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The Dream Walker

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The Dream Walker

Angels & Airwaves

To The Stars

Tom DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves is clear for launch with a fresh album and accompanying promotional extras. More than just a side project as new album ‘The Dream Walker’ is part of a multimedia package, with the previously mentioned promotional extras incorporating an animated film and graphic novel; with the former media source having already scooped the award for ‘Best Animation’ at the Toronto Film Festival. Such deep personal involvement also extends itself to a few of the songs’ narratives, with ‘Tunnels’ being one of the most significant due to paying reference to DeLonge’s father who passed away. Another personal aspect which has attached itself to this latest album release is DeLonge’s passion for music as the songs making up ‘The Dream Walker’ consist of a number of finely pulled strands from a variety of sources that only reveal themselves fleetingly, such is the experience at hand here. Bound up tightly and moving along at a rapid rate with its combination of guitars, drums and electronics is the ball of angst that is ‘Teenagers and Rituals’. It would appear that somebody has clearly done their homework as next song in line ‘Paralyzed’ gives the impression of being the aftershock from what has gone before, with its cold chamber guitars intro and grinding rhythm that remains persistent throughout despite opening up in to a more melodic beast. A further sense of detachment is given by the electronic 80′s pulses of ‘Kiss With A Spell’, which really does shine way beyond the emotional gaping void suggested here. There is an epic feel to ‘Tremors’ heightened by its Edge-esque guitars ringing melodically, only to have its sweetness curdled by the more abrasive, yet utterly compelling force that is ‘Mercenaries’. As already mentioned, Angels & Airwaves is far from being a mere side project until the other full-time occupation readies itself for action because ‘The Dream Walker’ is a consistently engaging piece of work and one that is deserved of a successor if, and when the time comes.


Live In Berlin

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Live In Berlin

Depeche Mode

Columbia

Recorded live in what can best be described as their ‘second home’ in terms of the city of Berlin, Depeche Mode is set with their latest release ‘Live In Berlin’. Available to purchase as a double CD or box set consisting of ‘Live In Berlin’ DVD, double CD, as well as an additional DVD – ‘Alive In Berlin’ – comprising of concert and backstage footage and interviews with band members directed by Anton Corbijn, ‘Live In Berlin’ provides an insight of Depeche Mode’s successful ‘Delta Machine’ tour, which saw the band take in thirty-two countries and performing to over two million people. With such wealth in riches when it comes to their back catalogue, Depeche Mode pick a fine balance of old favourites, such as ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, along with tracks from the band’s highly regarded ‘Violator’ – ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and ‘Personal Jesus’ – and live favourite ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ from ‘Music For The Masses’. Most pleasing of all, however, was the decision to revaluate one of the key turning points in their career to date with the cobwebs being removed from their ‘Black Celebration’ album, which even sees the surprise inclusion of the song ‘But Not Tonight’ – a former B-side of the single ‘Stripped’ – and Martin Gore in fine fettle behind a solitary piano. With recent songs living up to those of old – in particular the menacing and drawn out beats of ‘Welcome To My World’ and really getting into character of ‘Angel’ – there is something here for all Depeche Mode devotees and those more in tune with recent Depeche Mode activity. ‘Live In Berlin’ is a worthy account of Depeche Mode’s still healthy live presence, and a great showcase of a band’s history meeting with the present, rendering this release as absolutely essential.


#lonelypeople_Music

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#lonelypeople_Music

MOLITOR

Morrison Music

Back with a new EP, and his first release since 2013′s ‘Or Maybe Yesterday…’, MOLITOR unveils ‘#lonelypeople_Music’. Consisting of a blend of indie rock with elements of hip-hop, dance and electronic music, MOLITOR continues his experimentation with a variety of genres. Most notable of these forays is the audacious melding of the Dr. Dre beats and indie guitar rock of ‘Bite Down’ that really is big on sound in one instance, and then more quietly reflective elsewhere. There is a sense of self-loathing about this former track; a feeling of looking in the mirror and not liking what you see, which is reflected in the caustic tone of ‘Ca$h’ that ends up butting heads with Trent Reznor by its conclusion. Turning heads further, however, is the addictive rhythm of ‘lonelypeople_Music’ that is described as ‘upbeat disco-rock’, which is an apt description but one that helps to conceal the sombre mood at its centre. Ending with the rather superb ‘Stand For’, that is full of deep contemplation regarding a matter of the heart and played to a measured tempo that eventually builds to a grand finale before all instruments come crashing down. ‘#lonelypeople_Music’ EP is reaching out to a broad range of people with its bold attempts at fusing together various musical genres and lyrics reflecting universal themes concerning relationships and social interactions. It looks like MOLITOR won’t be lonely for too much longer.


