Saturday, 28 February 2009

Eminem Feat. 50 Cent and Dr. Dre - Crack A Bottle

Guess who’s back, back again, shady’s back, tell a friend. Yes that’s right little boys and girls the boogie monster of rap yeah the man’s back. If you have not got the hint, Eminem has re-entered the building and he’s brought along his best peeps to show the whole world how rap should be done.
Growing up in the most gangster ridden area of the world (The Cotswolds), me and my crew loved a bit of Eminem with his crazy ideas after school and slowly we brought up the albums like Eminem took painkiller pills at his peak – his ideas were really nightmares for white parents. However, since departing stage right in 2005, Eminem has keep pretty quiet. Sure we were enticed by the beats of 50 Cent, Kayne West (before he went weird) and the Game. But what we yearned for was Eminem to reignite our passion for rap music- in 2008 he called his own radio show and declared he was back.
The song itself isn’t classic Eminem in the way Stan, Lose Yourself or Without Me are, but what is a solid return by the world’s favourite rapper. It is has a hit guaranteed written in large spray can typeface all over its peroxide blonde hair. Lyrically, Eminem keeps it simple, talking drinking and generally having a good time without being too controversial. Dr. Dre lends himself to excellent production and an intelligent rap section. 50 cent’s slower rap section is again well crafted. The boxing match introduction of each character is a nice touch and adds a touch of theatre to the song- Eminem’s self introduction is tongue firmly in check.
It’s no less then what would be required from the three of the six biggest names in rap- the other’s being Kayne West, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. However it cleverly leaves you wanting more…let’s hope the album delivers that knockout blow.

Review by George “Insert Rap Name Here” McSorley

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Doves – Kingdom of Rust

It’s always struck me a strange thing to pity the stars, those who get to make their livelihood doing what they love, but when it comes to the Doves, it becomes a little more understandable. While hardly lingering in obscurity, they’ve never made the jump into the mainstream, Metro Arena world that’s been predicted for them even since ‘Lost Souls’ back in 2000. Well, it’s 2009 now, and perhaps inspired by the Elbow have been clasped to the nation’s collective bosom in the last year, they’re back with the first single and title track from their fourth album, ‘Kingdom of Rust’.
Yes yes, all well and good…but how does it actually sound? It’s in possession of the same driving beats and yearning vocals the Doves have always possessed, but there’s a distinct rockabilly-via-Alex-Turner sensibility to the verse that doesn’t entirely befit the band. When the strings kick in though, it’s immediately evident that they get Scott Walker a damn sigh better than the aforementioned Alex and his mate ever have, and the song slowly morphs into the kind of stampeding epic that they’ve always excelled at. Although not at the same level as career highlight “There Goes The Fear”, the track’s very much an extension of the post-millennial angst of its parent album ‘The Last Broadcast’, with only the occasional nod of the head to the changes in the rock landscape since 2005’s ‘Some Cities’. It’s a good tune alright, but unlike – and apologies for bringing them up again, but it’s just too good a comparison to avoid – Elbow’s comeback “Grounds for Divorce”, it doesn’t quite go for the jugular in the way that Doves perhaps need to right now. “Kingdom of Rust” is bound to find a place in the heart of any Doves fan, but sadly their brand of populist ambition seems set to appeal only to the converted in the age of landfill indie. Sigh.

Review by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Chris Cornell – Part Of Me

Why Chris, why? As a profoundly introverted and socially inept youth, Soundgarden were rock royalty to me: hell, I even went as far as to buy that terrible second Audioslave album (although at least I didn’t waste anything on the third…). ‘Superunknown’ is still one of the best unashamedly, full-on rock albums to come out of America in the nineties, but it’s hard to hear this as anything else but a full-on sonic kick in the balls for my fourteen year-old self.
Teaming up with respected hip-hop production maestro Timbaland might have seemed good on paper, but when both sides of the equation are well past their prime (Timbaland’s never going to top his early collaborations with Missy Elliot, while Cornell’s not been worth a damn since the first Audioslave record), it’s a recipe for disaster. Which, unsurprisingly, is exactly what ‘Part Of Me’ is. Desperately searching for something to re-ignite his creative spark, Chris Cornell’s got Timbaland to fart out some embarrassingly dated beats of a calibre he would have been ashamed of a few years back that, when combined with Cornell’s increasingly hack-like Robert Plant-isms, actually rip a hole in the space-time continuum to several years back (where, for the record, this would still be unforgivably shit). By the time the chorus’s lament of “That bitch ain’t a part of me!” rolls around, the only possible reaction is to bury your head in your hands, while remembering that this used to be the guy who sang “Jesus Christ Pose”. That no one thought to burn the master-tapes for this atrocity and spare everyone involved the embarrassment of inflicting this upon an unsuspecting public is frankly astonishing. If there’s a worse attempt at career-invention this year, then I’ll personally bite my own arse off.

