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Released 21 February

 

The Scheen

The Scheen

Artistpartner Records

The Scheen’s debut album finally gets to see daylight after last year’s single release ‘I Am I’. Possessing a front figure that is well known for last year’s participation in NRK’s Stjernekamp, now last year’s chip paper, as The Scheen is an altogether different proposition with its roots firmly set in an indie rock sound. Despite having an ace in their pack when it comes to vocal duties in the form of Atle Pettersen, it would be a great disservice to suggest that The Scheen is anything other than a promotional vehicle to aid Pettersen’s progression as The Scheen is a properly assembled outfit comprising of Tobias Ørnes Andersen, Robin Ognedal, Rein Blomquist and Nickolas Main Henriksen who have been together for some considerable time and, in the process, built up a wealth of experience on the live circuit. With such a longstanding relationship between this five-piece band from Skien (Norway), it is little wonder that first album offering ‘The Scheen’ sounds anything other than accomplished. The impressive opening strum of bass and guitars coupled with Atle’s compelling vocal pulls the listener in from the off with lyrics suggesting an off-kilter relationship with the daily grind of everyday living. If that wasn’t enough, then the pounding beat and fitful sounding guitars holding together ‘I Am I’ really excels with its gritty edge and interspersions of electronica. Despite its glum title, ‘Nothing To Win’ opens the door to a pop influence with an irresistible chorus that reeks of next single contender, which could easily be bestowed to its near neighbour with the sweeping melodic indie rock of ‘The Race’. For the moment, current single ‘Run’ is given that honour and is every bit powerful in its delivery as it is anxious with a concluding tempo giving the impression of chasing down endless empty avenues. The Scheen’s qualities lie in their ability to provide a balanced album that is one moment full of intricacies (‘Sleep In Silence’), revealing the band’s hidden depths, and the other more immediate with the uplifting feel of ‘Ghost’ being a prime example. As far as debut albums go, The Scheen just got off to a very good start.


Released Out now

 

Wilt & Rise

Vales

Fist In The Air & 6131 Records

Having formed in Cornwall during 2011 under the name Veils before deciding to make the switch to Vales, this British four piece are set to release their long-awaited album ‘Wilt & Rise’ on Fist In The Air & 6131 Records. Being described as angst-filled screamo and aggressive hardcore, such descriptions are highly appropriate when hearing the frantic vocal and guitars of opening bow ‘Dead Wood’ and equally relentless in its outpourings ‘Scripted’ that really sets ‘Wilt & Rise’ on a choppy course of emotions. For our money though, it’s the fluctuating pulse between the coarse vocals, which are close to bursting, and guitar breaks during the contemplative ‘Open Arms’ that is paired appropriately with the deep breath of ‘Survival’ that takes a tumble for the worse during its climax, that really compels the most. ‘Katrina’ displays another facet to the band with its restrained approach and icy guitar strings that is greeted by the immediate punk edges of ‘Branches’ which once more offers a bout of reflection when grinding out its sound. The wait has been truly worthwhile as ‘Wilt & Rise’ is an honest account of a band battling against a tide of emotions that looks set to continue.


Released Out now

 

Love Is A Trap!

Nelson Carrera

Tessy Records / Rhythm Bomb

Released on Tessy Records via the prolific Rhythm Bomb label in Germany, Nelson Carrera issues a warning that ‘Love Is A Trap’. Largely consisting of original material, Carrera, who grew up in Angola before later settling in Portugal and finding himself in fine company with other likeminded artists such as Carl & the Rhythm All Stars and Ruby Ann, issues this latest album under his own moniker, but not without help from an assortment of supporting musicians. The title song will be a source of contention for many but the song itself is reminiscent of a late-fifties era beginning to sway towards a lighter pop market with the harsher elements of rock ‘n’ roll being toned down. Nothing wrong with that of course, but if you’re looking for something with a bit more bite then the serious guitar of ‘Cold Heart’ and rockin’ rhythm of ‘But She’s Not You’ are but two examples to help soothe those rockin’ hearts. The issue of relationships continues to be a thorn in the side of Carrera with the cover of Hank Williams ‘I’ll Be A Batchelor Till I Die’ before raising a holler with a little Jerry Lee Lewis inspired ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me Now’ that really puts a spark in the system, only to be usurped by an outstanding rendition of Buck Owens ‘Crying Time’ which, for our money, takes home the prize. If love really is nothing but a devious shroud, then, in the hands of Nelson Carrera, it really isn’t so bad after all as the lure of ‘Love Is A Trap’ reveals.


