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Released Out now

 

Ikke skapt for kø (Single)

Anders Bjørnvold

Safe & Sound Recordings

Taken from current album ‘Drug Natt’ Anders Bjørnvold lets slip the single ‘Ikke skapt for kø’. Whether Bjørnvold is being a tad facetious here or simply unaware that the title of his new single also lets slip a much held perception from those who are not of Norwegian decent that his ‘not created for queuing’ stance actually applies to a large proportion of his fellow citizens, if you’re one of those who’ve clocked up a enough air miles to witness such happenings, then only this singer-songwriter has the answer to such a conundrum. More importantly, the music itself is far from being a heavy affair as its Americana and folk roots lightly pollinate the air, with the instrumentation giving off a slightly sleepy feel yet one that is illuminated by a near golden haze. It will be interesting to hear if the rest of Bjørnvold’s musings are of similar persuasion because ‘Ikke skapt for kø’ is a welcome pleasure and one that will help detract attention from the cold winter months ahead.


Released Out now

 

The Ocean Floor EP

Ship Captain Crew

SCC Music

Ship Captain Crew has experienced a rather successful year thus far, having made their debut at this year’s Warped Tour and serving support slots with the likes of Knuckle Puck and Real Friends. Such victories look set to continue with the release of their latest EP ‘The Ocean Floor’. The sentiments echoed throughout this EP have more in common with the title of Ship Captain Crew’s current offering, but the tunes this crew (sorry!) serve up are far more resilient. It’s the band’s knack of writing strong melodies that lifts the songs out of the doldrums where crushed emotions often exist, but are soon answered with a fighting spirit by the likes of the pop punk ‘Honesty’, which possesses a real kick to its rhythm that constantly propels the song forward, and then followed by a moving vocal turn from Roger Alexander Moreno during the equally impressive ‘Hollows’. With two acoustic tracks added to the set Ship Captain Crew reveal another side to their song armoury, and one that shows up under a closer microscopic view the depth and details that go into the band’s song writing. Life on the bottom of the ocean is not a bad place to be when you’ve got Ship Captain Crew for company and their ‘The Ocean Floor’ EP, as there is enough here to suggest that these songs are focused on moving forward, despite the reflective stance of the narratives, and that is something to be greatly admired.


Released 13 November

 

Hatch

Grand Blue Heron

Jezus Factory Records

From the remnants of Belgian underground trio Hitch, who decided to call it quits back in 2011, Grand Blue Heron emerge with a ten-track album by the name of, don’t get confused here, ‘Hatch’. With the album having been written, recorded, produced and mixed by Grand Blue Heron at Chateau Rocque, which just happens to be owned by the band as well, there is a real sense of Grand Blue Heron merging as one here, both in their creative endeavours and ideas suggested by the detailed pen and ink illustration adorning the album’s exterior. The merging as one reference applies to Grand Blue Heron’s sound for the manner in which their sometimes, near droning and space rock influences threaten to engulf the entire band, such is their dedication to their art with all band members pulling in the same direction and therefore running the risk of becoming drowned in their own sounds. Evidence of this is convincingly served up by the poetic delivery, and intriguingly titled, ‘Gay Is The Lord’, which threatens to overspill during the enthralling ‘Last Song’. Where this album picks up extra attention, however, is for its toying with various influences by creating more direct numbers via ‘Lip Sweat’ that is more about the indie guitars than anything else, yet is most welcome in this set. This diversity extends to the, again, intriguingly named ‘Bodies Of Fire, Suns Of Wax’ where the vocals sound buried deep below a mound of earth, and the band working intensely in order to bring their ideas to fruition, despite the sense of pressure weighing down upon them given by this particular song. Comparisons have been made linking Grand Blue Heron with Motorpsycho, Jesus Lizard, Earth and Neil Young for example, which has a ring of truth once the dusty roots and blues inspired ‘Tin Soldier’, or the tail end of 70’s guitar rock of ‘AddickTed’ opens up. There may have been many who mourned the demise of previous band Hitch, but mourn no longer because Grand Blue Heron and their album ‘Hatch’ are two very good reasons to start believing once more. The much needed indie revival, in its truest sense of the word, definitely begins here.


