Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Junk - Novus Ordo Seclorum

Reviewed by John Tait

Skacore: An interesting genre and one I can’t say I’ve heard too much of. However The Junk have given me an interest in their debut Novus Ordo Seclorum. As a punk addict I can safely say the first part of track 1 will not disappoint. With tight instrumentation, it begins with the energetic fast drumming that is so fundamental to many a good punk band. That is the first half of track number 1 however, which is followed by some kind of break down and I had no idea what was happening or what they were getting at, the song petering out eventually. Never mind, the second track has more punch to it, and I got a feel of the Mad Caddies with a gritty Leftover Crack edge. This track is more chirpy n’ cheerful, saving the record from banality in my view, and track 3 delivers a very listenable sound. The music is ideal for any fans of street punk and/or ska, although it may lack one or the other for some. One more issue I have with this is that the vocals sound a bit distant. Some of the raw energy devoted to their instruments would give the vocals the boost the band so very much needs. But apart from those easily solved issues The Junk should keep it up.


Catherine Maclellan - Water in the Ground

Reviewed by John Tait

My first impressions of this artist were light hearted, easy to listen to and with a jazzy feel (especially in the bass line). I grew fond of this album after the first 10 seconds of hearing it, thinking of K.T Tunstall and other artists with a similar sound. The album progressed with some very nice harmonies and a great arrangement. The tracks don’t last too long which is a common mistake made by musicians in the same genre all too often, stagnating their records. Her voice has a fresh feel to it, every track sounding a bit different in its vocal delivery from the last. I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics, I couldn’t tell you whether they were inspiring or not, but there is no denying the talent here. It is hard to think of anything negative to say about this album. If you are after strong lyrics and a more edgy quality to your folk then try The Tossers. For what it is however, this album could easily be described as a wonderful effort. But there is a time and a place for it, as was evident in my housemates comment when passing through the living room as track 5 was playing- “Shall I light some candles?”.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

Thyrd Eye - Say Something

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Thyrd Eye boasts a neo punk alternative vibe throughout all three tracks on this single EP, Say Something. However while the band remain consistent on style and astute to their influences the sound produced is fairly messy with vocals being eclipsed by instrumentals and a general lack of distinction between bass and lead. The single Say Something is ridden with riffs and sounds similar to Nine Inch Nails earlier work. However the B side tracks Year Of The Dog and If I Wait Too Long lack the same edge as the title track. This record will be one for fans of more heavier industrial music but beyond that Thyrd Eye is unlikely to appeal.

Kaskade Vs. Deadmau5 - Move For Me

Reviewed by Helen Stephenson

I am a great believer that the UK and those across the Atlantic (in this case America and Canada) are on equal footing musically. In fact, it frustrates me when people claim that one or the other country is currently musically superior to the other. I would like to think that at least some Americans and Canadians would agree with me that both music scenes are as valid as the other, and both are willing to accept the other’s music. Unfortunately, Kaskade and Deadmau5’s management did not agree until recently.

‘Move For Me’ was released across the pond in 2008. Whilst there is sometimes a lag of a couple of months between tracks being released on one side of the Atlantic compared to the other, a year and half delay is out of the ordinary and a little puzzling. Do the people pulling the strings behind Kaskade and Deadmau5 really believe that the UK is a year and a half behind the music trends of their own countries? Or were they waiting for Deadmau5 to hit the peak of his popularity here, and if so how do they know that the time is now? Perhaps his sold out show at the Newcastle O2 Academy last month was the giveaway, but I’d like to think that dance music DJs have a better habit of enduring after their mass popularity and continuing to perform to sold out venues long after their first chart successes, unlike pop artists. See Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy as examples (an all British sample I admit, but we’re all equal, right?). So why the gap? Answers on a postcard, please.

‘Move For Me’ is a beautiful little song, catchy and no doubt already performing well on the UK dance scene. My only complaint is a lack of forward movement within the song. Neither the music nor the lyrics have enough of interest to grab your attention; unfortunately it features nothing out of the ordinary from a number of dance hits I have heard recently. Nevertheless I found myself singing along to the hook in no time at all. Overall it is a pleasant enough track; it just doesn’t have enough individuality to make it stand out as a classic, enduring tune.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lost Prophets - End of the World

Reviewed by Scott McLoughlin

Potentially more polarising for fans than their last studio album ‘Liberation transmission’, ‘Its Not the End of The World’, the latest single from the Lost Prophets, is a further step away from their pop punk break through material. Fans disenchanted by ‘Liberation Transmission’ will not find a return to the Welsh rockers glory days of ‘Shinobi Vs Dragon Ninja’, ‘Burn Burn’ or ‘Last Train Home’. Likewise, Transmission fans may too be disenchanted. ‘End of the World’, perhaps appropriately, does have a darker feel about it. The darkness, and some degree of emo apathy, must have spilled into the Prophet’s studio as even the sound quality has a shadowy feel. The bass is heavy and dull; whilst the guitars appear to aim for a fussy vs. clean tone contrast. However, they are predominately fussy throughout. The contrasting cleaner tones suffer from lack of volume. In fact contrast is only successfully reached when the song turns ‘Muse-y/ Matt Bellamy-esc’ in the guitar breakdown mid track that seems dramatically different to the darkness of track as a whole.

