albums - december 2010
New Heavy Sounds started as an club night to promote what they call "the abrasive voices of discontent"- these being the plethora of new bands that are currently churning out seriously impressive, heavy music around the UK. So successful were these nights that the inevitable leap to record label followed and as such, here we have their first promotional compilation showcasing this untapped well of new music.
And it's easy to see where New Heavy Sounds get their motivation; metal has had its ups and downs over the decades but it currently sits in a slump worse than the global economy. The 1980s witnessed an explosion of NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) that quickly turned into an embarrassment as it either morphed into Def Leppard style soft rock or was superseded by the faster and heavier Thrash Metal scene. Yet despite this genre's dominance, in 1994 Korn released their début album, triggering a nu-metal tsunami that destroyed everything in its wake. Leap forward fifteen years to today's post-apocalyptic metal scene and it's no wonder why heavy music is still struggling. Indeed, whilst emo-rock flourished in these dark days, it only played to the same nu-metal audience as before, while stoner rock never gained the momentum expected.
But lo! 'Compilation Volume 1' offers great hope for a new generation of metal stars. The nineteen artists here collectively span a variety of styles, but are united in how heavy and aggressive they sound. It's a chunky aural assault of mouth watering riffs. It's also notable how many use math time signatures and weaving guitar lines. Rolo Tomassi and Pulled Apart by Horses leading this charge.
Of course, there are many lesser known bands here, but almost all are seriously impressive. After well over a decade of terrible metal, even bands who take much from their influences (Fugazi, White Zombie, Sabbath, Skunk Anansie, Sleep etc.) still manage to sound fresh and exciting. And it is genuinely exciting to hear bands get it so right. There's not even a scratch DJ to be heard.
It would be nice to mention all the bands individually, to talk about each head nodding riff, crazy drum fill, noisy middle eight and gut-churning bass growl, but it's probably enough to say that if you are one of the thousands disillusioned by what mainstream metal has become, take a listen to this compilation and remember why you loved the metal scene in the first place, just like New Heavy Sounds have. 8.5/10
Rage Against The Machine
I do not want this from a band. Nor do I want preachy spoken word introductions that aren't written very well and songs which go on and on for over 6 minutes looping the same phrase. Also one of the songs sounds a bit like Fugazi...but it rips off a chord progression from another song so it can't be Fugazi (if Fugazi have ripped anything off, I couldn't tell and that makes a big difference).
I have these things when I listen to this record and it really really detracts from the good ideas that are on this record. I keep listening to it and I really want to like it, however I can't get past all of the above. In the week when I read about Bullet For My Valentine saying that they will take over from Metallica and then listening to an album that is 26 years old top anything that BFMV have ever done (Ride the Lightning), I really want to hear someone who stands out.
They describe themselves as music for a generation born in the ‘90s. I was born in the 1990s. They wear suave suits, shiny shoes and “carefully coiffured” hair. The Iconyx state their similarities as The Housemartins, Madness and Blur. Hailing from Torbay, Devon in south of ol’ Blighty, these up-and-coming group are particularly interesting. I have absolutely no idea what this first demo is going to be like, but I enjoy the thrill of the unknown. So, as the French say, allons-y!
The first song is called Get In There. A catchy drum beat, and a 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4 and a bass joins in. I’m hooked already; it’s enticing and captivating. The Iconyx aren’t shy with their lyrics, blurting a flurry of profanities throughout the track. Nevertheless, it’s undeniably catchy, however much I hate to use the word.
Next up is Fake ID and Bang Tidy. Following the same path as the first song, The Iconyx provide a definite iconic sound with their tunes so far. Lead vocalist and guitarist, George Harris, has a prominent voice, in conjunction with the band’s clear sound that has been long established. Other notable performances include You Want It?, The Life I’m Living and Autotune’s Bad News.
I say this every single time, I know, but it’s not my fault that artists don’t do it. Can we please have something different on albums? I’m bored of the same thing the whole way through an album. Differentiation is what makes a good band. I will admit that The Iconyx have an array of upbeat and slow-paced songs, but they still have the same sort of sound all the way through. Although I do think this is me being really critical, because it’s the only thing I can find wrong with The Iconyx.
