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Blodig Alvor

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Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na

DumDum Boys

Sony Music Norway

First released in 1988 and now remastered for 2015, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ by Norway’s DumDum Boys is re-released as a limited edition vinyl, in addition to standard digital formats. With ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ falling just short of a top ten place during its initial release, the album was well received by critics and supporters alike. Such positive responses to this first album led to increased recognition as DumDum Boys went from strength to strength, with each successive release more or less landing the coveted number one slot in terms of the Norwegian album chart. When approaching the contents of the reissued ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ for the first time, after missing this now landmark album during its debut release due to the band being a Scandinavian delicacy rather than possessing international status, the feeling is the same level of curiosity of approaching a new band for the very first time. Once the tracks of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ start to familiarise themselves, the evidence is there for all to experience in terms of why this album received such critical acclaim first time out. Classing its contents as alternative rock for the period in which it first originated, the sound of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ is distinct for the gruff manner of Prepple Houmb’s vocals and general robustness of the guitars. Opening song, ‘Fant Frimann’ garners much praise for its guitar riff that practically drives the song throughout, and for lingering long in the memory due to its addictive appeal. The initial clattering of instrumentation that introduces ‘Lunch I Det Grønne’ gives way to a steady rhythm, with the guitar taking precedent along with a charismatic turn by the DumDum Boys leading man. Title track ‘Blodig Alvor’ hints at 70s period Rolling Stones with its lighter strokes of guitar and bluesy harmonica. The same label can be applied to ‘Kunne Vært Verre’ (‘Could’ve Been Worse’), only the influences are more conspicuous. Elsewhere, ‘Papirsang’ takes a different approach with the guitars adopting an indie jingle-jangle that was prevalent during ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’s’ first release, and then ending on a quieter note with the brushed instrumentation and toned-down vocals of rather excellent ‘Idyll’. After several repeat outings, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ keeps offering enough reasons as to why it deserved its reissued status, it’s just a shame that the restrictions created by its choice of language will continue to confine this album to a limited market.


Hell Yeah

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Hell Yeah

The Boners

Rhythm Bomb

Once you get past the sniggering behind the bike sheds humour of the band’s moniker and front cover art – the rear image is opted for here due to a variety of reasons – there is much to revel in when it comes to The Boners and their debut album, ‘Hell Yeah’, on Rhythm Bomb Records. Performing a modern take on rockabilly with its heftier sound and touch of the blues for added intensity, The Boners occupy similar territory to the likes of Stray Cats, John Lindberg Trio and Scandinavian rockin’ blues outfit, The Kokomo Kings. Having been a part of the furniture for a number of years, albeit in different guises in relation to the rockin’ scene, the quality of the song writing is watertight throughout ‘Hell Yeah’. This becomes evident once the deviant shenanigans of ‘Muchacha!’ makes itself heard by way of its memorable chorus, that should see this song as a live favourite after a few rounds on the circuit. There’s a deeper level of respect at work during ‘My Baby Don’t Like My Car’, revealing a band unafraid to show a difference of opinion and without too many complaints. The following ‘Lockdown’ thunders along at some pace with harmonica reinforcing the toughness of the guitar, rumbling bass and tight drums, which is not the only source of interest as the lyrics start in compelling fashion, “Well I’m on holiday here in the pen…” and then proceeding to reflect on the obvious frustrations of a restricted environment. Upping the tempo further is the rockabilly on speed of ‘Hotel With No Name’, with the band showing their creative side once more when scribbling a decent yarn. Such inventiveness extends itself to the excellent ‘Walk To The Light’, hinging initially on upright bass and lead vocal, before the rest of the band crash the party which, given the mysterious nature of the narrative, is one they should have avoided. Another potential (live) hit is ‘Driving’; a song full of energy, bass booming and containing a nice touch via backing vocals during its chorus (It’s the little things in life that sometimes make all the difference).  Up and running, The Boners look set for the long haul as ‘Hell Yeah’ is a consistent and confident start full of original material and all the more welcome because of it.


