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DANCE!

Freedom Fuel

Secret Entertainment

Second album for Finland’s Freedom Fuel and what a ride this second outing turns out to be! Pumped up and ready to unleash a combined sound of indie rock, garage, pop and swamp blues that made up their debut album ‘Happy People’ as well, Freedom Fuel begin season two (if you like) with the delightfully creative, weird and wonderful epic that is ‘Dancing’. It starts off with an indie rock stomp, before spiralling skywards and seriously loosening up via some bluesy swamp rock and then entering a third phase of mellow electronica and back to where it all began at the indie disco. A truly beguiling start and one that will leave you speechless such is its magnitude. The energy continues with the bristling and bullish rhythm of ‘Planet Away’, which also knows how to have fun judging by its lyrics. ‘DANCE!’ also knows a few moves of its own as there is plenty of room for experimentation during its playback with ‘Suspension Of Disbelief’ providing the strongest example with its static sounding electronica and lone vocal sounding like a direct transmission from space itself. The following ‘Goddageda’ explores this experimental side further by adding more weight to the instrumentation and ends up a combined mix of indie rock and blues rock that trips along another intergalactic space tunnel that is a journey to the other side. A massive leap forward as far as the creativity is concerned when it comes to Freedom Fuel and their latest long player ‘DANCE!’, which almost defies description and will leave you scratching your head in disbelief one minute, and the next grinning in sheer delight. This is down to its overall audacity and, yes, sense of freedom. A remarkable achievement, ‘DANCE!’ deserves to be heard.


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When She Is Here (Single)

Rain On Monday

ROM Music

It’s been a while since any word from Swedish singer-songwriter Rain On Monday (real name Raimond Nurmilampi) and his last output ‘Hiding Places’. With the silence finally broken this month, Rain On Monday signals a comeback via new single ‘When She Is Here’. This latest offering ushers in a more stripped back approach compared to its predecessor with the new single being mainly acoustic driven with the faintest of electronics whispering in the background. The focus of the record is the beginnings of a new relationship and the joys and fascinations this can bring, but not without forgetting the anxieties that can bubble to the surface in those isolated moments, which is all brought to the fore via the hushed tones of Rain On Monday. New single, new start and time for a full-length album judging by the ongoing high quality that ‘When She Is Here’ clearly displays.


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Bedsit

Jamie Hutchings

Come To The Darkside Luke

Coming from a bleak period in his life, but not without forgetting to raise a smile and exude a belly full of laughs once in a while, is Jamie Hutchings fourth solo album ‘Bedsit’. Despite the initial blueprints of the album being conceived within the surrounds of the humble abode of its title, ’Bedsit’ was fully realised in a former shearing shed in the Australian outback. With the New South Wales environment providing a sense of vigour to the contents of ’Bedsit’, with the general stillness and fresh odours of its vast surrounds aiding a period of creativity and multi-tasking for Jamie Hutchings, with additional company by way of bass player Reuben Wills, resulting in nine songs before returning to the asphalt jungle. Delving deep in to the recess, ‘Bedsit’ has been described by the artist himself as “…a stark record, my starkest yet. It was recorded at a time when I was returned to the world of me, myself and I.” While that may be true of some tracks such as the personal and delicately executed duo of ‘Judas Is A Girl’ and ‘Walking Dream’, the latter reflecting a deep sorrow and likely to leave even the most hardened among us in pieces such is its authenticity, there are attempts to reach beyond the melancholy and offer a sense of optimism whether in songtitle or sound (‘Above The Rain’ and ‘Here Comes The Frost’). The true charm of this album however, is to be found by the stripped back nature of its recordings with minimal instrumentation used, often relying on the acoustic guitar and upright bass for example, where you can hear the odd shuffle of feet or a door being closed and leading out in to ‘December Park’, not to mention the album’s engaging and almost hushed entrance ‘Second Winter’ with its largely spoken word delivery that darts between surrealism and reality as well as providing moments of humour. Just as ‘Bedsit’ reveals numerous details regarding the artist at the centre of this record, it can be debated that such details remain far from clear due to being cloaked in mystery and caught up in the complexities of life itself. This is why ‘Bedsit’ is such a compelling listen, and for the intimate way its contents play out that requires further investigation.


