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Mann For Min Hatt

Don Martin

Artistpartner Records

Today is the day that Don Martin lets loose his second album in less than a year with the hip-hop and inventive electronica, coupled with spoken word (street) poetry, of ‘Mann For Min Hatt’. Surprisingly, the eight songs contained within were regarded by Don Martin and his fellow cohorts as surplus stock that was simply gathering dust with nowhere to go. Surprising because the songs on offer reveal much strength in depth but there is a considerable amount of creative intrigue to win over those who remain indifferent to rap music despite its many variations.  However, as a goodwill gesture to existing supporters and those newly acquainted with the musings of this Norwegian songwriter, Don Martin made the decision to give something back and show his appreciation with a mini-album before the next full-length album. Despite the serious subject matter by way of the overt political message of ‘Boikott Israel’, narrated to large degrees in English, and local issues of ‘Straight Outta Groruddalen 2’ that concerns a valley in a northeast section of Oslo, the rest of the album gives way to its mother tongue and rightly so considering the localisms of ‘Straight Outta…’ as to portray this any other way would be a major disservice. Once more though, it is this latter song which reveals a sense of humour as there is doubt as to whether the song qualifies as a remix during its start up and it is this very humour, subtly given, that is never very far away that lends an extra layer of charm to the whole album. If you’re looking for immediate prize winners though, then the moody beats, mixed with synthesised horns, of ‘Fedora Don (feat. Boss Castro)’ and mellow edges of the title track, that is interlaced with some noticeable piano, are two such tracks from an album that is far more than its concept suggests.


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A Perfect Contradiction

Paloma Faith

RCA

Visually entertaining as well as musically, Paloma Faith is back with her third album ‘A Perfect Contradiction’. With its continuing theme of rich colours when it comes to the artwork and sense of nous by calling on the talents of Pharrel Williams to help co-write recent single ‘Can’t Rely On You’, the ‘contradiction’ implied in the title is perfectly misleading as Paloma steps up another creative gear and one that is consistently better than its predecessors. Nowhere is this more evident than the aforementioned Williams/Faith collaboration ‘Can’t Rely On You’, that is full of old school dance beats but given a modern gloss and narrated with a sassy vocal that will have you reaching for the repeat button. The traditional flavour is also captured in ‘Mouth To Mouth’ with its 80s pop influence but this time finding Paloma Faith in more restrained manner but nonetheless still compelling. The lure of Motown is all too much for ‘Take Me’ and accompanying ballad ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’; the latter of the pair revealing a vulnerability in the Paloma Faith exterior. There is a brief hiccup with the rather pedestrian ‘Other Woman’ and its familiarities with other female artists of similar ilk, but fear not as this songstress finishes in style with red-hot ‘Trouble With My Baby’ and shifting style of ‘Love Only Leaves You Lonely’.


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Slow Me Down

Sara Evans

Sony Music CMG

Crossing the divide between pop and country, Sara Evans delivers in fine fashion with latest album ‘Slow Me Down’. Having worked in collaboration with three of the eleven songs listed here and in terms of production duties with producer Mark Bright (Rascal Flatts, Lonestar et al), Sara Evans offers her own interpretation of events through her own works but also by means of a cover, for example, of Gavin DeGraw’s ‘Not Over You’. Such is the impact of this rendition of DeGraw’s song – who also lends a helping hand with harmony vocals – as Evans claims it for her own by stamping her authority all over it by means of a stirring vocal and subtler use of instrumentation that is equally affecting as its original. The collaborative work also extends to a duet with The Fray’s Isaac Slade during ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’, that is a perfect combination of Sara Evans powerful and slightly sweeter sounding vocal and Isaac Slade’s gruffer tones. If it’s a more straight country sound you’re after, however, then ‘Slow Me Down’ is not about to abandon this ship, despite containing a commercial appeal, as the likeable ‘Put My Heart Down’; steel guitar of ‘Good Love Is Hard To Find’ and wonderful ballad that is built of sturdier foundations in spite of the immediate ramifications suggested by the narrative of ‘Better Off’. By combining country music with a modern sheen of pop music that leans towards its darker edges and sometimes falling into the latter category with ‘You Never Know’ as one such example, Sara Evans has expertly blended a formula that works as a whole in order to achieve crossover appeal, but in the main create a convincing and thoroughly enjoyable body of work in the shape of ‘Slow Me Down’.


