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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Single Review: Inspades - Deadlines

My first reaction when doing a little bit of research on these guys was ‘What the hell?!!! There’s only 3 of them!??’ Their sound is just huge, which is exactly how metal should be in my book. If you’re not going for one of those mellow style tracks which bands like Sabbath use as a break on their albums, metal records so should grab you by the neck and shake the crap out of you. Melodies, guitar-based heaviness and drums you can feel pounding in your chest. That is a great metal track and that’s what Inspades have produced here.

Based in York Inspades are Stewart King (Vocals, guitar) Tom Leggot (Backing vocals, bass) and P.G Branton. (Backing vocals/drums) Here is how they describe themselves on their website;

“Inspired by their home town’s dark history, this powerful trio blend a beautifully absorbing clash of styles to produce a sound that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The road INSPADES has travelled has rarely been easy, but it is this perseverance and strength of conviction shown in the face of adversity that provides the emotion in their song writing.”

Having heard their new single Deadlines I can’t disagree with any of that. The tracks opens with a great little bass solo just before a slice of duelling melodic guitar work makes an appearance. It’s got that classic Thin Lizzy feel about it. That’s where the similarities end though because then the guitars really hit, and they hit so hard they will knock you off your feet.

The vocal veers from the downright menacing to ‘classic metal’ but most importantly its totally on point  for the entire 4 and a half minutes. Nothing overly elaborate; just straight power. The way that the track moves through its various sections of a brief bass lead break into a soaring guitar solo, and then into a short mellower section before the sledgehammer that is the main guitar and drum rhythm smacks you squarely in the face one more time is extremely impressive.

Deadlines is an absolutely exceptional metal track. Heavy yet melodic and powerful without trying too hard, the balance is perfect. Until I opened the email which contained this track I had never heard of Inspades but now thanks to this track they are going to prove impossible to forget.

Deadlines is officially released on 1st August. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

EP Review: Starting Fires - This Old Town

I get sent music in so many different forms it’s hard to keep track. There are countless PR lists, management and plugging companies that send you stuff all of the time but this record came to me in the way that I like the most.  An unsigned band have got a project that they have put their heart and soul into and they want an opinion on it. No PR spin no ‘this is the next big thing listen to this’ just a group of guys putting their music out there for the world to hear.

The band in question is certainly new to me and will probably be new to a vast majority of you as well and they are called Starting Fires. Based in Burnley Liam Husband (Vocals) Matt Greaves (Guitar) Tom Hales (Bass) and Daniel Widdup (Drums) has wasted no time in getting their music recorded and released with the band only coming together in their current incarnation in March. They have also attracted the attention of radio having received play on BBC Radio Lancashire, so they are moving in the right direction.

This Old Town is the band’s debut EP and I have to say that I’m pretty impressed. That’s not to say that record isn’t without its rough edges but it’s a promising start by anybody’s standards.
Things get underway with the Hard-Fi (Remember them!?) tinged ‘Make My Own Way.’ The production is crisp as you would expect from Sugar House and as an introduction to the band the track ticks all the boxes. Low key verses build towards a crescendo of a chorus with Husband’s vocals guiding the ship in fine fashion.

The next track ‘High Note’ is my personal favourite on the on the EP and I have a feeling that I won’t be the only one. Every band needs that one anthemic tune that really sets things off on radio and at live shows and I think this is that track. This is a proper rock track, it has a bit more of a kick than an indie tune and is immensely catchy. A great drum roll signals the tracks intent as guitars soon crash in to complete the cracking up tempo start. He central riff will get stuck in your head and the chorus has that bit of something extra which just elevates this from being just another track to being something exceptional. The interlude featuring yet more drums rolls prevents the track from becoming stale and keeps it clipping along in brilliantly barnstorming fashion. BUT… Why end it like that!?

The track just sort of stops dead in its tracks and personally I really don’t think it fits. It would maybe have been better had they not gone into the final chorus and gone for a Foo Fighters style rock ending. This isn’t enough to put me off the track which as I said above is brilliant but it’s frustrating because the track was so close to being perfect.

Title track ‘This Old Town’ follows and kicks off with some nice grunge style guitar work which sets the tone for another good solid up tempo track. Again the chorus is a good one and has plenty of sing along appeal for those of us that way inclined. I would maybe have liked the drums and the snare in particular to have had more ‘snap’ and less ‘echo’ but it’s very difficult to find fault here. The nice little guitar solo from Greaves towards the end also gives further insight to the bands inner rock star which is hovering around the fringes of the EP about to burst out.

