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  albums - april 2007



Air - Pocket Symphony (Virgin)

Ah yes, the return of Air for what is now their 4th studio album. If like me you had no idea that they had done anything between debut 'Moon Safari' and now then you are forgiven friends. But 'Sexy Boy' was very much an epoch-marking track, even if it was impossible to dance to without doing a boing boing bounce dance and looking like an embarrassing Dad at a disco. It signalled the way for a massive influx of Gallic electronic artists such as Daft Punk and continues today with acts like Justice. It was also noticeable for being unapologetically chilled out and soothing. in short, it made it cool to listen to French music again.

In this latest album, Air deploy the help of both Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon, presumably to add a bit of variety to yet another croonsome journey through soothing easy listening. It seems that Cocker is all over anything with vaguely French connections at the moment have also recently written and appeared on Charlotte Gainsbourg's album.

All the signature sounds we have come to associate with Air are on display right from the very first track - the masses of reverb and clean guitar lines, a hint of quivering keyboard in the background and an uncluttered production. There's a brief Japanic interlude with parts being played on the Shamisen and Koto but otherwise nothing much else has changed in the last ten years.

This is a pretty safe bet for Air but is certainly difficult to get excited about. I've come to the conclusion it would be pretty good dinner party music - very inoffensive while offering just a hint of foreign mystique and sophistication. But if I wasn't busy wolfing down duck a l'orange and discussing Gordon Brown's latest tax incentives at the dinner table I think I would have trouble in naming any of the tracks on the display - it's all just a bit bland really isn't it?



Big Business - “Here Come The Waterworks” (Hydra Head Records)

Seattle’s reputation for stoner rock/grunge died there for a while, but now Big Business are back to fly that flag high again, showing that it only takes two.

Featuring Jared Warren on bass and Coady Willis on drums (both members of The Melvins), “Here Come The Waterworks” was self-described by the band as ‘something has a bastard offspring with something else on acid’. I’d call that an understatement. A little bit bass heavy, a little bit of funk-infused growling and a lot of cymbal-crashing make “Here Come The Waterworks” into an album that will have you swaying like a stoner and stomping your feet the next. Standout tracks ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and ‘Hands Up’.

Willa C


Aeon Spoke- Aeon Spoke (SPV)

A nice slab of introspective, brooding, safe indie rock. Clearly a lot of the songs are deeply personal to the band, and in most cases it transpires well to the listener. Pablo at the Park builds up from gentle acoustic verses into a sunburst of a chorus with strong lyrics. Look beyond the slightly dubious title of Suicide Boy, and an eloquent examination of the self which dissolves into a heavy instrumental is revealed.

There would be no mistaking this as a debut album, as the band are sticking to what they know- there is little change in pace for most of Aeon Spoke, which can grate towards the end of the album, and one wonders if they’ve ever considered writing anything a little more cheerful.

As far as wearing your heart on your sleeve goes, Aeon Spoke have laid their heart out all over the place in an honest display of the world around them. For reflective types everywhere.

Catriona Boyle


Djevera - “Third World War: Cast The First Stone” (Genin Records/Djevera Music) 

Two years after releasing their breakthrough album ‘God Is White’ and touring DIY-style with bands such as LostProphets and Skindred, Djevera are back. 

It’s something you’d find your younger brother listening to, just because they have provocative song titles like ‘God Is White’ and ‘The Niggers Will Eliminate Themselves.’ And while you scan the back cover and give him the odd eyeball, he’ll say earnestly ‘it’s okay! half the band are black!’ Djevera still write about sticking it to the Man. They even capitalise words like Suits, the rebels. Their soundtrack to revolution is on average a five-minute song with crunching-yet-repetitive chords played over and over while lead singer ‘Bass’ shouts the same things about clichés, capitalism and mass-produced media. Which is kind of funny, considering they sound a lot like…Rage Against The Machine. 

