Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lemonade – Bliss Out

Reviewed by Chris Render

I think it is only fair of me to make it clear I am not a fan of the whole garage/jungle scene, and therefore I wasn’t particularly enamoured of Bliss Out. That’s not to say I particularly disliked it, in fact I found it relatively catchy. I simply mean to say that pounding, repetitive bass isn’t really my thing. If it appeals to you, I’d say check it out, but I won’t recommend it to rock fans.

2/5

C

Gliss – Beauty

Reviewed by Chris Render

I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Beauty, the second single from LA trio Gliss, other than that I enjoyed it. It is a catchy track, competently performed in a manner that struck me as reminiscent of The Velvet Underground, with an odd, somewhat enchanting edge of the surreal. Whilst not to everyone’s tastes, I’d personally say that Beauty is well worth a listen.

4/5

B

Cancel the Astronauts – I am the President of Your Fan Club and Last Night I Followed You Home

Reviewed by Chris Render

If I’m honest, I offered to review this for a laugh. When I heard the title, I couldn’t help but grin. I never actually expected to enjoy it as much as I did. I am the President of Your Fan Club and Last Night I Followed You Home is catchy, cheerful and enjoyable, a triumphant EP about the often harsh realities of young love. Cancel The Astronauts are clearly both skilled musicians and very clever lyricists, juxtaposing less than cheery subject matter with upbeat tones to create an achingly catchy sound.

Although every track is a highlight, the really stand out moment for me on this EP was Late in the City: a tale of love and loss set to music that seems made to dance to, that is fast becoming one of my favourite songs of the year. Cancel The Astronauts seems perfect for a mainstream student audience (the kind of people you could find filling the Cooperage (RIP) on a Monday night). More than anything, I would describe I am the President of Your Fan Club and Last Night I Followed You Home as fun. Clearly, the Scottish musicians love playing as much as I love hearing it.

5/5

A

Last Letter Read – These Stories Roll

Reviewed by Chris Render

I surprised myself this weekend by how much I enjoyed this EP from Last Letter Read. The Sussex based peddlers of floppy haired pop-punk had been compared to the likes of Busted and McFly, so naturally I assumed These Stories Roll would be terrible, an opportunity for me to exercise some journalistic venom. How wrong I was.

Although definitely of the same genre as the aforementioned “musicians”, Last Letter Read show a degree of talent and passion that far surpasses their predecessors. These Stories Roll is a fine showcase for a band acting to successfully revitalise a genre that many were glad to see die. Reminding me more of Savage Garden (who in spite of myself, I actually quite liked) than Busted (who I proudly did not), I hope and expect to hear more from Last Letter Read in the future. THIS is what the early Naughties should have sounded like.

4/5

B

Forgotten Roots – Crosses and Circles

Reviewed by Chris Render

The debut “mini-album” from Northern quartet Forgotten Roots perfectly exemplifies the current Western neo-punk music scene. Although not exactly my thing, Crosses and Circles is by no means a bad album, with catchy tunes performed with great skill by the Blyth based rockers. Tracks like Bats and 403-405 show that Forgotten Roots have great musical potential, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear more from them in future.

Crosses and Circles is a prime example of the angsty, teen-orientated punk popularised these days by bands like Alkaline Trio and Green Day, and as such is not to everyone’s tastes, but I think that Forgotten Roots show great potential, and if more new punk sounds appealing, I’d definitely recommend Crosses and Circles. One for the Krash crowd, but they’ll love it.

3/5

C

The Best of Fried Egg Records

Reviewed by Chris Render

I was really looking forward to this, a compilation of Bristol punk from 1979-1980. And I wasn’t disappointed. The Best of Fried Egg Records provided me with a new look at a genre I love. Bands like Shoes for Industry and Electric Guitars are greatly indicative of the punk scene at the time, both in terms of musical sound and of political agenda, and in the integration of the two.