The EP draws to a close on a mellower note with the ballad-ish ‘Stop The Rain.’ I always find that in ballads a good melody is essential, as along with the vocal it has to do most of the heavy lifting and the track does this well. There is far more emphasis on the vocal from Husband and he is not found wanting as he turns in yet another passionate performance. It’s a great way to round off the record.

This Old Town all things considered is a very promising start for a band who are just beginning to find their way. Yes, there are those moments where it is a little rough around the edges as I have highlighted but that doesn’t significantly take away from what is great about the record. All the basics are there; good vocals, song writing and musicianship. There really isn’t a lot wrong here on what is a very enjoyable debut from a band with enormous potential. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Single Review: Mercutio - Back To Nowhere

Much to the delight of me and countless other people there is an absolute plethora of quality rock bands coming through right now. They may not be breaking through to the mainstream just yet but that’s not everything, what’s important is that they’re original and the music that they are bringing to the table is saying something. So it is my pleasure to bring you another one of these bands; Mercutio.

Coming out of London Mirko (Vocals, guitars) Staf (Lead guitar) Naz (Bass) and Alex (Drums) are attracting the attention of some very impressive people. The band only formed in November of last year but their assent has been quick one. Signed to Mazempa Records their debut album has been produced by Andy Wright (Jeff Beck, Simple Minds) while this track their lead single and title track from the album has also been mixed by Alan Moulder. (Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and The Killers)

However what’s impressive is that they have the talent to back all of that up. As far as debuts go Back To Nowhere makes quite an impression. That’s not to say that you’ll hit play and instantly be blown away by what’s on show here because I’m pretty certain that you won’t. That isn’t a reflection on the quality of the track it’s just not that instant. But as the makers of a certain dark looking alcoholic beverage keep reminding us ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ (You reckon if I name them I’ll get sent a freebie??)

The intro is almost electronica and it’s not until the guitars force their way in that the track really makes its intentions known. For the most part the vocal is quite raspy and restrained, with it only really kicking up a gear in chorus where the layering gives the track quite an old school rock feel. The brief addition of what sounds like a gothic choir in the background as the track rumbles on helps give it that something extra.

Frontman Mirko says of the track "This track talks about every person towards the end of their life. How they begin to reflect on how they have lived their life. The things they’ve done but most importantly what they haven’t done. Because of fear? Egoism? Anger? They see how all these decisions and actions have impacted their life. So the message is to live life to the fullest now and in every moment and don’t let fear, anger and all these emotions control your life as you’ll only be left on your own with just material achievements to comfort you in the end". Personally I think this is quite an admirable stance a very good mind set to have, something I think we should pay more attention to.

After the first listen my reaction was ‘er…its ok’ by listen 4/5 the track really hit home and I got what it was all about. Every time you press play it improves and the little intricacies that make the song what it is filter through and everything clicks together. It’s not an instant classic by any means but trust me give it time and you’ll be rewarded.  

Monday, 28 July 2014

Single Review: The Landed - Things To Talk About

Today the 28th July has been one hell of a day for these 4 men from Essex. Not only does today mark the release of the single that I have got for you but also the release of the eponymously titled EP.  I think it’s fair to say that these guys don’t do things by halves.

Formed back in 2012 the bands growth had been steady but more recently things have really started to take off. They have garnered the attention of international record producers, been played on BBC Radio and received a stack of glowing reviews. It’s going to be a serious let down if this track is crap isn’t it?

Well fear not ladies and gentlemen because the new single Things To Talk About is in fact rather good. It’s rather good in that ‘I’ve got my favourite chocolate biscuit to dunk in my tea’ kind of way; understated but very rewarding.

In truth when I heard the intro to the track and the opening few lines I feared the worst. This is no reflection upon the band just the fact that’s it’s an easy on the ear vocal over the top of a floaty acoustic melody and frankly there SO many of those type of bands doing the rounds at the minute. And even worse nearly all of them sound exactly the same. But and it is a big Kim Kardashian sized but, these guys are so much better than that.

The intricate melody that leads the way is not the only element in the song; it’s merely one of many. The addition of the strings around halfway through in conjunction with the drums that drop in and out give the track a nice depth while not detracting from the light and breezy feel. The vocal while not being especially elaborate ticks all the right boxes for this kind of track and gives everything a sort of authenticity. This might be the most pretentious thing I’ve ever uttered in a review but it’s all very organic. (I’m sorry!!)