Review by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Richard Emberstone - Amazing Love EP

Soul music has given the world some of the very best signers the world has ever seen: Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Stevie Wonder all spring to mind. Today soul music is a different beast, indented to sell on a mass scale especially the all American brand churned out by Neyo and others of that ilk. They are all very successful and probably will not feel the effects of credit crunch.
However, over here on this little island we have in the North Atlantic; soul music has never had the same pull especially when it’s made by someone from Southampton- yes I am talking to you Mr. David. Yet it hasn’t stopped us trying and next to take up this most noble task is a Mr. Richard Emberstone from that cultural epicentre known as London.
If Emberstone’s music was a cooking ingredient, it would be the sweetest sugar ever produced, and would make even the worst baker appear like some cooking demy God. His voice could quite possibly seduce even the most ardent man hater. This lady would then run off with him and have a jolly good time.
Track wise, the five songs on offer owe a debt to the aforementioned Mr. Neyo, Brown and David. Yet this is not a bad thing though- reworking a proven formula is what science does all the time and they are not accused of plagiarism. Each song is nicely crafted and shows off Emberstone’s vocal ability well. Opening track When It Suited You is your archetypical soul love song complete with a few cheesy lines. If You Were A Secret continues in the same manner. You get the feeling at times that he’s trying to write the ultimate seduction album which is a noble cause yet flawed because Marvin’s won that one. This is not to dismiss Emberstone- he can write and song a good song and it will seduce someone somewhere although where I am not sure. The title track is yet more slushy love but with a slightly funkier twist. Penultimate track Move On slows down the action with a crying violin and slow piano riff. Although it is more of the same lovely stuff. Final track has a jazz feel to it and the breakdown towards the end of the record is a nice touch.
Emberstone may not be everyone’s cup of sugar filled tea, what he is though is a solid soul signer who maybe should be given a chance.

Review by George McSorley

Peter Bruntenell - 8 Lane Highway

Acoustic driven, folk based pop with a subtle hint of psychedelic delivered in a very British manner...hasn’t that be done before? Probably, but give him his due, Peter Bruntenell is actually pretty good at it.

Eight Mile Highway fits the bill’ and sets its self out as a typically English song with its tale of lost and found love placed over catchy instrumental back up. Fitting almost perfectly into the soft radio friendly guitar genre which gets eaten up regularly by Radio 2 and commercial radio- which is confusing because according to the Rolling Stone Magazine, Peter Bruntenell is England’s best kept secret- so why not release him into the wider world for everyone to enjoy?

Review by George McSorley

Drop Science - Cocaine Nation

Dropscience have decided that what we need is a ska punk look at how drugs are taking over our streets
This track starts with a might hit of noise, then settles into a speed fuelled jaunt, the effects Charlie has had on our dear island. The song is driven by a vivacious drum beat and the keyboard gives the song is distinctive ska edge. Its social commentary is witty without being overly clever.
This is defiantly the harder punky edge of ska, although this is not to dismiss the song. It is well executed and played out with a lot of passion.

Review by George McSorley

Diarmaid O Meara - Paranoid EP

Irish and techno are not normally found sitting snugly side by side in a loving embrace. However it has not stopped Irishman Diarmaid O Meara from trying.
Paranoid” is a standard techno fare with pulsating drum loops and sirens. However underneath the noise is quite a decent dance song which will get most places jumping. “Blue” is the better of the two on offer with its retro keyboards and sound effect loops. Again underneath there is a good dance beat which will get people moving.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of the techno scene will embrace it with welcoming arms.

Review by George McSorley

Friday, 20 February 2009

Tom Williams & The Boat – Doing My Best E.P.

Tom Williams deserves more attention. He’s released 3 E.P's since late 2007, that’s already over 20 songs for everyone right? On top of this his promotion company have had the foresight and knowledge to send his newest E.P. to our little old student radio station which is usually only reserved for bigger record companies and local artists. The CD comes with free Polaroid’s which can’t be the most cost conscious but is always a nice touch. Also there is the typical ‘bands supported list’ which seems back to front; best leave The Wombats to the end…in a really small size, or better still, in the wingding’s font.