Released Out now

 

The History Of Music: A Mosaic

A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen

Jezus Factory Records

If you want to the know the definition of commercial suicide when the record company execs call for your next offering to be laden with hit material, then ‘The History Of Music: A Mosaic’ is unlikely to do you any favours. Whether the end results were down to a large quantity of pharmaceuticals consumed, coupled with a gifted ability to piece together or perhaps unpick the expansive sound collage throughout, then only A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen possess the answer to any concerns regarding the first query as there are no doubts concerning their musicianship. Difficult when trying to sit and consume this record in one sitting, but brilliant when the intricate details start to reveal themselves, the second full-length album by A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen is a sprawling mass of post-rock and psychedelic experimentation with elements of free-form jazz that, when melded together, gives the impression of musical post-it notes, if there were such a thing, placed in no particular order but somehow this absence of any form of direction functions with apparent ease. For those looking for an accessible point, however, then ‘Floyd Is Warped’ is as good as any with its stone-cold drum pattern, buzzing guitar that later becomes more animated, before heading into flashes of white noise and suitably followed by the complexities inside of  ‘Yellow’ that shows off the band’s expertise, especially when guiding interludes of awe-inspiring feedback.  ‘The History Of Music: A Mosaic’ is definitely not a record for everyone, but it is one that is welcome for its persistence in testing boundaries and general lack of conformity to any given rules, which is fast becoming a scarce commodity in the current state of things.


Released Out now

 

‘Scream & Bop’ (single)

The Doel Brothers

El Toro

In honour of their festival appearances this year, The Doel Brothers have conjured up a 45 vinyl single consisting of ‘Scream & Bop / I Left My Wife In Vegas’. Such was the impact of the former song, that El Toro Record’s head honcho, Carlos Diaz, bestowed the honour of official song for this year’s Screamin’ Festival held in Spain; meaning that ‘Scream & Bop’ is likely to be remembered for years to come such is the status of this legendary music festival. Promotional tools aside, ‘Scream & Bop’ stands on its own feet with its jittery rhythm, fine guitar break and delightfully raspy vocal curl, “Doooowwwnnn on the beach at the Screamin’ Bop” supplied by brother Gordon and giving the game away that rockabilly is present in their repertoire when the mood feels right. The flipside, ‘I Left My Wife In Vegas’ flexes the Western Swing muscle of The Doel Bothers and offers another reason why this four piece is highly sought after, such is their flexibility but also their dexterity when managing other genres as ‘I Left My Wife In Vegas’ sounds effortless. Equally appealing, however, is the band’s sense of humour as the hapless victim(s), depending on which way you perceive it, is waking up with one dreadful hangover when the dust settles after this Vegas vacation. All things considered, ‘Scream & Bop / I Left My Wife In Vegas’ is the perfect accompaniment to any rockin’ festival this year, but as a 45 single in its own right, The Doel Brothers have just weaved the magic once again.


Released Out now

 

Between The Bars EP

The Civil Wars

Columbia

The Civil Wars return with an interesting choice of covers in the format of an EP. The decision to include Portishead’s ‘Sour Times’ is testament to the Bristol band’s creative talents but also lasting appeal considering their debut album, which ‘Sour Times’ is lifted from, is now in its twentieth year. The Civil Wars certainly do the song justice by means of guitars rather than electronica, naturally, but use of the word ‘haunting’ is problematic to describe their rendition of this trip-hop number because such a description was reserved for the original composition. Elliot Smith’s ‘Between The Bars’ seems the most obvious choice of cover due to the lingering vulnerability held by both parties when it comes to their music. The Civil Wars turn such similarities to their advantage by not only paying homage to the original, but issue it with new life by creating a roomier version and therefore providing a fresh perspective as all good cover versions should. Surprise choice between the covers is an interpretation of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ that is handled with the bare minimum of acoustic guitar and the vocals of Joy Williams and John Paul White, who claim the song as their own such is the difference between the two versions. ‘Between The Bars’ might be a stopgap depending on The Civil Wars current hiatus, but nonetheless it’s a very engaging one that shows them in a slightly different light.


