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Different Paths (Single)

Matchstick Men

Holier Than Thou Records

With Matchstick Men’s new single arriving at Famous last Words (FLW) recently, and knowing next to nothing about this band from Liverpool, the immediate feeling before hearing a single note of ‘Different Paths’ was of 90s era baggy and Britpop. The truth of the matter is far from such a prediction, as Matchstick Men forge a sound that is far closer to American (alternative) rock than anything resembling a Merseyside influence when considering what has gone before. Country of origin aside, Matchstick Men deliver the goods in fine style with the ballad-esque ‘Different Paths’. With this new single acting as a precursor to the band’s forthcoming sophomore long player, ‘From Our Own Ashes’, it certainly bodes well for what’s to come as lead vocalist, Lewis Wright, offers a reason for one to confront their fears by way of a compelling voice, that is enhanced via Iain Forsyth’s backing vocal and tight musicianship from the band in general. More Goo Goo Dolls than anything resembling CAST for example, Matchstick Men is certainly taking a different route, but one that serves the contents of ‘Different Paths’ perfectly.


Released Out now

 

Leave Everything Move Out

Craig Ward

Wardism

The highly productive Craig Ward returns for a second solo jaunt with latest album, ‘Leave Everything Move Out’. After dropping in and out of this current project, the former dEUS guitarist finally found the appetite to complete the task by writing and recording the five instrumentals on offer here. With the barebones of this record having started as far back as 2009, when Craig Ward was in the middle of a sabbatical year in North America, the creative drive to recover a previous attempt at recording ‘Leave Everything Move Out’ managed to find its way back to this artist. To aid this newly found impetus, Craig Ward enlisted friend and producer, David Odlum, as well as being fortunate to receive Lottery funding from Creative Scotland to help pay the bills. After such a lengthy duration to get to the point where ‘Leave Everything Move Out’ finally gets to air it contents in the public sphere is no doubt of great relief to Craig Ward, and all those who caught wind of the initial foundations of this project and therefore waiting in anticipation for its release. You will not be disappointed as the five compositions of ‘Leave Everything Move Out’ are built of sturdy materials, with their architect patiently applying the layers whether beginning with synths or guitar and drums. ‘New Haven’ is one such example where the faintest waft of electronica gives way to a repetitive piano pattern and a glistening guitar sound that is trademark Explosions in the Sky, only for Craig Ward to develop it further by adding a slight Celtic influence accompanied by a semi-military procession beat. From such a strong opening ‘Addict’ applies considerable weight by looping a firm guitar and solid drum sound that becomes increasingly raw nearing its end. The closing ‘Trinity’ contains aspects of the former ‘New Haven’, but where that song appeared to take its time, ‘Trinity’ is more direct with the guitar(s) forceful and on the verge of breaking into a melodic sound. ‘Leave Everything Move Out’ is an accomplished achievement, and one that was wisely resumed by Craig Ward after nearly discarding it altogether.


Released Out now

 

Until The Morning Comes

Richard Ginns

Eilean Records

Beautifully packaged, with artwork by Cameron Robbins and mastering handled by Fletcher McDermott, is the latest album, ‘Until The Morning Comes’, by musician Richard Ginns. What sounds like an attempt to capture the smallest of sounds, Ginns proves a master of his craft where the vibrations of the acoustic guitar strings can be heard once plucked, for example, down to the fizzing static of background atmospherics that surround all of us. By opening with ‘Threads Of Light And The Quiet Hum’ the intimacy created by capturing numerous sounds, such as the faint trickle of water and the creaking of furniture, produces a sense of wonder as it does unease in the listener because it generates of feeling of prying on the privacy of this particular individual or household. This of course does not detract Ginns, who continues to weave an instrumental spell that attempts to capture any nuances of human behaviour, as well as the environment, through varying degrees of sounds that are often the thinnest of threads and where, for example, (sun)light is breaking through the darkest and coldest of winters (other descriptions available such is this record’s ability to generate different moods). It’s an expertly controlled lo-fi record that offers much beauty as it does melancholy in its sonic textures, rendering ‘Until The Morning Comes’ a worthy addition to Ginns’ recorded output.


