rips life apart.

A quick ear-easy interlude later, then it’s onto Consigliere, which rocks the joint with gritty chords, although a couple of instances of going off-time does kill the pace a touch.

World Cup Summer is another of the most poignant pieces, where Dan openly admits to needlessly wasting too much time getting stuck in the past, vowing to just move on and look forward in his life.

The engaging Dead Weight is heavy on the bass tones, Atlantic Inferno shimmers with an old-school vibe; especially in the opening notes; and provides another real fine chorus, and the short yet satisfying Escapism closes the whole thing out.

I was just fresh off discovering Sam Russo back when this was originally submitted to myself, and it was perfect timing to say the least, because I had a hankering for more in the acoustic punk category, and Macatier fulfilled that hunger.

While it’s clearly rough around the edges in places – to be fair, this was self-produced in isolation, so a few chinks are to be expect – Native Noise is a record that still manages to deliver a series of enjoyable numbers that have raw emotional value and are often defined by topics which are hard-hitting and quite relatable.



CARBRAINThe List Of Those Lost Continues To Grow

Liam Gingell is an accomplished but highly overlooked Scottish electronic producer who has seen some success as an essential component of Kleopatra, but he also does his own solo stuff under the title of Carbrain, and you can get a taste of what he can do with his album, The List Of Those Lost Continues To Grow.

Right away in Floating Past Airdrie, he has a clear, commendable ability to mix in various forms. pairing up these crazy, pelting techno-style beats with radiant keys and chilled vocals, then in a seamless snap change it up into something little more reeled back and transcendent, yet just as captivating as per Dad’s Red Clio, and more atmospheric yet in the aptly named Quiet Moments.

He again flicks the switch and heads in a forcible hip-hop direction with the stout M80, moving on to the unhealthily catchy Campsies after an interlude, and those buzzing vibes keep on burning moving into the dance-oriented pairing of Sunroof and Distance, separated by a brief break in between.

After the alright, middle of the road seispmaC, he caps off with the nice 谷に入, wrapping up what is a pretty great record that proves Liam to be a capable and diverse artist who is able to delve into a variety of tones and techniques, and nine times out of ten, he succeeds with ease.




SMS #4: Made For Each Other


THE MULDOONSMade For Each Other

From the original formation in the infancy of the 90’s, to reunion in 2018 and finally to now, it has been a near-two decade journey for Paisley alternative rock outfit The Muldoons that has at last culminated in the release of their debut album – Made For Each Other.

The melodies are pretty cheerful and bob along at this perky pace, maintained primarily by the stiff, energised drum beats. We get consistent solid work on the guitars, as well as as additional dashes of brass and strings in places – a welcome bonus to the already savoury sound – and the vocals have a nice, sincere and sometimes sentimental core to them.

A regular theme featured in the lyrics across the board is that of revisiting past events with a sense of nostalgia, regret and the like, and needless to say that the aforementioned factor of the singing assists in conveying that to the listening audience where necessary.

The first few songs keep the pulse riding high, especially the intoxicating What Do I Have To Do, but before it starts to wear thin, the guys take a turn at just the right time, calming things down for something more lax and comfortable with Rub It In, and from there they go back and forth between the moods at various junctures.

Given how long of a passage it has been from their humble beginnings, I think I’d be right in saying that The Muldoons’ patience and perseverance has paid off with a splendid record that is invigorating in more ways than one, improving with each subsequent spin as you find yourself digging deeper and unearthing even more bits and pieces that only accentuate your admiration.



JOSH OKEEFEBloomin’ Josh Okeefe

When you think of an entertaining UK singer-songwriter who resonates with a pure working class mentality, who springs to your mind? Most would probably say Gerry Cinnamon, and personally I believe Sean McGowan is one of the finest in his field.

But not too long ago, I stumbled across another gentleman who radiated that same vibe perfectly, and that is Derby local Josh Okeefe, who blew me away with his recently released album, the charmingly named Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe.

In the space of one song – We’re All The Same – he has you sitting and listening intently with a perfectly meshed blend of an astounding voice gushing with genuine feeling and a pleasant personality, nice work on the guitar and harmonica, and most notably so, the magnetic lyrics.

That last element continues to be a running theme throughout the record, and the major draw that keeps you incredibly induced, as per Soldier, Young Sailor, and Thoughts & Prayers; the latter a powerful heavy hitter that puts the world into perspective.

Other numbers including Lucille Lucille, When Mother Nature Calls and Rolling With The Punches have such an authentic, old-school humbleness to them in a way that words can’t quite narrow down specifically.

A few cuts really stand out as memorable, such as The Lonely Highway, a flat out catchy ditty with an enticing blues influence, and Talkin’ Neighbour From Hell is insanely amusing with its light-hearted comedic tone.

There are few albums that have put such a cheesy smile on my face lately than Josh Okeefe’s eponymous release, which is jam-packed with rich and meaningful content from end to end, and mark my words, it will certainly rank high with the best of 2020.

It’s no secret that Josh has already established quite a strong and dedicated following by this point, and I can only hope that he continues to strives onward and upwards in the public eye, for he is ridiculously talented and the world should be aware of what he has to offer.




There are few artists on the Glasgow scene that I can recall who have risen up the ranks as quick as the fabulous Baby Taylah has, but to be fair, she is insanely talented, as you can easily gather from her astonishing Good Enough EP.

