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Hooked!

Released 5 February

 

Hooked!

The Cheaters

Artwood Records

It was only just over a year ago that Vestfold three-piece, The Cheaters, picked up their prize gong for best rock album under the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys with the Spellemannprisen. With that award sitting proudly on The Cheaters’ mantelpiece at home for their ‘Rites of Spring’ long player, the indie-rock trio were soon spurred into action with new songs arriving thick and fast in preparation for their third album. ‘Hooked’ is the end result and sees the light of day on the band’s own label Artwood Records. With the previous album’s formula proving effective (see earlier), The Cheaters called on the production skills of Erlend Mokkelbost (JR Ewing, Montée) to aid the band in their quest to capture the sounds they were after. With elements of post-punk combined with indie rock, ‘Hooked’ throws up an energetic ride packed with tight rhythms and full of melodic touches, the kind of which were present during recent single ‘Diamond Light’. Elsewhere, the drumroll intro of ‘Voodoo Eyes’ sets up a dark and jagged canvass of sounds with lead singer Øyvind Skarsbø sounding convincingly woozy with his words. The actual track ‘Hooked!’ is a spikey little number, full of attitude and perfectly expressed via a clapping beat and serrated guitar. A similar approach can be heard during ‘Just Like You’, only there is a bit more chaos suggested here, as demonstrated by the clash of instruments and (wonderfully) bitter tone of the lyrics, that not everything is so harmonious at home. With an impending European tour on the horizon, The Cheaters are certainly set to go with these firecrackers making up the contents of ‘Hooked!’ because it shows a band at the very top of their game with no hint of faltering. A class act indeed!


Nothing Out Of Nothing

Released 5 February

 

Nothing Out Of Nothing

Slap Betty

Inverse Records / Secret Entertainment

The opening segment of the press release that accompanied Finnish rockers Slap Betty’s new album ‘Nothing Out of Nothing’ caused a great deal of mirth at Famous Last Words (FLW). The source of such merriment was, ‘The band that often cuts electricity returns with their second album’ which has affected other artists such as Backyard Babies, not to mention a few festival appearances as well! With a sound that’s too hot to handle therefore, Slap Betty deliver an honest set of rock tunes mixed with fragments of punk and even older rock and roll. Such examples of this can be found right at the doorstep of this new release with the socio-political commentary of ‘World We Leave Behind’ that is equally tough and gritty in sound, and complete with a persuasive vocal which gives the impression of having been left to soak overnight in bourbon. With the band being made up of Teemu (vocal/guitar), Juuso (drums), Juhana (guitar) and Antti (bass), Slap Betty continue to deliver rhythmically tight numbers with ‘List Of The Things I Hate’ and ‘Fill My Cup’. It’s not all foot to the floor stompers, however, as Slap Betty tone things down a bit with the melodic tones of ‘Perfect’, and reflective stance of closing track ‘Shame’. Whilst their activities outside of the recording studio might be prone to accidents, there is nothing calamitous about ‘Nothing Out Of Nothing’ as Slap Betty pull out all the stops to ensure that album number two is a roaring success.


It Can Only Be So Good

Released 5 February

 

It Can Only Be So Good (Single)

Sancho Panzer

Untitled

Fishing exercises are all well and good, but when listening to Exeter based Sancho Panzer’s new single, there might be something worthwhile here. ‘It Can Only Be So Good’ falls into the category of post-punk yet has an air of straight rock about it as well. With the band having won Rocksound’s Battle of the Bands back in 2007, it has taken some time for the band to hone their sound to the point where debut albums are fully realised. Such a feat has been achieved by Sancho Panzer as the band steady themselves for their first album release this spring, with the title set in place, ‘Your Own Accord’. Back to the single as the self-belief is definitely evident as ‘It Can Only Be Good’ pulls away at some speed, and really carried by some excellent guitar work and charming team vocals that are enough to warrant further investigation when that debut album arrives.


