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Blue Planet Eyes

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Blue Planet Eyes

The Preatures

Universal Music Norway

Hailing from Australia, The Preatures has been making great strides having supported the Rolling Stones last year, as well as writing and recording their debut album. Having two well-received EPs to their name, it was time for this Ozzie five piece to set their collective ideas to a full-length record. With producer Jim Eno from Texas rock band Spoon jumping on board to guide The Preatures through their first album, this debut was recorded at Public Hi Fi studio in Austin, Texas and then finalised at Doldrums Studio in Surry Hills with the band’s own Jack Moffitt (guitar) co-producing. The end result is ‘Blue Planet Eyes’; an album that sets pop music as its central source but, at the same time, possesses shades of dance music and indie guitar rock. It’s a bold manoeuvre that starts ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ with, in fact, the album’s title track as it’s more of an instrumental composition, gliding on a wave of mild electronics and offering the slightest of vocals from Izzi Manfredi. The Preatures personality really comes out from its hiding place once ‘Somebody’s Talking’ bounces into view and proves to be utterly irresistible with its 80s classic pop feel; the kind of which the likes of Blondie used to produce during the early part of that decade. There’s a bit of a funk groove accompanying ‘Is This How You Feel’, with Izzi Manfredi showing the ranges of her vocal to great effect which, again, takes a slight deviation once the mild rock influences of ‘Ordinary’ take a hold. It remains true that ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ embraces a variety of influences whether a stirring ballad via ‘Two Tone Melody’ or darkened, distorted pop of ‘Rock And Roll Rave’. Despite such diversity, the lines never become blurred as to its overall intentions as The Preatures remain rooted in pop music, but one that lends itself to other influences, making this nothing short of an absorbing debut album.


Little May EP

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Little May (EP)

Little May

Universal Music Norway

Putting together six tracks for their current release is Australian trio Little May. Comprising of members Annie Hamilton, Hannah Fjeld and Liz Drummond, Little May has been dubbed the ‘The Australian Haim’ by their native media, as well as receiving considerable recognition overseas with UK radio stations particularly impressed by the song ‘Hide’. If it’s indie folk influenced songs you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place as the ‘Little May EP’ is a source rich in supply. First song off the block is ‘Dust’ which gives way to a rolling, tumbling rhythm after beginning in the quietest of fashions. The power of the vocals are often hypnotic whether at their faintest decibels à la ‘Boardwalks’ or falling in and out of the shadows and adding to the tension conveyed musically and lyrically in relation to ‘Hide’. Little May really dig deep with the husky delivery of ‘Bones’, that is unlikely to hear a response to its repetitive questioning, “Do you feel it in your bones like I do?” and one can almost feel the hurt inside such is the sincerity given here. Sometimes in life the best things come in smaller packages as the ‘Little May EP’ adequately suggests.


Angerville

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Angerville

Ine Hoem

Propeller Recordings

Having been the recipient of several awards, as well as a Spellemann (Norwegian Grammy) nomination back in 2010 for her vocal duties with eclectic sounding Norwegian outfit Pelbo, Ine Hoem takes the plunge into the deep end by setting out her own stall with solo album ‘Angerville’. With this being a first album for vocalist Ine Hoem, her debut release actually came in the form of an EP by the name of ‘The Island’. This was the step in a new direction that saw Ine Hoem adopt a pop approach, which proved a success as the EP received heavy rotation on the nation’s radio networks and a further award as winner of ‘Musikkprisen’ at Ocean Sound Recordings. Once momentum had gathered, Ine Hoem set to task writing and recording the songs for ‘Angerville’, with additional production duties coming by way of up-and-coming producer Kristoffer Bonsaksen. With the first sign of life arriving last autumn with the single ‘This Year’, Ine Hoem immediately captured the imagination with her unforced vocals and lyrics purporting to achieve a longlist of ‘to-do’s’ when the reality of such dreams remains on far safer grounds. Ine Hoem manages to retain much attention via her pristine vocals; exemplified by the heavenly introduction to ‘Caroline’ which proceeds to carry the rest of the song and entire contents of ‘Angerville’ in similar fashion. Elsewhere, ‘Lost Lovers’ is a relatively pared-back composition and has the feel of a first-person narrative given the natural qualities of the vocals helping to piece together the initial steps of a relationship before its ultimate demise, which comes as no surprise considering its bold pronouncement of not feeling the ‘love’ for Bob Dylan! There is time for reflection with the joyful sounding ‘When We Were Young’, but is let down slightly by the twee narrative. Such a discrepancy is soon amended by the fragile and honest admissions of ‘I Will Follow’ only to be outdone (just) by the sublime ‘When We Collide’, which is equally sincere in its emotions only it’s the thorny opposite in terms of its predecessor. Engaging, heartfelt and gifted with a vocal of divine qualities, Ine Hoem will have no problems making a name for herself along this solo route just as long as she can continue to stave off the feelings of loneliness that seem to be impregnating ‘Angerville’ at nearly every turn.