For starters, the phenomenal title track spoils us with a lot of wondrous things immediately, with the most conspicuous aspect being the fiercely divine harmonies which are so organic and glistening, whether it’d be low, subtle hums or these gorgeous pitch-spanning vocals; particularly demonstrated in the amazing chorus.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, because it seems like everything else falls into place effectively and contributes to the bigger picture. The sound is utterly pristine, primarily formed from a mixture of bright electronic synths and occasional undiluted strings, plus there are a series of hooks spread out that are quite catchy and fun to sway along to.

And as for the writing, it’s seriously captivating. Persistent subject matters range between confronting negative emotions, being at war with your inner self, and that desperation to break out of the shell you’re trapped in that is holding you back, all of which many folk who have had troubles with mental health and whatnot, myself included, can connect with and understand where she is coming from.

Baby Taylah is a star in the making, and Good Enough is the proof, a record that is equal parts dazzling and compelling, attracting your attention with a spotless production before influencing you to stick around courtesy of emotionally powerful singing and punchy, inspiring lyrics, and anybody able to make that sort of impact ought to be taken seriously as a credible creative force.




Despite a hectic 2020, it’s been business as usual for Holy Roar Records, who are in my mind the definitive label for the best plain heavy music spanning the underground.

Notable releases have been cranked out from the likes of Elephant Tree, Antethic and OHHMS, but you can’t mention those acts without bringing London outfit Wren into the equation, who have made a firm impression of their own with Groundswells.

Literally the moment you hit the play button, your stomach drops smack to the floor with the monumental intense force that their opening track Chromed flares out with, and they thoroughly maintain that dank, beautifully wretched sensation over the nine minutes, and then subsequently the remainder of the LP.

The sound is just delicious, being so dark and grizzly on an unfathomable level, persistently shaking and jabbing at you with a weighty formation of beastly bass chords and battering blows working at their best across the most booming sequences.

The guitars are also really bloody good, emitting this progressive impulse in the midst of the technical displays, and the vocalist, by god, is a unit to be reckoned with, belting out these formidable yells that fiercely radiate through the speakers; the finishing piece of this vast puzzle.

Despite the many positives, it does feel like they do little to diverge from a moulded standard, with not much more than minor elements differentiating the tunes; Subterranean Messiah being the only one to instantly stand out thanks to the sublime harmonies that kick it off.

But nitpacks be damned, Groundswells is nonetheless a roaring experience defined by a compelling, sludgy drive and a great, vital sense of brutality that metal listeners will lick their lips at the prospect of.




If I was left to select just one rock act from the stacked Los Angeles music community that was worth checking out, then the trio of New Language would be an easy pick, and if you take ten minutes out of your day to listen to their latest record, you’ll see exactly why.

No Time sets the standard quick with thick, pulsating drumming forming the tight rhythm, then out of nowhere, they dive into a bloody outstanding chorus that ruptures with this huge, epic scale, complete with a damn sweet hook and insanely fervent vocals.

PARANOID picks up the pace and develops the sound further, adding in cool bass tones and vibrant synths. But holy moly, when they rise to the peak, the excitement charts are shattered in an explosive, no holds barred fashion that has you unhinged and utterly riled up, and as for the climax? F***ing awesome.

But they haven’t quite blown all their load yet, as they maintain their momentum and keep that unreal, sizable energy running full steam while they blitz their way through the intoxicating Can’t Explain to finish off in style.

Goddamn, now this is what you call a rock record. New Language, within the space of only three tracks, have delivered one of the most thrilling results that very few other releases this year can match up to.

But the best thing yet about it is that this is merely a beta test, for the band still have a full-length album to come very soon, and if EP1_2020 is anything to go by, we’re in for a hell of a treat.



POT NUDOSPot Noudeau

I came across Glasgow trio Pot Nudos while surfing the Negative Hope Records label, and upon my discovery of a band with an absolutely beautiful name was their debut album which was also amusingly titled – Pot Noudeau.

They get going quite nicely from the offset, shimmering with delightfully fuzzy riffs, dense bass chords and dashing drum spells, and the remainder of this record more or less follows suit.

They crank out track after track, most gleaming with these energetic waves of excitement that you’ll find awfully contagious, while the rawness of their sound gives it a satisfying sharp edge.

There’s a variety of focal points worth mentioning, including the blooming mental chorus of Full Mouth, the far-out performances in Empty Head Dancing, and every single freaking thing that encompasses the juicy King Kong; the entertaining writing, above all else.

All in all, this is a jolly fun, mind-boggling blast from one of the city’s most underrated acts who you should be gracing with your utmost unbridled attention.




You know what, given that the country is basically a brief ferry ride away, I feel guilty that I’ve not been able to cover more acts from France, but luckily, thanks to the Shore Dive label, I can fulfill that target with an introduction to dream pop group Pam Risourie and their sophomore EP – Noctessa.

There’s a pleasant mild aura that persists which allows you to shut your eyes and simply let the music take over and drift you away into a floating stir, and this is generated from a sound curated by a blend of raw chords, calm drum shots, a distorted range of noises, and sleek vocals.

A likeably smooth and delicate melody carries through each of the songs, with a tinge of excitement behind the likes of Sleep Forever and the wonderfully glittering Night Flowers. But they can also reel it back and take it easy at a controlled, relaxed pace and still achieve results, as demonstrated in Cinnamon Leaves and No King At Your Bones.

The very definition of simple but effective, Noctessa is a stunning, artistic gem that flushes out any feelings of stress and negativity hanging in your body, turning you into a happy person at peace with yourself once it comes to a close.



