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Wet Side Stories

Jaguar & The Savanas

El Toro

El Toro Records is really turning up the heat with latest release from Jaguar & The Savanas with its occasionally wild, but more often controlled ride of surf-inspired instrumentals. Coming equipped with the self-proclamation of ‘Dedicated to all obscure surf bands like us’, Jaguar & The Savanas is probably under the illusion that their music is restricted to a limited audience, which may have been the case prior to the official launch of ‘Wet Side Stories’, but no doubt the tide has turned in their favour with the eight tracks complied here because there is simply no resistance against the infectious rhythms on offer. By creating a certain amount of mystery regarding the band – the comic book imagery for starters, as well as adopting the title of a popular musical and renaming it with a suggestive and insalubrious substitute – is the stuff rock ‘n’ roll was designed for, and something Jaguar & The Savanas certainly make the most of during their brief stay via ‘Wet Side Stories’. The impact of ‘The Ride of May Gray’ is immediate with its tough and gritty rhythm coming by way of some Dick Dale inspired surf guitar, which happens to follow suit with the equally engrossing ‘Castaway’. There is a measured tempo to ‘After The Ray Storm’, appropriately setting the mood for this song as there appears to be a genuine amount of contemplation occurring before finding its answer via the strolling beat of ‘Gator Rescue’. Such variations in style and pace is the key to Jaguar & The Savanas longevity because as it stands, ‘Wet Side Stories’ is a wonderfully  executed series of instrumentals that fit their billing accurately by maintaining a sense of ambiguity and level of excitement that never outstay their welcome.


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The Old Bridge

Bluegrass Stuff

El Toro

Not just a staple of the American musical diet these days as bluegrass, and all of its associated traditions, appears to be increasing in popularity in various other countries. When it comes to Bluegrass Stuff, Italy is the location for the traditional bluegrass music making up their album, ‘The Old Bridge’.  Any suggestions of an unpremeditated meeting of the minds before laying down the tracks leading to the band’s album are likely to be unfounded considering the level of detail given to this long player, but that doesn’t stop ‘The Old Bridge’ from sounding as if it was freshly baked in the last hour or so, such is the general feeling of spontaneity generated here. Recorded and mixed by Bluegrass Stuff’s very own Massimo Gatti (mandolin/vocals) ‘The Old Bridge’ gets into its stride from the off with a succession of up-tempo numbers comprising of fiddle, banjo, upright bass, mandolin and acoustic guitar. Despite the lively introduction to ‘The Old Bridge’, the mood is somewhat downbeat with unrequited love surfacing on a few occasions with ‘Hurt And Feeling Sad’, ‘Leavin’ Me Behind’ and, in particular, the deep frustrations expressed during ‘Send Me Your Address From Heaven’  being the pick of a very good crop. With a considerable amount of the songs self-penned by band members Ruben Minuto, Matteo Ringressi and the previously mentioned Massimo Gatti and then balanced with a selection of standards, ‘The Old Bridge’ is really worth paying a visit and setting aside some time because you will not be disappointed with such pickin’ delights as ‘Once In A While’ or the yodelling vocalisations of ‘My Swiss Mountain Lullaby’ to realise that you’re in the company of some genuinely wonderful talent.


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Losing All My Friends (EP)

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Not to be dissuaded by the Metal connotations immediately implied by their moniker, Monster Jaw is, in fact, a far closer associate to the grunge sounds coming out of Seattle during the 90s, and even closer to home psychedelic rock of the same time period. Having impressed greatly with their first effort ‘Get A Tattoo’, Monster Jaw decided to team up with Belgian producer Wes Maebe (The Libertines, Paul Rogers, Roger Waters and Robert Plant) once again for their current EP. The end results see Monster Jaw progress quite considerably with a tighter edge to their overall compositions and with any excesses well and truly trimmed. Such an example can be ascertained from opener ‘Losing All Friends (Radio Edit)’ with its lively yet slightly fuzzy-edged guitars setting the pace, and built around a catchy chorus bemoaning the gradual departure of one’s comrades at the expense of a close relationship. Running adjacent to this, in terms of the quality stakes, with its direct rhythm and smatterings of psychedelic indie rock inducing a compelling high via its chorus, is the quite magnificent ‘Low’. Thankfully, the pleasure ride is not ready to cease just yet as the double helping of Jesus & Mary Chain, who happened to inspire the sounds of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, can be heard with ‘Lidocaine’ and intriguing ‘Do It Gay, Do It Straight’. ‘Losing All My Friends’ EP is the sound of a band edging ever closer to a creative understanding that was outlined in the blueprints when the trio of Mik Davis, John Bradford and Neil Short decided to pursue this venture. If Monster Jaw maintain their current trajectory, then their debut album will be one not to miss out on.


