Album Reviews

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Idiot’s Hill

Basko Believes

Rootsy

Basko Believes, real name Johan Örjansson, is a Swedish singer-songwriter who took it upon himself to tap into his lifesavings and head out to Denton, Texas in order to record latest album ‘Idiot’s Hill’. With musicians willing to offer their services from the likes of The Polyphonic Spree, Israel Nash Gripka and Midlake, Basko Believes has created an album that nestles in the category marked Americana but at the same time allows for other influences consisting of soul, pop and indie guitar rock. Take the epic qualities of the inch perfect ‘The Waiting’; a song that steadily builds and seemingly grabbing an extra instrument along the way to add to the layers of narrative that is full of nostalgia and convincingly told by Basko Believes, who is a mixture of Van Morrison and Ray LaMontagne. There is a great tenderness at the centre of this latest album, but it is one that also draws on various anxieties as depicted by the song ‘Wolves’. While the majority of this album delights in a variety of ways it is the shimmering guitar beauty of ‘Lift Me Up’ and the letter of regret posted to one’s former dwelling rather than the act of physically travelling during ‘Going Home’ with its delicate rhythm of guitars and strings that sets up Basko Believes as a force to be reckoned with.


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Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three

Various Artists

Flame

It might be time for the delinquents gracing the front cover of ‘Desperate ‘Rock N Roll Volume Three’ to feel nothing but shame for their collective misdemeanours, but there is no sense of shame when it comes to the magnificent array of rock ‘n’ roll obscurities and near misses gracing the contents of this latest compilation on the Flame imprint. From the outset, the third instalment in the ‘Desperate R N R’ series reveals a series of winning songs, the equivalent in musical terms to a winning lottery ticket with more than a few bonus balls, that should appease even the harshest of critics. Evidence of such lofty praise is instantaneous with Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ which accelerates at considerable speed on the back of splendid vocals and thrusting guitars that brings together rhythm & blues with more than a hint of garage rock. Such intensity is maintained with Steve Alaimo & the Red Coats’ ‘She’s My Baby’ only it’s more of a deep brooding number with Alaimo’s vocal sinking considerable depths and adding to the song’s forceful appeal. There are a few primitive numbers scattered throughout with Clyde Arnold & the Sharps ‘I’ve Got A Baby’ sounding as if put together on a real shoestring budget and a reminder of the still evolving rock ‘n’ roll genre whereas the Floyd Dakil Combo’s ‘Dance, Franny, Dance’ is more the complete package due to arriving later and clearly to its advantage, as it is a sheer delight with its recognisable mid-60s tone complete with handclaps. The country twang that accompanies Willie .B. and his ‘Bad Mouthin’ slows the tempo but equally remains infectious and a worthy inclusion, as are the two rockabilly numbers from Don Feger who, according to the enclosed booklet, remains something of an enigma due to a dearth of information. If you like frantic rock ‘n’ roll with more than its fair share of obscurities spanning from the 50s to the 60s, then ‘Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three’ is a must have compilation.


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Pocketknife

Mr Little Jeans

Sony Music Norway

Dreaming of a life in the limelight has finally become a reality for the wry smirk of a title that is Mr Little Jeans aka Monica Birkenes. The former drama student managed to combine her time between stints in London and Los Angeles in order to pursue her dream of a full-length album by way of producer Peter Moren (Peter Bjorn and John). The end results for this Norwegian artist is an album full of assured indie pop songs and sounding as if constructed of the barest ingredients consisting primarily of synthesisers and Birkenes ethereal vocal. Take for example the alluring yet glacial sheen of ‘Mercy’ that manages to really get under your skin as well as managing to  maintain a considerable distance, as does the 80s moody electronica of ‘Runaway’. There is a measure of eccentricity from top to bottom of ‘Oh Sailor’ complete with chiming clocks and youth choir that is reminiscent of another 80s trick but unfortunately completely evades the memory bank at the crucial hour. There are moments where ‘Pocketknife’ will require some patience when listening with the late blossoming of blissful noise during ‘Don’t Run’ for example, as well as others that remain somewhat directionless with the plodding ‘Suburbs’ being a prime candidate. Such discrepancies, however, are minimal as ‘Pocketknife’ contains enough intrigue to warrant repeat visits that will be duly rewarded guaranteed.