The E.P. itself is a progression from last year’s 8 track ‘Got Fuel’, with a bigger band sound and tracks which explore a wide range of emotions. From the upbeat, autobiographical ‘24’ to the more sorrowful ‘Voicemail’ the songs fit together perfectly. A constant theme throughout the E.P. is that of growing up and not being ‘cool’ a common subject matter but something easy to relate to. Title track ‘Doing My Best’ is catchy but tracks 1 and 2 show the band at their best. ‘24’ and ‘Concentrate’ highlight the strength of Tom Williams’ song writing and cement his place as one of the U.K’s most promising singer-songwriters and the added dimension of a band only strengthens this.

On this evidence, given the recent resurgence in the popularity of British anti-folk it won’t be long before Tom Williams and the Boat gain wider recognition, on a par with those they’ve supported.

Review by Christian Allen

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Shortwave Fade - Deletia

Shortwave Fade is set to release their debut album “Deletia” on March 9th on Slice Pie Records.
Starting everything of with an electronic whirlwind, but not dance electronic music, the album enters the listener’s ears. The style of electronic music that marks Shortwave Fade is a chill-out relaxing electronic sound. The first song Stay As You Are reminds a bit of the Mexican band Zoé, which is probably a good thing. It has to be said though that the song is missing something, the beginning is more promising than what the listener gets in the end. The music becomes slightly repetitive, and the vocals are hard to make out. To Late To Tell the singer has a voice that resembles Ben Gibbard on the lines “been here before/we’ve seen the signs”.
Overall I like the album, even thought I have the tendency to let it flow over me, and stop listening. It is the perfect music to study to, as it is not annoying in any way, it can almost be said to be relaxing. The vocals are the main thing that the band should work on improving in the future, as the sound of their songs is really good. Still there is a certain punch to it all that is missing. Currently I really like Cover Your Eyes, and I believe that this album will grow on me, and many others after a couple of listens. And then Onto the Ark, has the punch that is missing on the rest of the record, it makes you want to listen to the whole things again, interesting concept for building up an album.

Review by Solveig Werner

White Lies – Farewell to the Fairground

I had, until this point, somehow managed to avoid White Lies (not through intent, more through coincidence). I realise now that this was a mistake. I frankly loved Farewell to the Fairground. It was catchy, well performed Indie fare, but better than usual. Although not usually a massive fan of the Indie scene, Farewell to the Fairground really did it for me. So much so, that I now intend to go straight down to HMV and buy everything else they’ve recorded. Take from that what you will.

Review by Chris Render

WhoMadeWho - The Plot

If there’s one word that best describes The Plot, it is “catchy”. Both the title track and This Train were enjoyable, memorable synth filled tunes, simultaneously reminiscent of both The White Stripes and The Scissor Sisters (at least that’s who I was reminded of). All in all, both tracks were competent and enjoyable, and I will definitely look out for WhoMadeWho in coming months. The album of the same name is released on March 23rd.

Review by Chris Render

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Animal Collective – My Girls

They’ve been beloved by the internet community and various pockets of industry insiders for years now, but it’s only with this year’s magnificent ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ that Animal Collective have had their first chance at real, crossover success. Hoping to capitalise on the rave reviews and unprecedented (for a band as experimental as Animal Collective) attention surrounding the album, Domino Records have selected “My Girls” as a single to try and sell their unique sound to the masses.
Well, “My Girls” is, if nothing else, an incredible piece of music. Building up from a simple synth arpeggio, the track slowly gains momentum over its almost six-minute run-time as Panda Bear’s ecstatic vocals leap into the stratosphere and the band’s trademark tribal percussion ratchets up the tempo. And there’s that instantly memorable chorus: “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things / Like my social status / I just want four walls and adobe slabs / For my girls”. Honestly, when was the first time you heard something of such unadorned love and passion in a song? It’s a universal sentiment, but this expression of familial love and rejecting the rat race is, in 2009, powerful belong reckoning. It’s here that the real genius of not just this song, but its parent album also, lies: the music treads a fine line between Beach Boys melodocism and avant-garde electronic experimentation, but the thing that makes it such a compelling reason is the great beating heart at the core of the album – there’s not been any music so nakedly human and humane in years. Whether Animal Collective continue to be a cult concern or whether they’re destined to hit the big leagues by the year’s end, there’s very little chance that there’ll be another song as powerful and jubilant as “My Girls”.

