Thursday, 31 March 2011

GoGoBot – First Class Fool * Single of the day * release date 27/3/2011

The first observation to make is that First Class Fool has everything required for a great song. The lyrics are dark, clever and thought provoking, the tune is memorable and so is the performance. It didn't need great production but man it's great to hear a band really go for it in the studio with raw material like this.

From the cutting synth intro through an array of instrumentation combinations and the odd studio trick GoGoBot throw the kitchen sink in and the best thing is it all works.

This is the second of six singles GoGoBot will release this year, the first was Is This Love, which is great too. Together they will form the 'See Saw Series' to demonstrate the bands versatility and I can't wait for the next four.

Cults – You Know What I Mean release date 27/3/2011

This is Cults follow up to the infectious Go Outside (reviewed here), which had some impact on the NME chart. For the uninitiated the NME chart is based on sales figures for singles on the playlist of NME TV or featured in NME magazine. The hand thing is this narrows the field enough to allow a chart life for singles outside of the mainstream, albeit accepting the NME as arbiters of good taste.

Anyway, to get back to our subject matter, You Know What I Mean is a completely different animal to Go Outside. The song and production feel retro in the best way because it almost sounds like this could have been recorded forty years ago. Obviously on closer listening there a bit of crispness and edge to the production that gives away its modernity, but it's a gorgeous song that shows Cults are both versatile and hopefully here to stay.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Goldberg Sisters – Shush * Single of the day * release date 28/3/11

The intro to Shush is either high tech 60's or low tech 80's, but the quality of the melody line was what really grabbed me. Then the chorus arrives, we get the full soft rock backing and the track takes off. Half way through we get a guitar solo before it all gets a bit funkier, then we ease back into rock mode to finish, quite a journey.

The video never influences my assessment of the song but I must add it's a corker. I'm definitely prone to a bit of air drumming in the car myself and the overall concept is very clever.

This is Adam Goldberg's first release as The Goldberg Sisters, his previous alias was LANDy and the Goldberg Sisters eponymous album is released in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I hope you enjoy Shush as much as I do.

Review Index 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

King Jacks – I'm Not The One * Single of the day * release date 28/3/2011

I'm Not The One ia a double 'A' side debut release by London solo artist King Jacks. The other 'A' side Heroes is avalilable in remixed form from King Jacks website (link attached).

Although the video for Heroes starring Danny Dyer is getting the majority of hits on You Tube, ironically it's I'm Not The One that is the one I've chosen to review.

It's simply a great clean production over the top of a cracking rock song. Like all good rockers it's the chorus that hooks you first. Go through the verses over the next few plays and a whole story emerges. Add to that the attitude of the performance and you have the complete package.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Thomas Tantrum – Sleep * Single of the day * release date 27/3/2011

This is what indie should sound like. A great pop song but somehow a bit further out there than the mainstream. No intro, straight into the vocals and for two seconds you think this could be an Amy Winehouse influenced track. Not a bit of it, although Megan Thomas has a fantastic voice so you think it's a possibility.

No, as soon as the guitar starts buzzing you know that Thomas Tantrum are not a band that's afraid to sound different. The result is that Sleep not only catches your attention the first time you hear it but keeps a hold of it for every play after, sounding better and better (for at least ten plays so far...).
Sleep ? Not while listening to this. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

NewVillager – Lighthouse * Single of the day * release date 27/3/2011

From a relatively simple intro Lighthouse builds layer upon layer of voices and sound to create a multi-dimensional sound-scape with subtle changes of beats and instrumentation. New Villager have created a track that is not only interesting and rich in ideas but also irresistibly uplifting on an almost subconscious level.

As a New York and San Francisco collaborative team additionally producing art, films and pretty much all other media, its unsurprising that Lighthouse has real depth as well as bridging genres. Simply an outstanding track.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Lost State Of Dance – War Against * Single of the day * release date 21/3/2011

Hartlepool four piece Lost State Of Dance give us a catchy, interesting and dynamic indie rock song in War Against.

The lyrics of conflict, sadly, could apply to several places in the Middle East and North Africa over the last few months and probably into the foreseeable future. In truth, even if the words are metaphorical, the sentiment is universal and the problem is eternal.

Sentiment apart the sound is tremendous. The thought that has gone into the construction of the song and in particular the use of the guitars to change the pace through the track is outstanding. The vocals are commited and well harmonised giving the song a complete feel as well as lifting Lost State Of Dance above the competition.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Doom Unit – Reckoning Day * Single of the day * 25/3/2011

The best heavy rock single released this week (in my youth this was called metal). Doom Unit's self-proclaimed mission is to make “great music to drink beer to” and they deliver just that.