On first listen ‘End of the World’ is a disappointment (unless it is indeed the first Prophets track you’ve ever listened to). Even the happy choruses and chanting characteristic of ‘Liberation Transmission’ have been warped and seem sinister. In fact, I would describe ‘the woahs’ throughout ‘end of the world’ as uninspired. Akin to a noisy group of idiotic and drunken lads out on the razz; the Prophets fail to produce a convincing or fitting chorus harmony. Saving grace you plea? Luckily there is. In the last 50 seconds there is a moment of sheer quality. Ian Watkins actually unleashes his voice. So good is his voice in these fleeting seconds I will even go as far to say it actually saves the song. Instead of playing the song all the way through, you can, like me, just skip to that brilliantly loud moment over and over. No doubt, this track will continue to cause debate amongst Prophets Fans.

Nevertheless, I believe a complete removal of expectation, and a fresh look at the Lost Prophets is required whenever they release anything. They regularly reinvent their sound, and this must be complimented. Yet, if this was the first Lost Prophets track I ever heard I’m sure I’d enjoy it, but I’m not sure I’d rate it as special. I think on this one the listener should decide.

My Opinion: an on the fence 2.5/5….Ian Watkins’ scream alone 4/5

Absent Elk - Change My World

Reviewed by Scott McLoughlin

Unlike many, I had the advantage of knowing Absent Elk prior to being asked to review their track ‘Change My World’; an absolutely lovely and thoroughly enjoyable track. Serene, gentle and composed, ‘change my world’ is very agreeable. The vocals of Kjetil Morland are likewise as agreeable; reaffirming this Anglo-Norwegian five pieces tranquil charm. However, ‘change my world’ is not their strongest song, or the song of theirs I would tout to a friend hoping they become a fan. Though beautiful, it is quite forgettable, unlike, for example, their ubër catchy tune ‘Cannibals’. What I do know, however, is that ‘change my world’ adds credibility and variety to a band sporting a largely indie-pop sound. In the age of x-factor and what I like to call ‘capital orientated crap pop’ (a big general opinion I know) it is refreshing to hear a good band playing and writing good popular music. This track has everything a good pop song needs; likable vocals, pleasant acoustic guitar, strings, and drums that build up but don’t over power. It isn’t even over produced! When the drums kick in you can’t help but smile, and think things like; ‘Wow…life really isn’t all bad, at least we have sparrows…and chaffinches’. Mindless mental wanderings aside, it seems pop has become somewhat of a taboo term, associated with less than ‘indie-cool’ things. If you ask me Absent Elk are indie-cool, yet remain categorically pop. Just looking at the bands Absent Elk have supported gives you an inclination that they are indeed pop act (for those interested Elk have supported: Girl’s Aloud, the Script, Keane, and the Hoosiers). They have also done a pretty good home recording and reworking of Lady Gaga’s Pokerface: available to listen to on YouTube. Unashamedly, as a result of listening to Absent Elk I am happy to say I have some faith in good pop again. If you really wanted to you could describe Absent Elk as Scandinavian folk driven gentle indie, but that’s stupid, it’s guitar pop, and that’s nothing to be put off by. Well done Absent Elk, and thank you for bringing back some pop hope to the ‘scene’ generations (even if that wasn’t your intention).

Absent Elk’s album is out now, and ‘Change my World’ is released as a single on the 30/11/2009.


Ingrid Michaelson - Maybe

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Maybe is an enjoyable track from ‘billboard cover star’ Ingrid Michaelson, however there is nothing much new here or unique about this acoustic love song that could easily be mistaken for another single from the superior Sheryl Crow. Yet it is easy listening and is not bad for backing music but don’t expect anything classic.

Albino – I Love Everyone

Reviewed by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

Look, I don’t like playing the scrooge. Despite all the tack and the tastelessness of it all, I’m still a sucker when I hear A Christmas Gift For You All burst into life over the speakers, or when the tree gets puts up and decorated.
This, however, is just bollocks. Their press release claims influences from the likes of The Smiths and The Magnetic Fields, but this just sounds like a Salvation Army choir fallen upon bad times. Built upon a slightly sea-sick rhythm, the track’s built out with one of the most horribly cheap organ sounds every conjured by a charity-shop synth, some blaringly bad horns and, acting as the arse-scented cherry atop this shit-encrusted tart, lead singer Ben Tucker’s painfully out-of-tune vocals.