J RANKINBuilt To Choke

John Rankin – or simply known by his straight-forward alias J Rankin – is a Glasgow-based producer of the experimental variety who I had no awareness of at all until quite recently when I stumbled upon his Built To Choke EP, and was given a healthy education in what he was capable of.

Over the course of three tracks, he dapples in a range of different styles, the first being Guitar Textures which does as it says on the tin, producing these cool riff sounds and putting them to a series of hip hop-esque beats and other bells and whistles, and the final result is an awfully nice, transcendent piece.

Secondly is An Open Wound Downtown, which I find to be vivid and spacious, with an almost sci-fi quality to it, particularly as John’s electronic background comes into play, and the last of the bunch A Bone White Haze essentially follows suit initially, before taking an effectively dark and brooding turn in the latter half.

A nice little operation undertaken here that would happily satisfy those looking for music to clear their mind and mentally escape. It might not last long, but it’s very much worth the trip.




SMS #3: A Peaceful Annihilation


TIBERIUSA Peaceful Annihilation

In spite of the global situation, the Scottish scene has been cranking out some quality music across all the genres, metal included.

Bands such as Bleed From Within, King Witch and Dead By Monday could easily lay claim for the best album in their category, but a certain Edinburgh group by the name of Tiberius have thrown their hat in the ring with their own contribution – A Peaceful Annihilation.

A blaring Christopher Nolan-approved siren signals the start of The New Subjugation, which takes off to make for a dynamic opening driven by tremendous vocals, and a series of memorable spots such as the key line “march to the beat of their drums”.

The energy is turned up another notch in the blinding Mechanical Messiah, charging forth with a collective force fused by the slick riffs and the unrelenting progressive rhythm section. Skylark kicks off on an easy note, gradually returning to the standard form as they deliver these really cool, deep-pitched choir chants along the way. The sound is tip-top fresh, and the lyrics are very investing; your attention kept firmly cinched.

And as that track finishes, they ensure the vital pace is retained through the ballistic Fidelity Lost, where again the writing is superb and is kept at the forefront of the experience. Every song has a different story to tell, and up till now, they’ve had little issue keeping the content interesting.

Anchor is probably the most straight-forward of the bunch thus far, but is no less entertaining and successful in bringing the goods. On the other hand, Leviathan punches the energy back off-the-charts, absolutely flying away while broadening open the scope and shaking the senses with swift, exceptional drumming, and can’t go without mentioning what a cracker of a chorus that features here.

And I don’t know how they managed it, but they somehow rack the tempo even further in Dissipate. It’s so fast and furious that it just takes the breath away, and all members impressively hold their ground and sustain the chemistry without slipping off the rails. They finally reel it back for Republican, which is another of the simpler choices on this record, but hearty singing and great basslines make it a worthy addition.

Swansong has such a kinetic, rhythmic pulse rolling throughout, and one trickling sequence of bass chords later, they launch into the incredible awe-inspiring finale Kaituma, a perfect way to conclude the ride.

A Peaceful Annihilation feels like more than just an album. I like to think of it as an odyssey; a thrilling journey, with an epic size, made of various chapters with individual plotlines that are linked together by engaging, relatable themes.

If Tiberius’ debut full-length isn’t a masterpiece, then it is sure on the cusp of that distinction. One of the best metal releases of 2020 without a shadow of the doubt, cementing the band as major focal players in the Scottish scene.



VOODOOSWhat Was That Supposed To Mean?

I spoke about the current Scottish punk scene not too long ago on this website and mentioned how it seemed overly crowded with a tonne of acts all vying to break out as the top dogs standing above everybody else.

Glasgow quartet Voodoos are perhaps one of the prime candidates for that distinction. Their kinetic live shows prove it, their dedicated following proves it, and their music – in this case specifically, the recently released What Was That Supposed To Mean EP – proves it.

I think a lot of the acts in the genre fall into the trap of dishing out these mental, off the wall tracks, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like they almost rely on that first and foremost without giving proper attention to depth. Voodoos are different in that regard.

Take the opener TV Set, for example. Instead of cranking it up to the nth degree right from the offset, they opt to ease in at a relaxed groove; Piero taking lead with genuinely engaging vocals, sucking us in with interesting lyrics while he and Scoobs work their magic on the guitars, eventually transitioning into a pulsing chorus, with snappy bass plucks and tight drum shots.

Now that they’ve got your attention, they treat you to something a little bit more traditional with Party’s Over, which gets you bouncing with excitement. Young Punks is by far the highlight, being characterised by incredibly magnetic writing, touching upon how the majority of people expect you to just get on with it in life, especially the generation above who immediately assume you will follow in their footsteps.

But the matter of the fact is that they only see what’s on the surface, and never think about your internal struggles, as well as the fact that you might want to take your own path, not wanting to be merely part of the crowd.

This is a winning track, the one that cements this as a credible, attested record, and they haven’t even finished yet, because they still have one tune left in the tank – Going South – which has a nice blend of infectious energy and expressive content.

Now I can’t speak for whoever happens to be reading this review at this very moment, but Voodoos in my mind aren’t just another statistic in the Glaswegian scene.

There’s a real effort and conviction into every little thing that they do, confirmed by this proper smashing EP, and they’re only going to continuing rising up the ranks as the years go on.




London, the biggest city of the UK – aye, stating the obvious is my specialty – so of course, that comes with a vast, brimming scene loaded with fine talents from wall to wall, and in the pop/R&B spectrum, Maya Delilah is one of the most promising of the lot, and she might have sealed the deal with the excellent Oh Boy EP.

