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We Were Closer To The End

Kari Harneshaug

NoForever

Quite possibly new to a lot of music lovers residing on the outskirts of Scandinavia, but Norwegian singer-songwriter Kari Harneshaug has been plying her musical trade in these very parts for some considerable time. Back with a new album ‘We Were Closer To The End’ is actually Kari Harneshaug’s third long player. With the recording of the album being guided by producer Karl Gøsta Klaseie, the actual recording sessions involved a novel idea by allowing those totally smitten with the song writing of Kari Harneshaug a unique opportunity to watch this talent at work in the recording studio. Whether such company inspired the vocal performances found on the latest record is only known to Kari Harneshaug herself, but what the listener is treated to here is an at times hauntingly beautiful (there we go again!) set of vocal performances, with previous single ‘Wild One’ being the benchmark and ‘The Signs Have Been Telling Me’ not too far behind, and, in other places, a different turn with the influence of PJ Harvey via ‘For Our Love’ and ditto ‘The Great Sea’. But there are other ideas at work, with the spacious ‘When The Days Creep Up On Us’ that fills its gaps with light electronics and standard instrumentation that plays out a patient rhythm. The driftwood expression of the album’s title track is suggestive of a former relationship, and expertly delivered by all musicians involved. The name Kari Harneshaug should be more familiar once the word spreads of the stirring and melancholic beauty of ‘We Were Closer To The End’ reaches further afield because it really is rather magnificent.


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This Life Of Mine

Jen Lane

Poor Kitty / Independent

Singer-songwriter Jen Lane has made a name for herself back home in her native Canada and, more specifically, the Western Canadian music scene. It was this very region of Canada that seriously took note of Jen Lane’s first two album releases, ‘Sleepless’ (1999) and ‘Injection’ (2002); with the former album receiving a nomination for a Prairie Music Award when the Canadian songstress was just 16 years of age. Further recognition of her musical prowess came by way of Lane’s self-titled 2006 album, and the 2010 follow-up, ‘For the Night’, with both albums being nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards. Bringing things up to date, Jen Lane’s new long player ‘This Life Of Mine’ arrives after some time on the sidelines due to a physical injury that saw many hours in and out of surgery. With that period behind her, Lane didn’t hesitate to recruit former collaborator and producer John MacArthur Ellis to produce once more, in addition to the musicianship of Nick Stecz in order to finish the songs making up her latest, and fifth album. By taking in elements of country, roots, folk and Americana, Lane has created an album rich in sounds, but one that also refers to a series of personal aspects from her life as well as observations of those around her. Starting off with the gentle country sway of ‘Waitin For You’, Jen Lane’s vocal is golden as are the instruments as there is a warm, welcoming haze surrounding this song. There is a country pop ambience to the fractured relationship of ‘Movin On’ that shifts from such a depressed state to one of frivolity via the ‘1st Day Of Spring In Saskatchewan)’. Taking a break from her own songwriting, a cover of Big Star’s ’13’ is thrown into the mix and it’s a more than admirable rendition. However, it’s Lane’s own compositions that are of most interest here, with the reflective country ballad ‘My Man’ and melancholic, yet beautiful ‘Hollow Heart’ that impress greatly, making ‘This Life Of Mine’ an album definitely worth owning.


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Lay Your Burden Down (Single)

Hege

Rootsy

Taken from her current album ‘When My Man Comes To Town’ that is picking up glowing plaudits from various critics including this very music publication, Hege makes the decision to issue ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ to offer another example of what all the fuss is about. With ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ containing a far chipper rhythm compared to a few of the other offerings from her latest album, the lyrics provide a shoulder to cry on, with religion playing its part here, and the band offering a welcoming sound with its references to western swing and gospel and, most notably, the steel strings, fiddle and Hege’s subtle tinges of Dolly Parton held in her vocal. There’s no other place to ease your worries right now than Hege and her new single, ‘Lay Your Burden Down’, because you will leave feeling enriched by the end of this experience.


