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Starting Over Again

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Starting Over Again

Ida Jenshus

Universal Music Norway

‘Starting Over Again’ is the name of the record and where Norwegian artist Ida Jenshus currently finds herself. With a great desire to change her working habits after three successful albums and winner of three Spellemannpriser (Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy) for her creative endeavours, Ida Jenshus set out on a path of new discovery. Retaining the services of producer Kåre Vestrheim was the only remainder of her past, as Ida Jenshus set to task the songs for ‘Starting Over Again’. The precursor to this latest long player from Ida Jenshus was last year’s ‘Let It Go’ EP that contained the audacious ‘Shallow River’ as it played out over three segments. With this latest album, Ida Jenshus continues where the former EP left off, with songs stretching over the six minute mark, barring a couple of exceptions, and packed with great details. Take for example the title track with its Joni Mitchell inspired vocals set to a delicate rhythm that gradually adds more flesh to its bones as the song progresses via harmonica and atmospheric sounding guitars. ‘Set Us Free’ is blessed with more fine vocals and takes a more direct approach musically, compared to the drawn out nature of quite lengthy ‘Changes / What Is Time?’ for example. Never an easy task the process of reinvention, but Ida Jenshus appears to have cracked it with her latest album ‘Starting Over Again’.


Still The One – Live From Vegas

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Still The One – Live From Vegas

Shania Twain

Mercury Nashville

Five-time Grammy winner Shania Twain made the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas her home for two years, having performed over one hundred shows to supporters from all over the world. With her signature of melding country with pop music, Shania Twain added a thirteen-piece band and a number of other features such as dancers and a flying motorcycle to not only put on a show, but one that was fitting of the glitzy traditions associated with Vegas. Such was the overwhelming success of these Vegas performances that the decision was made to release a live album as a memento for those fans who attended, but also for those who were unfortunate to not witness this live extravaganza. ‘Still The One – Live From Vegas’ is the documented evidence of Shania Twain’s residency in Vegas available as a live CD on Mercury Nashville as well as DVD and Blu-ray from Eagle Rock. With the album containing her well-known hit singles ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’ and ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ that many no doubt were waiting to hear, ‘Still The One – Live From Vegas’ is finely tuned with a sample of Shania Twain’s earlier work with the more country than pop ‘No One Needs To Know’ and ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?’ to name two such examples. With this album being produced by Shania Twain herself, the hands on approach and dedication to her song writing is evident throughout as ‘Still The One – Live From Vegas’ serves as a perfect reminder for those who witnessed one of these live performances.


Her Foreign Language

Released 10 April

 

Her Foreign Language

Matthau Mikojan

Inverse Records

The cover notes that accompanied debut solo release from Finland’s Matthau Mikojan left an interesting trail and one that requires further investigation. Having seen the demise of his previous band and without a record deal, the decision to set up shop and write and record the latest set of songs formulating in his mind was a no brainer really. The difficulty came when, despite a wealth of experience behind him as a musician, the realisation dawned that there was a dearth of experience when it came to the actual recording process. Rather than let panic ensue, Matthau Mikojan set the wheels in motion by means of studying every available textbook, trawling the internet for any appropriate advice, and observing studio engineers at work in order to learn the ropes as far as recording goes. Fast forward to the present and the end result is ‘Her Foreign Language’; thirteen songs that have received the closest attention to detail after many hours of hard graft and without much daylight to speak of. The clues can loosely be deciphered in some of the song titles regarding the painstaking recording process Matthau Mikojan has undergone, whether it’s ‘Hours Overdue’, ‘Good Nights, Bad Mornings’ or ‘Gold & Silver’. While strong comparisons with Bowie can be heard throughout ‘Her Foreign Language’, there are also traces of the Rolling Stones bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with ‘No Preference’ and ‘Hours Overdue’ being two obvious candidates. The amps are turned down during the reflective and largely acoustic ‘You’, which leads to greater self-examination once the gothic tones of ‘Presence’ makes itself known via an enthralling vocal and skeletal guitar sound. While there is a preference for the slight outer space oddities of ‘Wrapped’, for example, over the more straight bluesy rock which seems to outnumber the former, ‘Her Foreign Language’ is to be exalted for its courage to follow its own convictions and come out the other side with a more than palatable album.


