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Released 25 August

 

Goodbye Earth

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

Is this truly goodbye? Well, quite possibly for the assortment of characters including Trixie Marmalade, Mr Orlando Bloom, and Uncle Beefhart considering he’s a distant relation of the original forefather of the weird-out cauldron of blues, jazz, alternative rock (Yes, only the term hadn’t been coined back then), etc. Of course, let’s not forget the main Space Cats here from Jupiter, who seem keen to head to destinations new but not without leaving a rather terrific parting shot with their brand new album ‘Goodbye Earth’. There are changes afoot with this sophomore effort with the heavy psychedelia from before toned-down, and in place more deliberated efforts such as the beautiful intro ‘Waltz for Yellow Spectral Star’ (Ringo Starr Yellow Submarine is scribbled on the notepad but no resemblance in sound) where guitar and keys combine slowly and steadily building a wall of noise that eventually allows for Kristine Marie Aasvang to apply vocals to the cacophony where one can sense the bags are packed and ready for loading on deck as this ship is heading skywards and deep into space. In order to get there, the Harvey Steel show let the engines ignite and burn brightly via The Doors inspired ‘Hunting Shadows’ where sundried, cracked desert landscapes appear and then close from view in flashes of darkness only to reappear before the exit from Earth looms and then closes its gates for the final time behind wails of feedback. It remains their finest moment and a song to be TRULY proud of. Once in space the intermission kicks in with the delightful sound of ‘If Pigs Could Fly’ that is at once frivolous yet also leaves one to ponder due to the chilling afterthought, “If you think you’re free, there’s no escape possible”. A whole melange of styles clash during ‘Impressionistic Umbrella’ that is (take your pick) part New Wave, part blues and a different take on the Grease soundtrack, if you will, revealing the charming side of this band. Poor old Orlando! A previous single, and more a reflection of what’s wrong with this planet, ‘Orlando Bloom’ throws up society’s wrongdoings whilst playing out in part to a soulful shuffle that is reminiscent of the Mr Soft character that Noel Gallagher famously talked about with regard to a certain Oasis number. Elsewhere, the Harvey Steel show flex their version of the blues, and skilfully so, with the compelling ‘Red Queen Blues’, and then proceed to produce the wonderful jazz turn, ‘Outer Space (part 2) which, unfortunately, is trimmed too short. The final statement arrives by means of ‘Waltz for Trixie Marmalade’ that borrows from Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’ with its synthesized voice that eventually allows the entire contents of ‘Goodbye Earth’ to disappear into the black hole of space with predominantly the sound of jazz leaving its mark. A masterclass in how to combine surrealism with reality and make the whole project gel consistently, the Harvey Steel show has just upped their game. Hopefully, this is not their final statement.

 


Released 18 August

 

Dancing Killer

Nightstop

Secret Entertainment

We’re clearly in the wrong decade here. New album from 80s stalwart Nightstop with ‘Dancing Killer’, not only revisits the aforementioned decade, but ends up remaining there with an inch perfect recreation of that classic synth sound that provided the backdrop to many films and television series of that period. With Nightstop being classed as a synth/retro wave artist, and one who’s been growing in popularity since 2013, the credits behind this musician include several albums and EPs. Latest album, ‘Dancing Killer’ is the newest addition to that catalogue of music as it continues the retro feel where 80’s synthesizers dominate and create a series of instrumental moods whether blowing a cool icy chill throughout ‘Beast Within’, or more 80s romance than sleaze hinted at by the title ‘Backseat Lover’. The overall feel of the album is one that is obsessed with city nightlife, where you’re likely to find the characters Crockett and Tubbs (Miami Vice) sipping cocktails under the neon glow of a busy nightspot, for example, with the tracks ‘Flesh’ and ‘Ghoul’ the most likely candidates. Weirdly at odds with the current climate of any music scenes right now, but largely part of its appeal, ‘Dancing Killer’ is an album that transports the listener back to a period of music that is genuinely recreated via its 80s instrumental synth sounds.


Released Out now

 

‘Btwn. 1st & A’

Bodega Sisters

Bodega Sisters Music

BODEGA SISTERS is the new outlet for five musicians from a clutch of other groups such as Gorilla Cult, Haschan Luego, Ave. L and Midvinterblot. With these band members coming together to form a super group if you will, their first official release is a single that is made from the components of shoegaze, krautrock, and 80’s synth pop, and has been given the name ‘Btwn. 1st & A’. The song goes about its business by bringing together the aforementioned genres, and ends up transmitting these combined sounds as a continuous loop of guitars and electronics that gathers pace and glistens brightly in contrast to the (intentionally) dour main vocal. With lyrics reading like poetry and ‘Btwn. 1st & A’ forced to apply the brakes nearing its end where guitars give the impression of sparks flying via its feedback, Bodega Sisters provide much to think about with ‘Btwn. 1st & A’, which can only be a good thing.

