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The Fox, The Hunter & Hello Saferide

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The Fox, The Hunter and Hello Saferide

Hello Saferide

Sony Music Norway

Hello Saferide is the alias Annika Norlin prefers to use when the creative thought processes demand an English interpretation rather than her mother tongue of Swedish. Interesting as the inner workings of these creative thought processes might be as to why Hello Saferide lends itself to English text is one for Annika Norlin alone. Once the opening bars of ‘I Forgot About Songs’ starts up, nearly introducing OMD’s ‘Enola Gay’, all such thoughts are instantly forgotten. It’s the static, droning sound and fragile vocal of this opening song that is instantaneous in its appeal, as it slowly edges itself away from the brink by revealing the things in life that matter, but somehow became lost in translation. ‘The Fox, The Hunter and Hello Saferide’ is understated in its execution by utilising the barest of instrumentation, applied with the lightest of brushstrokes and providing a lo-fi feel overall. The songs themselves appear to be reflecting a (personal) journey, and one that is looking back (‘Dad Told Me’), beautifully relayed through bouts of happiness and deep regret during the sublime ‘Berlin’ and cascading tears of the equally moving ‘Raspberry Lips’. The pitter-patter rhythm of ‘Hey Ho’ picks up a gradual momentum of subtle electronics and ever so faint distorted guitar that gives the impression of a lengthy sigh such is its apparent regret of opportunities missed. ‘Rocky’ reveals a pent up and misunderstood narrative that is dressed up in a folk arrangement, before ‘This Body’ paves the way for a choir of vocals which strikes a chord deep within. ‘The Fox, The Hunter and Hello Saferide’ is a lo-fi masterpiece reflecting on the various interactions of personal relationships that should find a safe refuge with all those having undergone similar experiences. Miss this album at your peril!


Creation

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Creation

The Pierces

Polydor

Following up their breakthrough album ‘You & I’ in 2011 after several years of trying, the sisterly duo of Allison and Catherine Pierce, otherwise known as The Pierces, make a return with new long player ‘Creation’. The fresh outlook of this new album began after an initial trip to Peru where, under the supervision of a local shaman, The Pierces underwent an experimental trip to reach inside their innermost selves in order to induce positive changes by means of the hallucinogenic compound Ayahuasca. The results certainly had the desired effects as the sisters set about their song writing duties with much vigour after a lacklustre period as the previous held fears soon began to evaporate. While ‘Creation’ is not a great departure in sound from its successful predecessor (if it’s not broken…), the rediscovered confidence can be heard in the more subtle touches throughout the album suggesting that patience is key here, as repeat listens will prove an enriching experience. The title song is one of the strongest indicators of this renewed confidence judging by the radiant nature of its chorus. This self-assurance is reinforced with the persuasive power of ‘Kings’ with its realisation, “If we want to, we could do what kings do” as drums rumble in the distance and the influence of Fleetwood Mac is not too far away. Similar references apply to the opening segment of ‘Believe In Me’ until the song pulls away and The Pierces pursue their own route by opening up to the possibilities of love as depicted by the song’s shimmering chorus. The softened approach to ‘I Can Feel’ works wonders, building the song gradually before hitting a glorious chorus of harmonious vocals and a combination of synths and flecks of guitar that is never overstated. Just as The Pierces have taken their time to rediscover the creative formula that was such a success in 2011, but this time with an open approach to all possibilities available at their disposal, ‘Creation’ is the album to continue their success story providing the songs are given time to become associated with due to the various subtleties held deep within.


Endless Optimism

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Endless Optimism

Elsa & Emilie

Sony Music Norway

Just as the obsession has been with female vocalists in the UK from the music industry and those willingly lapping this up, the same pattern seems to be happening in Scandinavia or, more to the point, Norway where to be female and possessing a beautiful and ethereal vocal backed by an assortment of electronic pulses that have a habit of sweeping and soaring has become an obsession. The latest in an increasingly lengthening line regarding such comparisons is Elsa & Emilie who, through no fault of their own, churn out an album’s worth of all too familiar sounding material that could be any number of female artists to have graced the scene during the past few years. There is undoubtable talent present and the majority of songs are fine, with the solid opener ‘Endless Optimism’ and haunting beauty of ‘Run’ being two particular highlights, but overall, where this album would have benefitted most is a change in the creative process in order to set it apart from what has gone before rather than adhering to an overused formula. Take for example the meandering pleasantness of ‘All Our Money’ and saccharine ‘Firemaker’ as two prime candidates performing adequately at surface level, but after deeper exploratory fail to offer much in the way of substance. ‘Young and Beautiful’ patches up some of the deficiencies with more character in the vocals and complimented by the lone piano giving a source of inspiration for the duo’s next creative venture. Despite all of its professionalism, ‘Endless Optimism’ contains too much familiarity due to the current saturation of the market with similar sounding artists. On this occasion, Elsa & Emilie would do best to follow their own advice, “This could be anything, let’s find a place to start” because they need to find their own identity, which is more than viable considering the glimpses of talent evident here, and with time definitely on their side.


