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Time

Micky Ekko

Sony Music

It has been two years since the collaboration with Rihanna on the huge success that was ‘Stay’, but now Micky Ekko is ready to open his own recording account with the album ‘Time’. Whether a stretch working on production duties and honing his skills as a songwriter was deemed necessary by Ekko himself, then the wait has been worthwhile because ‘Time’ is an assured long player. Such an assertion can be gleaned from the confident manner of opening song ‘Watch Me Rise’, as it remains strong in its pursuit of hard fought goals while others equally deserving of success fall before the final hurdle. By making use of synths and other electronics, Micky Ekko creates a broad palette of sounds that, when combined, delivers a series of memorable songs such as the passionate ‘Love You Crazy’ and soulful vocals of ‘U’. There is a darker twist to this album as well, which makes itself clear with the down on its luck narrative of ‘Smile’; rockier rhythm of the quite superb ‘Riot’ and then change of tactic, instrumentally, with the introduction of acoustic guitar and orchestral strings adding to the plaintive emotions contained within the album’s title song. By setting his own path for creative discovery and seemingly given the freedom to do so – the doubleheader containing the use of the word doves for example – Micky Ekko is a beguiling talent and one who has just written an album’s worth of equally fascinating material that is, at times, accessible and on other occasions demands a bit more from its listeners, which is precisely what you get with ‘Time’ and gratefully so.


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Title

Meghan Trainor

Sony Music Norway

Whatever your personal preferences are when it comes to music, Meghan Trainor has been a hotbed of discussion since the smash hit ‘All About That Bass’ cleverly spread its message by means of an infectious melody and smart lyrics urging women to ignore the ubiquitous stereotypical imagery of the female form, and instead learn to love themselves for who they are. Another aspect of Meghan Trainor’s life that is equally newsworthy is the fact she has been writing music for other artists for some considerable time, as well as being in the enviable position of having issued three albums while still in high school! Bearing such facts in mind, it comes as no surprise that the 20-year old from Massachusetts has a gifted knack for song writing, which becomes evident once the 50s flavoured pop, with shrewd lyrics nicely flipped to be in line with the present generation, grabs hold of your senses during ‘Dear Future Husband’. The frankness of words extends to the pared back instrumentation of ‘Close Your Eyes’ by offering encouragement to others without ever being preachy. Having gained experience from earlier bouts of song writing as mentioned before, Meghan Trainor has set a fine balance of songs that are, on the one hand, influenced by dance and pop music as well as old-school hip-hop beats (‘Bang Dem Sticks’, ‘Lips Are Movin’, ‘3am’) and then, on the other hand, stringed ballads (‘What If I’) and more roots-based tracks (‘Like I’m Gonna Lose You’). With so much to offer, ‘Title’ has set a very high precedent for others to follow in 2015 because it’s an album blessed with intuitive lyrics, wonderful melodies and a rather fine voice, which suggests that Meghan Trainor is certainly not ‘All About That Bass’!


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How We Used To Love (single)

Siv Jakobsen

The Nordic Mellow

Drumming up inspiration for a song idea can be a troublesome task for many artists, but it is a process that sometimes derives from the strangest of places or situations whereby the creative spark that has been absent for a period of time suddenly ignites in to life. Such a process occurred for singer-songwriter Siv Jakobsen, albeit under a stressful episode, when her car careered in to the rear of a vehicle somewhere on the outskirts of San Francisco due to a lapse in concentration. The saving grace from this particular episode was that it helped to inspire the opening line of first single ‘How We Used To Live’, which was recorded at Ant Food, Virtue & Vice and Stadium Red Studios in Brooklyn NY. The single itself is a parting of the ways of a former relationship gone sour, but one that still weighs heavy on the mind judging by the sadness held in the vocal with its mumbled expression given added sorrow by the delicate tinkling of piano and guitar strings. With comparisons being made to Ane Brun and Laura Marling, ‘How We Used To Love’ is a sincere recollection of a period in time that still has the ability to twinge the senses as far as its author is concerned, which earmarks Siv Jakobsen as one to watch.