So cut the crap and throw a copy of ‘Los Angeles’ at your sibling’s head and hope its not too late before he goes out and buys a Che Guevera tshirt from Camden Market.

Willa C


Ashok-Plans (Filth Lucre Records)

After being prepared for some down and dirty rhyming and a looped drum beat, the fiddle on first track A New Year’s Anxiety came as a bit of a shock. As does the rest of the album. This is a hugely melodic mixture of rhymes, complex super effective rhythms and quality musicianship. The result is Plans- a pleasant surprise of an album. The lilting vocals of Flo Welch gives a old school jazz/ swing feeling to the songs, and is complimented by the rhyming skills of Leo Nathan brings the tracks bang up to date. Chris Lane’s talented guitar playing also adds another dimension to this melting-pot, in particular on Franky Boy and Always Ashok. To describe the last track, Happy Slap, the word jig might have to be used, whether the band like it or not. The lyrics are instantly memorable and the offbeat guitar keeps up the quick tempo. 

 Separately the three member of Ashok would bring something special to any band. Together they create a brilliant fusion of old and new styles, with influences ranging from Billie Holiday to Dr. Dre to samba rhythms and the Rat Pack. Ashok bring the whole lot together, wrapped up in one album in a class of its own.

Catriona Boyle


Cinders Fall - “The Bridge Between” (Hangman Joke Recordings)

Let’s keep this short, and keep it sweet: no whiny melodies, no floppy fringes, just speedy assertive thrash-metal, vocals that range from Danii Filth-evil to in-your-face growling, spine-dislodging riffs and walls of death, Essex style. Less scene points, more beatdowns! 

Got metal? Get ‘The Bridge Between’.

Willa C


BC Camplight- Blink of a Nihilist (One Little Indian)

From the write up about this guy, it becomes apparent it’s possible that not another living soul will ever understands what goes on in his head, apart from the man himself. But it turns out having a mental illness is quite conducive to producing a rather good album. Or at least it is in Brian Christianzio’s case.  

Blink of a Nihilist is reminiscent of many a fine song writer who occasionally explored the darker side of life. It’s also reminiscent of many a fine pop album. It displays a strange but hugely successful juxtaposition of human suffering.  

Werewolf Waltz begins with a fabulously dramatic strings based instrumental and ends in some bizarre robot noises. The use of triangle, cow bells, glockenspiel and assorted other jingly instruments adds to the retro pop feeling of the album. Brian’s piano playing on the Hip and the Homeless shows his great talent for the instrument as he plays it in various ways throughout the track.  

Essentially this is a well crafted pop album in the way that pop used to be. Beneath its sunshine-y exterior lies the story of Brian’s journey into his and other’s mental illness’s. It’s an unusual concept, but one that works well, providing some strong substance behind the lovely tunes.

Catriona Boyle


The Grit - “Shall We Dine?” (People Like You Records)

What is psychobilly?

The term was first heard in a Johnny Cash song, used to describe a Cadillac. Wikipedia describes it as  

“Psychobilly is a genre of music generally described as a mix between the punk rock of the 1970s and the American rockabilly of the 1950s.

The genre is characterized by lyrical references to horror films, violence, exploitation films, lurid sexuality and other topics generally considered taboo — sometimes presented in a comedic, tongue-in-cheek fashion.” 

And what else would you expect from the Grit, whose album is released on a record label called “I Used To Fuck People Like You In Prison”? 

Here’s what you are in for..the album opens with ‘The One’ with a fast, rocknroll guitar intro and a shout of ‘OI!’ and then the double-bass line comes in, eye-wateringly fast. ‘Shall We Dine?’ combines 80s punk with 50s influenced rockabilly scene to create a sounds for a jaded millennium of label-lovers.

Whether you prefer to dance or mosh, to stage-invade of stand in the back with a stiff drink, The Grit are smart, catchy and pissed off (just check out tracks like “I Came Out The Womb An Angry Cunt”): and they taste good with everything.