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No Mythologies To Follow

Chess Club / RCA Victor

Resembling nothing in relation to her personal record collection during her late teens with Sonic Youth and Black Flag particular favourites, Danish artist Mø (Karen Marie Ørsted) breezes in with a debut album that is full of electro-pop and moody electronica that is ‘No Mythologies To Follow’. There is a cool, mid-tempo pulse to ‘Maiden’, complete with a vocal that seems to spend its duration in the shade and remains full of curiosity. All the clocks stop during ‘Never Wanna Know’; a deeply touching ballad that resonates due to the hollow effect created by its use of percussion and giving a real sense of loss that is reminiscent of Scott Walker when in such a frame of mind. Much as has been said of Mø’s vocal capabilities and pop leanings which certainly come to the fore during the infectious ‘Red In The Grey’ and even more persuasive ‘Pilgrim’ that will certainly appease fans of both pop and indie music. Looks like Denmark has an imminent star on their books as ‘No Mythologies To Follow’ is tapping into a number of genres yet shaping a path that is distinctly Mø.


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Fire Away (single)

Ilias

Untitled

With the moody atmospheric film that was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, latest effort from singer-songwriter, and sometimes producer, Ilias is not a million miles away from the neon lit urban landscape of LA that provided the backdrop to this near masterpiece. ‘Fire Away’ was actually written around the time of recent fires that devastated parts of the Australian countryside, but there is no escaping the film score concept that influences this song. Incorporating this broader vision is the additional European flavours, that lend themselves to the aforementioned urban landscape of LA by means of electronica that knits together late-nineties flitting drum patterns and a distorted guitar for those larger splashes of sound, giving the impression of darkened clouds rapidly forming and then fully realised by way of a short yet compelling guitar riff. If the vultures are beginning to circle overhead due to sensing a sizable meal at the end of the line considering the general attempts at dispersing that ‘Fire Away’ provides, then never has such an ominous atmosphere sounded so welcoming.


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Rockabilly Roads III

Various Artists

Playground Music

Bringing things up-to-date is the latest compilation in the ‘Rockabilly Roads’ series that packs a persuasive punch with a whole line of neo-rockabilly artists from around the globe offering a modern sheen on the rockabilly genre with nearly all original material. Many of the artists present will be familiar to those in the know, with such examples as Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys, John Lindberg Trio, Pep Torres and Mike Bell & The Belltones. With a selection of eighteen tracks to whet the appetite, ‘Rockabilly Roads III’ succeeds in its concept as each and every band, while sourcing their inspirations from the fifties era, sounds current. Evidence of this modern spin on the rockabilly genre comes by way of Fanny Mae & The Dynamite Believers with their infectious ‘Hipshakin’, that sees the band strutting their wares across the chequered flooring of the local diner, only the year is now rather than the late fifties. Boz Boorer pops up with a burly cover version of ‘Cast Iron Arm’ whereas the domineering vocal and guitar of The Caezars excellent ‘Heartache Overload’ claims first prize. The unfortunately named Fatboy garners serious attention with its Roy Orbison meets Chris Isaak vocal delivery during ‘Walk Your Way’, only to be rivalled in the quality stakes by a compelling duet by way of The Hillbilly Moon Explosion with ‘My Love For Evermore’. Pick of the bunch, however, is the hard-edged rocker that is ‘Ride My Bike’ courtesy of The Troubled Three, closely pursued by a recurring theme involving motorcycles with the modern classic that is ‘The Norton Spirit’ by the mighty Blue Cats. At last, a compilation for those supporters genuinely interested in the current wave of rockabilly bands hell-bent on keeping the original rockabilly spirit alive but with a modern twist as ‘Rockabilly Roads III’ successfully displays.