Released 30 October

 

The Kingdom Belongs To A Child

Cashavelly Morrison

Working Brilliantly

There are personal and external issues at stake when it comes to the debut album from Cashavelly Morrison. With the title of ‘The Kingdom Belongs To A Child’ playing a significant role here, the album explores issues of loss whether relating directly to this songstress or reflecting upon those around her, as well as tackling issues of a sociological and political nature relating to inequality and empowering women for example. It’s powerful, emotive stuff that really deserves to be heard. Another part of the persuasion here is the Americana and folk roots ‘The Kingdom Belongs To A Child’ pays reference to. More specifically, it’s the darker edges of these particular genres; explored by their narratives and quoted here as ‘Southern Gothic’ as portrayed by artists such as Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and Neko Case. By meeting her now husband, Ryan MacLeod, who was in the process of earning his stripes in classical guitar performance at UNC-School of the Arts, it was this meeting of the minds between Morrison and MacLeod which sparked a genuine creative process between the two once their love of authentic folk songs and admiration for Hank Williams had been expressed, and therefore a form of common ground established. Within a brief period of time, the songs making up the debut album ‘The Kingdom Belongs To A Child’ were recorded by use of vintage equipment at the renowned Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, NC, and the rest is now history. Musically, the songs are of a delicate nature, with beautiful vocals and acoustic guitar often leading the way, and accompanied by the minimalist of instrumentation; notably upright bass and the occasional outings of pedal steel and banjo. Equally sensitive are the subjects Cashavelly Morrison voices concern over in terms of the contents of ‘The Kingdom Belongs To A Child’, with songs reflecting harrowing tales of loss including miscarriage, police brutality and the working conditions of miners in one particular town (’29 Bells’). In addition to this, there is a real sense of emotions conflicting with each other, and expressed between the lines of these narratives with grief and guilt weighing particularly heavy, with a suggestion of dirt on the hands in some instances. With the entire album being played out exquisitely and evoking memories of an old-timey sound brought to life by the banjo during ‘Emory’ and ‘May 5th’, Cashavelly Morrison has created an album of genuine beauty, but one that is touched by much sadness and personal loss yet never shies from such sensitive topics; something of which is to be commended because in her own words, “exploring your grief can lead to empowerment with the ultimate empowerment being the freedom to speak these things through music”.


Released 16 October

 

The House

Karen Musæus

Karen Musæus Music

A melodic and lightly peppered with jazz and pop influences debut offering from Norwegian singer-songwriter Karen Musæus with ‘The House’. Having gained her formal training at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), the foundations have steadily been laid in place by Karen Musæus in order to build the momentum of writing and recording her first full-length album. The results are impressive, especially after the initial impact of the album’s title song hits you with its confident vocal that immediately arrests the senses and sounding wiser beyond its years, which lends itself perfectly to the history of the narrative and accompaniment of delicate acoustic strumming and percussion. Next in line, ‘Dark Café’, is a little harder to define and likely to divide opinion somewhat with its mixture of pop and aforementioned jazz references vying for attention, and the lyrics operating in a more traditional pop framework but also attempting to sound like a street poet on other occasions, which makes the narration sound a touch clunky in places. Where ‘The House’ truly works best is when Karen Musæus pulls the rabbit out the hat with such masterstrokes as, ‘How You’d Grow’ that is less cluttered in its approach, and handled with delicate touches via a splendid vocal and distant smoky jazz references. It’s this more simplistic tactic that also lends itself well to the slightly breezier chords of ‘Winter Hands’, and then followed by a harsher sound by way of ‘This Change’ that reveals a darker side to this debut album, and a definite strongpoint here. All in all, ‘The House’ is an album of considerable depth and one that provides a solid start for Karen Musæus, who clearly has done her homework by studying her trade, but on the evidence of this debut album, the natural talent was already in place.