Willa C


Sing-Sing - Sing-Sing and I

Sing-Sing and I is a jewel of an album - make that a box of jewels. The song structure and sounds are well-crafted and multi-faceted, with careful attention to detail - complex, melodic, and extremely catchy. The lyrics are intelligent, witty, and deep - like the pages of a book you can't put down. Lisa O'Neil's voice is rich, velvety, and quintessentially British - strong, sweet (but not overly coy), and clearly enunciated, with turns of a phrase or even word that change the meaning of a sentiment of a song.

Lover - The perfect intro song to the Sing-Sing and I album. Smooth and seductive, with Lisa singing in a rich, delectable voice, and Emma Anderson (of Lush) on background vocals, over flowingly-strummed guitar. My only complaint is that the song is too short.  I usually play it twice before listening to the rest of the album!

Come, Sing Me a Song - This alternately strutting and swaying song has a David Bowie-like guitar strum and 1970s feel (from Ziggy Stardust era) and every once in a while a guitar line that is similar to the song Everything Will Flow by Suede. Lisa sings in a breathy voice reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne. The horns in the chorus are a tad too brash and overpower the vocal chorus, but the "oh, yeah" part of the chorus is brill.

Mister Kadali - Starts with the turning of the dial on a radio, going through different stations, then stopping on "Mr. Kadali - African spiritual healer and advisor" and his spiel to help with any problem...then the song steps in with a jaunty rhythm and upbeat, clear, ringing guitars and Lisa singing, with haunting background vocals, and Lisa sounding like Kate Bush on the high notes. There are old piano and flute and cello sounds that create a melancholy backdrop to the song, and a breakbeat mid-way through it all, hinting at a dance-type vibe.  An interesting story-telling song in the tradition of the bandSaint Etienne.

A Modern Girl - A flowing, 1980s-synth and drums backdrop of sound (like Depeche Mode, with speeding-along-highway sounds); a driving beat, insistent rhythm and electro-industrial undercurrent, with high, hard, chiming guitars, echoey vocal bridges, and Lisa singing in a darker, bittersweet voice tinged with melancholy. Moody and catchy.

Ruby - This track is sonically ornate, an amalgam of different musical genres (sinuous, exotic Middle Eastern strings motif, squalling 1990s rock guitars, electro-blips) with Lisa singing in pure, clear tones, once again sounding like Kate Bush on the high notes, and layered background vocals. I adore the lines "In chapter four, it's full of thunder, but by chapter five, it feel like summer." - a knowing wink to an earlier song of theirs, Feels Like Summer.

I Do - A piano-based, story-telling song with strummed guitar, harpsicord, a brief spot of harmonica courtesy of Lisa, with vocals to rival Kate Bush and importance on the lyrics and delivery. This mid-tempo song is sweet and straightforward, until you hit the mid-song "do do do do..." break, which is just lovely.

Going Out Tonight - This is my favorite song on the album, and it reminds me of a Lush song. It's a three-part "chorus" of a song with ever-shifting vocal layers and melodic lines and it washes over you in waves of melancholy beauty. It sounds like there are two drumbeats and Lush-like hard, bright guitar patterns. One part has Lisa sing "I'm going out tonight" in a cool, muted, detached way; the second part is Lisa talk-singing lyrical phrases; the third part is distant, echoey, layered background vocals that create a moodiness and expansiveness in the song that evolves into a slowly high-soaring chorus that eventually takes over. I liken the song to being in an artificially-lighted underground tunnel (like on Hooverphonic's album cover for Blue Wonder Powder Milk), all "underwatery" and muffled, and then getting to the end of tunnel, and getting out to the night sky - dotted with stars and endless, and breathing in the clean, hard air...

Unseen - A slow-tempo song based on piano and guitar, a bit Depeche Mode-sounding with synths and breathy vocals by Lisa, Emma harmonizing beautifully with Lisa on the main parts of the song, and an instrumental ending with "added" sounds that recalls a typical Doves song.Pretty downbeat, but nice.