And the worst part of this? ‘I Love Everyone’ isn’t even a new effort: it’s a re-release of a song they first put out two sodding years ago (and, quite honestly, it’s not hard to comprehend how it flopped the first time). So don’t give them any false hope by buying this, because otherwise they’re going to re-release it again in 2011, when some other poor sod at NSR is going to have to listen and review the damn thing. There’s going to be plenty of crappy releases for them to plough through without you adding to the pile.


Animal Collective – Brother Sport

Reviewed by Mark Corcoran-Lettice

I’m not even going to pretend to be impartial here. I absolutely adore Animal Collective – ever since I stumbled upon a copy of then-current album ‘Feels’ four years ago, I’ve found myself addicted to the many weird and wonderful records this band has put out, and in that time they’ve only got better.

Coming from this year’s triumphant leap into dance textures, Merriweather Post Pavilion, ‘Brother Sport’ is nothing less than six minutes of pure adrenaline: from the very first exuberant yell to the final, dizzying fade-out, it’s energy distilled into a pure, pristine cut of euphoric, joyous music. While it does perhaps work better as the conclusion to an epic full-length than as a stand-alone cut, it’s still a remarkably frantic piece of work that distils everything that made fans, new-comers and critics across the world fall hopelessly in love with Merriweather when it came out all the way back in January.

With Animal Collective currently re-grouping and planning their next move after their busiest, most successful year to date, ‘Brother Sport’ acts as a well-earned victory lap: a final display of brilliance, and a perfect way to close up this chapter in the AC story before they return to surprise us all once again.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Vitalic - Flashmob

Reviewed by Helen Stephenson

When I first heard Vitalic’s debut album OK Cowboy, I was blown away. Ever since its release in 2005 I have been eagerly anticipating and dreading the follow up album. Anticipating because of the absolute stellar quality of each and every track on OK Cowboy; dreading it in case it was another Pendulum debacle where the second album was the biggest let down since school custard. This year has been disappointment after disappointment with other artists, with no album living up to the hype. Now the wait for Vitalic’s follow-up album is over, with the release of Flashmob through Different/PIAS recordings.

I find it very difficult to put into words my feelings about this album. From the first beat I had shivers running up and down my spine. Not only does Flashmob live up to the ridiculously high standards of OK Cowboy, but it takes Vitalic in a new direction, demonstrating his ability to evolve and adapt his music to keep his sound fresh. Each and every track has its own unique feel but they all fit together to make this an absolutely flawless album.

I literally cried tears of joy when I heard this album, it’s that good. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll add Flashmob to your music collection too.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Violet Violet – The City Is Full Of Beasts

Reviewed by Mark Gomersall

There is a longstanding joke of inbreeding in the Norfolk area, and while Norwich based Violet Violet may not have any additional fingers you wouldn’t be knocked for thinking that the band were blessed with more limbs than your average human being. Originally beginning life as a trio, the band released their debut album “Bitchbox” back in 2007, since then they’ve gone through a line-up change, ditching the bass player and becoming a 2-person entity. The 2-‘man’ band is a set up that’s seemingly becoming more and more popular, with the likes of The Ting Tings and Blood Red Shoes making a breakout last year. In fact, Violet Violet do share a lot in common with the aforementioned Blood Red Shoes, besides lacking a Y chromosome and a drummer that looks like a failed experiment that’s escaped from a laboratory petri dish. Stylistically though the bands are very similar, mixing razor sharp female vocals and garage rock influenced guitar riffs in songs that are easy on the ear and exciting enough to get your feet tapping in an instant.

The first thing that jumps out at you about the songs is just how frantic it sounds. Even though the instrumentation is stripped to the core, it still sounds so exciting and big. The riffs are so catchy you’ll find yourself humming along to tracks like “One Little Problem” and “Twin On Twin” in no time. Then the vocal work begins the hit home. The harmonies, the interweaving vocal lines, the shouts, the screams, it all just fits together so perfectly, and no more so than in “C-C-C-Cat”. It is absolutely phenomenal, sounding as though it’s lifted straight from the early days of the Arctic Monkeys, with its snappy chorus and a verse that’s right out of the Alex Turner playbook, right down to the delivery and pronunciation of the lyrics. If you don’t have the urge to yell out “You stole my C-C-C-C-C-Cat” at random intervals you’re a stronger person than me (or probably not as drunk).