Siren Charms

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Siren Charms

In Flames

Sony

With the clamour for metal band In Flames to lead the way for a ‘mark two’ version of one of their previous, and extremely well-received albums from their longstanding supporters, latest release ‘Siren Charms’ sees no signs of adhering to such demands just yet. Top marks however, as In Flames stick to an agenda that sees them following a creative path that provides a slight digression from the heavier sounds of yore. That is not to say that In Flames has ditched their metal roots and trademark heavy riffs as there is enough here to hopefully satisfy older fans, as well as appeal to potential new fans. It’s more that the harder edges find themselves intermingling with the fresher approaches consisting of slower songs and ballad-esque numbers that are definitely to be welcomed. The alteration in sound owes some debt to the shift in working conditions that saw the band record for the first time outside of Gothenburg and set up base in Berlin at the legendary Hansa Tonstudio. With the likes of Bowie, U2 and Killing Joke having recorded at the same location, it seems plausible that In Flames were inspired by such artists, considering the more melodic touches mixed with the larger riffs and synthesisers. If it’s direct correlations you’re looking for, however, then think Avenged Sevenfold, Deftones, Sisters of Mercy and Zeromancer and you’re somewhere close to understanding In Flames progression, as depicted by the magnificent trio of  ‘In Plain View’, ‘Paralyzed’ and ‘Through Oblivion’. ‘Siren Charms’ might not appeal to the previously mentioned longstanding legions of supporters, but it is an album to be commended for its daring to go against the grain and drum up a different beat with almost radio friendly propositions (‘Dead Eyes’) mixing with harsher elements (‘When The World Explodes’) which takes some doing if your name is In Flames.


Hjertebank

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Hjertebank

Frk. Fryd

Sony Music Norway

A long time in the waiting, Stavanger-based Frk. Fryd is finally ready with their first long player ‘Hjertebank’. Eleven tracks of punk-rock inspired energy that accelerates from the start with the rifftastic ‘Svart Sol’ and immediately followed by the shorter and sharper shock of electricity that is ‘Skyene’, which has a fine line in knitting together its vocals in wonderfully harmonious fashion (listen to those near howls blowing down the tunnels!). The influence of grunge and its associated big sister that was riot grrrl during the early nineties are additional reference points but not something overly obsessive here, as the tunes remain focused and a lot tighter with definitely less aggression when it comes to the vocals. Occasionally, this lack of ‘bite’ becomes irksome as there are periods where Frk. Fryd should be snarling at their prey rather than sounding a tad cute ['Tok Meg Med']. Normal service is resumed, however, with the grit of ‘Tyvens Dans’ serving up its remedy with a coarser set of vocal chords, which is then shared with the melodically tight and rockin’ ‘Blod og Honning’. The rawness of ‘Blikket Ditt’ adds a more natural edge and is possibly the closest indication of this all-female group’s live sound. Topping that, however, is the layered instrumentation of ‘Virvelvind’ with its memorable high step in the vocals during the chorus. While there is a lack of variation on one or two occasions, the overall feel of ‘Hjertebank’ is positive considering it’s the first major step for Frk. Fryd to a long and illustrious career if they desire it.


New Third Lanark

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New Third Lanark

Craig Ward

Jezus Factory Records

After working with a diverse range of musical projects including dEUS, The Frames, The Summer of Mars and, more recently, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen, as well as a wonderful acoustic-folk collaboration with Mark Mulholland, the seemingly restless soul that is Craig Ward pops up on the creative radar again with a solo album under the moniker ‘New Third Lanark’. This time the music emitting from Craig Ward is purely instrumental, with five ambient compositions that barely rise above a few decibels in sound. Having recorded this largely improvised effort with use of electric guitar and an assortment of electronic devices, the atmospheric pieces of sound shimmer and glide through a number of spaces, beginning with the flickering of light ‘Tropic of Bennett’ and ending with the warped and ethereal sounding ‘Lemo’. The beauty of ‘New Third Lanark’ is that if this makes it to a live setting, then the room for further exploration is boundless and one that causes much intrigue when considering the darker veil of noise covering ‘Blazes As In Dixon’ and the previously mentioned ‘Lemo’ that is already nagging to be explored further such is its lengthy duration. It would seem Craig Ward has unlocked yet another creative component in his mind as ‘New Third Lanark’ reveals an artist not willing to remain still in the moment as the shifting tone of these ambient sounds clearly indicates.


