Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now


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.

Released Out now


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.

Released Out now


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.

Released Out now


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.


Released Out now



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.

Released Out now


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’.

Released Out now


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.

Released Out now


Live In Berlin

Depeche Mode


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.

Released Out now




Morrison Music

Back with a new EP, and his first release since 2013’s ‘Or Maybe Yesterday…’, MOLITOR unveils ‘#lonelypeople_Music’. Consisting of a blend of indie rock with elements of hip-hop, dance and electronic music, MOLITOR continues his experimentation with a variety of genres. Most notable of these forays is the audacious melding of the Dr. Dre beats and indie guitar rock of ‘Bite Down’ that really is big on sound in one instance, and then more quietly reflective elsewhere. There is a sense of self-loathing about this former track; a feeling of looking in the mirror and not liking what you see, which is reflected in the caustic tone of ‘Ca$h’ that ends up butting heads with Trent Reznor by its conclusion. Turning heads further, however, is the addictive rhythm of ‘lonelypeople_Music’ that is described as ‘upbeat disco-rock’, which is an apt description but one that helps to conceal the sombre mood at its centre. Ending with the rather superb ‘Stand For’, that is full of deep contemplation regarding a matter of the heart and played to a measured tempo that eventually builds to a grand finale before all instruments come crashing down. ‘#lonelypeople_Music’ EP is reaching out to a broad range of people with its bold attempts at fusing together various musical genres and lyrics reflecting universal themes concerning relationships and social interactions. It looks like MOLITOR won’t be lonely for too much longer.

Released Out now


Di Første Jul

Tone Damli

Sony Music Norway

There seems to be an unwritten rule when it comes to music, whether in the UK or certain parts of Europe that if one’s chosen career path is of a certain genre, then one has to continue along that chosen path and not digress. Such is the debate currently surrounding Tone Damli’s temporary decision to trade genres from pop music to a more traditional folk sound just in time for the seasonal Christmas rush. The album causing all of the commotion is ‘Di Første Jul’ (‘Your First Christmas’), which happens to be Tone Damli’s first attempt at a Christmas album and one that relies on more traditional songs, as well as lesser known seasonal compositions, personally handpicked by the Norwegian songstress herself. The primary beef with this particular album, from various sections of the Norwegian music press, seems to be the already mentioned trading of genres, whereby a pop artist cannot be taken seriously if attempting anything remotely highbrow as with ‘Di Første Jul’. In addition, there seems to be a few concerns regarding Damli’s decision to bend the rules slightly, by incorporating a specific regional dialect to interpret the songs selected and thereby change some of the texts in order to create a more personal album that is closer to her own heart. While not wishing to enter such a debate – although the first point regarding certain pop celebrities being dismissed when trying their luck at other musical genres riles somewhat – the point to address here is that ‘Di Første Jul’ is actually a good album regardless of past creative endeavours or exchanges of language usage. Getting down to business, ‘Di Første Jul’ is constructed of some fine qualities; namely the delightful vocals of Tone Damli providing the sweetest of touches to the album’s title track and other noteworthy additions as ‘Vi Tenner Våre Lykter’, but also fine musicianship via an assortment of roots instrumentation providing a genuine earthy feel overall, and one that often remains understated. The opening daybreak of ‘Luciasang’, exemplified by its steel strings entrance, is simply glorious, as it then proceeds to go about its business in what sounds like an unfussy manner, when actually there is much detail between its layers with various instruments combining to great effect. The introspective atmosphere given to ‘Snø’ sounds more suited to a rain soaked evening where the car’s wipers are working overtime on the long drive home, but fortunately you’ve got Bruce Springsteen sitting alongside for company. The liner notes for this album release hint at one or two songs containing a less festive tone, but this is part of the appeal of ‘Di Første Jul’ as it’s a Christmas album with a difference as you will hear the odd country twang or the mood can be a tad sombre (‘Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker’). However, all these aspects are to be applauded considering the nature of this album release, and one that is far preferable to hearing Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ for the umpteenth time! With Espen Lind providing quality control behind the production desk, the entire blend of this seasonal effort sits perfectly as it considers a variety of emotions which, quite frankly, reflect the shades of colour and light leading up to this particular season. On the evidence of ‘Di Første Jul’, it would seem that pop stars really can operate within different musical genres.