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Santa Is Real (Single)

Alexander Lindbäck

Safe & Sound Recordings

Alexander Lindbäck embarks on a solo jaunt with his first recording ‘Santa Is Real’. Taking inspiration from The Louvin’ Brothers’ classic ‘Satan Is Real’, Lindbäck spins a yarn on a darker Christmas tale that is more about taking rather than giving. Without wishing to put a dampener on the Christmas festivities with its more serious tone involving murder, drug misuse, prison and the lack of any real gifts being exchanged, ‘Santa Is Real’ possesses a sense of mischief and definite black humour in between the serious drama, especially considering  mum’s unfortunate fate via some gingerbread dough! With the song coming wrapped in a country styling that contains some lovely mandolin, pedal steel and piano, Christmas with Alexander Lindbäck is definitely one to savour for a number of different reasons, but most notably for his refreshing take on the traditional festive song that really brings to life ‘Santa Is Real’.


Released Out now

 

Two Years No Basement

Vicky Speedboat

Huber & Lindsay Music

After a hefty bout of travelling and considerable soul searching along the way, the duo of Sean Huber (Modern Baseball) and Will Lindsay (W.C. Lindsay) came to a decision that a once talked about creative pairing between the two should actually become a reality. The two years spent trawling through several foreign lands, and meeting countless strangers, provided the impetus to set the creative wheels in motion, and thus Vicky Speedboat was born. The results of this decision to combine their creative efforts is ‘Two Years No Basement’; a six-track EP containing a mixture of melodic and raw indie punk rock, and a trading of vocals between the two central musicians of Huber and Lindsay that makes for an engaging listen. Recorded in 2015 at Kennedy Studios in Burlington, MA, by Steve Aliperta and Chris LaRoque (The Colour and Sound), ‘Two Years No Basement’ leaves you wondering why the pairing of Huber and Lindsay left it so long because it’s an impressive start for Vicky Speedboat. Evidence of the quality of the songs on offer here can be heard from the energetic intro, ‘Philadelphia Contact High’, and then followed by the far grittier and passionate vocals of ‘Roman Candle Fires’. By naming one of your songs ‘Passing Through Wales’ is enough to spark intrigue here, but it’s also the speed of its delivery via some punk-pop and sharp lyrics about issues concerning a midlife crisis for example. As its chant of, “I’m not going to be alone any more” rings out, the chance of that continuing is highly unlikely because ‘Two Years No Basement’ is a record that will acquire friends quickly and deservedly so.


Released 14 December

 

Southern FM

Rob Williams

Evertone Records

Rob Williams has taken the long route to finding his feet in the world of music. Having established a career in education, a long held passion for music eventually persuaded Williams to enter the ring of song writing, which saw the release of his debut solo album, ‘A Place In The Sun’, in 2013. Since that time, Williams continued his role within academia, but the lure of song writing proved too strong once more, and a decision was made to record a follow-up album. ‘Southern FM’ is that record which saw Williams relocate from the comfy surrounds of his hometown and head for pastures new. This deliberate action resulted in Williams setting up camp in Dallas with producer Salim Nourallah (Rhett Miller, Old 97’s) in order to bring to life Williams’ love for a Southern acoustic sound that blends traditional and contemporary Americana. What the listener receives, as a result of this process, are a number of confessionary tales concerning relationships, that are sometimes interlaced with hardships à la ‘Henry and Maria’ for example. Such storytelling reaches its zenith during the gospel feel of ‘Best I Can Do’; a clever song, full of wisdom, reflecting on those in life who are less satisfied with their lot; “Some people climbing ladders have no idea what they’re even after, They hope someday to be on track.” There’s a breezy feel to the rhythm of ‘Where You Hang Your Heart’ with Rob Williams letting in a definite Bob Dylan influence, whereas ‘Sometimes It’s A Song’ casts a more downbeat shadow that creatively mixes references to the forces of nature with the struggles found in relationships. Elsewhere, ‘Sun Gone Down’ reveals another facet to Williams’ song writing with a touch of humour and slight eccentricity in both the lyrics and music, with the latter sounding more pop and rock influenced. For the majority of its contents ‘Southern FM’ is an inspired body of work, and one that is not afraid to break from the conformities of a musical genre by adding a variety of personal touches that provides that extra flavour. It looks like the radio frequency is going to be set to a ‘Southern FM’ sound for the foreseeable future.