Sonic Highways

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Sonic Highways

Foo Fighters

Sony Music Norway

By exploring eight American cities in order to see how each local culture over the years helped shape the musical landscape of these specific regions, and then setting to task writing and recording one track in each of these eight cities, certainly makes for an interesting concept. For latest album ‘Sonic Highways’, this exact process was carried out by Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters conducting their research of eight specific cities with a rich musical history behind them, and then coming up with a song that was influenced by, and exclusive to each of these eight regions. In conjunction with this eight-track album, Dave Grohl directed a documentary under the same title for the HBO TV network in order to provide a visual commentary to this whole concept and pay homage to America’s musical past. What transpires, however, as far as the audio output of this whole concept is concerned, is that while anticipating a blues inspired number from Chicago, for example, what the listener gets is just another Foo Fighters album! Despite one or two flickers of variation with the piano intro of ‘What Did I Do? /God As My Witness’ which could have developed into a gospel number, for example, merely develops into familiar alternative rock territory. The frustrating aspect of this entire album is the lack of variation in styles, which this whole project more than promised, as ‘Sonic Highways’ should have been marketed under a separate moniker because concept ideas aside, it’s actually a very fine Foo Fighters album. If you’re looking for classic Foo Fighters’ trademarks with that quiet, soft build up before rupturing an artery finale, then the rather excellent ‘Something From Nothing’ should appeal or the catchy, crunchy pop and alt-rock of ‘Congregation’, ‘Outside’, ‘The Feast And The Famine’ and ‘In The Clear’ should definitely satisfy the appetites of longstanding Foo supporters. By failing to live up to its original billing, ‘Sonic Highways’ is an opportunity missed to come up with an album with a difference due to remaining within its comfort zones. Having said that, ‘Sonic Highways’ is another solid addition to the Foo Fighter’s own history in the making and one that would have been served better as a separate entity away from the filmed documentary.


Cover Art Mood Chaser by Brad Rose -jcard004

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Mood Chaser

Benjamin Finger

Digitalis Recordings

Arriving on the doorstep under the guise of Audiofinger / Spartacus and therefore tossing another spanner in the works as far as one’s true identity goes, (Frank) Benjamin Finger makes a swift return after the soundscape collage that was ‘The Bet’. Follow up ‘Mood Chasers’ is more of the same, only this time out the instrumental passages of sound stick around a while longer emitting a notably heavier presence of electronic noises that adds a sizable filling. Such observations are noticeable from the off with the initial clunking beats parading ‘Dwarf Palms’ before giving way to a wavering frequency of electronic noises that accumulates additional instrumentation just as quickly as it sheds the very same extras. Where ‘The Bet’ was sometimes waiflike in its expressions, ‘Mood Chaser’ is not afraid to spike its sounds with sterner stuff as indicated by the aggressive buzzing infiltrating ‘Saguaro Cactus’ and the incessant swelling and popping of electronic bleeps throughout ‘Moonlight Coma’. The intriguing title given to ‘Nicotine Weather’ provides an altogether different interpretation musically, as its vision is crystal clear as detailed by its lighter ambient tones. Proving that shrewd song titles are not consigned to one alone, the mischievously named ‘Elfin Geezer’ (quite possibly a reference to its creator) transmits its electronic pulses that ricochet back and forth while receiving bouts of tinkering where you can sense Benjamin Finger probing deep beneath the mechanical workings and fiddling with various wires considering the intermittent beeps and noise distortions. Compared to its predecessor, ‘Mood Chaser’ is an album that is more complete in terms of its overall structure yet remains unpredictable in segments due to its restless nature and need for experimentation, which, more often than not, sounds improvised. Keep chasing those moods of inspiration you ‘Elfin Geezer’ as you remain in a minority of a dying breed of mavericks that the world of music could truly do with more.


