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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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The Minge Dynasty EP

OPM

MNO Records

As a means of celebrating their skate classic, ‘Heaven Is A Halfpipe’ from their album ‘Menace To Sobriety’ which is now in its fifteenth year since its initial success, OPM return with a brand new EP under the cheeky title, ‘The Minge Dynasty’. For those who remember the aforementioned smash success of single ‘Heaven Is A Halfpipe’ will revel in the new material from OPM, which treads familiar turf by (re)capturing the SoCal lifestyle in an amusing manner, as well as creating an abundance of catchy hooks and infectious rhythms that is instantly recognisable as the OPM sound.  With ‘The Minge Dynasty’ EP having been produced by legendary producer Marshall Goodman (AKA Ras MG of Sublime), in addition to John e. and OPM’s very own Johnathan Williams, the attention to detail is noticeable in order to recreate those addictive qualities that made their former song such a success during the year 2000. Evidence of this approach can be gleaned from central track ‘#Millionaire Like Me’, which has hit single written all over it as it’s an irresistible pop song that will be cruising around the top echelons of BBC Radio One and Two’s playlists without a doubt. The hooks keep on coming with the following three tracks making up this EP in a blend of pop, rock and mild rap, with ‘Speakers’ being the pick of a fine crop due to its use of keyboards appealing greatly. With an European tour underway, taking in twenty-six dates to promote this latest EP, and rumours of their ‘Menace To Sobriety’ long player to be reissued on limited edition vinyl later this year, OPM could be on the verge of recreating those former glory days with a whole new chapter in their career starting with ‘The Minge Dynasty’ EP.


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Music On The Up Beat

Hanks Jalopy Demons

Rhythm Bomb

Fine moniker, even finer band. Hailing from the land of Oz, and joining forces for one track (‘Blue Knuckle Ride’) with fellow Aussie musician, Ezra Lee, Hanks Jalopy Demons see their ‘Music On The Up Beat’ released. Closer inspection reveals that this new album is, in fact, a reissue of their previously released Australian only version of the same name Down Under, with the album now receiving wider international distribution. Almost as old as time itself, this four-piece band have been treading the rockabilly circuit for some time, as well as performing in other bands such as Benny and the Fly-By-Niters and the Starliners. With this baggage comes a wealth of experience and evident from the off by recapturing a raw and authentic rockin’ sound. Take the jittery rhythm of ‘Damn Their Hides’, with its paranoid or truthful narrative depending on how one interprets it, but either way this song speaks volumes, “Damn their hides, They’re gonna take you for a ride, Damn their hides, They’re gonna feed you lies”, which could very well be speaking about the industry they find themselves in. It’s a terrific start. More greatness follows with, ‘You Bring Out The Wolf In Me’ that finds lead vocalist, Hank Ferguson, slipping into character and struggling to retain his affections for the other half in his life via some compelling vocals and hints of a definite darker side to this song. If you’re looking for a variety of emotions and topics, then you have come to the right place as ‘Music On The Up Beat’ is littered with them. ‘The Jackal’ and ‘No Shoes’ are two such examples that touch on the darker sides of life once again; both revealing somewhat desperate situations, greatly exemplified by the musicianship and intriguing lyrics. There is even humour afoot during ‘Beat Up ’40s Ford’, sandwiched between two other auto-themed songs (‘Peel Out Baby’ and ‘Blue Knuckle Ride’), that retains an affection for this beat-up truck, despite getting left behind by faster models on the motorway somewhere. It is such songs, as those mentioned, that suggests you could set a cereal box in front of Hanks Jalopy Demons and within a matter of minutes the ingredients from said box of cereal would likely be transformed into an engaging yarn. If further demonstration is required of the inherent skills at the centre of this band, then ‘The Loser’ is perhaps the pick of the crop. Awash in a drunken haze and lost in its own sorrows – part comical where you can visualise the central character almost falling from his barstool after propping up the bar for so long – it’s music that really describe its content to great effect. Not content with leaving it there, Hanks Jalopy Demons show fire in their bellies with the rousing ‘The Pressure’s On’  bringing this long player to a dramatic conclusion. ‘Music On The Up Beat’, most definitely!


Released 18 September

 

All We Ever Do

Aleksander With

Aleksander With Music

There has always been something intriguing about the artist Aleksander With, in the sense of being the loner standing on the fringes of the pop market, which his musical compositions often get lumped under. The truth is that With’s ideas are a little more complex than the standard fare that passes for pop music these days; something of which this Norwegian artist showed glimpses of during his ‘Still Awake’ long player back in 2009. This is where the intrigue deepens because the major breakthrough has still to materialise, as it would appear the marketing chaps are a tad jittery when it comes to placing With and his music, despite the aforementioned pop label tag. Such confusion has no doubt hindered With’s progress because the ability is definitely present. However, such a predicament looks set to change with the first taste, ‘All We Ever Do’, from the forthcoming EP by the name of ‘The Butterfly Effect’ due out this month. By recruiting the additional song writing skills of Curtis Richardson and closer to home, Anders Kjær, who is also responsible for production, reveals a renewed determination, but more importantly, the welcome return is a solid effort that’s full of reflection regarding a relationship turned sour, set to the backdrop of a moody, yet smooth electronic tempo that is far more of a slow burner than some would lead you to believe. As mentioned earlier, there is far more going on beneath the surface when it comes to Aleksander With and his music, which is why he remains an intriguing prospect.