Happy People

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Happy People

Peace

Columbia

Following on from 2013′s ‘In Love’ album, indie quartet, Peace expand their creative range with ‘Happy People’. Despite the wider expanse of sound on offer here, Peace retain their affection for a good pop melody and sense of rhythm, which has a habit of creeping up from behind and making itself known once the chorus hits of ‘Gen Strange’, for example. The title of the record is not to be taken literally as there is a general sense of unease felt whether in relation to the usage of ‘Money’, set to a steady indie funk groove, or the manner in which living in the present is panning out as illustrated by the gradual flickering into life of ‘O You’ puffing out a longing sigh with its line, “The 80s were better, I’ve no doubt”. With concerns regarding perceived ideas in relation to image (‘Perfect Skin’), or the loneliness considered at the centre of the ballad-esque ‘Under The Moon’, happiness is but a distant prospect for Peace. Despite such concerns, this four piece from the Midlands have a habit of communicating their thoughts by way of some infectious rhythms, via the guitar driven swagger of ‘Lost On Me’ and gusty momentum of the album’s title track to remind enough listeners that residency in the UK during the mid-nineties really was the place to be. With a deluxe version of ‘Happy People’ offering an incredible eight extra tracks and enough to fill another album, there really is much to consider when it comes to Peace and their second offering.


Bruised Music Volume One

Released 10 March

 

Bruised Music Volume One

Tenement

Grave Mistake Records/Toxic Pop Records

Busy rummaging through old memories from their vast catalogue of songs, Appleton, Wisconsin-based Tenement reappear with a collection of tracks under the heading ‘Bruised Music Volume One’. The decision to include a mixture of rare and out-of-print songs lifted from seven of the band’s earliest recordings including tapes, EPs and split singles was an inspired one as those less fortunate to experience this material during its first outing, now have a chance to familiarise themselves with Tenement’s early punk rock sound. With comparisons ranging from Husker Du to The Replacements in relation to the time period covered from 2006 to 2009, the rarities selected provides an insight into the band’s development and the various teething problems associated with this. However, far from being a ragbag collection of loose ends and unfinished demos, ‘Bruised Music Volume One’ is far more accomplished than perhaps one would think, considering the aforementioned early years’ time period. An example of this can be gained from the rough and tumble of ‘Sitcom Moms’, with its retrospective lyrics and scorching hot guitar break rendering this song good enough to grace anything Tenement currently has scheduled for later release.  Following on from this is the hard-edged pop tones of ‘Spaghetti Midwestern’ and ensuing ‘The Fire Is Out’, albeit with a coarser texture yet still containing a pop influence. Eclipsing its customary two minute mark is the initial thrash happy ‘Summer Streets Parts 1 & 2′, which eventually stretches its creative limbs and provides another indicator of the talent at the centre of this three piece. Casting our own vote, however, the rhythmically tight and seared vocals of ‘The Best and Worst of Times’ wins hands down, and probably due to providing a reminder of Boston unit Buffalo Tom, who had a knack of writing similar sounding songs on a frequent basis. This current collection might be a bruised reminder of a few memories best forgotten when it comes to Tenement, but for the rest of us on the outside looking in, ‘Bruised Music Volume One’ makes for a fascinating insight into the early foundations of one of America’s ongoing punk bands.