Ayil EP

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Ayil EP

Ayil

Ayil / Diger

There is a powerful racket stemming from the upper regions of Norway – Bodø to be exact – where long dark winter days drag endlessly and the sub-zero temperatures cut deep. Fortunately such conditions are the very bread and butter that help fire up the post-metal / hardcore sounds that shunt the heartfelt grievances to the fore of promising upstarts Ayil. The waft of guitars opening this EP gives the impression of scouring a bleak landscape for any sign of life, only the realisation soon becomes apparent that all is certainly lost. Bruised and beleaguered, ‘All Lost’ finds Ayil hacking away with blunt instruments and declaring something along the lines of, “No hope no love, No hope no life” deep in the knowledge that any call to arms is futile considering that fate has already revealed its hand. The build-up of guitars that starts ‘Clouds Connect’ exists temporarily as the song collides in a brutal manner only to spin adrift – albeit temporarily once more – with a more melodic sound that eventually melds into a harsher texture. More time is given to ‘Lack Of Sleep, Mind In Pain’ which stretches out its fraught emotions past the six minute mark over a rugged terrain of snapping vocals and tough rhythm that eventually loosens and is awash in layers of (shoegaze) guitars. The messages communicating from the north simply cannot be ignored when they are as emotionally honest and gripping as those spouting forth from Bodø’s potential new sons Ayil.


Wild & Chunky

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Wild And Chunky

Great Sale Day

Close To Home Records

If this is the sound of mere frivolous fun, then please serve up some more in double quick time! The timing for Great Sale Day and their ‘Wild and Chunky’ first long player finds itself competing for customers’ attentions with America’s Black Friday looming round the corner; the only difference being that the level of seriousness when it comes to maximising full exposure of one’s commercial goods is of a fairly low-key nature when it comes to the former. Hailing from Brighton and therefore signalling another difference to their US counterparts in terms of geographical location, Great Sale Day is the result of a group of friends of former bands, or those still in existence, coming together to create merriment rather than anything overly serious according to guitarist Andrew Fisher: “The band is just something fun that we decided to do while we were out for food one night.” Eleven songs later that form a reunion with a 90s alt-rock sound that is definitely a Stateside influence than anything British, Great Sale Day induce memories of Weezer and Nada Surf with coarse guitars that churn out melodic tunes to the beat of ‘Up In The Clouds’, ‘Best Friends’ and the rather frantic rhythm of ‘Calm Down, Slow Down’.  There are frustrations of the heart during the strolling pace of ‘True (Why Can’t You Be)’, which adds variation to the set; ditto the slow climb from its slumber before slamming on the brakes in throat clearing fashion of ‘Wake Up’ which is definitely not sensing the aforementioned fun but remains one of the frontrunners for strongest track. By giving the impression that ‘Wild and Chunky’ is something of a light-hearted get-together and nothing but a side project until the real work begins, the reality is that Great Sale Day has actually crafted an album’s worth of material that deserves nothing but serious respect.


ChoirVandals_AtNight_cover

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At Night EP

Choir Vandals

FITA Records / 6131 Records

One of a growing number leading the charge for musical recognition in the St. Louis, Missouri region is relative newcomers Choir Vandals. After a successful debut campaign with the ‘Darker Things’ EP in 2013, Choir Vandals follow this with another EP release through FITA Records and 6131 Records by the name of ‘At Night’. Fusing indie guitar rock with grunge, ‘Monsters’ starts things off impressively by maintaining a tight musical direction, despite flickers of vocals and guitars trying their hardest to flee in opposite directions such is the various layers of instrumentation at work here. Being a tough act to follow ‘Medicate’ manages to maintain the quality control in a gritty flow of guitars that power along with lyrics purporting to the struggles associated with addiction. There is a genuine 90s flavour to the songs contained within ‘At Night’, with the early reference to fragments of grunge, which is a compliment indeed when the standard of songs are as consistently high as those present here. Expect standards to be raised even higher when Choir Vandals next venture out because there will be no rest in their current momentum as suggested by their own commentary, “I don’t wanna sit back and let my life run away from me”.


Razzle Dazzle

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Razzle Dazzle EP

Imperial Leisure

FXD Records

After a lengthy bout of tour dates throughout 2014, Imperial Leisure show no sign of winding down their schedule as step forth new four-track EP ‘Razzle Dazzle’. Causing reason to celebrate by rejuvenating the classic ska sound of the early eighties, but at the same time dusting this influence down and intertwining it with other components consisting of indie rock and postpunk, Imperial Leisure remain a flailing mass of anxious energy that is underpinned by their frantic sounds and barked vocals. First example fitting this description is the EP’s title track blazing fast on a wave of brass instrumentation and guitars, with a fidgety lead vocal to match the sensitive subject matter at the centre of this song. ‘Festival’ is more concerned with a leisurely pace in order to get its message across as musically it’s less troubled, starting out with simple drums and singular guitar and then supported by some brass and backing vocals before eventually picking its feet up and finding a faster rhythm.  If only all songs could flow with the same brass backing as evidenced throughout ‘Lucky People’, with its midway punctuation via a trumpet that simply enthrals, then the world would truly be a more harmonious place. With recent single ‘Nasty Boy’ applying the final touches with a bitter aftertaste in its mouth and appropriately reflected by a return to the frantic tempo of before, Imperial Leisure is closing the door on 2014 in magnificent style!