Released 28 March

 

Rip Me Apart (Single)

Scout Killers

Untitled

After last year’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ EP, Scout Killers roll out their alternative-rock sound by way of new release ‘Rip Me Apart’. The formula is changed in terms of the format as ‘Rip Me Apart’ is issued as a single only, with more plans to continue this trend with a series of single releases. Prior to the official release of this new single from Scout Killers was the filmed footage of the band performing a number of songs including a stripped back version of ‘Rip Me Apart’. With that first taste of ‘Rip Me Apart’ still fresh in the mind, the version committed to tape is beefed up somewhat, and reveals a band clearly growing in stature. The tell-tale signs are the various nuances that can be heard whether a slight dash of Tom Morrello’s guitar or the passion and drive of a Pearl Jam track during ‘Rip Me Apart’. But the Scout Killers is definitely delivering their own signature as well, with the vocals of Scott Cox maturing nicely by revealing deeper and richer qualities, in addition to this five piece willing to explore all corners of this latest single by giving the impression of stretching its sound in places. This is a band that really cares about its craft as you can hear it in both the instruments and vocals, and this is why Scout Killers matter so much.


Released 11 March

 

Break

Slingshot Dakota

Topshelf Records

What sounds like a full band is actually the result of two individuals, Carly Comando and Tom Patterson, who knit together a sound that can best be described as poppy indie rock, but one that reveals associations to the looser and rougher edges of a punk and hardcore basement scene. Trading under the name Slingshot Dakota, the duo exert their experience via an 88-key digital piano that makes use of multiple effects pedals, and then backed by the drums of Tom Patterson, to come up with their first new material since 2012’s ‘Dark Hearts’. With Carly Comando controlling the electronics and supplying the vocals, the noise emanating from Slingshot Dakota’s new long player is highly impressive, especially when hearing the scorched (guitar) lines and rumbling backbeat of opening song, ‘You’. The rhythm driving ‘Monocacy’ is dark and rich to the point of almost drowning Comando’s vocals, but in the same instance shows the strengths of this duo lying in their musicality, which they certainly turn to their advantage here. Any imperfections held in the vocal however, which is kind of the point considering the duo’s backgrounds to the formerly mentioned punk scenes, soon disappears once ‘Stay’ enters the fray and reveals a singer in full command on a somewhat melancholic note. Sadness really can be therapeutic! The distorted electronics and pounding drums of ‘Paycheck’ is another awe-inspiring effort in sound, and no doubt will be an absolute killer live. But if you’re looking to get even closer to the innermost feelings of Slingshot Dakota, then the sore and stripped back ‘Too Much’ is as close as it gets, and further reason why the album ‘Break’ deserves every chance of reaching a wider audience.


Released Out now

 

Stuff We Leave Behind

Wonky Tonk

Working Brilliantly

If you’re seeking something with a bit more originality behind it, then you’ve come to the right place with Wonky Tonk and the album, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’. By holding a suitable moniker considering the wide array of influences skewered into the ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’, Jasmine Pool (aka Wonky Tonk) remains a fiercely independent artist willing to bend the rules when it comes to a number of genres by applying her own touches, and bringing out a largely country sound fused with elements of folk, indie and pop music. With her actual roots stemming from a love of punk music, the attitude of this genre goes some way to explaining the amalgamation of sounds making up Wonky Tonk’s latest album. With ‘Turn The Radio On’ providing a stirring entrance with it’s a cappella delivery, and then switching to the jaunty country-rock rhythm of ‘Cleveland’, complete with an audacious mix of 50s soda-pop backing vocals and a lead vocal that is definitely entrenched in the formerly mentioned punk roots, Wonky Tonk wastes no time in getting her influences across. The differing styles continue apace with ‘Billings, MT’ and ‘Montague Road’ possessing a 90s indie feel via Throwing Muses, Juliana Hatfield and The Lemonheads, before offering a reflective indie-acoustic number via ‘Denmark, which just happens to be one of the countries this Kentucky-bred singer songwriter has flaunted her music previously. Despite the various shifts in tone, ‘Stuff We Leave Behind’ works as a whole surprisingly well, and perhaps best illustrated with the honky tonk inspired ‘Washington Avenue’; gorgeous ballads ‘Tennessee’ and ‘One For The Juke’, and therefore making this album a rather essential acquisition.