 


Released Out now

 

Nil and Void (Single)

This Sect

Sect Appeal Records

“Houses have holes to let the air out,” starts lead singer Gøran Karlsvik of Norwegian post-punk band This Sect, deep in the knowledge of the outcome of where his lyrical pen is steering this latest release. A seven-inch pink only vinyl, with the other option a digital download, ‘Nil and Void’ is unlikely to claim any official chart placing such is its cheeriness, but then it wouldn’t be This Sect without a few honest truths sprinkled with cryptic details that will have the Einstein’s among us working overtime until its bitter end. As far as conclusions go, there really is no such thing when it comes to ‘Nil and Void’, more a repeat spin cycle of the vacuous nature of life where human nature passes for empty vessels, accepting their lot and merely passing through time. Thankfully, the driving electronic synth weaving a forceful path through this single, coupled with a watertight tight rhythm section try their hardest to raise the alarm and retaliate against such inertia. Unfortunately, old habits are hard to break. The flipside, ‘Pink in Red’, maintains the high quality levels, offering a calmer intro but one that is shrouded in cold instrumentation until it finds some warmth via a stirring chorus where guitars soar. With their anxieties continuing to take hold and therefore failing to shake that dreaded curse, This Sect continue their struggle against society’s ills by equipping themselves with the tools of their trade, including a raw post-punk sound and a profound use of words. It’s a powerfully effective combination, and one that is deserving of a wider audience.


Released Out now

 

a – > b

Tatsuro Kojima

Eilean Records

Tatsuro Kojima hails from Japan and has previously recorded two albums via Audiobulb Records in 2012 and 2015. Being a self-taught musician, the ambient creations Tatsuro Kojima produces throughout latest album ‘a – > b’ are suited to such a background where the need for freedom and flexibility are definite requirements where sound creations remain free of any constraints that a more structured and formal education may bring. With Kojima’s sounds being described as “closely connected to his visual approaches,” this is certainly true of ‘a – > b’ where there is a feeling of walking through various scenarios recording the everyday by means of observation and practical techniques developed from field recordings and use of synthesizer and electronics over the years (the recordings found here began in 2011). The album ‘a – > b’ makes for compelling listening and really deserves to be heard for those interested in the finer details of life.


Released Out now

 

L.A. Sunset (Single)

The Crowleys

Bandcamp

The Crowleys open their account in fine style with the song ‘L.A. Sunset’ that radiates a glorious sound and more than matches the L.A. sunset held in its title. Beginning in a haze of shoegaze guitars that recalls The Cocteau Twins without a shadow of a doubt, the four-piece band from Hamilton, Ontario, proceed in similar fashion only the influences broaden with mainly dreampop and psychedelic references taking hold, yet there are leanings towards surf rock as well. ‘L.A. Sunset’ is the kind of single that is made for those seemingly endless halcyon days of summer, and one that evokes more recent artists MGMT and Empire of the Sun where both achieved similar feats with the kind of sun-kissed indie psychedelic pop that The Crowleys are touting in 2017. Long may these rays of sunshine continue via The Crowleys and their definition of ‘L.A. Sunset’.


Released 4 August

 

Berry & Whythe (Single)

Siv Jakobsen

The Nordic Mellow

Recalling a period in her life when living as a resident in New York City, with the title of the single named after a couple of streets in Brooklyn, Siv Jakobsen issues a new song, and one that is taken from her forthcoming debut album ‘The Nordic Mellow’. The word intimate has often been used to describe Siv Jakobsen’s music, and there is no doubting such a description as the atmosphere given during ‘Berry & Whythe’ is one that is borderline claustrophobic where there is almost no room to breathe such is the closeness of her presence, which gives the impression of being the only witness to the tale being spun here as one is transported back to the bedsit in question Stateside. Top marks, therefore, to not only Siv Jakobsen for creating such a personal touch, but also producer Matt Ingram where both genuinely create a sense of reimagining the relationship that once existed at the centre of this song. With fine threads linking Siv Jakobsen to Joni Mitchell and fellow Norwegian Arne Brun, any such references soon disappear once ‘Berry & Whythe’ takes hold of your senses and keeps you there for the duration of its contents.

 


Released Out now

 

pt. 1 (EP)

Cal

BMG / WAS Records

Having praised the single ‘Paranoid’ from the rooftops earlier in 2017, Norwegian singer-songwriter CAL continues where the former single left off (included here as part of the EP). By adopting a new alias and setting real name Frida Amundsen on hold for the time being at least, the new direction CAL is pursuing is one largely steeped in pop music, but one that is less concerned with the frothy commercialism of the mainstream as ‘pt. 1’ represents something far more detached and isolated. Such instances can be heard during opening track ‘Charlie’ that is full of melancholy and icy beats and suffers from a heavy dose of rejection. The following ‘Fragile’ suggests comparisons with Kate Bush and Tori Amos in the vocals, and offers lines such as, “If I had a super power, I would get myself a break,” giving way to the idea that a severe breakdown in communication of the relationship kind has occurred, but at least the chorus offers some solace as it melts the senses, especially via its glorious backing vocals. ‘When I Grow Older’ is the lighter of the bunch with a far more instant and catchy appeal that provides balance to a very good EP.