Hustrig

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Hustrig

Jonas Fjeld

Sony Music Norway

Setting aside, temporarily, his collaborative work with Chatham County Line, Norway’s Jonas Fjeld enters the fray once more with a brand new long player by the name of ‘Hustrig’. Initially, there is a sense of “warts and all” to the recording of Jonas Fjeld’s latest effort once the opening ‘Oddemans Vise’ rubs the sleep from its eyes, checks the current take of the song, and clocks the time before readjusting itself and then proceeding to tweak the first few bars of its intro on the trusty acoustic at hand. It’s as natural a start as one could achieve, and probably the closest you’ll feel to Jonas Fjeld the recording artist. From then on in the sound becomes richer, with the rather colourful guitar illuminating ‘Ild Og Vann’, while doffing its hat to the Edge (U2) and combining this with the thinnest of country strands to produce an absolute mesmerising experience. ‘Opp Med Himmelporten’ follows a similar pattern with its uplifting mood supplied by the country-rock feel of its guitars and fullness of the vocals during its chorus. There is a wonderful rolling tempo to ‘Midtveis,’ with Jonas Fjeld’s vocal in fine husky form and complemented by the soothing backing vocals. The impression given during ‘Ei Hustrig Natt’ (‘A Cold Grey Night’) is pensive, but one that is far removed from anything gloomy as its song title suggests, as the song performs at mid-tempo with piano and light swirls of Hammond organ often dictating over the rest of the instrumentation. The introduction of piano at various turns throughout ‘Hustrig’ – most prominent during the near-solitary ‘Stillheten’ and close sibling ‘Lampedusa’, which deviates nicely via some cascading (space) rock guitar where the glitter is flying momentarily – is a likely source of influence from producer Thomas Helland, considering his own work under the shortened version of Thom Hell where use of piano is strongly featured. Clearly enjoying something of an Indian summer as far as the creativity goes, Jonas Fjeld delivers yet another top-notch album that reveals moments of intimacy yet remains wise enough to retain some considerable distance.


You Can't Use My Name

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You Can’t Use My Name

Curtis Knight & The Squires feat. Jimi Hendrix

Sony Music CMG

After going through rounds of litigation over the years due to Jimi Hendrix’s brief tenure as guitarist with Curtis Knight & The Squires, and subsequent use of the former guitarist’s name once international recognition and stardom with the Jimi Hendrix Experience took place, the release of ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ is a means to restore some justice. In order to do this, the family of Jimi Hendrix continued with their litigation until Hendrix’s contributions as a sideman with Curtis Knight & The Squires could be presented in its original context. Prior to this latest compilation, the problems have been associated with countless inferior copies being released and featuring images of Hendrix at the height of his own personal fame, and therefore nothing to do with the Curtis Knight project. However, with balance restored by the sterling efforts of Eddie Kramer behind the mixing desk and creating a far superior listening experience in terms of what has gone before, You Can’t Use My Name’ is also notable for the inclusion of the previously unreleased ‘Station Break’ and for adding several full-length versions of previously compiled songs; ‘Knock Yourself Out (Flying On Instruments)’ being the pick of the bunch for a peek at the greatness that was emerging on guitar. If there are any grievances regarding ‘You Can’t Use My Name’, it solely lies with the opinion that it’s all a tad mediocre with nothing particularly standing out, apart from the previously mentioned instrumental track, and for the shortage of a charismatic frontman because Curtis Knight falls someway short. It was no wonder that the coattails of Jimi Hendrix were well and truly clung to once he departed to pastures new because it’s his guitar work – ‘No Such Animal’ for example – that leads from the front here. ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ goes some way to readdressing previous issues, but remains for the completest only.


Insane!

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Insane!

Longboards

El Toro

Continuing its obsession with instrumental albums in relation to the current rockin’ scene, El Toro issues the latest instrumental effort from Longboards. Despite not being a new fixture to this popular genre, due to a few releases prior to their latest release ‘Insane!’, Longboards continue to remain a significant part of this scene, which their current album attests. With the band’s interest in hot rods and dragsters taking centre stage this time out rather than one of their other prime interests of surfing, Longboards set their sound to the grease and grime as well as the high-octane fumes of the dragstrip. Taking full control from the off is the nimble guitar work and crisp drums of ‘Gordini’ that comes with added excitement via occasional samples consisting of hot rods and dragsters tearing up the racetrack. With such opening assurance, ‘Drag Beat’ never lets the side down by taking its corners with precision, neatly represented by way of the guitar’s vibrato arm and then proceeding at a lightning pace where, if you close your eyes, you can almost hear the fingers scaling up and down the fretboard of the guitar, it’s that good! The mood shifts during ‘Insane Dragster’ which is far more menacing in its approach with samples once more adding to the overall atmosphere. In contrast, ‘Molokai (Drunken Hawaiians)’ pacifies the mood with its calmer rhythm dousing the flames of the previous ‘Insane Dragster’. The ’850 Special’ lives up to its name, due to bursting with energy as both guitars and drums are positioned at the front of the recording mix and giving the impression of vying for centre spot. A talented trio communicating an exciting and detailed set of emotions through their instruments, it’s ‘Insane!’ and it’s by Longboards.