 


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A Walk In The Space Between Us

Side Effects

Sony Music Norway

Sounding as if they just stepped out of a northern town in England (and Wales – see below) rather than the more idyllic surroundings of their native Sweden, Side Effects release their first album ‘A Walk InThe Space Between Us’. The close resemblance to the musical scenes emanating from the upper regions of the British landscape from the ’90s onwards is all too evident in sound, but minus the attitude, as Side Effects follow similar paths to those mined by The Coral, Super Furry Animals and a latter-day CAST, judging by the Swedes penchant for a dash of psychedelia with their afternoon tea in terms of what’s on offer here. This is all great stuff, of course, as ‘A Walk In The Space Between Us’ is an accomplished achievement and something to do with the fact that the band have been together since Sixth Form College and showing no signs of days idly wasted considering the dynamic thrust of opener ‘The Space Between Us’. The persuasive charm of ‘Feel Flows’, however, was built for lazy summer days and is followed in similar hazy fashion, before picking up a second wind, by the beguiling curiosity that is ‘Monster And The Bird’ with its suggestion of trying to be two sides of a personality that is all too much. There’s a robust edge to ‘Month Of Mist’ that becomes drowned out by its successor ‘Absence Of Control with its heady psychedelic indie rock and flashes of near feedback yet managing to hold itself together despite the implications of its song title. ‘A Walk In The Space Between Us’ is a confident debut that will have you gripped from the off, and one that comes as a pleasant surprise in terms of its appeal considering the short distance in time when bands of a similar ilk were hogging the front pages on a regular basis.


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Speed Of Sound (single)

Frøder

Sony Music Norway

Fresh off the mark with a debut single is Frøder with ‘Speed Of Sound’ that is currently doing the rounds on NRK’s P3 (Norwegian radio station) and not difficult to understand why such is the immediate appeal of the vocal delivery. Comparisons can be drawn with Florence + The Machine, especially considering the heavy use of electronica intspersed with strings that is at one moment pondering in its approach before rising to considerable heights during its chorus. On the evidence of this first offering from Frøder, there is no question of this Norwegian loitering in the wings any longer as ‘Speed Of Sound’ looks set to continue its rapid trajectory even before there is any mention of a full length player. A very impressive start indeed.


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The Journey So Far – The Best Of Loreena McKennitt

Loreena McKennitt

Quinlan Road

Loreena McKennitt deserves the upmost respect for a career that has spanned thirty years and one that has been guided independently due to producing and promoting her own recorded output through the Quinlan Road record label, which McKennitt is also the proud owner. With such a long and established career in the music industry, and one that is certainly not about to reach its sell-by-date as the album title suggests, the combination of Celtic and folk roots McKennitt is renowned for has been whittled down to a carefully selected twelve-track album, nominated by McKennitt’s own fans, that is ‘The Journey So Far – The Best Of Loreena McKennitt’. Mingling amongst the tracks is a beautiful rendition of traditional Irish folk song that was used as part of the film score to Highlander III in the form of ‘Bonny Portmore’, with ‘The Mummers’ Dance’ revealing a fresh makeover due to additional electronica and followed by a stirring vocal performance set to various strings of ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’. With such a back catalogue of material to choose from, the inclusion of ‘Dante’s Prayer’ was definitely wise considering its haunting beauty that fittingly brings an end to the album. ‘The Journey So Far – The Best Of Loreena McKennitt’ is a finely balanced retrospective of McKennitt’s work to date, and one that is a worthy introduction for those less familiar with her music.