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Amorosa Sensitivia

Benjamin Finger

Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records

Benjamin Finger trades houses once more, and this time with Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records to release his latest album, ‘Amorosa Sensitivia’. Where previous effort, ‘Motion Reverse’ offered more of a cold, bleak world via its often harsh sounding electronica, ‘Amorosa Sensitivia’ is generally one of a calmer ambience that is detailed and pondering, and therefore taking its time before reaching any sort of conclusion. There is a sense of being hard on oneself in addition to the deep thought processes on offer here, with suggestion of creative progression hitting something of a stumbling block in the mind of Benjamin Finger; hence the song titles ‘Headspincrawl’, ‘Waltz in Clay’ et al. Fear not, however, as the mind of this Norwegian artist may be a tad scrambled, but the sounds emanating here suggest a far more cohesive unit, and one that expresses a wild rush of blood to the creative thinking at times. For example, ‘Whirlbrainpoolin’ jolts ‘Amorosa Sensitivia’ with considerable impact, shaking it from its slumber with a concoction of scrambled  instrumentation, utilising the formulaic electronica but with added full band in his repertoire where short, sharp stabs of brass pick their notes, depending on which hot coal they managed to tread on, and let fly in a free jazz form, thus offering a side to this artist that has not been heard before, as far as the plethora of releases issued this year. The follow on, ‘Bum Finger Notes’ rises to its feet via delicate piano and a whisper of electronics in the background, yet the dark textures of the previous ‘Whirlbrainpoolin’ fails to subside due to the occasional twitch of brass instrument dragging this darkened mood to an eventual finale of improvised electric guitar. By closing with ‘Darnskullgreyness, the pale electronica aptly expresses the impassive suggestion of its song title, and provides no clues to the cause(s) of such emotions. Despite ‘Amorosa Sensitivia’ finding Benjamin Finger at a juncture where thoughts weigh heavy, this ‘Waltz in Clay’ of the mind is transformed into a truly fascinating experience where personal creativity is expressed in new ways, and serves as a conduit to the next phase without its creator necessarily fully realising such a progression.


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Vindfang

Sigrun Loe Sparboe

Grappa

There is a sense of the unknown surrounding Sigrun Loe Sparboe’s second solo outing, ‘Vindfang’. From the slightest of glances over the shoulder of the cover art, to finding a new home with a major record label and, of course, airing ten new compositions for the first time in the public domain, the sense of trepidation is palpable. The move back to her beloved Harstad, however, proved the perfect tonic when setting about the task of writing the songs making up ‘Vindfang’, as both time and space were found, in addition to the picturesque scenery of the local environment providing much inspiration to help inspire these new songs. Whilst there are various clues indicating a feeling of sailing in uncharted waters, ‘Vindfang’ reveals itself in parts as, musically, a record of steely determination and fresh ideas, but one that is smart enough to not stray too far from its previous sibling, ‘Uten at du vet det’, considering the perfect formula that was concocted for this debut record. It was always going to be an uphill task for Sigrun Loe Sparboe to surpass the previous glory of ‘Uten at du vet det’, but, masterfully, this folk songstress, along with her faithful in-house musicians, has managed to sample various aspects of her debut solo record and apply subtle changes to some of these previous arrangements and runaway with a succession of new songs. Wise judgement indeed as the daydream feel of ‘Paraply’, and title track, ‘Vindfang’, are the two candidates that bear the strongest resemblance to the aforementioned debut album. But there is progression here, and it proves to be Sparboe’s boldest and strongest statements with a beefed-up sound concerning one or two tracks, which are then counterbalanced with songs containing slightly fuller arrangements or, whisper it, considerable deviations from the folk brand. Such examples can be gleaned from the near muscular in its construction of opening gambit ‘Forliset’, as it’s a song with a real edge and bubbling intensity that begins at a slow canter, only to gather pace, where one can sense the fluctuating weather pattern of the northern region of her homeland during the transition from autumn to winter, and captured magnificently here in a mere five minutes. Further progression is made with the pop tones and brisk tempo of ’12 Spor’, that filters elements of folk music but ever so lightly, only to be usurped in the surprise stakes by the pounding rhythm and pop influenced ‘Som Fortjent’, leaving one to holler, “C’est magnifique!” at its conclusion. Clearly, this was not in the script yet these two songs do not sound out of place when nestling between more customary numbers as the stirring beauty of ‘Om Du Fortsatt Vil Ha Mæ’ or the cold, biting rhythm that drives the compelling ‘De Som Frosten Tok’ because there is a genuine cohesive whole to ‘Vindfang’. By guiding this latest album along similar routes, as well as taking risks by diverting away from traditional folk music, albeit in small doses, Sigrun Loe Sparboe is shaping up to be an artist with a definite strong vision and creative flair that is willing to test certain boundaries yet remain respectful to the genre her music is often categorised under. Once the contents of ‘Vindfang’ begins to unfurl and starts to familiarise itself, any notion of a sense of uncertainty soon diminishes, as it becomes apparent that Sigrun Loe Sparboe has successfully hurdled the ‘difficult’ second album syndrome by combining the strongest components of her debut solo record, and then rewriting these, before taking giant strides with a set of new ideas that provides the perfect balance between the old and new, and reveals a genuine natural progression until the third instalment in her career.



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