The Time has Come - This mid-tempo song has a carnival background sound and features a multitude of diseparate voices as the chorus. It's a song like raise your glass to and sway along with. I like the song-structure, but thought the varied vocal chorus came off too strident and flat. Very interesting lyrics though... "Looking down through all the years, mapped out in days then just in tears, and with dissenters all
around, it's time to move and make a sound."

When I was Made - Another highlight of the album, this is an uplifting, grin-inducing, heart-gladdening, joy of a song - all blue skies, bells chiming brightly, birds chirping, and flowers blooming - the song makes you glad to be alive, which is a really amazing thing for a song to do!!  It's ABBA-esque/1960s girl group in the best meaning possible, with church bell and burnished guitar sounds and a great, positive vocal delivery by Lisa.

A Kind of Love - The best ending to a captivating album. An evocative, mid-tempo, piano and guitar-based story-telling song with amazing lyrics ("We spoke too soon, if we could try it again, begin at the end, take it so slowly, and I will let you get to know me") and Lisa sounding like Kate Bush and hitting the high notes with ease. Listen carefully (or check out the lyrics) to the 'kind' of love Lisa is singing about as the song progresses...
Stratosphere Fanzine


Void of Ovals - Merganser

Resplendent with its impressive fried breakfast and alphabetty spaghetty on the front cover, 'Merganser' is as baffling as it is brief.

Thirteen tracks fly past in double quick time as Void of Ovals' retro synths bleep, squelch and boing there way through tracks scored for 'chocolate bar and mobile phone commercials and childrens' television'. I think this may be a tongue in cheek claim in the press release - I can hardly imagine Orange pressing Void of Ovals into action for their next add.

The music is quirky, whimsical and a little bit repetitive due to the limited palette of sounds in use. But it is refreshing to see someone having a go at stuff they want to do rather than trying to fit into NME's latest demographic.



Willy Mason - If the Ocean Gets Rough (Virgin/Radiate)

Willy Mason has a remarkable voice for someone of just 21 tender years. All world weary and drawling - Mason sounds like he has been touring the grizzled US folk scene for an eternity and his song writing tends to match. There are a couple of shaky moment such as 'We Can Be Strong' which is a little like Clapton's 'Layla' but hey, how many songs are there left to be written?

Much of the album was performed by members of the Mason family with mother Jemima lending backing vocals and Willy's younger brother Sam playing drums on all tracks. This generates an even greater cosy feel to what is already a pretty homely album. Stand out track is definitely the single 'Save Myself' which while ridiculing a self possessed society manages to remain uplifting.

More often than not though, these tracks sound like any other folky album track - well put together but nothing to really set Mason aside from the baying horde of beardy, commune dwelling, sandal wearing musicians that the record companies are snapping up so they can sell their wares onto coffee shops, middle aged sales execs who need to 'de-stress' and elevator companies to install in their lift cars. Willy's main attribute at the moment may be that at 21 he is instantly more accessible than many of his musical brethren. Hopefully this will give him time to develop into something truly memorable by the nest album but at present I could only give this 5 out 10.




I can’t make my mind up about this. There are some interesting and good riffs in some of the tracks and the guitars have something about them that make them different, yet, there is something not quite right. Something that doesn’t really fit.

For a start, the vocals are terrible. I like their idea of trying something “screamo” over the top of what is basically indie, but they haven’t got it so it actually sounds good.

Some of the tracks are powerful, but at the same time slightly crap. However, this doesn’t account for all their songs, as I enjoyed some of the sincerity and intensity of their sounds. The guitars are quite rough and sharp, which I like, but pretty much as soon as a decent tune begins to emerge, the soul-destroying screaming starts and annihilates a perfectly average tune.