Demons Los Divas

Released 10 April

 

Demons Los Divas

Velvet Six

Inverse Records

There is a real sense of drama unfolding with the return of Velvet Six and their second studio album ‘Demons Los Divas’. Having reformed the band’s line-up, Velvet Six waste no time in terms of reintroducing themselves with a sweeping wave of synth orchestrated strings, robust guitars and supportive bass that drives introductory number ‘Twist’ straight to the senses and leaves an indelible mark such is its immediate impact. It is this high delivery of sound  that fuels the drama and sense of the theatrical, which is heightened further by lead vocalist Olle Wallenius’ engaging way with words (“Will my little Snow White get her medicine”) and strong presence throughout. The album’s title track reveals that Velvet Six is no fluke when it comes to writing a memorable ditty as ‘Demons Los Divas’ is dominated by its guitars and bass that combine to create an infectious melody. The aforementioned drama opens up once more with the overstated delivery of ‘Something Evil’, which has a habit of sounding like a number of different songs with various parts lifted and bolted together yet remains annoyingly difficult to pin down. There is no doubting the strength at the heart of this band being its ability to consistently construct engaging melodic songs with a definite hard edge that serve as a conveyor belt of quality controlled delights, with ‘Back To Back’, ‘Blood Rain’ and ‘Loves Like’ particularly indicative of such a description. The wait has certainly been worthwhile as Velvet Six has overcome any suggestion of difficult second album syndrome by turning in a compelling collection of songs that will suitably appeal to current fans as well as entice a number of new supporters.


db-heart-cover

Released 10 April

 

Dream Brother

Dream Brother

Inverse Records

The Dream Brother project has finally become a reality with the release of the band’s self-titled debut album. What began in 2008 has come to fruition in 2015 with a ten-track long player of predominantly American inspired alternative rock songs. There’s a definite pinch of Nirvana added to the rather excellent opener ‘Lost Yourself’, which is abrasive one moment and smooth the next once the melodic pop of its chorus sets in. A fine start that simply builds further with the tight and driving rhythm of ‘Black Leaves’, that can be compartmentalised as a close relation of Jimmy Eat World and ditto the acoustic indie rock of ‘Halfway’ with singer Samuel Sjöman trying his hardest to convince himself that there might be a spark left in a recent relationship breakup, “I still believe in you, I still believe, But we don’t care anymore because we don’t speak anymore” and it makes for compelling listening. There is a sense of claustrophobia given to ‘The Way Out’ via its lyrics, but also the manner in which the song builds on various layers only to find itself returning to the start . The sense of frustration boils over into the pared back sound and confessional ‘LoveHateLove’ that climaxes nicely with a bout of tub-thumping, handclaps and group vocals. Despite ‘Dream Brother’, being a tad derivative in places – the granular yet catchy indie pop of ‘The One’ being such an example – one can only gaze in admiration for a vision fully realised and one that contains enough reasons to return to this debut album for some considerable time yet.


Rockin' Bonnie + The Starliters

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Cause of You…Two Cats

Rockin' Bonnie & The Mighty Ropers + The Starliters

El Toro

Released separately as two vinyl EPs, Rockin’ Bonnie & The Mighty Ropers + The Starliters is given the double treatment here as both EPs have also been issued as a singular CD album showcasing both releases. By combining both sets of vinyl works seamlessly as the western swing and country bop peppered lightly with elements of rockabilly and honky tonk blends appropriately and giving this an overall sense of one band performing throughout. With The Starliters kicking things off in fine style with their ‘Two Cats’ and followed up with the catchy hook of its chorus and near spoken word delivery of ‘Stuck On This Gal And Spin That Bottle’, it’s hoped that this four-piece band do not leave it another thirteen years before committing their creative ideas to a follow-up EP. The contributions from Rockin’ Bonnie and the Mighty Ropers make this EP a stalemate, if you’re concerned with such things, as the quality of songs is equally impressive. From the lazy, hazy feel of ‘Cause Of You’ given real credence by way of a laidback piano and lap steel guitar setting the mood accordingly. There is a great version of Hank Snow’s ‘Movin’ On’ that’s given a boost via a beefed up guitar, only to be edged out by the western swing influenced ‘I’ve Done Gone Hot Wild’. With this album being a generous offer of two for the price of one, coupled with the fact that both EPs are consistent in their song writing, ‘Cause Of You…Two Cats’ is one record that is going to be difficult to ignore.