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Don’t Panic

Missiles of October

P.O.G.O. Records

Without wishing to set alarm bells ringing, Missiles of October couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time considering the political turmoil that is escalating in a number of countries right now. Judging by the raging intensity of their debut album ‘Don’t Panic’, one can surmise that there are a few issues this three-piece band wish to get off their chest. While such matters may not be of a political nature, the topics on offer are equally sensitive and concern problems associated with addiction, loss and general dissatisfaction with everyday living. Plying a scuzzy slab of punk rock fused with elements of metal and hardcore, Missiles of October project forth an intense racket that is best served by the likes of ‘Wannabe’ with its skewered guitars and the abrasive surface of the white-hot ‘Cheerleader’. Such examples are complemented by ‘Two Feet In Sludge’, which gives a rather fine impression of wading through a quagmire with its guitars deep in the mire and lead vocal struggling to remain above the surface, topped off by the tight rhythm and murky tone of ‘Dance With Me’. Missiles of October is certainly raging at the various inequalities felt and struggles associated with such disparities, but there is also a sense of biding their time in order to transmit their frustrations in the most effective manner as suggested by the overall title of this body of work.

 


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Classics

She & Him

Sony Music

The duo of vocalist Zooey Deschanel and guitarist/vocalist M. Ward interpret a collection of standards dating from the1930s, and conclude around the latter half of the 1970s. Having wheeled in a twenty-piece orchestra to add to the dextrous guitar playing and fine vocals, the moods and sounds of the various periods focused on here are often recaptured; the smoky jazz feel of ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ being one such example that transports the listener back to its original conception in 1934. With ‘Classics’ having been recorded during a two week period, the attention to detail and warm intimacy Deschanel and Ward bring to the majority of songs is quite remarkable and, in the process, allows for an insight into the artists and compositions which enthralled them during their early years and, in many ways, has influenced their career to date. Speaking loudly in terms of its performance, ‘Teach Me Tonight’ is the very essence of a duo having sharpened their trade, and now leading from the front with a wealth of experience, such is the song’s graceful delivery. By adding heavyweight numbers, as far as their status goes, with French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour’s ‘She’, given a husky rendition by M. Ward, and the often associated ‘Unchained Melody’ with the Righteous Brothers, despite being recorded by several different artists during the 50s, given a pared back rendition. The infectious sway of ‘Stay Awhile’, however, beats all to the finishing line with Deschanel’s vocal intoxicating and highlighting the ethereal qualities sitting at the back of her throat, complimented by the subtle twang of guitar that reintroduces Dusty Springfield’s minor hit back in ’64 to great effect. It’s business as usual as She & Him can do nothing wrong because ‘Classics’ is another fine album in their steadily increasing repertoire.


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The Dream Walker

Angels & Airwaves

To The Stars

Tom DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves is clear for launch with a fresh album and accompanying promotional extras. More than just a side project as new album ‘The Dream Walker’ is part of a multimedia package, with the previously mentioned promotional extras incorporating an animated film and graphic novel; with the former media source having already scooped the award for ‘Best Animation’ at the Toronto Film Festival. Such deep personal involvement also extends itself to a few of the songs’ narratives, with ‘Tunnels’ being one of the most significant due to paying reference to DeLonge’s father who passed away. Another personal aspect which has attached itself to this latest album release is DeLonge’s passion for music as the songs making up ‘The Dream Walker’ consist of a number of finely pulled strands from a variety of sources that only reveal themselves fleetingly, such is the experience at hand here. Bound up tightly and moving along at a rapid rate with its combination of guitars, drums and electronics is the ball of angst that is ‘Teenagers and Rituals’. It would appear that somebody has clearly done their homework as next song in line ‘Paralyzed’ gives the impression of being the aftershock from what has gone before, with its cold chamber guitars intro and grinding rhythm that remains persistent throughout despite opening up in to a more melodic beast. A further sense of detachment is given by the electronic 80’s pulses of ‘Kiss With A Spell’, which really does shine way beyond the emotional gaping void suggested here. There is an epic feel to ‘Tremors’ heightened by its Edge-esque guitars ringing melodically, only to have its sweetness curdled by the more abrasive, yet utterly compelling force that is ‘Mercenaries’. As already mentioned, Angels & Airwaves is far from being a mere side project until the other full-time occupation readies itself for action because ‘The Dream Walker’ is a consistently engaging piece of work and one that is deserved of a successor if, and when the time comes.