However, I cannot deny how brilliant and innovative The Iconyx’s debut demo is. I love the fact that they sound like nobody else. They live up to their biography - they truly are groundbreaking in the guitars-in-pop-music genre. The Iconyx are a breath of fresh air to the world of music that has long been missing. On behalf of the world of music, The Iconyx, we thank you.
Singer songwriter albums seem to come in one of two forms. One is
the doomily open confessional, with the minor chords and the loud
song with the odd percussion that contains references to animals.
The other is the upbeat smiling one with the ukelele and more than
one song about parks. Julie Peel's album falls into the second of
these categories, and it's a pretty, tuneful, good time album that
neither takes itself with overt seriousness or takes any real risks
with its musicality. None of your junkyard frenzy for Julie Peel,
no way - the emphasis here is very firmly on actual musicianship,
and the performer here is both someone you actually know and also
don't avoid when you meet unexpectedly. You like Julie Peel, she's
cool in a clever way and kooky as well as really talented, someone
you can always rely on to lift the moment even when things are a bit
rubbish. She is a gifted songwriter and her voice lends itself well
to the laid back although never drowsy backing, and a special mention
has to go to whoever plays piano on 'Innocence', which complements
her own guitar and voice remarkably. The multi tracked vocal never
sounds forced or awkward, the lyrics are literate without sounding
over worked, and one or two doo-wop stylings give songs like 'In Slow
Motion' a gentle edge of romanticism that speaks of long summer sunsets
and moments of improvised witticism in the coffee shop. I am unable
to find faults of any kind among the eleven tracks on 'Near The Sun'
and I actually want to play one of Julie Peel's guitars.
Lesbian Bed Death. Yeah, I laughed when I heard the name too. I wasn’t sure whether it was a joke or whether they were actually being serious. As it turns out, they were being serious. Lesbian Bed Death (laughs violently), compromised of Mr Peach, Luci4, Chuckmaster C, Danny Stigmata and Will Power, recorded Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead in the most obvious place: the hell on earth that is Stoke-On-Trent. Rather fitting, don’t you think? Nevertheless, this glam-horror-goth-rock group have surpassed all expectations, after the following of their debut album I Use My Powers For Evil, with the release of Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead.
First up is the title track; it’s a positive start, with crashing drums and heavy guitars. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s a woman or a guy whose balls have not yet dropped who is singing. And this is the same from here on in. This is starting to sound negative, already. I’ll say good things: every single song is superb. An awesome rock album to listen, is Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead. The best tracks, however, are Drowning (In Your Love), Sin When You’re Winning and Catholic Sex Kitten. But every single one of these songs provides a “catchy” riff, engaging the listener to bop their head. And bow down to the devil. I wouldn’t say that the musical performance is jaw-dropping, in fact it can be quite monotonous in places, but either way, the members of Lesbian Bed Death don’t disappoint themselves.
Lesbian Bed Death seem to stepping in the footprints of a certain someone. You know who I mean. That guy! The classic rock guy, who did it all before - from like the 1970s! The man that first fused rock and horror together. That no one could ever meet the standards of, because first of all, he’s the one and only, and second of all, anything else is repetition. That’s right, it’s Alice Cooper. Has no one yet realised that no one will ever be as good as Alice Cooper, so they should just stop? Apparently not. Mind you, Lesbian Bed Death are one of the better horror-rock bands; they don’t do the job badly in Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead. So for this, I will give them credit.
I have one (more) problem. This could easily be a pop-punk album, by someone like All Time Low or You Me At Six. This is a band who have been likened to the aforementioned Alice Cooper, Type O Negative and The Misfits. I’m sorry, but Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead is nothing like them. Their image and titles should be changed to teenage love and getting drunk, not devil worship.
Either way, I enjoyed listening to Designed By The Devil, Powered By The Dead. It’s a fantastic listen: great songs, great vocals and, strangely enough, a real feel-good band. I would like to see more of Lesbian Bed Death in the future. Mostly the name, just so I can laugh. It’s my pick-me-up from now on.