Released Out now

 

Big Bang Boogie

Ricky Fabian

Rhythm Bomb

There is an air of change at Rhythm Bomb Records as one or two recent releases display a variation in sound to accompany the rockabilly the label is normally renowned for. That is not to suggest that there has been a complete overhaul in the sound department, as the variations in styles remain subtle at the very least. Ricky Fabian, however, is one of those artists who, with his ‘Big Bang Boogie’, opens the doors to numerous influences whether the near big band feel of the title track or western swing of ‘Never Trust A Girl’, there appears nothing this emerging cool cat cannot do. With the recording having taken place at Lightning Recording Service in Germany, it is remarkable to think that the level of consistency and creativity of ‘Big Bang Boogie’ is a little shy of thirty minutes due to the amount of songs on offer here. The straight rockabilly of ‘When You Break A Heart’ and affection for Sonny West’s ‘Sweet Rockin’ Baby’ during ‘Rockin’ With My Baby’, not to mention the wonderful balladry of ‘Searchin’, bringing to mind Eddie Cochran when in this mood, are yet more examples why the name Ricky Fabian is likely to be heralded as the next big thing come the rockin’ weekenders during the summer months. There is just one thing Ricky Fabian needs to address, however, and that is to record a second helping of ‘Never Trust A Girl’ with the male species as the bane of the troubles next time if we’re going to restore an even footing in the equality stakes.


Released Out now

 

Enjoy The Ride

Pete Anderson & The Swamp Shakers

Rhythm Bomb

The clue is definitely in the title when it comes to Pete Anderson & The Swamp Shakers new album as there are enough musical references here, crammed inside a rockabilly exterior,  that will appeal to the broadest of tastes and therefore making that ‘journey’ one of the most pleasurable you’re likely to experience. Whether it’s the opening roll of upright bass and finger pickin’ guitar of ‘Don’t Be Shy’ setting the wheels of the Hudson Hornet (add your own choice of car here) in motion, only to make a brief stop to pick up the next passenger, ‘You Gotta Be Mine’ that’s swinging across the dance floor in sheer delight to an irresistible rhythm courtesy of the The Swamp Shakers, you will not be disappointed. There is a considered approach to ‘Red Corvette’ with its welcome change in pace, doo-wop backing vocals and (almost) understated guitar only to be outdone by the persuasive slow swing of ‘Barbie Doll’ that is handled with great precision by all present and no doubt in reference to the goddess at the centre of all the attention. Without a moment to rest, however, ‘Hot Rod Rocket’ peels away at considerable speed and sounding as if it’s being pursued by the local law enforcers with its frantic rhythm and wild hollering, and all of this from Latvia as well!  An inspired collection of songs, executed with great expertise and therefore worthy of repeat listens, especially considering its sheer breadth of content that requires more than one sitting, ‘Enjoy The Ride’ is clever, clever stuff indeed.


Released Out now

 

She Put A Spell On Me

Marc & the Wild Ones

Rhythm Bomb

Second album in for the cross-cultural four-piece that is Marc & the Wild Ones after their impressive debut ‘The Rockin’ Beat Of…’ issued a few years back. The difference between first base and second base is immediate, however, as there is a maturing in sound, which is commendable as their venomous edge remains intact but there is a noticeable difference from the get-go with the restrained qualities of opening duo ‘Be Boppin Baby’ and ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ that benefits their overall sound immensely. Even Marc Valentine’s vocal is reined in slightly, giving the impression that patience is sometimes a virtue as he sounds in commanding form and giving a bourbon soaked edge to ‘I Love My Baby’. There’s a tinge of blues to the on the road ambience of ‘Please Don’t Go’ that is borderline expansive in terms of its vision as the Wild Ones teeter on the edge of fresh territory in the creativity department. Elsewhere, ‘Boppin Little Kangaroo’ is as playful as its name suggests only to be given a short life by the rabblerousing ‘Real Rockin Baby’ with its Johnny Burnette & the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio undertones. ‘She Put A Spell On Me’ is clearly seduced during the dark current trawling through ‘Little Ann’, with further experimentation by means of sax this time as it purrs down the shirt collar of the smitten individual. If Marc & the Wild Ones can carry such form into their next venture without forgetting to dip their toes in the creative pool, and lose a little formulaic baggage along the way (‘Honey Bun’), then album number three promises to be an even greater step in their evolution.