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Steady In The Saddle (Single)

Ossian Smith

Secret Entertainment

With this very music paper having championed Ossian Smith after his debut release ‘Sleepless Town’ last year, the singer-songwriter (plus additional band members) returns with a brand-new offering. The single ‘Steady In The Saddle’ throws up previous roots and rock influences however subtle, yet reveals a harder edge and one purported to by Ossian Smith during our previous encounter: “A lot of my newer unreleased material has more of a harder edge to it, which probably comes from listening to heavier stuff like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and The Cult”. Despite such an announcement bearing creative fruit in the present via latest single ‘Steady In The Saddle’, any suggestion of this being a straight grunge workout is far from obvious. The truth is that Ossian Smith with Miiro Kesti (keys), Markus Ilkka (bass) and Timmo Salakka (drums) have created something far more inventive. By incorporating elements of light grunge kicking off  ‘Steady In The Saddle’, before developing into a rollercoaster ride of rock and funk, the kind of which The Rolling Stones knit together seamlessly, Ossian Smith equally masters by creating a driving rhythm that backs the vengeful message of the narration, inspired by Aesop’s tale of a horse that lost its liberty. It all makes for an engaging listen and bodes extremely well for the release of Ossian Smith’s album this year.


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Everybody Lies (Single)

MSRBL

Secret Entertainment

Transmitting a melancholic electro-pop sound from Helsinki, Finland, is the duo MSRBL. With the new single suggesting that all of us are guilty of spinning a fabricated yarn or two, the synth team at the centre of this record set about their task and created a brooding, midtempo slice of electronic pop that’s befitting of a late-night arthouse movie setting and accompanying movie soundtrack. The additional video to the single, ‘Everybody Lies’, suggests the same outlook with its moody settings consisting of shadowy rooms and dimly lit streets where the occasional neon light glows. It’s a very good follow-up since ‘Echo’ for MSRBL, and one that potentially has much promise if they continue in a similar fashion with their next release.


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Sugar Jump: Dance Til The Break Of Dawn!

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

There’s no better place to start than with Ray Charles classic, ‘Mess Around’, to set up what is (another) lively volume in this near perfect series. With the Mojo Man, as always, laying down his words of wisdom when it comes to the nature of the music and appropriate moves to accompany the often-traditional rhythm and blues doing its thing from the speakers, the latest in this long line of volumes is up there with the best. Largely down to shifting tones musically i.e. the bluesy roll of George Wild Child Butler’s midtempo shuffle ‘Jelly Jam’ from previously mentioned Ray Charles’ lively start, to stepping it up ever so slightly with “cool as” rhythm and blues sandwich (the blues providing the glue in the middle) via Fox Hall and ‘Do The Rock And Roll’. From there on, Clarence Samuels can barely contain his excitement as he sings from the rooftops once news reaches that, “We’re goin’ to the hop tonight,” which is followed by Doug Powell & The Valients irresistible ‘The Whip’, and then proceeded by the blissfully happy tongue twister ‘The Wiggle Waggle Woo’ (Sticks McGhee) and wonderfully tender ‘We’re Goin’ Out To Rock Tonight’ by Kine Morgan. As mentioned earlier, ‘Sugar Jump’ is among the best in its class when it comes to this series of rhythm and blues and remains on course for commanding pole position.