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Still Undead

The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters

Inverse Records

Harking back to a 70s era when rock music was truly free, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters revive such memories via their debut album release ‘Still Undead’. First indication of such linkages to music’s past is the manner in which ‘Still Undead’ was recorded, by using methods including portable studios often in various locations out on the road when touring. More obvious signs, however, exist in the band’s actual sound consisting of mild, loose rock and rounded off with some mystical song titles that leave one thinking of numerous bands from that particular era. With the location of Finland housing the songs making up ‘Still Undead’, it’s America which provides the inspiration as The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters create a number of songs full of catchy choruses or, alternatively, more drawn out tracks such as the ‘K-Town River Banks’ with its keyboard and guitar riffs towing this along admirably. Lead vocalist and founder, Markku Pihlaja, provides a slightly gruff edge to the songs and remains relatively calm throughout, without ever resorting to any form of histrionics in order to get the messages across. Such examples can be found with the social conscience that is ‘Cry For The Ocean’ where both band and singer go about their business in an unfussy manner yet the song still manages to seep under one’s skin with seemingly very little effort at all. This is one of the aspects that make ‘Still Undead’ an appealing album because the majority of its contents will catch you unaware due to a certain amount of subtleties that gradually reveal themselves. For example, the natural aspects of the vocal and engaging chorus of ‘Soulseeker’ or the travelling notion via its rhythm given to ‘Giants’, which bides its time before hitting its soaring chorus, are two such examples. Given time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters can certainly carve out a name for themselves beyond their native Finland by transmitting ‘Still Undead’ to an America audience where it should find a welcoming home considering its affiliations with American 70’s rock.


Released 11 February

 

Den Morronen

Thåström

Sony Music Norway

Regarded as one of Sweden’s most important artists, Thåström is primed with new album ‘Den Morronen’. Following on from his last excursion, that was the rather successful ‘Beväpna Dig Med Vingar’, this latest release follows in similar footsteps with a considerable amount of reflective and darkened tales set to an electronic musical backdrop. Made up of nine tracks, ‘Den Morronen’ was produced in a combined effort by Thåström, Niklas Hellberg and Ulf Ivarsson, with fellow musicians Pelle Ossler, Conny Nimmersjö and Anders Hernestam coming on board to help realise the album’s contents, which were recorded in the locations of Berlin, Stockholm and Karlstad, it soon becomes clear that much effort has gone into this latest album. Kicking things off with the dour beat of ‘Gräsfläckar’ and proceeding along the same lines with the album’s title track, Thåström illuminates such dark tales with his poetic way with words, that are often expressed in a croaked manner and has an ability to sound world-weary without necessarily meaning so. It’s the attention to detail of these tales, however, that compels best of all, with the rattling of everyday life – surface noise as a certain Mr Peel referred to – in the background of the passionate ‘Ner Mot Terminanlen’; funeral march feel to ‘Kom Med Mig’ and the unfolding drama of ‘Alltid Va På Väg’ that will see the name Thåström continue to be highly regarded in his homeland but, hopefully, elsewhere as well because ‘Den Morronen’ is deserving of a much broader audience.


Released Out now

 

Keep Forever (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Biding her time and taking the old-fashioned route to possible future glories is Norwegian singer-songwriter Frøder. The less is more paradigm certainly works here as Frøder is steadily building her way to recognition in her own country by a succession of single releases with ‘Keep Forever’ being the latest addition. By adopting this patient approach seems to be working as the Bergen-based artist has received substantial airplay for previous singles – ‘Speed of Sound’ and ‘Over The Sea’ – and recently Spotify selected Frøder as a name to watch in 2015 via their ‘Spotlight Artists’ category. The patient approach and gradual progression in terms of her work can definitely be heard in latest single ‘Keep Forever’, as it is by far Frøder’s most memorable effort for its effective use of keys that joyously tingle under the skin and then hold back to allow the vocal to express itself. If Frøder continues such an approach to her song writing, then the full-length album should be something truly worth waiting for when that time duly arrives.