Released 11 December

 

Seed EP

Glue Foot

Crust Baby Records

Grunge is alive and well and residing in the South West of England and South Wales. With a sound that is more akin to the cities of Boston and Seattle rather than the cities of Bristol and near neighbour Cardiff, relatively new trio, Glue Foot, is ready to unleash their noise for a second time with the forthcoming ‘Seed’ EP. With a loyal following having been steadily built through a number of gigs but, more interestingly, by opting for a different environment of performing at multiple house shows with a variety of their contemporaries, Glue Foot reveal a strong identity that is fiercely independent and backed up by a robust sound. Such qualities can be heard in the band’s ‘Seed’ EP where opening song ‘Guilt Milk Mix’ begins in a low-key, hazy acoustic strum that eventually gives way to a barrage of noise where drums crash and tumble, and the guitars sound gigantic. The ensuing ‘Silk’ is built of a slightly different consistency that is very bruised and sore around its edges as emphasised by its rugged bass and detached sounding vocal, before it develops into a fuller sound that is quite seething by the time it runs out. The high quality continues with the loose pop strands attached to a predominant grunge sound of ‘Grangetown’ where kicking one’s heels in frustration, due to a small-town existence, is definitely the main emotion expressed. With the final song, ‘Floating Like A Leaf’, splintering in two, with its second act offering a few poetic words, Glue Foot is delivering their own message, with a small amount of assistance from 90s era grunge that is definitely ripe for a revival.


Released Out now

 

Perdition (Single)

Kolektiv

Kolektiv Music

Having arrived on the FLW desk recently with the briefest of paragraphs confessing a great attraction to the practices of DIY when it comes to creativity, very little is known about this indie band who go by the name of Kolektiv. Apart from Belgium being the country of origin, the only other known fact is that ‘Perdition’ and ‘Potemkin’ are the two nominated songs making up the current single by Kolektiv. With this being a digital download only release, coupled with a lack of information to go by, any notion regarding promotion in relation to this single release is definitely not at the top of the agenda here. The idea of burying as far underground as feasibly possible regarding one’s creative ideas and processes is more in line with the sounds of Kolektiv. Lead track, ‘Perdition’ certainly takes its time by weaving a drum and guitar pattern with atmospheric vocals, that sets a gradual rhythm and ends up sounding rather scorched around the edges as it reaches its conclusion. The flipside, ‘Potemkin’, introduces a short flurry of electronic pulses and then proceeds to build in similar manner to ‘Perdition’ only for segments of its rhythmic pattern sounding slightly more complex by giving the impression of playing out in reverse. Whether it’s post-grunge, math rock or quite simply alternative rock, Kolektiv is certainly building towards something rather intriguing, especially considering the scant information given. It’s definitely a case of let the music speak for itself when it comes to Kolektiv.


Released Out now

 

Why?

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Under a cloud of mixed emotions, Monster Jaw is parting ways after three years together. With the spilt described as “amicable”, the final track to be left as part of their legacy is the appropriately named ‘Why?’. Appropriate because there are a number of questions that remain unanswered in terms of an industry that seems to be increasingly concerned with social media figures and, in the process, forgetting where the real song writing lies. Truth be said, Monster Jaw were never really going to fit in with such plastic times with a sound that would have appealed to fans of the much-missed indie music channel SnubTV of the early 90s, and therefore a classic example of right band, but wrong time. Still, final single, ‘Why?’, is the perfect send off as it brings together the lo-fi qualities of more recent works, only for a soaring guitar sound loosening the intensity somewhat yet generating an emotive feel where there is a real sense of letting go. It will be difficult to wave goodbye to the trio of Mik Davis, Neil Short and John Bradford, but at least they are leaving behind a trail of EPs and singles that really stirred the emotions and generated much enthusiasm from those true believers.