Reckoning Day is not ground breaking, the rising chord progression in the chorus, the simple guitar licks highlighting the bridges and the contemplative gruff talky bit have all been done before. However Doom Unit do them all very well and do them to a bloody good song.

One morning this week I woke up singing the chorus. To put that into perspective I can't hum a single bar of Rebecca Black's Friday despite having heard it a gazillion times this week. You see I have extensively trained my neurons not to retain crap in my memory. I believe this gives Reckoning Day a resounding thumbs up.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Ice Black Birds – 22:22 * Single of the day * release date 21/3/2011

The sound of 22:22 could well be defined as new wave, that fuzzy intermediate step in music that punk rock took as its energy and rock'n'roll authenticity were fused to great song-writing, exemplified by the early work of Elvis Costello, Squeeze and The Boomtown Rats.

Ice Black Birds perform 22:22 with tremendous zeal, the vocals are forceful, the bass line is catchy enough to carry the intro, the squelchy guitar solo is bang on the mark and the drumming is amazing as it catalyses each change in the songs feel.

Every so often rock needs to look back to its roots and redefine them for the modern era. In the words of The Clash an ice age is coming. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Okkervil River – Wake And Be Fine * Single of the day * release date 21/3/2011

Wake And Be Fine contains many contrasts. The verses are frenetic and punchy with lyrics to match and standard rock instrumentation. Into this tempestuous sea the choruses arrive like tranquil islands, musically and lyrically, with string arrangements in soothing Viennese waltz-time.
Personally the combinations leave me thinking about how many levels there are to wake up from, the nightmares of sleep, the nightmares of the real world or the trance like state in which we drift through life.

Okkervil River's new album I Am Very Far is due for release on the 10th of May but Wake And Be Fine is available for free download from their website (link attached). Interestingly their previous single Mermaid was in slow waltz time if that's more your pace.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Pope Joan – A Drowning * Single of the day * release date 21/3/2011

If there is a track this week that I could imagine going down well in front of a rain soaked festival crowd it would be A Drowning. It just has all the right dynamics, a beat that would sound at its best through speakers the size of skyscrapers and a structure designed to whip the masses into a frenzy, resulting in a sea of arms singing 'whoah-whoa-whoa-oh'.

Maybe Pope Joan will headline Glastonbury or Reading one day and I'll be proved right, the odds must be shorter than another woman becoming Pope.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Explorer's Collective – The Factory * Single of the day * 21/3/2011

The Explorer's Collective describe their sound as hardcore pop and having voraciously devoured all their tracks available on the internet I wouldn't disagree. The Factory, however, is Funk Rock at its best. As with all their songs it is extremely clever lyrically and together with the action packed instrumentation is probably the best song covering the credit crunch and its aftermath I've heard (their track Bangers And Mash is also one of the best about serial killers).

Gary Brady and Loren Scott deserve big plaudits too for a fantastic video which is up there with Gerald Scarfe's production for Another Brick In The Wall. I've identified fourteen of the albums going into the mincer (listed in the comments, feel free to add any I've missed).

I'm absolutely amazed that at time of writing the track only has 250 views on You Tube, it deserves at least 100 times that. Of course that gives you the opportunity to get the kudos for recommending it to your friends, what are you waiting for ? 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Dimbleby & Capper – Let You Go * Single of the day * release date 21/3/2011

Prepare to be challenged. The first time I listened to Let You Go the gauntlet was thrown down to listen again. The industrial tinged verses are so incongruent compared to the majority of songs (actually all of them) released this week that it was a bit of a culture shock. However, when the chorus arrives it conjures a sense of self-realisation that would not be present without the starkly constructed verses.

Sometimes using a minor key just isn't sufficient to create the right mood and Laura Bettinson aka Dimbleby & Capper has gone that extra mile to give Let You Go full emotional impact.

Review Index 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Jonathan Jeremiah – Happiness * Single of the day * release date 20/3/11

Saturdays are always a funny day for me. It's the day I start going through the new releases for the coming week and having gone through a quarter of them I was getting a bit desperate (don't worry though there was good stuff lower down the list). So it was a great relief to me when I played Happiness because it just shone out with its sheer brilliance.