She slides in softly with Pre Heat To 180, which almost has a gospel essence of sorts, mainly due to the pleasant hums in the background.

Then she really gets rolling with Tangerine Dream, where she shines with an entrancing voice that is tender and organic, and it blends in faultlessly with the equally hypnotic ambience formed from the utterly lush and dreamy electronics which are as polished as they come, plus there’s a few guitar chords chucked in towards the end as a neat extra.

Maya then flips the tone about for I’m Just Stupid, which has a little more going on, trotting along with a light bounce and generating some perky vibes with a catchy melody; the fantastic Gato following suit but further dialled up, and U R U is highlighted by a terrific, incredibly memorable chorus with top-notch lyrics.

And the best is saved for last, Breathe Easy, which is fittingly very chilled and wistful, and makes you feel relaxed and breezy inside, not only sonically but with the positively thoughtful writing that Maya serenades us with in an affectionate manner.

A dazzling outcome from one of the British capital’s hottest prospects that grabs you swiftly as you enter, and has you leaving satisfied, yet with a desire for seconds.




I might be a newcomer to the work of Arizona trio The Venomous Pinks, but their accomplishments and acclaim spoke major volumes as I stepped my foot in the door, and they were firmly justified by their latest EP – I Want You – and man, what a hell of a way to be introduced.

These women come forth with raw and raunchy tunes, and unashamedly so, headed by top-notch vocals that are not only technically potent, but ring with this perfect no-f*cks-given affirmation, which is for damn sure a positive.

A blistering energy is sustained at a delightfully roaring high over the brief yet fun and turbulent course that the record lasts for; the second half especially is nothing short of mind-blowing, and this is primarily owed to a mix of intense rugged riffs, rigid bass tones and slick, fluent drum beats.

The writing is, naturally, blunt and upfront, the best showing of this undoubtedly being I Really Don’t Care, which is not only a freaking fast and furious, off the wall belter, but it serves as the ultimate middle finger to those who don’t believe in someone else and are even willing to go and ensure their dreams are denied.

An awesome EP by an equally awesome group. If you’re a punk honcho yet are unwilling to commit some of your time to The Venomous Pinks, then please get your daft brain examined, because I find that highly questionable.




Edinburgh alt-rockers Ferric may be more or less brand new to me, but their self-titled debut album made quite the fair first impression.

There’s a professionally polished production standard on hand here that was immediately noticeable from the offset, and on offer are a selection of satisfying ballads defined by sleek harmonies, pleasing guitar-helmed melodies and pretty catchy rhythms.

Although a few tracks fall by the wayside lacking definable qualities, there are still more than enough highlights; case in point, the likes of Chasing Reflections, Elevators and Bloodshot evoke a marvellously roaring energy.

Guerrilla dons an engaging key hook, and Shadows stands on its own as an emotionally-infused piece, plus special credit goes to Janelle Snedden for her nice contribution to Darkest Skies.

There are evidently ways to go yet, but as a starting point, this record has proven that Ferric are worth the attention and could potentially grow into something special down the line if they are willing to develop upon what works.



ANALOG KIDSincerely Yours

Hailing from Michigan, Analog Kid claim to provide, and I quote from their Facebook page, “a seriously refreshing take on the modern pop music you’ve been listening to”. Now that is a very ballsy statement, because most acts I know of that claim this aren’t true to their word, as they end up sounding like a lot of others in the field.

But miraculously, as demonstrated in their debut album Sincerely Yours, they have managed to pull this off.

Off the bat, one aspect I’ll say is consistent through the entire span of the record are the very good harmonies, which are real pure and refined, and spurts of passion come bursting through at spots, and when they do, it’s marvellous stuff.

Selections such as Nightlight, Lovely and Time Bomb channel modern mainstream pop that you’d expect to see in the charts these days, especially given the sublime synths at work and unforgettable choruses that effortlessly get you enthralled; the latter of the batch also presenting bright pianos, although Between The Lines has this overly-autotuned section that I’m sadly not too keen on.

Supernova slowly but surely begins to steer in a more rock-focused direction with emphasis on neat riffs and solid rhythms; even more so with the bass-shuddering, lyrically elating Death Star.

Again, we see some evolution in both the title track and the appeasing What A Dance, which are slow and moving ballads, then a major shift in development is visible through Quarantine With Me, which goes in a clear-cut country course, and what a jolly good tune it is.

Coming to an end with the riveting A Short Visit, Analog Kid stayed true to their word and delivered one of the most diverse, multi-genre scoped releases of the year that is lovingly performed and tightly assembled, and I’m left hungry for even more.




In the latest case of an act that has me questioning “how are they not getting more attention?”, we have London artist Felixity, who not too long ago put out her debut album, Love Sick.

Instantly catching your attention is her unbelievable voice, which is so slick, robust, and brimming with depth, with a really fine essence that rings similar to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Duffy.

Serving as the ideal companion to her singing is the overall sound of the record, which is a sturdy, magical mixture of pop and R&B, vitalised by an absolutely gorgeous production that is silky smooth, often spouting goosebumps on your arms. The majority of the choruses are quite enjoyable, and the writing is so utterly fixating, and consistently so, as you’ll be hanging on to her ever word.

There are a number of selections that are so mild and soulful such as The Bad Guy, On My Knees and You&Me, and even a few that have a vast, almost epic scope to them including Vanilla, Crazii and Mr Brave.

Back to back, Love Sick is a sensational album, with so much to admire and bare minimum components to find flawed, and, despite still being a relative newcomer, it’s cemented Felixity as somebody who has the tools to go far, and if she can get the exposure that she deserves, it will not merely be a case of if, but when.




