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Still Undead

The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters

Inverse Records

Harking back to a 70s era when rock music was truly free, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters revive such memories via their debut album release ‘Still Undead’. First indication of such linkages to music’s past is the manner in which ‘Still Undead’ was recorded, by using methods including portable studios often in various locations out on the road when touring. More obvious signs, however, exist in the band’s actual sound consisting of mild, loose rock and rounded off with some mystical song titles that leave one thinking of numerous bands from that particular era. With the location of Finland housing the songs making up ‘Still Undead’, it’s America which provides the inspiration as The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters create a number of songs full of catchy choruses or, alternatively, more drawn out tracks such as the ‘K-Town River Banks’ with its keyboard and guitar riffs towing this along admirably. Lead vocalist and founder, Markku Pihlaja, provides a slightly gruff edge to the songs and remains relatively calm throughout, without ever resorting to any form of histrionics in order to get the messages across. Such examples can be found with the social conscience that is ‘Cry For The Ocean’ where both band and singer go about their business in an unfussy manner yet the song still manages to seep under one’s skin with seemingly very little effort at all. This is one of the aspects that make ‘Still Undead’ an appealing album because the majority of its contents will catch you unaware due to a certain amount of subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. For example, the natural aspects of the vocal and engaging chorus of ‘Soulseeker’ or the travelling notion via its rhythm given to ‘Giants’, which bides its time before hitting its soaring chorus, are two such examples. Given time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters can certainly carve out a name for themselves beyond their native Finland by transmitting ‘Still Undead’ to an America audience where it should find a welcoming home considering its affiliations with American 70’s rock.


Released 11 February

 

Den Morronen

Thåström

Sony Music Norway

Regarded as one of Sweden’s most important artists, Thåström is primed with new album ‘Den Morronen’. Following on from his last excursion, that was the rather successful ‘Beväpna Dig Med Vingar’, this latest release follows in similar footsteps with a considerable amount of reflective and darkened tales set to an electronic musical backdrop. Made up of nine tracks, ‘Den Morronen’ was produced in a combined effort by Thåström, Niklas Hellberg and Ulf Ivarsson, with fellow musicians Pelle Ossler, Conny Nimmersjö and Anders Hernestam coming on board to help realise the album’s contents, which were recorded in the locations of Berlin, Stockholm and Karlstad, it soon becomes clear that much effort has gone into this latest album. Kicking things off with the dour beat of ‘Gräsfläckar’ and proceeding along the same lines with the album’s title track, Thåström illuminates such dark tales with his poetic way with words, that are often expressed in a croaked manner and has an ability to sound world-weary without necessarily meaning so. It’s the attention to detail of these tales, however, that compels best of all, with the rattling of everyday life – surface noise as a certain Mr Peel referred to – in the background of the passionate ‘Ner Mot Terminanlen’; funeral march feel to ‘Kom Med Mig’ and the unfolding drama of ‘Alltid Va På Väg’ that will see the name Thåström continue to be highly regarded in his homeland but, hopefully, elsewhere as well because ‘Den Morronen’ is deserving of a much broader audience.


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Keep Forever (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Biding her time and taking the old-fashioned route to possible future glories is Norwegian singer-songwriter Frøder. The less is more paradigm certainly works here as Frøder is steadily building her way to recognition in her own country by a succession of single releases with ‘Keep Forever’ being the latest addition. By adopting this patient approach seems to be working as the Bergen-based artist has received substantial airplay for previous singles – ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘Over The Sea’ – and recently Spotify selected Frøder as a name to watch in 2015 via their ‘Spotlight Artists’ category. The patient approach and gradual progression in terms of her work can definitely be heard in latest single ‘Keep Forever’, as it is by far Frøder’s most memorable effort for its effective use of keys that joyously tingle under the skin and then hold back to allow the vocal to express itself. If Frøder continues such an approach to her song writing, then the full-length album should be something truly worth waiting for when that time duly arrives.


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True Love Highway

The Shadowmen

Rhythm Bomb

From the high-altitude city of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes a rockabilly sound by way of The Shadowmen. Composed of sixteen tracks, ‘True Love Highway’ possesses a great deal of talent and one that is not shy when it comes to letting the creative strings fly. Such evidence can be gleaned from the real zip and zest of ‘Revenoor Man’ with its interesting choice of subject matter referring to the prohibition of a certain substance brewed locally. Elsewhere, The Shadowmen turn in genuine slices of 50s rockabilly with such examples as the magnificent ‘Ain’t That A Dilly’ and equally convincing ‘Oh Sally’. There is great guitar work punctuating throughout this album whether spiralling down the scales during the introduction of ‘Sleep Rock – A –Roll Rock – A – Baby’ or dominating the tempo of laidback, ‘True Love Highway’. This, however, is but one component which makes ‘True Love Highway’ the album it is, whereby this five piece manage to make things sound simple when, in fact, there are many subtle layers lurking beneath the surface and where their true craft lies. A clever album and one that will have you glued to its contents from the off, The Shadowmen has provided a suitable ally to accompany the trip along ‘True Love Highway’.