Review by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Monday, 16 February 2009

Eugene McGuiness - Fonz

Never judge a book by its cover is a phrase best served by this song- the promotional material had me ridged with fear with its picture of an old man in a leather jacket doing a half baked Fonz from Happy Days impression. But when placing music into a genetic mp3 player an amazing noise of guitar dance music came throbbing out of the speakers and into my little room.
Although being over in 2.22 minutes, it is well crafted and constructed piece which engages the listener from the first to the last beat. This is surely to become a staple of indie dance nights across the nation.
Remember: Never judge a book by its cover.

Review by George McSorley

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Flashguns – Locarno

There’s a certain irresistible charm about Flashguns. In a world where bands seem more and more ready to forgo the melody and a decent tune for some other-worldly synth beat or a guitar riff that rips your ears to shreds, the atmospheric and soothing nature of ‘Locarno’ is a sudden moment of relief. They show that maybe a couple of guitars, a drumkit to bash and some half-decent vocals are enough after all. It won’t take you to far off worlds but it reminds you this one isn’t so bad itself.

Review by Rob Sellars

Kansas Burns - Rip Out Your Heart

Geordie rockers Kansas Burns’ second EP Rip Out Your Heart came to me as a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard of Kansas Burns prior to reviewing this EP, but after hearing the passionate vocals and skilled guitar work of ROYH, I will definitely be keeping an eye on them. The band provide an air of undeniable passion for the music, and support said passion with notable musical competence. Kansas Burns mix hard rock influences with contemporary prog-metal. The fully instrumental title track is a particular highlight, and if nothing else it’s nice to hear more Geordies in the music industry.

Review by Chris Render

Kasms - Bone You

The new single from the Kasms debut album is an eclectic and without doubt alternative piece, with a sound that is completely indescribable (if forced, I’d call it psychotic alt-rock). The London-based Kasms are nothing if not original, and whilst their unique sound may not appeal to everyone, definitely existing outside of the mainstream, I personally found it very enjoyable.

Review by Chris Render

Keith - Lullaby

Lullaby is a rather sedate indie single from Manchester based band Keith, and not an unenjoyable one. The track combines soft and considered lyrics with accomplished indie instrumental strains. On the whole, a very good track.

Review by Chris Render

Five Finger Death Punch -The Way of the Fist

I have mixed feelings about The Way of the Fist, the debut album from American metal group Five Finger Death Punch. Whilst 5FDP are clearly a group of skilled musicians, lyrically they’re a bit too heavy for my tastes. All in all, the aggressive lyrics and competent instrumental work of Five Finger Death Punch are a prime example of American death metal. Other than some of the songs being a bit samey, it is difficult to criticise 5FDP.
Review by Chris Render

Exampla Traunt - I Feel You

I had no idea how to approach this prog-rock EP from Exampla Traunt. It is an attempt to create a technologically based form of rock music, blending progressive rock with psychedelic sounds to produce an EP that I found to be quite enjoyable. Although far removed from the mainstream, I Feel You mixes catchy tunes with psychedelic yet undeniably accomplished vocal work. The result is to say the least an enjoyable EP that pushes the boundaries of rock music. If (like me) you are a fan of Canadian prog-rockers Rush, then this should definitely appeal to you.

Review by Chris Render

Passion Pit- Chunk of Change

I must first apologise for sounding like a middle-aged grumpy man, but in the times we live, swathes of bands are making mediocre music. Young whippersnappers think it sufficient to construct the simplest of pop songs and then toss the odd bit of synth over the top. Then they have the cheek- the sheer cheek- to call themselves dance-crossover. So what do the ragamuffins that make up Passion Pit have to arrest my attention before I return to alphabetically arranging my record collection?
The answer, thank golly-gosh, is decent songs. From the paralytic static and chipmunk melodies that introduce you to Sleepyhead to the heartfelt squealing and Friendly Fires funk of I’ve Got Your Number, Passion Pit have memorable and original songs that recall the pop sensibilities of the eighties. When they do pile on the unneeded synth, you can forgive their excesses for the fact that the song is never swallowed. Chunk of Change does everything a good EP should- it showcases a powerful statement of intent, and gets grumpy old men like me to stop and take notice. Now that’s an achievement.

Review by Gordon Bruce

Friday, 13 February 2009

Brakes- Hey Hey

For a band that thrives on unpredictability, the new Brakes single doesn’t disappoint in providing something unexpected; but does in just about every other way. It’s got a big, cauterizing rock riff not too dissimilar from that Hives song everyone was salivating over a while back (or even worse, long forgotten New Zealand stalwarts Stereogram), that carries with it more than a sense of déjà vu. Ultimately, it feels like it’s really not their shtick; like your dad uncomfortably enthusing about the last episode of Skins. Even eccentricities that seemed natural and playful on previous releases seem a bit forced (‘Hey! Hey! It’s a Tarzan day! BLLLLEEUUGGGGGGHHHHH!’). All in all, it’s seems like a very throwaway statement from a rather special band; not so much hitting the Brakes but cruising on autopilot, lets hope the album doesn’t see one of our generation’s best rock bands lapse into mediocrity.