Released 11 March

 

The Comfort & The Confusion EP

Merit

Boom Blast Records

Having formed in the spring of 2012, Phoenix, AZ, emo outfit Merit are ready with their new EP by the name of ‘The Comfort And The Confusion’ on North East (UK) record label Boom Blast. This latest EP arrives after last year’s ‘The End Of Everything’, also released on Boom Blast Records, and sees the band grappling with a few emotions, especially when what once was a new experience (i.e. musically) suddenly seems to be hitting an awkward patch when familiarity starts to take hold. In order to work through these feelings, Merit offer such tracks as ‘All These Haunting Things Part Two’ that possesses a languid feel in terms of its rhythm, and with the band paying references to other acts such as The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World, for example, with the similar tempo and fuzzy, melodic warmth of ‘Take Care’. With plans underway to record their debut album this year, as well as tour dates arranged, Merit look set to carve out a bigger name for themselves in 2016.


Released Out now

 

Breathing In

Dan Lipton

Working Brilliantly

Picking up comparisons with the likes of Jeff Buckley, Paul Simon and Ray LaMontagne is the new album ‘Breathing In’ from singer-songwriter Dan Lipton. With a sound that fuses the traditional sound of Americana with story-based blues, in addition with Appalachian country and world music, Dan Lipton displays such influences throughout his current album comprising of twelve self-penned songs. The album ‘Breathing In’ was a lengthy process, having utilised a number of empty cabins from Maine to Virginia to seek the right atmosphere for each, and every track in terms of their recordings. What Lipton ended up with is a close intimacy that can be heard in such songs as the tender and sore ache of ‘Dark Water’, and softer pop tones of equally good ‘Come On Georgia’. There is great care taken with all the contents of ‘Breathing In’, which is echoed in the quality of the recorded works where songs can sound bright and colourful by way of its title track and near jaunty rhythm of ‘MTA’. For those seeking that singular moment with the songwriter, then the wistful ‘Wings Of A Crow’ is a fine place to start, with Lipton in fine vocal and occasionally supported by a faint yet soothing backing vocal. It’s Lipton’s song writing qualities that really impress throughout with his ability to name a song ‘End Of The World’ yet give it an upbeat feel, as well as transform the lonely isolation of ‘Television’ in to something warm and engaging via its country roots. A master in his own field, Dan Lipton has just delivered an album of supreme quality, and one that is definitely worth ‘Breathing In’.


Released Out now

 

Change (Single)

Hanne Fjeldstad

Safe & Sound Recordings

After an impressive start with the first in a series of four singles last year with ‘Make A Call’, Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Fjeldstad returns with song number two, ‘Change’. The new single sees Fjeldsatd partnering Kenneth Ishak once more, who guides the production as well as filling in the drum, piano, bass and guitar parts when required. With her inspirations stemming from Lykke Li to John Lennon and drawing on the genres of predominantly folk and Americana, Fjeldstad conjures up a sound from the past but makes it thoroughly contemporary. Part of this modern sheen lends itself to an indie sound, and one thinks of other Scandinavian contemporaries Anna Ternheim, Ane Brun and American-Norwegian Karen Jo Fields, with all having blended indie with folk and country music to great effect. With ‘Change’ being something desired by Fjeldstad and all that she got in return, it certainly makes for a fine exchange. By containing a fuller and more confident sound, largely carried by Fjeldstad’s extremely compelling vocal and expert musicianship, ‘Change’ has a sometimes lively edge to its rhythm, and one that receives a stinging response nearing its end via the guitar. Keep the wheels rolling as Hanne Fjeldstad’s creative momentum is gaining serious pace with latest single ‘Change’.