Things To Talk About is a beautiful slice of a music tinged summer evening that more than lives up to the hype. As a band if you’re going to make it in the music industry you have to get used to being surrounded by hype but also being able to deliver on that hype when it really matters. The Landed have done that here in incredibly impressive fashion.

I have a feeling bigger things await gentlemen. 

Single Review: Let Love Rule - On The Shore

Let Love Rule are essentially the brainchild of band frontman and chief songwriter Matthew Rhind. As is often the case after the break-up of a previous band Rhind was left with a creative itch that needed scratching. He continued to write songs but it soon became apparent that these tracks wouldn’t get the job done on a singer/songwriter tip so last Spring inspired by Lenny Kravitz’ debut album of the same name Let Love Rule were born.

Rhind was joined by Laurence Murray (Guitar) Tom Dallas (Bass) and David Hill (Drums) and the band was complete. They have been doing the rounds on the live circuit for just over a year but they are now ready to move things up a level with the release of this their debut single along with an EP which will follow later on this year.

Any lead single from any sort of project is incredibly important but putting out the right track as your debut is vital in my eyes. It needs to make a statement. ‘This is who we are, this is what we do, and we are damn good at it.’ You only get one chance at a first impression. Thankfully On The Shore does all of these things.

If you’re after something to knock the windows out of your living room you’re in the wrong place, the order of the day here is strictly melodies and atmosphere. The track just floats. It coasts along long at a beautifully nonchalant pace with the vocal from Rhind gliding across a guitar led melody straight from the summer afternoon of your dreams. The solo which follows is of an equally high standard and the whole track just has a touch of star quality about it.

Production wise its silky smooth with the emphasis being on necessity rather than trying to cram as much in as possible; a problem which has befallen a few projects that I have reviewed in the last few months.

Like the sports car you are dying to blow your life savings on On The Shore is a perfect balance of style and substance. Great vocals, great song writing and great musicianship all come together as one to create an extremely impressive debut single.

On The Shore is released today (28th July)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Album Review: The Bedroom Hour - Hinterland

The hype surrounding this album on social media in the run up to its release has been absolutely incredible. I always try and steer clear of the hype machine because in my experience it will only end badly, but after hearing the couple of tracks that I had from The Bedroom Hour I must confess that expectations were quite high.

Based in West London The Bedroom Hour are Stuart Drummond (Lead vocals) Bob Payne (Guitar, backing vocals) Mark Dudley (Keyboards) Andy Copper (Bass) and Lewis Cosham. (Drums) They released their debut EP ‘Themes’ back in May of last year, but now comes the real acid test; the debut album.

Hinterland begins in rather grandiose fashion with the short atmosphere building instrumental ‘Ocean.’ Ok, so technically there is a vocal of sorts floating in the background but that’s not of massive importance in the grand scheme of things. The album really gets underway with ‘Sea With Without Water.’ Again it’s another atmospheric number, with a real uplifting feel. The vocal fits the track perfectly and doesn’t try to dominate although personally I would have had the synth effects lower down in the mix as I feel in places that they overshadow the main melody, but all in all it’s a very promising start.

The next track ‘Nocturnal’ gives more than a tip of the hat to titans of this genre Elbow but that is no band thing. The intro is nice and up tempo and in keeping with the rest of the record everything production wise is suitably well polished. Vocally Drummond’s understated authority finds all the right spots as it glides beautifully across a bed of gentle guitars and strings. It’s on this type of track where the band really produce their best work and this is already one of the highlights of the entire record.

The stomping drum beat which ushers in ‘Heart Will Haunt’ is soon overtaken by relatively sparse production and an airy vocal of Drummond who is sounding more like Guy Garvey with every passing track. The understated production means that not only does the main melody slide under the radar but it places more emphasis on the lyrics and central vocal which is a nice touch. The intro to ‘Broken’ gives the opening minute or so of the track quite a dark feel but in typical Bedroom Hour style this is soon tripped away and replaced a big sweeping chorus. The strings which arrive just before halfway give the song another dimension and help to lift the mood. That is until things return to the beginning for a moody finish.

‘Sapphires’ is probably the weakest track on the album and the only one that I don’t really like. That’s not to say that its without it’s good moments as the vocal and the way that the verses build do have a charm about them but the track is simply too long. Not enough happens and by the time the song does run to a conclusion it is treading water having got lost in its own grandeur. Focus however is restored with the sharper sounds of 
‘Ghost Of A Smile.’ Rather than just winding along the song has a point while also containing one of the albums most relatable lyrics,

I see so much resentment inside my own reflection.