They've a wealth of musical riches to draw upon, Horowitz. It is a
sunny September morning in 1998, and Horowitz are just getting the
idea of forming a band, something along the lines of those posters
that are going up all round town - Silver Sun, Air, Chemical Brothers
- one day, a large colour poster will appear,bearing the as yet unchosen
name of the band that our intrepid popsters are already intent on
forming. Flash forward a decade, and a Ukranian classical pianist
provides the final piece of the jigsaw that is now Horowitz.
‘The Game Of Monogamy’ is the debut offering from Cursive and The Good Life’s Tim Kasher and follows time spent living and writing in the remote, frosty valley of Whitefish Mt.
Its film-like beginning is reminiscent of the opening credits of a classic old American western, brimming with theatrical arrangements and sweeping orchestration. What follows is an album focusing on the themes of marriage, growing old/up, relationships and (failed) romance – themes Kasher has been exploring extensively over the last decade. Often feeling self-confessional, ‘A Grown Man’ sees the dawning of realisation that “…A grown man’s got a big responsibility”…Later, during ‘I’m Afraid I’m Going To Die Here’ we witness the sheer panic, and what the tabloids would sensationally refer to as a dramatic mid-life crisis, set in “…I’m afraid I’m going to die here, dried up like some beached whale”… It’s this realisation that appears to herald the dissection of more than one previous doomed relationship … “I thought love was going to tear us apart, I can’t feel it, no powder keg, no electrical charge, no goose bump skin, no hairs standing up on my arms…” (No Fireworks). However the songs refuse stubbornly to wallow in any sort of sel- pity and a sniff of positivity for the future can often be scented scattered amongst the heart-wrenching revelations “…I better write another chapter…”(I’m Afraid I’m Going To Die Here). There is an honesty to Tim Kasher’s lyrics and like any great novelist, he develops and fully explores his character(s) throughout his writing, including memorable anecdotes and recounts of telling conversations.
Musically the songs feature accompaniment far from the morose and raw that is often associated with similar lyrical themes. Instead they are complimented beautifully by fan-faring trumpets, bringing to life positive thoughts, in stark contrast with the despair often present in the aforementioned lyrics.
‘A Butterfly and Other Guitar Works’ marks TOMO’s return to the electric guitar playing of his earlier years and is in stark contrast to his recent free drone experiments with Tetragrammaton. Beautifully spiced with lashings of hurdy gurdy and electric tamboura, this is an intimate and ultimately heart warming record. TOMO displays a great intensity throughout, whether performing the intricate finger picking of a 12 string guitar on ‘Carnival in Full Bloom’ or the psychedelic offering of the title track ‘Butterfly Dream’. A truly mesmerising experience, this release deserves to be mentioned alongside the praise currently heaped upon similar artists such as James Blackshaw. 8/10
All the information that I have received with Remedy Inc.’s The Dark Matter Records is in German. Now, I may have an A* in GCSE German, but I haven’t done it in a while, and I’ve pretty much forgotten everything. I therefore have no clue what it all means, and what I’m being told about Remedy Inc. I’m quite sure that “elektronischen” means electronic. But only quite sure. And at the bottom it states that Remedy Inc. is made up of two people: Martizzon and El Oeli - from what it tells me, there are guitars too. This leads me to believe that Remedy Inc. are an electro-rock band. Oh no …
I’ve been told (I think) that the highlights of The Dark Matter Records are Dark Matter, Milestone (Lightyears Away From Home), Mystery and Thunderoar. So I shall tell you all about these songs. The first song, Dark Matter, has a 30 second introduction of static noise until it launches into the main part of the song, a subtle guitar riff and a strange kind of rapping - Remedy Inc. appear to be very nu-metal-esque, whilst upholding some of Germany’s famous industrial roots. The chorus is a growl of “dark matter”; a voice so sinister it could burn the ears of the devil himself.
Milestone (Lightyears Away From Home) starts off as something very rock ‘n’ roll, an AC/DC style riff haunting the first few bars. Afterwards, it could become any generic rock band; it’s quite plain and ordinary. Mystery is up next, an eerie clean guitar riff announcing the beginning. This song is super awesome, and probably the best on the album. A strange mix of rap and guitars, that doesn’t quite adhere to the rules set by nu-metal titans such as Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, whilst later incorporating the rock element with a great chorus and heavy tracking behind it. Thunderoar finishes off The Dark Matter Records with the sound of a storm introducing a metal riff with an odd drumbeat. It’s like Remedy Inc. have turned into a mediocre metalcore band, it’s quite cute really. A great song to end an album full of ups and downs, however, and one that will make you want to go right back to the start and listen to it all over again.