In indie-rock at the minute there seems to be two main trends. Either you’re so overtly quirky and twee that you could realistically borrow your nans cardigan and be heralded as a fashion trendsetter, playing songs that are so sugary that they could wipe out a family of diabetics. Or you’re a massively over the top prick, who once listened to “Out Of The Blue” by Electric Light Orchestra so have decided to layer everything with ridiculous synthesized strings because you think it makes your songs sound ‘epic’. So it’s honestly refreshing to hear an album like “The City Is Full Of Beasts”, where things have been stripped to the bare bones and Violet Violet explode with 10-songs full of indie-punk hooks.

Oh yeah, there’s also a really rather pointless remix at the end too. People still do hidden tracks? Seriously? They’re never worth it and just bring the mood down. They’re the musical equivalent of an Easter egg hunt where when the kids eventually find the eggs they’ve all melted into the grass and the dog has already been at them, who when they get back to the house is dead in the porch from chocolate poisoning.


The Chapman Family - Virgins

Reviewed by Solveig Werner

The Chapman Family, hailing from Stockton-on-Tees, released their newest single, Virgins, on the 12th of October. They are a four piece band which formed in 2006, and has been gaining in success ever since. Till now they have supported and played along side the acts that are in everyone’s mouth at the moment such as La Roux, and have been performing at various UK festivals.

This family band is another group riding on the success that Post Punk Revival has been having over recent years. The singer, Kingsley Chapman, has the sort of smoky voice generally associated with post punk. On the track Virgins his voice could be compared with that of the Maxïmo Park singer, or the vocalist of Crystal Stilts. Music wise the Chapman family is closer to the Crystal Stilts.

Virgins starts off with an intro that makes one think of the arrival of someone that cannot be missed. There is a gradual increase in importance; it is like a musical storm. The song critiques someone, “I don’t think I like what you’ve become!”

The B-Side Goodtimes is a lot slower, the music is less violent, but it also is a sadder track. Instrumentally it is nicer, there is piano and string music on the track, which automatically has a calming effect on the listener.


The Cheek- Hung Up

Reviewed by Sammy Newman

Well, hhmmm positive thoughts…. Well its easy enough to listen to and the cheek doesn’t offend you my large ears in any way but the problem is that this sulky, geek chic indie band are pretty generic with a very basic riff where nothing really happens all the way through the song. Picture a better looking version of a garage band of Pulp and that’s what you basically have, a dated sound which doesn’t really have anything fun, cool or exciting to say about itself.

1.5/ 5

Dreadzone – Tomorrow never comes

Reviewd by Sammy Newman

On all the influences which the countless members of Dreadzone use , “Tomorrow Never Comes” takes a heavy reggae soul and mixes in some psychedelic and electronic influences for a tuneful experimentation. Especially with the mix of a pulsating beat and the soothing vocals. While the track is definitively good enough for anyone’s playlist I am just a bit lost on where you would listen to it. Its too chilled and melodic for club nights and too up beat for a chilled Ibiza Sunday morning hungover snooze, and its hardly a radio friendly with its 6 minutes 23 seconds which drones in the same beat the whole way through. Therefore, it’s a interesting tune with a little case of a lost identity


Bull See Red - A Girl Called Murder

Reviewed by Antonio Alves da Silva

The song as whole is average. The good points are the catchy guitar riffs. I especially enjoyed the ending and how there was a build up that flowed smoothly. The band subtly also add their name to parts of the song which I found amusing. The song could be improved by changing the way the vocals are sung in parts of the single to make them not sound so whiney. The 7 second intro I would say is the worst part of the song. But as a whole the song sounds like an amalgamation of many bands around at present, it lacks originality.

Noah and the Whale - Love of an Orchestra

Reviewed by Charles Beavis

A curse of the sophomore album these days after a relatively successful debut, aside from 'difficult second album syndrome', is the seeming obligation to include a strings or orchestra section. The extra budget enables them to play and they think that it is the best form for their output even though it clearly is not necessary. Noah and the Whale have a style of music that with skilful deployment, an orchestra or strings section works magnificently as is the case here. (Also the name of this single doesn't exactly lend itself to a solo guitar).

What orchestra parts there are to be found here are handled with care and pace. By the end you are left thinking that there was a full symphonic playing. The skill of arrangement induces paired with some Derren Brown style trickery from the repetition of the title in the lyrics leaves you thinking they had the London Philharmonic on board. So much repeated are those lyrics that by the end they are just starting to grind but with a track such as this it finds further excellence in its brevity. A short 2 minute blast of choir and piano and suddenly you find yourself in a world that is better than it was 125 seconds ago.


I Still Love You More - Pama International review

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Like most reggae I Still Love you More by Pama Internation is a cheerful and upbeat song about the joys of love, acceptance etc. While the sound will be very familiar to fans of the genre it will still bring a smile to your face and Pama International restain themselves from doing anything experimental but instead simply do the old traits of reggae well. The B track, Equality & Justice For All, has more of a Bob Marley influence to it and is an adequate accompaniment to the title track.