Reminiscent of bands like The Sex Pistols and my beloved Clash, the bands The Best of Fried Egg Records showcases are exactly what you would expect from the late 70’s British punk scene. These artists perfectly exemplify the musical styling of the nation at the time, and although maybe not as famous as some of their contemporaries, these musicians stand up alongside artists like The Damned and The Stiff Little Fingers in terms of musical ability if not notoriety.

The Best of Fried Egg Records is everything I had expected and more: a compilation of fantastic punk tracks that could easily rival London Calling or Smash It Up. This album opened my eyes to a much wider range of seventies/eighties punk than I had ever knew existed.

4/5

C

Collapse Under The Empire – Find A Place To Be Safe

Reviewed by Chris Render

New album Find A Place To Be Safe provided me with my first listen to German instrumentalists Collapse Under The Empire, so I had absolutely no idea what sort of thing to expect. Not to put too fine a point on it, I was pleasantly surprised. Collapse Under The Empire are an essential listen for fans of post-rock, and in fact something more, instilling their music with the sort of passion and contemplation I would have thought impossible without lyrics.

Find A Place To Be Safe opens strongly with Captured Moments and Crawling, before really hitting its stride with tracks like Angle of Incidence and Decay. Perfectly paced, well performed and deeply contemplative, Find A Place To Be Safe is fantastic, with other highlights including the title track, Tranquility... well, pretty much the whole thing.

To conclude (somewhat superfluously), Find A Place To Be Safe is a fantastic work, essential listening for fans of post rock. People who are really into their music owe it to themselves to check Collapse Under The Empire out.

5/5

B

Codeine Velvet Club – Album

Reviewed by Chris Render

After reviewing single Vanity Kills, I was uncertain what to make of Codeine Velvet Club (perhaps best known as the side project of Fratellis front-man Jon Lawler), save that I liked them. Having now heard their full self-titled debut album, I can happily say that the future for Codeine Velvet Club is a bright one.

Codeine Velvet Club is exactly what Vanity Kills had led me to expect, which is to say catchy and unforgettable. This indie-pop-electro (for lack of a better phrase) masterpiece is coherent and well-paced, ensuring for anyone in doubt that Lawler could easily make a successful career for himself outside of The Fratellis. Both Lawler and collaborator Lou Hickey display energetic vocals and skilful guitar work, making Codeine Velvet Club a fantastic debut album

Although, as with most albums, some tracks do fall a bit short (Begging Bowl Blues and Nevada left me somewhat cold), album highlights such as opener Hollywood, Little Sister and single release Vanity Kills show that Codeine Velvet Club are one worth watching. While maybe not to everyone’s taste, and indeed met with mixed reviews, Codeine Velvet Club struck me as a fantastic debut album for a band not to be missed.

4/5

B

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Polarsets - Then a Girl Falls In Your Arms

Reviewed by Christian Allen

Recently I was lucky enough to gain work experience as an intern at 6music over the extended Uni Christmas holidays. Contrary to what you’d think it wasn’t all about making cups of tea and coffee either, granted I did excel at this. I got to spend most of my time working on the Tom Robinson’s Introducing Show and as a result feel more clued up on new music than ever. One of the main jobs was sifting through the recommendations we got sent, which contained an unusually high amount of North-East contributions. Amongst them were Newcastle’s very own Polarsets, which, after maybe 10 seconds of listening, I put through and with Tom’s seal of approval made it into the show last week.

Now, safely back in the North-East, NSR have been sent their new E.P, available for free at polarsets.bandcamp.com, 3 tracks which cement the band as one of the strongest in the region. ‘Just Don’t Open Your Eyes Yet’ and ‘Then a Girl Falls In Your Arms’ are strong, hook laden tracks you’d expect to hear on any daytime radio show, the latter as catchy a pop song I’ve heard all year.

Obvious similarities can be drawn between the band and fellow Tyne natives Little Comets, jangly guitar riffs, frantic drumming and high pitched vocals; complete with golden vocal harmonies is the closest thing the North-East has to a ‘sound’. Parallels can also been drawn to The Wombats, Go Faster and Hot Club De Paris, all with the ability to write a track to chant along to that isn’t necessarily seen as ‘Lad-Rock’. However, the fundamental connection these bands share, above all else, is that they sound like their enjoying themselves.