Hailing from my neck of the woods in jolly old East Kilbride, Paul Dickson has been involved with music in one way or another for the past couple of decades or so, but it wasn’t until recently that he gave songwriting a shot.

From this spawned an album by the name of Belle, and despite being new to the process, I feel he’s proven to be very accomplished in this field, among others.

Paul has such a pleasant, affectionate voice, his harmonies showcasing both happiness and sorrow effectively whenever either is required, but one thing for sure is that he’s always genuine in his singing regardless, and he has a natural chemistry with Tracy McAlesse whenever she supplies her own stunning vocals.

In that same vein, the lyrical content is great and quite engrossing. Despite being a rookie in this area, you would never guess it, for Paul shows that he has a knack for telling stories and getting you sucked into them, regardless of how simplistic some of the songs can get.

There’s slick, tender acoustics aplenty, a nice use of pianos from the man behind the production desk, Angus Lyon, and folk influences really showing face with the use of violin by Seonaid Aitken which are quite lush.

Paul Dickson has thoroughly impressed me here, and trust me, this is no hometown bias. Utilising his established experience and combining it with his newfound unlocked talent, he’s made the most of both to produce an utterly pleasing record that is so pure and heartfelt from wire to wire, and it merits much needed exposure; if anything, at least to provide a welcoming beacon light in these uncertain times.




SMS #2: Ready Steady Bang


BUGEYEReady Steady Bang

The ladies of London quartet Bugeye have been on fire as of late, battering out awesome singles one after the other over the span of several months, all coming to a head with their upcoming debut album on hand here.

Their sound is made up of a tight combo of vibes such as raunchy punk, riot grrl, fluorescent pop and fancy disco, and these far-reaching styles of different measures amazingly fit together like a glove.

The record has a little of everything. Front and centre, we get these dazzling vocals dripping with heaps of delightfully sassy, sometimes even cheeky personality, and these are supplemented by the equally neat backing harmonies, efficiently bringing to life the awfully engaging lyrics that you’ll find yourself falling in love with fast.

The common ingredients found between each of the numbers include sweet guitars, tantalising, groovy as hell basslines, catchy drum beats and plain awesome, shimmering synth work that is bursting with colour.

Some of the tunes become so freaking contagious, that you simply have to boogie along, and the supreme, insanely hooking choruses really help there, with the finest picks including When The Lights Go Out, Electric and Nightlife, but that’s only scratching the surface because there are no weak links whatsoever.

With never a dull moment from the second they step up to the time comes to wrap up, Ready Steady Bang is a bloody whopping party. I can’t quite go as far as to call it the deepest record by any stretch content-wise, but in terms of pure entertainment, Bugeye kill it with one of the best that I’ve heard across this entire year, and you’d honestly have to be soulless to not find enjoyment from this beauty.



KITTIYoung, Careless & Free

Any regular by-passers to Small Music Scene will know that I am a mighty big fan of Katie Doyle, more widely known as Kitti. I’ve went on and on in the past about her musical aptitude, but for those who have until now been unfortunately aware of Katie, then you need look no further than her brand new EP – Young, Careless & Free – to get a complete picture of what makes her special.

Kicking things off is Rain, a collaborate effort alongside Liam Shortall (corto.alto) and Leah Cleaver (Zebede), where Katie is of course her usual tour-de-force self on the mic, heartily spouting out these engaging words. The song has this jazzy, seductive sound comprised of these cool riffs and sharp, sublime bass chords, and the ambient background noise makes it even broader.

Liam naturally kills it with some sexy contributions on the trombone, and given his past experience, that was to be expected. Leah, however, is a fresh face to me, but she makes an excellent impression in her brief spot, and she is such a tight fit alongside Katie vocal-wise.

Kandy Kissin’ is where the emotional resonance of Katie’s singing ability really starts to shine, legitimately selling the listeners on the topic of self-love; learning to not get too wrapped up in bad thoughts and to rub off the unneeded stress and worries that shrouds you, accepting that you are a wonderful human being and have much to offer to others, and you shouldn’t be afraid to hide that.

The tune also radiates with this pure sparkling vibe that makes you feel fabulous – which is pretty much perfect with the context at play – and don’t be surprised to find yourself dancing along to the addictive beat without the slightest care in the world.

We’re then treated to a live version of Hopelessly Devoted To You from Grease, and while I don’t count covers for reviews, I couldn’t possibly go by without mentioning just what an ace rendition it is, featuring what is hands down Katie’s most phenomenal vocal performance to date.

And last of all is the single that put everything into motion – Chasing The Crowd – steered by shimmering guitars and stiff, super punchy piano keys, while continuously escalating to a grand finish.

The writing is once again fantastic, dealing with that irritating demand from others to follow these exact rules in order to make something of yourself, when really it leads to unnecessary anguish, so it’s time to finally put those anxieties away and into the bin for good, and to become an original who truly stands out instead of becoming just another colourless face in an insignificant horde.

If an entire essay’s worth can’t convince you by this point, then f*** knows what will. Young, Careless & Free is a total gem, with these spellbinding numbers that are not only impeccably performed, but pull you by the mind and the heartstrings with relatable issues that could only encourage and inspire you to become a better person.

And speaking of which, Katie is a major inspiration to myself, and I’m sure she will be to others, because she is living proof that it doesn’t matter what handicaps you may suffer from – mental health especially being a big relevant obstacle in the music industry – if you work hard and push yourself to another degree, you can achieve anything, and I can’t describe just how proud of her I am for that.