Its a beautiful song which could have been carried with just a guitar, however its been perfectly arranged with drums, brass and strings to produce a magical track. Jonathan Jeremiah delivers the vocals with real sincerity which adds to the timeless feel. If you told me this was a Cat Stevens hit I'd never heard before I wouldn't be surprised. Simply stunning.

Review Index 

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Dears – Blood * Single of the day * release date 13/3/11

The best words to describe Blood are epic rock. In the early seventies, at the height of prog rock, this could easily have taken up one side of an album. Forty years later and The Dears can condense all of those ideas into four minutes, obviously without a ten minute guitar solo, although there are some knarly guitar licks.

The Dears formed in Canada 15 years ago and are no strangers to critical acclaim, it's easy to see why. Blood is released from their fifth album Degeneration Street and the track is available for free download. The link is attached and all you need to do is enter your email. Sounds like a bargain to me. 

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Video Villain – Fearless * Single of the day * release date 14/3/11

Multi-talented are Marie France and Lucy Catherwood who are collectively know (at least musically) as Video Villain. As well as having their own clothing label 'Art Disco' they were formerly in Dead Disco and have just released a great début single in Fearless.

Their stated genre is club/industrial/punk and that basically sums up the sound. Of course once you have the sound you still have to pull all the right levers in the right places to make a good track. Fortunately for us they do exactly that and Fearless changes up and down gears enough to keep the ride interesting without ever getting bumpy.

Review Index 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Rocketeer – The Cowardly Soldier's Lament * Single of the day * release date 15/3/2011

Rocketeer could end up being a very special band. Having listened to all of their tracks on My Space and a few more on You Tube I'm pretty sure they're never going to be satisfied sticking to a genre or two (or several). They seem determined on giving each idea the room to grow and reach its full potential. By taking this approach at outset I'm certain they'll never be boxed into an expected sound and that leaves lots of space for development.

It's not for me to guess how The Cowardly Soldier's Lament came into existence. There is an almost latin feel to the chorus, a folk verse, poignant lyrics, you could almost believe this song was born in the peninsular war. Whatever the first idea was it has been built upon to create an illusion of time and place with faultless feel. The result is a beautiful track and I'm really looking forward to hearing what they come up with next.

 Review Index

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Pete And The Pirates – Come To The Bar * Single of the Day * release date 13/3/11

This is one of the few singles this week that really made me pay attention the first time I heard it. The intro takes me back to an '80's classroom, watching that minute hand slowly countdown, in anticipation of a schools programme. And the line "1979 and Heart Of Glass is playing" really starts me on a school disco nostalgia trip.

Come To The Bar does have an undeniable retro feel but there is so much more to it, great lyrics performed with heart and production that develops the sound from start to finish. Actually pick out any instrument in the mix and its part is evolving all the way through.

Pete And The Pirates really make this track an experience. I love it.

Review Index

Imperial Leisure – Dead Model release date 13/3/11

Dead Model is the latest release from London punk, rap and ska band Imperial Leisure. The track is also available for free download (link attached). Starting with a dark guitar riff and (as you can guess from the title) equally dark lyrics Dead Model is more towards the punk rock end of Imperial Leisure's spectrum. The ska influence is evident though in the stabbing organ underpinning the rhythm and soaring trumpet solo.

Performed with gusto and infectiously catchy it's a great taster for their new album Death To The One Trick Pony due out in the summer.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A Genuine Freakshow – Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness * Single of the day * release date 13/3/2011

Imagine how you would expect a song called Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness to sound. OK done it ? Well this sounds nothing like that.

This is a gorgeous indie pop song with subtle vocal interplay in the verses and harmonies in the chorus. Add to that lyrics in the bridge that provide more insights into the human condition than most navel gazing albums and you're almost there, because that's not quite all, A Genuine Freakshow also provide a rousing and glorious finale to guarantee satisfaction.

If you, like me, enjoy songs with several ideas pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a complete picture then Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness will not disappoint you.

Review Index

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Swimming – Sun In The Island * Single of the day * release date 7/3/2011

Sun In The Island sounds fantastic. The reason why it is so special is difficult to put a finger on, is it the athemic chorus, the floaty vocal bridges or the regular injection of overdriven guitar ?
Then I realised that except for the chorus and the drum breakdown it never repeats itself, even the verses have slightly different melody lines.

The genius of it is that you don't notice unless you look, it is seemeless, complete, when it could so easily sound disjointed. So don't look, just enjoy a perfect piece of indie rock by Swimming that will keep its fascination for play after play after play.......