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True Love Highway

The Shadowmen

Rhythm Bomb

From the high-altitude city of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes a rockabilly sound by way of The Shadowmen. Composed of sixteen tracks, ‘True Love Highway’ possesses a great deal of talent and one that is not shy when it comes to letting the creative strings fly. Such evidence can be gleaned from the real zip and zest of ‘Revenoor Man’ with its interesting choice of subject matter referring to the prohibition of a certain substance brewed locally. Elsewhere, The Shadowmen turn in genuine slices of 50s rockabilly with such examples as the magnificent ‘Ain’t That A Dilly’ and equally convincing ‘Oh Sally’. There is great guitar work punctuating throughout this album whether spiralling down the scales during the introduction of ‘Sleep Rock – A –Roll Rock – A – Baby’ or dominating the tempo of laidback, ‘True Love Highway’. This, however, is but one component which makes ‘True Love Highway’ the album it is, whereby this five piece manage to make things sound simple when, in fact, there are many subtle layers lurking beneath the surface and where their true craft lies. A clever album and one that will have you glued to its contents from the off, The Shadowmen has provided a suitable ally to accompany the trip along ‘True Love Highway’.


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Ringer I Vatn

Kjell Reianes

CMM Music

Despite earning a living as an architect, the name Kjell Reianes is associated with music in his native Norway due to a long-held ambition to break into an otherwise competitive market. The breakthrough arrived in 2011, at the ripe old age of sixty-one, with the appropriately titled ‘Aldri For Seint’ (‘Never Too Late’). Significant to this breakthrough was the start of a working relationship with Kaizers Orchestra’s Janove Ottesen, who was responsible for arranging and producing Reianes’ debut offering. Sixty solo gigs later, and various collaborations with numerous artists, Kjell Reianes made the transition from tinkering away with his musical compositions in his spare time, to a full-time commitment, which has resulted in a second album, ‘Ringer I Vatn’. The aforementioned working partnership with Janove Ottesen was reignited for this second outing, with Ottesen taking up production duties once more, in addition to a select few musicians – Ola Kvernberg, Mads Falck Berven, Jarle Vespestad and Eirik Are Oanes Anderssen – being added to the ranks in order to fully realise the ideas behind ‘Ringer I Vatn’. First impressions is that such qualified experience really lends itself to Kjell Reianes latest release, with opening number ‘Lukk Opp Ditt Øye’ sounding as if it was recorded in one take, where instruments are still in the process of warming up before eventually proceeding ahead. There is a pared-back sound to the majority of this latest work, with mainly acoustic instrumentation providing the rhythms to Reianes reflective lyrics where songs such as ‘Bare Ein Gang Te’ and ‘Evig Din’ would not be out of place on a busy side street populated with cafés  somewhere in Paris. Keys are added to the duo of ‘Virvelvind’ and ‘Bossanova’,   which gives the former song a slightly quirky feel whereas the latter is light and breezy. Reianes engaging dialect really captures the sentiment at the heart of ‘Du E Min Eine’ to great effect, and is but one reason why the breakthrough eventually had to happen for this wonderful talent.


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I See You (single)

Frøkedal

Propeller Recordings

Not one to rest easy on her laurels, Anne Lise Frøkedal makes a welcome return, but this time in the role of a solo artist rather than her customary duties with Harrys Gym and I Was A King. By trimming her moniker to the more manageable Frøkedal, the decision to embark on this current project alone, seems to work dividends as it throws up another dimension to her song writing where only the use of acoustic instrumentation is used for first single, ‘I See You’. By opting for such a route musically, there is a notable difference in sound where a strong folk presence is audible as the song rolls out its rhythm in unison with a compelling vocal that doesn’t have to try too hard to weave its magic such is its natural appeal. If the same qualities can be transferred to the forthcoming long player, then Frøkedal has another serious project to pursue long term, and one to rival the other two major creative pursuits in her life.