Released Out now


Sonic Highways

Foo Fighters

Sony Music Norway

By exploring eight American cities in order to see how each local culture over the years helped shape the musical landscape of these specific regions, and then setting to task writing and recording one track in each of these eight cities, certainly makes for an interesting concept. For latest album ‘Sonic Highways’, this exact process was carried out by Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters conducting their research of eight specific cities with a rich musical history behind them, and then coming up with a song that was influenced by, and exclusive to each of these eight regions. In conjunction with this eight-track album, Dave Grohl directed a documentary under the same title for the HBO TV network in order to provide a visual commentary to this whole concept and pay homage to America’s musical past. What transpires, however, as far as the audio output of this whole concept is concerned, is that while anticipating a blues inspired number from Chicago, for example, what the listener gets is just another Foo Fighters album! Despite one or two flickers of variation with the piano intro of ‘What Did I Do? /God As My Witness’ which could have developed into a gospel number, for example, merely develops into familiar alternative rock territory. The frustrating aspect of this entire album is the lack of variation in styles, which this whole project more than promised, as ‘Sonic Highways’ should have been marketed under a separate moniker because concept ideas aside, it’s actually a very fine Foo Fighters album. If you’re looking for classic Foo Fighters’ trademarks with that quiet, soft build up before rupturing an artery finale, then the rather excellent ‘Something From Nothing’ should appeal or the catchy, crunchy pop and alt-rock of ‘Congregation’, ‘Outside’, ‘The Feast And The Famine’ and ‘In The Clear’ should definitely satisfy the appetites of longstanding Foo supporters. By failing to live up to its original billing, ‘Sonic Highways’ is an opportunity missed to come up with an album with a difference due to remaining within its comfort zones. Having said that, ‘Sonic Highways’ is another solid addition to the Foo Fighter’s own history in the making and one that would have been served better as a separate entity away from the filmed documentary.

Released Out now


Mood Chaser

Benjamin Finger

Digitalis Recordings

Arriving on the doorstep under the guise of Audiofinger / Spartacus and therefore tossing another spanner in the works as far as one’s true identity goes, (Frank) Benjamin Finger makes a swift return after the soundscape collage that was ‘The Bet’. Follow up ‘Mood Chasers’ is more of the same, only this time out the instrumental passages of sound stick around a while longer emitting a notably heavier presence of electronic noises that adds a sizable filling. Such observations are noticeable from the off with the initial clunking beats parading ‘Dwarf Palms’ before giving way to a wavering frequency of electronic noises that accumulates additional instrumentation just as quickly as it sheds the very same extras. Where ‘The Bet’ was sometimes waiflike in its expressions, ‘Mood Chaser’ is not afraid to spike its sounds with sterner stuff as indicated by the aggressive buzzing infiltrating ‘Saguaro Cactus’ and the incessant swelling and popping of electronic bleeps throughout ‘Moonlight Coma’. The intriguing title given to ‘Nicotine Weather’ provides an altogether different interpretation musically, as its vision is crystal clear as detailed by its lighter ambient tones. Proving that shrewd song titles are not consigned to one alone, the mischievously named ‘Elfin Geezer’ (quite possibly a reference to its creator) transmits its electronic pulses that ricochet back and forth while receiving bouts of tinkering where you can sense Benjamin Finger probing deep beneath the mechanical workings and fiddling with various wires considering the intermittent beeps and noise distortions. Compared to its predecessor, ‘Mood Chaser’ is an album that is more complete in terms of its overall structure yet remains unpredictable in segments due to its restless nature and need for experimentation, which, more often than not, sounds improvised. Keep chasing those moods of inspiration you ‘Elfin Geezer’ as you remain in a minority of a dying breed of mavericks that the world of music could truly do with more.

Back To Top