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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 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 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

 

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.


Released Out now

 

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’!


Released Out now

 

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.


Released Out now

 

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.


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.


Released Out now

 

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.


Released Out now

 

What Went Down

Foals

Warner Music Norway

Album number four for indie five-piece Foals, who decided to recruit the services of producer James Ford (Artic Monkeys, Florence + The Machine, Mumford & Sons) to help realise their latest creative processes and thoughts via ‘What Went Down’. What transpires is an examination of a variety of emotions stretched to the extreme in order to test and gain greater understanding; something of which lead singer, Yannis Philippakis alluded to during the album’s construction: “I wanted to tap into my inner madman and feel like I was channelling some sort of fevered creature”. Such words certainly have a ring of truth about them once the album’s title track gathers momentum and draws to a dramatic conclusion with Philippakis bearing his soul.  Despite the intensity of this opening track, the pursuing tracks treads more of a melodic terrain with the soaring tempo of ‘Mountain At My Gates’, and synthpop of ‘Birch Tree’ being two such examples. With the album having been recorded in a 19th century mill in a rural location in the South of France, the surroundings of such a location no doubt played their part considering the reflective mood of ‘Give It All Away’ and sorrowful yet musically stirring ‘Lonely Hour’, as there is real beauty at the centre of these particular songs. With Foals steadily collecting a number of accolades for their work to date, as well as appearing at festivals around the world and headlining those in the UK, the band look set to raise their profile even further with latest album ‘What Went Down’ because despite the raw intensity and robustness of some of the tracks here, the band retain their poise to serve up a balanced long player that should suit fans of old and appeal to many new admirers.


Released Out now

 

Motion Reverse

Benjamin Finger

Shimmering Moods Records

It’s the halfway stage in a year that has seen much activity from Norway’s Benjamin Finger. In order to continue this creative momentum, ‘Motion Reverse’ is the latest addition with nine fresh tracks detailing the thought processes running through the mind of this Norwegian DJ, producer and songwriter. Kicking off this latest exploratory creative venture is recent single ‘Vocal Limited’ that hisses, pulsates and rattles at different intervals as well as joining forces to give off a general sense of foreboding.  Such emotions, generated by use of electronics, overlaps somewhat when ‘Frontal Waves’ gives the impression of a journey in motion, yet the direction is unclear as sounds flicker and the faintest of vocals can be heard intermittently in the background with the softest of horns that suggests it’s trying to recall lost memories. The probing continues with the subsequent and rather similar in sound ‘Dubstore Light’, only the search is more thorough with Benjamin Finger adding numerous droplets of electrical pulses that give way to moments of intensity where the sound is attempting to hack its way to discovery. ‘Black Hat’ ratchets any lingering tension with an almost metallic feel to its sound and its mood considerably black where sounds swirl and clash in a circular motion. Light relief arrives in the form of ‘Sunny Echoes’ where segments of its sound are lighter in tone, as well as utilising other instruments with what sounds like the electric guitar and giving way to the idea that this particular track was recorded live such is the overall natural vibe. The atmosphere of ‘Spacecore Dust’ is captured to perfection by sounding as distant as its title and then concluded by ‘Dream Logic’ which, despite its ethereal beginnings, blossoms into a glorious sound that can be described visually as a blinding white light before fading and drifting further in the vacuum of space. By creating a fuller sound and general consistency where songs interconnect more closely, ‘Motion Reverse’ functions as a complete album. Furthermore, it is the sound of Benjamin Finger attempting to make sense of the past, as well as trying to fathom the present, which makes perfect sense once this latest album opens up its contents. Quite possibly his strongest accomplishment yet, but then again the halfway point has only just been reached with promise of more to come. Either way ‘Motion Reverse’ is a major step in the right direction for Benjamin Finger.



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