I’ve found Remedy Inc.’s The Dark Matter Records hard to judge. On the one hand, they have some brilliant songs that get your foot tapping. But, on the other hand, there is a large portion of the album that has either been done before, is dull or just not up to standard. It’s as if Martizzon and El Oeli have written a few mind-blowing songs, and then written any old crap to fill up the rest of the album. So in that aspect, The Dark Matter Records is disappoint; very disappointing. However, listen to the few stunning tracks, and block your ears for the rest, kids.
Before we start I suggest you limber up. Before we're through we'll be starting fights with strangers and hitting on the bar staff.
When an Album's first song in called 'On the Pull', you can take a fair stab at it not being nu-folk. Fans of Jon Spencer will be right at home in The 'Angel's netherworld or bars, broads and blues. If you like your rock with a good dose of sleaze, then you may be in luck.
Bad Apple is a dirty, takeoff of Personal Jesus, which isn't a totally horrible proposition at all. And lead singer Vegas's voice has a rasp you could use to sand down shelves.
The band do a good, tight, rawkous strut; putting on the shoes of a midwest bar band but doing it well. Alabama 3 & Jason and the Scorchers are 2 names which spring to mind.
Oh, and they sound like they have quiffs.
My kneejerk reaction is to to slate this, but I have to admit its a fun, if predictable, romp. Its hard to praise a band like this too much because they bring absolutely nothing new to the table, but fuck, you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. Every once in a while you'll be in the mood for something quick, easy and bad for you.
There are certain things which can put you off a band. From the artwork to the Tolkien-esque story inside, you can smell the unmistakable whiiff of the hippy.
...but when 'The Simian Speaks' finally kicks in, its a relief that, instead of the Grateful Dead, you get a dose of funky, Modest-Mouse indie rock. They've even stuck one of Prince's spare choruses on as well.
Its an album you have to take with a massive pinch of salt, with its ongoing story of a cave monster startling the villagers or something, but the songs are strong enough to survive on their own merits. If synthy squelches and yelping are your thing then, honey, have we got an album for you.
'I may as well have a monocle', as well as having a wonderful title, is a little beauty; a twitchy, Talking Heads-y motorik number that makes you want to do a funny little dance just using your shoulders. From the growling riffage of 'We are the New Man' to the angelic 1920s matinee theme that is 'Gladly I Would Leave', this album keeps surprising you. All of the quirkier side of modern indie-rock seems to be represented here; bits of of Montreal, bits of Super Furries, bits of the Flaming Lips...
For a band I knew literally nothing about beforehand, its amazing how easily this record stands up next to the influences I mentioned above. Very much like that monster in its cave, its come as if from nowhere, but theres no need to sharpen those pitchforks quite yet. 8/10
The sultry shimmering voice of Norah Jones is fabulously showcased in this eighteen track album of collaborations from the past decade of her glittering career. Showing not only her musical dexterity, but also Jones’ flexibility and respect for all genres of music, we see duets with all from Willie Nelson to Foo Fighters right up to hip hop stars Outkast.
The wonderful ‘Virginia Moon’ with Foo Fighters exhibits Jones’ and Grohl’s harmonies gloriously as does ‘Turn Them’ with Sean Bones, however this track feels more like a Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling proposal with an upbeat, laidback approach to musicality. Outkast’s ‘Take Off Your Cool’ oozes perfect whispers and acoustic riffs that dip and dive into a lake of ultimate relaxation, matched only by collaboration with Belle and Sebastian, ‘Little Lou, Prophet Jack and Ugly John’ soon to appear on the band’s new album.
When looking towards the festive season there seems nothing better than the brilliant ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, a beautiful rendition from Willie Nelson and Norah Jones that flutters and swoons into a suave, jazzy shimmy that ends in the most wonderfully showbiz piano twinkle that yearns for jazz hands. Even a few of Jones’ own side projects make an appearance, El Madmo and The Little Willies, both with the quintessential warm huskiness and carefree elegance that the rest of the album trickles from every drum beat and semi-quaver.
