Album Reviews

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Turn Up The Fire (Single)

Nova Miller

BMG Records / 21:12 Entertainment

Classy pop music by way of Nova Miller and her latest single ‘Turn Up The Fire’. With her roots firmly set in Sweden, there is a definite Scandinavian feel to the fresh pop sound on offer here. ‘Turn Up The Fire’ possesses a crisp production and is filled with bright electronic beats that really get behind the song’s chorus, and lend weight to the sentiments of love expressed during this current single. With an equally classy video that accompanies the single release; filmed on location in Iceland with breath-taking backdrops and Nova Miller at the centre of this (naturally), there is a definite resilience to this Swedish songstress echoed by the song’s lyrics, in addition to having to brave the cold climate or, more to the point, embracing it! No matter as the passionate tones burning a trail through ‘Turn Up the Fire’ are enough to warm up the coldest of hearts and make one believe that love really can prevail.


Released Out now

 

Colours Change Their Tone EP

The Crowleys

Bandcamp

Following on from previous singles – the glorious shimmering guitar sounds of ‘L.A. Sunset’, and the equally engaging and upbeat tempo of ‘Midnight Blue’ – Canadian indie psychedelic outfit The Crowleys return with a brand new release ‘Colours Change Their Tone’. The quartet see their creative efforts extend to a full EP, containing a total of six tracks. The first taste of the band’s new record arrives in the form of ‘Pink Rainbows’ that radiates genuine warmth, and where one can visualise a golden sunset via its mellow rhythm generated by acoustic and electric guitars and synths. It’s a beautiful entrance and one that possesses similarities with its neighbouring cousin ‘L.A. Sunset’ where influences can be heard from Cocteau Twins, Delays and MGMT, but with one notable difference where folk pop concludes ‘Pink Rainbows’ journey. Any further pop references can be heard during the ensuing ‘Midnight Blue’, which saunters along at a far breezier pace and offers another dimension via its vocals by means of a vocoder to help give voice to the robotic figure central to the band’s music video that accompanied its earlier release. ‘Stargazer’ has a whiff of more recent composition about it as The Crowleys twist and turn their psychedelic melodies into something possessing a darker tone, and certainly more robust around its edges, largely due to the buzzing and jarring synths propelling the song along. The closing ‘Pansy Party Extravaganza’ sees the band flex their musical muscles as they collectively, and rather skilfully, navigate their way through an instrumental that is almost bleeding in feedback by its conclusion. It looks like The Crowleys has genuinely given meaning to the expression of the title of their latest EP, because there is enough colour and creativity expressed by their beautiful and blissed-out soundscapes, which can investigate darker emotions as well, but there is always a sense of light at the end of their musical ventures and therefore optimism.


Released Out now

 

Muscle Memory (Single)

FACTOR

Falling under such descriptive banners as ‘alternative pop’, ‘art pop’, ‘chamber pop’ or quite simply ‘indie’ is the latest single from Toronto artist Kira May. Having composed the song herself, as well as serving as producer with additional help by way of Sandro Perri at 6 Nassau studios, Kira May very much assumes a hands-on approach when it comes to new single ‘Muscle Memory’. Once it becomes clear that ‘Muscle Memory’ centres on issues associated with anxiety and depression, the reasons for such a personal attachment to this latest musical creation from Kira May becomes even more apparent because they are issues that have personally affected her. With references to the “damaging effects of negative interpersonal relationships”, but with a firm desire to move forward and leave such feelings in the past, ‘Muscle Memory’ gives the impression of wrestling with such emotions as its packed full of ideas where it sounds as if its rhythm is floating in one instance, only to stutter the next before heading towards a more heavenly conclusion of vocals, brass and electronic strings. ‘Muscle Memory’ is the sound of  Björk  and Florence + the Machine joining forces, but more specifically it’s the sound of Kira May and a very personal one at that.


Released Out now

 

Zero Dawn EP

Obscure

Obscure Music

A band that falls under the metal, stoner rock and sludge rock categories but crossing the border of indie due to this being a self-released effort (hence our label), Zero Dawn hail from Finland and bring three new tracks to the world labelled under the heading ‘Zero Dawn’. Having set up their stall in 2015, Obscure has gathered enough musical nous to produce a sound that reveals much expertise and undoubted quality. Such experience shines through in abundance during latest EP ‘Zero Dawn’. From the scattergun rhythm of the record’s title track and P. Veteli’s slightly gruff and passionate vocals keeping pace, the rest of the contents of ‘Zero Dawn’ follow in similar footsteps. It’s probably a fair assessment to suggest that the following ‘Low Low Down’ and ‘River’ actually surpass the EP’s opening song in terms of quality, with the former track remaining at a steady beat yet managing to really get under your senses with its steely guitar sound and ditto the vocals once more, whereas the concluding ‘River’ offers a faster tempo yet no more compelling than its preceding number such are the strengths of both tracks. Overall, ‘Zero Dawn’ provides enough evidence to suggest that Obscure has plenty of ideas in their musical locker to pave the way for a full-length album if the desire is there.