Review by Ben Lowes-Smith

Red Light Company – Arts & Crafts

There is the sneaking suspicion that Red Light Company should never have started out as a small venue kind of band, but that their soaring epics have always just been waiting for the arenas to come calling. Arts & Crafts only reinforces that, with obligatory piano intro subtly opening the door to crashing crescendos, massive choruses and thundering melodies. This is a song that is fully committed to the anthem blueprint, and it must quite literally be knocking walls down in venues across the country, searching for the crowd figures it yearns for. That Red Light Company continues to support such a claim with tunes likes this however, is the real trick.

Review by R. Sellars

The Virgins – Teen Lover

At last, The Virgins may break through that unruly barrier that has been diverting their sound from the ears of the deserving public. ‘Teen Lovers’ is the epitome of cool, there’s no two ways about it. Its like a blend of 60’s groove, 80’s funk and modern rock, like if John Lennon played with MGMT, or Barry White guesting on a Flaming Lips record. The intro only hints at what is to come, but instantly captures the ear, sending a message to your legs to get off that chair and cut some shapes. It’s addictive melodies and thumping beats combine with searing vocals to form a package that at once gets you up on your feet, and at the same time makes you want to find a strangers bed to lie down in.

Review by R. Sellars

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Innerpartysystem – Don’t Stop (Mixes)

With this release of remixes, Innerpartysystem have created a tasty package that bodes well for the dancefloors and festival fields of the future. With heavy beats and some stunning melodies, each remix has its own distinctive vibe that challenges the last for which most gets the heart beating in whole new ways and bringing all kinds of shapes out of those hips. The energy flowing through the veins of this collection is rivalled by few, and 2009 promises to be a huge year for Innerpartysystem.

Review by R. Sellars

‘Spaceman’- The Killers

By my own admission, I am no Killers fan. It’s nothing personal, it’s just their music isn’t my music. However, if all their songs were like ‘Spaceman’, I may be forced to change my mind. I will readily admit I have absolutely no idea what the song is about or what the lyrics mean and I think this is a huge part of the attraction; getting lost in the anthemic chorus and chanting along with frontman Brandon from start to finish. You can’t help but feel the need to sing along or at least tap your feet to ‘Spaceman’, and who am I to complain- after all, ‘The star maker says it aint so bad!

Review by Matthew Blackwell

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Micachu and the Shapes – Vuitton Blues

Have you ever listened to a record and had no idea whatsoever who it’s meant to appeal to? Well, that’s the experience this reviewer went though while listening to Micachu and the Shapes tackle Laurel Collective’s ‘Vinton Blues’.
Seemingly the work of some especially strange executive at Double Six Records, who’ve already released a fairly naff Laurel Collective take on Micachu’s ‘Golden Phone’, this cover of ‘Vuitton Blues’ seems like some attempt to try and thwart the careers of two bands in one fell swoop.
Giving the song an unfortunate nu-rave makeover, Micachu take out the fizzy, Associates-esque appeal of the original artist and replace it with a load of ugly, neon bollocks (the synths in particular sounding especially hideous). Although in theory they should be given credit for not just doing a lazy, tribute act run-through of the track, that seems a little akin to rewarding a kleptomaniac who’s managed to avoid stealing anything, but’s punched an innocent bystander in the throat for a giggle.
A truly terrible idea that’s really not much better in execution, the advice here is two-fold: firstly, just check the fairly fun, breezy indie-pop of the original, and much more importantly, don’t listen to bands with names like Micachu and the Shapes. They’ve pretty much bound to be terrible.

Review by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The All American Rejects - Gives You Hell

In ‘Gives You Hell’, the All American Rejects have created one those songs perfect to break up to, it presents that strong, ‘don’t give a damn’ facade, when in reality we’re all bubbling away with jealousy and resentment under the surface. The band’s trademark brand of light pop-punk riffs and lyrics are all there as expected, and whilst the hook and chorus is infectious, begging you to sing along, the song still suffers from an air of the repetitive. Definitely worth a listen; especially if you’ve recently undergone a split from a loved one, just don’t leave it on repeat- it may drive you crazy.

Review By Matthew Blackwell