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The Drive To Taxonomy

Craig Ward & Radboud Mens

Jezus Factory Records

Freedom over expression is definitely the way forward and something Jezus Factory continue to provide with the latest project from Craig Ward & Radboud Mens’ ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’. Seemingly unable to switch off the creative thoughts accumulating in his mind, Craig Ward, who is known for his work with a diverse bunch of musical outfits including dEUS, Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen and, more recently, a collaboration with Mark Mulholland, wheels out his latest release on a previously thought extinct format (i.e. cassette) as a limited edition, and with no real press release other than a discussion involving what constitutes as a ‘real’ record label these days. Driven by practicalities regarding the decision involving a cassette release, as well as moving away from the standard CD format for this particular occasion, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ consists of two sides of experimental, ambient, electronic music.  The pulse is barely audible once the first side of ‘Parts 1, 2 & 3’ gets underway, with shards of light becoming visible gradually, and then made more prominent by bouts of droning and stabs of electronica that eventually breaks off into smaller pockets of sounds that bleep and whirr incessantly before finding their way to the surface. Side two is a coarser terrain, with electronic sounds jarring and fizzing, but most notable is the fullness given to the overall sound where segments are plumper in their expressions and the volume is given a boost, yet ever so sparingly. As with most instrumental efforts, individual interpretations will vary greatly such are its qualities to drum up different feelings with each and every listen. Therefore, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ is no different from such interpretations because its qualities are endless due to the many different levels this album inhabits.


Released Out now

 

You’re My Sugar

Fia Sco & The Majestics

Rhythm Bomb

There’s a predominantly western swing flavour to the icing coating the Austrian mountain ranges by way of ‘You’re My Sugar’. The band at the centre of this swinging sound is Fia Sco & The Majestics who seem to have exchanged their Austrian roots for something a bit more American. Such a suggestion becomes even clearer when hearing the added musical ingredients consisting of hillbilly and country, with a definite rockin’ attitude thrown in for good measure. The spark which ignites this album into life, however, is the rolling tongue of Fia Sco’s vocal delivery, which then proceeds to dominate opening ditty ‘Ice Water’ and continues in similar style throughout the rest of this album. There’s no doubting Sco’s presence here as she comes across as a charismatic front figure by breathing life into the songs, with her vocal providing a throwback to another era. All of this talent would not be possible without experienced hands, which comes by way of The Majestics with titles to rival their magnetic songstress and therefore deserving of a mention, so step forth Colonel Rib Kirby (lead/rhythm guitar), Don De Vil (double bass), Big Honzo (steel guitar) and Ray Hammer (drums). With such a force in place, Fia Sco & The Majestics simply can’t fail which is evident from the tight rhythm and quick vocal delivery of ‘Dynamite’ and choo-choo boogie of ‘She’s Gone, Gone, Gone’. With ‘You’re My Sugar’ being a covers fest, pick of the bunch has to be the Howard Stamford and Danny Mitchum composed ‘Hey, Mr. Cotton Picker’ and (at last!) clever spin on Jerry Reed’s excellent ‘Mr Whizz’ to a feminist friendly renamed, ‘Misses Whiz’. Once the locals of their native Austria catch wind of these western flavoured numbers, the icecaps are likely to melt such is the heat stemming from ‘You’re My Sugar’ and, more notably, the talent at the heart of this record.


Released Out now

 

Goin’ Old School

The Rob Ryan Roadshow

Rhythm Bomb

Fourth album in for Rob Ryan and his Roadshow that shows no signs of letting up, such is the heady mix of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, hillbilly and country sounds which explains the majority of this latest album’s contents, but it should also be noted that there are one or two deviations from this formula. The first indication that other influences are at work here can be heard from the album’s introduction ‘Stay In Bed’, as it snuggles up close to a rhythm and blues sound with Rob Ryan’s vocal sounding light and soulful. The next surprise comes in the form of a cover song, and one that is not selected from the customary vault of 1950’s goodness because this one is taken from a more recent decade with The Eurhythmics ‘Missionary Man’. Despite not being a fan of the original composition, the translation of this Eurythmics hit is a far grittier version, complete with impassioned vocal and side support coming by way of harmonica that manages to receive the unanimous thumbs up. The ‘Goin’ Old School’ of its title really makes itself known with the mid-tempo country ‘Long Gone Day’, then applying its foot on the gas for the rockabilly infused ‘Catwalk Baby’ with Rob Ryan’s vocal impressing throughout. There is time for reflection once ‘When I Found You’ makes its entrance, with its nimble rhythm implying the joy felt as this is one song with a happy ending after years in the doldrums. Further jovialities ensue once the Jerry Lee Lewis inspired wildness of ‘Monkey Beat City’ clambers over the entire contents of this album, letting its presence known via some white-hot rock ‘n’ roll, only to be given a run for its money by way of ‘Not Good Enough’. If only all roadshows were as compelling as the one Rob Ryan is promoting because ‘Goin’ Old School’ is a lesson in how to achieve a finely tuned balance between a choice selection of genres and making it work as a cohesive whole.



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