Released Out now

 

Evocation (Single)

Up River

Holy Roar Records

Seemingly coming out of nowhere is the brand new single from post-hardcore outfit, Up River. With a mini-tour of the UK fast approaching, Up River unleashes an absolute powerhouse of a single in the form of ‘Evocation’. The latest release from the Brighton-based band certainly lives up to their press billing that suggests their “music has grown more despondent, desperate and dragged down with emotional weight.” ‘Evocation’ gives way to such thoughts as it’s a two minute blast of thrashing guitars and vocals that are stripped bare, alluding to the aforementioned desperate feelings, as the song rallies its final few drops of energy before collapsing under the emotional weight felt. It’s compelling stuff and the sort of track that every so often has a habit of shaking up the system, for all the right reasons, to serve as a reminder that we should never just settle for mediocrity. As far as surprise packages go, this is one of the very best!


Released 2 February

 

Scale Of Blindness

Benjamin Finger

Eilean Records

Limited to 150 copies is the new album from Benjamin Finger ‘Scale Of Blindness’. The album marks a second outing on Eilean Records for the Norwegian composer, electronic music producer, DJ, photographer and film-maker after the critically well received ‘Pleasurably Lost’ in 2015. With eight tracks mapping out the landscape of ‘Scale Of Blindness’, Benjamin Finger wastes no time in terms of decoding the ideas entrenched inside his mind and crafting these into ambient sounds. What transpires is a gritty and grainy beginning, where lights fizz and stutter and illuminate the surroundings for the briefest of periods as life in general gives way to a feeling of rolling continuously in a dark vacuous space, which is the impression given by openers ‘Halogen Flux’ and ‘Anxiety Blues’. With mere snippets of samples and sounds used, which are then looped into greater reels of sounds, the effects utilised work tremendously during ‘If Memory Preserves’, which offers a brooding tone full of electronic keys humming and tinkling intensely as well as drifting into mere wisps of noise adding to the mystery of the monologue taking place of what sounds like an inquest of one particular tragic incident in the US. The fascination continues with ‘Vagabond Void’ as it emerges into the light, electronics blinking, before breaking and splintering and seeing its particles drift into, and along the fragmented signals emanating from ‘Fragrant Darkness’. It would appear that Benjamin Finger has worked tirelessly to create a wonderful and truly captivating experience that illustrates feelings of loneliness and isolation encompassed by latest album ‘Scale Of Blindness’ that so often throws up shining beacons of light in the bleakest of spaces (‘Vanishing Faces’, ‘Falling Asleep’), to more abrasive creations (‘Fragrant Darkness’) that sound cut adrift and completely lost in the dark void suggested. It’s a masterwork, and it’s called ‘Scale Of Blindness’.


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Doubt Mines EP

Terrible Love

Big Scary Monsters

There seems no cure for the emotions expressed here. Cracked love, open wounds and downright despair is what you’re likely to get when it comes to the latest release from post-hardcore outfit Terrible Love. The gap experienced from 2015’s ‘Change Nothing’ EP and latest release, ‘Doubt Mines’, was down to reasons concerning shifts in personnel, a period of writer’s block, to everyday concerns of working overtime due to busy schedules, but thankfully the five-piece band from London managed to overcome all such obstacles in order to deliver this rather fine release. The delay in terms of reaching this stage was clearly worth it once ‘Doubt Mines’ unravels its contents and displays subtle differences that reveal genuine signs of development from what was a magnificent effort in ‘Change Nothing’. The differences lie in the splashes of melody that can be heard throughout opener ‘First Flowers’, and the generally more considered approach of ‘Separate Graves’ that really take this band to another level without losing any of the previous tension and angst which has so far shaped their career. Add to that vocals that are stripped bare and raw and full of honest confessions, then Terrible Love remain a rare breed of band who are vital in these troubled times.


Released 2 February

 

Baksida På Operaen (Single)

Stian Fjelldal

Didelidoo

Norwegian artist Stian Fjelldal enters the New Year with the release of ‘Baksida På Operaen’, which is the third single to be taken from his album ‘Idioten’. With very little info on the desk regarding Fjelldal and his musical content, only lengthens the mystery and one worth pursuing in the course of finding more answers. Unfortunately, the quest for answers continues to remain a mystery, in addition to any queries relating to the rear entrance of the opera house remaining equally mysterious, only to say that the ode penned to this particular landmark in the centre of Norway’s capital suggests an unbridled talent, and one skilfully plying his trade via a mixture of hushed vocals that verge on spoken word whilst mild electronica swirls all around. It makes for compelling listening, especially given the added teaspoonful of eccentricity that brings to mind Scotland’s Mull Historical Society. No matter the shortage of answers because the only answer you’ll get once hearing ‘Baksida På Operaen’ is to buy this magnificent single in droves!