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MMXIII: A Collection Of Old Songs (EP)

Pretend Happy

Untitled

Barnstaple is home for indie grunge and punk trio Pretend Happy and the likely source responsible for the majority of songs making up current EP ‘MMXIII: A Collection Of Old Songs’, due to reflecting a plethora of emotions that are all too common when it comes to residing in such a sheltered environment. In spite of this, there is a feeling of transition regarding the entire EP, in both title and sound, as the six songs represented here are a collection of the band’s first two EPs, offering something of a mixed bag ranging from the energetic ‘Innocence’ with its insightful observations, “Another fault of mine, I’ve fallen further behind, my innocence still lives inside of me…” to a more ponderous ‘I Remember’ that despite its honesty, especially by way of a couple of expletives, pales in comparison. ‘Stability’ brings order once more with its taut rhythm, and nicely complimented by the crushed emotions of ‘Torture’ only to fall back on old habits with the generic ‘Purity’.  While ‘MMXIII: A Collection Of Old Songs’ possesses one or two shortcomings, there is more than enough material here to suggest a positive outcome regarding future endeavours for Pretend Happy.


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Poison (single)

Barlow Gin & the Hatchetmen

Untitled

Hailing from Bristol in Tennessee, USA, Barlow Gin & the Hatchetmen is an eight piece ensemble with a multitude of instruments at their disposal that includes a knockout blow by way of leading Lady Kat Rush’s magnificent vocals. It is rather fitting that such a wealth of talent should desire a “don’t fence us in” attitude when attempting to apply a label to the music emanating from the Barlow Gin & the Hatchetmen’s stable as there is a real melange of genres including aspects of rhythm and blues, swing, jazz and a fleeting drop of rockabilly that is reflected to a greater degree by the stylish appearance of Kat Rush. With a debut album currently a work in progress, first single ‘Poison’ is a strong concoction of seductive vocals and forceful brass that will have you smitten from the off and giddy with delight once under the intoxicating spell of the central narrative. Whether this is a safe haven only time will tell, but for now Barlow Gin & the Hatchetmen have just created a winning formula as far as first singles go as there is no bitter edge to the ‘Poison’ they are peddling.


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Artificial Natural

The Kokomo Kings

Grime Tone

A culmination of Scandinavian neighbours – Swedish and Danish to be precise – joining forces to carve out the largely blues influenced, with moments of rockabilly, that is ‘Artificial Natural’. Starting in fine fashion is the authentic rockabilly-blues of ‘Wrong Doing Woman’, which picks up a steady pace before letting the apron strings fly with some red-hot guitar that is equally complimented by the interesting spin of the narrative with the central protagonist being female (for a change) and possessing an unhealthy love affair for deviant behaviour. Elsewhere, ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ plays a game of cat and mouse to a lively tempo and drawing more on a straight blues influence. There is humour present with ‘She’s So Skinny (She Can Hide Behind A Fishing Line)’ that is also a reflection of the changing nature of the generational eras that suggests a big difference in terms of the one these Kokomo Kings reside in mentally, and the one they actually find themselves in. Such a theme is taken up once more with the title track ‘Artificial Natural’ that finds the aptly-named Harmonica Sam severely scratching his cranium in a bewildered state due to an increasing trend for cosmetic enhancement. The charm offensive of ‘Charmageddon’ opens the door to rock ‘n’ roll, as it’s a riotous affair of guitars and harmonica with a flair for dark humour, “She’s so evil, she’s banned from hell”. A chance discovery, The Kokomo Kings ‘Artificial Natural’ is a thrilling ride of rockin’ blues with aspects of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, and one that is extremely perceptive of the changing nature of modern society as the band’s wicked sense of humour reveals. There is nothing artificial to report when it comes to The Kokomo Kings.


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Heart’s On Fire (single)

Passengers

Sony Music Norway

Beautiful as it is tender, there are no surprise revelations from Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) and new single ‘Heart’s On Fire’ as it offers a straight confessionary tale of one’s burning desires for another played to an acoustic guitar and various strings. With a new album on the horizon entitled ‘Whispers’, ‘Heart’s On Fire’ is not only a reminder of this man’s talents, but a strong indicator of the indie-folk sounds to come.


