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Acoustic

Simple Minds

Caroline International

A surprising addition to the Simple Minds catalogue considering their early electronic roots have been making waves during the past few years, but acoustic it is with pared back versions of a number of their hit records as well as a couple of lesser known songs. With lead singer Jim Kerr declaring that “…we wanted to create a Simple Minds party album, not a traditional, introspective acoustic album – more something that people will play during goods times,” such a description rings true when hearing the still uplifting ‘Alive and Kicking’ that retains its sparkle via fresh sounding instrumentation and joint vocals from Sara Brown. With earlier material such as the excellent reworking of ‘The American’ and softer version of ‘Glittering Prize’ really impressing, there are one or two songs that fall short here; most notably ‘Promised You A Miracle’ even with the talented KT Tunstall joining ranks, this particular rendition sounds jumbled in its execution despite its brave attempts to make this version sound like a completely new song. There’s a darker shade to ‘See The Lights’ with Charlie Burchill’s guitar adding subtle touches throughout and really improving on the original. By finishing with a cover of Richard Hawley’s ‘Long Black Train’, Simple Minds continue their recent tradition of adding new touches to other musician’s songs, but also reveal an impeccable taste when it comes to their own record collections. Not to be viewed as a replacement for older versions of their hit songs, ‘Acoustic’ is, for the majority of its contents, a pleasing ride that will appeal to older fans as well as opening the door to new followers.


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Not Knowing (Single)

Matchstick Men

Holier Than Thou Records

Gearing up for a brand new album release is Merseyside quartet Matchstickmen. With new single ‘Not Knowing’ being the first introduction to the forthcoming album release, it’s certainly a strong indication of the quality that fans of the band can expect at some point next year. Beginning with lead vocalist Lewis Wright’s crooning vocal and the acoustic strum of Iain Forsyth’s guitar, ‘Not Knowing’ builds slowly before the rest of the band, consisting of Peter Donnelly (guitar) and Dave Hornby (drums), wade in and really add muscle to the personal tale that is steadily unfurling. While “It’s better not knowing” may suit some when a relationship begins to turn sour, the same cannot be said of Matchstickmen’s latest effort as it is a song that is worth getting to know on a very close level.


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Beefhart High School Dropout

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

Transmitting their creative thoughts from the distant heights of Jupiter, the Harvey Steel show continue doing what they do best, and that’s following their own musical journey judging by the contents of latest EP ‘Beefheart High School Dropout’. Long may this continue because the fluidity of the creative processes of the Harvey Steel show continues to weave and work its magic, only this time around the band sound more a resident of planet Earth than the aforementioned distant neighbour. It’s the opening track that gives way to such a feeling with a surprising introduction via an instrumental that sounds as if it’s coming from a lonely bedsit while it works out its destination via Thomas Bergsten’s solitary guitar, and before the rest of the band decide to join in and add their input. Track two, ‘Hunting Shadows’, sees a gradual increase in temperature and sound where guitars, organ, drums and vocals fade in and out as well as crossing paths across a scorched earth, before building to an immense crescendo that is equally The Doors as it is Captain Beefheart. It’s a song that will go down as one of the band’s highlights, not to mention in a live setting, when the history books are written. Ending on another highpoint is ‘Running From The Law’, which is a thing of genuine beauty considering its association with the subject of murder, where instruments sound delicate and fragile and create genuine awe in the manner that Explosions In the Sky has made their own. No guns, No hatred, No war, only love for the Harvey Steel show. RESPECT!


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False Flag (Single)

Terrible Love

Big Scary Monsters

After releasing their debut EP ‘Change Nothing’ back in January this year, Terrible Love has been hard at it drumming up a new record that was added as part of a recent tour with fellow contemporaries The Fall of Troy and Tiny Moving Parts. The track itself falls under the name ‘False Flag’ and was recorded at The Ranch with Lewis Johns during the summer. With lyrics pertaining to the recent EU referendum and overall disillusionment with the final result , ‘False Flag’ is a fully charged assault of guitars that are equally raw as they are melodic and accompanied by gutsy vocals that came together during writing sessions for the follow-up to ‘Change Nothing’. With the single being issued as a limited edition flexi disc, time is of the essence if you want to follow a good cause and get your hands on this ‘False Flag’.