From a technical standpoint there is nothing special about that line but I think it’s just very effective in the context of the song.

There is a marked increase in pace as WW/ME begins which is more than welcome as things were in danger of becoming a little one paced but that notion was stopped right before it became an issue. The drum breakdown at around halfway is a standout moment and a very nice touch as it’s not something which is used by bands all that often. The guitar riff which strums alongside these drums gives the track a real skip in its step.

The following track ‘I See Suns’ is so outrageously close to being perfect its breath-taking. It’s the rockiest track on the record and has everything, the vocal soars, the verses build to an anthemic chorus, the guitars come to prominence and give the track a nice edge but the synth sound through the chorus is totally unnecessary. But I’m not going to dwell on that because the track is still seriously high quality and probably my favourite on the album.

The pace is brought right back down by the album’s title track which due to its shortness acts merely as an interlude. The soaring vocals coupled with typically grand instrumentation sum up the band very nicely. Final track ‘A Map Made From My Bones’ sees the band return to where they are most comfortable. High on atmosphere and with the substance to match this ballad ensures that the band go out on a highly tuned perfectly executed note.

Taking the album as a whole Hinterland is very very good. Of course there are the flaws which I have mentioned but the high points are suitably high enough to distract your attention. When these guys really hook the whole package together as they do on the likes of ‘Nocturnal’ and ‘I See Suns’ they are frankly breath-taking. However I as I mentioned in passing in a couple of areas there has been a slight tendency to over-produce, much like with your girlfriends make up… less is more.

Nevertheless those minor issues really shouldn’t detract from what is an altogether rousing and very enjoyable debut effort. 

EP Review: Allusondrugs - Allusondrugs

There are some bands who are ridiculously easy to review. ‘If you like x you’ll love this’ ‘Two good verses, nice chorus, good guitar solo’ job done. But then there are bands like Allusondrugs. (Brilliant name for a band by the way) Musically these guys are off the wall, but that’s the beauty of them and what makes this record such an enthralling listen.

Allusondrugs are Jason Moules (Vocals) Drey Pavlovic (Guitar) Damo Hughes (Guitar, vocals, effects) Jemal Malki (Bass) and Connor Fisher-Atack (Drums) Formed in 2012 and hailing from West Yorkshire they are really riding the crest of a wave right now having just announced a nationwide tour for September to follow on from the release of this, their eponymously titled EP which is officially released next week.

The EP itself was recorded in 1 week at Greenmount Studios in Leeds, and was tracked live to analogue tapes as the band performed while all in the same room, something which you rarely get these days. The aim was to try and capture the energy from the bands live performances on record and I have to say that having heard the vibrancy on the record they have succeeded.

Opening track ‘I’m Your Man’ is a bit of a red herring as far as the rest of the EP is concerned, it lulls you into a false sense of security. The verses have quite an indie-rock feel about them caused by the ‘light’ uncomplicated sounding guitars and the layering of the vocals. The chorus is pretty strong and the tone of the guitar which dips in and out through the duration of the track is great. Although this is one of the more radio friendly efforts from the band there are still hints towards the end of a grimier future.

‘Ted, What’s The Porn Like In Heaven’ has to be one of the best song titles that I have ever come across in my life. In contrast to the opener everything gets a whole lot grittier and heavier but that guitar tone which I mentioned earlier still remains. With no intro to speak of the listener is thrown straight into the deep end and the action is relentless for the following 3 minutes. The band list Nirvana as one of their influences and you can that influence come to fore here, not only in the gritty nature of the guitars but the vocal delivery from Moules.

Deep grungy distortion greets the arrival of ‘Cherry Pie’ before a weird psychedelic darkness descends. The brutal rawness of the vocal along with a guitar riff dirty enough to leave you needing a shower contrast against moments of psychedelic rock many thought had been left in the late 60’s. The contrast seems odd on paper but it works brilliantly, the whole track is just intense from start to finish.

One of the things which I think bands often underestimate about EP’s and albums are track listings and how the project flows together as a whole, it shouldn’t just sound like a random collection of songs. Yes the tracks need to stand up on their own but they need to flow together in one long continuous journey of peaks and troughs as well. So after the harsh uncompromising nature of ‘Cherry Pie’ what the record needed  was something to get things back on a slightly more even keel and ‘Nervous’ does that incredibly well. It’s more of a traditional rock track and has a lot more polish and gloss about it. It’s no surprise that the band have used this as a single as it would slide wonderfully well from your car radio. This might be a more respectable version of the band but it is still a very good listen.