Released 16 October

 

Rivers (Single)

Rattlers

Safe & Sound Recordings

A composition of strong beauty is the best way to describe the latest single from Oslo-based Rattlers. Comprising of six musicians and namely Live Miranda Solberg (vocals/acoustic guitar), Knut Rand (drums), Thomas Langård (bass/vocals), Einar Næss Haugseth (keys/vocals), Halvor Falck Johansen (guitar/vocals) and Mads Johansen (percussion), Rattlers deliver a sound that is suitably Americana and one that is held in high esteem after the band’s eponymously titled debut EP of last year received recognition on the national airwaves. Latest release, ‘Rattlers’, will not put a dent in such recognition as what starts off in a fairly minimalist approach, gradually develops into a fuller sound with a bit of a country rock coming out of the guitars and lead vocalist Live Miranda Solberg raising the decibels somewhat by remaining in defiant mood and letting her feelings known that a period of solitude is good for the soul when it comes to relationships. A second notch on the Rattlers career trajectory to further recognition as ‘Rivers’ is blessed with many qualities, and performed with an assured attitude that belies their years together.


Released Out now

 

(Do The Bored) Recluse (Single)

Dusk

Forward Records

The creative juices just keep on flowing for Tenement mainstay Amos Pitsch, only this latest release falls under a different heading that goes by the name of Dusk.  By pitching this as a single release, and one that is backed with the song ‘Too Sweet’ featuring the soulful voice as well as keyboard skills of Julia Blair, the punk roots of Amos Pitsch’s formerly mentioned main project are traded for more of a traditional rock and roll and rhythm and blues sound that is befitting of his Wisconsin background. With Colin ‘Wild Man’ Wilde joining on drums, Tyler Ditter taking up bass, and Matt Stranger on guitar and backup vocals, the two songs making up this single were largely a self-produced affair, with the record being engineered and mixed at Crutch of Memory in Appleton, Wisconsin, by Amos Pitsch and then mastered by Justin Perkins at The Mystery Room in Milwaukee. The main track itself, ‘(Do The Bored) Recluse’, is a dynamic little ditty that has a bit of early ‘Stones boogie about it with its nods to bluesy rock ‘n’ roll but also one that takes in references from The Velvet Underground to 70’s country rock via The Flying Burrito Brothers. If this single was created out of a state of genuine restlessness in relation to Dusk’s frontman Amos Pitsch, then may those days of boredom continue to plague his soul because this two-track record is a sheer joy from start to finish, and one that sits up there with the best of his creative works.


Released Out now

 

Dead Ahead EP

Dead Ahead

Panic State Records

Rather than idly passing the time away, due to the daily duties of regular band line ups remaining on sabbatical for now, the four band members making up new project, Dead Ahead, decided to get together and lay down some new material. As far as first recorded works go, the decision to pursue this fresh project was indeed a wise one, as all four tracks making up this debut EP are of the highest quality. Such has been the positive reactions to this four-track EP that Dead Ahead is likely to be pondering the next step in this new line up, which could evolve into a full-time project if the band continue along similar lines. So, to the music because it’s generally a gritty, punk rock sound, but one that contains enough melodic segments, set to raw and honest lyrics that often greets the listener. The urgency of opening number ‘Cold Truth’ is one such example of this sound, where a few (personal) realisations are coming to light and publically aired. The noise is more airtight during the caustic tone of ‘Rose Lenses’, where impassioned vocals provide a real edge. There is a fine line between the music Dead Ahead is peddling and the grunge (pop) rock influence of say, Buffalo Tom for example, albeit with a tad more dirt under the fingernails when listening to the former, where the sweet and sour ingredients of pop and punk meet and produce these coarse yet melodic songs. Such an example rears itself on closeout track ‘Exit Letters’ with its crushing confession, “From a time you had a heart” brought to life via the song’s driving rhythm and sometimes dual vocals, seemingly united in their contempt, that really touches a nerve and serves up a clear winner for song of the set. Long may this project continue, as there is only one direction that Dead Ahead should be looking in.