They’re apparently pioneering a genre they call ‘Deep Disco’, a sound which conjures up images of the Bee Gees and Kool and the Gang being banished to the sewers. But on this evidence, this is indie-pop at its catchiest. The E.P has a genuine sense of exuberance, optimism and energy hugely lacking from a host of ‘ones to watch’ acts and promises much for future releases. They’re playing a host of dates around the North-East, well worth investigating.

Murder FM – Anthems for the Used (Mini Album)

Reviewed by Scott McLoughlin

Like angry shouty men? Particularly, angry shouty tattoo covered men with interesting hairstyles? If yes, you’ll love Murder FM. Simply breed ‘30 Seconds to Mars’ with ‘LostProphets’, add some extra hate of the world, and let it stew in a disco. Murder Fm emerges from the mean rock disco broth to challenge your musical tastes. Though FM do not advocate murder, many makers of musical opinion will argue Murder FM do indeed murder music. ‘Heavy’ music still divides opinions, however, Murder FM are much more than just ‘guitar metal’. Synthesizers and keys, though not the biggest part of their sound, temper something really heavy, and make it much more accessible. Murder FM’s tracks ‘Mrs. Wrong’ and ‘As Beautiful As You Are’ are quite a good examples of metal mitigation. They are in effect potential pop songs that got kicked out of ‘The Charts’ (a high-class nightclub called), and spent a night behind bars for drinking too much and kicking Barbie Girl in the face. Though possibly an intimidating music venture for mellow music fans, Murder FM are surprisingly easy to listen to. Maybe I am guilty of presupposing everybody is as receptive to rock music as myself. Even so, try Murder out. You might well be surprised.

3/5
http://www.myspace.com/murderfmmusic

Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces

Reviewed by Scott McLoughlin

Midwinter Graces has ‘BBC Radio 2’ written all over it. If you like Tori Amos and wear cardigans deliberately to be pretentious this is definitely the Christmas album for you. In ‘Midwinter Graces’ Amos puts her own take on classic Christmas and festive winter songs such as: ‘What Child’, ‘Nowell’, and ‘Star of Wonder’. Amos’ gift to the listener appears to be a simple rearrangement of seasonal songs into a more conventional pop structure. The result is an album of Christmas songs you will probably never play as you opt for the classics, or a pop album you’ll store with the Christmas decorations. Once you’ve dusted off 11months of dust every year you will probably come to realise it is a very good album in regard to musicianship. However, it has no clear purpose, apart from actively and positively seeking musical territory usually filled by failed Christmas number one attempts. Give it to someone who wants to be ‘alternative this Christmas’, or someone who really likes Tori Amos.

An easily ignorable 2.5 / 5

Ou Est Le Swimming Pool – Dance the Way I Feel

Reviewed by Scott McLoughlin

If you do as ‘Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’ urge, and dance the way you feel, you’ll probably look like a robotic muppet. However, you won’t care, as ‘Dance the way I feel’ is an electronic delight. You’ll loose yourself in newly discovered electronic recesses of your own mind. It has an infectiously catchy electronic synth riff that accompanies a repetitive, instructive and uplifting chorus. The verse is a brooding indie narrative of a nightclub, ‘Pet Shop Boys-esk’ in feel, unashamedly good electro-pop in reality. Well matched beats, and subtle multi-layered lead and string synthesisers combine to make what can only be described as ‘electro-joy’. Paradoxically the cold wired synthesizers make you feel warm on the inside. You know deep down that the programming of the keyboards cannot compute warm-blooded human emotion, but you remain confused by how close they get. The sentiments in the vocal humanise the near clinical electronica, making clear the ultimate feel good nature of the tune. The Camden trio are increasingly rising in profile, supporting many premier British electro-pop names; ‘La Roux’, ‘Sam Sparrow’, ‘Mr Hudson’, and ‘Reverend and the Makers’ to name a few. They also played no less than three stages at Glastonbury ‘09. If somehow you like you music dancier in nature I’d definitely recommend the ‘Dynamikk’ remix of ‘Dance the Way I Feel’. ‘Ou Est’ are definitely a name to remember. Actually, they make great music just about worthy of accompanying their unforgettable name. Possibly one of the best band names ever.