Oh Lisa

Released 5 February

 

Oh Lisa (Single)

Label

Safe & Sound Recordings

Interesting one this. Knowing next to nothing about Norwegian band Label and their previous single ‘Oslo So Slow’ which, apparently, was a summer smash on these shores, the band return with a new offering by the name, ‘Oh Lisa’. Expecting a strong alt. country twang to reverberate from the speakers considering the record label involved, Label’s sound is far from any such associations with said genre. In fact, ‘Oh Lisa’ is built of earlier Californian pop and rock, with a definite breezy feel attached to it that also suggests a more up-to-date indie(ish) vibe that veers towards the likes of The Magic Numbers for example. With the single recorded at Crystal Canyon Studios in Oslo and produced by Anders Møller, who also serves as the drummer for this single, ‘Oh Lisa’ is the kind of intelligent pop music that should be infiltrating the nation’s airwaves on a more regular basis as it has all the right ingredients with its melodic hooks and smart lyrics. It looks like Label has another hit single on their hands with ‘Oh Lisa’.


Daphne

Released 5 February

 

Daphne (Single)

Grandmother Corn

Secret Entertainment

There is suggestion of tongue planted firmly in cheek when it comes to Grandmother Corn and their predominantly rock inspired sounds. That’s not to infer that this Finnish trio do not take their music seriously because they most certainly do, it’s more that Grandmother Corn understand that humour can be an important aspect of rock and roll and if you can inject a slice of this into your music, then why the heck not! Where Grandmother Corn makes use of such a medium is via the band’s visuals, whether in appearance live up on stage or through video imagery. New single ‘Daphne’ makes use of the latter, with its video revealing the band’s eccentricities – the angelic dress code for starters – which is topped off with add-on choir vocals during the song’s fadeout, but it is the loose jangle of the song’s rhythm that is a little bit blues, funk and rock with a definite pinch of early Stones’ that really captures one’s attention. With lyrics drumming up images of the American south with references to various inshore waters, corn fed diets and subtle religious connotations, Grandmother Corn is definitely a rare breed, and one that is living by their own rules as ‘Daphne’ indicates.


Music City Heroes

Released Out now

 

Music City Heroes (Single)

Løiten Twang Depot

Baaten

Back with a fresh single, after last year’s album ‘Trouble Train’, Løiten Twang Depot set their sights on making a further splash in 2016. With the band having spent a busy time in the recording studio of late, the first sign of this period is ‘Music City Heroes’. Instantaneous in its appeal due to its upbeat rhythm that will lift those cowboy boots from the floor, Løiten Twang Depot pick up from where they left before with ‘Music City Heroes, only this time the band sound even more assured judging by the quality of this latest single. With references to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in check and lead vocalist Bjørn Flaaseth sounding more and more as if he was born out on the southern range of the States, Løiten Twang Depot is as close to an authentic American (outlaw) country sound one can get this side of Europe via ‘Music City Heroes’.


Pil & Bue

Released 29 January

 

Forget The Past, Let’s Worry About The Future

Pil & Bue

Name Music

Pil & Bue (Bow & Arrow) consists of Petter Carlsen (vocals/guitar) and Aleksander Kostopoulos (drums/percussion). The duo made a name for themselves after their debut album release, ‘Push Start Button (Level 1)’ (2014) picked up widespread acclaim in their home country of Norway. Back with a new album in 2016, Pil & Bue aim to continue where they left off with latest release ‘Forget The Past, Let’s Worry About The Future’. Consisting of six tracks, the songs are fairly lengthy and knit together influences ranging from indie rock, prog and shoegaze, and veer towards artists such as Sigur Ros, Mars Volta and Radiohead in terms of the experimentation supplied. Recorded at Oslo Klang, and with production credits going to Rudi Nikolaisen, Pil & Bue set out their intentions from the start in an onslaught of crunching guitars and a pounding drumbeat that is almost military in sound. From this  point onwards, the songs often remain gritty in nature with ‘Shakkakakka’ sounding grungy and distorted and one of the candidates purporting to Pil & Bue’s recurring lyrical theme concerning women facing suppression, and the agonies and injustices this brings each and every day. ‘Fire’ is the first lengthy sonic exploration with Carlsen’s guitar searching and probing throughout, and accompanied by a hollow rattle of percussion via Kostopoulos that picks up at various intervals depending on the highs and lows expressed during the song. ‘Nevermind’ is more concise yet equally compelling as it retains a tight rhythm, before tackling the epic in scope and brooding ‘Afterlife’. ‘Forget The Past, Let’s Worry About The Future’ is a credit to its two creators, and a reminder that the independent (indie) music scene is still worth investigating, because there’s enough creativity explored in the six tracks given, that it would take others two albums or more to reach such levels. Welcome back Pil & Bue!