Losing All My Friends EP

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Losing All My Friends (EP)

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Not to be dissuaded by the Metal connotations immediately implied by their moniker, Monster Jaw is, in fact, a far closer associate to the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle during the 90s, and even closer to home psychedelic rock of the same time period. Having impressed greatly with their first effort ‘Get A Tattoo’, Monster Jaw decided to team up with Belgian producer Wes Maebe (The Libertines, Paul Rogers, Roger Waters and Robert Plant) once again for their current EP. The end results see Monster Jaw progress quite considerably with a tighter edge to their overall compositions and with any excesses well and truly trimmed. Such an example can be ascertained from opener ‘Losing All Friends (Radio Edit)’ with its lively yet slightly fuzzy-edged guitars setting the pace, and built around a catchy chorus bemoaning the gradual departure of one’s comrades at the expense of a close relationship. Running adjacent to this, in terms of the quality stakes, with its direct rhythm and smatterings of psychedelic indie rock inducing a compelling high via its chorus, is the quite magnificent ‘Low’. Thankfully, the pleasure ride is not ready to cease just yet as the double helping of Jesus & Mary Chain, who happened to inspire the sounds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, can be heard with ‘Lidocaine’ and intriguing ‘Do It Gay, Do It Straight’. ‘Losing All My Friends’ EP is the sound of a band edging ever closer to a creative understanding that was outlined in the blueprints when the trio of Mik Davis, John Bradford and Neil Short decided to pursue this venture. If Monster Jaw maintain their current trajectory, then their debut album will be one not to miss out on.


Still Undead

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Still Undead

The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters

Inverse Records

Harking back to a 70s era when rock music was truly free, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters revive such memories via their debut album release ‘Still Undead’. First indication of such linkages to music’s past is the manner in which ‘Still Undead’ was recorded, by using methods including portable studios often in various locations out on the road when touring. More obvious signs, however, exist in the band’s actual sound consisting of mild, loose rock and rounded off with some mystical song titles that leave one thinking of numerous bands from that particular era. With the location of Finland housing the songs making up ‘Still Undead’, it’s America which provides the inspiration as The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters create a number of songs full of catchy choruses or, alternatively, more drawn out tracks such as the ‘K-Town River Banks’ with its keyboard and guitar riffs towing this along admirably. Lead vocalist and founder, Markku Pihlaja, provides a slightly gruff edge to the songs and remains relatively calm throughout, without ever resorting to any form of histrionics in order to get the messages across. Such examples can be found with the social conscience that is ‘Cry For The Ocean’ where both band and singer go about their business in an unfussy manner yet the song still manages to seep under one’s skin with seemingly very little effort at all. This is one of the aspects that make ‘Still Undead’ an appealing album because the majority of its contents will catch you unaware due to a certain amount of subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. For example, the natural aspects of the vocal and engaging chorus of ‘Soulseeker’ or the travelling notion via its rhythm given to ‘Giants’, which bides its time before hitting its soaring chorus, are two such examples. Given time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters can certainly carve out a name for themselves beyond their native Finland by transmitting ‘Still Undead’ to an America audience where it should find a welcoming home considering its affiliations with American 70′s rock.


Den Morronen

Released 11 February

 

Den Morronen

Thåström

Sony Music Norway

Regarded as one of Sweden’s most important artists, Thåström is primed with new album ‘Den Morronen’. Following on from his last excursion, that was the rather successful ‘Beväpna Dig Med Vingar’, this latest release follows in similar footsteps with a considerable amount of reflective and darkened tales set to an electronic musical backdrop. Made up of nine tracks, ‘Den Morronen’ was produced in a combined effort by Thåström, Niklas Hellberg and Ulf Ivarsson, with fellow musicians Pelle Ossler, Conny Nimmersjö and Anders Hernestam coming on board to help realise the album’s contents, which were recorded in the locations of Berlin, Stockholm and Karlstad, it soon becomes clear that much effort has gone into this latest album. Kicking things off with the dour beat of ‘Gräsfläckar’ and proceeding along the same lines with the album’s title track, Thåström illuminates such dark tales with his poetic way with words, that are often expressed in a croaked manner and has an ability to sound world-weary without necessarily meaning so. It’s the attention to detail of these tales, however, that compels best of all, with the rattling of everyday life – surface noise as a certain Mr Peel referred to – in the background of the passionate ‘Ner Mot Terminanlen’; funeral march feel to ‘Kom Med Mig’ and the unfolding drama of ‘Alltid Va På Väg’ that will see the name Thåström continue to be highly regarded in his homeland but, hopefully, elsewhere as well because ‘Den Morronen’ is deserving of a much broader audience.