The King of Cape

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The King of Cape

Alfred Hall

Sony Music Norway

It’s been a couple of years since Alfred Hall’s ‘Wilderness’, but with latest single ‘The King of Cape’ it’s like the duo haven’t been away. Picking up where their debut album left off, the song writing partnership of Bjørn Tveit (vocals/guitar) and Thomas Klær (guitar) reintroduce themselves with their distinctive sound of hushed vocals backed with an uplifting melody as ‘The King of Cape’ is the equivalent of daylight slowly revealing itself of a morning before making its full entrance and setting the day in motion. Having developed their profile that now extends outside of their native Norway, primarily as a result of the EP ‘Alfred Hall’ being released in 2014 internationally, as well as productive campaigns with Netflix and Cerveza Pacifico Clara respectively, the next step for Alfred Hall is an intriguing one because while ‘The King of Cape’ is a delightful reminder of the glorious sounds of their debut album, the real challenge will be to see if the duo can develop their sound to the next level rather than simply reduplicating their previous long player. It is sincerely hoped that the boys from Drammen manage to pull off the former option.


'Godzilla Vs. Poutine'

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Godzilla Vs. Poutine

Robbob

Robbob Music

Providing food for thought, Canadian Robbob’s second album is ingeniously constructed along a central theme of food and quite possibly a love-hate relationship with this subject considering the album’s artwork depicting Godzilla confronting the traditional Canadian (junk) dish of poutine. Having fallen in love with the vibrancy of the neighbourhood of Limoilou, Robbob set about forming a backing band by the name of Limoilou Libre Orchestra consisting of Samuel Poirier (upright bass), Jean-Sébastien Gauthier (lap-steel guitar) and backing singers the Robbobettes. In addition to the recording of this sophomore album, the Everlovin’ Jug Band provided assistance with two of the songs, making this long player a genuine team effort rather than a personal pursuit. While ‘Godzilla Vs. Poutine’ is a record full of novelty songs, it’s a project worth taking seriously for the manner in which the songs are constructed around predominantly country and folk music and then injected with smart and witty lyrics evoking memories of a genre that rose in popularity during the post-war years. Such nuggets can be found once the aftermath of the city rubble clears (It’s a Godzilla thing!) with deep consideration given to the body parts of a heron with ‘Starin’ At A Heron’; the chuggin’ guitar adding to the catchy tempo of the album’s title track, and saucy narrative of ‘Yodelling For Your Noodles’ complete with Hawaiian sway are enough to keep the poutine at bay. Even song ideas such as ‘Hug A Slug’ probably shouldn’t be seated at the table but it remains the delivery of the song that compels, with Robbob and the Robbobettes finding great form vocally. It’s the seriousness of the musicianship that helps to provide an even balance to the frivolous nature of the lyrics that makes ‘Godzilla Vs. Poutine’ a refreshing release indeed.


Blue Planet Eyes

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Blue Planet Eyes

The Preatures

Universal Music Norway

Hailing from Australia, The Preatures has been making great strides having supported the Rolling Stones last year, as well as writing and recording their debut album. Having two well-received EPs to their name, it was time for this Ozzie five piece to set their collective ideas to a full-length record. With producer Jim Eno from Texas rock band Spoon jumping on board to guide The Preatures through their first album, this debut was recorded at Public Hi Fi studio in Austin, Texas and then finalised at Doldrums Studio in Surry Hills with the band’s own Jack Moffitt (guitar) co-producing. The end result is ‘Blue Planet Eyes’; an album that sets pop music as its central source but, at the same time, possesses shades of dance music and indie guitar rock. It’s a bold manoeuvre that starts ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ with, in fact, the album’s title track as it’s more of an instrumental composition, gliding on a wave of mild electronics and offering the slightest of vocals from Izzi Manfredi. The Preatures personality really comes out from its hiding place once ‘Somebody’s Talking’ bounces into view and proves to be utterly irresistible with its 80s classic pop feel; the kind of which the likes of Blondie used to produce during the early part of that decade. There’s a bit of a funk groove accompanying ‘Is This How You Feel’, with Izzi Manfredi showing the ranges of her vocal to great effect which, again, takes a slight deviation once the mild rock influences of ‘Ordinary’ take a hold. It remains true that ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ embraces a variety of influences whether a stirring ballad via ‘Two Tone Melody’ or darkened, distorted pop of ‘Rock And Roll Rave’. Despite such diversity, the lines never become blurred as to its overall intentions as The Preatures remain rooted in pop music, but one that lends itself to other influences, making this nothing short of an absorbing debut album.


