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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.


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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.


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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.


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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!


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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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Motor Head Baby

Ezra Lee

Rhythm Bomb

Rolling back the years in rockin’ fashion is Ezra Lee with latest album ‘Motor Head Baby’. In order to make this long player achieve its pre-set goals, The Firebird Trio were recruited and proves a winning formula once the contents of ‘Motor Head Baby’ draws to a conclusion. As soon as the notes of ‘Rock Little Baby’ start to peel away, the lure and appeal of this album is undeniable as one is left with the immediate feeling that today is going to be a good day, such is the feel-good factor radiating from this one particular track. Lead song, ‘Motor Head Baby’, does nothing to distract from this feeling as it pounds out its rhythm, with both Ezra’s vocal and quick fingers keeping pace, before taking it down ever so slightly during the rather excellent ‘Wow Wow’ declaring its love, only for a lack of return in the opposing corner. ‘Volcanic Boogie’ lets the instruments do the talking by serving up the first instrumental. There’s an intriguing pattern to ‘Over At Hattie’s Barrelhouse’, where part of its rhythm sounds detuned in places via the piano, which makes for a fascinating listen. A cover of ‘The Entertainer’ pops up halfway through, and seems to be a deliberate distraction by trying to avoid the personal blues that is to follow with, ‘Don’t Say That You Love Me’. This down in the dumps mood continues with the tender instrumental ‘Last Date’, but only lasts for a brief moment once ‘Rocker’ blows away the blues and sees Ezra Lee fighting back in badass style; piano pumping, vocal hollering and a tight-as-rhythm section via The Firebird Trio. By encapsulating such genuine emotions throughout ‘Motor Head Baby’, the only thing left to do is jump on board and enjoy the ride!


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The Butterfly Effect EP

Aleksander With

Aleksander With Music

Far from being the standard format for an EP with the customary four or five tracks, Aleksander With stretches such a format with the inclusion of seven tracks, that gives his latest release, ‘The Butterfly Effect’ the feel of a mini-album. Format issues aside, ‘The Butterfly Effect EP’ shows Aleksander With back to his best after a period of absence from the music scene. That’s not to say that the man has been lying dormant these last few years, quite the opposite in fact as Aleksander With tried his hand at writing for other artists, which led to an award in Sweden during the ‘Melodifestivalen’ for the song ‘Why Start A Fire’ together with Lisa Miskovsky, Bernt Rune Stray and Berent Philip Moe. By turning his attention back to his own song writing, Aleksander With made the decision to collaborate with producer Anders Kjær and the talents of Martin Sjølie and David Sneddon, as well as undergoing a period of soul searching in order to give a more honest reflection of his own life through his works. The results of these combined efforts bears a collection of profound pop songs, brought to life by Aleksander With’s strong vocal, which has never been in doubt. Evidence of this natural talent can be heard during the light, electronic pop of ‘Sell Me Out’, where the vocal sounds so effortless yet commands much attention. Current single, ‘All We Ever Do’ alludes to the former reference of soul searching as it transforms the atmosphere to a darkened state, with Aleksander With brooding over a relationship that turned sour set to a moody electronic beat. There’s a personal message attached to ‘Better’, expertly communicated by the various layers of its pop sound that suggests, overall, a sense of optimism at the end of this tunnel. Optimism is the right choice of word here as ‘The Butterfly Effect EP’ provides enough reasons to suggest that the tide is finally turning for Aleksander With and his music.


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Make A Call (Single)

Hanne Fjeldstad

Safe & Sound Recordings

Part one in a series of four singles scheduled for this year and going into next, singer-songwriter Hanne Fjeldstad from Skien in Telemark provides a solid opener with the song ‘Make A Call’. Wrapped up in a delicate and intricate rhythm and relaying super, smart words that speak of the differences between a former feuding couple, Hanne Fjeldstad sounds alone in her frustrations, especially once tripping out the final line, “Anyone please make a call” and one is almost compelled to reach out and provide a comforting shoulder to lean. By teaming up with Kenneth Ishak, who was responsible for producing ‘Make A Call’, in addition to filling the vacant positions of drums, bass and guitar, Hanne Fjeldstad is definitely a wise individual with a talented ability to craft clever pop songs. The next single in this series looks set to be a mouth-watering prospect after such a fine start.


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Backbeat (Single)

DAGNY

Propeller Recordings

Minus the grating vocal intro that thankfully remains for only a brief stay, DAGNY’s literally hot off the press single, ‘Backbeat,’ reveals itself to be an absolute belter. The reason for such praise is down to the ‘songbird from the north’ DAGNY powering her way through this song at breakneck pace, aided efficiently by an infectious rhythm and fuelled by a robust ‘backbeat’ that definitely lives up to its namesake. Most appealing of all, however, despite ‘Backbeat’ sounding naturally modern, there is just the hint of something old-fashioned woven into its pop tapestry that has the faintest aroma of an 80s pop sound, but more likely down to the song writing being given the upmost care and attention. No matter as DAGNY has created a pop tune of great worth, and one that will have your limbs moving in no time. It’s time to salute the ‘songbird from the north’!