The fantastic Ray Charles makes a small cameo in the smooth ‘Here We Go Again’ dripping with soul and a nostalgic atmosphere that conjures the image of a smoky jazz club somewhere in deepest darkest New York City.
All in all, this album is a perfect way to sum up Norah Jones’ vast career, showing a huge array of musical talent and her love of music, in whatever shape, form, origin and timbre. Here’s to another album of treats in ten years time...
Beans On Toast? Funny name one might think. Silly name, others. But actually, the name fits. Beans On Toast’s (BOT)folk is not only funny, but also traditional. Singer/songwriter-folk, with a lot of country influence, fiddle, stamping rhythms and a rough but wise voice. If this music drags you away you might just want to shout “Yeeha” (as Beans On Toast actually does after his last song “A Real Life Country Song”); though, I’d advise you to listen to the lyrics first, you won’t be able to shout “Yeeha” at the same time, as you will have a fat smirk on your face.
Beans On Toast proves that folk or country does not have to be very quiet or emotional to carry you away, but that it also can be very dynamic and funny as well. BOT’s approach to folk is more like a folk-punk-cabaret, addressing social and political topics. “Oil” is a perfect example, being about an anecdotal view of how the world would be if we keep on relying on our consumerist and exploiting human nature. Another social topic are drugs (“Methadrone”), presented in an imaginary experiment what would be the effects if they were legalised and illegalised (including the explanation why the perfect time for both of it is before elections); by the way, the conclusion is that some might enjoy it, but that it’s not up everyone’s street, however with taxes on drugs, the government could invest in hospitals and welfare.
The style of telling all these satirical stories is very entertaining, you can compare it to a sung political cabaret. But of course, BOT covers other topics; girls, love and the understatement of English romanticism (“Bon Voyage”). Moreover, one critique that cannot be missed is about trends and music business (“Old Grunge”), where BOT reveals that he was a late-beginning grunge fan, but also liked rap, new metal, new wave and reggae – especially reggae! - and all the other stuff during the years: Well, history repeats itself! (BOT also seems to prove my point that grunge will be the next big thing).
Oh Christmas time. Holy night, silent night. That’s the image, that’s how it’s supposed to be in December. However, the real picture is different. People rushing through the shopping streets, noise, hustle and bustle, no silent night. At least radio stations want to uphold the contemplative semblance. Modest and quiet rock and pop tunes want to put the people into a cosy mood. (Have you noticed? Even honourable BBC6 made a slight change in their programme!)
St Leonard with their self-titled album is one of those “Christmas-season-bands”.
Their music does not do any harm, is quiet, modest. Boring. As dull
as dishwater. I won’t apologize for being so harsh, but here are the
Useless to mention their ambitions to play their songs in a stadium. In a couple of years they open for Snow Patrol, Coldplay or U2. Though I guess all of the three know that they are still too cool for St Leonards (and this has to mean something!). By the way, what’s James Blunt doing at the moment? (And who is opening for him?)
The fact that Christmas season is far too gladly exploited for hypocritical music was already discussed with St Leonards. How to approach a real and modern spirit of the contemplative season shows the Rainboot label that gives a real “Christmas Gift” (yes, I apologise for this pun) for folk lovers. Musicians from the label and label friends gathered on this charity album; every penny the compilation makes will be given to Save The Children.
The topics of the songs are not typically Christmassy, they don’t address an ideal world, where everything’s fine over Christmas. This album’s theme is very realistic, facing the world’s and human troubles, though always looking up for immortal hope about love, trust and soul. Especially remarkable are Newcomers Tina Refsnes with her fine “A Song About Trust” and Sara Lewis intonating her beautifully old-fashioned pop piece “Waiting To Find Me” with a strong and sullen tone, oscillating between girly 50s icons like Marilyn Monroe and modern pop divas. The Whiskey Priest sounds like a Bright Eyes’ alternative folk with cigarette and whiskey voice. However, also familiar and traditional sounds can be found on this charity project. Ben Holland’s “Life Will Love You” not only opens with “Nearer My God To Thee” and breaks out into a shuffle but also contains with “I love you more than I did not/ you are a work of art” the prettiest compliment I’ve recently heard in a song. Sadly the Rainboot team wasn’t courageous enough to do a Christmas record without jingling Christmas bells (April Maybe May’s “Christmas In The Sun”). However, you have to consider their best for Junkboy’s instrumental with a sweet flute melody.