Little May EP

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Little May (EP)

Little May

Universal Music Norway

Putting together six tracks for their current release is Australian trio Little May. Comprising of members Annie Hamilton, Hannah Fjeld and Liz Drummond, Little May has been dubbed the ‘The Australian Haim’ by their native media, as well as receiving considerable recognition overseas with UK radio stations particularly impressed by the song ‘Hide’. If it’s indie folk influenced songs you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place as the ‘Little May EP’ is a source rich in supply. First song off the block is ‘Dust’ which gives way to a rolling, tumbling rhythm after beginning in the quietest of fashions. The power of the vocals are often hypnotic whether at their faintest decibels à la ‘Boardwalks’ or falling in and out of the shadows and adding to the tension conveyed musically and lyrically in relation to ‘Hide’. Little May really dig deep with the husky delivery of ‘Bones’, that is unlikely to hear a response to its repetitive questioning, “Do you feel it in your bones like I do?” and one can almost feel the hurt inside such is the sincerity given here. Sometimes in life the best things come in smaller packages as the ‘Little May EP’ adequately suggests.


Angerville

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Angerville

Ine Hoem

Propeller Recordings

Having been the recipient of several awards, as well as a Spellemann (Norwegian Grammy) nomination back in 2010 for her vocal duties with eclectic sounding Norwegian outfit Pelbo, Ine Hoem takes the plunge into the deep end by setting out her own stall with solo album ‘Angerville’. With this being a first album for vocalist Ine Hoem, her debut release actually came in the form of an EP by the name of ‘The Island’. This was the step in a new direction that saw Ine Hoem adopt a pop approach, which proved a success as the EP received heavy rotation on the nation’s radio networks and a further award as winner of ‘Musikkprisen’ at Ocean Sound Recordings. Once momentum had gathered, Ine Hoem set to task writing and recording the songs for ‘Angerville’, with additional production duties coming by way of up-and-coming producer Kristoffer Bonsaksen. With the first sign of life arriving last autumn with the single ‘This Year’, Ine Hoem immediately captured the imagination with her unforced vocals and lyrics purporting to achieve a longlist of ‘to-do’s’ when the reality of such dreams remains on far safer grounds. Ine Hoem manages to retain much attention via her pristine vocals; exemplified by the heavenly introduction to ‘Caroline’ which proceeds to carry the rest of the song and entire contents of ‘Angerville’ in similar fashion. Elsewhere, ‘Lost Lovers’ is a relatively pared-back composition and has the feel of a first-person narrative given the natural qualities of the vocals helping to piece together the initial steps of a relationship before its ultimate demise, which comes as no surprise considering its bold pronouncement of not feeling the ‘love’ for Bob Dylan! There is time for reflection with the joyful sounding ‘When We Were Young’, but is let down slightly by the twee narrative. Such a discrepancy is soon amended by the fragile and honest admissions of ‘I Will Follow’ only to be outdone (just) by the sublime ‘When We Collide’, which is equally sincere in its emotions only it’s the thorny opposite in terms of its predecessor. Engaging, heartfelt and gifted with a vocal of divine qualities, Ine Hoem will have no problems making a name for herself along this solo route just as long as she can continue to stave off the feelings of loneliness that seem to be impregnating ‘Angerville’ at nearly every turn.


Happy People

Released Out now

 

Happy People

Peace

Columbia

Following on from 2013′s ‘In Love’ album, indie quartet, Peace expand their creative range with ‘Happy People’. Despite the wider expanse of sound on offer here, Peace retain their affection for a good pop melody and sense of rhythm, which has a habit of creeping up from behind and making itself known once the chorus hits of ‘Gen Strange’, for example. The title of the record is not to be taken literally as there is a general sense of unease felt whether in relation to the usage of ‘Money’, set to a steady indie funk groove, or the manner in which living in the present is panning out as illustrated by the gradual flickering into life of ‘O You’ puffing out a longing sigh with its line, “The 80s were better, I’ve no doubt”. With concerns regarding perceived ideas in relation to image (‘Perfect Skin’), or the loneliness considered at the centre of the ballad-esque ‘Under The Moon’, happiness is but a distant prospect for Peace. Despite such concerns, this four piece from the Midlands have a habit of communicating their thoughts by way of some infectious rhythms, via the guitar driven swagger of ‘Lost On Me’ and gusty momentum of the album’s title track to remind enough listeners that residency in the UK during the mid-nineties really was the place to be. With a deluxe version of ‘Happy People’ offering an incredible eight extra tracks and enough to fill another album, there really is much to consider when it comes to Peace and their second offering.



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