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What I Saw

Maia Hirasawa

Sony

By some transcontinental journey, Maia Hirasawa’s ‘What I Saw’ landed in the lap of FLW and what a stroke of good fortune that was due to being completely dumbfounded by the quality of the eleven glorious indie electropop and ballad-esque ditties on display. Hooked from the beginning with the irresistible emotional pull of ‘You’ that lives long in the memory even after the events of the unreciprocated love has fizzled out, Maia Hirasawa has a knack of constructing infectious melodies whether shifting tempo with the more upbeat ‘Lights Out’ or coming back down again with the sparse offerings of ‘Still Think Of It’. There is definitely talent at work here, and ‘What I Saw’ is one of those rare unexpected finds that will still have a place in your heart in some years to come.


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Take A Look At The World (single)

Ralph Myerz

Sony

Preceding forthcoming album ‘Supersonic Pulse’, Ralph Myerz offers a timely reminder of his craftsmanship with the persuasive dance tones of ‘Take A Look At The World’. There is, however, a darker undercurrent to this floor-filler not in the sense of the bleakness projected by many an indie band but more in conjunction with a notion of time running out. Incorporating the electronic pop nuances of fellow Norwegian Annie into the mix reveals further astuteness as her almost ethereal shades perfectly compliment the driving beats. ‘Take A Look At The World’ is a promising precursor to hopefully an even more promising long player.


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Tidal Lock

Old Soul

Dog Knights Productions

As first impressions go, don’t be dissuaded by the artwork because Old Soul muster up a guitar fest that is as epic as it is dense. Despite being only four songs in length, the opening sprawl of ‘Ethereal Faultless’ is a perfect example of this grand vision as it stretches for little over ten minutes. With ‘Tidal Lock’ being Old Soul’s third output, clearly the Michigan band has progressed their sound considerably as there is a painstaking attention to detail as second in line ‘Ghost Incomplete’ is full of claustrophobic rage before fizzing out into obscurity. The complex structure of ‘Paradigm Pendulum’ is awe-inspiring in its audaciousness, and the final declaration of ‘Watermouth Mirage’ burns out in a raging intensity leaving one to ponder the merits of ‘Tidal Lock’ and the realisation that they will take some beating.


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Rough Hands

Rough Hands

Holy Roar Records

There are no compromises to be found here as Rough Hands deliver an inducing set of post-hardcore songs of brutal intensity that never outstay their welcome. The eponymously titled EP clocks in and clocks out without so much as a whimper as perfectly orchestrated with opener ‘Dilute’ and then proceeded with the headlong assault of ‘Maledictus’. ‘Toska’ nearly offers more of the same only for Rough Hands to deftly change tactics midway through with skeletal guitars leaving room for the finale of ‘Spite’ to offer a similar manoeuvre but with more abrasive intent. It will be interesting to see how Rough Hands develop with a broader canvass of a full-length player.


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Home

Rudimental

Warner Music Norway

Title track and opening up the front door to Rudimental’s debut ‘Home’ starts proceedings sublimely as it meanders at mid-tempo with a constant wary glance over the shoulder which is in stark contrast to the explosive drum & bass and soulful vocals of former UK No. 1 single ‘Feel The Love’. This London-based collective have truly ploughed their own furrow musically by years spent in dancehalls (not that type), listening to pirate radio, improvised DJ set ups as well as sourcing material from older siblings who had that advantage of age on their side in terms of arriving at the sounds first. Of course London’s urban surroundings has also provided inspiration – ‘Hell Could Freeze’ reflective of this with its mix of sweet vocals that now and again rub up against a more abrasive surface. With various artists offering their services – Emeli Sande weighs in with the brooding ‘More Than Anything’ and closing ‘Free’ – Rudimental’s ‘Home’ brings to mind Massive Attack’s seminal ‘Blue Lines’, due to the level of collaborations, and in the process reviving a much-missed concept.


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Bankrupt!

Phoenix

Warner Music Norway

The title of Phoenix’s fifth studio album ‘Bankrupt!’ is perhaps more a statement of a growing mediocrity when it comes to the creative industries rather than the continuing fiscal meltdown the world is still experiencing.  Such attention to details may also have inflicted upon the band members themselves as ‘Bankrupt!’ has been nearly four years in the making not because of a general fatigue due to past successes but more to do with a general desire to maintain the creative progressive thinking. The four years has definitely been worth the wait as ‘Bankrupt!’ continues in slightly similar vein to its predecessor ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’ with its glossy pop exterior only there is enough here to suggest a more indifferent centre. ‘Entertainment’ is a product of the former as it dances in the sunlight whereas ‘The Real Thing’ glistens round the edges but never fully projects itself due to its colder interior, which is further compounded with the more upbeat ‘S.O.S. In Bel Air’ and icy breeze of ‘Trying To Be Cool’. The tempo decreases once more, however, towards the latter part of the album and inflicts darker shades of electronica with ‘Chloroform’, ‘Don’t’ and appropriately titled closer ‘Oblique City’.

Despite possessing enough immediate charms, ‘Bankrupt!’ will require a little more investment if you truly want to get to the core of this work as Phoenix continue to remain one step ahead.