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Wild Life

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Full of forbidden fruits according to the Mojo Man, and he’s not far off with such an assessment as ‘Wild Life’ piles its way through twenty-eight dancefloor fillers. From top to toe these songs are rockin’ and a-reelin’ beginning with Chuck Cole and ‘My Bonny’, and followed by the perky rhythm that is full of brass instrumentation of excellent Lil Preacher Boy ‘Won’tcha Be My Girl’. There are some notable differences about this particular volume in the Koko Mojo series, and that stirs when Eddie Daniels throws up his rockin’ (roll) ‘Playin’ Hide Go Seek’, to the wonderfully appealing tin can atmosphere secured by ‘Love My Baby’, complete with raw guitar breaks and uncooked vocals of Jesse Allen (Well, it is the blues!). And that’s exactly why the album ‘Wild Life’ is so appealing for its rollercoaster approach that offers a menu of traditional rhythm and blues one minute (Redd Foxx ‘Real Pretty Mama’) and then, staying within the same genre, different takes where darker shades and eccentricities can be heard (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Ronnie Love and The Admiraltones for example). It’s a sublime compilation of well-thought out tracks that may sound on first impressions like a quickly assembled compilation, yet further listens will soon erase any such thoughts as ‘Wild Life’ lives up to its title and in different ways.


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Cat Scratchin’

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Stamping their identity all over this compilation album are the female singers of 50s and early 60s generations trying to make a name for themselves in a largely male dominated industry. What the listener will experience with ‘Cat Scratchin’ is a variety of songs, with a variety of styles that show flashes of sophistication and songs borne out of more primitive foundations. There’s plenty of attitude as well as honesty, not to mention a mental toughness as well as vulnerability that serves up a perfect balance of emotions. Most tracks give the suggestion of late 50s and early 60s periods in history with the rhythm and blues ranging from late-night torchbearers such as the excellent ‘Please Give Me A Match’ performed by Rebecca Williams, to the tub-thumping, boisterous racket that is ‘Holy Mack’reel’ from equally animated vocals of Prentice Moreland. More interestingly, a few of the songs selected by the female performers either perform still from a male perspective, such as the previously mentioned ‘Holy Mack’reel’, or elsewhere show signs of subtle changes via Geneva Vallier and her interpretation of Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman’ with ‘You Said You Had A Woman’. There’s plenty to take in with ‘Cat Scratchin’ from the near-ramshackle rhythm of ‘How Can I Lose’ (Shirley Ann Lee), to something far more ambitious sounding via the album’s title track by Marie Williams. A solid and worthwhile collection of songs that show the female artists certainly matched their male counterparts when it came to engage an audience (look no further than Peppy Prince and ‘Ain’t Nothing Shaking’ for immediate evidence of this) by revealing a variety of emotions that make up ‘Cat Scratchin’.


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Love Shock

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It’s all about love as far as this volume is concerned in the Koko Mojo series that largely focuses on blues and rhythm and blues. With twenty-eight tracks to get its message across regarding the subject of love, ‘Love Shock’ is filled with the anticipations of love and any such joys stemming from this. You can hear it in some of the rhythms alone where they’re often light and upbeat such as Carl Matthews’ ‘Big Man’ or swirling on its toes in compelling fashion and providing something altogether quite different, yet still fitting in with this genre, via Stick Evans and ‘You’re The One’. The excitement can hardly be contained once The Devilles get underway with ‘Tell Me So’ where you will find a swinging rhythm complete with doo-wop backing vocals powering this number along. Falling under the spell here though is the wonderfully named Teddy Mr. Bear McRae and, pick of a very good bunch, ‘Hi Fi Baby’ that packs a confident punch of blues/rhythm and blues and matured bourbon-soaked vocals. Full of life and giddy at the prospect of love as well as being in love, the compilation ‘Love Shock’ is yet another strong statement of the quality held by this series.


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Hit Your Heart (Single)

Dagny X Aoki

Propeller Recordings

We confessed our love for the “Songbird from the North” (aka Dagny) back in the day when the pop sensation that was ‘Backbeat’ was blaring from the Norwegian airwaves. Returning with a new single ‘Hit Your Heart’, which follows after previous singles ‘Used To You’, ‘Drink About’ and ‘That Feeling When’, in addition to a busy live schedule last year, Dagny made the decision to call on producer, DJ and fellow artist Steve Aoki to help deliver the end results for her latest single. Such a decision to collaborate with Aoki reaps dividends for Dagny as ‘Hit Your Heart’ tugs on the senses from the start with a determined outlook “You know I’m coming back to you like a bullet” that’s set to a finger-clicking, synth-driven rhythm which has a habit of igniting during the chorus, and blares even louder nearing the song’s conclusion. Comparisons with current pop sensations Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift will be identified here, as similar vocal and rhythmic stylings can be heard (Dagny has international ties with Republic Records responsible for Grande and Swift), but this does not deter ‘Hit Your Heart’ from being the compelling record it is, and on its own pop merits.