It goes beyond her being, in my not so humble personal opinion, the single most gifted singer I’ve ever witnessed in my local scene. That insane talent is chump change when compared to the fact that she is a brave and courageous fighter striving for positivity in the world, a noble effort.

Kitti is up there with the elite, hand in hand with the likes of Be Charlotte, Luke La Volpe and Callum Beattie, a lucrative company of artists who will (not might, WILL) define the Scottish pop charts in the years to come.




Comprised of veteran contributors to the music scene, London-based gothic electro punk outfit Calling All Astronauts have established a hefty following. It would be safe to assume that a major factor in that is an ability to create music perfectly in tune with the times, if their latest release #Resist is anything to go by.

That suspicion becomes quickly confirmed as soon as you dive in, as the three blast through these poignant, politically-fueled tracks with mercilessly blunt lyrics unafraid to tackle any subject through an open-ended, tell-it-as-it-is mentality.

But it’s not just the writing, as the songs are just as impactful on a sonic level, particularly as we get damn good choruses with magnetic sentences that will seep in and remain. The music resounds with grungy post-punk overtones blended in with not-so-subtle shades of nifty electronica and plentiful sprinklings of rock and roll for measure.

I feel between the energy stemming from the music and the themes being covered in an unyielding, passionate manner, you find it rubs off on you and gets a bit of the old adrenaline rushing through.

#Resist is an excellent record that will leave you with an urge to stand strong and proud, fist in the air, and ready to revolt against the globally tarnished, corrupt system wrecking our lives, and you can’t go wrong with that.



HAPPY SPENDYYou’re Doing Okay

Over a month ago, I was introduced to Lost Map Records, a mighty fine label who have been working with and promoting equally mighty fine acts, thus becoming another trusted source for content to discover.

This is how I became aware of Glasgow outfit Happy Spendy, who I hadn’t even heard of until the day came where they released their debut full-length album – You’re Doing Okay – and I honestly can’t remember the last time I fell in love with a new band this hard.

No matter what your current mindset is, what you’re occupied with and so on, as soon as the record begins and until it ends, it has you captivated on it and it alone, keeping you fiercely invested without a break, it makes that much of an impact.

I absolutely adore the beautiful, hair-raising harmonies. There is such a purity to them and they are totally legitimate; you never get any false sense of feeling behind the resonant, full-blown emotions that soundly radiate throughout the lyrics.

The music is sensational, stowed with gorgeous, sharp-pitched twinkly synths, silky soft beats, faint jangling bells, and intriguing, oft-kilter electronic waves and the like, which gives it particularly dreamy, nostalgic vibes in places; the track Babies is a noteworthy highlight that especially encapsulates these and the other qualities mentioned up to this point.

Although there is a lot of sadness over its course, it’s complimented by various stretches headed by signs of inspiring hope, which adds extra layers to an already brimming package.

And no joke, upon my second listen of this LP, I noticed myself coming close to teary-eyedness not just once but on several occasions, the songs were having that kind of profound effect on me, and let me be clear that this sort of event is very rare.

And really, that says it all, doesn’t it? You’re Doing Okay is an absolutely mesmerising, soul-cleansing record with not a bad word to be said about it whatsoever. I love it, I love it, I freaking love it.




Having already been a fan of the now-defunct Thula Borah in the past, I had reason to expect quality results from Lloyd James Fay, and quality results were achieved in his Fake Depth EP.

The Gartcosh musician has such a vivid awareness of the world around him, and he’s not afraid to not only convey that in his music, but also be wide open and transparent about his inner emotions and plights.

For example, in Idiocracy, he takes a long hard look at the state of the 21st century, being rightfully unhappy with how the world has turned out compared to the potential alternative that we could have had.

Echo Chamber is another effective track, which effectively details the dilemma of trying to get your voice out when others are so trapped in their own bubbles, unwilling to listen and give any attention. Scarily relevant.

Beyond the content, Lloyd is quite adept in drawing you in with an atmosphere-infused sound, whether it’d be the rich and haunting strings of The Bitter Angels or the warm and cordial singing displayed in the meaningful Extinction Burst.

A partnership of strong lyrics, convincing vocals, and technical capability help to create a record that everybody should take 20 minutes of their day to experience and soak up if they haven’t already.




If you’re looking for the next potential big face in the British hip hop scene, then Connor Spratt from Bristol may just be your man. He has a new album out entitled BLUNT, and it’s worth sinking your teeth into.

His deliveries are more often than not on strong form and help to emphasise the points and the themes that he explores via his captivating writing, plus the production tends to have a gritty, dark-toned vibe to it, and it’s an ideal match to the established tone, which is sure as hell not meant to be pleasant.

PANDEMIC takes an effectively scathing look at, what else, the global crisis unfolding and how it’s been handled by both the government and the common sense-lacking public.

Dark Realities and State are also really powerful tunes that stab deep in the mind, and lyrics like the ones penned here are the type of thing that makes artists like Connor more multi-layered and beyond one-dimensonal; you actually find yourself invested, you want to sit down and embrace the words that he spits out.

Other notable examples in terms of the writing including the title track, Ash Mountain and the heavily atmospheric Bottles, where you feel like you’re actually in the zone, experiencing what’s being conveyed.

If the album did have any significant flaws, it’s that the rare instances of autotune don’t work like they should, and it clashes with the legitimacy of the rapping.