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123456 EP

The Tigerlilies

Working Brilliantly

With artwork more suited to London’s Tate Modern gallery than a post-punk album, the music served up by longstanding four-piece The Tigerlilies has found a welcome home here at Famous Last Words. By piecing together a six-track EP, the decision to trim the edges and rein in the record’s playing time was a wise choice by The Tigerlilies as the condensed playlist creates a more immediate impact, therefore leaving the songs to reside fresh in the memory bank. Such song writing is largely down to the band’s knack of creating a post-punk sound that is full of melody but one that has coarse edges that suggests a definite linkage to 90s-era grunge, which has not gone unnoticed from other musicians ranging from Violent Femmes, Joan Jett, Paul Weller, Guided By Voices and Superchunk. Opener ‘Easy As It Seems’ has a sense of familiarity about it with an 80’s post-punk sound giving the impression that one has visited this place before (A positive chaps!) despite being The Tigerlilies own composition. The song itself races along on a tight rhythm with vocalist Pat Hennessy stripping his emotions bare and it’s a fine start. Links to the past continue with the mellow sounding tribute to David Bowie entitled ‘Bowie’, and then followed by ‘Green Eyes’ that has a touch of Blondie considering its edgy and melodic rhythm. ‘Darlin’ opens with a honey-dripping guitar line and tender vocal that radiates warmth in the direction of its nearest and dearest. It’s a love song, pure and simple, and it works wonders. There is nothing to fear here, least of all the No. 7, as The Tigerlilies ‘123456’ requires a fast reeling action to bring it into your life and as close to your heart as humanly possible because you will not be disappointed.


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Lamp Light The Fire: A Compilation of Quiet(ER) Songs

Various Artists

Engineer Records

A must-have compilation of carefully selected ‘quiet(ER)’ songs from the roster at Engineer Records. With a track list of eighteen songs, there is much for any listener to take in, which is not difficult when you have the likes of Chuck Ragan, Mikee J Reds, The Satellite Year and The Lion and the Wolf coming up with alternative versions of previously issued songs. Such sterling efforts can be identified via Elemae’s ‘Slow’, through to Mikee J Reds almost chipper melody trying its hardest to part the storm clouds considering the frankness of the lyrics “I don’t want to hear your voice anymore”. If such close confessionary tales happens to be your ticket in order to deal with life’s disappointments, then Ryan Mills melodic and robust ‘Asleep Forever’ could just be the ticket, or failing that the fragile rhythm of ‘AWOL’ by Her Only Presence. Having tried on several occasions to avoid using the term ’emo’ due to the various comical elements such a label conjures up, for those in the know when it comes to such emotional matters, then this collection of songs of a more acoustic nature makes for essential listening because there is a rich seam of talent from start to finish when it comes to ‘Lamp Light The Fire’.


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Every Little Step

Dylan Mondegreen

Skipop

The name Dylan Mondegreen will be familiar to those who remember his album ‘While I Walk You Home’ (2007) that was full of melodic soulful pop, and brought comparisons with Josh Rouse and Prefab Sprout. In 2016, Dylan Mondegreen is ready with a brand new album by the name of ‘Every Little Step’. This latest creative excursion is Mondegreen’s fourth long player, and marks a change in tactics when it came to recording as he decided to record the album in a short timeframe with as little help from any studio technology. The end result was ten songs recorded live at Rune Berg’s studio outside of Oslo with additional accompaniment via Olaf Olsen (drums), Bjørn Holm (bass) and further contributions via Maria Due and Geir Sundstøl. By adopting a more simplistic approach to the recording methods of ‘Every Little Step’, Mondegreen has described it as his “punk album”. The change in working methods also sees the inclusion of two songs performed in his local dialect as a means to answer any curiosities Mondegreen was feeling at the time with ‘Mens I Føl De Hæm’ and ‘Slepp Taket’. With the rest of the album being open to a wider audience, Mondegreen sets out his personal insights to a largely indie pop acoustic beat that reflects coming-of-age tales (‘For The Innocent And Young’) and the precarious nature of life as a musician and attempting to survive the music industry (‘Nothing Lasts Forever’). It remains, however, the breezy acoustic simplicity of the song ‘Every Little Step’ that has hints of Roddy Frame in terms of its delivery, and touches a nerve with its honest lyrics that stands out above the crowd here. The decision to create a “punk album” was a wise one by Dylan Mondegreen because, despite offering a personal insight of his own world, the themes brought to light will resonate with many, and likely see this album being played in years to come.


