FINNIAN – Under 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.
STATIC UNION – Static Union
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.
COACH PARTY – Party Food
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.
BETA WAVES – EP1
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.
DOHNY JEP – L.U.S.T
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.
VANILLA SUGAR – She
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.
*THIS REVIEW IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF TIMOTHY BUOY*
ALEXTBH – The Chase
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 – Sleep Tight
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.