In keeping with the theme of every song being different to the one which preceded it the sultry psychedelic strains of ‘Sunset Yellow’ gently glide you into the track. Things don’t stay mellow for too long as the guitars thunder back in for a rousing chorus. The riffs lean towards the more traditional rock end but still have hints of the bands more unconventional side.

Final track ‘Thingio’ moves from characteristically grungy beginnings through to murky moments of all out psychedelia via a slight heavy metal excursion. It’s a microcosm of the record as a whole, wide ranging and sounding like the soundtrack to the dark side.

This EP is anything but straightforward but ultimately massively rewarding. It flows effortlessly from track to track while each song brings something different to the table from the one before it. The dark grungy tones set against the flashing moments of 1960’s psychedelic rock create a mixture which is not always instant but always impressive. Even the ‘radio’ tracks have a slight edge about them.

Allusondrugs is like that girl you used to know; gloriously dirty, but with flashes of respectability when needed. A brilliant way to spend 20 minutes. 

Allusondrugs is released on 21st July. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

EP Review: Emily and The Fedoras - The EP

There are some things in life that continue to make us happy no matter how many times they occur. Be that waking up next to the girl of your dreams (I’m taking an educated guess here) meeting up with old friends, finding a tenner down the back of the sofa or putting on underwear that’s come straight off a warm radiator in the winter. It’s these things that really are the gifts that keep on giving.

The same can also apply to music, especially when it comes to smooth Motown, Soul and R&B. I mean have you ever met a person who can’t appreciate the smoothness of Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding? If you have they are probably best kept away from as their judgement obviously can’t be trusted. There’s just something about that style that makes you smile, I don’t know whether it’s the voices, the grooves or a mixture of both but whatever it is music from that era is just timeless.

Now it is a common belief (One that I have often indulged in) that you just don’t get music like that anymore. Bands can’t reproduce that sound and when they do cover those kind of tracks mentioned above they take them miles away from their origins to the point where they are unrecognisable. Basically bands just don’t sound like that anymore. WRONG!

A couple of weeks ago while trawling the internet I found something awesome that I have kept going back to ever since I found it. For many people that is often followed by frantic deleting of your internet history but that was not the case on this one. I discovered a band from Edinburgh called Emily and The Fedoras, and frankly with a name that cool you’ve won half the battle. But that wasn’t all... because as they put it they ‘pay a loving homage to many Blues, Motown, Soul and Rock artists.’

At this point I was very excited and in need of a cold shower. Sadly for me the cold shower never materialised but I knew I had to get them featured on the blog in some shape or form so after a couple of beautifully crafted messages I can now bring to you my review of the bands current EP. But first in the interest of politeness we should get the introductions out of the way first.
Emily and The Fedoras are Emily Streete (Lead Vocals) Hayley Jones (Backing Vocals) Graeme Renwick (Alto Sax) Chris Boustred (Tenor Sax) Louise Plant (Trumpet) Michael Grant (Lead Guitar) Michael O’Boyle (Bass) and Scott Mitchell (Drums) The EP is only 2 tracks but that adds up to 10 minutes sublime vocals, great harmonies and fantastic musicianship.

Track one is a cover of the Jean Knight classic ‘Mr Big Stuff.’  Knight by the way is responsible for the biggest hair I have ever seen on a woman; seriously that thing was so big back in the say that it had its own dressing room. Released in May 1971 this is track is a straight classic and within 20 seconds you know the band are going to do it justice. Vocals are totally on point and that melody is every bit as funky as you remember it. But none of that is even the impressive bit because about halfway through the band seamlessly glide into some Charles Wright and ‘Express Yourself.’ The transition is so smooth you barely know it’s happening, I just sat there smiling. ‘Mr Big Stuff’ then glides back in for the finale in what is a great bit of imagination and musicianship.

The second track is a cover of Sam and Dave’s 1966 hit ‘Hold On I’m Comin’ which was co-written by soul royalty Isac Hayes and David Porter. The lead vocal from Jones is all a bit Christina Aguilera which is no bad thing if you ask me. As the track skips along all sections of the band get their time to shine in what is a throwback to a bygone era, an era which these guys seem determined to bring back, and frankly God bless them for it.

This record is a reminder to all of those people out there who may be disillusioned with music right now that it can still make you smile. The vocals are faultless and the musicianship as mentioned earlier is fantastic. We need for sax in the mainstream! The only downside is that the quality of the recordings is maybe not as crisp as they could be but frankly that is only a very minor inconvenience.