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Ringer I Vatn

Kjell Reianes

CMM Music

Despite earning a living as an architect, the name Kjell Reianes is associated with music in his native Norway due to a long-held ambition to break into an otherwise competitive market. The breakthrough arrived in 2011, at the ripe old age of sixty-one, with the appropriately titled ‘Aldri For Seint’ (‘Never Too Late’). Significant to this breakthrough was the start of a working relationship with Kaizers Orchestra’s Janove Ottesen, who was responsible for arranging and producing Reianes’ debut offering. Sixty solo gigs later, and various collaborations with numerous artists, Kjell Reianes made the transition from tinkering away with his musical compositions in his spare time, to a full-time commitment, which has resulted in a second album, ‘Ringer I Vatn’. The aforementioned working partnership with Janove Ottesen was reignited for this second outing, with Ottesen taking up production duties once more, in addition to a select few musicians – Ola Kvernberg, Mads Falck Berven, Jarle Vespestad and Eirik Are Oanes Anderssen – being added to the ranks in order to fully realise the ideas behind ‘Ringer I Vatn’. First impressions is that such qualified experience really lends itself to Kjell Reianes latest release, with opening number ‘Lukk Opp Ditt Øye’ sounding as if it was recorded in one take, where instruments are still in the process of warming up before eventually proceeding ahead. There is a pared-back sound to the majority of this latest work, with mainly acoustic instrumentation providing the rhythms to Reianes reflective lyrics where songs such as ‘Bare Ein Gang Te’ and ‘Evig Din’ would not be out of place on a busy side street populated with cafés  somewhere in Paris. Keys are added to the duo of ‘Virvelvind’ and ‘Bossanova’,   which gives the former song a slightly quirky feel whereas the latter is light and breezy. Reianes engaging dialect really captures the sentiment at the heart of ‘Du E Min Eine’ to great effect, and is but one reason why the breakthrough eventually had to happen for this wonderful talent.


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I See You (single)

Frøkedal

Propeller Recordings

Not one to rest easy on her laurels, Anne Lise Frøkedal makes a welcome return, but this time in the role of a solo artist rather than her customary duties with Harrys Gym and I Was A King. By trimming her moniker to the more manageable Frøkedal, the decision to embark on this current project alone, seems to work dividends as it throws up another dimension to her song writing where only the use of acoustic instrumentation is used for first single, ‘I See You’. By opting for such a route musically, there is a notable difference in sound where a strong folk presence is audible as the song rolls out its rhythm in unison with a compelling vocal that doesn’t have to try too hard to weave its magic such is its natural appeal. If the same qualities can be transferred to the forthcoming long player, then Frøkedal has another serious project to pursue long term, and one to rival the other two major creative pursuits in her life.


Released Out now

 

The Drive To Taxonomy

Craig Ward & Radboud Mens

Jezus Factory Records

Freedom over expression is definitely the way forward and something Jezus Factory continue to provide with the latest project from Craig Ward & Radboud Mens’ ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’. Seemingly unable to switch off the creative thoughts accumulating in his mind, Craig Ward, who is known for his work with a diverse bunch of musical outfits including dEUS, Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen and, more recently, a collaboration with Mark Mulholland, wheels out his latest release on a previously thought extinct format (i.e. cassette) as a limited edition, and with no real press release other than a discussion involving what constitutes as a ‘real’ record label these days. Driven by practicalities regarding the decision involving a cassette release, as well as moving away from the standard CD format for this particular occasion, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ consists of two sides of experimental, ambient, electronic music.  The pulse is barely audible once the first side of ‘Parts 1, 2 & 3’ gets underway, with shards of light becoming visible gradually, and then made more prominent by bouts of droning and stabs of electronica that eventually breaks off into smaller pockets of sounds that bleep and whirr incessantly before finding their way to the surface. Side two is a coarser terrain, with electronic sounds jarring and fizzing, but most notable is the fullness given to the overall sound where segments are plumper in their expressions and the volume is given a boost, yet ever so sparingly. As with most instrumental efforts, individual interpretations will vary greatly such are its qualities to drum up different feelings with each and every listen. Therefore, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ is no different from such interpretations because its qualities are endless due to the many different levels this album inhabits.