When My Man Comes To Town

Released 29 January

 

When My Man Comes To Town

Hege

Rootsy

Back with a third album is Hege (Brynildsen) with, ‘When My Man Comes To Town’. This latest release follows after the audacious experiment that was ‘Till Harry’, which made use of the Swedish language to fill its songs, only it managed to exclude a number of would-be supporters due to its language restrictions as the album presented an engaging listen, and one that served as a supportive companion during the wee small hours. Despite this obvious disadvantage, Norwegian singer-songwriter Hege reverts to English in order to deliver ten new songs drenched in an authentic traditional country sound. With production duties being entrusted to Gøran Grini (Paal Flata, Chip Taylor, Tommy Tokyo) once more, and with the tried and tested musicianship of Omar Østli (guitar), Finn Tore Tokle (bass), Tor Hauge (drums) Lars Ivar Borg and Kristin Solli (choir), in addition to American multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin weighing in with a number of instruments, Hege remains as thorough as ever in terms of her preparation for ‘When My Man Comes To Town’. The evidence of this comprehensive approach is instantaneous as the album’s title track quietly saunters into town on the back of a spidery sounding organ, a restrained twang of the guitar, Hege delivering a poignant vocal that really adds to the emptiness felt, and where Halden is transformed into a desolate outback somewhere in the Wild West. From this remarkable start, the rest of ‘When My Man Comes To Town’ feeds on this loneliness and despair with ‘Oh Loneliness’ standing out as a prime candidate, and former single, ‘If You Have To Cry’, being another song where its desperation alludes to some form of wrongdoing without giving much away.  Elsewhere, any form of hopelessness reveals itself in heartbreak of the relationship kind, especially during the tender ballad ‘Lovely Charming Ways’ with Hege sounding full of regret and not too distant from a younger Dolly Parton , “I should have listened to my friends when they warned me, Not to fall for your lovely charming ways”. With songs aching with much sadness, and the instrumentation doing its upmost to keep up with these melancholic feelings (‘Please Remember Me’ is a perfect example), Hege marks this latest chapter in her recording career as one that will see her song writing gain new levels of respect because ‘When My Man Comes To Town’ is a truly wonderful achievement.


RJ

Released Out now

 

Hollywood Hop EP

RJ

Hans Jus D' Orange Entertainment

Rockabilly from Vreeland in the Netherlands by way of the initials RJ, otherwise known as Hans Jus D’ Orange, with a four-track EP straight to vinyl, and looking mightily impressive from the packaging alone. Once this latest release from RJ begins spinning you know you’re in safe hands with the authentic delivery of the vocal and immediacy of opening song ‘Hollywood Hop’. It’s an infectious start in terms of its rhythm, where guitars buzz and jingle harmoniously and the upright bass maintains a constant beat that keeps the genre of rockabilly well and truly alive. The following ‘Nobody’s Boppin’ Tonight’ maintains the tempo with a boppin’ rhythm that will persuade any doubters in no time that the dancefloor really is the place to be! The flipside offering finds RJ smitten with the ‘Red Head’ of the title as emphasised by some clever touches of the guitar and nice roll of the tongue in the vocal department.  Whist the four tracks presented here do not rely on any characteristics that are wild in nature, there is more of a rugged approach to final song ‘All Right, All Right’, which chugs along at a nice pace with the lead guitar and RJ’s vocal steering the wheel of this particular number. With the dancefloor in mind, this is a call to action as there are enough examples here to motivate anyone’s limbs, which RJ certainly succeeds in doing!