Released Out now

 

If You Have To Cry (Single)

Hege

Rootsy

After the Swedish experiment that was ‘Till Harry’, Hege makes a welcome return with the single, ‘If You Have To Cry’. Taken from the forthcoming album, ‘When My Man Comes To Town’, this first offering from Hege marks a return to use of the English language, and one that will lift the restrictions for those who were unable to join in with the formerly mentioned ‘Till Harry’ long player. Where that previous album made heavy use of piano, the new single, ‘If You Have To Cry’, sees Hege opt for the more traditional rock and roll setup of bass, guitar and drums, with the addition of pedal steel because this is country music after all. The single itself is something of a mystery as the contents of the narrative makes for a compelling listen, with a closely guarded secret held between two central characters that alludes to some form of wrongdoing being the only giveaway. Repeat visits will only generate further questions as to the songs overall meaning, always a good sign when it comes to the art of song writing which, along with Hege’s emphatic vocal delivery that is suggestive of Dolly Parton with the slightest grain of Gillian Welch, are good enough reasons to keep coming back for more.


Released 13 November

 

This December (Single)

Ine Hoem

Slaraffen Songs / Starbox Recordings

After this year’s debut album, ‘Angerville’, and appropriate single, ‘This Year’ that received much radio play in her home country of Norway, Ine Hoem made a swift return to the recording studio to maintain the attention her indie electronic pop has been receiving. Sweden has been the choice of destination to record the new material for Ine Hoem’s next album, with producer Tobias Fröberg (Ane Brun, Loreen, Anna Bergendahl) selected, along with musicians Lars Skoglund (Lykke Li) and Robert Elovsson (Robyn) to add their guidance and expertise as well. The first fruit to surface from this process is the song, ‘This December’ that pays reference to personal aspects of Ine Hoem’s life, against a seasonal period that can be both impressive and miserable in equal measure. Such feelings are echoed by the lyrics and the manner in which Ine Hoem expresses these words, where the enthusiasm for “I plan to have a party” is not really quite there, and seems more a nostalgic reference than anything else. The low-key electronic pop generated here also gives the game away that all is perhaps not well in the Hoem household, where the desire for a feline friend at the top of the Christmas list looks odds on favourite to win. There is a dark humour at the bottom of this song, it just takes a few rounds to hear it. In terms of what to expect regarding the new album is as good as anybody’s guess because Ine Hoem is definitely keeping her cards close to her chest.


Released 6 November

 

Social Coma

Cold Sweats

Six 3 Collective

Incredible to think that Binghamton and Brooklyn’s Cold Sweats formed only five months ago, yet here they are with full album in hand and living true to that punk DIY ethic where rock and roll really is for everyone, if you have the audacity to give it a go that is. What’s even more impressive, however, is the manner in which Cold Sweats set about their business by constructing a series of songs that contain a considerable amount of variation between the layers of punk rock, where influences range from indie, pop and surf rock, but ultimately Cold Sweats has managed to cultivate a sound that is uniquely their own. Evidence of this can be garnered from the opening song, ‘The Business’ that stretches out its message by means of wavering guitar noises and a sinister vocal that has a habit of lingering, before crossing paths and imploding in a crescendo of noise. Elsewhere, ‘Coney Island Cops’ is straining at the leash, full of snarling attitude via its vocal and backed with a real vicious edge by way of a razor-sharp guitar. It’s a definite short sharp jolt to the system, and one with a single finger salute to authority. As mentioned, rather than pursuing the formulaic route of a punk rock album, Cold Sweats continue the variation with the scathing sentiments of ‘Waste of a Day’, that comes complete with a jarring guitar riff and pounding drums that manages to wedge itself deep in the mind, and continue echoing there long after it’s finished. ‘Souvenir’ takes an immediate stranglehold via the guitar and pretty much continues its hold over the entire song, only to find next the vocal taking centre stage, or at least try, as it staggers about in what sounds like a drunken state, relaying fragments of disaffected lives during ‘Problem Kids’. With the album having been produced by Hunter Davidsohn and recorded in a destitute and abandoned area of Binghamton, which just happens to be home to Twilight Zone creator Rod Sterling, it’s no wonder that Cold Sweats became influenced, in part, by their surroundings, where a combination of an extremely raw punk sound, in addition to various aspects of post-hardcore, combined with darker and more eccentric influences such as The Cramps, for example, can be heard,. ‘Social Coma’ is an astute collection of ideas, compellingly executed, and one that stands (far) outside the usual formula and expectations when it comes to punk rock albums, which makes this long player one of the definite highlights of this year without any doubt.



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