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You’re My Sugar

Fia Sco & The Majestics

Rhythm Bomb

There’s a predominantly western swing flavour to the icing coating the Austrian mountain ranges by way of ‘You’re My Sugar’. The band at the centre of this swinging sound is Fia Sco & The Majestics who seem to have exchanged their Austrian roots for something a bit more American. Such a suggestion becomes even clearer when hearing the added musical ingredients consisting of hillbilly and country, with a definite rockin’ attitude thrown in for good measure. The spark which ignites this album into life, however, is the rolling tongue of Fia Sco’s vocal delivery, which then proceeds to dominate opening ditty ‘Ice Water’ and continues in similar style throughout the rest of this album. There’s no doubting Sco’s presence here as she comes across as a charismatic front figure by breathing life into the songs, with her vocal providing a throwback to another era. All of this talent would not be possible without experienced hands, which comes by way of The Majestics with titles to rival their magnetic songstress and therefore deserving of a mention, so step forth Colonel Rib Kirby (lead/rhythm guitar), Don De Vil (double bass), Big Honzo (steel guitar) and Ray Hammer (drums). With such a force in place, Fia Sco & The Majestics simply can’t fail which is evident from the tight rhythm and quick vocal delivery of ‘Dynamite’ and choo-choo boogie of ‘She’s Gone, Gone, Gone’. With ‘You’re My Sugar’ being a covers fest, pick of the bunch has to be the Howard Stamford and Danny Mitchum composed ‘Hey, Mr. Cotton Picker’ and (at last!) clever spin on Jerry Reed’s excellent ‘Mr Whizz’ to a feminist friendly renamed, ‘Misses Whiz’. Once the locals of their native Austria catch wind of these western flavoured numbers, the icecaps are likely to melt such is the heat stemming from ‘You’re My Sugar’ and, more notably, the talent at the heart of this record.


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Goin’ Old School

The Rob Ryan Roadshow

Rhythm Bomb

Fourth album in for Rob Ryan and his Roadshow that shows no signs of letting up, such is the heady mix of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, hillbilly and country sounds which explains the majority of this latest album’s contents, but it should also be noted that there are one or two deviations from this formula. The first indication that other influences are at work here can be heard from the album’s introduction ‘Stay In Bed’, as it snuggles up close to a rhythm and blues sound with Rob Ryan’s vocal sounding light and soulful. The next surprise comes in the form of a cover song, and one that is not selected from the customary vault of 1950’s goodness because this one is taken from a more recent decade with The Eurhythmics ‘Missionary Man’. Despite not being a fan of the original composition, the translation of this Eurythmics hit is a far grittier version, complete with impassioned vocal and side support coming by way of harmonica that manages to receive the unanimous thumbs up. The ‘Goin’ Old School’ of its title really makes itself known with the mid-tempo country ‘Long Gone Day’, then applying its foot on the gas for the rockabilly infused ‘Catwalk Baby’ with Rob Ryan’s vocal impressing throughout. There is time for reflection once ‘When I Found You’ makes its entrance, with its nimble rhythm implying the joy felt as this is one song with a happy ending after years in the doldrums. Further jovialities ensue once the Jerry Lee Lewis inspired wildness of ‘Monkey Beat City’ clambers over the entire contents of this album, letting its presence known via some white-hot rock ‘n’ roll, only to be given a run for its money by way of ‘Not Good Enough’. If only all roadshows were as compelling as the one Rob Ryan is promoting because ‘Goin’ Old School’ is a lesson in how to achieve a finely tuned balance between a choice selection of genres and making it work as a cohesive whole.


Released Out now

 