Wilderwolves

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Wilderwolves

Wilderwolves

Jezus Factory Records

Having grown up on a musical diet consisting of American underground indie stalwarts Palace Music and Smog before soaking up the sounds of Howe Gelb, Matt Ward and Jeff Tweedy at a slightly later date, Rob Eelen considered it time to scribble a few musical compositions of his own and set sail for the life of a singer-songwriter. Forsaking his own moniker for the more appealing Wilderwolves – no doubt a ploy to avoid any association with the aforementioned singer-songwriter category despite this being a predominantly one musician affair – this debut album reveals an array of honest emotions, often steeped in plaintive lyrics with an intensely raw sound. With assistance coming from producer Geert Van Bever, Wilderwolves greets the listener with the bare minimum of acoustic guitar and a vocal claiming, “There’s no way back, I got stuck on you” and immediately you get an idea of where this album is coming from. There are other instruments added to the overall recording, with Eelen introducing piano during the somewhat subdued yet trying its hardest to sound upbeat of ‘Disco Dance’, which remains a masterstroke in song writing such is its dalliance with pop music combined with an overall sober side. The distant sounding opening of ‘Great Days’ assumes a brave face when inside there is nothing but ruin, which extends to the tragic relationship of ‘Danger Close’ that possesses a country edge as depicted by the shooting stars of steel strings illuminating the night sky momentarily, with the song drifting slowly towards its conclusion. A more robust and melodic sound lifts ‘Song For Now People’, which seems to spur the following ‘To Deploy’ into action with its choppy rhythm greatly exemplified by the fuzzy bass, staccato electric guitar and thumping drum beats. With there being a strong feeling of clinging to the past, the memories echoed throughout ‘Wilderwolves’ is something to revel in when they are presented in such an absorbing and intelligent manner that sets out this debut album as one to seriously treasure.


Over The Sea

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Over The Sea (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Bergen-based artist Frøder throws her hat into the ring once more after the debut release that was ‘Speed of Sound’. Having received some glowing praise regarding the former single, Frøder continues where this song left off with a combination of indie infused electronic pop. Comparisons have been drawn with Florence + the Machine and quite understandable when hearing the sweeping and often dramatic rhythm of ‘Over The Sea’, complete with a commanding vocal presence that soars as high as the music as well dealing with its lower echelons. Having gained invaluable experience from her CLMD collaboration, The Stockholm Syndrome, and with Fender Heist’s ‘Fighter’, Frøder appears to be taking the right approach by steadily carving out a niche that is built on solid foundations that should see a few more followers jumping on board once a full album is ready.  By revealing such strong character of voice and with two worthy single releases this early into her career, the future looks bright for this Norwegian singer.


My My Oh My

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My My Oh My (single)

Surfalot

Toothfairy

First up for new artist on the block Surfalot is the bright and breezy debut single ‘My My Oh My’. Having built up his credentials via a stint in Liverpool working with producer Tarek Musa (Transgressive Records) before a return to more familiar surroundings of his home in Norway, Surfalot, real name Bendik Johnsrud, is ready with his brand of indie synth and guitar pop that should, if there’s any justice in this world, appeal to a broad number of music obsessives. The single itself arrives at a time when the final days of summer are fast receding, with the simple demands of the song’s narrative sensing such change when it could still be cause for celebration if only the other half of this partnership would agree to slip on their dancing shoes. ‘My My Oh My’ is built for such moments, however, with its infectious melody having a spring in its step with a slight scent of the early 80s looming just around the corner. If Surfalot can ride out this summer season with emotions still intact, then the next issued release from this Norwegian looks set to be an intriguing prospect.