Pleasurably Lost

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Pleasurably Lost

Benjamin Finger

Eilean Records

Finding a new place of residency at Eilean Records for his latest output, ‘Pleasurably Lost’, seems to have provided a source of inspiration to the song writing craft of Norwegian artist, Benjamin Finger. For what we get here is the trademark smorgasbord of ambient sounds, but it is an album where the creative ideas are reined in tighter, in the sense that the connectivity between each track is far closer than before. Take, for example, opening song ‘Diamond Earth’, with more ideas and creativity crammed into its entire five minutes than a lot of bands can muster in a whole album, but it is the manner in which such creative explorations fuse together more coherently from shades of light to dark, if you will. The song itself allows for a greater usage of vocals this time out, with a classical sounding segment smoothing the way by the faintest of piano keys and angelic vocal, after an initial barrage of electronic sounds jarring against each other during its introduction. By sourcing ingredients from all that surrounds him, Benjamin Finger utilises everything at his disposal. So don’t be surprised to hear the snap, crackle and pop stemming from a worn-out piece of vinyl buried deep beneath the mix during ‘Edges of Distortion’, or a sudden interruption of static via a renowned loading mechanism of a particular 1980s home computer that shakes up the sinister tone of ‘Once Upon Her’. The previously mentioned greater coherence between tracks of ‘Pleasurably Lost’ reveals itself further when the latter half of the album follows a murkier path, compellingly created by use of distorted guitar next to the electronics. Without subscribing by any means to the regulations of commerciality, Benjamin Finger has created his most accessible and consistent work to date, that should see a few more people flocking to his sound. For the moment, however, there is enough here to suggest that ‘Pleasurably Lost’ is truly flying the flag of independence by providing its clearest definition.


White Smoke And Pines

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White Smoke And Pines

Ellen Sundberg

Rootsy

With this being her second album at the still relatively tender age of twenty-one, Swedish singer-songwriter Ellen Sundberg remains close to her roots by continuing to reside in the small village of Bjärme, Sweden, where she sets out her creative ideas. The latest instalment is ‘White Smoke And Pines’; ten songs influenced by alt. country and folk music and performed in English, with the exception of one song title scribbled in her native language and being the musically bright, ‘Vägen är lång (The Road Is Long)’. This sophomore effort has the head of an experienced character, but it is one that is still struggling with the complexities of life as evidenced by the reflective tempo and narrative of ‘What Is Life’. With this opening track hinting at a darker core in relation to this album, such suggestions become fully realised with the intensely personal duo of ‘Hollow’ and ‘Maze of Shadows’, both set to the barest of instrumentation. With such examples penetrating deep beneath the skin, Sundberg spins a broader yarn with the inbound train journey breathing out a combination of her own personal thoughts that cease at various interludes to reflect on the variety of characters also on board, which makes for enthralling listening. No doubt the intimate feel of the majority of songs assembled for ‘White Smoke And Pines’ will translate even more acutely during Sundberg’s current live tour, where there will be room for improvisation if the mood takes her there considering the rolling narratives. As its press release accurately sums up: ‘It’s not always the most comfortable place to be, but very rewarding’ because albums don’t come much more confessional than Ellen Sundberg’s ‘White Smoke And Pines’.


The Centennial Collection

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The Centennial Collection

Billie Holiday

Sony Music CMG

Celebrating one hundred years in the life of Billie Holiday who was born 7th April 1915 and died 17th July 1959 ‘The Centennial Collection’ released on Sony Music CMG is a collection of twenty songs representing some of her well-known vocal performances between the years 1935 to 1945. Nicknamed Lady Day by friend and fellow American musician Lester Young, Billie Holiday proved an inspiring and influential figure on the jazz scene for her distinct vocal delivery that changed both the manner in which the songs were interpreted as well as altering customary rhythmic patterns of the standards Holiday performed. Such a unique and personal singing style has also seeped into areas of pop and soul music showing how far-reaching Billie Holiday’s appeal actually was and still remains to this present day. ‘The Centennial Collection’ begins with the vibrant tempo and optimistic vocal of ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’ supported by Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra who flip this chipper number over to the melancholic ‘Gloomy Sunday’  and determined emotions of ‘I Must Have That Man’. The bulk of the songs are performed by Billie Holiday’s own orchestra with such well-known compositions as ‘God Bless The Child’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘The Very Thought of You’ selected for this compilation. The most haunting composition is reserved until nearing the end of ‘The Centennial Collection’ with a masterful choice of words reflecting racial discrimination and, in particular, the lynching of African Americans in the South by way of ‘Strange Fruit’. Serving as a compelling reminder of the greatness of Billie ‘Lady Day’ Holiday, as well as acting as a perfect introduction to the songs she once performed, The Centennial Collection’ is a worthy celebration.