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Unnoticed Moments

Phi Bui

Eilean Records

A new album from composer, beat maker and producer Phi Bui makes its way on to the Eilean roster by the name of ‘Unnoticed Moments’. From his base in San Francisco, CA, Phi Bui has created an intricate web of sounds by capturing numerous pops and clicks that can be heard from everyday living, to the cutting and pasting of snippets of music taken from styles ranging from jazz, hip-hop and classical music for example. The results are impressive with, in particular, ‘Helping’ successfully combining a jazz rhythm with cut up beats lifted from a modern sounding era, and one that rubs coarsely against the smoother textures of the aforementioned jazz instrumentation. A demonstration of further influences arrives via the operatic vocals and looped beats of ‘Doubt’, which aptly expresses its title. There are ethereal qualities attached to the likes of ‘Birth’ which nags with its constant static interference, to the clearer yet still fragile  ‘A Klee’. There is greater range here in relation to some of Phi Bui’s contemporaries as the oriental twist of ‘Une Femme’ throws a curveball with its broad strokes of sound thrown sharply across its canvass, only to be interrupted by the banging and clashing of metal objects at various intervals. It is in those ‘Unnoticed Moments’ that seemingly much is going on, which is expertly brought to our attention via Phi Bui’s latest creation. Top marks indeed.


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Snakes In Blossom

Angertea

Inverse Records

Returning with a ten-track album, and the fifth in their career to date, is Angertea. The alternative rock and metal band provides an honest account of their emotions with songs focusing on issues concerning depression, helplessness, love and corruption in modern-day society. With a number of the ten tracks featuring a series of guest musicians including Franz Stahl (ex-Foo Fighters, Scream), Robert Jaksa (Ektomorf), Flóra Sarusi-Kis, Dióssy Ákos (Kipál És A Borz) and Peter Csontos (The Void), Angertea’s latest album, ‘Snakes In Blossom’, never sounds disjointed considering the extra personnel involved. With the band citing their sound as “experimental grunge metal with unique features” and being an apt description when listening to the Alice in Chains meets Soundgarden ‘Snakes’, and then, ‘Sinking In Strain’, which has hints of Tool for example. The changing nature of the music does not end there as ‘Aquarium’ slows the tempo with its softer approach of folk and alt-rock that works to great effect with the vocals of guest singer Flóra Sarusi-Kis complementing the normal vocal duties of Angertea’s Gergő. It’s a fine song, and one that greatly stands out here. Normal service is resumed with the experimental grunge and lengthy ‘Orange Machine’. The band know, however, when balance is required and they certainly address this with the lighter soundwaves of ‘The Moon Encounter’, before ending in a crescendo of noise via the closing ‘Tisza’. ‘Snakes In Blossom’ is a clear reminder of the talented musicianship of this Hungarian trio, who manage to further their own ideas with a little help from their friends via their latest collection of songs.