BLUNT is a seriously impressive release that clearly has a lot of effort and diligence behind the creation of it, and it cements Connor Spratt as a name with plenty of value to it.




There’s been various choice finds that I’ve come across in the British punk scene over recent months, and the latest to make the list are the trio of Project Revise, courtesy of their banging Songs From The Shed EP.

The performances between the three guys are generally solid, their collective vocals mesh really well, and they do a strong job in maintaining this stimulating buzz that is quite bright and perky.

They blaze through the dynamic numbers at a rollicking pace, such as the blinding stand out Hide Yourself and the tightly chorused Just A Story, plus you really can’t go wrong with a tune about giraffes on stilts, can you?

It’s not the most original-sounding result by any stretch, but the Redditch lads make up for his fallback with a batch of cracking songs that are a tonne of blooming fun.


Second arrows


What do you get when members of various mighty metalcore acts come together as one? You get the New York/New Jersey fusion of Second Arrows, and in turn you get a whopping LP.

The collated vocals are freaking immense. Each of them alone are strong enough as is, but when united, holy moly, you get some juicy ear-ringing goodness, as well as the lyrics being forced into the forefront so that they are right in your face and have to be encountered.

The rhythm sections are so thick and tight-knit, coming from a result of gut-punching drumming and the dankest bass tones imaginable, and the riffs are pure smashing. Plus other added minor elements such as Godzilla roars serve as a cheeky bonus, and only help to accentuate the ruthless nature of the music.

And to finish off, they leave little to no breathing room in between the songs, sustaining a relentlessly monstrous musical ride that will rip your senses inside out in the best way possible.




SMS #1: Baikal



In discussing post-rock releases of 2020, London “ambient-jazz-metal” ensemble Asian Death Crustacean have come forth with what is in my mind, bar none, the best of the best in the form of Baikal.

The record is an awesome six-part saga that brings a hefty amount to the table, initially subtle and straight-forward, before unleashing into the heavier material that generates a sizable, kinetic energy which motivates you to bang your head and stamp your foot.

The elements that work are too many to count; unrelenting complex riffs, rigid, shaking basslines and manic flurries of drumming that, when combined, peak at these almighty high consisting of awesomely full-blown, eardrum-denting waves that are undeniably wicked and balls-to-the-wall.

But it’s not all in-your-face berserk, for over the course of the album, they also shift gears into these effectively milder sequences featuring string-like synths that linger in the air with a dreamlike aura, in time evolving into dark drones that are unsettling but just as mesmirising.

Blending the technical aptitude of The Physics House Band with the immense power of Toska, Baikal is quite the auditory spectacle that certifies the outfit to be more than an act with a blatant, eye-catching name, but a band who sure as hell mean business, conditioned to bring their A-game when called upon.



BE CHARLOTTEDreaming With The Lights Off

If you consider yourself a connoisseur of the hottest new music and you haven’t had even a speck of consideration for Dundee pop artist Be Charlotte, then it’s time to change that because, if the last few years weren’t already enough indication, we’re looking at the future of the Scottish industry in her, and her long-awaited debut EP – Dreaming With The Lights Off – is a handy starting point.

She delivers a firm  selection of supreme pop anthems that come in various shapes and sizes, the majority of which are loud and proud tracks with an intoxicating vivid vibe that hit a peak in the outstanding choruses that you can’t help but dance to; Lights Off and Burning are good examples of that.

In other instances, such as Do Not Disturb and Brighter Without You, she goes in a more low-key, straight-forward direction with simpler instrumentals and real nice beats on the surface, meaning little distraction from the emotionally-packed, relatable lyrics that are in full view to hear.

Charlotte commands an authority with her amazing vocals, unbottling waves of passion into whatever she sings, being true and sincere as she goes and kicking any dishonesty right out of the door.

And above everything else, the writing is Charlotte’s ultimate strength; whatever it’d be recovering from mental damage, blocking out steered hate, or breaking away from negative folk in order to establish a much happier, more independent life for yourself.

I’ve been chomping at the bit for Charlotte to produce a record for the longest time, and she has delivered in a big way and then some, with Dreaming With The Lights Off undoubtedly going to go down as one of the essential Scottish EP’s of 2020.

Again, if you haven’t got your feet wet with her music already, then I implore you to get acquainted. On top of her fantastic talents, she has went above and beyond to promote better treatment for females in the industry, striving for equality and their voices to be heard.

Charlotte is more than a musician, she’s a leader and a game-changer who is positively turning the tide and evolving the world around her while she herself is destined for greater things; global pandemic and other constant obstacles be damned.




Moyka, from mainland Europe’s most musically-bountiful country Norway, was a worthwhile discovery for me in 2019, with her Circles EP cracking last year’s top 100, and I now find myself gushing over her work again, and even more so, in her tremendous follow-up – Spaces.

She has this sensational voice that is fresh, incredibly broad and able to grab your attention within a snap, while her production is fantastic; her music compiling these catchy bopping beats, devilishly wonderful melodies and a far-reaching, ear-melting radiant sound generated throughout.

In particular, Backwards absolutely blew me sideways, being one of the most phenomenal pop singles I’ve tuned into as of late; the chorus at the centre of it being unbelievably infectious and addictive to an indescribable degree.

Also worth noting are the loving, wistful lyrics that define each of the songs, which have little issue making an imprint and leaving you smiling like a fool.

Moyka has upped her game in a massive way with a pitch-perfect record that deserves to be high up on the charts, because she is way too good to be hanging around in the underground leagues.