Emily and The Fedoras haven’t reinvented the wheel, they have just polished up the existed model and given it a new lease of life, a new lease of life that I would urge everyone to listen to and enjoy.

You can listen to the EP here -

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Single Review: The Slow Readers Club - Start Again

The Slow Readers Club are Aaron Starkie (Vocals, keyboard) Kurtis Starkie (Vocals, guitar) James Ryan (Bass) and David Whitworth (Drums) and they are back with their old/new single. Start Again was originally released in May but for reasons to which I am not privy it’s getting another airing on 21st July. (Not that I’m complaining)

I have featured a clutch of bands recently who seem to be on the cusp of really breaking through and this lot look like they could be another. Off the back of the release of their debut album in May 2012 they have received endorsements from the likes of NME, Steve Lamacq, BBC Introducing and 6 Music. I know that hype and co-signs aren’t everything but you have to feel that with a roll call like that they must be doing something right. Anyway they’ve got a brand new single to follow this in September and their 2nd album is slated for release in November of this year.

However all of that is for the future so we return to the here and now with Start Again. I would be lying if I said that I was a massive fan of this style of electronic indie but I’m always willing to make exceptions and that’s exactly what I have had to do here. There’s a futuristic and slight 80’s feel as a the synth like melody hums through the opening verse before a more traditional indie sound breaks out for what is a very strong chorus. The electronic waves then return for another verse before the two styles merge together for a brief electronica assisted guitar solo.

Lyrically the track deals with anxiety, fading opportunity and longing to be young again, which are feelings we have all felt at some point although some more than others! However simple themes and relatable lyrics are key if a single is going to be successful, and this track ticks both boxes.

Start Again is a very solid single and does exactly what you’d want it to. There’s decent replay value and a good chorus as the track glides along effortlessly for a shade over 3 minutes. All in all a very nice effort.

Start Again is released on 21st July

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Single Review: Death To Indie - Round 2

After the last couple of days where I have had the chance to bring you new music from some of the blog staples, today I have something entirely brand new for you in the form of the new single from Death To Indie.

Formed in Newcastle back in 2011 DTI have wasted no time in getting their music out to the general public releasing 3 EP’s, a full length album called #youreit  as well as a host of other singles and videos. They are certainly prolific if nothing else and now Michael Jax (Lead vocals, rhythm guitar) Nik Louder (Lead guitar) Mark Rayner (Bass) and Pete 

McLeod are back with a brand new single.
Round 2 is 3 minutes of pop punk fun which would have dominated the musical part of my teenage brain. The band list Blink 182 as one of their influences and on the face of it they have clearly been the blueprint for this track.  If you loved that pop punk sound that was so big in the early 2000’s with bands like Blink, Sum 41 etc then you will love this.

It’s fast paced has a good chorus that will get stuck in your head for days and as I said before it’s just good fun. For all of the music out there that is challenging and thought provoking you need tracks like this to act as balance. Far too often bands get caught up in trying to make statements in their music and forget that in its simplest form music is supposed to be entertainment but thankfully on this evidence DTI haven’t fallen into this trap.

Round 2 is well produced, nicely written, nostalgic but most of all very good fun.

Round 2 is out now and you can hear it by following the link below

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Single Review: The Rainband - Built For Change

When I first covered The Rainband they were a band steadily picking up both momentum and plaudits, they were clearly on the up. The track that I reviewed on that occasion was ‘Sirens’ and I described it as ‘the perfect indie-pop’ single, it really was that good. On the back of that I had the chance to see the band live, which for me is the real acid test and they put on a fantastic show that night to reinforce what I thought.

Since then the Rainband express has been picking up speed at an alarming rate. Over the course of the last week and a half they have done a live session for Becky Want’s show on BBC Radio Manchester, appeared on BBC Breakfast TV, had a beer named after them and have been slated for airplay on Chris Hawkins show on 6 Music for this coming week. And then there is the small matter that they are heading to Italy next week having been handpicked by Paolo 

Nutini to support him on the Italian leg of his tour.
With all of this going on they wouldn’t be the first band to take their eye off the musical ball and let their standards slip. However, I am pleased to report that that scenario couldn’t be further from the reality as new single Built For Change picks up the baton from where ‘Sirens’ left off.
The listener is thrown straight into the action as there isn’t really an intro to speak of with the Manchester lads getting straight down to business. The band have a great skill for being able to write tracks that while being catchy and musically very good on the surface also carry so weight lyrically, and that theme continues here. There are a couple of lines that I could easily quote but I think the middle eight,

Change is a chord that life keeps playing’

Lyric really hits the spot. There’s little time to dwell on life’s meaning however as the track fires towards its conclusion coming to end after just two and a half minutes.