Review Index 

Friday, 11 March 2011

Kid Mac – Hear You Calling (Featuring Mat McHugh) * Single of the day * release date 8/3/2011

When I heard Hear You Calling for the first time I was blown away. What impressed me was the perfect blend between urban and rock that Kid Mac and Mat McHugh have achieved. This doesn't feel like a cut and shut production, it feels like a melding of minds fusing two genres to a common goal. The result is a track that is sonically complete and is compulsive listening.

It's no surprise that Kid Mac won best urban artist at the 2010 MusicOz awards and I'm sure the wider world is waiting to bestow honours on him if this collaboration earns him a deserved breakthrough.

Review Index 

Seeräuber Jenny – Avelanche release date 6/3/2011

Seeräuber Jenny (a song from The Three Penny Opera, translation : Pirate Jenny) have produced a clever indie pop rock song with this one. Avalanche begins with a picked acoustic guitar, joined by twangy yet soft electric guitar and a melody line that leads you to believe it will be a pleasant little folk variant. However, the pace starts to pick up with little synth bursts and keeps gaining momentum before coming to a sudden shuddering halt and leaving you in stunned silence.

The result is like watching snow cascading down a mountainside, which I imagine was the intended result, clever indeed.

Review Index 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Captain And The Kings – It Is The Mercy * Single of the day * release date 7/3/2011

As a rule I don't watch the video of a song until I decide I like the actual song. It Is The Mercy is a great pop rock track with a folky undertone and a story in the lyrics, which the video then informed me was about a chap called Donald Crowhurst.

Wikipedia (link attached) rescued me from my ignorance and added an entire new level of poignancy to the song lifting it into the sublime.

Captain And The Kings have achieved something very special with It Is The Mercy and I strongly suggest you read the background story (if you don't already know it) to experience the full beauty of this track.

Kinsy Ray – Man In The Street release date 7/3/2011

If I had to allocate Man In The Street to a genre it would probably be blues but with a slight reggae feel. It's a great sound, however I much prefer the live performance on You Tube to the single release. The latter is considerably faster in pace and in my opinion the increase in speed leaves behind some of the soulfulness.

Kinsy Ray can definitely put a song across, delivering its sentiment with great passion, which again is more evident on the live version. Having said all of that the recorded version is still miles ahead of the game.

Review Index 

The Big Crunch Theory – Arrows release date 7/3/2011

Occasionally it's nice to have a track just wash over you rather than pondering its intricacies. Arrows is a gentle little soft synth ditty with sweet double tracked vocals from French duo The Big Crunch Theory. I could imagine this being an indie song circa 1982 (their album is actually called '1992') given its basic synth sound and hand-clapping beat, maybe that's what I like about it.

So if you fancy a bit of aesthetically pleasing pop without too many complications you could do worse that this.

Review Index

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jenny Wilson – Bad Waters * Single of the day * release date 7/3/2011

This song does not abuse a vocoder. This song does not use strange synth sounds to muddy the mix. This song does not have a 30 second rap inserted into it to make it 'urban'. This song does not go better with coke, though it may go well with a nice glass of wine.

This song is just a fine example of how good R'n'B can be. Jenny Wilson has a great voice and uses it to sing a fantastic song. Mostly piano, handclaps and backing vocals, additional instrumentation is used only sparingly to add tension to the middle of the track.

The result is a production that could have been made 50 years ago but seems very rare today. Wonderful.

Review Index 

Cloud Control – There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight release date 6/3/2011

There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight is the latest single from Cloud Control's Australian Music Prize winning album Bliss Release.

Ernest indie pop with an ethereal synth backed guitar sound. Irresistible from start to finish with production and arrangement that doesn't allow the track to drag.

Their album dented the charts in their native Australia, it will be interesting to see what success they have away from home, their sound certainly travels well.

Review Index 

Roxy's Wardrobe - Blitz And Pieces release date 7/3/2011

There is a balance that needs to be found in hard rock tracks between delivering the energy of the performance whilst conveying the song underneath. Bristol based Roxy's Wardrobe have managed to achieve this with their second single release.

Blitz And Pieces is the best up-front rock track I've heard in weeks. Thumping drums and bass with a great guitar sound. The counter-play between lead and distant backing vocals in the verses works perfectly, lifting it a level, as does the winding down outro.

Their first single Chemicals.Perfume.Burn, with a bit more of a grunge feel, is also worthy of a listen.