Keep Forever (single)

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Keep Forever (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Biding her time and taking the old-fashioned route to possible future glories is Norwegian singer-songwriter Frøder. The less is more paradigm certainly works here as Frøder is steadily building her way to recognition in her own country by a succession of single releases with ‘Keep Forever’ being the latest addition. By adopting this patient approach seems to be working as the Bergen-based artist has received substantial airplay for previous singles – ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘Over The Sea’ – and recently Spotify selected Frøder as a name to watch in 2015 via their ‘Spotlight Artists’ category. The patient approach and gradual progression in terms of her work can definitely be heard in latest single ‘Keep Forever’, as it is by far Frøder’s most memorable effort for its effective use of keys that joyously tingle under the skin and then hold back to allow the vocal to express itself. If Frøder continues such an approach to her song writing, then the full-length album should be something truly worth waiting for when that time duly arrives.


Craig_Tape

Released Out now

 

The Drive To Taxonomy

Craig Ward & Radboud Mens

Jezus Factory Records

Freedom over expression is definitely the way forward and something Jezus Factory continue to provide with the latest project from Craig Ward & Radboud Mens’ ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’. Seemingly unable to switch off the creative thoughts accumulating in his mind, Craig Ward, who is known for his work with a diverse bunch of musical outfits including dEUS, Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen and, more recently, a collaboration with Mark Mulholland, wheels out his latest release on a previously thought extinct format (i.e. cassette) as a limited edition, and with no real press release other than a discussion involving what constitutes as a ‘real’ record label these days. Driven by practicalities regarding the decision involving a cassette release, as well as moving away from the standard CD format for this particular occasion, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ consists of two sides of experimental, ambient, electronic music.  The pulse is barely audible once the first side of ‘Parts 1, 2 & 3′ gets underway, with shards of light becoming visible gradually, and then made more prominent by bouts of droning and stabs of electronica that eventually breaks off into smaller pockets of sounds that bleep and whirr incessantly before finding their way to the surface. Side two is a coarser terrain, with electronic sounds jarring and fizzing, but most notable is the fullness given to the overall sound where segments are plumper in their expressions and the volume is given a boost, yet ever so sparingly. As with most instrumental efforts, individual interpretations will vary greatly such are its qualities to drum up different feelings with each and every listen. Therefore, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ is no different from such interpretations because its qualities are endless due to the many different levels this album inhabits.


Are You With Me

Released Out now

 

Are You With Me (single)

Lost Frequencies

Armada Music / Sony Music

According to the statisticians at YouTube, Lost Frequency certainly made a name for themselves with an earlier version of current single ‘Are You With Me’ that managed to clock up a hefty one million plus viewers, in addition to a whole bunch of remixes which saw viewing figures nearly go through the roof. Having finally made the transition to a fully-fledged release, ‘Are You With Me’ should entice the same level of support when it comes to purchasing said single considering its calm electronic rhythm, mild beats and soft vocal combining into a rather persuasive force. Having found its niche within electronic dance music, Lost Frequencies has a tendency to lean toward other influences which, upon closer inspection, the likes of One Republic can be heard in relation to ‘Are You With Me’ and therefore likely to appeal to those more attuned to indie rock with a side order containing elements of dance music.


TIME

Released Out now

 

Time

Micky Ekko

Sony Music

It has been two years since the collaboration with Rihanna on the huge success that was ‘Stay’, but now Micky Ekko is ready to open his own recording account with the album ‘Time’. Whether a stretch working on production duties and honing his skills as a songwriter was deemed necessary by Ekko himself, then the wait has been worthwhile because ‘Time’ is an assured long player. Such an assertion can be gleaned from the confident manner of opening song ‘Watch Me Rise’, as it remains strong in its pursuit of hard fought goals while others equally deserving of success fall before the final hurdle. By making use of synths and other electronics, Micky Ekko creates a broad palette of sounds that, when combined, delivers a series of memorable songs such as the passionate ‘Love You Crazy’ and soulful vocals of ‘U’. There is a darker twist to this album as well, which makes itself clear with the down on its luck narrative of ‘Smile’; rockier rhythm of the quite superb ‘Riot’ and then change of tactic, instrumentally, with the introduction of acoustic guitar and orchestral strings adding to the plaintive emotions contained within the album’s title song. By setting his own path for creative discovery and seemingly given the freedom to do so – the doubleheader containing the use of the word doves for example – Micky Ekko is a beguiling talent and one who has just written an album’s worth of equally fascinating material that is, at times, accessible and on other occasions demands a bit more from its listeners, which is precisely what you get with ‘Time’ and gratefully so.



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