Again as singles go Built For Change really does tick all the boxes. Its tailor made for radio, its catchy, not too long and production wise it’s nicely polished.

The Rainband are flying right now and you can’t help but feel that a major mainstream breakthrough is just around the corner.

‘Built For Change’ is released on 13th July, and the band play The Lowry Theatre in Manchester tonight. (12th July)

EP Review: Junebug - The Singles

In the space of 2 months I have gone from having never heard of Junebug in my life to them now being firm blog favourites. They released the single ‘TR’ to great reviews (including from this parish) and shortly after played the biggest gig of their career to date at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut last month which got a great reaction all over social media. And to top it all off in the midst of all of that they released a brand new EP. 

Basically they have been on a bit of a roll.
In recent weeks the band have undergone a slight evolution with bassist Matthew MacDonald leaving the band to go and explore pastures new in Canada, but they wasted no time in finding a replacement with David Devereux joining the Junebug ranks. However it was MacDonald who played bass on all of the tracks on this EP so he must receive the credit.

The Singles is a 15 minute demonstration of why I rate this band so highly. If you have heard any of the band’s music before then this record will not be anything drastically new to you but its Junebug doing what they do best.

‘TR’ was the first song that I ever heard from the band and it is this track that gets the EP off to a rock-tinged start. The intro could easily be something from Nirvana, it’s got that sort of grungy feel, but that soon fades away as the vocal from Alli Martin start to glide over the top of a neat guitar led melody. A good solid chorus, a nice shift up in tempo and short guitar solo follow as the track runs along impressively to its conclusion. I loved it when I first heard it and my feelings haven’t changed and if you get the chance to check out the video I urge you to do so. All I’ll say is that isn’t not what you would expect.

The energy levels drop down a couple of notches as the sun kissed melody of ‘Lines’ glides beautifully into view. The band seem to have a real knack for writing good melodies and that coupled with Martin’s simple and equally melodic vocal style means that their music is very easy listening. There’s nothing too challenging making it very easy to get into. The track ends with a quicker section which adds a nice bit of variation to this summery effort.

‘You And I’ sees the band return to more rockier territory in a brilliantly catchy manor. There are hints of ‘TR’ as the track clips along at quite a quick pace, the addition of a gravely guitar section just past the halfway mark works really well in contrast to the light and breezy delivery from Martin. Clocking in at less than 3 minutes this is definitely one to file under short and sweet.
Final track ‘Hoops’ has a real ‘happy go lucky’ feel about it. I hope that makes some sort of sense! It’s just light and really easy on the ears even as just an instrumental track it’s the sort of thing that would make you believe that everything is going to be alright. It’s lovely endearing stuff, a brilliant way to round the EP off.

The Singles shows a band at the top of their game. The record ticks all of the boxes, great melodies, beautiful vocals and plenty of chances to sing and hum along. If you like your rock music on a softer and at times more acoustic tip then this without question is the record for you.

Friday, 11 July 2014

ANiMA: The Interview 'Vladimir Putin on lead guitar'

A few weeks ago now I reviewed the new EP from Birmingham hard rock outfit ANiMA Remember It’s A Memory. I wrote at the time how I felt it was quite a unique record so I thought it might be an idea to get some thoughts from the band behind the music, so just after the EP’s release I got the inside track from frontman Dan Sheridan and what better place to start than how do the band go about putting together a project such as this one?

‘Well there are two main contributing factors to why the material that came together to make the record was used. Firstly we've racked up quite a back catalogue of songs, so there are plenty of tunes we've been waiting for the opportunity to record, and more importantly, the overall ambience, flow and themes found on the EP had to be cohesive.

So with this in mind we went through a few lengthy discussions about which songs to choose based on popularity with live audiences, thematic significance, and our own personal favourites. Bad Memory was a relatively new addition to our repertoire, and the lyrical ideas portrayed in this, those of mortality, opposites, memory, and the questioning of memories relating to actual events as they happen presently, became the pervading concepts I wanted to portray throughout the record, however loosely in places.