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I See You EP

Frøkedal

Propeller Recordings

Released earlier this month is the new EP from Frøkedal. Having fronted Norwegian indie band Harry’s Gym and performed a major role with the delightful, I Was A King, Frøkedal continues to pursue the solo route with ‘I See You’ EP. With this latest effort consisting of four tracks, Frøkedal continues her exploration of more traditional elements of music, combined with pop and electronic influences. Such an example gradually bubbles to the surface during the excellent introduction to this EP, ‘Surfers’, that leans on folk music for its main inspiration, but also filters in broader instrumentation, such as use of keyboards, giving it a fuller and more modern sound. Follow up, and title track, ‘I See You’, reaches out to the past and offers a clearer example of traditional folk music, without quite being that as well. Clearly not content to dispose of her past creative works, and rightfully so, Frøkedal produces a clip, cut and then pasted together electronic rhythm that passes through darker waters than anything else present here. With the melancholic and downright beautiful ‘Silhouettes’ adding the final piece in the set, Frøkedal has produced a consistently strong EP that bodes well if, and when, a decision is made to convert this rich form to a full-length album.


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After The Rooster Crows

Mystery Trio

Rhythm Bomb

Upon first hearing Mystery Trio’s current album, it left a rather blank impression, with a feeling of not knowing what to make of it. Second outing however, the fuss surrounding this three-piece unit was fully understood. ‘After The Rooster Crows’ is a fitting title for the boys from Brazil’s album. An apt description of the contents inside because there is a sprightly feel to their rockin’ tunes; highlighted by first song, ‘We’re Gonna Have A Good Time’, and born to do this job, Elvis Martinatto, who sounds eager to get the festivities started judging by the faint hiccups and flickering hollers in his vocal delivery. For those expecting a wild, non-stop adrenalin ride of rockabilly, then think again, as Mystery Trio provide much variation in their overall sound, and evidenced by the reflective stroll ‘Just Awaitin’, for example. A huge sip of coffee is taken in the, ‘pinch yourself in order to believe it’ moment that is ‘Black Coffee’, brought to life by impressive vocals once more. ‘After The Rooster Crows’ is certainly a sophisticated album in the (modern) rockabilly world, and one that should be filed under the heading ‘grower’, due to the levels of detail hidden between its layers. But it’s also the restrained manner in which Mystery Trio deliver their material, only giving way, every now and then, with a desire to truly go wild (i.e. ‘Brunette To Blonde’). In addition to this, much respect is given between the trio where the vocals are often pushed to the fore, yet Beto Glaser’s electric guitar has a habit of creeping under the tripwire of said vocals without impeding its impact in any way (i.e. ‘Pretending Is A Game’). There are few immediate numbers, with ‘Call Me’ being one such song that will continue playing in your mind long after it’s finished, such are its addictive qualities. A trio from Brazil who suggest they’re in it for the long haul judging by the strength and depth of latest album ‘After The Rooster Crows’, which should still be spinning this time next year, and quite possibly the year after that.


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Old Cars, Tattoos, Bad Girls, Wild Guitars

Ati Edge and the Shadowbirds

Rhythm Bomb

More a one man show when you consider the number of roles performed by frontman, Ati Edge (no relation to another famous guitarist), who penned the 11 tracks on offer here, in addition to producing the record and designing the artwork gracing the album’s cover. No doubt tea making duties were also part of his brief when meeting up with fellow bandmates, The Shadowbirds, to record ‘Old Cars, Tattoos, Bad Girls, Wild Guitars’ because his work rate is without doubt impressive. Of course, Ati Edge wouldn’t be complete without Krista Kat on upright bass and Rolee Shine on drums in order to make these songs transmit to a wider audience. The psychobilly label can definitely be applied to this release; evident by the vocals that give the impression of a pre-soak in bourbon, and then left to marinate overnight, before setting to task the next day in a rather gruff manner. This, unfortunately, is also the album’s weakest link because after a period of time it all becomes a bit too much, due to a lack of variation in its overall expression. In its defence, ‘Old Cars, Tattoos, Bad Girls, Wild Guitars’ is an album free of pretence, with the notion that what you see is what you get, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, this particular long player would have best been served as a full instrumental, as this is where its most interesting aspects lie. Look no further than the album’s title track with Ati Edge and The Shadowbirds applying an engaging dark blend to the rhythm playing out this song, which is nicely spiced with a bit of Duane Eddy in terms of the guitar. ‘Let The Guitar Keep On Playin’ also packs a tasty, noirish beat, and offers the most complete song when taking the vocals into account. ‘Baddest Girl In Town’ pricks the interest somewhat with its hint of Stray Cats’ ‘Rock This Town’ during its intro. Once more it’s left to the instruments to grab the headlines with the rhythmically tight instrumental, ‘Hot Rod Racing’. With a little less stiffness in the vocal department, and perhaps a complete shift to an instrumental affair the next time Ati Edge and The Shadowbirds decide to record a follow up to ‘Old Cars, Tattoos, Bad Girls, Wild Guitars’, then the trio from Hungary could have one hell of an album on their hands.



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