PAPER MILLPast The West Way

In the aftermath of the Lower Than Atlantis split, former guitarist Ben Sansom has wasted little time in filing up a new project with Luke Sansom and Matt Rider, and they’ve smashed out the gates in a furious fashion with their debut EP – Past The West Way.

Matt’s dry, raspy vocals really stick out as iffy to begin with, but as they hit the chorus of Bruce, characterised by these blinding ensemble “ooh’s” mixed in, they’re quickly accustomed to and he really knocks it out the park.

Most of the tracks are dynamic and packing quite the whopping energy which satisfies with the thrills, also sporting great guitar work from Ben and surging rhythms led on by Luke.

In the midst of the full-frontal excitement lies some great quality writing that hits in the right spots, with several cases of feeling exactly where they were coming from, and you can especially thank Matt for his commitment on mic duties.

But it gets no better than Lock & Key, which is just so blunt and harrowing; the kind of song that transforms a record from a very good one to something outstanding, staying with you after the initial listen.

The aptly-titled lead single Black Mirror is a forceful cut in its own right, perfectly reflecting the absolute mess that society currently sits in nowadays and the urgent need to change the situation.

Given the talent at the helm here, this should come as no surprise, but Paper Mill’s first outing is a proper belter signalling the arrival of a mighty act with serious potential to break big real quick.




If you’re paying even the slightest minimum amount of attention to the Scottish scene, you’ll know that punk rock is ripe at the moment, but with so many acts, the majority tend to blend together and get lost in the shuffle. Luckily for Stoned Immaculate, that isn’t the case, as demonstrated per their Nah EP.

From the get-go, they launch into an array of swift livewires like Coming Through and Soap that establish this mad hot energy, with the pulse being driven and maintained by walloping rhythms that are catchy as hell.

Often they will proceed at smooth grooves before unleashing into these wildly infectious, off-the-bloody-chain explosions of noise, especially apparent in L’appel Du Vide. The guitars are on good form, the vocals are superb, donning an abiding crazed edge to them, and the writing is overall solid, with the focal points in that area being Ice Cream and Chin Up.

Nah is a cracker from top to bottom, loaded with plenty of elements across the board that keep it fresh and make it a memorable work worth spinning time and time again.



NEW GHOSTFuture Is Dead

When presented with a supergroup compiling some really talented musicians from other well established acts, you’re bound to get something good, and their forthcoming release Future Is Dead is sure good.

The record is made up of three tracks, and it’s clear that the band do everything in their ability to make each stand out on their own individual legs, avoiding as much rehashing of the same elements as possible between them.

Your Reds forms a decent scope and ambience, progressing through these fantastic, technically impressive sections, while Fountain prioritises the very strong singing and writing which are backed by a powerful atmosphere.

And finally, the dynamically rushing Every River continuously ramps up the excitement, flowing in and out of several directions to make for a fresh, varied, knock-your-socks-experience.

New Ghost have come along once again and smashed it out the park with an EP that doesn’t waste a single second, implementing their joint skills and know-hows in each of the loaded and divergent numbers to produce results that effortlessly inspire and satisfy.




A couple of months ago, I was introduced to The Moving EP created by the team of Sane and Lowpass Luke, and I personally found it to be one hell of an excellent work.

The first half is good enough as is, basically a sampler of sorts in terms of what Sane can provide, proving to be broad and assertive in both his lyrics and his delivery, and Luke’s sound has a diversity to it, tending to mix in a chilled tone with a direct edginess.

But it’s the second half that boosts this from something satisfactory to something incredible. Take the song Sometimes for example, where Sane is on absolute fire as he unleashes the umpteen thoughts and moral puzzles swimming through his head.

And it only gets better with the undisputed focal point, Pride Is All, where Sane sits down and spills his guts, expressing all of the care and compassion for who he loves, while being upfront about the regret of his actions.

It takes a man to admit when he has screwed up, and you can only respect that – plus Sophielou deserves loads of credit for her exceptional turn here – and he’s just as open and candid in the emotional spoken-style closer, Hungry.

The Leicester native’s willingness to rip off his outer shell and give us an insight into his struggles is commendable and at times legitimately heart-wrenching, and Lowpass Luke in his own right matches these up efficiently with a range of sounds, each reflecting and connecting with whatever the topic is in the moment.

It doesn’t mean a damn thing if you’re a devoted hip hop listener or a casual passer-by, The Moving EP is an absolutely must, and I’m not reluctant in saying that Sane needs a greater spotlight shone on him.




As an act with not the hugest of followings, I had no idea what to expect from Seafern diving into their Subsidence EP, but what I got out of it was something not only worthwhile, but purely special.

The songs are pretty stunning, each primarily defined by Felix’s pleasant looping acoustics and Jen’s beautiful voice which alone gets the chills racing through the body.

The whole record is seemingly showered in this faint Celtic-like vibe, much of that owing to the sleek string-based sound sprinkled with nice chords and loose drum beats, and it allows for a gripping atmosphere which is haunting as well as melodic.

There’s a continuous focus on these deep, binding lyrics, and in a few cases, especially the finishing number Jesse, they go in a more infectiously rhythmic direction so engaging that it practically eggs you on to either tap your toe or clap your hands along.

Each tune of the Subsidence EP is great in their own way, and they share this magnetic quality which is hard to exactly nail down, but it’s undoubtedly there and consistent.

Felix, who I’m aware of from his contributions to Music Broth, is a very capable musician, and Jen is a magical singer. The pair are a perfect mesh and, in my opinion, are deserving of so much more exposure.