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The Lights From The Chemical Plant

Robert Ellis

New West Records

The music of Robert Ellis resides in two camps when hearing latest album on New West Records ‘The Lights From The Chemical Plant’, and that is one that lovingly embraces the past in terms of country music, and the other is one that resides in the present by means of various modern methodologies providing it with an up-to-date edge. Working like a well-oiled machine but without the added gloss due to enough frayed corners, Robert Ellis proceeds with ‘TV Song’ that is full of fancy in its efforts to escape from the tedium of the everyday as it plays out to an atmospheric soundtrack. If ‘TV Song’ offered some hope in terms of its wishful thinking, then proceeding track ‘Chemical Plant’ is more grounded in its narrative as it traces the phases of a relationship and the differences this brings. Once more there is great technique in the instrumentation as guitars and various strings are gently caressed providing more of the same atmospherics that compliments the reflective tone of Ellis’ vocal. There is not much in the way of happiness to be found in the piano-driven ‘Bottle Of Wine’ as it hints at loneliness, only to be confirmed by the alt-country ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ that sounds as if it’s playing to an empty barroom. Nearing its end, ‘Houston’ sheds the last teardrop with intimate lyrics depicting the end of a relationship with both home and heart as there really is nothing left apart from ‘The Lights From The Chemical Plant’ for company.


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Glenville Railroad Tracks (single)

Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters

Migraine Records

If you like a heavy dose of authenticity with your rockabilly, then next stop along the Glenville railway line is as good as any to park your wares and take in the sounds of latest single from Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters with ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’. Issued as a limited edition 45 vinyl, and more a double A-side considering the supreme quality of the title track and flipside ‘The Payback’, ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’ finds Bill Fadden & his boys in majestic form by creating a real sense of a bygone era that has managed to find itself in the present still moving and shaking to an undeniably infectious 50s rockabilly rhythm. It’s the attention to detail given to ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’ that also impresses as it hurtles into your senses under a cloud of smoke, complete with genuine steam engine whistle, before offloading a series of narratives all rolled in to one with varying degrees of complexities of the relationship kind. More coal is added to the fire with the previously mentioned ‘The Payback’ that really stokes up a serious momentum with its pressing rhythm and Bill Fadden sounding like a man with a score to settle, “You’ve been playing untrue and now the jokes on you, Yeah that’s a payback baby”. If this is the sound of things to come with Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters, then the suitcase is packed and ready waiting with much anticipation for the next pickup from Glenville Railroad.


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Back On The Horse

The Skinner Group

EmuBands

The wait for an echo has been a lengthy one until now that is, as Grahame Skinner finally makes his long anticipated comeback under new moniker, The Skinner Group. The title of the new album is one that is definitely open for interpretation, having interviewed Grahame Skinner for these very pages, suggesting a mixture of relief at the realisation of new material finally seeing light of day but coupled with anxiety at the thought of the unknown in terms of its perception. Fear not as ‘Back On The Horse’ is a sheer delight from beginning to end with creativity in abundance and enough memorable hooks to warrant a high level of repeat visits. Previous single ‘Surfer Gurl’ revives old memories of Skinner’s former indie outfit Cowboy Mouth, as the song resembles a piece of driftwood from an aborted third album, only given a new lease of life here, with Skinner crooning in fine fashion and pining about the one who got away to a grungy backbeat provided by longstanding stalwarts Douglas MacIntyre and Mick Slaven. ‘Oh Dear ‘ is breezy in comparison, and closer to another former band that hit the heights during the 80s, and would be the ideal candidate for second single such is its infectious rhythm and clever touch with its knowing self-pitying lyrics. The ghost of Hipsway is even more evident during the immediacy of ‘Down On My Knees’ with its 80s style chorus complete with backing singers really giving the game away. In the midst of such familiarities exists new explorations with ‘Something Cinematic’ a prime candidate due to being something of an oddity with its pondering beat, poetic vocal and topped off compellingly by Mick Slaven’s guitar, which is left to its own devices as it scores a red-hot trail right through its centre in a stinging and bad tempered moment of improvised greatness. Elsewhere, ‘Who’s That Man’ could be a personal ode as it reflects on being out of touch with current trends via a warped take – wonderfully executed – on The Beach Boys surf pop before falling headlong into the abyss that is ‘Hole In My Soul’, but not before paying reference to Aidan Moffat on the way down during the song’s fadeout. If this is the sound of Grahame Skinner in the modern state of things, then the decision to get back on the horse was an inspired and extremely wise one.



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