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Live In Berlin

Depeche Mode

Columbia

Recorded live in what can best be described as their ‘second home’ in terms of the city of Berlin, Depeche Mode is set with their latest release ‘Live In Berlin’. Available to purchase as a double CD or box set consisting of ‘Live In Berlin’ DVD, double CD, as well as an additional DVD – ‘Alive In Berlin’ – comprising of concert and backstage footage and interviews with band members directed by Anton Corbijn, ‘Live In Berlin’ provides an insight of Depeche Mode’s successful ‘Delta Machine’ tour, which saw the band take in thirty-two countries and performing to over two million people. With such wealth in riches when it comes to their back catalogue, Depeche Mode pick a fine balance of old favourites, such as ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, along with tracks from the band’s highly regarded ‘Violator’ – ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and ‘Personal Jesus’ – and live favourite ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ from ‘Music For The Masses’. Most pleasing of all, however, was the decision to revaluate one of the key turning points in their career to date with the cobwebs being removed from their ‘Black Celebration’ album, which even sees the surprise inclusion of the song ‘But Not Tonight’ – a former B-side of the single ‘Stripped’ – and Martin Gore in fine fettle behind a solitary piano. With recent songs living up to those of old – in particular the menacing and drawn out beats of ‘Welcome To My World’ and really getting into character of ‘Angel’ – there is something here for all Depeche Mode devotees and those more in tune with recent Depeche Mode activity. ‘Live In Berlin’ is a worthy account of Depeche Mode’s still healthy live presence, and a great showcase of a band’s history meeting with the present, rendering this release as absolutely essential.


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#lonelypeople_Music

MOLITOR

Morrison Music

Back with a new EP, and his first release since 2013’s ‘Or Maybe Yesterday…’, MOLITOR unveils ‘#lonelypeople_Music’. Consisting of a blend of indie rock with elements of hip-hop, dance and electronic music, MOLITOR continues his experimentation with a variety of genres. Most notable of these forays is the audacious melding of the Dr. Dre beats and indie guitar rock of ‘Bite Down’ that really is big on sound in one instance, and then more quietly reflective elsewhere. There is a sense of self-loathing about this former track; a feeling of looking in the mirror and not liking what you see, which is reflected in the caustic tone of ‘Ca$h’ that ends up butting heads with Trent Reznor by its conclusion. Turning heads further, however, is the addictive rhythm of ‘lonelypeople_Music’ that is described as ‘upbeat disco-rock’, which is an apt description but one that helps to conceal the sombre mood at its centre. Ending with the rather superb ‘Stand For’, that is full of deep contemplation regarding a matter of the heart and played to a measured tempo that eventually builds to a grand finale before all instruments come crashing down. ‘#lonelypeople_Music’ EP is reaching out to a broad range of people with its bold attempts at fusing together various musical genres and lyrics reflecting universal themes concerning relationships and social interactions. It looks like MOLITOR won’t be lonely for too much longer.


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Sonic Highways

Foo Fighters

Sony Music Norway

By exploring eight American cities in order to see how each local culture over the years helped shape the musical landscape of these specific regions, and then setting to task writing and recording one track in each of these eight cities, certainly makes for an interesting concept. For latest album ‘Sonic Highways’, this exact process was carried out by Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters conducting their research of eight specific cities with a rich musical history behind them, and then coming up with a song that was influenced by, and exclusive to each of these eight regions. In conjunction with this eight-track album, Dave Grohl directed a documentary under the same title for the HBO TV network in order to provide a visual commentary to this whole concept and pay homage to America’s musical past. What transpires, however, as far as the audio output of this whole concept is concerned, is that while anticipating a blues inspired number from Chicago, for example, what the listener gets is just another Foo Fighters album! Despite one or two flickers of variation with the piano intro of ‘What Did I Do? /God As My Witness’ which could have developed into a gospel number, for example, merely develops into familiar alternative rock territory. The frustrating aspect of this entire album is the lack of variation in styles, which this whole project more than promised, as ‘Sonic Highways’ should have been marketed under a separate moniker because concept ideas aside, it’s actually a very fine Foo Fighters album. If you’re looking for classic Foo Fighters’ trademarks with that quiet, soft build up before rupturing an artery finale, then the rather excellent ‘Something From Nothing’ should appeal or the catchy, crunchy pop and alt-rock of ‘Congregation’, ‘Outside’, ‘The Feast And The Famine’ and ‘In The Clear’ should definitely satisfy the appetites of longstanding Foo supporters. By failing to live up to its original billing, ‘Sonic Highways’ is an opportunity missed to come up with an album with a difference due to remaining within its comfort zones. Having said that, ‘Sonic Highways’ is another solid addition to the Foo Fighter’s own history in the making and one that would have been served better as a separate entity away from the filmed documentary.