City Lights

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City Lights (single)

The Scheen

Artistpartner Records

In a show of optimism after a successful campaign winning over the hearts and minds at this year’s Emergenza contest for unsigned artists, The Scheen return with the first entry from a forthcoming EP with new single ‘City Lights’. Buoyed by their recent success, ‘City Lights’ exudes the same level of optimism with its tight, energetic rhythm that was the product of a live recording in the studio under the guidance of producer Sigve Bull. With new material on the horizon and a 2015 tour booked as part of the Europaturné with the aforementioned Emergenza contest, next year should see The Scheen growing further in stature considering the exhilarating ride of current single ‘City Lights’.


Burn

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Burn (single)

Sarah Nærø Pettersen

Prytz / Pettersen

Sounding beyond her years rather than the tender age of sixteen, Sarah Nærø Pettersen marks a new entry in her recording diary with the single ‘Burn’. By enlisting songwriter and producer Knut Vegar Prytz, who was involved in the song writing process for Norwegian artist Frøder’s ‘Speed of Sound’ which was B-listed on P3 Radio, this collective meeting of the minds results in a pop ballad that is meditative in its rhythmic pattern, greatly emphasised at first by piano and drums before revealing a richer sound by the time the song’s chorus arrives. While there is an air of confidence surrounding this single, ‘Burn’ is most definitely scorched around its edges with Sarah Næro Pettersen turning in a solemn performance that is struggling with a broken heart yet remains unwilling to give up the slightest glimmer of hope on a relationship that has since expired. ‘Burn’ is an engaging listen brought further to life by an equally impressive vocal that suggests years of experience when, in fact, is just starting out. Such qualities are hard to come by.


Big Music

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Big Machine

Simple Minds

Sony

The current surge of eighties bands not only making a comeback, but doing so credibly with brand new material is gathering at some pace. Latest off the block with new album ‘Big Music’ is Scotland’s longstanding Simple Minds. Having undergone a renaissance in recent years after the band’s decision to rediscover their early material, which saw them embark on a worldwide tour performing five tracks from each of their first five albums, the core of Jim Kerr (vocals), Charlie Burchill (guitars) and Mel Gaynor (drums) continue this journey as ‘Big Music’ treads similar experimental ground yet retains a more accessible side for the majority of its contents. Examination of those past creative endeavours also led to a calling on the experience and expertise of co-writer Iain Cook, of Glasgow band Chvrches, and producers Steve Osborne, Andy Wright and Steve Hillage – who worked on 1981′s ‘Sons And Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’. ‘Blindfolded’ opens the gates and one is reminded of ‘I Travel’, with its incessant rhythm suggesting a genuine feeling of motion sourced by a strong wave of synths and Burchill’s guitar. First impressions of the actual song ‘Big Music’ provides the first, real indication of a song that is not as clear-cut in its aims, despite massive beats propelling it forward and living up to its title, due to the gritty current coursing through it and then taking a turn skywards in swathes of keyboards providing a more soothing edge. Such songs make for compelling listening and further indication of the wise decisions Simple Minds find themselves taking by following a less commercial route and setting challenges, which first single, ‘Hometown’ suggests, as it will require a measure of patience due to its measured pace. There is great vigour to the excellent ‘Human’ that really gets under your skin after a few repeat plays, which also rubs off on the echoing, fuzzy static of second reworking (see ‘Graffiti Soul’ deluxe edition) of The Call’s ‘Let The Day Begin’. Similarities can be drawn with the aforementioned ‘Hometown’ and the considered tempo of ‘Blood Diamonds’, which reveals the experience and depth at the centre of this band. To suggest that ‘Big Music’ is a major comeback for Simple Minds would be discrediting the steps which led to this reinvigorated state – namely, ‘Neapolis’, ‘Black & White 050505′ and ‘Graffiti Soul’ – as the signs were already evident to the glorious position Simple Minds find themselves once more. ‘Big Music’ is therefore another addition in their current creative evolution, but one that is definitely their most consistent in terms of a return to their creative best.



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