Released Out now

 

Blinded

Ask

Karsten Records

Slipping under the radar at FLW, and therefore being a late discovery, is the album ‘Blinded’ by Norwegians, Ask. Assembled together with the softest of touches and built around the vocals of Andrea Ettestøl and Simen Lyngroth,  ‘Blinded’ often produces a sound that is pared back and probably best described as indie folk with a few splashes of pop influences here and there. Overall, such an approach works wonders as ‘Wintersong’ illustrates via its acoustic and electric guitars and female – male vocal exchanges, which gradually lead the song to a dramatic conclusion. From such an impressive opening, Ask refrain from repeating the same moves by adding the complex ‘Deny’ to the menu; a song full of varying shades of detail but managing to sound effortless in places as well as finding the time to add a bit of brass instrumentation, which is a very nice touch indeed. ‘Everybody Knows Your Name’ sees Simen Lyngroth take up the initial baton before linking up with Andrea Ettestøl  to deliver a fine combined effort, and one that is accompanied by a brushed feel to the instrumentation that trips along wistfully. The acoustic folk of ‘You And Me’ is full of intimate moments, and then followed by the eccentric tone of ‘Medium Street’ wonderfully portrayed by a fascinating narrative involving life choices or lack of them. ‘Blinded’ is full of such details that can weigh heavy at times just as easily as they can sound light and fleeting on other occasions. It’s honest and it’s real and it’s packed with creative endeavour, Ask is definitely on to something good via their album ‘Blinded’.


Released Out now

 

Marathon

Francis

Strangers Candy

“We’ve got to reach for the stars” is something a few of us aspire to. Francis is no exception from this notion, judging by the contents of such numbers as ‘Bridges’. Overall, there is a feeling that the band’s bridges have been (slightly) burnt considering the undercurrent of melancholy of this particular track, in addition to being faint in the vocals of Petra Mases, who possesses a languid feel to her voice yet never fails to capture the sentiments of the majority of the songs here. In fact, it really is a thing of beauty, and brings to mind 80s indie eccentrics Colourbox for example. There are bright edges to some of the offerings to be heard on ‘Marathon’, with neat flicks and chimes of the guitars during such songs as ‘Horses’ and ‘Howl’. The album’s lead track, ‘Marathon’, is pensive in its approach yet short in duration. The proceeding ‘Turning A Hand’ follows a similar approach and possesses some lovely moments via the guitars and vocals once more, where rays of sunlight shine from the guitars that was distinctively Cocteau Twins back in the day. The contemplative tone continues with the sublime, ‘Set Easy’ that picks away at the song’s narrative via the vocals and guitars and noticeable drum pattern. Patience may be required from some quarters experiencing ‘Marathon’ for the first time, considering the often brooding nature of the majority of its contents, but for those willing to remain the distance you will be greatly rewarded.


Released Out now

 

Contritions

Cult of the Lost Cause

Sailor Records

Stemming from Denver, Colorado, Cult of the Lost Cause is a powerhouse of post-metal sound skilfully bolted together by the trio of Mike (drums), Thom (bass) and Mhyk (guitar). The band’s efforts can be heard during latest album ‘Contritions’ that contains former post-rock instrumental single, ‘The Drowned God’. It’s this former single that really sets the tone for this new long player, where instruments give various expressions of soaring and dipping with numerous gear changes that crunch and grind along the way. With ‘Contritions’ being recorded in the band’s home city of Denver at Flatline Audio with producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Khemmis, Native Daughters), the attention to detail is to be admired. From the tumbling drumroll and short instrumental injection that is ‘All Those In Favour’, and then flipping in an instant to its rival in opposition, ‘All Those Opposed’, with its guitar heavy (not in all places) and overall expansive sound, Cult of the Lost Cause clearly understand the art of expressing their sentiments through their instruments. Rather than being lumped in with an Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You, for example, the three-piece from Denver offer an altogether more caustic and thicker sound, while still containing the occasional sweeter edges held in ‘Hessian Crucible’ and ‘The Cloud Collector’. A true delight and emotionally stirring via its instrumentation, Cult of the Lost Cause deliver in style via ‘Contritions’.



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