Review Index

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Mausi – Follow Me Home * Single of the day * release date 8/3/2011

Follow Me Home is a terrific bouncy guitar pop début from Newcastle based band Mausi. Catchy chorus with great harmonies pushed along by a dynamic arrangement.
Better still it's available for free download from their website (link attached below), which is an admirable idea to get their music out there and prick the public consciousness.

Too many bands post one minute teasers for their singles on You Tube. Some get less than a hundred hits by time of release suggesting that music piracy is the least of their worries. Not so Mausi who are clearly not that short-sighted.

They very much deserve followers, giving the world the gift of a great song should win them some, they've  certainly found one here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Boy Mandeville – Killing The Work * Single of the day * release date 7/3/2011

Killing The Work is the latest single from London afrobeat-pop quartet Boy Mandeville. This reminded me that I almost wrote a review for Paul Simon's new single The Afterlife last week, suggesting that it felt like a long lost jewel from the Graceland album, the sound hadn't really evolved. I say this only to give a frame of reference.

Boy Mandeville sound a generation apart from Graceland as much as Madness sounded a generation apart from Prince Buster and like Madness they have infused their genre with a London vibe which has taken it to another plane. Listen to Killing The Work, hear evolution.

Review Index 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Lull – Weapons For War * Single of the day * release date 6/3/2011

The intro of Weapons For War sets up an epic battle scene. Distant atonal horns give way to beats over an intensifying drone as two opposing armies line up against each other. There follows an almost metronomic pause as if time is standing still in anticipation of what is to come. The beat then forces you forward pausing, occasionally, for reflection and a gasp of breath.

A Lull certainly aren't new to the scene and I'm not tipping this to be a chart hit, but it is an outstanding track and deserves a listen.

Review Index 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Feldberg – Don't Be A Stranger * Single of the day * release date 28/2/2011

There is something about Icelandic female vocalists. If they sang a phone book it would sound vulnerable and intriguing. Of course if they sing lyrics that suggest just that then it's a great combination.

There aren't any twists or turns in Don't Be A Stranger it's just a little charmer of a pop song. As I've listened to it more and more its grown on me and that can only be a good thing. Add to that a cover that appears to pay homage to 10cc's album How Dare You and Feldberg were always going to get a sympathetic ear from me.

So give it a couple of listens and don't be a stranger to Feldberg.

Review Index

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Zambian Astronaut – Underworld (feat. Werd) * Single of the day * release date 1/3/2011

Underworld is the début release of Edinburgh multimedia outfit Zambian Astronaut. Dark electronica with darker lyrics and convincing vocal performance. Put it on repeat and it sounds better and better.

It's fashionable to stick rap into tracks but the rap elements from Werd are sympathetic to the track and add to the feel, representing a transition in the sound and giving an extra dimension, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.

Add to this some clever production to keep in sonically interesting and the result is a great listen.

Review Index

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Felix Fables – The Stories I Could Tell * Single of the day * release date 1/3/2011

As you would expect from a band described on their website as folk'n'roll The Stories I Could Tell delivers a mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation with great harmonies and a rustic feel.

This is a beautiful song with that certain quality of sounding familiar on first listen whilst being fresh and different at the same time. The pace shifts up and down gears and the breakdown and resurrection at the end caps it off nicely.

I've listened to the sampler of the E.P. (the second of a Felix Fables E.P. Trilogy) and if you like the overall sound of The Stories I Could Tell the rest of the tracks will not disappoint.

Review Index

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Stephen Young & The Union – Coke & Rum release date 25/2/2011

Imagine you're driving through the New Mexico badlands in a Corvette Stingray with smokey on your tail, Coke & Rum would be the soundtrack.

The originality of a song is partly down to the company it keeps. I like the Kings Of Leon but if I hear another rock track this week influenced by their production style I will scream. However, Stephen Young & The Union have produced a track that harks back to 70's southern rock and sounds fresh because of it.

The only thing missing now is a summers day and a sunset worthy of driving into.

Review Index

Chicros – Within You (starring Brisa Roché) * Single of the day * release date 28/2/2011

Within You by French band Chicros is a straightforward up-tempo indie pop song. What makes it stand out is that each element is executed perfectly.

There's a story in the lyrics, brought to life by effective imagery, convincingly delivered by Brisa Roché. The intro, with count-in, gives a feeling of spontaneity to the track, the lead guitar augments the beat in the breaks and a lone horn gives occasional relief to the vocal. The production and arrangement builds and eases to create texture throughout the song.

Chicros have thoughtfully ticked every box, now listen and enjoy.

Review Index