I have no doubt that they have a large fan club where they are based (with an emphasis on “where”) and I imagine that they could produce an exciting stage performance, but it depends on whether you actually want to listen to it… 

Lid Smith


Good Shoes - "Think Before You Speak"

Opening with a woodblock working as a metronome and choruses of “All of my insecurities are summed up, when you walk into my room” the debut album from 4 piece youth outfit Good Shoes goes from strength to strength.

The first full song on the album is the one that I, along with many people who have heard of Good Shoes prior to their sudden soar into mass popularity, is “The Photos on My Wall”.

Titled “Think Before You Speak”, the Good Shoes album is a very honest, catchy and thoughtful display of how Indie music should sound, and this band is a valued acquisition for London-Based label, “Brille Records” who are an unit to look out for!

“Morden” (written about the bands hometown) is a clever rhythmic story with image-depicting lyrics like “You can go and eat your Chinese food over drunken fools singing 80’s tunes…” and “I saw the flowers lay where a car crash took place, a drug dealer crashed into a chicane…”

I am in love with this album, each song is faultless, memorable and the lyrics (that are of modern average life that everyone can relate to) are shaped and moulded around the riffs and beats that are layered to perfection.

I anticipate 2007 to be a BIG year for Good Shoes! Having played with such bands as The Long Blondes, Be Your Own Pet, Mystery Jets, The Noisettes, and Tom Vek (to name but a few), the only way is up for this cluster of young men with incredible talent!

Released in late March, if you haven’t heard it as yet, I highly recommend this album for any fan of Indie music, especially if you enjoy the likes of Mystery Jets, Spinto Band, The Long Blondes & Jamie T.

Sunny Winter


The Apparatus (EP) 

Well, the first track is average. It doesn’t really entice me to listen to any of their other tracks. Also, some of their tracks sound suspiciously similar to the likes of other bands. It is all very well to take influences from other people, but what makes a band is their ability to make the song their own. This doesn’t really do it for me.

The third track on the album “caught in conversation, really does go on and on and on. I may be a little harsh, perhaps, but there is nothing interesting about this band. There are simple but ineffective drum beats, use of already overused melodies topped off with boring lyrics.

Just as I began to lose all interest in the music, I finally did. All the tracks sound too similar; I was unable to distinguish between each one. But there has to be something good about the band, I hear you cry…

Well, not really. They did try to relive the time before “emotional” music latched on, the time when simple rock beats and melodies did the trick, but this band failed. 

Lid Smith


Various - Something I Learned Today (Dance to the Radio) 

As a compilation of indie, electro, laid back metal, punk and pop rock, this holds a decent mix of good bands and artists, who are following in the footsteps of the bands that have already paved the way for Dance To The Radio, such as Forward Russia and The Pigeon Detectives. “Something I Learned Today” is a collection of bands from all over the UK, as well as from Sweden, Italy, Germany and the USA. One of the best things about this CD, is the mix of musical interests and abilities.  

However, a few of the bands stood out in the mix. The bands that caught my attention were “Sky Larkin”, a trio from Yorkshire, whose mix of pop influences and guitar riffs could possibly be one of the next big things locally. “I Was A Cub Scout” initially brought back memories of shit keyboard demos, but the introduction of adrenalin and drum solos made this song work for me. Another good one was “Read Yellow”, who although could well be one of the “manufactured for radio” bands at the beginning of the song, it turned into a mix of piercing vocals, decent guitar riffs and driving beats. I liked the idea of “This Et Al”, with the intense rhythm and heavy sounding guitar, with equally distressing lyrics and passionate vocals. For the more ambient and thoughtful side to the CD, “Sometree”, a band from Berlin who supported Forward Russia in their recent tour of the UK, have proven that they are more than capable on their own, with their heart-rending vocals and romantic melodies. Laura Groves, a solo artist from Shipley, uses simple instrumentals in conjunction with her folk-like vocals to produce a “pleasant” but slightly tedious version of all those singer songwriters out there…

There were some disappointing bands that occur in the mixture, such as “Ghost Fleet”, whose edgy but slightly too try-hard attempt to stand out in the crowd of new bands didn’t quite work. “Foreign Born”, a Californian band who are soon to release their debut album “On the Wing Now” are basically a less interesting version of any other band that consists of “nice” vocals and dull drum beats, which may be a little harsh, but they seem to lack anything that makes you want to actually listen to their music.