Released 17 February

 

High Top Mountain

Sturgill Simpson

Loose Music

There is much heart and soul permeating throughout Sturgill Simpson’s debut release on Loose Music that runs a gauntlet of emotions ranging from failed relationships to hardships of the working kind before paying tribute, with genuine affection, during ‘Hero’. Having recorded ‘High Top Mountain’ – a reference to a particular site with significance in Kentucky close to where Sturgill Simpson grew up – at Falling Rock (Nashville) under the watchful eye of producer Dave Cobb and later Hillbilly Central; the latter of which featured such country legends as Waylon Jennings and Tompall Glaser, the desire to create an authentic sounding country record was evident from the start having also enlisted the skilful talents of Country Hall of Fame pianist Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins and steel guitarist Robby Turner. Where others may have buckled under such self-induced pressure, Sturgill Simpson has taken in his stride as ‘High Top Mountain’ is a cast-iron collection of archetypal country that evokes memories of a period in music confined to the history books. That is not to say that Sturgill Simpson is without his own identity because the wild and passionate ‘Poor Rambler’ and exquisite delivery and honest admissions of ‘Water In A Well’ are but two songs that suggest otherwise. In fact, it is not difficult to comprehend where such emotions stem from, having spent years drifting in and out of unfulfilling occupations which, in hindsight, has led to the position where Sturgill Simpson now finds himself as ‘High Top Mountain’ is deserving of high praise indeed.


Released Out now

 

Uten at du vet det

Sigrun Loe Sparboe

Tylden

‘Uten at du vet det’ is Sigrun Loe Sparboe’s first solo outing after deciding to make the move back north after a lengthy stint residing in the nation’s capital. In accordance with this transition to a place closer to her roots was the decision to compose all of the songs in her native language, in order to build a stronger relationship with each and every composition and truly express the song’s emotions. Such decisions appear to have paid off as ‘Uten at du vet det’ is instantly spellbinding with its plush string arrangements and uplifting qualities that reveal themselves layer by layer. There is a real live quality to ‘Solefall’, with the vocal pushed to the fore and accompanied by delicate guitar, before changing lane and shifting up a gear with the delightfully addictive ‘Ta mæ med’ complete with handclaps and foot stomps. ‘Nord’ is an ode to home and is delivered in a combination of sumptuous strings and vocal to turn even the harshest of critics which is game, set and match once ‘Globus med lys’ intoxicates the senses with its slow dance under the moonlight. Despite all of the loveliness, ‘Uten at du vet det’ makes a deviation with the dark undercurrent of fingerpicking ‘Ved rokken’ and closely pursued by the anxious and persuasive ‘Ingen vet’ and utterly sublime ‘Unnskyld’. Such digression is completely welcome due to providing a fine balance of emotions and, in the process, sets up ‘Uten at du vet det’ as a debut that will be extremely difficult to surpass due to being nigh on perfect.


Released Out now

 

Universe

Truckfighters

Fuzzorama Records / Sony Music Norway

Coming on the back of very high praise indeed from Josh Homme of QOTSA fame along lines of, “Probably the best band that ever existed”, Truckfighters duly repay such faith with an album chockfull of stoner rock straight from Sweden. Consisting of seven tracks, which is probably wise considering some of its contents sprawling mini-epics – the excellent chiming guitar signature of ‘The Chairman’ that is pepped up further with a robust undercurrent – ‘Universe’ marks the fourth long player from this Swedish three piece. With songs often rotating around driving rhythms which appear similar in nature yet reveal themselves to be something completely different after several sittings, Truckfighters open up in style with the blustery ‘Mind Control’ and aforementioned ‘The Chairman’ before leaving it up to the multi-layered ‘Get Lifted’ to truly stretch its wings and reveal the band’s skilful musicianship and further creative talents. The name Truckfighters has just got that much bigger as ‘Universe’ is a deeply rich and, on occasions, complex record that deserves to be heard.



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