Listening to Travis Tucker’s jolly whistling on “Christmas By The Sea” makes me want to have Boxing Day right now, while in the window I can watch soft snow falling. You think it’s kitsch? No, just beautiful. Go get this album, it’s not only good for you.
Leeds guitar/drums post rock duo, formed in 2007, release first full length effort. A band with far too heavy a reading list judging by their song titles –“Pirsig” is presumably named after the author of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, while the album title seems to allude to a term used to describe re-incarnation. And the band name itself seems to be derived from the Persian word for God. Isn’t Wikipedia great everybody? Anyway, whilst they weigh heavy on religio-philosopho-mystic imagery, the band have managed to give us a light-hearted album full of moments that will make you chuckle. OK, not really; it’s an instrumental post rock album with little or no light relief. But then, that goes with the territory.
Khuda provide an earthy, spirited performance with Tom Brooke’s huge chunky riffs underpinning some cleverly hypnotic melodies. It is though, in some respects, a warts and all kind of thing and you are occasionally left wondering if Steve Myles’ drumming hasn’t quite caught up with the patterns being played out in his head, particularly on “Black Water” which struggles with its own furious sense of pace. However, when slowed down a notch on “Tallinn”, he comes into his own with some very satisfying rhythmic touches. There are moments when the music doesn’t quite work – opener “Laleh” starts well and with precision but teeters on the shambolic when attempting to build the track up to any sort of meaningful crescendo in the middle.
Overall a solid effort but you can’t help but feel no-one outside
of the post-rock community will give a fig about this and how it stands
up against the Caspians and Collapse Under The Empires of this world
is anyones guess. 5.5/10
Live Footage, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalists Mike Thies and Topu Lyo, originally met at of all things, a Halloween Party in 2008 and after a couple of years beavering away, finally release a rather confident sounding debut album.
Live Footage place heavy emphasis on improvisation. Lyo plays cello while Thies tinkers away on drums and keyboards, both make the use of loops but seem to eschew pre-recorded samples of any sort, which is fairly unusual these days given the musical territory they rest in. Has to be said though that it is difficult to see that here, as the music is pretty seamlessly put together.
“Mong Deri Da” brings Stereolab (a band with a similarly cinematic
vision) to mind, while the title track is a mellow, urbane coffee
table kind of a tune. “Big Mind” is a slow sigh of a tune with Cello
and Fender Rhodes shuffling tentatively around each other in existential
contemplation of the bigger things in life while other high points
are “See The Reflection” and “Nomadic Ant”. Definite Sunday morning
comedown territory. 7.5/10
This 13 track album almost hints at becoming a punk record, but never quite gets there. Unfortunately, it remains very much a pop album. Punk in the way of McFly or the other ones whose name I can’t remember at the minute and am refusing to google as someone discovering it in my browser history would be more embarrassing than them finding searches for German Scat Porn.
Point being, if you like bouncy pop tracks with harmonies and without
agendas at home on mindless teen dramas, I give you The Gallileo 7.
If you’re looking for something with a bit more substance and bite,
better to give this one a wide berth. 4/10
The Duke live play haunting Americana folksy ballads that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
In their debut album it’s more of the same. The songs are those that have been toured for the last 12 months or so and they’re as haunting and melodic as the live show. If there was to be an criticism it’s that the album, being studio produced, doesn’t quite capture the same magic of the live show. That doesn’t mean this album is bad. It isn’t. It’s just that the live show is better.
Think The Stooges fronted by PJ Harvey, nestling somewhere on the border where electro pop meets shouty punk.
Songs about girl on girl action, nights out, ogling other girls boyfriends,
arguments and the whole rich tapestry of life, all delivered through
short, sharp, thrashy, catchy nuggets. And all plastered with English
to make your nan blush. 8/10