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Mood Chaser

Benjamin Finger

Digitalis Recordings

Arriving on the doorstep under the guise of Audiofinger / Spartacus and therefore tossing another spanner in the works as far as one’s true identity goes, (Frank) Benjamin Finger makes a swift return after the soundscape collage that was ‘The Bet’. Follow up ‘Mood Chasers’ is more of the same, only this time out the instrumental passages of sound stick around a while longer emitting a notably heavier presence of electronic noises that adds a sizable filling. Such observations are noticeable from the off with the initial clunking beats parading ‘Dwarf Palms’ before giving way to a wavering frequency of electronic noises that accumulates additional instrumentation just as quickly as it sheds the very same extras. Where ‘The Bet’ was sometimes waiflike in its expressions, ‘Mood Chaser’ is not afraid to spike its sounds with sterner stuff as indicated by the aggressive buzzing infiltrating ‘Saguaro Cactus’ and the incessant swelling and popping of electronic bleeps throughout ‘Moonlight Coma’. The intriguing title given to ‘Nicotine Weather’ provides an altogether different interpretation musically, as its vision is crystal clear as detailed by its lighter ambient tones. Proving that shrewd song titles are not consigned to one alone, the mischievously named ‘Elfin Geezer’ (quite possibly a reference to its creator) transmits its electronic pulses that ricochet back and forth while receiving bouts of tinkering where you can sense Benjamin Finger probing deep beneath the mechanical workings and fiddling with various wires considering the intermittent beeps and noise distortions. Compared to its predecessor, ‘Mood Chaser’ is an album that is more complete in terms of its overall structure yet remains unpredictable in segments due to its restless nature and need for experimentation, which, more often than not, sounds improvised. Keep chasing those moods of inspiration you ‘Elfin Geezer’ as you remain in a minority of a dying breed of mavericks that the world of music could truly do with more.


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Ayil EP

Ayil

Ayil / Diger

There is a powerful racket stemming from the upper regions of Norway – Bodø to be exact – where long dark winter days drag endlessly and the sub-zero temperatures cut deep. Fortunately such conditions are the very bread and butter that help fire up the post-metal / hardcore sounds that shunt the heartfelt grievances to the fore of promising upstarts Ayil. The waft of guitars opening this EP gives the impression of scouring a bleak landscape for any sign of life, only the realisation soon becomes apparent that all is certainly lost. Bruised and beleaguered, ‘All Lost’ finds Ayil hacking away with blunt instruments and declaring something along the lines of, “No hope no love, No hope no life” deep in the knowledge that any call to arms is futile considering that fate has already revealed its hand. The build-up of guitars that starts ‘Clouds Connect’ exists temporarily as the song collides in a brutal manner only to spin adrift – albeit temporarily once more – with a more melodic sound that eventually melds into a harsher texture. More time is given to ‘Lack Of Sleep, Mind In Pain’ which stretches out its fraught emotions past the six minute mark over a rugged terrain of snapping vocals and tough rhythm that eventually loosens and is awash in layers of (shoegaze) guitars. The messages communicating from the north simply cannot be ignored when they are as emotionally honest and gripping as those spouting forth from Bodø’s potential new sons Ayil.


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Wild And Chunky

Great Sale Day

Close To Home Records

If this is the sound of mere frivolous fun, then please serve up some more in double quick time! The timing for Great Sale Day and their ‘Wild and Chunky’ first long player finds itself competing for customers’ attentions with America’s Black Friday looming round the corner; the only difference being that the level of seriousness when it comes to maximising full exposure of one’s commercial goods is of a fairly low-key nature when it comes to the former. Hailing from Brighton and therefore signalling another difference to their US counterparts in terms of geographical location, Great Sale Day is the result of a group of friends of former bands, or those still in existence, coming together to create merriment rather than anything overly serious according to guitarist Andrew Fisher: “The band is just something fun that we decided to do while we were out for food one night.” Eleven songs later that form a reunion with a 90s alt-rock sound that is definitely a Stateside influence than anything British, Great Sale Day induce memories of Weezer and Nada Surf with coarse guitars that churn out melodic tunes to the beat of ‘Up In The Clouds’, ‘Best Friends’ and the rather frantic rhythm of ‘Calm Down, Slow Down’.  There are frustrations of the heart during the strolling pace of ‘True (Why Can’t You Be)’, which adds variation to the set; ditto the slow climb from its slumber before slamming on the brakes in throat clearing fashion of ‘Wake Up’ which is definitely not sensing the aforementioned fun but remains one of the frontrunners for strongest track. By giving the impression that ‘Wild and Chunky’ is something of a light-hearted get-together and nothing but a side project until the real work begins, the reality is that Great Sale Day has actually crafted an album’s worth of material that deserves nothing but serious respect.



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