Released Out now

 

Tapestry’d Life

Pretend

Topshelf Records

It’s been a long journey for the four members who make up the band Pretend as Joel, Luke, Mike and Tim have been pitching their creative ideas and performing together since 2004. Whilst those initial creative forays as a unit weren’t necessarily under the guise of Pretend, the four comrades now found themselves at the stage of first full album with ‘Tapestry’d Life’. With their sound being cited as post rock and likely to appeal to those who have a penchant for American post-hardcore band Shellac or the math rock/post-rock sounds of Slint, ‘Tapestry’d Life’ certainly lives up to such a billing as the songs are intelligent compositions, with an abundance of ideas that sound detailed in one instance, and then minimalist at other times, and all of this occurring within the duration of one song. Therefore, with much variation occurring within each and every song structure, what you’re likely to hear are songs that are approached with experimentation in mind, that often sounds like improvised segments à la opening track ‘Wrapped In Fantasy’, which is a rhythmically complex beast and one that is expertly dispatched. The pursuing ‘Patternless Tide’ appears to take this experimental approach to even greater lengths, with drums and guitars weaving in and out and around each other in complex patterns that brake, pause, and shift into another gear that transports the listener to a different stage, and it’s simply awe-inspiring. ‘Your Own Embrace’ is the shortest offering here, and makes sense considering its more direct route to get its message across which, by the way, is expressed compellingly by a tender vocal. Pretend’s debut album may have been roughly five years in the making, which is insignificant once the contents of ‘Tapestry’d Life’ unravel because it’s the sound of a band who’ve worked tirelessly and painstakingly (‘Record of Love’ provides one or two clues concerning such a process) in order to bring to life the passages of music that have been floating around for some considerable time. Such an achievement is to be commended as ‘Tapestry’d Life’ is a true work of art, and one that is deserved of much attention.


Released Out now

 

All Tangled Up!

B and The Bops

Rhythm Bomb

This is definitely an odd one and therefore something of a disappointment due to being a supporter of the band’s previous work. Unwittingly, B And The Bops seem to have sprung open their own trap because the title of their latest album perfectly sums up the majority of the contents inside. There is no doubting the energy levels and enthusiasm of this band, where a close resemblance to Gene Vincent in both appearance and sound certainly appears to be one of the ideas for ‘All Tangled Up!’ And this is where the problem lies because it’s the amount of ideas presented here that gives the impression of band lost in their own creativity and direction. That is not to say that B And The Bops should not be commended for their creative thinking because they spring a few surprises compared to their previous work which, when it works, is definitely a positive. ‘Breathin’ Down My Neck (Fast)’ certainly presents a different side for reasons concerning its vocal, which needs to be heard, and for the song being a dark, edgy number that tips just over the minute mark before fading out. ‘Rockin’ Rhythm Mama’ falls back down to earth with a straightforward rockabilly sound, before taking a ride with the aforementioned Gene Vincent via ‘Serves Me Right’ and its direct guitar sound and tense vocals, “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep…” and you get the picture here. Once the instrumental ‘Spitzmaus’ enters the fray, superbly executed it should be said, the feeling at this juncture is of an album losing its direction. Another example of this is ‘The Man From The Other Side’ that sounds at odds with those Gene Vincent inspired moments (‘Weekend’) due to its heavier country leanings yet gives a vocal performance that is part Cash and well, a very different side to lead vocalist Branko which, again, needs to be heard. Where B And The Bops get back to their best, however, is during such numbers as ‘Crazy Over You’ and ‘Slam The Door’, with both songs providing the band with a stronger identity in terms of their rockin’ roots. Another take of opening song Breathin’ Down My Neck (Slow)’ offers another interpretation of this track, before further oddities expose themselves with the early 60s feel of ‘I’ll Just Keep On Loving You’ and instrumental ‘Wrangle’. ‘All Tangled Up!’ would’ve best been served as an EP from the songs ‘Crazy Over You’ up to ‘Tangled Boogie’ as it would have provided a clearer indication of what B And The Bops were actually trying to achieve here. As it stands, the album contains several good points which, unfortunately, do not work as a complete whole as it’s the sound of two different bands when one would have sufficed.