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Bookburner (single)

This Sect

Sect Appeal Records / Diger

Accusations of philistine rightly abound and no doubt fuelling new single ‘Bookburner’ from Norway’s This Sect. Being described as ‘post-punk with disco tendencies’, This Sect is the kind of band that deserve to be clutched tightly to one’s chest as they resuscitate memories of a dying breed of bands, often the staple during the 80s despite remaining on the fringes of any music scene and holding a strong social conscience. ‘Bookburner’ fits such a description with its jagged rhythm, 80s sounding guitars and anxious vocals which all suggest nothing but a tantalising prospect when the full-length player is set for release next month. Clearly rubbing against the grain as far as fashion (yawn) is concerned, This Sect is one that is worth taking note of because their relevancy in the present state of things is more vital than ever.


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Floating Blood Of Mine (single)

Sleep Party People

Riot Factory

Denmark’s Sleep Party People return with a new single ahead of a full album release planned for the end of May 2014. ‘Floating Blood Of Mine’ reprises the long overdue return musically of 90s shoegaze, and one of the pioneers of this particular sound The Cocteau Twins, as Brian Batz – the man behind the moniker – dreams up an instantly memorable soundscape full of drifting and soaring guitars complete with a thin veil of vocals that greatly compliments the vapour trails of sound left suspended in the atmosphere long after this song has ceased spinning. With two critically acclaimed albums behind Sleep Party People, the third chapter looks set to continue this trend considering the emotive sounds emanating from ‘Floating Blood Of Mine’.


Released 11 April

 

Gå som det her

Bøgdabråk

Bøgdabråk Records

Returning with a fresh set of country rock ditties from the Norwegian county of south Trøndelag, Bøgdabråk has steadily built up a name for themselves on the live circuit, as well as maintaining their roots with the traditional ‘trønderfest-culture’ that is particularly special to the inhabitants of Trondheim and surrounding areas. With two albums already behind them, Bøgdabråk release album number three ‘Gå som det her’ which consists of eleven tracks delivered in specific dialect from the band’s main region. Central to the creative compositions of this latest album is vocalist Leif Inge Hopstad, who has not only penned all of the songs but contributed production duties as well with producer Tony Waade. The end result is an album with energy in abundance as clearly displayed by the driving opener ‘Han der’ (‘Him There’) and ‘I kveill’ (‘This Evening’); the latter of which packs an addictive chorus and the perfect accompaniment of female backing vocals and fine guitar work that sees Bøgdabråk clearly enjoying themselves. The Bøgdabråk tempo is taken down a notch during the ballad ‘Håp’ (‘Hope’) and exquisite delivery of ‘To på natt’ (‘Two At Night’) that finds Leif Inge Hopstad in superb form vocally. The energetic and catchy guitar thrust of ‘Vinterland’ (‘Winterland’) and equally matching ‘Sånne Kara’ (‘Kind Kara’) are good enough to grace a Tom Petty album, if ever the need arises, because Bøgdabråk have a knack of churning out memorable, hook-laden country rock songs that reside long in the memory bank once ‘Gå som det her’ has ceased playing. Catch the band live on their forthcoming tour in support of this inspiring new release as Bøgdabråk cannot fail to disappoint considering the overall quality of ‘Gå som det her’.


Released Out now

 

Next Plane (single)

Alida

Sony Music Norway

Alida is currently the name causing a stir as far as Norwegian radio is concerned and the reason for increasing levels of interest on certain media playlists, which has seen this songstress from Jæren in Rogaland rocket her way to the top of the pile with this follow up single after the much-admired ‘Feathers’. Clearly, ‘Next Plane’ was built around Alida’s charismatic vocal as it ushers in from the start the rest of the components of the song – comprising of subdued yet atmospheric electronic beats – while remaining deep in reflection as the realisation dawns that a saviour is not emerging anytime soon. The next stop for this rising new talent is a mini-album, which is a tantalising prospect considering the lofty heights ‘Next Plane’ has already set. Watch this space.


Released Out now

 

My Silver Lining (single)

First Aid Kit

Columbia

For those who missed the much-touted album ‘The Lion’s Roar’ from sister duo and Stockholm-based First Aid Kit, then a second helping is in the offing with the imminent release of ‘Stay Gold’. Ahead of this new album release, however, is new single ‘My Silver Lining’ that is blessed with sumptuous strings, heavenly vocals and interesting turns with lyrics purporting to anxieties being “as big as the moon” as the troubles experienced seem to outweigh any hope for a silver lining. An inspired choice as far as first singles go, First Aid Kit look set to continue their previous successes judging by the quality of ‘My Silver Lining’.



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