Lid Smith


Fetish Chicken - Volume = Talent

A wee while ago I got an album to review; there was no PR blurb, no info about the band, just a CD with the words "Fetish Chicken" and a Hurley-from-Lost lookalike on the cover. Interesting.

I'll hold my hands up and admit that this review has taken me a while to write, I've been listening to this album for a few weeks now and it's hard to think what to write about it. I have no doubt that its progressive nature will place it firmly in the "love it or hate it" category, but if you want to pigeon-hole then i'd have to say classic rock, albeit classic rock played by a garage punk band who've stumbled across some old Yes records.

It's obvious from the first listen that Led Zeppelin are one of the main influences of this band, especially on tracks like "Baby (You're My Baby, Baby)" but don't think that makes them a copycat band, there's a good deal of variety here: "Soul Taxi" is a wonderful surprise, a jazz-tinged track reminiscent of Karate, but "To Feel My Wife" manages a graceful reggae swagger while still maintaining the band's grungey style. There's some well-crafted classic guitar riffs ("The Pleasant Peasant") while "Tradition Is Strangulation" is a punky song with a dirty guitar riff that reminds me of Mclusky. "New Mexico" has the strongest progressive influence whereas the cocky "I'm Not Fooled" sounds almost radio-friendly!
...and just when you thought you'd heard it all, "The Origin Of Glue" closes with album with a beautiful piano-led track with the smile-inducing line "I wish the FBI would give up on me as easily as you"

The whole album sounds like you've been invited along to one of the band's weekly jam sessions, but if you like your music on the unconventional side then I think you'll be hard-pushed to find a more well-rounded and pleasing listen this year!



The National – Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

Over the years I’ve heard lots of bits and pieces of The National and I’ve had ‘All The Wine’ and ‘Son’, from previous records on my MP3 player for ages and I’ve meant to pick up their last album ‘Alligator’ for quite some time. But for all my intelligence and wit I’ve never got round to it, shame on me! The National are a brilliant band and Boxer, could just be one of those albums that will creep into the lists of many critics as their album of the year. Matt Berninger’s deep, strangely hypnotic vocals are complemented and enhanced by brilliant piano and trumpet harmonies throughout the album, working particularly well on ‘Fake Empire’ the lead track and a cracking song to kick off a very strong, versatile album with rich tones, hypnotic vocals and a depth and quality of sound that’s been really enhanced to show you what The National are all about and what they have to offer. I was extremely excited to see that The National will be playing this years Latitude festival, my local, and favourite festival, and after this record fell through my door, and it had been blasted out through my headphones my excitement had shot to rapturous exultation at the prospect of seeing this masterful band play. Their intense music to some may be depressing, to others an uplifting antithesis. Each element of the band has been played to perfection on this record, which has a broad and interesting scope using deep vocals, beautiful, a rich grand piano sound and brilliant trumpets. Bryan Devendorf’s drumming is fantastically diverse, taking the reins of the song and sending it in another direction.
The National… Broody? Perhaps. Brilliant? OH YES! I urge you to buy this album. May the 21st! Sear that date into your brain. 5/5

Gareth Ludkin

The National - ‘Boxer’

