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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 16 October

 

Rivers (Single)

Rattlers

Safe & Sound Recordings

A composition of strong beauty is the best way to describe the latest single from Oslo-based Rattlers. Comprising of six musicians and namely Live Miranda Solberg (vocals/acoustic guitar), Knut Rand (drums), Thomas Langård (bass/vocals), Einar Næss Haugseth (keys/vocals), Halvor Falck Johansen (guitar/vocals) and Mads Johansen (percussion), Rattlers deliver a sound that is suitably Americana and one that is held in high esteem after the band’s eponymously titled debut EP of last year received recognition on the national airwaves. Latest release, ‘Rattlers’, will not put a dent in such recognition as what starts off in a fairly minimalist approach, gradually develops into a fuller sound with a bit of a country rock coming out of the guitars and lead vocalist Live Miranda Solberg raising the decibels somewhat by remaining in defiant mood and letting her feelings known that a period of solitude is good for the soul when it comes to relationships. A second notch on the Rattlers career trajectory to further recognition as ‘Rivers’ is blessed with many qualities, and performed with an assured attitude that belies their years together.


Released Out now

 

(Do The Bored) Recluse (Single)

Dusk

Forward Records

The creative juices just keep on flowing for Tenement mainstay Amos Pitsch, only this latest release falls under a different heading that goes by the name of Dusk.  By pitching this as a single release, and one that is backed with the song ‘Too Sweet’ featuring the soulful voice as well as keyboard skills of Julia Blair, the punk roots of Amos Pitsch’s formerly mentioned main project are traded for more of a traditional rock and roll and rhythm and blues sound that is befitting of his Wisconsin background. With Colin ‘Wild Man’ Wilde joining on drums, Tyler Ditter taking up bass, and Matt Stranger on guitar and backup vocals, the two songs making up this single were largely a self-produced affair, with the record being engineered and mixed at Crutch of Memory in Appleton, Wisconsin, by Amos Pitsch and then mastered by Justin Perkins at The Mystery Room in Milwaukee. The main track itself, ‘(Do The Bored) Recluse’, is a dynamic little ditty that has a bit of early ‘Stones boogie about it with its nods to bluesy rock ‘n’ roll but also one that takes in references from The Velvet Underground to 70’s country rock via The Flying Burrito Brothers. If this single was created out of a state of genuine restlessness in relation to Dusk’s frontman Amos Pitsch, then may those days of boredom continue to plague his soul because this two-track record is a sheer joy from start to finish, and one that sits up there with the best of his creative works.


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

 

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.


Released Out now

 

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!


Released Out now

 

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.


Released Out now

 

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!


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

 

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.


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’!



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