Released Out now

 

When A Kiss Becomes A Habit (Single)

Thea & The Wild

Propeller Recordings

Channelling an 80s vibe with latest single ‘When A Kiss Becomes A Habit’ is Norwegian Thea & The Wild. With the single serving as a precursor to the soon-to-be-released LP ‘Ikaros’, Thea & The Wild builds a song that is filled with deep layers including use of strings, electronics and driving percussion and lyrics purporting to the problems experienced by long-term relationships. When reflecting upon latest single ‘When A Kiss Becomes A Habit’, Thea & The Wild (aka Glenton Raknes) had this to say: “‘’When A Kiss Becomes A Habit’ was written at the beginning of a relationship – I was too caught up in my own head to be present, and instead was just worrying that it might all go away. It’s about that point when a relationship just flows and there’s no romance or excitement anymore.” There’s certainly enough excitement to contend with when it comes to the detailed layers of experimental pop that is ‘When A Kiss Becomes A Habit’, and one that bodes well for the imminent release of second album ‘Ikaros’ on Propeller Recordings.


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Ljerke

Ljerke

Eilean Records

With this being a joint release on two fronts, ‘Ljerke’ is the latest album from Eilean Records. Firstly, the ensemble that is Ljerke consists of various musicians from the Netherlands (Romke Kleefstra, Jan Kleefstra, Sytze Pruiksma) and Norway (Alexander Rishaug, Hilde Marie Holsen, Michael Duch), in addition to video artists Marco Douma (NL) and Haraldur Karlsson (Iceland). Secondly, ‘Ljerke’ is released as a double edition consisting of CD and DVD. In order to capture the live feel of this project, ‘Ljerke’ took its inspiration from the Frisian landscape and therefore evolved into a live improvisation including music, poetry and film in the same context of former projects such as Seeljocht (Piiptsjilling) and Skeylja (The Alvaret Ensemble). Considering this is a debut album from the collection that is Ljerke, and therefore setting forth the difficult task of combining many competing ideas to compile one final result, the end results hint at no such complications. What the listener gets is the bear spine of sounds that filter in and out of earshot during the opening  ‘Muurv’, and then proceeds along a fuller set of notes during ‘Tsjilland’ with a compelling use of trumpet, before plummeting some way into a cavern of darkness that is ‘Waarbekkasin’, which doesn’t make for easy listening. By combining numerous ideas from the high number of personnel that is Ljerke, the album of the same name is faultless in its overall execution, yet it’s the very sounds captured and created that leaves one trawling through a range of emotions and therefore sets up ‘Ljerke’ as an album that is far from easy consumption.

 


Released Out now

 

Wolf (Single)

DYLYN

HOME Music Co.

Ahead of her debut EP release scheduled for next month, Canadian artist DYLYN has issued the single ‘Wolf’ that is an honest confession of the ups and downs that relationships can bring. More specifically, the new single is a direct reflection of the feelings DYLYN is currently undergoing “post-breakup” in relation to the male species. Tough love? You bet. With a genuine 80s feel coursing through the centre of this new record via moody sounding synths, ‘Wolf’ is not without current reference points regarding its overall sound as it melds the “old with the new” where a strong backbeat of punk garage-styled drums and, more specifically, impressive vocals cross the border and back again that is one moment 80’s pop starlet, and the next a far darker proposition more suited to indie spokesperson. It’s an engaging single and one that adds to the anticipation already felt regarding DYLYN’s forthcoming EP.


Released Out now

 

International Blue (Single)

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

Sounding optimistic in 2018 is Manic Street Preachers and their current single ‘International Blue’. The new single is the first offering to be lifted from the forthcoming album ‘Resistance Is Futile’, which is the thirteenth long player from the Welsh band. With bassist and spokesperson for the Manics, Nicky Wire declaring the new single as possessing similar traits to one of the band’s earlier songs, “The track itself is carried by the kind of naive energy that powered ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’,” before continuing to add, “I’d been digesting the lyric [‘International Blue’] for five years, since being in Nice and finally joining the dots between Yves Klein’s International Klein Blue and the vast open blue of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a moment of connection that felt perfectly natural – not forced or intellectualised. A different kind of enrichment that feels increasingly difficult to find.” While there is truth in the comparisons with Manic Street Preachers circa ‘Generation Terrorists’ and their latest single, the fascination with European influences continues via ‘International Blue’ in sound and visuals, but there is more than a strong hint to the gloss that was applied to numerous songs during their sophomore effort ‘Gold Against The Soul’. With no doubts regarding the infectiousness of the rhythm throughout ‘International Blue’ that points to the optimism felt, there (as always) remains a sense of pessimism as well as realism when it comes to any new Manic Street Preachers release where ‘International Blue’ should not be taken at face value. Everything in its right place then, the new album should be something worth waiting for.



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