Following the success of 2005’s ‘Alligator’, the New York based band return with a record of understated grace and resonance. ‘Boxer’ demonstrates the strengths of a band with a dedicated work ethic and nine years of experience behind them. Each song is marked by a high level of attention to detail, with layers of sound given shape by insistent percussive rhythms. It is the lead vocals of Matt Berninger which really holds it all altogether though, his deep voice and dead-pan delivery recalling Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, the latter particularly on the stand-out opening track ‘Fake Empire’. Songs on ‘Boxer’ recall these earlier legends not only in terms of vocal stylings, but also in the timelessness of many of the lyrics, weaving stories of desire, paranoia, disappointment and mistaken identities. The concise yet poetic words and moody atmosphere of the first single from the album, ‘Mistaken for Strangers’, exemplifies this. Throughout the album Berninger succeeds in sounding wise and world-weary, but with a hint of vulnerability appropriate for the emotional content of the songs. Subtlety pervades the record; the power of the songs may not hit you initially, but repeated listens will slowly but surely lodge them in your consciousness.

Tessa Hall


Tiger MCs – we go out (Cherryade)

Tiger mcs provides yet more brilliance from the warm bosom of the Norwich music scene. His acoustic frolics have a warm comforting feel and along with members of Magoo, Alto 45, Little Who and Giant Robot and the City of Tokyo, tiger mcs makes music worth listening too, music that has an edge and a feel of real quality. It’s a really enjoyable listen, one you could quite easily bob along or lounge out on the warm grass on a summer’s day. Nice stuff. 3.5/5

Gareth Ludkin

Tiger MCs – We Go Out (Cherryade)

one is already fantastic for using the word “giraffe” in the title. A rare vocabulary treat. As delightful as this instrumental is though, the whole track seems to lack something. Vocals, quite possibly. We’re off the starting blocks with track two, You’ve Got Red On You, driven by a single acoustic guitar with some with some gentle airy vocals from the school of Belle and Sebastian here and there.

Happy go lucky oozes from We Go Out particularly in The Drowning of Governess Alpha and the short  ‘n sweet Birdy. It avoids become sickly sweet with quick bursts of song.

Farewell Heart Hospital is a gem nestled in the middle of the album, and is an instrumental that works. Sounding slightly as if its feeling its way, the track’s sparse instrumentation (plucked guitar and a simple piano melody) makes it feel improvised and unique.

It turns out Spooned, Snoozed and Straning is actually hiding a cheeky little electronic cover of Boys of Summer in the middle. What a treat!

The fuzzy felt cover, designed by 10 year old Liz is an visual delight, although could be improved greatly by it actually being real felt instead of just a picture of it.

Unless you’re a real grumpy guts, it’s impossible not to find something to love about this album. Buy it so they can afford to use fuzzy felt on every cover.

Catriona Boyle


The Scaramanga Six – The Dance of Death (Wrath)

Here it is the debut album by the Scaramanga Six. And what a debut it is, bringing together all the intuitive, exciting song craft, alongside the punchy, driving riffs, sax, bass, drums and all things nice. Each smack of the drum, thrash of the guitar and explosive vocal is purposeful and passionate. The six supply a very appealing, gutsy platter of Northern rock to get your teeth in to. Power and energy galore the band is gripping to watch live and their music is certainly worth spending your hard earned cash. 4/5

Gareth Ludkin


Reed KD – The Ashes Bloom

Reed KD is a singer songwriter from California. His songs have enjoyable, acoustic, summery melodies and country tinged riffs. The album is a varied, and enjoyable summer listen, it is certainly really heart felt music by Reed KD, a multi instrumentalist/ producer with talent. 3.5/5

Gareth Ludkin


Candy Thief – Like/Unlike (Fence)

Candy Thief. A name you should certainly endeavour to become familiar with. This 8 track album takes individual vocals and brilliant compositions using blues and soul to break the ice as you jump into the warm water of Candy Thief’s opening track ‘Catholic Blues’ The dramatic, moving opening track, a great benchmark for the rest of the album. Candy thief’s music is well rounded and well delivered. Her voice is delicately innocent, against the rich soul of ‘Catholic Blues’. Variety and enjoyable songs make this a very good album. One that I enjoy immensely and I urge you, to take the plunge. 4/5

Gareth Ludkin


Ash – Then & Now (Infectious Records)

Ash have knocked out a bit of a compilation to remind us all how good they were and give us a sneaky peek at the new album. Well thanks very much, like.