Released 15 April

 

Strays

Womack

Secret Entertainment

Located in Forssa, Finland, you will find a four-piece band by the name of Womack. Rather than this being a new project, Womack has been in existence since 2010, with one EP, ‘Year Of The Dog’ (2011), and album, ‘Prehab’ (2014), to their name. This, however, is about to change with the release of a brand new long player ‘Strays’, which arrives after a line-up change that saw drummer Jasak Leino depart as well as a change in musical direction for the time being at least. The inspiration for this newfound direction of a pared back sound came from the band’s live performances where they received a flood of positive responses from their fans. Such encouragement led to Womack incorporating this acoustic sound in their latest record ‘Strays’, and the results are impressive. From the gradual climb of opening song ‘Ain’t No Thing’ where Henrik Haarlo’s vocal really captures the moody atmosphere of the song rather well, to the fuller sound of ‘Stumble On’ which is emphasised by use of Hammond organ more or less throughout. ‘Snakebites’ shows off Womack’s knack for song writing with clever lyrics reflecting various guises of betrayal during this mid-tempo number. There is a definite live feel to ‘Home Brew’ as it sounds raw in its execution both musically and emotionally, before giving way to the far greater band involvement of album highlights ‘Light Up The Stage’ and ‘Flight To The Sun’. It appears that Womack’s supporters were definitely on to something when giving their full support to a largely acoustic album as ‘Strays’ is full of detail and never loses its edge due to the enthusiasm and energy of its band members.


Released 11 March

 

Horse Jumper of Love

Horse Jumper of Love'

Disposable America / Gawk Records

Horse Jumper of Love is a trio hailing from Boston, USA, who’ve just delivered a debut album of the same name, and one that is described in their own words as “slow rock” where guitars are set to shoegaze and the song lyrics are intimate and honest. With the band being in their teens and early twenties, there is a sense of experience both in terms of their appearances and most certainly in terms of their sound, where the latter category you can hear references to 90s indie bands such as Duster, Moose and Silver Jews. That’s not to say that Horse Jumper of Love is in any way antiquated, but one that contains a wiser head and used to great effect here. There is a deep-seated emotional sadness and frustration attached to this long player that drips from the pores found in their own personal history, and one that is associated with opening track, ‘Ugly Brunette’, where the sound really gives the impression of aching from the inside out via the hazy and fuzzy guitars and Dimitri Giannopoulos mumbled vocal. The intriguingly named ‘Bagel Breath’ rhythmically stumbles along, highlighting the low self-esteem of the song’s narrative, before taking a more melodic and structured turn via the compelling ‘Spaceman’. With the contents of this album often retaining a minimalist approach where less is certainly more, Horse Jumper of Love adheres to the ethics of the DIY underground scene where they have built their reputation to date. But it’s in the lonely isolation of such numbers as ‘DIRT’ where you will find the heart and soul of this band, and it is one you may never recover from such is the close-to-the-bone honesty expressed here. Truly a band to savour, Horse Jumper of Love will break a million hearts.


Released 1 April

 

First Blood

The Muddies

Secret Entertainment

First hearing of The Muddies debut album ‘First Blood’, the feelings were of a band who certainly like to have fun, and no how to achieve such an objective. Stemming from Vaajakoski in Finland, The Muddies is a rock band with a high level of energy, and one that possesses influences from a variety of classic rock bands such as AC/DC, Motörhead, Dr. Feelgood, The Hives and, as far as the humour goes, Aerosmith. The first signs of this merriment can be found in the song titles with examples such as ‘Cougar Hunter’, ‘Wacko Wacko’ and ‘Don’t Touch Your..’ certainly failing to adhere to any form of political correctness found in the current era. This is largely down to The Muddies ideals residing in a 70s – 80s time capsule, where certain points of view were part of the furniture when it came to the genre of rock music. Times have changed, however. Despite any misgivings here, the band’s noise is far from stuck in a bygone era because The Muddies ramp up their sound to give it a fresh feel. Part of the excitement surrounding The Muddies goes back to the previously mentioned energy at the centre of this rock quartet, which is captured expertly by the rockin’ guitars and Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ backing vocals during the aforementioned ‘Cougar Hunter’, which can be interpreted a couple of ways if you think about it. Much later, there is the riveting ‘Shaken Not Stirred’ that will peel back your eardrums, to the in-your-face attitude and highly addictive beat of ‘I Want Something’. The key to all of this however, lies with the excellent ‘River’ where the guitars excel once more, and the band dig deeper in terms of the lyrics. On the evidence of this first album, The Muddies is a band here to stay, and ‘First Blood’ is just the start.



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