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Are You With Me (single)

Lost Frequencies

Armada Music / Sony Music

According to the statisticians at YouTube, Lost Frequency certainly made a name for themselves with an earlier version of current single ‘Are You With Me’ that managed to clock up a hefty one million plus viewers, in addition to a whole bunch of remixes which saw viewing figures nearly go through the roof. Having finally made the transition to a fully-fledged release, ‘Are You With Me’ should entice the same level of support when it comes to purchasing said single considering its calm electronic rhythm, mild beats and soft vocal combining into a rather persuasive force. Having found its niche within electronic dance music, Lost Frequencies has a tendency to lean toward other influences which, upon closer inspection, the likes of One Republic can be heard in relation to ‘Are You With Me’ and therefore likely to appeal to those more attuned to indie rock with a side order containing elements of dance music.


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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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21 Days In Jail!

The Broadkasters

Rhythm Bomb

Trading in their wild brand of rockabilly as The Houserockers by taking in the blues as The Broadkasters, three members of the previously mentioned line up add an additional player to their ranks on harmonica in order to communicate their passion for this other love in their life. Nowhere is this better expressed than the vocals of Rob Glazebrook, who is given centre stage on more than one occasion, such is the charisma in his voice that gives these songs such a faithful delivery. If it’s evidence you’re looking for, then the seemingly one take and straight off-the-cuff ‘Stop Breakin’ Down’ is probably the closest example you’ll get where Glazebrook sounds present in your front living room with the rest of the instrumentation tucked away neatly behind, such is his presence coupled with the raw and ready nature of this particular track. Of course all this would not be possible without the rest of The Broadkasters in attendance, who know how to concoct a driving rhythm or two such as the beating heart that moves ‘Crazy Mixed Up World’, to the rapid execution of its title track ’21 Days In Jail!’. Where this album benefits as well is The Broadkasters ability to deviate from the more regular tempo of the songs, by offering up a few less hurried efforts such as the marvellous, yet snapping at the heels by way of harmonica of ‘Ah’w Baby’, to the steady drip of emotions portrayed effectively with the back burning rhythm of guitar during ‘Come Back Baby’. Full of character and expertly relayed, The Broadkasters slip into their second skin – the blues – and come out triumphant with ’21 Days In Jail!’


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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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Reality Show

Jazmine Sullivan

Sony Music Norway

‘Reality Show’ is the third full-length album from previous Grammy nominee Jazmine Sullivan. With this latest release being a joint effort in terms of production involving Salaam Remi, Key Wane, Chuck Harmony, Da Internz, Ant Bell, DJ Dahi, Joe Logic and Dilemma, the high number of collaborators reaps dividends for Jazmine Sullivan who goes from strength to strength with a soulful blend of R&B, smatterings of hip-hop inspired beats and mild electronica. It’s the knockout vocals, however, which pierces all exteriors of the songs present here, backed up with heartfelt lyrics reflecting on the various complexities that relationships can bring. Such examples can be identified from the stream of thought that flows through ‘Mascara’, expertly portrayed by a tender vocal which proves to be no fluke once the wider range of ‘Brand New’ enters the fray. There’s some dirt underneath the nails regarding previous hit single ‘Dumb’, which makes its entrance to an echo of vocals that later gives way to Meek Mill’s rapping the male perspective on this ill-fated relationship. The prospect of happiness remains unlikely once ‘Forever Don’t Last’ gets underway as Jazmine Sullivan pours her heart out to the accompaniment of handclaps and acoustic guitar. The tempo is lifted with the dance influenced ‘Stanley’ and then steps down once more with the smooth delivery, and really quite wonderful ‘Let It Burn’. As truthful as it gets, ‘Reality Show’ reveals the inner walls of the troubles and strife that relationships can experience, only these troubled times are given a sweeter edge by the quality and sheer talent of Jazmine Sullivan.


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December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1

Willie Nelson

Sony Music CMG

The first instalment in a series of releases focusing on Willie Nelson’s archived material. Personally chosen by the man himself with help from his sister Bobbie, Willie Nelson sets up this first volume with a selection of songs taken from his musical vault containing a glut of riches by featuring some alternative versions of former songs, cover versions as well as contributions from his Family Band. There is a warm intimacy to the majority of songs with the barest of instruments used via Bobbie on piano, Willie Nelson on guitar and moments of harmonica from Mickey Raphael.  There is a genuine old-time quality regarding opening song ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ with a slight spring in its step exemplified by the sprightly piano keys and Nelson’s quick-fire narration. The rendition of ‘Permanently Lonely’ is a compelling take on the previous recording; sounding close to improvised with the nuts and bolts being reassembled as the song gathers its memories by way of its plaintive vocal and pared back instrumentation. With time for an instrumental jam via ‘Nuages’ before fumbling its way through the lyrical haze and makeshift musical accompaniments of back-to-back ‘I Don’t Know Where I Am Today’ and aptly named ‘Amnesia’, ‘December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1’ is the sound of one of country music’s greats recollecting his past, but with a sense of creativity that often gives fresh perspectives to the majority of songs presented here.


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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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Santa Is Real (single)

Alexander Lindbäck

Safe & Sound Recordings

Taking a break from his usual duties with Seven Doors Hotel, 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’.


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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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