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Blodig Alvor

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Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na

DumDum Boys

Sony Music Norway

First released in 1988 and now remastered for 2015, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ by Norway’s DumDum Boys is re-released as a limited edition vinyl, in addition to standard digital formats. With ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ falling just short of a top ten place during its initial release, the album was well received by critics and supporters alike. Such positive responses to this first album led to increased recognition as DumDum Boys went from strength to strength, with each successive release more or less landing the coveted number one slot in terms of the Norwegian album chart. When approaching the contents of the reissued ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ for the first time, after missing this now landmark album during its debut release due to the band being a Scandinavian delicacy rather than possessing international status, the feeling is the same level of curiosity of approaching a new band for the very first time. Once the tracks of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ start to familiarise themselves, the evidence is there for all to experience in terms of why this album received such critical acclaim first time out. Classing its contents as alternative rock for the period in which it first originated, the sound of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ is distinct for the gruff manner of Prepple Houmb’s vocals and general robustness of the guitars. Opening song, ‘Fant Frimann’ garners much praise for its guitar riff that practically drives the song throughout, and for lingering long in the memory due to its addictive appeal. The initial clattering of instrumentation that introduces ‘Lunch I Det Grønne’ gives way to a steady rhythm, with the guitar taking precedent along with a charismatic turn by the DumDum Boys leading man. Title track ‘Blodig Alvor’ hints at 70s period Rolling Stones with its lighter strokes of guitar and bluesy harmonica. The same label can be applied to ‘Kunne Vært Verre’ (‘Could’ve Been Worse’), only the influences are more conspicuous. Elsewhere, ‘Papirsang’ takes a different approach with the guitars adopting an indie jingle-jangle that was prevalent during ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’s’ first release, and then ending on a quieter note with the brushed instrumentation and toned-down vocals of rather excellent ‘Idyll’. After several repeat outings, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ keeps offering enough reasons as to why it deserved its reissued status, it’s just a shame that the restrictions created by its choice of language will continue to confine this album to a limited market.


Pleasurably Lost

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Pleasurably Lost

Benjamin Finger

Eilean Records

Finding a new place of residency at Eilean Records for his latest output, ‘Pleasurably Lost’, seems to have provided a source of inspiration to the song writing craft of Norwegian artist, Benjamin Finger. For what we get here is the trademark smorgasbord of ambient sounds, but it is an album where the creative ideas are reined in tighter, in the sense that the connectivity between each track is far closer than before. Take, for example, opening song ‘Diamond Earth’, with more ideas and creativity crammed into its entire five minutes than a lot of bands can muster in a whole album, but it is the manner in which such creative explorations fuse together more coherently from shades of light to dark, if you will. The song itself allows for a greater usage of vocals this time out, with a classical sounding segment smoothing the way by the faintest of piano keys and angelic vocal, after an initial barrage of electronic sounds jarring against each other during its introduction. By sourcing ingredients from all that surrounds him, Benjamin Finger utilises everything at his disposal. So don’t be surprised to hear the snap, crackle and pop stemming from a worn-out piece of vinyl buried deep beneath the mix during ‘Edges of Distortion’, or a sudden interruption of static via a renowned loading mechanism of a particular 1980s home computer that shakes up the sinister tone of ‘Once Upon Her’. The previously mentioned greater coherence between tracks of ‘Pleasurably Lost’ reveals itself further when the latter half of the album follows a murkier path, compellingly created by use of distorted guitar next to the electronics. Without subscribing by any means to the regulations of commerciality, Benjamin Finger has created his most accessible and consistent work to date, that should see a few more people flocking to his sound. For the moment, however, there is enough here to suggest that ‘Pleasurably Lost’ is truly flying the flag of independence by providing its clearest definition.