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Tales of Space Travel & Revenge

The Refusal

Refused Records

There’s an eclectic mix of ska, punk, funk, and new wave brewing in the West Country and hails under the banner of The Refusal. Having been peddling their wares since 2008 and doing rather well on the live scene, the narratives making up ‘Tales of Space Travel & Revenge’ are as eclectic as the very influences driving them. This broad appeal, however, is where The Refusal’s space travel becomes a little fuddled on occasions such as the ‘shall we pursue the rock route’ of ‘Maybe This Time’ or more straight ska of ‘Cynic’ as the album in its entirety would benefit from a more restrained approach. Such gripes aside, there are moments were these fusions of sounds genuinely work with the detailed layers of ‘Theme From Project X’ to the life unravelling ‘The Seams’ and reflective ‘Miles’ revealing a band with considerable experience. Unfortunately, such good work is quickly undone due to the aforementioned lapses in direction as ‘No Way’ clearly reminds the listener of why this album falls slightly short.


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The New Enlightenment

Rayne

Untitled

First impressions can be deceiving. Having been enamoured earlier with the 80s guitar sounds reminiscent of (whisper it folks) The Flock of Seagulls sounding ‘Fallen’ single, surprisingly a hidden track, Rayne’s ‘The New Enlightenment’ is the sound of a band aiming for the stars only to be undermined by a general sloppiness that becomes irksome after a while. If one looks close enough between the covers, then the cracks begin to reveal themselves, whether musically or lyrically, because there are some killer songs among the ruins that are simply crying out for a surge of power to truly launch them into the next stratosphere. This is largely due to being hampered by a substandard production throughout, and occasional wannabe guitars wishing that they were rooming with Iron Maiden when sounding more like a diluted Muse. Redemption can be found, however, with the anthemic ‘Hide Away’ and sweetly addictive ‘The Ground Floor’ or when the band attempt subtlety with standout ‘My Final Plea’ and running it a close second ‘Lost and Confused’. If Rayne is to truly suggest they’re offering a new enlightenment, then mining these latter songs further could be their saving grace.


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Paramore

Paramore

Warner Music Norway

Feeling a little weary at the prospect of reviewing a Paramore album due to a deluge of similar sounding bands spilling forth out of the states, their fourth album to date is nothing but a welcome relief judging by initial impressions. After agreeing to continue as a three piece due to various reasons and without doubt hinted at in the slightly quirky ‘Moving On’ with its ‘Well I could be angry but you’re not worth the fight’, this Nashville-based band has produced a string of hook-laden tracks that compel from the off. It is the – and dare I say it – maturity in the songwriting which really comes to the fore here, and in the process creating a succession of standout songs such as the climax building ‘Daydreaming’; aptly titled and lovely pop feel of ‘Grow Up’; ‘Ain’t It Fun’ with its choir interlude to more familiar territory with ‘Part II’. On this current form, Paramore is the perfect example of a band, if given enough time, steadily working towards their creative peak. Bearing this in mind, album number five promises to be something special.


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Wait For Dark With A Heady Heart EP

Gymnast

Untitled

It’s difficult to comprehend that ‘Wait For Dark With A Heady Heart’ is the first release by Cathy Wilcock and Chris Lyon otherwise known as Gymnast such is the accomplished songwriting throughout this EP. Simply divine in its execution with its minimalist approach of electronic beats, classical instrumentation and beautiful vocals, ‘Wait For Dark…’ is the kind of music built for late nights with only a broken heart for company. There is hope, however, demonstrated by ‘The Flood or the Fire’ as a reassuring vocal steps out of the shadows to offer ‘We’ll get over this, get a hold on it, we’ll get out of the fire’. One hopes that miracles really can happen as the return of Gymnast is now of the highest priority.


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Eventually Your House Will Burn Down EP

Bloody Mammals

Flatpack Recordings and 49s Vs Dolphins

Opening in a bloodcurdling assault of vocals underscored with a sonic groove, Bloody Mammals is that sort of post-hardcore band that doesn’t make you want to reach for the off button because they actually incorporate various elements into their music that suggests scope for longevity. The ghost of Fugazi certainly makes its presence felt especially with the excellent ‘Tie Down Team’ and the gear shifting ‘Long Song’ that gradually creeps towards its conclusion in a mesh of drums and guitars. With the EP’s lyrics purporting to a cursed neighbourhood relayed through a number of different perspectives, it is not only the wild and aggressive yet melodic strands running through these songs that captivate but the imaginative yarns that lift Bloody Mammals above the pack.


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I Do Nothing But Regret The Fact That I Left (EP)

Disembarked

Dog Knights Productions

In their short history to date, forming as early as 2012, Swedish post-hardcore unit, Disembarked has created an extremely impressive EP full of gut churning emotions which come as a result of the soul-destroying revelations at the core of this work. With the literal definition of abscond meaning ‘to depart in a sudden and secret manner’ it is small wonder that Pontus Figge Carlsson sounds like a man teetering on the verge of losing the power of speech such is the frantic and despairing nature of his pleas literally straining at the leash before being driven back to the very point he started from during ‘Abscond’. This is raw honesty of the highest order as ‘Bewildered’ seems to squeeze out its literal meaning in utterly compelling fashion. Guitars ring out loud in abundance, yet offer sweet melodic support on several occasions bringing to mind Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. If future releases continue in similar fashion, then Disembarked is one to look out for as on present form the band is definitely an intriguing prospect.



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