 When it comes down to it, Ash are rather good. Surely they deserve some kind of endurance medal anyway, and a special award to Tim Wheeler for still looking exactly the same age he was when Ash showed up all those years ago. Ladies would kill for your anti-aging secrets. 

Now back to being a boy’s only club, the new album will reveal just how well Ash will cope without Charlotte. But Then & Now is a glorious celebration of their happy times together. 

Naturally an eleven track compilation that covers five albums is never going to please everyone. But at least they’ve left off that awful Candy song. Orpheus, the rose amongst the thorns from slightly dodgy Meltdown album is there, as is the rip-roaring Kung Fu and Burn Baby Burn. Tracks like Oh Yeah have a timeless quality that still makes them sound as new now as they were five years ago. Timeless does seem to be Ash’s forte.

I Started a Fire and You Can’t Have It All are taken from the new album, and sound jolly good, although are not quite up to the quality of songs on the rest of the album.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the band, try Intergalactic Sonic 7”s for a broader overview, or just get the new album and cross your fingers.

Catriona Boyle


LAU – Lightweight and Gentlemen (Reveal Records)

So accordion isn’t just for Morris dancing then eh? Who would have thought it. LAU’s debut album is real authentic Celtic folk music. If you’re not into fiddles, accordions, jigs and all that, don’t listen. It’s a Marmite situation, and there’s certainly no middle ground on this kind of stuff. 

I personally enjoy a bit of a jig now and then, almost exclusively at Scottish weddings, and almost certainly after a few glasses of wine. I can’t say I’ve ever actually sat down to listen to this stuff, unless a long car journey was involved. (Thanks Dad). 

All the musicians on this album are technically accomplished, and have got their style down pat. The Jigs, an instrumental featuring predominantly violins is mind boggling to listen to for the sheer complexity of it. 

This stuff won’t be everyone’s dram of whiskey, but for fans of the genre it’s a brilliant new album to get your teeth into, and their upcoming festival shows will definitely be worth a look.

Catriona Boyle


A Singer Must Die – Today, It’s A Wonderful Day (Grand Harmonium Records) 

The dead fish on the sleeve doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement for what’s in store,

Now, no offence to the French, but hearing a French man sing about Newcastle really just doesn’t sound convincing. Paris, yes, but Newcastle, no. Apart from awkward name check though, Croydon Road is a pleasant pop song with sweeping strings and some nicely placed bells.

Today, It’s A Wonderful Day as some well crafted songs, but sadly they are mostly instantly forgettable and the Morrissey-esque vocals seem to drip with over sincerity after about the third track. The lyrics, particularly in Inadequate, are clever and honest, but sadly aren’t backed up by the melody. 

Clearly the dead fish was a sign.

Catriona Boyle


Dave Derby – And The Norfolk Downs (Reveal Records)

Turns out Dave Derby is from New York, and therefore probably doesn’t actually have much association with the Norfolk Downs. Luckily the album has nothing to do with Norfolk. After being part of a number of different musical collaborations, it seems Dave Derby has finally settled into what he’s most comfortable doing, and this album does indeed feel comfy. There’s nothing very challenging or different about it, but Dave’s voice creates a warm familiar sound and his life-story lyrics are easily accessible.

There are few up tempo tracks, giving a relaxed feel to the album, making it easy to get into after a couple of tracks. 

Unfortunately there’s fairly little to stop this album descending into middle of the road American alt-rock, which is does by about track seven, at which point there seems fairly little to distinguish the last six tracks from each other. There just isn’t enough variety for the good parts of And The Norfolk Downs to stand out, and instead the talented guitar playing and Dave’s Ryan Adams like voice is lost amongst a sea of mediocrity.

Catriona Boyle