Anesthesia

Released 10 April

 

Anesthesia

Strong Addiction

Inverse Records

Atmospheric and emotive are two adjectives that help to provide a brief summary of the ten-track debut album from Finnish alternative rockers, Strong Addiction. Having pledged their allegiance to Inverse Records with this first offering, the truth is that this five-piece band has been in operation a bit longer, having previously released the single, ‘Empire of Lies’ (2008), and then followed by the EP, ‘Suspicious Reality’ (2010). Therefore, with recording experience on their side and a number of years performing live, Strong Addiction has built up a solid reputation in their native Finland and one that is not difficult to comprehend once the contents of ‘Anesthesia’ start to unfold. Beginning with ‘Fix Me’, Strong Addiction pour out their frustrations which, by the time of its chorus, one can sense that lead vocalist, Sebastian Ulmanen, is equal parts emotionally raw as he is completely jaded due to life’s lack of genuine opportunities. After such a strong opening, the rest of ‘Anesthesia’ does not disappoint with ‘Losing It All’ stretching out its rhythm and, in the process, almost its innards as it reminds of early Jane’s Addiction and, to a far greater extent, American industrial rockers Filter. The ensuing ‘Red Sun’ builds up an impressive wall of sound with the guitars of Anssi Lausmaa and Heikki Virolainen really driving the song, only to be usurped by the epic qualities of ‘Empire of Lies’. Variation is given to the rather superb ‘Sense And Sensibility’, transmitted in the main by Sebastian Ulmanen’s vocal revealing its strength in depth, before reverting to type and providing a fine impression of Richard Patrick (see Filter above) during the blistering ‘Horns’. The ethereal moments of the album’s title track reveals another facet to Strong Addiction, but it’s the manner in which the band force these more fragile sounds through the industrial grinder of noise, where sparks are flying from the guitars and the vocals are close to breaking that exposes the dexterity of musicianship at the core of this unit. If only all debut albums could match the emotional intensity and genuine greatness of ‘Anesthesia’, then the world would truly be in a much healthier state.


Tikamp

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Tikamp

Bertine Zetlitz

Sony Music Norway

After many years as a recording artist and the proud recipient of four Norwegian Grammys, Bertine Zetlitz reached a crossroads in her life whether to continue this musical journey or call time on an otherwise successful career. The former decision was made, but based on a strict criterion of adding fresh ingredients to a musical formula which had passed its sell-by date. The result of this new found impetus is ‘Tikamp’; a ten-track album performed in her mother tongue and consisting of acoustic-based songs with added electronica, as well as a few electro-pop numbers as a means of not entirely alienating Zetlitz from her longstanding fan base. This newfound approach works instantaneously with recent single, and duet with Prepple Houmb from Norway’s Dum Dum Boys, ‘Sett At Vi Sier Det Sånn’ opening Zetlitz’ account admirably, with vocals combining in a gentle manner and complementing the hushed musical tone that eventually lets its guard down by way of its lead guitar steering this opening song to its conclusion. Familiar territory is revisited with the intriguingly named ’48 Hunder’ and fitting title of ‘Fort’ as both songs are steeped in electronica but with varying tempos. Such tactics work, however, as ‘Tikamp’ trims the use of modern technology yet combines what is left to great effect with the stringed instrumentation, which is best served during ‘Smil’ and the lavish sounding ‘Ingenting’. The fadeout track, ‘På Kanten’ offers the clearest example of where Zetlitz should ply her trade if the desire remains to continue her music career as its pared back style and honest vocals truly shine. Bertine Zetlitz has conquered any lingering doubts regarding her future with ‘Tikamp’, as it is a staggeringly good comeback and one that should not be overlooked.


Strangers To Ourselves

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Strangers To Ourselves

Modest Mouse

Columbia

It’s been a while since Modest Mouse made an appearance, eight years in fact, but back they are and with a new album under their wing by the name of ‘Strangers To Ourselves’. Conventional they are most certainly not as Modest Mouse flitter between a variety of moods and sounds that can be filed under the indie banner yet remain difficult to define even when placed under duress. An example of this diversity can be detected from the start where the fragile and bruised ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ gives way to the murky yet gripping sentiments of ‘Shit In Your Cut’, that leads to another spanner being thrown in the works with the distorted disco and satirical look at American serial killer Andrew Cunanan during ‘Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)’. Uncertainty is never far away whether in words or music judging by the light and shade expressed throughout ‘Ansel’ via steel drums and kick of the guitar, that really lets fly once the driving rhythm of ‘The Ground Walks With Time In A Box’ gets underway. Despite the lengthy wait for ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ being a frustrating one, all is forgiven when Modest Mouse can whip up such treats as ‘Coyotes’ next to fascinating oddities as ‘The Tortoise And The Tourist’ that gives real credence to the term independent as Modest Mouse continue to avoid the de rigueur of the music industry.


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

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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

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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

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.



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