Anesthesia

Released 10 April

 

Anesthesia

Strong Addiction

Inverse Records

Atmospheric and emotive are two adjectives that help to provide a brief summary of the ten-track debut album from Finnish alternative rockers, Strong Addiction. Having pledged their allegiance to Inverse Records with this first offering, the truth is that this five-piece band has been in operation a bit longer, having previously released the single, ‘Empire of Lies’ (2008), and then followed by the EP, ‘Suspicious Reality’ (2010). Therefore, with recording experience on their side and a number of years performing live, Strong Addiction has built up a solid reputation in their native Finland and one that is not difficult to comprehend once the contents of ‘Anesthesia’ start to unfold. Beginning with ‘Fix Me’, Strong Addiction pour out their frustrations which, by the time of its chorus, one can sense that lead vocalist, Sebastian Ulmanen, is equal parts emotionally raw as he is completely jaded due to life’s lack of genuine opportunities. After such a strong opening, the rest of ‘Anesthesia’ does not disappoint with ‘Losing It All’ stretching out its rhythm and, in the process, almost its innards as it reminds of early Jane’s Addiction and, to a far greater extent, American industrial rockers Filter. The ensuing ‘Red Sun’ builds up an impressive wall of sound with the guitars of Anssi Lausmaa and Heikki Virolainen really driving the song, only to be usurped by the epic qualities of ‘Empire of Lies’. Variation is given to the rather superb ‘Sense And Sensibility’, transmitted in the main by Sebastian Ulmanen’s vocal revealing its strength in depth, before reverting to type and providing a fine impression of Richard Patrick (see Filter above) during the blistering ‘Horns’. The ethereal moments of the album’s title track reveals another facet to Strong Addiction, but it’s the manner in which the band force these more fragile sounds through the industrial grinder of noise, where sparks are flying from the guitars and the vocals are close to breaking that exposes the dexterity of musicianship at the core of this unit. If only all debut albums could match the emotional intensity and genuine greatness of ‘Anesthesia’, then the world would truly be in a much healthier state.


Tikamp

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Tikamp

Bertine Zetlitz

Sony Music Norway

After many years as a recording artist and the proud recipient of four Norwegian Grammys, Bertine Zetlitz reached a crossroads in her life whether to continue this musical journey or call time on an otherwise successful career. The former decision was made, but based on a strict criterion of adding fresh ingredients to a musical formula which had passed its sell-by date. The result of this new found impetus is ‘Tikamp’; a ten-track album performed in her mother tongue and consisting of acoustic-based songs with added electronica, as well as a few electro-pop numbers as a means of not entirely alienating Zetlitz from her longstanding fan base. This newfound approach works instantaneously with recent single, and duet with Prepple Houmb from Norway’s Dum Dum Boys, ‘Sett At Vi Sier Det Sånn’ opening Zetlitz’ account admirably, with vocals combining in a gentle manner and complementing the hushed musical tone that eventually lets its guard down by way of its lead guitar steering this opening song to its conclusion. Familiar territory is revisited with the intriguingly named ’48 Hunder’ and fitting title of ‘Fort’ as both songs are steeped in electronica but with varying tempos. Such tactics work, however, as ‘Tikamp’ trims the use of modern technology yet combines what is left to great effect with the stringed instrumentation, which is best served during ‘Smil’ and the lavish sounding ‘Ingenting’. The fadeout track, ‘På Kanten’ offers the clearest example of where Zetlitz should ply her trade if the desire remains to continue her music career as its pared back style and honest vocals truly shine. Bertine Zetlitz has conquered any lingering doubts regarding her future with ‘Tikamp’, as it is a staggeringly good comeback and one that should not be overlooked.


Strangers To Ourselves

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Strangers To Ourselves

Modest Mouse

Columbia

It’s been a while since Modest Mouse made an appearance, eight years in fact, but back they are and with a new album under their wing by the name of ‘Strangers To Ourselves’. Conventional they are most certainly not as Modest Mouse flitter between a variety of moods and sounds that can be filed under the indie banner yet remain difficult to define even when placed under duress. An example of this diversity can be detected from the start where the fragile and bruised ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ gives way to the murky yet gripping sentiments of ‘Shit In Your Cut’, that leads to another spanner being thrown in the works with the distorted disco and satirical look at American serial killer Andrew Cunanan during ‘Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)’. Uncertainty is never far away whether in words or music judging by the light and shade expressed throughout ‘Ansel’ via steel drums and kick of the guitar, that really lets fly once the driving rhythm of ‘The Ground Walks With Time In A Box’ gets underway. Despite the lengthy wait for ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ being a frustrating one, all is forgiven when Modest Mouse can whip up such treats as ‘Coyotes’ next to fascinating oddities as ‘The Tortoise And The Tourist’ that gives real credence to the term independent as Modest Mouse continue to avoid the de rigueur of the music industry.


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’.



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