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Her Foreign Language

Released 10 April

 

Her Foreign Language

Matthau Mikojan

Inverse Records

The cover notes that accompanied debut solo release from Finland’s Matthau Mikojan left an interesting trail and one that requires further investigation. Having seen the demise of his previous band and without a record deal, the decision to set up shop and write and record the latest set of songs formulating in his mind was a no brainer really. The difficulty came when, despite a wealth of experience behind him as a musician, the realisation dawned that there was a dearth of experience when it came to the actual recording process. Rather than let panic ensue, Matthau Mikojan set the wheels in motion by means of studying every available textbook, trawling the internet for any appropriate advice, and observing studio engineers at work in order to learn the ropes as far as recording goes. Fast forward to the present and the end result is ‘Her Foreign Language’; thirteen songs that have received the closest attention to detail after many hours of hard graft and without much daylight to speak of. The clues can loosely be deciphered in some of the song titles regarding the painstaking recording process Matthau Mikojan has undergone, whether it’s ‘Hours Overdue’, ‘Good Nights, Bad Mornings’ or ‘Gold & Silver’. While strong comparisons with Bowie can be heard throughout ‘Her Foreign Language’, there are also traces of the Rolling Stones bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with ‘No Preference’ and ‘Hours Overdue’ being two obvious candidates. The amps are turned down during the reflective and largely acoustic ‘You’, which leads to greater self-examination once the gothic tones of ‘Presence’ makes itself known via an enthralling vocal and skeletal guitar sound. While there is a preference for the slight outer space oddities of ‘Wrapped’, for example, over the more straight bluesy rock which seems to outnumber the former, ‘Her Foreign Language’ is to be exalted for its courage to follow its own convictions and come out the other side with a more than palatable album.


db-heart-cover

Released 10 April

 

Dream Brother

Dream Brother

Inverse Records

The Dream Brother project has finally become a reality with the release of the band’s self-titled debut album. What began in 2008 has come to fruition in 2015 with a ten-track long player of predominantly American inspired alternative rock songs. There’s a definite pinch of Nirvana added to the rather excellent opener ‘Lost Yourself’, which is abrasive one moment and smooth the next once the melodic pop of its chorus sets in. A fine start that simply builds further with the tight and driving rhythm of ‘Black Leaves’, that can be compartmentalised as a close relation of Jimmy Eat World and ditto the acoustic indie rock of ‘Halfway’ with singer Samuel Sjöman trying his hardest to convince himself that there might be a spark left in a recent relationship breakup, “I still believe in you, I still believe, But we don’t care anymore because we don’t speak anymore” and it makes for compelling listening. There is a sense of claustrophobia given to ‘The Way Out’ via its lyrics, but also the manner in which the song builds on various layers only to find itself returning to the start . The sense of frustration boils over into the pared back sound and confessional ‘LoveHateLove’ that climaxes nicely with a bout of tub-thumping, handclaps and group vocals. Despite ‘Dream Brother’, being a tad derivative in places – the granular yet catchy indie pop of ‘The One’ being such an example – one can only gaze in admiration for a vision fully realised and one that contains enough reasons to return to this debut album for some considerable time yet.


The King of Cape

Released Out now

 

The King of Cape

Alfred Hall

Sony Music Norway

It’s been a couple of years since Alfred Hall’s ‘Wilderness’, but with latest single ‘The King of Cape’ it’s like the duo haven’t been away. Picking up where their debut album left off, the song writing partnership of Bjørn Tveit (vocals/guitar) and Thomas Klær (guitar) reintroduce themselves with their distinctive sound of hushed vocals backed with an uplifting melody as ‘The King of Cape’ is the equivalent of daylight slowly revealing itself of a morning before making its full entrance and setting the day in motion. Having developed their profile that now extends outside of their native Norway, primarily as a result of the EP ‘Alfred Hall’ being released in 2014 internationally, as well as productive campaigns with Netflix and Cerveza Pacifico Clara respectively, the next step for Alfred Hall is an intriguing one because while ‘The King of Cape’ is a delightful reminder of the glorious sounds of their debut album, the real challenge will be to see if the duo can develop their sound to the next level rather than simply reduplicating their previous long player. It is sincerely hoped that the boys from Drammen manage to pull off the former option.


Blue Planet Eyes

Released Out now

 

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

Released Out now

 

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

Released Out now

 

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

Released Out now

 

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

Released Out now

 

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

Released Out now

 

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)

Released Out now

 

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.



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