4/5

Band Name: Off the Scale /5

Massive Attack – Heligoland

Reviewed by Helen Stephenson

Listening to Heligoland you recognise immediately that it is a Massive Attack record, but with a big twist. With the release of Heligoland, Massive Attack have shed their old skin and morphed into an entirely different animal. This is more of a compilation album overseen by Massive Attack, rather than pure Massive Attack. The two of the group’s founders who are still around, Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja, seem to have opened a floodgate through which artists are pouring in order to be associated with the duo, including Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval and Guy Garvey to name only three of many. Don’t worry though, Horace Andy’s still around.

The collaborative nature of this album shows, and perhaps Massive Attack compromised on some musical decisions which would explain the different sound. As well as being marginally more like a pop record, the songs are of a faster tempo than you normally associate with Massive Attack. This may be the reason that these tracks do not feel like they pull you into the fabric of their being in the same way old Massive Attack music does. Nevertheless, this is still a strong album and worth a listen.

Heligoland is released on 8th February through Virgin Music.

4/5

Monday, 25 January 2010

Groove Armada – I Won’t Kneel

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Compared to Groove Armada’s earlier chill out tunes their new single ‘I Won’t Kneel’ feels fairly minor and while it still typically fuses different genres together it feels fairly dated, providing a more 80’s vibe than anything else. But like most Groove Armada it still very enjoyable to listen to and catchy.

The remixes provided on the single are nothing special and most of them sound way too similar to the original album track.

Reaction C

All The Time I Bled – Flymore

Reviewed by James Fairfield

This single seems stereotypical of a new band trying to create something original in the metal genre. It offers everything from messy distortion, screaming that is likely to have fucked up the singer’s vocal cords and lyrics that are hilariously emo and clich├ęd.

Overall this track is unlikely to be used as evidence for metal being a universal and musically clever genre of music and might instead convince you that this what musically retarded people do when they get angry.

Reaction C

Friday, 22 January 2010

Fyfe Dangerfield – She Needs Me

Released 11/01/10

Reviewed by Andy Knox

Guillemots lead man Dangerfield sparking a solo career is hardly a surprise and ‘She Needs Me’ is an up-beat, piano/violin based pop record that is arguably more commercial than his aforementioned previous guise. I wanted to hear it again (which can’t be a bad thing) and even though the opening bass line reminds me of something from a Nashville-country-hoe down, the song is good attempt from a clearly very talented individual.

Ash - Space Shot

Released 18/01/10

Reviewed by Andy Knox

So there were three lads, then three lads and a girl and now three lads again and although my heart is delighted they are still going, my head says they are probably clutching at straws now. Ok, so maybe they’re not going to ever be as popular as the days of ‘1977’ or even ‘Free All Angels’, but ‘Space Shot’ is a catchy enough tune, with a big riff, very Ash-esque. vocal and fun synths. I hope it gets enough airplay and attention to at least make the top 100.

Editors – You Don’t Know Love

Released 25/01/10

Reviewed by Andy Knox

Editors follow up single to ‘Papillon’ from their third major release ‘In This Light and On This Evening’ is quite simply very repetitive and not very exciting. Lead vocalist Tom Smith’s voice sounds deeper than ever on a track which follows down that dark sound that White Lies made fairly popular last year – but doesn’t come anywhere close enough to being memorable. Dark it may be, dull it certainly is.

Codeine Velvet Club – Hollywood

Released 28/12/09

Reviewed by Andy Knox

Jon Lawler (better known as John Fratelli) and Lou Hickey create a great blend of mix gender vocals over a tune which at points is very 1950s. And although it would be an unfair assumption to think of CVC as a more mature Fratellis, one notable similarity from The Fratellis is Lawler’s low self-asteem which is seen in “she’s got too much class for the likes of me”, however, judging the band and the tune without comparison, this is a strong song that could do well.