Drinkin Wine

Spo-Dee-O-Dee

Rhythm Bomb

Longstanding German rockabilly band Spo-Dee-O-Dee enter the fray once more with brand new long player ‘Drinkin Wine’. With lead vocalist and guitarist Andy Warner penning eight of the twelve tracks listed, Spo-Dee-O-Dee set about their task admirably with a forceful set of rockabilly numbers. Starting things off is the combined vocals of ‘Little Baby of Mine’ that will have you rockin’ in no time such are the addictive qualities of its main rhythm. Man behind the album’s mastering, Axel Praefke shows his hand at song writing by coming up with ‘Jeannie Come A Running’, which chugs along at a nice pace and is complemented by another Warner effort, ‘I Told A Lie’ that is handled with the upmost care considering its delicate rhythm. The Harlan Howard written, and covered by numerous artists, ‘Sally Was A Good Ole Girl’ is competent in its delivery and likely to remain lodged in the memory bank long after its conclusion due to its catchy lyrics. The vocals are put on hold for the surf inspired instrumental ‘Los Calimuchos’, offering another side to Spo-Dee-O-Dee, before opting for another cover in the form of ‘Messin’ With The Kid’, but this time adding their own personal touches by toning down the adrenalin a notch or two in comparison with the rocket fuelled rendition by Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters.  Great guitar work and an eager vocal really bring to life the emotions felt in ‘Black Slacks Pink Skirt’, which again shows itself during the strolling ‘Let’s Walk Walk Walk’ with Andy Warner injecting much character into the song’s narrative as one can sense the glee in his vocal as he glides down the avenue in question. The taste of wine this four-piece band is brewing is definitely of a sweeter nature as Spo-Dee-O-Dee hold a great passion for their song writing and one that is not afraid to reveal a romantic centre, which this latest album clearly demonstrates.


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Follow The Deadlights

Diablo Blvd

Nuclear Blast

Having formed in 2005, Belgium five-piece Diablo Blvd is celebrating their 10th anniversary in style with the release of third album, ‘Follow The Deadlights’. By coming together from the remnants of other bands such as A Brand, Born From Pain and Meuris, momentum soon started to develop for the then newly formed Diablo Blvd in their native country and neighbouring Netherlands largely due to the band’s brand of metal encompassing cool riffs, addictive choruses and a charismatic stage presence, as well as incorporating influences ranging from The Cult, Danzig and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Add to the mixture a frontman who, by trade, has built his reputation as a stand-up comedian and won multiple awards for his live performances, then Diablo Blvd has to be one of the most fascinating bands to have formed in recent times. By setting such details aside, the music stemming forth from this latest output speaks volumes, with the wonderfully melodic and steady climb of ‘Rise Like Lions’ engraining itself instantly on the memory and followed by the detailed layers of even greater ‘Son of Cain’. The sullen air surrounding ‘We Are Legion’ is initially played out via pounding drums, deep bass and a guttural vocal before launching into an abrupt and shouty chorus that finally fades on a more passive note apart from a final sting in its tail from its lead guitar. This is the compelling aspect of ‘Follow The Deadlights’ because the majority of songs contained within its walls are made up of a number of ideas that often deviate down various avenues yet return to base with a memorable hook or two. The chances are that ‘Follow The Deadlights’ will see a successful year for Diablo Blvd because there is enough variety in its contents to appeal to a broader population of music lovers. The tenth year anniversary celebrations are only just beginning for Diablo Blvd.


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The Big Picture

Kat Edmonson

Sony Music

Following the critical success that was ‘Way Down Low, Kat Edmonson returns with twelve new songs under the heading ‘The Big Picture’. By combining a similar mixture of jazz, folk and pop influences to her previous long player, Kat Edmonson’s passion for old classic films also finds a way into this latest set of compositions which, along with the guidance of well-renowned producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Sheryl Crowe, Suzanne Vega et al), really comes to the fore during such songs as ‘Oh My Love’ where the vocal is purring against a backdrop of black and white nostalgia. It’s this very love of vintage films that also finds its way into such numbers as ‘You Can’t Break My Heart’ where the two-tone canvass is exchanged for a grainy colour inspired by a Sergio Leone movie and accompanying Ennio Morricone sound score to support its western flavour.  Elsewhere, there is a lovely light touch to the pop song ‘Avion’ that glides along at some pace and needs to be heard for the manner in which Kat Edmondson wraps her vocal around the very title of this particular ditty. ‘Rainy Day Woman’ is influenced by a 60s pop sound à la Dusty Springfield with its orchestral strings applying the raindrops, in addition to a horn section acting as a buffer against the oncoming (emotional) downpour. One of the most pleasing aspects of ‘The Big Picture’ is the apparent simplicity of some of the songs where less is certainly more when considering the shuffling drums and acoustic guitar of the exquisite ‘For Two’ and mellow tones of final song, ‘Who’s Counting’. Kat Edmonson’s star is on the ascendency as ‘The Big Picture’ is an album full of charm and teeming with creativity that manages to pull all of its components together and yet somehow sound smaller than its overall outlook would suggest. This, of course, is a skill in itself, and one that this songstress manages admirably. Top marks indeed!



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