And it had to be loose in a sense because much of the material had been written before the subject matter was decided, and in some cases I even tailored the lyrics to fit more closely with the 'Remember It's A Memory' concept. However, the songs chosen all carried their own weight at their core, both thematically and individually. We didn't want a group of songs all sounding too similar.’
Remember It’s A Memory is actually the band’s 2nd EP following on from 2013’s Homeopathy and it seems that the band were keen to do a more professional job this time around. As Sheridan explained ‘The biggest change was in the amount of time invested in recording and mixing the record. On our fist EP we naively chucked some money at the studio and recorded as many songs as we could with the time we'd paid for. But at that point we were far more concerned with getting our music heard than of intriguing an audience with an interesting concept.’

This more professional approach continued into the marketing of the record as the band made sure that they learned from past mistakes ‘We chose to distribute Homeopathy for free at live shows, as promotion more than anything. While this ensured a certain percentage of the audience taking away our cd at the end of each gig, in retrospect I feel that giving something away for free devalues its content in people's minds.’ This is maybe a slightly cynical outlook but also and understandable one.

 One of the many interesting things about the EP was how despite being what you’d say was hard rock the majority of the songs clocked in at under 4 minutes so was this deliberate ploy? ‘It's a limitation I frequently impose on myself.’ Said Sheridan ‘Probably because I endeavour to keep our songs relatively accessible. A lot of my root influences as a writer are very much 3 – 4 minute pop song bands, such as Nirvana, David Bowie, Suede and Placebo, so this has impacted on the kind of music I choose to write, even if we're also inspired by a lot of heavier bands like Korn, Slipknot and Machine Head, and even slightly progressive rock like The Smashing Pumpkins and Muse.’

However as I said in my review the whole rock thing is blown to pieces by a spoken word track called ‘Embers.’ Something which Sheridan says was pretty much spur of the moment ‘The idea was relatively fresh for the recording. Out of a desire to bring our diversity into the ep I felt it was necessary to do something radically different sonically to the other songs. With the piano representing the fragile nature of the lyrics found throughout. The spoken word was a poem I'd written originally for use as part of the ep artwork. Instead of drawing from the poem to write lyrics, I decided to just recite it as it was, to give it the feel of a piece of performance art, as opposed to a song.’

As you all know I keep banging the drum for the music scene in Birmingham because things are booming and it seems I’m not alone with Sheridan describing being in the middle of it all ‘inspiring,’ while also recommending fellow Birmingham natives ‘God Damn and Youth Man, Ghosts of Dead Airplanes, Wax Futures, Table Scraps, Mutt, Adore, Fauxchisels and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam.’
Not content with being part of the Birmingham scene Sheridan also revealed that the band are also doing their best to try and move things forward ‘There's a collective/scene/movement we helped to form here in Birmingham called DIE DAS DER. It's representative of this kind of raw, heavy but intelligent breed of rock music, and includes not just bands but photographers, promoters, journalists, artists, anyone with something creative to contribute.’ On the back of that DDD are putting on a festival in Digbeth on 9th and 10th of August which should be a great couple of days, but after that surprisingly the band are hesitant to commit to anything musically beyond the here and now,

‘There is so much more music we want you to hear, so all we can say is the material is waiting for those with open ears, but its exposure hinges on the success of our current record. We should probably more confidently be yelling out a “fuck yeah, watch this space for more killer tunes!” But I'd rather be sincere and tell you that being a self-funded, original band in a world where people rarely pay for, or truly value band music, our career choice often feels like a thankless one.’ Sheridan’s honesty is refreshing and you can’t fault the line of thinking but I also find this outlook depressing, though this could be my slightly romanticised way of how I think the industry should work obscuring reality, but it is a little sad that at least some bands think this way. 

In interviews such as this artists are always being asked about influences and the like so I decided to put a of a spin on that theme by asking Sheridan to come up with a dream line up for a band, the result bit wasn’t quite what I was expecting… ‘Jesus Christ on vocals, Vladimir Putin on lead guitar, Princess Diana on second guitar, Chris Evans (the ginger one, not Captain America) on bass, Garth from Wayne's World on drums and the Loose Women as backing vocalists. The band would be called Peace.' 
Having said that I have said for years how Jesus and Vlad Putin would have an amazing Jagger/Richards like chemistry. Turns out I wasn’t the only one.

However I know that the only reason that you have read this interview is to find out how ANiMA approached the now traditional ‘If you could design your perfect sandwich what would be in it?’ question. Well wait no more because it apparently involves ‘Vegetarian deep fried human……’

It simply wouldn’t be ANiMA if you weren’t left at least a little bit confused.