Travellin' Heavy

Released Out now

 

Travellin’ Heavy with the Doel Brothers

The Doel Brothers

El Toro

Falling off the rear end of the passing jalopy this morning, and landing right on the doorstep of Famous Last Words (FLW), is the current album from the Doel Brothers with ‘Travellin’ Heavy with the Doel Brothers’. Brewed in the backwoods of Hampshire, the trio of brothers – Tom (drums), Gordon (vocals/guitar) and David (vocals/guitar) – are joined once more by Steve Whitworth on double bass, and Phil Morgan handling the steel guitar, in order to bring to life their second full-length album. What the listener gets here are twelve originals penned by the Doel Brothers that sound as if they have come from the hillbilly settlements of old, and one that is not afraid to shake things up with added western swing and rockabilly. As ‘Wild Wild Woman’ kicks things off with a definite sense of the ‘wild’ about it, due to a driving rhythm and the Doel Brothers full of holler during this rockabilly number. ‘Trouble’ is an intimate tale that is blues in nature and one that is compellingly told by Gordon Doel, and features some serious guitar playing that keeps this engine finely tuned. The filling wedged at the centre of this second long player from the Doel Brothers maintains the consistency and high quality with a succession of songs packed full of intricate details via some wonderful guitar pickin’, with added steel guitar that trips between ‘Does It Feel Good’, ‘You Ain’t A Woman’, ‘Side Step Round The Blues’ and ‘What Ya Wanna Do That For’. If that wasn’t enough excitement, then the truly in hicksville delivery of ‘Oh Boy’ (No, not that one!) turns up the heat somewhat with its references to honky tonk, which leaves the Doel Brothers in fine spirits and making ‘Travellin’ Heavy With The Doel Brothers’ a ride well worth taking.


When Love Is Alive

Released 22 January

 

When Love Is Alive (Single)

BLØSH

Julia Julia Records

BLØSH is a duo from Madrid (Spain) and Skjetten (Norway) who look set to unleash their debut album next month. In the meantime, the single ‘When Love Is Alive’ is a taster of what’s to come with singer and cellist Teresa Bernabe and guitarist Jørgen Berg Svela working a sophisticated indie pop song that is skyward bound with the dreamy qualities of its melody. With this current single featuring Siri Nilsen, who also lends a hand in relation to the forthcoming album that also includes the talent of Hanne Kolstø, the duo of BLØSH remain in good company. The decision to pursue this creative venture is beginning to look very promising for BLØSH, and it might just be that their other duties of working with fellow artists such as Mikhael Paskalev, Depedro (Calexico),Lillebjørn Nilsen, Jonas Alaska, and Bow to Each Other could well be a thing of the past if BLØSH can repeat the same formula found with this rather magnificent effort, ‘When Love Is Alive’.


Si Det Sånn

Released 22 January

 

Si Det Sånn (Single)

Marte Wulff

Propeller Recordings

The singer-songwriter Marte Wulff has experienced a very interesting career to date having been living and working overseas and now firmly back in her native Norway. In addition, Wulff possess an impressive back catalogue consisting of four albums which can be divided equally in terms of their choice of language used, with two of her albums having been performed in English, and the other two in her local dialect. Also, recognition of Wulff’s song writing abilities extends to film and television where a variety of her songs have been used, as well as being on the receiving end of much radio play. The next part of this musical journey is the brand new single ‘Si Det Sånn’ that sees Wulff revert back to Norwegian and probably due to her move back home as well. The single itself is a tender folk song that focuses on human vulnerability, and delivered in compelling fashion by Wulff’s natural sounding vocal and expert guitar playing from Fay Wilhagen. With the new album not due until April this year, ‘Si Det Sånn’ is a fine beginning and one likely to be placed on high rotation until the full album arrives.



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