Released Out now

 

Baby Come Back (Single)

BO

XOLOVEBO

Artist and pop singing sensation, BO, arrives on the scene with a brand new track ‘Baby Come Back’. With a moody and atmospheric haze hanging over this latest release, no doubt brought back from a stint in the Nevada dessert where the accompanying video was filmed, there is a real tendency to get lost in the dreamlike qualities of ‘Baby Come Back’, not simply for the aforementioned atmospheric elements, ably demonstrated by the vocal delivery as well, but as a result of the lyrics mourning the end of a close relationship. Maybe there is a chance of reconciliation for BO, but after repeat visits ‘Baby Come Back’ is all this artist will need in order to move on from this particular chapter. A surprise addition to the reviews bundle this month, ‘Baby Come Back’ is the perfect companion for the final few weeks of summer.


Released Out now

 

Here Again

A Will Away

Triple Crown Records

Grab yourself a rather large pot and throw in the ingredients of pop, punk and alternative rock with a little emo, and then stir continuously until you solidify the mixture and come up with A Will Away. Such a concoction is music to our ears because the melodic tunes, combined with raw emotions that A Will Away seem to churn out effortlessly, run aplenty throughout the band’s album ‘Here Again’. With opening song and title track ‘Here Again’ full of nostalgia that tugs at the heartstrings via its tuneful melody and Matt Carlson’s sweet and raw vocals, the band’s latest LP gets off to a perfect start. It can be said that there is a definite scent of Jimmy Eat World to a number of the tracks available here, most notably ‘Pay Raise’ (which is deserved of a wage increase such is its brilliance!) and the summery guitar sounds of ‘Agoraphobia’ where the anxieties expressed are brought out in a splendour of melodic tunefulness that then runs into a similar feat supplied by way of the vocals, only the soreness expressed is sometimes a bit more evident (see previously). There are occasions where A Will Away tend to run down the same musical avenue (‘Better Reluctant’ and ‘Well-Adjusted’), which is something Jimmy Eat World had a tendency to fall victim to, leaving one to ponder that perhaps bands of this ilk would be better served with EP only releases. As it stands, ‘Here Again’ possesses enough saving graces via several of its concluding tracks; namely the glorious ‘The Shakes’, ‘Gravity’ and ‘Into The Light’ to help weed out any familiarity felt, and therefore leave a feeling of contentment rather than abject disappointment.


Released Out now

 

DNAR (EP)

Never Train

Secret Entertainment

Recalling classic rock bands of old where the likes of Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC dominated the airwaves for a period of time, Finnish rock band Never Train revive such memories with their latest EP ‘DNAR’. Power chords are certainly alive and well throughout the three tracks on offer; expertly handled by dual guitarists Rauli Hämäläinen and Juuso Kekkonen with Kimmo Nieminen providing authentic vocals that give way to the previously mentioned rock references Never Train recall. Pick of the bunch is ‘First We Live’ that, despite its full throttle momentum, reveals much detail the further one investigates. Given the definition of “street rock” by its press release, such a description is befitting of this five piece, who sound raw around the edges as well as the finished article, therefore suggesting Never Train has the hunger and desire to go all the way, in addition to possessing the technical abilities to stay out on top.


Released Out now

 

Black Aura

Viper Arms

Concorde Music Company

Turku, Finland, is the location where you will find all-female fronted group Viper Arms and their debut album ‘Black Aura’. With the band taking inspiration from their hometown and the Aura River that divides it, Viper Arms combine a hardedge rock sound with profound lyrics reflecting feelings of despair and loneliness mixed with sleazier ingredients that make up the standard rock ‘n’ roll cocktail. However, far from this album being a clichéd affair, Viper Arms blaze a trail from the start with the driving beat and forceful vocals of lead singer Niina during ‘Time Bomb’. If that wasn’t enough to raise the hairs on the back of one’s neck, then the aforementioned vocals really dig their claws in throughout ‘Lucky 7’, puncturing the surface of its thrash laden rhythm and then continuing to hang on for dear life before hollering nearing its climax, “You’ve got the lucky seven”. Phew! It’s breath-taking stuff. The pace eases once the excellent, and certainly more melodic, ‘To The Wolves’ enters the fray, only to revert to the thunderous tempo from before with the lyrically frivolous ‘Sugar Rush’ that steamrolls by in a blur of electric guitars. Thankfully, Viper Arms understand the notion of balance when it comes to writing and recording an album because ‘Everything Nothingness’ provides such diversity with its ballad-esque qualities that also extends to the (pop) rock of ‘Black Surf’, ‘The Worst Candidate’ and reflective ‘Crossing The Border’. There is one final sting in the tail of this album however, and that arrives via the thrash rock of ‘Sightseeing To Hell’ that will leave your jaw gaping and finger poised to hit the repeat button once this song concludes. Viper Arms may have a few anxieties to deal with, but they’re certainly tackling them head on via a combined effort of steely determination and philosophical reflection that is rolled out evenly throughout the contents of ‘Black Aura’.

 



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