Released 5 April

 

Noise From The Attic

Heyme

Jezus Factory Records

Originally from Holland but now residing in Poland after a lengthy stint performing in various bands in Belgium, Heyme (Langbroek) releases his first solo album on Jezus Factory Records. With this record being a genuine solo affair where all instruments on all the songs are played by Heyme, and a recording space that consisted of his attic at home with recording sessions pencilled in for every Sunday, the ten songs crafted on this debut solo album are largely built out of improvisation. With Heyme admitting that improvisation largely took place during these recordings, “I just started playing and recording and improvised on top of that, weaving rhythm and melodies into tapestries of sound.” Such words are true once ‘A Day In Life’ unfurls its sounds where you will hear brass instrumentation punctuating at various stations and aiding the direction of this moody opener. It’s a compelling start and continues in similar fashion with ‘Paranoid’ offering vocals to paint a broader picture, before slipping back into a pure instrumental via ‘Hard Times’. The method of work adopted here harks back to Heyme’s days of recording with Kiss My Jazz, and later IH8 Camera, where improvising on the spot was integral to both bands in terms of how they operated. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Heyme has continued with such a formula that functions for him as well as creating such beautiful tender moments as ‘All Time Favourite’, to the stretched out melancholy of ‘Where She Goes (she goes)’ that will linger long in the memory long after this album spins to its conclusion. It’s a formula that has served Heyme well, and continues to do so with the near continual loop of instrumentation and improvised workings added on top that suggest feelings of loneliness and sadness whether informed lyrically or via the instruments that capture your senses from start to finish, thus making ‘Noise From The Attic’ a truly remarkable album considering its humble foundations.


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Coming Home

The Rob Ryan Roadshow

Rhythm Bomb

It’s been a few years since the last outing from The Rob Ryan Roadshow with their ‘Live At Montreux Jazz Festival’ long player. However, 2019 marks a fresh start for the band with their new album ‘Coming Home’, which is their first studio recording since 2014’s ‘Going Old School’. The latest album ‘Coming Home’ reveals the band at quite possibly their best and delivers their usual trademarks of skilful musicianship combined with versatility, not to mention a willingness to experiment when it comes to their decision-making. All such points are to be commended as The Rob Ryan Roadshow continue with such traits during ‘Coming Home’ where roots rock meets bluesy rhythms and country-fried grooves. This broad sourcing of influences is what sets the Rob Ryan Roadshow apart from several of their contemporaries and really sets the band out as something altogether different. In part, this is down to personal tastes of the band members where each bring their own musical influences to the creative table whether that be rockabilly, country, blues, pop or punk rock, it’s all in there, with some influences subtler than others. It’s also down to the cultural diversity within the band where America meets Germany for a jolly good knees up! By the sounds of it, such a combined mixture of styles and influences really has no right to work, but that’s exactly what occurs from start to finish during ‘Coming Home’. Whether it’s rolling out a blast of blues rock via ‘Blackout’, to rock combined with country of opening song ‘Free’ or swapping tempos for something beautiful and tender of country-tinged ballad ‘Let The Heartache Begin’, The Rob Ryan Roadshow tie their diverse influences together seamlessly. Throw in the band’s customary souvenir and own interpretation of a cover song or two, with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ being the standout here, suggests The Rob Ryan Roadshow has successfully brought all their influences home and managed a difficult task of melding these together into one accessible whole. ‘Coming Home’ works on all levels and earmarks The Rob Ryan Roadshow as a rather exceptional band.



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