All The Way Up

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All The Way Up

Ilias

Aguenar

The breakdown of communication seems to be a recurring theme for Algerian/Australian singer-songwriter and musical producer Ilias when it comes to his second effort ‘All The Way Up’. With one given the option of choosing which artwork should represent this sophomore album consisting of three space themes, any notion of a trial separation from a current relationship is either being taken to extremes or alternatively suggesting that such an option has long since departed. Beginning where previous long player ‘Somewhere In Time’ left off with the reflective guitar stroll of ‘Someone Like You’, there is enough suggestion, musically, that the windows of opportunity are opening for the first time despite the lyrical severance at the heart of this song. Such optimism gathers further momentum with the breezy indie-pop ‘My Girl With Blue Eyes’ that continues to have links to its predecessor ‘Somewhere…’ but also provides the first indicator of a departure from this former album due to being consistently tighter in its execution and offering a more full-bodied approach. ‘All The Way Up’ deviates truly from any former path once the atmospheric ‘Picture The Sun..’ glides into view and sets up the much-touted, in these very pages, of former single ‘Fire Away’. It was the manner in which ‘Fire Away’ seemed to dramatically dispel any former guidelines by throwing itself to the lions and undergo a major transformation with its film score concept and flitting rhythmic pattern that suggested only one word, DRIVE. From this neon lit landscape of LA, the influence of Radiohead can be heard with the melancholic ‘It’s All About Her’ that exists in its own shell of atmospheric electronics and quiet acoustic guitar and is complimented by the memory held during ‘Turn The Clock Back’ with a nice touch of glockenspiel. ‘Jet Glow’ is the proceeding vapour trail and provides further room for reflection with its emerging and often moody guitar reflexes. Despite suggestion of a future direction involving film scores, Ilias continues his love affair with indie music as ‘She’s Someone Else’s Problem Now’ pays homage to The Smiths, whereas elements of Radiohead spring to mind once more during ‘Finding You’ considering its somewhat improvised guitar with a rather nasty bite. The reprise of ‘Someone Like You’ is a fitting finale not only for surpassing its former incarnation with a vocal that gives an honest account of personal loss, but also for being the last tear shed on a body of work that is consistently better and creatively richer than its predecessor. ‘All The Way Up’ is a magnificent achievement and one that offers plenty of scope for future directions.


Futurology

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Futurology

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

A quick turnaround from the Manic Street Preachers after the critical success that was last year’s ‘Rewind The Film’. Back with a thirteen-track album that marks a significant change of direction for this Welsh trio by drawing on a number of electronic influences ranging from Kraftwerk to early Simple Minds, due to a longstanding affection for such musical reference points but also as a result of a previous road trip throughout Europe when touring that proved inspirational. That is not to say that ‘Futurology’ is not without the various ticks and nuances of a typical MSP album because there are signs of their post-punk sound via a number of guitar riffs and lead singer James Bradfield’s instantly recognisable vocal that still amazes with its ability to navigate its way around complex and jagged lyrics. Another notable difference is the role Nicky Wire’s bass performs as it pushes to the fore during a number of songs with a real authority (‘Walk Me To The Bridge’, ‘Misguided Missile’) à la Derek Forbes and provides a solid spine to the band’s more adventurous urges. While there is suggestion of a certain level of bleakness considering the trip back in time, there is light between the covers as suggested by the immediacy and breezy nature of the title track and furthered exemplified by the rousing chorus of ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ with its golden splashes of electronica. Politics and a sense of detachment is portrayed to great effect during the machinelike ‘Let’s Go To War’, only to be usurped in the futuristic mechanical stakes by the hypnotic electronic pulses of ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’. There is no doubting the Manics’ love affair with music as ‘Futurology’ continues a previous trend of guest vocalists with Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside’s wondrous touch on ‘Between The Clock And The Bed’ being one such highlight. Such affection, however, also gets the better of them and is best illustrated by the instrumental ‘Dreaming A City (Hugheskova)’ as it is no ‘Theme For Great Cities’. Thankfully, this remains the only hiccup in what transpires to be a monumental leap forward for the Manic Street Preachers, without completely ditching their past, as the barely audible intro of the krautrock-inspired ‘Mayakovsky’ raises much curiosity, if you know a thing or two about the Manic Street Preachers history, by ushering in a bit of The Beatles ‘White Album’. It appears the Manic Street Preachers is entering a rich vein of form and one that is opening up to the possibilities of experimentation. Hopefully, the band’s next endeavour will continue along a similar path as ‘Futurology’ because it is definitely among their finest works but, more importantly, it’s the first signs of a fresh start.


Nothing's Changed

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Nothing’s Changed

Rough Hands

Holy Roar Records

After their eponymously titled debut EP, Rough Hands return with five new tracks under the banner ‘Nothing’s Changed’. The title of this latest EP is not to be taken literally, considering the progression Rough Hand’s has made since their aforementioned debut offering. While any differences between these two EPs is subtle, apart from the skeletal and atmospheric instrumental that is track two, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ shows a tad more experimentation with songs given a bit more room to breathe yet still retaining the coarse and corrosive edges held in both vocals and sound. The pummelling rhythm of ‘Mind In Pieces’ is instantaneous, but where this song may have pursued a similar path to its predecessor in its entirety, it manages to shift down a gear and is all the better for it. The title track is simply immense with its dark undertones, controlled aggression and forceful guitars that eventually slides into the maelstrom of noise that is ‘Selfish Misery’ which, to Rough Hands credit, remains temporary as it reveals several different facets and a solid indication of a band truly beginning to find their feet. Overall, ‘Nothing’s Changed’ is a significant step in the right direction to a full-length player by offering genuine signs of development but without straying too far from the band’s original concepts.



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