Released Out now

 

Hits For Teen-Agers

The Round Up Boys

Rhythm Bomb

Apparently these guys went into hiding some years ago, with their last album surfacing at some point in 2007. Closer to the truth regarding The Round Up Boys whereabouts is that the four musicians of Michael Kirscht (vocals/guitar), Carsten Harbeck (bass), Axel Praefcke (drums) and Ike Stoye (guitar) have filled their time supporting other artists whether in the recording studio or live up on stage. With The Round Up Boys finally finding the time to release their new long player, ‘Hits For Teen-Agers’, you can certainly forgive the band for any actions of selfishness on their behalf by leaving all the extra activities behind as this album has been a long time in waiting. By laying down 15, yes, 15 new tracks for the album ‘Hits For Teen-Agers’, and the title being a clever play on words, The Round Up Boys extend this quality control to the most important aspect, and that being the entire recorded works. There is a true sense of the past created here, as several numbers set the scene of a dance hall from a 50s era, for example, that soak up any suggestions of romance. Two songs are fitting of such a description with the starry-eyed, ‘I Own Your Heart’, closely followed by the mid-paced tempo and declarations of love that is ‘That’s How I Feel About You’. With the song writing duties falling between Michael Kirscht and Axel Praefcke, The Round Up Boys are in safe hands considering the previously mentioned extra curricula of studio and live work. Most interesting is the manner in which both songwriters approach the songs presented here, with Praefcke preferring a more up-tempo and harder edge to his songs where dancing and partying is on his mind (‘Jukebox Baby’, ‘House Party’ et al), but also where certain wrongdoings of a personal nature are difficult to forget (‘Meanest Woman I’ve Seen’). Michael Kirscht on the other hand sounds more optimistic when it comes to romance by offering several tales that do not shy from their emotions with ‘That’s How I Feel About You’ being a prime candidate. By combining all these qualities together, The Round Up Boys have created a compelling album that is at one moment full of exhilaration and then weighed down by a heavy heart the next. ‘Hits For Teen-Agers, it’s old school and it’s great!


Released Out now

 

Blue Swingin Mama

The Houserockers

Rhythm Bomb

Having amassed a total of fifteen years writing, recording and touring together on the rockin’ circuit, The Houserockers add to this incredible milestone with their latest long player, ‘Blue Swingin Mama’. Totalling 16 tracks, with two of these numbers being ‘lo-fi’ covers of ‘Susie Q’ and ‘Slippin In’ that really ought to be heard simply for the added realism of snap, crackle and pop that an old vinyl can possess, The Houserockers pay tribute to the musicians of the past with a selection of 50s covers, as well as adding a few compositions of their own. Not only has this lengthy period of performing together as The Houserockers provided a means of truly learning their craft and therefore creating one heck of a tight unit, but the main bargaining chip is frontman Rob Glazebrook who knows how to write a tune or two. More notably, it’s Glazebrook’s vocal that often contains a charismatic turn that can pull the listener in without any additional persuasion from the rest of the band. The album itself provides a feeling of several genres coming together, but with rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll being the most prominent. Such examples can be heard from the lonesome and reflective ‘Blue Moon Baby’, to picking up the tempo and running with it during the album’s title track, ‘Blue Swingin Mama’. The temperature increases further during ‘Slippin’ In’ where Rob Glazebrook sounds like he’s letting off steam after a particularly bad day at work. Variation is provided with the light, swinging feel of ‘Baby’s Got Two Left Feet’, and then pursuing similar ground with the rather excellent ‘Give Your Heart To Me’ that is played out to a reasonably pared back beat. The final fling of energy is reserved for the rockin’ ‘Trapped Love’ that is matched in the coolness stakes by ‘If I Had Me A Woman’, which has a certain aloofness about it and partly down to the use of mics as detailed by the liner notes. Paying their respects to rock ‘n’ roll history in fine style, as well as adding enough of their own personal touches, The Houserockers dig in for the next fifteen years with ‘Blue Swingin Mama’ being the perfect start.



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